Friday, February 07, 2014

Federal Preschool Proposals Will Cost Billions and Have Limited Impact on Participants

In November, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Strong Start for America's Children Act (S. 1697 and H.R. 3461), which would create a federal preschool program for all four-year-old children from low- to moderate-income families in the country. It mirrors President Obama's call for a new $75 billion federal preschool program.[1]

Policymakers at every level of government should exercise caution when it comes to establishing federal or state preschool programs. Evidence from existing programs raises doubts about their efficacy-not to mention the significant costs to taxpayers.

The Harkin-Miller proposal would provide billions in federal grants to help states grow center-based preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds and require states to match the federal funding. Initially, states would be required to provide a 10 percent match of their federal grant, growing to 100 percent in year eight and thereafter.

States must also have a "comprehensive early learning assessment system" that "organizes information about the process and context of young children's learning and development to help early childhood educators make informed instructional and programmatic decisions." This system must include, among other things, "measures of the quality of adult-child interactions."

States must also:

    Establish or plan to establish "early learning and development standards that describe what children from birth to kindergarten entry should know and be able to do,"

    Implement performance measures for obesity prevention programs,

    Ensure that preschool teachers have comparable salaries to teachers in the K-12 system, and

    Increase the number of preschool teachers with bachelor's degrees in early childhood education.

Once a state establishes universal preschool for every four-year-old under 200 percent of the federal poverty line, it may then use federal funds to extend eligibility to three-year-old children.

New Spending Financed by Taxpayers

The Harkin-Miller proposal would cost federal taxpayers roughly $26.8 billion in the first five years and "such sums as may be necessary" thereafter. This figure does not include taxpayer obligations for the state matches. So not only will taxpayers be on the hook for billions in new federal spending, but the "federal-state partnership" obligates taxpayers to finance billions more in new state spending.

It is also likely that a new large-scale government preschool program will crowd out private preschool providers by encouraging participation in "free" government programs and by threatening to over-regulate private providers that opt in to the federal program. For example, a provider that is not a local public school but enrolls students through the subsidized program must "enter into strong partnerships" with the local public school district.

Not Supported by the Evidence

The legislative text of the Harkin-Miller proposals notes that "research has consistently demonstrated that investments in high-quality programs that serve infants and toddlers better positions [sic] those children for success in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education as well as helping children develop the critical physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills that they will need for the rest of their lives."


British boy, six, who was suspended from school after taking a packet of Mini Cheddars in his lunchbox is now EXPELLED for his sausage roll and scotch egg habit

Parents' view that the food they provide is healthy is branded by the school as 'continuously breaking school rules'. One wonders  what they would say and do about real rule breaking

A six year-old boy who was suspended from his school after he took a bag of Mini Cheddars in his packed lunch has now been expelled.

Riley Pearson, from Colnbrook, near Slough, was initially excluded from Colnbrook C of E Primary School after teachers discovered the snack and called in his parents.

After a meeting with headmaster Jeremy Meek, they were sent a letter telling them Riley would be excluded from last Wednesday until Monday because he had been 'continuously breaking school rules'.

But his parents have now said he has been expelled after they spoke to the media, while his younger brother has also been banned from its pre-school.

The school has insisted a pupil was not excluded 'for just having Mini Cheddars in their lunchbox' but because there had been a 'persistent and deliberate breach of school policy, such as bringing in crisps, biscuits, sausage rolls, mini sausages, scotch eggs and similar'.

Riley’s dad, Tom Pearson, said he was 'devastated' that the school had not only deprived Riley of his schooling but also his younger brother who attends its pre-school.

He added that a scheduled meeting between the family and headteacher Mr Meek, due to take place yesterday was cancelled when he arrived.

Mr Pearson then saw Mr Meek in the school playground as he picked up Riley's brother Jayden from pre-school but Mr Meek told him he would telephone him by the end of the day to let him know what was happening.

Minutes later Mr Pearson received a phone call telling him both Riley and Jayden were not welcome back at the school.

'I’m just devastated,' said Mr Pearson, last night. 'He rang and told me the decision had been made to exclude Riley permanently and we had given the school a bad reputation because of the media coverage.

'He also said the funded sessions Jayden has at the school’s pre school were being withdrawn too. I think he’s a coward for not telling me to my face.'

The airport worker and wife Natalie, who is due to give birth to her fourth child next week, are now waiting to hear from education officers from Slough Borough Council to see what to do next.

In a statement the school said a pupil had been permanently excluded because 'during the course of a recent four day exclusion, the pupil’s parents made it publicly clear that their child would not be following the school's policy on healthy eating upon their return'.

The school also said the decision was taken because of 'the parent school relationship suffering an irretrievable breakdown' due to 'misrepresentations in the local and national media that were both wholly inaccurate and grossly misleading, abusive language being used towards staff, and other inappropriate actions being taken that were designed to damage the school’s reputation'.

The school, which was placed in special measures after Ofsted inspectors deemed it 'inadequate' in 2012, introduced a healthy eating policy at the start of term.

A letter was sent to parents saying that from January 14, packed lunches should be 'healthy and balanced'.

Parents were told: 'Chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks are not allowed. If your child's lunchbox is unhealthy and unbalanced they will be provided with a school lunch for which you will be charged.'

At the time of his exclusion last week, Riley's mother Natalie said: 'We just do not see how they have the right to tell us what we can feed our son.  'If anything, Riley is underweight and could do with putting on a few pounds.'

Miss Mardle, who is expecting her fourth child, added: 'Having a balanced diet also includes eating some carbohydrates, sugars and fats.  'It is not about excluding some foods, it is about getting the mix right.'

Riley’s lunchbox usually contains a sandwich, yoghurt tube, Dairylea Dunkers cheese spread snack, and a packet of Mini Cheddars, with water to drink.

His mother said the 3ft 9ins tall schoolboy who weighs 3st 2lbs, eats home-cooked meals and plenty of fruit and vegetables at home.

Miss Mardle said: 'I would understand the exclusion if he was constantly throwing tables around or bullying other children, but it is just ridiculous for a packet of Mini Cheddars.  'Surely the headteacher has better things to do with his time than search lunchboxes?'


Australian Leftists wail at losing their grip on the young

THE vicious attacks on the expert chosen by Christopher Pyne to review the national education curriculum show just how much is at stake for the cultural revolutionaries dumbing down our schools.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is their worst nightmare, appointed to snatch the curriculum back from the brink of disaster.

For his trouble he has been falsely branded a paedophile, Islamophobe, homophobe, misogynist and Christian.

