Friday, August 29, 2014

USDA: Yucky School Lunches Can Produce 'Civic-Minded, Community-Conscious Adults'

Who imagined that the Obama administration's effort to make school lunches more nutritious (but less delicious) would encourage children to become little community organizers?

The U.S. Agriculture Department has found an upside to all those "healthy" school lunches that students refuse to eat: It says schools can use the plate waste as a "learning opportunity" to turn young students into "civic-minded, community-conscious adults."

A blog on the USDA website explains that an elementary school in Northern Virginia is now donating untouched food to a local food pantry.

"The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin," the blog says.

"The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste.

"At the end of the week, PTA members or community volunteers deliver the food to the local food pantry."

USDA says the 12 schools that worked with the Virginia-based Food Bus in the last school year provided 13,502 pounds of food to local pantries. The donations included packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas and apples, yogurt, string cheese, containers of apple sauce and sliced peaches, granola bars, and cartons of milk.

According to USDA, "Food waste and recovery is also incorporated into science lesson plans."

And Food Bus founder Kathleen Weil was quoted as saying that children "are not only  learning how to not throw away their food and add it to the national waste stream, but they’re learning that it can be used by someone who is hungry. They are getting a little spark of community service now that may have an impact in their life and the lives of the many people around them when they are adults."

The USDA says schools can reduce plate waste with simple rule changes, such as serving lunch after recess; giving vegetables appealing names, such as "creamy corn"; and establishing a "healthy options only" convenience line.

"By implementing these ideas, schools play a vital role in scaling back the amount of food taking up precious landfill space. More importantly, if a school uses food waste as a learning opportunity, it instills better habits in our young people and produces more civic-minded, community-conscious adults."

The blog also quotes Anne Rosenbaum, a elementary school science specialist, as saying that some students "really have an affinity" for food donation.

"They want to go to the food pantry to see how it works. Their parents call in to help volunteer because the kids are so interested. We laugh because our Eco Team and Eco Patrols get blue rubber gloves so that if they find people who have thrown something in the wrong bin they can put it in the right one.  They take their jobs really seriously.”

The USDA says it takes around six months to set up a food recovery program, and it is urging urges schools to share their food recovery stories by joining the "U.S. Food Waste Challenge."


LA: Jindal reportedly to sue federal government over Common Core

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department's $4.3 billion grant program "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department's actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department's grant program.

The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide.

"The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal said in a statement. "Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything."

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students' performance. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted them.

When the state education board adopted the standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students to better prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, however, and now says he opposes the standards because they are an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy.

The governor's change of heart is not shared by lawmakers, the state education board and his hand-picked education superintendent, all of whom refuse to jettison Common Core from Louisiana's classrooms. Jindal tried to derail use of the standards by suspending testing contracts, but a state judge lifted that suspension, calling the governor's actions harmful to parents, teachers and students.

Turning to federal court represents a new tactic in Jindal's efforts to undermine Louisiana's use of the standards.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has criticized the governor's opposition to Common Core as politically driven. In a June interview with "CBS This Morning," the secretary said of Jindal's switched position: "It's about politics, it's not about education."

The Obama administration embraced the standards and encouraged states to adopt them as part of the application process for the Race to the Top grant program. Two state testing consortia -- the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium -- received $330 million from the grant program to develop standardized testing material tied to Common Core.

"Louisiana now finds itself trapped in a federal scheme to nationalize curriculum," the lawsuit says. "What started as good state intentions has materialized into the federalization of education policy through federal economic incentives and duress."

Louisiana received more than $17 million from Race to the Top and joined the PARCC consortium. It also received a waiver from certain federal education requirements under a program enacted by the Obama administration in 2011 that Jindal's lawsuit says was designed to coerce states to use Common Core or risk the loss of billions in federal education funding.


Private schools for the poor

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

For the past two years I have overseen research on such schools in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. The project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, was inspired by a serendipitous discovery of mine while I was engaged in some consulting work for the International Finance Corporation, the private finance arm of the World Bank. Taking time off from evaluating an elite private school in Hyderabad, India, I stumbled on a crowd of private schools in slums behind the Charminar, the 16th-century tourist attraction in the central city. It was something that I had never imagined, and I immediately began to wonder whether private schools serving the poor could be found in other countries. That question eventually took me to five countries—Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, India, and China—and to dozens of different rural and urban locales, all incredibly poor. Since the data gathered from Lagos, Nigeria, and Delhi, India, are not yet fully analyzed, this article reports on findings only from Gansu Province, China; Ga, Ghana; Hyderabad, India; and Kibera, Kenya. These are in vastly different settings, but my research teams and I found large numbers of private schools for low-income families, many of which showed measurable achievement advantage over government schools serving equally disadvantaged students


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pediatricians’ group: School should not start before 8:30 a.m.

