Friday, December 12, 2014

Alleged gang rape at UVA

The Leftmedia have a story to tell, and they’re generally not going to let facts get in the way. This truth came in to stark relief with Friday’s massive correction Rolling Stone issued to its November report on a gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The correction was so big, it may be easier to recount what the original report got right than what it got wrong. A quick recap:

A UVA student given the name “Jackie” recounted how a man Rolling Stone calls “Drew” and his fellow fraternity brothers raped her at a party. But among numerous other errors, it turns out Drew belongs to a different fraternity than the one in question, and there was no party the night Jackie says she was raped. Much trouble would have been avoided had reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely not acceded to Jackie’s request not to interview the accused because she feared retribution. Bad decision.

The story was evidently too good to check because it fit the narrative of a widespread “rape culture” supposedly evidenced by the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses around the country. In fact, Erdely went around looking for just the right story to support that narrative. We’ve already questioned the breadth of the epidemic itself, and Rolling Stone’s shoddy and reckless journalism hardly does anything to correct the record, much less help true victims of rape.

Jackie may have been raped, and just because some of the facts were wrong doesn’t mean all of them were. And it should go without saying that this doesn’t invalidate other rape accusations. But truth cannot be a casualty of narrative.

Other media outlets swallowed Rolling Stone’s original story hook, line and sinker, leading to a cascading effect turning a lie into a legend. Media often blindly take up a cause célèbre in pursuit of ratings and the almighty advertising dollar. (We note that this is one reason The Patriot Post doesn’t accept advertising, instead relying on the support of our readers for our sustenance.)

It’s noteworthy that, just like the Jonathan Gruber videos, the UVA story began to fall apart because of the efforts of an independent blogger.

Worked into a tizzy by Rolling Stone’s story, feminists hammered “rape apologists” who dared ask questions. To them, men accused of rape are guilty until proven innocent. And to many of them, they’d even rather cling to a false story than admit men are innocent.

That recalls the response to rape accusations against Duke University’s lacrosse team several years ago. Those likewise proved to be false, though only after the reputations of those young men were destroyed.

Nevertheless, UVA students protested, while university president Teresa Sullivan responded to the allegations by shutting down activities at all fraternities and sororities. When Rolling Stone essentially retracted the story, Sullivan didn’t apologize for overreacting – she doubled down. “Over the past two weeks,” she said in a statement, “our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus.”

Reason Contributing Editor Cathy Young concludes: “Commentators across the political spectrum have expressed concern that Rolling Stone’s sloppy journalism will damage what Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle calls ‘the righteous fight for rape victims.’ But despite its righteous goals, the crusade against rape has leaned too far toward promoting the dangerous idea that accusation equals guilt and that to doubt an accuser’s word is heresy. Finding the balance between supporting victims and preserving the presumption of innocence is a difficult line to walk. Perhaps the lessons of the UVA story will help steer the way toward such a balance.”

In Young’s separate analysis of the Obama administration’s Department of Education push to have colleges and universities more vigorously prosecute sexual assault, she writes, “The Department of Education has recommended that colleges use the lowest burden of proof – ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ which means a finding of guilt if one feels the evidence tips even slightly toward the complainant. Missing is virtually any recognition of the need for fairness to the accused.”

Bottom line: Sexual assault allegations should be investigated and prosecuted by qualified law enforcement agencies, not on the pages of Rolling Stone or other pop media outlets


Welcome to TotCare: Obama's Preschool Takeover

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and 'round, just like the endless cycles of big, bad government programs to federalize preschool and daycare.

On Wednesday, the White House Summit on Early Education will unveil nearly $1 billion in new “investments” to “expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America” from “birth and continuing to age 5.” It’s a retread of President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union school-spending plan, which was a repackaging of his 2011 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge program.