In the sewers of Twitter, people have wished him dead and asked him for his opinion on vibrators.

Among his and Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire’s tasks is to decide whether the three priorities of the new curriculum - sustainability, indigenous history and culture and Asian engagement - make any sense.

Absurdly, even in maths the curriculum claims “sustainability provides rich, engaging and authentic contexts for developing students’ abilities in number and algebra”.

Good grief. Pyne has rightly queried this politically correct attempt at brainwashing. He ought to rip the curriculum to shreds, but he is taking the gentle approach.

Clear-thinking Donnelly is the perfect choice. An unabashed critic of moral relativism, he wants education to be about “objectivity and truth”. He believes students should understand the foundations of Western civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

He thinks academic rigour and phonics and even - shock, horror - rote learning might be a good thing.

He is against the fashion of students “constructing” their own knowledge.

When university students need remedial reading classes, he knows something is wrong.

“The penny has dropped that what we are doing isn’t working well enough,” Donnelly told me. “In terms of falling standards something has to be done.”

Most parents would agree but the Marxist teacher unions are beside themselves, trawling around for something, anything, to discredit him.

The latest ploy was a story this week claiming Donnelly is homophobic because he once wrote, in his 2004 book Why Our Schools Are Failing, that teachers should not push leftist propaganda on gender and sexuality.

Donnelly criticised Australian Education Union policy that “homosexuality and bisexuality need to be normalised” in the classroom and “heterosexism” (the idea that heterosexuality is the norm) must be stamped out.

He cited the example that Cinderella and Romeo And Juliet are “condemned as heterosexist because they privilege traditional views about heterosexual love”.

Essentially, Donnelly’s view was that sex education is a sensitive and controversial topic and that parents have the right to know what is happening in the classroom.

The AEU seized the bogus story as “yet another reason why Kevin Donnelly shouldn’t be anywhere near a curriculum review”.

Others on Twitter claimed he would “rather have our youth committing suicide than be educated … If Kevin Donnelly comes anywhere near my children I can’t be held fully accountable for my actions. What a creep.”

The denizens of Twitter take their lead from the bile emanating from the education establishment, unions and academics who have presided over falling standards.

Worst was former NSW education director-general Ken Boston, who took to ABC radio last month with an extraordinarily unhinged tirade: “Kevin Donnelly is a polemicist. He’s not taken seriously. He doesn’t engage with reasoned argument or evidence. His views, or rantings frankly, are well-known and have been disregarded for many years. His publications are regarded as specious nonsense.”

And on and on he went for five minutes. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Donnelly could hardly be better qualified. He holds a master’s of education and a PhD on school curriculum, was on the panel of examiners for Year 12 English in Victoria and the Board of Studies.

He also was a secondary school teacher for 18 years. He is a thoughtful man who has devoted his life to education.

Boston, on the other hand, has a doctorate in “coastal morphology”. The 70-year-old devoted himself to the study of saltmarsh grasses into his 30s when he changed careers to become an education bureaucrat in Ballarat. Remarkably, he rose to the top of the NSW Education Department and landed a plum job in London as chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority but left in 2008 in a national fiasco over school tests. London’s conservative Daily Telegraph said that during Boston’s six years at the authority it “presided over the dumbing down of the curriculum, a decline in the rigour of tests and hyper-inflation in the results”.

He is hardly in a position to criticise Donnelly.

But all the vitriol is like water off a duck’s back to Pyne. The more the Left criticises Donnelly, the more he knows he’s on to a good thing. For our children’s sake, let’s hope its not too late.


Thursday, February 06, 2014

School Tells Kids They Can't Celebrate USA

Why would people be "offended" by celebration of a place where they have chosen to live?

Students and parents at a Colorado high school are outraged after administrators turned down their request for a spirit week day honoring America because it might offend non-Americans.

“They said they didn’t want to offend anyone from other countries or immigrants,” a 16-year-old member of the student council told me. “They just really did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

The student council at Fort Collins High School had proposed having a day to celebrate the United States during next week’s Winter Spirit Week. The young people pitched “’Merica Monday” – and invited their classmates to dress in patriotic colors. Their proposal was promptly shot down by administrators.

“They said they didn’t want to be exclusive to any other country,” a 17-year-old member of the student council told me.

The students and parents who talked to me about this incident have asked to remain anonymous. The parents feared their children might face reprisals from liberal educators.

“It’s bizarre and idiotic that we’ve come to this crossroads in our society that we are having to sacrifice our own culture and belief system,” one of the parents told me. “I can’t even tell you how it got our blood boiling.”

After the administrators rejected the day to celebrate America, the teenagers offered a compromise – “My Country Monday.”

“We opened it up to everyone – no matter what country you are from,” the 17-year-old student told me. “That got declined, too.”

The school’s decision left students frustrated, confused and angry.

“It’s shocking,” the 16-year-old said. “There are men and women fighting for our country and we should be able to celebrate that and be proud that we live in a country where we are allowed to vote – the right to free speech. They won’t even let us celebrate it.”

The irony, said the students, is that they are required to participate in Cinco de Mayo celebrations. One member of the student council pointed out the hypocrisy – and noted that students were not being forced to dress in red, white and blue for “’Merica Day.”

“We were confused why we couldn’t do one day that was for America,” the student told me.

The parents said they are “so tired” of political correctness.

The principal at Fort Collins High School did not return my phone calls and neither did the assistant principal. A spokesperson for the Poudre School District sent me a statement acknowledging they rejected the “’Merica Day” celebration.

“Building administration met with the students to discuss the inconsistency of this day versus the other planned theme days including PJ day and Twin day,” the statement read. “The students then suggested changing the first day to My Country Monday and administration agreed. This theme day allows students to showcase their pride in America and for international students, their country of origin.”

However, parents and students said that’s not accurate. They said My Country Monday was originally rejected last week and was only reinstated midday Monday – shortly after I called the school district and began making inquiries (a coincidence, I’m sure.)

I asked the district spokesperson to clarify their statement. The spokesperson did not return my message.

“They said they didn’t feel comfortable having a day celebrated where students might feel uncomfortable with the patriotism that students are showing,” one of the students told me.

Unbelievable. This is the United States of America. We welcome the huddled masses yearning to be free with arms wide open. But if you come to our land and take offense at our values and traditions, then don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

And shame on the administrators at Fort Collins High School for treating American school children like second-class citizens.

To the young patriots at Fort Collins High School, I offer these words: America, America, God shed His grace on Thee. Don’t let your teachers tell you otherwise.