Pediatricians have a new prescription for schools: later start
times for teens.

Delaying the start of the school day until at least 8:30 a.m. would help curb their lack of sleep, which has been linked with poor health, bad grades, car crashes and other problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy.

The influential group says teens are especially at risk; for them, "chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm."

Studies have found that most U.S. students in middle school and high school don't get the recommended amount of sleep — 8½ to 9½ hours on school nights; and that most high school seniors get an average of less than seven hours.

More than 40 percent of the nation's public high schools start classes before 8 a.m., according to government data cited in the policy. And even when the buzzer rings at 8 a.m., school bus pickup times typically mean kids have to get up before dawn if they want that ride.

"The issue is really cost," said Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

School buses often make multiple runs each morning for older and younger students. Adding bus drivers and rerouting buses is one of the biggest financial obstacles to later start times, Amundson said. The roughly 80 school districts that have adopted later times tend to be smaller, she said.

After-school sports are another often-cited obstacle because a later dismissal delays practices and games. The shift may also cut into time for homework and after-school jobs, Amundson said.

The policy, aimed at middle schools and high schools, was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Evidence on potential dangers for teens who get too little sleep is "extremely compelling" and includes depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, poor performance in school and on standardized tests and car accidents from drowsy driving, said Dr. Judith Owens, the policy's lead author and director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The policy cites studies showing that delaying start times can lead to more nighttime sleep and improve students' motivation in class and mood. Whether there are broader, long-term benefits requires more research, the policy says.

Many administrators support the idea but haven't resolved the challenges, said Amundson. She said the pediatricians' new policy likely will have some influence.

Parents seeking a change "will come now armed with this report," Amundson said.

Amundson is a former Virginia legislator and teacher who also served on the school board of Virginia's Fairfax County, near Washington, D.C. Owens, the policy author, has been working with that board on a proposal to delay start times. A vote is due in October and she's optimistic about its chances.

"This is a mechanism through which schools can really have a dramatic, positive impact for their students," Owens said.


For-profit colleges: Felonies or feeding frenzy?

For-profit colleges have been feeling a lot of heat over the last few years, and likely some of it has been fueled by politicians driven as much by politics or ideology as concerns about a uniquely awful higher ed sector.  That said, for-profits do have some atrocious outcomes, and no doubt some have very shady practices. So how does the public know if attacks on specific for-profits are about real malfeasance, or about politicians – including lots of attorneys general — trying to make names for themselves by aggressively going after easily demonized schools?

The answer, alas, is that it is essentially impossible for anyone who isn’t able to devote oodles of hours investigating the dealings of individual schools, and wading into the voluminous regulations that come, especially, with federal student aid. So is Corinthian really awful — deserving, essentially, of a federal death sentence – but the City College of San Francisco an obvious victim of a cruel, merciless accreditor? Or is one taken down because it is easily caricatured as uncaring and money-grubbing, while the other is defended because, thanks to its nonprofit status, it seems innocent? Who knows, unless one can wade deep into the operations and outcomes of both schools?

Importantly, on a macro level the evidence is pretty solid that all sectors of higher ed feature serious waste, failure, and profit-taking, which should make anyone suspicious of attacks only on openly for-profit schools. That said, look at the proprietary sector and there is little question that many of those schools truly aren’t producing decent outcomes. The question, then, is how do you weed out bad schools without opening up the potentially huge problem of politically driven “accountability”?

There is only one answer: make people pay for college with their own money, or funds they get voluntarily from others. In so doing, restore incentives for people to think long and hard about where they go to school and what they study, and eliminate the need for people other than those consuming the education – largely bureaucrats and politicians – to be in charge of accountability. It would provide the best outcomes not only for decent schools that shouldn’t be subjected to political feeding frenzies, but also prospective students who would no longer be encouraged to overpay for schools or studies that would ultimately hurt them – and taxpayers – more than they would help.


Australia: School chaplain funding to go ahead despite High Court decision

THE Abbott government has moved to circumvent a High Court decision, allowing school chaplains to still be funded in schools.

In June the High Court ruled the scheme’s funding was not constitutional, awarding a Queensland father Ron Williams his second victory against the Commonwealth.

But today the Coalition has announced the program will go ahead, but instead of giving funding directly to schools, it will flow to states and territories.

In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan said he would be writing to state and territory leaders “in the near future” inviting them to participate.

The scheme, which sees schools given $20,000, will still be exempt from secular workers.

“The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities,” Senator Ryan said.

“I encourage State and Territory Governments to accept the invitation of the Commonwealth to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Programme and give all schools the chance to apply for funding for a school chaplain.”