Those Obama initiatives are knockoffs of moldy-old Democratic policy chestnuts, such as former Vice President Al Gore’s push to fund preschool for all 3-year-olds at a cost to taxpayers of at least $50 billion over 10 years, left-wing actor/director Rob Reiner’s “I Am Your Child” campaign for universal preschool and child care, and Hillary Clinton’s various “It Takes a Village” schemes to expand Head Start from womb to work. With age comes fiefdom.

How could anybody be against tax-subsidized Pre-K for all, you say? Let me count the ways.

Every one of these Big Babysitter boondoggles rests on “progressive” junk science. The Obama White House asserts that “studies show that for every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more.” Balderdash. This discredited claim rests on results of the tiny Perry Preschool Project in Michigan, run at a cost of $19,000 per child more than a half-century ago, and a similar program in North Carolina called the Abecedarian Early Intervention Project.

As David Armor of the libertarian Cato Institute noted in a thorough review of the scientific literature this fall, the “groups studied were very small, they came from single communities several decades ago, and both programs were far more intensive than the programs being contemplated today.”

More recent research by the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst found that the vaunted academic benefits of full-time Pre-K in Georgia and Oklahoma “have had, at best, only small impacts on later academic achievement.” In fact, Georgia elementary school students’ test scores are mediocre, and Oklahoma test scores have been on the decline for the past decade. A 2010 Department of Health and Human Services report, which assessed approximately 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds who were randomly assigned to either a control group or a group that had access to the federal Head Start program, concluded that “at the end of kindergarten and first grade … the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.”

In 2012, government researchers reported “little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.” The federal investments in early childhood programs keep ballooning, yet the educational impacts are dubious at best.

Then there’s the alarming encroachment of data miners into the lives of parents and their young children. As I’ve reported previously, Common Core-aligned assessment systems such as Teaching Strategies Gold in Colorado and California’s “Desired Results Developmental Profile” are stockpiling massive amounts of information on preschoolers' social, emotional, physical, language and cognitive development. The collection of data and accompanying assessment inevitably dictate the content in the classroom. TS Gold, which integrates its results into the vast network of statewide longitudinal data systems, raked in $30 million in federal Race to the Top subsidies in 2012. The latest round of Obama’s “Preschool Development Grants” and “Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Awards” require applicants to plug into this insatiable data machine, as well as “linking” and “partnering” with a plethora of other government programs.

After attending TS Gold training sessions last year, Cindee Will, principal of the James Irwin Charter Academy in Colorado Springs, calculated that compliance, not including taking and uploading photos of students as required, would soak up at least 16.5 hours of kindergarten class time per week or 640 hours a year of instruction in class. Test administration four times a year for an average of 25 students, she told me, would mean “150 hours per year or 2.5 months: one quarter of our time. And this equation is done with the knowledge that our K program is a half-day program!”

As you might imagine, the administrative and financial burdens on small, privately run part-time preschool programs would be even more onerous. Fatal. And exactly as planned.

Think Obamacare is bad? Well, welcome to TotCare. The goal of the educational central planners, you see, is the elimination of competition. The fact is that the vast majority of Pre-K kids are already happily enrolled in early childhood programs outside of Fed Ed’s clutches. The “problem” isn’t most families' lack of access to preschool. It’s Washington’s lack of access to your kids for their institutionalized warehousing, data mining and pedagogical propaganda schemes. The Nanny State’s ceaseless quest for control keeps creepily rolling along.


UK: A Sikh Principal, Too English for a Largely Muslim School

As a Sikh and second-generation Briton running a public school made up mostly of Muslim students, Balwant Bains was at the center of the issues facing multicultural Britain, including the perennial question of balancing religious precepts and cultural identity against assimilation.

But in January, Mr. Bains stepped down as the principal of the Saltley School and Specialist Science College, saying he could no longer do the job in the face of relentless criticism from the Muslim-dominated school board. It had pressed him, unsuccessfully, to replace some courses with Islamic and Arabic studies, segregate girls and boys and drop a citizenship class on tolerance and democracy in Britain.