Panelist at Podesta Think Tank on Common Core: 'The Children Belong to All of Us'

Adolf lives!

In addressing criticism of the Common Core national education standards, a panelist at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, said critics were a “tiny minority” who opposed standards altogether, which was unfair because “the children belong to all of us.”

The CAP was founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and now an adviser to President Barack Obama.  At a CAP event to promote Common Core on Friday, asked about the critics who say federal monetary incentives attached to Common Core is driving the states to implement the standards.

Paul Reville, the former secretary of education for Massachusetts and a Common Core supporter, said,  “To be sure, there’s always a small voice – and I think these voices get amplified in the midst of these arguments – of people who were never in favor of standards in the first place and never wanted to have any kind of testing or accountability and those voices get amplified.”

“But those are a tiny minority,” he said. “An overwhelming majority of teachers are saying this is something – as [panelist] Toby [Romer] said – that makes sense.”

Reville continued, “Again, the argument about where it came from I think privileges certain sort of fringe voices about federalism and states’ rights, and things of that nature, when really what we’re doing at the national level here now, state by state, is what a lot of our states thought made sense individually.”

Common Core The Classroom

“Why should some towns and cities and states have no standards or low standards and others have extremely high standards when the children belong to all of us and would move [to different states in their educational lives]?”

“And the same logic applies to the nation,” Reville said. “And it makes sense to educators. It makes sense to policymakers, and it’s why people have voluntarily entered into this agreement.”

“So, it’s less about where it came from and more about, ‘Okay, now we settled on this as a set of targets, what are the strategies we need to implement, to be successful at it?’ because educators and students want to be successful,” Reville said.

The Common Core website describes the creation and mission of the standards as follows:

“The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative.”

“Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards,” reads the website.

“The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt,” says the website.  “The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four-year college programs or enter the workforce. The standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics in school.”

But critics such as Lindsey Burke, a Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation who has studied the standards, said the initiative is about federal funding and centralizing education rules.

“Common Core was developed by two national organizations, it’s adoption incentivized with billions in federal funding and waivers from the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind, and the national tests funded with federal grants,” Burke said.

“These are not the hallmarks of a ‘state-led’ process,” she said. “Moreover, these are not high standards.”

“They are, to reference the work of Stanford Professor of Mathematics Emeritus James Milgram, standards that prepare students for ‘non-selective community colleges,’” Burke said. “The English Language Arts standards de-emphasize the reading of fiction and classic literature in favor of informational texts.”

“But most concerning, Common Core removes the ability of parents and teachers to direct academic content and will have a homogenizing effect on the educational choices available to families,” Burke said.

The Washington Post published a commentary on Jan. 20 by Marion Brady, a retired teacher and author, who explained why Common Core has been criticized by people of all political stripes.

“Few oppose standards, but a significant number oppose the Common Core State Standards,” Brady wrote. “Those on the political right don’t like the fact that—notwithstanding the word ‘State’ in the title—it was really the feds who helped to railroad the standards into place.”

“Resisters on the political left cite a range of reasons for opposing the standards—that they were shoved into place without research or pilot programs, that they’re a setup for national testing, that the real winners are manufacturers of tests and teaching materials because they can crank out the same stuff for everybody—just to begin a considerably longer list,” Brady wrote.

But Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning who moderated the panel at CAP, told that teachers are “truly embracing” Common Core.

“On the teacher side, I mean, all of the work were doing all over the country we’re finding teachers truly embracing and knowing that Common Core is important for their children and for their future in their schools,” Davis said, adding at one point, “It takes a village” to get this kind of education reform accomplished.


Schoolteacher Cheating

Philadelphia's public school system has joined several other big-city school systems, such as those in Atlanta, Detroit and Washington, D.C., in widespread teacher-led cheating on standardized academic achievement tests. So far, the city has fired three school principals, and The Wall Street Journal reports, "Nearly 140 teachers and administrators in Philadelphia public schools have been implicated in one of the nation's largest cheating scandals."

Investigators found that teachers got together after tests to erase the students' incorrect answers and replace them with correct answers. In some cases, they went as far as to give or show students answers during the test.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, identifies the problem as district officials focusing too heavily on test scores to judge teacher performance, and they've converted low-performing schools to charters run by independent groups that typically hire nonunion teachers. But William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, said cheating by adults harms students because schools use test scores to determine which students need remedial help, saying, "There is no circumstance, no matter how pressured the cooker, that adults should be cheating students."

While there's widespread teacher test cheating to conceal education failure, most notably among black children, it's just the tip of the iceberg. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and sometimes referred to as the Nation's Report Card, measures student performance in the fourth and eighth grades. In 2013, 46 percent of Philadelphia eighth-graders scored below basic, and 35 percent scored basic. Below basic is a score meaning that a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. Basic indicates only partial mastery. It's a similar story in reading, with 42 percent below basic and 41 percent basic. With this kind of performance, no one should be surprised that of the state of Pennsylvania's 27 most poorly performing schools on the SAT, 25 are in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia's four-year high-school graduation rate in 2012 was 64 percent, well below the national rate of 78 percent. Even if a student graduates from high school, what does it mean? What a high-school diploma means for white students is nothing to write home about, as suggested by the fact that every year, nearly 60 percent of first-year college students must take remedial courses in English or mathematics. What a high-school diploma means for black students is nothing less than a disaster, as pointed out by Drs. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in their 2009 book, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning." They state that "blacks nearing the end of their high school education perform a little worse than white eighth-graders in both reading and U.S. history, and a lot worse in math and geography." Little has changed since the book's publication.

Hite rightfully said that test cheating by adults harms students, but that harm pales in comparison with the harm done by teachers awarding fraudulent grades and conferring fraudulent high-school diplomas, particularly to black students. You say, "Williams, what do you mean by fraudulent diplomas?" When a student is given a high-school diploma, that attests that he can read, write and compute at a 12th-grade level, and when he can't do so at the eighth-grade level, that diploma is fraudulent. What makes it so tragic is that neither the student nor his parents are aware that he has a fraudulent diploma. When a black person is not admitted to college, flunks out of college, can't pass a civil service test or doesn't get job promotions, he is likelier to blame racial discrimination than his poor education.

Politicians, civil rights organizations and the education establishment will do nothing about the fraud. In fact, they give their full allegiance to the perpetrators.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kansas Middle School: Poster Listing Sex Acts Part of 'Health and Science' Curriculum

The father of a 13 year-old girl who was upset by a classroom poster that listed sex acts was shocked to hear that the poster is part of her school’s health and science curriculum.