Labor had opened the program up to secular workers, but the Coalition reversed that decision when announcing an extra $245 million over four years in the May budget.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Closer Look at the Botched Common Core Results

Misleading title aside, the Buffalo News report was not good. “Students in Buffalo statewide make modest gains in math,” declared an article in the New York newspaper detailing the results from the second year of Common Core implementation. Well yes, math scores did overall improve. But, the rest of the report was not quite so rosy:

Despite another full year of preparation by schools after the rollout of state Common Core tests in 2013, there were no dramatic, across-the-board gains in English this year. Large-city districts saw slight year-to-year improvement, but wealthier suburban districts statewide actually saw overall declines on the English exam.

The detailed grade proficiency results in New York from 2012 through 2014 are downright embarrassing. Even the most successful schools weren’t spared from Common Core. Take Ledgeview Elementary School, for example. This school boasted a 91.2 percent proficiency in 2012 for third grade math. The next year, those scores slid down to 76.3 percent. It ticked back up slightly in 2014 to 82 percent, but that was small consolation.

City Honors School, a top rated school in the state, had an impressive 90.2 percent proficiency in eighth grade ELA in 2012. That shot down to 80.4 percent in 2013.

Orchard Park Middle School experienced a swift decline as well. Eighth grade ELA in 2012: 77 percent proficiency, 2013: 58.1 percent, 2014: 52 percent.

Most tragically, the schools already struggling were hit hardest by the new program. The Harriet Ross Tubman Academy, which had a 25.7 percent in third grade math, is now down to two percent.

While Buffalo had minor gains overall, the main issue is worth repeating:

The minor gains in Buffalo were carried by a relatively small number of schools, with the vast majority showing little to no improvement.

Many suburban schools saw significant declines in their eighth-grade scores this year. In Clarence, 52 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in English this year, compared with 64 percent the previous year. The decline was more dramatic in math – 30 percent were proficient this year, compared to 59 percent last year.

Despite these undeniably poor results, State Education Commissioner John King said this year’s statewide scores are “encouraging.”

I guess these students have to bring home ‘F’s to their parents before King dares to criticize the new program.

Unlike King, many parents and teachers are now rejecting the new Common Core standards. In a new poll released by PDK International and Gallup, 60 percent of those surveyed said they oppose the educational standards. What’s more, an education journal named Education Next found that 76 percent of teachers supported Common Core last year, but in 2014, that number has dropped to 46 percent.

In addition to hurting test scores, Common Core is threatening children's educational foundations with its misleading lessons. Take, for instance, the program's take on American history. Rebecca wrote about Common Core’s new standards for the AP US History exam, which leaves out inspiring details about our Founding Fathers and portrays America in a negative light.

Every state should take Governor Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) lead. The Louisiana governor is fighting to delay Common Core implementation in his state. Although a judge recently ruled  against his efforts, Jindal is taking the right steps to try and defend these educators' freedom to teach as they wish, without worrying about these government standards.

Common Core is not in the best interests of students or teachers. How many more bad grades do children have to receive before the program is scrapped?


NC: Judge rules private school vouchers unconstitutional

A new school voucher program for low-income families was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a judge who said taxpayer money should not be used for tuition to private or religious schools.

The vouchers pay for students to attend privately run K-12 schools that do not have to meet state curriculum requirements, violating the state constitution, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said.

"Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose," Hobgood said.

A teachers group and many of the state's 115 school boards challenged the voucher program. Advocates said they planned to appeal.

At least a dozen states and the District of Columbia provide state-funded school vouchers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The State Educational Assistance Authority, which was given the task of managing $10 million in government-funded scholarships, planned to distribute the first $728,000 in tuition money to schools for 363 students on Tuesday. None of that money was given out, said the agency's grants director Elizabeth McDuffie.

Iris McElveen, 45, of Fayetteville got the news of the judge's ruling as she was running back-to-school errands, including a visit to the doctor's office. She'd already bought a uniform and school supplies for her 12-year-old son, who enrolled at a Christian school ready to accept the state payment.

"It's very stressful," said McElveen, a single mother whose three older children are in high school and college.

McElveen sought to send her son to the religious school because it "would have been a more one-on-one" than the charter school, where she said "the classes were too, too large. He was getting overlooked."

Hobgood blocked the state voucher program in February until there could be a trial. The state Supreme Court reversed him in May and allowed implementation to go ahead.

In June, the state agency moved up the date to distribute tuition funding so that it could do it before Hobgood's ruling. Executive director Steven Brooks said the agency decided distributing the money sooner was better, not that they wanted to get out ahead of the judge.

The program's supporters hoped an appeal would let the vouchers continue, said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

"While this court decision might represent a temporary roadblock on the path towards educational freedom in North Carolina, I believe it's just that — temporary," Allison said in a statement. "We're going to continue to fight for a parent's right to choose the educational setting that works best for their children."