“I suppose I was a threat, giving these children more British values, for them to be integrated into society,” Mr. Bains said in his first interview since the controversy over his departure.

His experience has helped bring to life the often deeply emotional and highly contentious conflicts unearthed by a British government investigation this year into whether organized groups of conservative Muslims were having undue influence on public schools.

The topic has become especially sensitive at a time when Britain is concerned about the radicalization of young Muslims in the country and their involvement with jihadis in Syria and Iraq. The investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter, sent last year to local officials in Birmingham, alleging an organized Islamic takeover of British schools in Muslim neighborhoods.

Conducted by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, the inquiry found the allegations to be overstated. But the agency found much that was troubling about Muslim efforts to promote changes in secular public schools, and it has recently widened its investigation to 46 schools across the country.

The investigation found that five schools in Birmingham, including Mr. Bains’s, shared a pattern of behavior similar to what was described in the anonymous letter. The letter also cited Mr. Bains’s impending resignation, a month before it was made official and which only a few knew about, suggesting that the author was someone with detailed knowledge of the schools.

“The Sikh head running a Muslim school,” the letter said, “will soon be sacked and we will move in.”

The investigation found that some teachers and school board governors at the other schools were encouraging homophobia, anti-Semitism and support for Al Qaeda, sometimes inviting speakers who endorsed the establishment of a state run under Sharia law.

One school stopped music and drama lessons as well as Christmas and Diwali celebrations, and subsidized trips to Saudi Arabia for Muslim students.

In another school, the report found, girls and female teachers were discriminated against, and compulsory sex education, including discussions about forced marriage, was banned. Girls and boys seen talking for too long or considered flirtatious were reprimanded, while boys were given worksheets that said a wife had to obey her husband.

The report, released in July, highlighted Mr. Bains’s case and concluded that there had been a “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.”

Muhammad Khan, the chairman of the board of governors at the time, who is no longer at the school, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Three governors who were also present at meetings with Mr. Bains also refused to comment on his allegations.

Muslim leaders in Britain have condemned the report’s findings, saying it was wrong to conflate conservative Muslim practices with an alleged agenda to Islamicize school systems.

Mr. Bains, 47, was born to Indian immigrants in a suburb of Coventry notorious for prostitution and violent crime. He grew up listening to stories of how his father, a teacher in Punjab State, walked 30 miles each day to and from school. He would study by candlelight because his village had no electricity. After arriving in Britain and securing work as a laborer, he put his son and daughters through college.

“It made me value education more, and because it is free in this country,” Mr. Bains said. “I lifted myself out of poverty because of education. If I could do it, if I could break the cycle, other children could, too.”  His background, he said, is that “I’m an inclusionist.”

He added that he saw his role as being to “educate children to live and function in a multicultural Britain, to be appreciative of the views of other people, but also to express themselves.”

In 2012, he became head teacher of Saltley, a school where grades were falling behind the national average. In spite of his ordeal throughout 2013, the school achieved its best General Certificate of Secondary Education grades ever — roughly equivalent to the high school diploma in America. Britain’s school inspectorate judged the school as one of the most improved state schools that year.

“But I never got a single congratulation” from the school’s governing board, a mix of elected parents and other people from the community and members appointed to represent the staff and the local government, Mr. Bains said. “It was emotional harassment.”

The chairman of the governing board took to challenging his day-to-day decision making, Mr. Bains said. In one instance he was required to justify every decision he made during a three-month period, Mr. Bains said, including why he had students walk on the right side of the corridor instead of the left, what he said at assemblies and why he made changes to the school website. He had to print and distribute the resulting 300-page document to each of the 15 members of the governing board.

When a student threatened six classmates with a knife, he expelled the boy, a Muslim, in a decision supported by parents and the local authority. But governors reinstated the boy. Because Mr. Bains did not suspend another student, a white boy who had surrendered the weapon, talk spread among staff that he was racist and Islamophobic. He discovered a Facebook post and text messages calling on parents and students to protest against him, he said, and later learned that the message had even been circulated among local mosques.