As local Fox News affiliate in Kansas,, reported Tuesday, Mark Ellis said his daughter, a student at Hocker Grove Middle school in the Shawnee Mission School District, was “shocked” by what she saw on a poster on a classroom wall in school. Ellis said his daughter took a picture of the poster and showed her parents.

Originally, Ellis assumed the poster to be a student prank, until he called the school and discovered it was part of the curriculum.

“Why would you put it in front of 13 year-old students?” he asked.

The poster, entitled, “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?” lists sex acts such as: Oral Sex, Sexual Fantasy, Caressing, Anal Sex, Dancing, Hugging, Touching Each Other’s Genitals, Kissing, Grinding, and Masturbation.

Ellis said after being told by the school principal the poster was “teaching material,” he is now concerned about what his daughter is being taught in school.

“It upsets me,” he said. “And again, it goes back to who approved this? You know this had to pass through enough hands that someone should have said, ‘Wait a minute, these are 13-year-old kids, we do not need to be this in-depth with this sexual education type of program.’”

According to Fox News, however, district spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal said the poster must be viewed in the context of a bigger curriculum, which she identified as abstinence-based for students in middle school.

“The poster that you reference is actually part of our middle school health and science materials, and so it is a part of our district approved curriculum,” Neal said. “However the item is meant to be part of a lesson, and so certainly as a standalone poster without the context of a teacher led discussion, I could see that there might be some cause for concern.”

Neal added that the curriculum is similar to those used by other schools around the country.

“The curriculum it is a part of, it aligns with national standards around those topics, and it’s part of our curriculum in the school district,” she said.

In fact, the curriculum, titled “Making A Difference,” is published by and recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) as a “pregnancy prevention intervention.”

According to the publisher's website, the goal of the program is:

    " empower young adolescents to change their behavior in ways that will reduce their risk of pregnancy and HIV or other STD infection. Specifically, this curriculum emphasizes that young adolescents should postpone sexual activity and that practicing abstinence is the only way to eliminate the risk for pregnancy and STDs, including HIV."

Module 2 of the program, which is called “Understanding Adolescent Sexuality and Abstinence,” offers “an overview of reproductive anatomy, discusses messages about sex, discusses how people express themselves sexually [apparently reinforced by the poster], and the benefits of abstinence.”

According to HHS, in the original study that explored the effectiveness of the Making A Difference program, the participants were African-Americans, aged 11-13.

Nevertheless, Ellis thinks the curriculum should change.

“This has nothing to do with abstinence or sexual reproduction, actually, a lot of these things,” he said. “I would like to see that this particular portion of the curriculum is removed from the school.”

As Fox News reported, Ellis said if the curriculum doesn’t change, he will remove his daughter from sexual education classes.


Hair raising public school statists in Texas

 American Public education statists believe that they have a perfect right to compel by force all human beings between the ages of five and eighteen years to forfeit their precious time, liberty and constitutional rights for seven hours of collective confinement every weekday 280 days every year.

And while they’re at it, these same statists claim the right to force their school-aged victims to conform in all manner of behavior, dress, personal appearance and thought. The children are treated just like inmates in a state penitentiary; penalized for the slightest infractions. It is not enough that they are prisoners; they’re expected to conform like sheep.

Witness the sad case of straight-A student, Devin Gonzalez, a junior at Elysian Fields High School in Ark-La-Tex Texas. She was penalized with suspension because of her hair color. "I got sent home because my hair is red" she explains.

It had been that same color for more than a year, but now the statist administrators are forcing her to change it. They think it’s distracting and doesn’t meet the school dress code.

"I was allowed to come back Thursday because I attempted to dye my hair a different color, but it didn't work obviously," she said. So she was suspended again. The statist principal insists that student hair must be a natural color. "It can't be two-toned and it has to be a natural color.”

"I do volleyball, softball, I'm in FFA, OAP, I'm in one of the plays, I tutor little kids at the elementary on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I don't feel like I'm a trouble maker. I freak out when I get a B," she added. Now she’s hoping her new hair color won't cause any more trouble or stand in the way of her education again.

Yes, they’ve taught this poor little lamb well.  She’s meekly caving in to their criminal demands which violate her First Amendment right to freedom of expression as though she’s the trouble maker deserving punishment. She’s just another hapless victim of those hair raising public school statists in Texas.


Full marks for Minister Gove’s state-school ambition

The decision not to let Baroness Morgan stay on for another term as chairman of Ofsted may not trouble many voters. Labour claims that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, decided against renewing her contract because he would prefer a Tory donor to a former confidant of Tony Blair. Mr Gove insists that he simply wanted a fresh face.

The controversy reopens the debate, as considered by Dan Hodges, about whether quango appointments are political and, if they indeed are, whether it would be more honest just to admit it. Throughout the Blair years, many people got jobs on the basis of their relationship to the government of the day. By contrast, the Tories have actually got by with only a little help from their friends. In 2011, 77 per cent of politically active quango appointees were Labour supporters – despite David Cameron being in Number 10.

Whatever the truth of who appoints whom and why, it is obvious that the political knives are out for Mr Gove. Labour, predictably, thinks it can tar him as an authoritarian ideologue. Interestingly, the Lib Dems think that they can gain votes by joining in. Their opinion research has revealed that they need to win back public sector workers if they are to stand a chance of holding onto their seats at the next election. It is not hard to infer that Nick Clegg’s attacks on Mr Gove, and David Laws’s outrage at the “politicisation” of Ofsted, are designed to woo teachers.

All of which brings us to the real issue: the resistance among the Left to Mr Gove’s programme of reforms. This week he lays out his plans to tackle the “bog standard” attitude in English state education. The evidence shows that under Labour, grades were inflated and standards slackened, with the effect that many schools were outperformed by those in developing countries. Mr Gove has tried to offer parents greater choice and improve teaching, with the effect that now 250,000 fewer pupils are in failing schools. We can expect a week of feverish discussion about his fresh ideas, including issuing new guidance on discipline in the classroom and Common Entrance exams designed to compare British performance with top institutions from around the world.

“My ambition for our education system is simple,” Mr Gove tells the London Academy of Excellence in a speech today. “When you visit a school in England, standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it’s in the state sector or a fee paying independent.” This is why his agenda for state schools so terrifies the Left. It represents a much-awaited rejection of bog-standard equality in favour of the excellence that typifies the independent ethos.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Mr. President, We Know What’s Wrong With the Broken Job Training System; It’s Time to Fix It

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a “year of action” that left many Americans unimpressed. As one political journalist wrote, the president’s agenda includes “small-bore executive orders, studies, summits.” President Obama’s lackluster to-do list was especially evident when he announced Vice President Joe Biden would address job training reform by merely conducting a review of the workforce development system. 