The group Public Schools First NC praised the ruling.

"This upholds North Carolina's long-standing commitment to public education. Public education creates productive citizens, a strong economy, and a great democracy," Yevonne Brannon, the group's chairwoman, said in an emailed statement.

Children seeking the scholarships must qualify for the federal free or reduced-price school lunch program, which has an income limit of about $44,000 for a family of four. The grants aren't available to students already attending private schools.

The General Assembly set aside $10 million last year to give up to $4,200 each for up to 2,400 students. About 5,550 children applied for the lottery to select the first year's scholarship students, and of those 4,200 met the criteria to qualify, McDuffie said. Nearly 1,880 lottery-winning families had accepted vouchers by Thursday, she said.


Summerville Police arrest student for writing he shot dead dinosaur

YOU don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that dinosaurs became extinct about 66 million years ago.

Yet a high school student’s statement that he shot dead his neighbour’s pet dinosaur saw police officers called to the school.
Alex Stone, a 16-year-old student at Summerville High School in the town of Summerville in South Carolina, said that his class was asked to write a few sentences about themselves and to list a “status” as if they were filling in their Facebook page, WCSC-TV reported.

The teen wrote “I killed my neighbour’s pet dinosaur.” In the status section, he said he wrote: “I bought the gun to take care of the business.”

That prompted the school to call in Summerville Police Department. Stone was arrested and later charged with disorderly conduct after he argued with officers, who searched fruitlessly for a gun in his school bag and locker. He has also been suspended from school.
Stone’s mother, Karen Gray, is angry that she was not called before the police.

“I could understand if they made him rewrite it because he did have ‘gun’ in it,” she said.

“(But) I mean first of all we don’t have dinosaurs anymore. Second of all, he’s not even old enough to buy a gun.”

Stone said he meant no harm and is surprised his words could be construed that way.

“I regret it because they put it on my record, but I don’t see the harm in it,” he said. “I think there might have been a better way of putting it, but I think me writing like that, it shouldn’t matter unless I put it out towards a person.”


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The New, Shameful, Liberal High School History Curriculum

Imagine if the only thing you were taught by Advanced Placement curriculum about Thomas Jefferson, the author of the single most important document in our country’s history, was that he was a wealthy landowner.

CollegeBoard, the issuer of Advanced Placement Exams has been condemned by the Republic National Committee for their newly revised Advanced Placement U.S. History exam and framework for “reflect[ing] a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

Some of our most influential historical figures are hardly mentioned, if at all.

George Washington is alluded to only once in the framework and it is in reference to his farewell address. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are mentioned only in the “Long Essay Questions” section, where they are listed as examples to illustrate the lack of change in the upper class in the pre-Revolution and post-Revolution world.

College Board gave this example in a practice AP essay given by students:

 “[A good essay] might note, for example, that the outcome of the American Revolution saw no broad change in the composition of those who dominated the social, political, and economic structure of the former colonies. Those individuals who were wealthy, powerful, and influential before the event continued to possess wealth, power, and influence later. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson could serve as examples.”

This new framework shows U.S. history in a negative light. It also has expanded the curriculum from five to 98 pages, allowing teachers less flexibility and making it harder for them to fulfill their state’s social studies standards.

While the new curriculum may be more “left-leaning,” I have had my own experiences with this issue specifically. Having taken AP US History last year, I experienced first-hand College Board curriculum. Even though the new standards had not yet been applied, I still could see how the most admirable aspects of our country’s history were often downplayed. This also could have been due to my very liberal teacher, who once when someone asked “Was Gerald Ford a Republican?” she replied saying, “Yes, wait what did you say?” After the question was repeated, my teacher said “Oh, I thought you asked if he was a bumpkin… although I can’t say that I would have changed my answer.” Or when we were discussing the 2008 election, she said “Oh well I hope none of you would have voted for Sarah Palin!” Don’t get me wrong, she was a great teacher, but the fact that her perspective was so biased, and the fact that I got a 5/5 on the exam, is indicative of how left-leaning the exam has become.

But that’s nothing compared to the new standards. How shameful and absurd that George Washington and the other founding fathers’ unprecedented and truly revolutionary vision is not highlighted.

While I intend to continue my study of US history in college, for many of those who got a high enough score on the exam, they may never have to take a US history class again.

 “Those who don’t go on to college to take US history in college, this is it. So, if this is the impression they come away with, I’m afraid that we are creating a cynical generation.”

College Board’s new framework and exam for AP US History are set to be implemented in the fall of 2014.


Most Americans Not Cool With Illegal Immigrants In Local Schools

President Obama has been very quietly distributing illegal immigrant children throughout the country, most of the time without even telling (much less asking) state and local governments. States such as Indiana and Virginia are now having to deal with the issue of allowing the immigrants to attend local schools.