For those in desperate need of new skills and a job, waiting for the vice president to study the problem is time their families cannot afford. So to help expedite this redundant review process, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has compiled a list of important job training facts the vice president needs to know:

FACT: Workers and job-seekers are struggling to navigate a complicated and bloated bureaucracy. The federal government administers more than 50 employment and training programs across nine federal agencies. In 2012 President Obama described the system as a “maze of confusing training programs.” Most of these programs are duplicative, which means taxpayers dollars are being wasted.

FACT: Onerous federal mandates are stifling local workforce leaders. State and local workforce investment boards are responsible for oversight of employment and training services, yet the federal government imposes numerous mandates dictating who can and cannot serve on the board. As a result, these important decision-making bodies can be unmanageable. 

FACT: Even more federal mandates stand between workers and the skills they need to succeed. If a worker wants to jump immediately into training, federal law requires the worker to first complete a cumbersome “sequence of services” that includes career counseling and lessons on resume writing. A system that is supposed to support workers is now an impediment to the very skills they need.

FACT: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already completed an exhaustive review of the federal workforce development system. Since 2011, the GAO has issued four reports highlighting various weaknesses in federal job training support. The GAO has looked at duplication in the current system and difficulties matching workers with in-demand jobs. The GAO’s comprehensive research has helped reveal what’s wrong with the current system and how to fix it.

FACT: The House Education and the Workforce Committee has spent years thoroughly examining the federal job training system. Over the last three years, the committee has convened 7 hearings that addressed myriad issues within the current workforce development system. More than a dozen witnesses discussed the strengths and witnesses of current job training policies, as well as positive ideas for reform.

FACT: Job training reform is long overdue. The Workforce Investment Act – a primary source of federal job training support – was enacted in 1998. The law has been due for reauthorization since 2003, yet Congress has never updated the law. As a result, these and other important policies have been left on auto-pilot for more than 15 years. 

FACT: The House approved comprehensive job training reform legislation almost one year ago. In March 2013 the Republican-led House passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act. The legislation will empower employers, rein in bureaucracy, and provide workers with a more dynamic, flexible, and effective network of job training services.

While these are all important facts, it’s most critical the vice president know this: More than 10 million Americans are searching for a job today, including nearly four million who’ve been out of work for six months or longer. They need job training reform, not another review that identifies problems we already know exist. As House Speaker John Boehner noted earlier this week:

It’s been more than 15 years since we last updated our job training programs.  It’s about time we do this.  And with so many Americans still asking ‘where are the jobs?,’ it’s clearly past time that we do this.

The president wants to take a step back when we should be moving forward with serious job training reform. If this is the type of “action” the president wants to take this year, millions of job-seekers will remain disappointed and unemployed.


The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity

When Shakespeare lost out to 'rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class' at UCLA, something vital was harmed

Heather Mac Donald

In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles wrecked its English major. Such a development may seem insignificant, compared with, say, the federal takeover of health care. It is not. What happened at UCLA is part of a momentous shift that bears on our relationship to the past—and to civilization itself.

Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton —the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the "Empire," UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.

In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to "alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class."

Such defenestrations have happened elsewhere, and long before 2011. But the UCLA coup was particularly significant because the school's English department was one of the last champions of the historically informed study of great literature, uncorrupted by an ideological overlay. Precisely for that reason, it was the most popular English major in the country, enrolling a whopping 1,400 undergraduates.

The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.

Course catalogs today babble monotonously of group identity. UCLA's undergraduates can take courses in Women of Color in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the Caribbean; Chicana Feminism; Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures; and Feminist and Queer Theory.

Not so long ago, colleges still reflected the humanist tradition, which was founded not on narcissism but on the all-consuming desire to engage with the genius and radical difference of the past. The 14th-century Florentine poet Francesco Petrarch triggered the explosion of knowledge known today as Renaissance humanism with his discovery of Livy's monumental history of Rome and the letters of Cicero, the Roman statesman whose orations, with their crystalline Latin style, would inspire such philosophers of republicanism as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

But Petrarch wanted to converse with the ancients as well as read them. So he penned heartfelt letters in Latin to Virgil, Seneca, Horace and Homer, among others, informing them of the fate of their writings and of Rome itself. After rebuking Cicero for the vindictiveness revealed in his letters, Petrarch repented and wrote him again: "I fear that my last letter has offended you. . . . But I feel I know you as intimately as if I had always lived with you."

In 1416, the Florentine clerk Poggio Bracciolini discovered the most important Roman treatise on rhetoric moldering in a monastery library outside Constance, a find of such value that a companion exclaimed: "Oh wondrous treasure, oh unexpected joy!"

Bracciolini thought of himself as rescuing a still-living being. The treatise's author, Quintilian, would have "perished shortly if we hadn't brought him aid . . ." Bracciolini wrote to a friend in Verona. "There is not the slightest doubt that that man, so brilliant, genteel, tasteful, refined, and pleasant, could not longer have endured the squalor of that place and the cruelty of those jailors."

This burning drive to recover a lost culture propelled the Renaissance humanists into remote castles and monasteries to search for long-forgotten manuscripts. The knowledge that many ancient texts were forever lost filled these scholars with despair. Nevertheless, they exulted in their growing repossession of classical learning.

In François Rabelais's exuberant stories from the 1530s, the giant Gargantua sends off his son to study in Paris, joyfully conjuring up the languages—Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean and Arabic—that he expects his son to master, as well as the vast range of history, law, natural history and philosophy.

This constant, sophisticated dialogue between past and present would become a defining feature of Western civilization, prompting the evolution of such radical ideas as constitutional government and giving birth to arts and architecture of polyphonic complexity. And it became the primary mission of the universities to transmit knowledge of the past, as well as—eventually—to serve as seedbeds for new knowledge.

Compare the humanists' hunger for learning with the resentment of a Columbia University undergraduate, who had been required by the school's core curriculum to study Mozart. She happens to be black, but her views are widely shared, to borrow a phrase, "across gender, sexuality, race and class."

"Why did I have to listen in music humanities to this Mozart?" she groused in a discussion of the curriculum reported by David Denby in "Great Books," his 1997 account of re-enrolling in Columbia's core curriculum. "My problem with the core is that it upholds the premises of white supremacy and racism. It's a racist core. Who is this Mozart, this Haydn, these superior white men? There are no women, no people of color." These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of one disgruntled student; they represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today.

W.E.B. Du Bois would have been stunned to learn how narrow is the contemporary multiculturalist's self-definition and sphere of interest. Du Bois, living during America's darkest period of hate, nevertheless heartbreakingly affirmed in 1903 his intellectual and spiritual affinity with all of Western civilization: "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas. . . . I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension."

It is no wonder, then, that we have been hearing of late that the humanities are in crisis. A recent Harvard report from a committee co-chaired by the school's premier postcolonial studies theorist, Homi Bhabha, lamented that 57% of incoming Harvard students who initially declare interest in a humanities major eventually change concentrations. Why may that be? Imagine an intending lit major who is assigned something by Professor Bhabha: "If the problematic 'closure' of textuality questions the totalization of national culture. . . ." How soon before that student concludes that a psychology major is more up his alley?

No, the only true justification for the humanities is that they provide the thing that Faust sold his soul for: knowledge. It is knowledge of a particular kind, concerning what men have done and created over the ages.

The American Founders drew on an astonishingly wide range of historical sources and an appropriately jaundiced view of human nature to craft the world's most stable and free republic. They invoked lessons learned from the Greek city-states, the Carolingian Dynasty and the Ottoman Empire in the Constitution's defense. And they assumed that the new nation's citizens would themselves be versed in history and political philosophy.

But humanistic learning is also an end in itself. It is simply better to have escaped one's narrow, petty self and entered minds far more subtle and vast than one's own than never to have done so. The Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino said that a man lives as many millennia as are embraced by his knowledge of history. One could add: A man lives as many different lives as are embraced by his encounters with literature, music and all the humanities and arts. These forms of expression allow us to see and feel things that we would otherwise never experience—society on a 19th-century Russian feudal estate, for example, or the perfect crystalline brooks and mossy shades of pastoral poetry, or the exquisite languor of a Chopin nocturne.

Ultimately, humanistic study is the loving duty we owe those artists and thinkers whose works so transform us. It keeps them alive, as well as us, as Petrarch and Poggio Bracciolini understood. And as politics grow ever more unmoored from reality, humanist wisdom provides us with some consolation: There is no greater lesson from the past than the intractability of human folly.


Bring back “British bulldog” and other playground games -- and reduce bullying

A school in New Zealand has found that allowing the kids to play previously banned “rough” games has reduced bullying and improved classroom behaviour.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. “You can’t teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn’t develop by watching TV, they have to get out there.”

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.


Monday, February 03, 2014

Colleges and Congressmen Are Why Your Degree Is Worthless

As the spring semester rolls around, college graduates will be thrust into the workforce. With their pedigree from a fine institution of higher learning, and economy ready to receive them, they will surely be able to find employment! The American Dream, a beautiful one at that. Too bad it really won’t apply to most graduates.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 44% of college graduates are underemployed, or working in jobs that they don’t need a degree for. College was originally only available to children of immense privilege. To some degree, that is still true. College Board has determined that a “moderate” budget at a private college for the 2013-2014 academic year is $44,750. With the cost of education often so high and the process of applying so meticulous, many potential students whose parents aren’t formally educated can’t assist them in applying to or attending college. Still, we have made great strides in including people from multiple countries, races, socio-economic classes, and religions into higher education. This, broadly, should be applauded. But the method in which it has been done should not.

College is a business, first and foremost. Let’s look a portion of the financial statements of a mid-sized college to prove this:

Without getting bogged down in this statement (it doesn’t help that most college programs probably don’t instruct students how to read this anyways since college doesn’t teach you much of anything practical anymore), let’s focus on the most important part: operating revenues, specifically, tuition.

It’s the first item, since it’s the largest, and largely explains the way college works the way it does. Between tuition and fees, schools take in $350,262,879 in net revenue. This is revenue after they factor in all the scholarships awarded. Now their operating revenue may be $471, 543,898. However, their operating expenses are $437,121,562. What does this mean? They’re only turning a bit under a 10% yearly profit. Being that tuition is the largest item, this means they can’t afford to lose many students at all. To put this in perspective, given this college’s tuition, if they lose 1,000 students from 2012 to 2013, (given there are twenty five thousand of them, that’s not really hard at all) they’re in the red and running a deficit.

So now that we’ve highlighted the fact that you need to continuously drive enrollment, what do colleges do? Perhaps provide students with meaningful degree programs that are competitive in the worldwide market? Attract world-class professors and garner the interest of top tier students to perform groundbreaking research? Well…maybe a few schools, but not many. Instead, you have what was supposed to be a school turning into a circus. Pop artists, ridiculously unprofitable sports programs, movies, free events, carnivals, confusing degree programs (Nannying at Sullivan University). But most of all, ensuring, by any means possible, more federal student lending.

College meant something when a large percentage of the country wasn’t educated past high school, if that. It doesn’t mean much now that a significant portion of the country goes on to get a bachelors degree and means even less when the school is more concerned about getting tuition dollars than funding good programs. The worst part, however, is the fact that many of these students will have a hard time paying off these loans. Too many degree programs don’t offer entree into careers that merit taking on the debt required to earn them.

In student lending, the education lobby has convinced well-meaning people that higher education automatically translates to middle-class earnings. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t bear this out. Over $1 trillion of oustanding student debt has been accounted for in the third quarter of 2013, in contrast to the declining dilenquincies for mortgage, credit card, and auto debt according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In an effort to extend college to everyone, the federal government has managed to create yet another potential crisis for which citizens, borrowers and taxpayers alike, will be on the hook.


School Choice and Common Core: Mortal Enemies

The freedom-enhancing, life-improving power of school choice is more than a theory for me. It's more than a talking points memo or teleprompter speech. Unlike many of the politicians paying lip service to National School Choice Week this week, the issue of expanding educational opportunity and freedom for all is something I live, breathe, practice and witness every day.

My mother was a public school teacher who taught in a majority-minority district in New Jersey for more than two decades. She and my father worked hard to put their own children in a mix of public and private Catholic schools. My own two children have been enrolled in private schools, religious schools and public schools. After a great deal of research, we moved from the East Coast to Colorado to escape the corrupted, dumbed-down curriculum of an overpriced private girls' school.

Life lesson: It's not just government schools that are the problem. Many supposedly "elite" schools indulge in the senseless pedagogical fads that infect monopoly public schools.