Unsurprisingly, Americans are none too happy knowing these undocumented immigrants will be attending school alongside their children. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll:

Thirty-two percent (32%) of Likely U.S. Voters think these illegal immigrants should be allowed to enroll in local public schools this fall, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-three percent (53%) disagree and say they should not be permitted to attend local schools. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

Where these illegal immigrants are now living remains unknown to most voters and many elected officials because the Obama administration has been transferring them secretly. Forty-seven percent (47%) of all voters believe the administration should have gotten the approval of elected officials in a state before housing the illegal immigrants there. Thirty-two percent (32%) feel such approval was not necessary, while 21% are not sure.

Allowing aliens to attend public schools while they reside illegally in our country is, apparently, a law, according to The Daily Signal's Genevieve Wood. Rather than paying to transport, extravagantly housing, and educating these children...we should be sending them home to their families.


UK: The school that proves Michael Gove is right

Success has many fathers, and on Twitter the fight to claim credit for the results at King Solomon Academy has already begun. KSA is an all-through school in Paddington, London, sponsored by ARK, and its results are breathtaking.

First, the context. Twelve per cent of the children at the school have special educational needs, 51.1 per cent are on free school meals and 65.2 per cent don't speak English as their first language. So a challenging cohort, the sort of pupils that critics of Michael Gove's education reforms claim simply cannot manage to get five GCSEs at grade C or above, including maths and English, let alone do well in the EBacc subjects. Expecting children from such deprived backgrounds to study the same curriculum and sit the same exams as children at Eton or Westminster is "elitist".

They're bound to do badly and that, in turn, will damage their "self esteem". Much better to teach working class children useful "life skills", such as how to walk (an actual recommendation made by the deputy general secretary of the ATL). Forcing them to do traditional subjects like History and Geography is "totalitarian".

Okay, so how did they do, these lumpen proles written off as too thick to tackle academically rigorous GCSEs by the teaching unions? Well, to begin with 93 per cent got five A*-C, including maths and English. Not only that, but 95 per cent got A*-B in English Literature and a whopping 75 per cent of the entire GCSE cohort achieved the EBacc benchmark. To give you an idea of what an achievement this is, the percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc benchmark at Rugby last year was 64 per cent.

So how did KSA manage to get such extraordinary results? Well, obviously, the children deserve a lot of the credit, as do their teachers. But would they have done as well if KSA was a local authority school? I visited KSA in January of 2010 when the pupils who've just sat their GCSEs were in Year 7. The school had opened the previous September and one of the remarkable things about it was that the headteacher, Max Haimendorf, was only 28. He was a graduate of the Teach First programme and was taking full advantage of the freedoms KSA enjoyed in virtue of its academy status, particularly the freedom to depart from the national curriculum.

Some people will point out that KSA was set up under the previous government and therefore Labour deserves the credit, not the Coalition. It's certainly true that Labour politicians who championed the academies policy, like Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis, deserve some of the credit for the success of KSA and other, similar schools, such as Mossbourne. But Labour's education spokesmen in this Parliament have been very half-hearted in their support for academies, primarily because they don't want to upset the teaching unions and the Left of the party, who've always been opposed to them.

To give just one example, Andy Burnham told The Guardian that he thought Labour's education reforms had undermined the comprehensive ideal. "Put it this way, I wasn't cheerleading for academies," he said. If Labour now feels embarrassed by its only successful education reform – remember when the 15-year-old girl was booed at the Labour Party Conference because she had the temerity to praise an academy? – it can't now claim credit for the success of KSA.

Gove, by contrast, has promoted academies with a messianic zeal, overseeing the conversion of over 50 per cent of England's secondary schools to academy status. Indeed, free schools are just academies by another name, a point Andrew Adonis has made. In an article for the New Statesman, Adonis defined free schools as "academies without an immediate predecessor state school". By that definition, KSA is a free school.

But the essential point is that KSA has been doing exactly what Michael Gove would like all schools to be doing, namely, teaching every child a knowledge-based, subject-specific curriculum and expecting each of them to achieve the same standard as a child at a top independent school, regardless of background. This was the original vision behind comprehensives, which Harold Wilson described as "grammar schools for all", and it's a vision that Gove has kept faith with while Labour and the teaching unions have moved further and further away.

The success of the pupils at KSA proves that teaching all children the best that's been thought and said isn't elitist or discriminatory, it doesn't penalise children from deprived backgrounds or ethnic minorities and it won't damage the "self esteem" of working-class children. It proves something Gove has always known, but the Left appears to have forgotten – that all children are capable of mastering advanced algebra and understanding Shakespeare, not just middle-class children.