Every family in America deserves maximized, customized choices in education. It is the ultimate key to closing that "income inequality" gap the politicos are always gabbling about. Yet, the White House and Democrats beholden to public school unions and their money are the ones blocking the school choice door.

We were blessed to find a community of parents and public school educators in Colorado Springs who embrace high standards, academic excellence and strong character education for students of every race, creed and class. Competition in the secondary-school marketplace provided a desperately needed alternative for educational consumers who wanted more and better for their kids.

For the past four years, our kids, now 13 and 10, attended a high-achieving public charter school that caters to a truly diverse student body.

Our 13-year-old is now in 8th grade at the charter school. This year, we opted to homeschool our youngest. We cobbled together a 5th-grade curriculum with excellent materials from the Calvert homeschool series, Memoria Press and classic Saxon Math. Another nearby public charter school offers a homeschool collective once a week.

Family participation is not an afterthought. It's the engine that drives everything. The dedicated parents, grandparents, foster parents and legal guardians I've met in the charter school movement and homeschooling community see themselves as their children's primary educational providers. Not the U.S. Department of Education. Not the White House. Not GOP politicians cashing in on top-down "education reform."

After several years of educational satisfaction, however, we've encountered another sobering life lesson: There is no escape, no foolproof sanctuary, from the reach of meddling Fed Ed bureaucrats and cash-hungry special interests who think they know what's best for our kids.

Big-government Republicans such as Jeb Bush and flip-flopping Mike Huckabee pay lip service to increasing school choice and supporting charter schools, private schools and homeschooling. Yet, they have been among the loudest GOP peddlers of the Common Core "standards"/textbook/testing/data collection regime thrust upon schools who want nothing to do with it.

"Alignment" with the new regime means mediocrity, mandates, privacy invasions and encroachments on local control and educational sovereignty. I've seen it in my daughter's polluted math curriculum. We are not alone. The threat is not just in one subject. It's systemic.

Derek Anderson, principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colo., wrote to me last fall about the existential threat his charter school faces. "Ridgeview Classical Schools is a K-12 charter school that offers a classical liberal arts education to approximately 800 students. We were established in 2001, and we have generally been one of the top three schools in Colorado since opening," he said. "Our most significant issue with Common Core and the PARCC exams is that we feel we will lose the autonomy and other protections granted to us when Colorado adopted its Charter Schools Act in 1994."

As I've noted, PARCC is the behemoth, federally funded testing consortium (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) that raked in $186 million through President Obama's Race to the Top program to develop nationalized tests "aligned" to the top-down Common Core program. Anderson and informed administrators, educators and parents like him understand: "PARCC is truly the enforcement mechanism that will coerce schools into adopting the Common Core curriculum. We cannot do this. It is entirely against the mission and philosophy of our school." It is, in short, sabotage. Anderson calls it an "almost existential dilemma. Our mission and philosophy are irreconcilable with Common Core's."

Homeschool mom of six and blogger Karen Braun of Michigan sees the threat to her choice, too. Her trenchant message: "True school choice allows a parent to choose any school that meets their child's needs, not just those that adopt Common Core State standards and assessments."

No fully funded school voucher system in the world can improve the educational experience if Fed Ed controls the classroom and homeschool room. Coerced conformity kills choice.


New British rules: teachers should punish children with litter duty

Unruly pupils will be forced to pick up litter, tidy classrooms or mop dining hall floors, under a major overhaul of school discipline to be announced next week.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will set out for the first time a list of government-approved punishments, including “community service” sanctions, such as weeding school grounds and cleaning up graffiti.

New guidance from the Department for Education, which will be sent to every state school in England next week, are intended to ensure that more teachers take a “tough" line with disruptive pupils.

According to official figures, more than 700,000 children are being taught in schools where behaviour in the classroom and playground is not good enough.

A recent survey found that almost one third of secondary school teachers do not feel confident about using the powers they have to discipline children who behave badly.

Mr Gove is concerned that many heads and teachers are confused about their own legal powers to punish children and fear being sued by parents or falling foul of health and safety laws.

The new Department for Education guide will contain a menu of potential punishments for the first time. These include traditional sanctions such as “writing lines”, issuing no-notice detentions for the same day, and searching pupils without their consent for illicit items such as knives or alcohol.

The recommendations also make clear that teachers have the legal authority to use “reasonable force” to remove an unruly child from a classroom when necessary.

Mr Gove said while pupils' behaviour had generally improved, with fewer children being excluded for abuse and assault in recent years, teachers must not be “afraid” to impose punishments when children misbehave.

“The best schools already ask pupils who are behaving poorly to make it up to their teachers and fellow pupils through community service,” he said. “I want more schools to follow their example by making badly behaved pupils pick up litter or help clear up the dining hall after meal times.

“Standards of behaviour are already improving in schools but there is much more still to do.

"These new guidelines will give teachers the confidence to be tougher on bad behaviour and ensure every child has the chance to learn in a controlled, orderly environment.”

The minister believes that sanctions such as requiring children to report to the school gate early in the morning can be as effective at improving discipline as praising and rewarding pupils who behave well.

The existing government guidance to schools clearly sets out the legal backing for punishing children but stops short of outlining potential sanctions.

The new list of recommended punishments includes:

:: School-based community service – such as picking up litter or weeding school grounds, tidying a classroom, helping clear up the dining hall after meal times, or removing graffiti;

:: Writing lines or an essay;

:: Loss of privileges – for instance the loss of a prized responsibility or not being able to participate in a non-uniform day;

:: Being “on report”, requiring a pupil to attend early in the morning and at other scheduled times.

Mr Gove has been in conflict with classroom teachers’ unions, who have mounted industrial action over pay, pensions and jobs, but many school staff are expected to welcome the new clarity over discipline.

Peter Barnes, head of Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes, said he imposed “community service” punishments on badly behaved pupils to “head off” problems before they get out of hand.

“Some teachers do get worried about setting tough sanctions and so updated guidelines are a good idea as they show we are supported at the highest level when tackling bad behaviour.

“Everyone will know where they stand. We have a very strong ethos of discipline in our school. Pupils, teachers and parents are aware of our behaviour policy and we have introduced a policy of community service where pupils who break the rules perform a task that benefits the school.”

David McFadden, headmaster of the London Oratory School, said the new guidelines were “a vote of confidence in the wishes and needs of teachers across the country”.

“School staff need a compass by which to enforce good behaviour - this is best done by combining rewards for proper behaviour with strong sanctions for poor behaviour,” he said.