Monday, August 25, 2014

UK: Public school teacher accused of sex act with pupil is CLEARED in just 90 minutes  and says teachers have no power when allegations are made

A PUBLIC school teacher accused of engaging in sexual activity with a ‘flirty’ female pupil spoke of his frustration yesterday after he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Russell Woolwright, 30, said the false allegations had forced him to resign from his job as an economics teacher at £30,000-a-year Canford School in Dorset, where he had worked for five years.

The girl, who was 17 at the time, sent Mr Woolwright a series of inappropriate emails – but he insisted there had  been no sexual contact.

After having to endure a four-day trial in which he was charged with making the teenager perform a sex act on him  during an encounter in an alleyway,  he said the system leaves all the  ‘power with the pupils and not with  the teachers’.

Mr Woolwright met up with the girl after she pestered him with a string of lewd emails including one she titled ‘party in my pants’.

He said he told the girl to stop contacting him and twice backed away when she tried to kiss him.

After the police later learnt of the  email exchange between the pair,  the girl ‘embellished’ her version of events and claimed she carried out  the sex act.

But a jury took just 90 minutes  to find him not guilty of two  counts of causing or inciting  sexual activity with a girl as an adult in a position of trust.

After the verdict at Bournemouth Crown Court, Mr Woolwright said: ‘It’s a huge relief.  ‘I now feel I can go out again without being judged and I can get on with my life which I am having to rebuild from scratch.’

He went on to say: ‘This trial has not only affected me but also my friends and family.  ‘It has made me realise the power is with the pupils and not with the teachers. An allegation can be made at any time.’

Mr Woolwright also revealed that he would like to get back into teaching again, but said he would be ‘more wary’ of situations involving students in the future.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, started emailing the teacher after they bumped into each other in Wimborne, Dorset.

On October 25 last year he was sent an email from a friend of the complainant which he received on his mobile phone.  The first message said ‘[she] wants you’ and another one read: ‘Hurry up Wussy Russy.’

The girl, described in court as ‘flirtatious’, then sent an email which was titled ‘party in my  pants’ and boasted of her sexual prowess in a follow-up message.

Mr Woolwright insisted that he was angry and shocked by the nature of the messages, and claimed he had only decided to meet up with the girl so that he could tell her to stop.

He told the court: ‘I saw it as an opportunity to say “look these emails really have to stop. It’s inappropriate in the language that’s been used.”’

He emailed both the girls in the days following the encounter to urge them to delete the emails they had swapped.

When he was questioned by the police he acknowledged he had been wrong to put himself anywhere near the girl at the time and admitted that he should instead have taken up the matter with the school’s headmaster.

He told officers: ‘I don’t want this allegation to ruin my job at Canford and also my teaching career because I love it.’

Mr Woolwright, from Bristol, flatly denied the girl’s version of events when they were put to him by prosecutor David Bartlett during the trial.

He is currently not teaching but working for a company which manufactures audio devices.


UK: How much do our genes dictate our High School results?

Your scores in your GCSEs are heavily influenced by your genetic heritage

Almost three quarters of a million students will have received their GCSE results this week and congratulated themselves on – or bemoaned the lack of – the effort they put in back in May. Of course, hard work is important, but studies have shown that GCSE results are also influenced by a myriad of other factors, many of which may surprise you.

One factor that is clearly important is genes. If you as a parent did well in your exams, it’s likely that your children will too. In fact, a study by researchers at King’s College, London, published at the end of last year made waves by showing that around 58 per cent of the variation between students with regard to their GCSE results could be accounted for by genetic differences. How do we know? Identical twins (who share 100 per cent of their genes and 100 per cent of their environment) have more similar GCSE scores than do non-identical twins (who share 100 per cent of their environment, but only 50 per cent of their genes).

The 58 per cent figure is arrived at by comparing the extent of the difference between members of identical and non-identical twin pairs. On this calculation, the shared environment was shown to account for just over a third of the variation between students; a surprisingly low figure when it is borne in mind that this category includes not only the schools the pupils were sent to and the teachers they had, but also effects of the home environment (including the family), peers, boyfriends and girlfriends, reading (or lack thereof), the internet, computer games, and all the other 101 things that parents of teenage children fret about.

Another highly heritable factor in GCSE success is personality, which has been shown to account for eight per cent of variation between students. If your child has a somewhat introverted disposition – in other words, likes to spend time on their own; has just a few, close friends; often favours listening over talking – then he or she is likely to have done better in all the core subjects (English Language/Literature, Maths and Science).

Students, on the other hand, who score high for neuroticism – those who are in a permanent state of anxiety over who said what about whom on Facebook, for example – show worse performance, but only in maths and science, presumably because these subjects in particular demand concentration and focus (which is difficult when you’re worrying about something else). Interestingly, students who are curious, creative, independent thinkers – those who score highly for the personality trait of “openness to experience” – don’t show any particular advantage in GCSE performance; perhaps, critics would argue, because modern exams encourage drilling and rote learning, rather than creative thinking.

Parents have an influence beyond their genes too, of course, but not always in the ways that you might think. For example, boys (but not girls) whose mothers suffered from post-natal depression show worse performance in their GCSEs. This effect seems to be driven by the fact that mothers who suffered from post-natal depression are less able to provide cognitive support to their children (for example, discussing and elaborating on things their children say) during the preschool years, regardless of whether or not they are still experiencing depression.

Another study found that students whose mothers suffered from existing diabetes before their pregnancy (as opposed to gestational diabetes) were three times as likely to achieve no good GCSEs (Grades A*-C). More research is needed to find out exactly why, but – at present – the most likely explanation is that the mother’s diabetes has a negative effect on the baby’s cognitive development while still in the womb.

Indeed, quite a few things that happen in the early years impact GSCE results many years down the line. For example, students who have suffered from meningitis in infancy are more likely than controls to fail both to achieve the holy grail of five good GCSEs (25 per cent and 48 per cent respectively) and to obtain a single pass (25 per cent vs 7 per cent). Similarly, a study conducted at the University of Liverpool found that children with very low birth weight went on to score significantly fewer GCSE points (an average of 32 points, where A*=8, A=7, B=6, and so on) when matched to their own classmates (37 points), with 38 per cent and 44 per cent respectively achieving five good passes. Both meningitis and low birth weight impact upon childhood IQ, which is strongly linked to later exam results.

Later in life, however, the effect of weight flips: a study by Dr Josie Booth, a psychologist at the University of Dundee, published just a couple of months before the current crop of students sat their exams found that girls (but not boys) who had been overweight at age 11 showed significantly worse GCSE performance at age 16 than their normal-weight peers, even after controlling for current weight, IQ and depression. Again, we’re not sure exactly why this is, but there is some evidence that overweight 11 year olds are more frequently off sick than their classmates and even receive lower marks from their teachers for work of the same standard. (Of course, GCSE exams are marked blind, but a lifetime of unfairly-low grades can hardly be good for students’ confidence).

Of course, the most important factor, accounting for around 20 per cent of variation between students, is intelligence. Nevertheless, if your child didn’t receive the GCSE results they were hoping for today, they can look to science for a laundry list of excuses. You might not want to share this information with them, however; after all, perhaps the biggest contribution to their performance comes from you. Or, at least, your genes.


School Superintendent Asks Female Student To Bend Over During Dress Code Check


A school superintendent in Noble, Oklahoma allegedly asked a female student to bend over during a dress code check on the first week of school and claimed, “If you’re not comfortable with bending over, we might have a problem.”

Students at Noble High School report that the superintendent, Ronda Bass, kicked off a school assembly by saying, “Have y’all ever seen any ‘skanks’ around this school…I don’t want to see anyone’s ass hanging out of their shorts.” She later completed another dress code check, singling out just the female students.
Several students were sent home “crying and humiliated,” KFOR reports, and now parent are also raising concerns over how their daughters were treated. They’ve started a petition demanding that she step down.

For her part, Bass denies doing anything inappropriate and says she was trying to protect her students from the names others were calling them. “The message I wanted to send to them was I don’t want them to be called those names,” she told KFOR. “I want us to be known as the classy lady Bears.”

The incident is just the latest installment in a long line of examples of schools telling girls to cover up so they don’t distract their male peers. Critics worry that these policies teach girls that it’s their responsibility to prevent themselves from being ogled, rather than teaching boys to have the self-control to refrain from objectifying their classmates.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Organizations Sign Statement Against Assault on a Student at Temple University

SPME  joined 11 other groups in issuing a statement condemning the antisemitic attack against a pro-Israel Jewish student at Temple University.  The student was punched in the face and called “baby-killer, racist, Zionist pig” and “kike” as he stood next to a table run by the Students for Justice in Palestine. The groups called on Temple University to publicly condemn this attack and to carefully monitor SJP because of its history of intimidation, harassment, and incitement against pro-Israel students on campus.

Full Statement

We are deeply troubled by the physical assault against a Jewish student at Temple University.  Daniel Vessal, a CAMERA Fellow and member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, was punched in the face and knocked down and called “baby-killer, racist, Zionist pig” by individuals at the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table that was part of “Templefest,” an organizational exhibition on August 20, 2014. A university campus should be the setting for thoughtful discussion and intellectual debate. Such an atmosphere should be encouraged by all responsible student groups.