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation of thirteen academies, backed the decision to promote punishments that “contribute to the community spirit and wellbeing of the school”.

“A school’s results can only be as good as the behaviour of its pupils. It is therefore important that teachers are aware of the range of sanctions available to them,” he said.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Boy, six, suspended from school for four days after he was found to have a packet of Mini Cheddars in his lunchbox

Cheese is bad for you???

A six-year-old boy who went to school with a bag of Mini Cheddars in his packed lunch has been suspended for four days after teachers said it contravened its healthy eating policy.

Riley Pearson, from Colnbrook, near Slough, was excluded from Colnbrook C of E Primary School after teachers discovered the snack and called in his parents.

After a meeting with headmaster Jeremy Meek, they were sent a letter telling them Riley would be excluded from Wednesday until Monday because he had been 'continuously breaking school rules'.

The school, which was placed in special measures after Ofsted inspectors deemed it 'inadequate' in 2012, introduced a healthy eating policy at the start of term.

A letter was sent to parents saying that from 14 January, packed lunches should be 'healthy and balanced'.

Parents were told: 'Chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks are not allowed.   'If your child's lunchbox is unhealthy and unbalanced they will be provided with a school lunch for which you will be charged.'

Today Riley's mother, airport shuttle worker Natalie Mardle, 24, said: 'We just do not see how they have the right to tell us what we can feed our son.  'If anything, Riley is underweight and could do with putting on a few pounds.'

Miss Mardle, who is expecting her fourth child, added: 'Having a balanced diet also includes eating some carbohydrates, sugars and fats.  'It is not about excluding some foods, it is about getting the mix right.'

Riley’s lunchbox usually contains a sandwich, yoghurt tube, Dairylea Dunkers cheese spread snack, and a packet of Mini Cheddars, with water to drink.

His mother, who lives with his father, airport worker Tom Pearson, said the 3ft 9ins tall schoolboy who weighs 3st 2lbs, eats home-cooked meals and plenty of fruit and vegetables at home.

Miss Mardle said: 'I would understand the exclusion if he was constantly throwing tables around or bullying other children, but it is just ridiculous for a packet of Mini Cheddars.

'Surely the headteacher has better things to do with his time than search lunchboxes?'

Riley's parents, who both work at nearby Heathrow Airport, will be attending a meeting with the head on Tuesday to learn whether their son can return to the 290-pupil school.

Headteacher Mr Meek said the school had one family who 'do not agree with the policy.'  He said: 'We have had a wonderful response and the parents and children are on board and pleased with the way the policy has been impacted on our pupils.

'We cannot talk about individual circumstances, but there is one family who are not prepared to support the policy.  'We are in discussions with them about how we move it forward. We have excluded [the pupil] for four days due to lack of support for the policy.

'It is to avoid putting the children in a difficult situation. If the policy is not being abided by, then that potentially harms that pupil.'  [Sanctimonious old git]


English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils at ONE in NINE British schools

English is not the first language for the majority of children in more than one in nine schools, it has been reported.

Last year the majority of pupils in 1,755 primary and secondary schools spoke another language at home, according to the Daily Telegraph.

It said said that, in more than 200 schools, English is not the first language of nine in 10 pupils, with as many as 14 different languages being spoken.

At some schools children arrive at the age of five with no experience of using English, the newspaper claims.

The number of pupils who have English as their second language is reported to have risen by a fifth to almost 1.1million in the past five years.

Of the 10 schools with the highest proportion of children who do not speak English as their first language, all but two are outside London, and all but one are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, the schools watchdog.

The newspaper says schools have enlisted interpreters to help at parents' evenings and bilingual teaching assistants for reception classes.

Douglas Carswell, a backbench Tory MP, called for a "national debate", told the newspaper: "It's time for a national debate about the impact of social cohesion in Britain today. I want to make sure that we create first and second generation Britons."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We are determined that all children, whatever their background get a first-class education.

"Our reforms to the education system, and the hard work of heads and teachers, are ensuring that is becoming the case - last week figures showed that a quarter of a million fewer children are being taught in failing secondary schools than three years ago."


British schools face surprise inspections if parents go online to complain about appalling behaviour

Surprise inspections will be targeted at schools where parents have complained online about appalling behaviour.

Ofsted will launch lightning visits without notice at primaries and secondaries that are failing to clampdown on unruly pupils from next week.

It will mean an end to the practice of giving a days’ notice to schools that routinely allow students to disrupt lessons and disrespect staff and classmates.

Schools will be selected on the basis of comments about discipline left by families on an online Ofsted questionnaire as well as evidence gathered from previous inspections.

Fifteen schools have already been identified and will be targeted by Ofsted in the coming months. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, said the measure was necessary to tackle a ‘culture of casual acceptance’ of low level disruption.

Around 700,000 pupils are attending schools where behaviour needs to improve. However, teaching unions yesterday said the system could be open to abuse, with some schools deliberately targeted by parents with personal gripes.

The new one-day behaviour visits will catch staff and pupils by surprise – after teachers in the past sent disruptive pupils on school trips or bribed them to behave on the day of an inspection. Data is gathered from Parent View – an online Ofsted facility that allows parents to give anonymous opinions about a school at any time, not just during an inspection.

During the inspections, officials will even observe children between lessons and after school and investigate how behaviour-related incidents are dealt with.

Reports will be published on the education watchdog’s website. If behaviour remains a problem, a full inspection could be brought forward. Sir Michael said that polling parents regularly showed that discipline and behaviour were their top concern, but often less of a priority for schools.

He said Ofsted was determined to crackdown on those who are failing to ‘get a grip’ on poor behaviour and make sure newly qualified teachers are able to work without facing daily problems with disruption.

But Kevin Courtney, of the National Union of Teachers, said that online reporting by parents could be ‘written in anger or through malice’. He said resolving difficulties was best achieved through direct communication between parents and teachers, adding: ‘The bull in a china shop approach of Ofsted solves nothing.’

Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned that families could register for Parent View with a bogus email address and pursue a personal agenda.

He added: ‘But it’s not supposed to be a popularity contest either so if a head, for example, refuses a term time holiday or cracks down on uniform, it makes them a little bit unpopular to start with.  ‘One unpopular decision and schools could face harsh penalties.’

Chris Keates, of the NASUWT union, added: ‘Schools will want to know what the threshold will be, at which levels of concern from parents or inspectors are sufficient to trigger a behaviour inspection and the implications of Ofsted’s inspections.’

An Ofsted spokesman yesterday insisted that parental complaints alone will not lead to behaviour inspection.