 Unfortunately, Students for Justice in Palestine is not such a group. It has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus. This is unacceptable and must be exposed and condemned by all those who value free speech, civil discourse, and cultural understanding among the diverse members of the university community, including students, faculty, and administrators. We are concerned that the campaigns and materials that are promoted and produced by SJP subvert the normal and proper campus environment and may inspire violence, particularly during Israel’s struggle against Hamas, an Islamist terror organization whose genocidal charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and war against all Jews.

Groups like SJP should be closely monitored by campus authorities to ensure that they abide by the basic university rules for open academic discussion and intellectual debate. Otherwise, there is no place for them on campus. We commend Hillel for its statement on the deplorable episode at Temple and encourage all groups and individuals to join in calling on Temple University to publicly condemn the recent assault committed at the SJP table on campus as well as to publicly condemn intimidation of any individual or group based on their identities or viewpoints.


The More They Know, the Less They Like Common Core

It’s poll season, and two annual education polls find most public attitudes about education policies are consistent with past years, but this year shows a sharp change on Common Core national education mandates. Now, finds the annual Pi Kappa Delta/Gallup poll, for the first time a majority of Americans--81 percent--has heard of Common Core. And 60 percent oppose it.

The annual Education Next survey out this week found support for Common Core at a bare majority, 53 percent, sharply down from 65 percent support last year. Its most significant finding, however, may be the 30-point drop in support for Common Core among teachers, from 76 percent last year to 46 percent this year. That’s huge. There’s almost been a near-quadrupling of opposition among teachers, from 12 to 40 percent.

The two polls also found a contradiction within American ideas about education control. The EdNext poll found that, when one removes the “Common Core” label, 68 Americans still support the concept of national education standards. But the Gallup poll found majorities agree that local school boards should have far more control over what schools teach than state or federal governments.

The two polls contradict each other on support for school choice, too: The EdNExt poll finds bare-majority support for most school choice policies, except for a solid 60 percent support for tax-credit scholarships, while the Gallup poll finds disfavor for school choice. This is likely because of poll questions: The Gallup poll is advised by teachers union representatives and, accordingly, puts a negative spin into its school voucher question (labeling only that education choice as “at public expense,” as if public schools don’t also function “at public expense”).

It’s likely that poll questions also help explain the divide over curriculum control. Everyone is for “standards” in the abstract. Everyone is not for “standards” that, like Common Core, coerce teachers and schools and impose bad education theories on the country. Folks who support protecting people’s right and duty to govern themselves need to spend more time explaining why centrally planned standards are an inherent oxymoron. Here’s a sample explanation:

Nationalizing education, like nationalizing anything, requires compromise to get enacted. And compromise inevitably sacrifices quality. So if you want quality, refuse nationalization. Quality has to grow from the ground up, through cooperation and competition, or it will never exist.


Introducing kids to adult/youth “gay clubs” in communities, outside of schools. A dangerous intro to “gay sex.”

Probably the fastest and most dangerous way that schoolchildren are introduced to homosexual behavior is through adult-youth “community” gay clubs, which are run by homosexual (and transgender) activist adults and seek to attract local high school and middle school children.

This is the fifth part in our series on this year's annual GLSEN Conference held in Boston in April 2014 which brought together LGBT teachers, school officials, and education activists (and their "allies") -- along with children as young as fifth grade
-- where they outlined their latest tactics for the schools.
Community “LGBT youth” clubs: Mixing vulnerable kids with adult “gay” activists

Unlike the “gay straight alliance” clubs inside the schools – which are themselves outrageous -- these meet at various places in the community and are completely unsupervised by any outside entity. However, schools know this and are still cooperative in steering vulnerable kids to these clubs, where the kids develop relationships with the adult activists. In our experience, the school authorities do not notify parents when they introduce their child to these groups.

How dangerous can these clubs get?  Most parents and public officials don’t have a clue.  Back in 2007 MassResistance posted a shocking public letter written by a 20-year-old homosexual activist in Maine describing the abuses going on by adults to kids in the local "gay youth" club. It included his own admission of sexual relations with two younger boys.

Last year a Massachusetts mother introduced legislation to stop the public schools from steering students to outside “gay clubs” after a counselor at her 16-year-old son’s high school referred the boy to a local club without the parents’ knowledge or consent. 

Here’s from the mother’s testimony before the Massachusetts Legislature:

Our son was seeing a [therapist] for childhood traumas that are known to cause sexual identity issues in adolescence.

At [the gay club] our son was told that he was born gay, could never change, and that anyone who didn't embrace his sexual identity was a hater and a homophobe, including his family. . . He was provided with sexually provocative and anti-Christian literature .  . .

The school administrators defended [the school counselor’s] actions [in referring him to them].

In recent years, these outside “gay youth clubs” have also emphasized cross-dressing, transgenderism, and even sex-change medical procedures for kids.  MassResistance recently documented how these clubs partner with even more extreme groups and radical government-funded transgender programs.