“Some of the children would come in and tell me, ‘Mr. Bains, they’re going to egg your car today, so you better move your car,’ ” he said. “I felt very isolated, I was despondent. I was a head teacher going into work without any power.”

The treatment, he said, lasted 11 months, beginning just two months after he was appointed head teacher, until he resigned.

By then, all non-Muslim governors except one at his school had left. He was immediately replaced by a friend of the chairman of the board of governors. A number of staff members at other schools cited in the government investigation also resigned because they disagreed with the attitudes taken by some administrators. They also claimed that teachers had been appointed based on their religious zeal, not their teaching qualifications.

The government report partly vindicated him, Mr. Bains said. But if nothing changes, he said, “then it means anyone can just go in and destroy a school and get away with it.”


Amazing:  Australian teachers supporting RESEARCH into educational methods

A change from the "we just know" approach of the  past.  Maybe they have finally learnt something from the failure of their treasured "look and learn" method of teaching literacy

The Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA) is proud to announce the establishment of an independent, competitive research grant available to researchers to conduct research with teachers and students in primary schools.

The grant of up to $75,000 will be made available annually to enable researchers to undertake research around the efficacy of different pedagogical approaches to the teaching of English in the primary school setting and will involve teachers and schools as research partners. The researchers will be expected to work collaboratively to report the research in a manner which is relevant to the PETAA membership and the broader education community.

On announcing the research grants, PETAA President, Associate Professor Robyn Cox, commented that to the best of our knowledge no other professional association of teachers has made a financial commitment of this magnitude, and in cash, to fund original research in Australia.

The grant further confirms PETAA’s ongoing commitment in support of educational research in the field of literacy; an initiative embedded within PETAA’s new Strategic Plan.

 The Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA) is a leading national teacher professional association supporting the teaching of English and literacy in Australian primary schools


Thursday, December 11, 2014

‘This Isn’t Education, It’s Indoctrination’: Notre Dame Offers Seminar On White Privilege

The University of Notre Dame is offering a one hour credit seminar discussing the critical issue of white privilege. The class is being offered in the spring semester of 2015.

In the course registrar, the course is listed as Sociology 25280 and is named “White Privilege Seminar.” The course will meet eight times next semester for two hours each time. The course description goes into more detail as to the logistics of the class. “This six-week preparatory class is designed to educate and train White Privilege Conference delegation participants on the definitions of, historical/current paradigm of, and causes/effects of white privilege.”

Along with the training seminar, students will be required to attend the White Privilege Conference after the training class from March 8-14. The course description’s claims the main objective for each student is “personal transformation: to leave the class and conference more aware of injustices and better equipped with tools to disrupt personal, institutional, and worldwide systems of oppression.”

Campus activist Mark Gianfalla found the class to be ridiculous, “The problem I see with this course is that it is teaching a flawed and inherently racist sociological theory as fact,” Gianfalla told The Daily Caller. “This isn’t education, it’s indoctrination. Where is the required counterpoint course on affirmative action? It does not exist because that idea does not fit with the social and racial agenda of the professor,” he continued.

Gianfalla then focused on the professor, Iris Outlaw, “This is a faculty member who helped organize protests against the College Republicans’ hosting of Ann Coulter on campus last year under the premise that Ann was a perpetrator of racial ‘hate speech.’ Nothing is stopping her, however, from spewing the idea of white privilege and consequently white guilt in a University sanctioned course.”

Gianfalla provided TheDC with the email sent from the official Black Student Association, in conjunction with the Notre Dame’s NAACP, to which Outlaw is the adviser. The email also contained a list of 100 students who agreed to protest back in April.

Gianfalla concluded, “The Africana Studies Department is renowned as a promoter of liberal and racially problematic bias.  The official Africana Studies Department bulletin board is still currently solely devoted to attacking the College Republicans and Ann Coulter, rallying against the freedom of speech and categorizing her political activity as ‘hate speech.’”

TheDC reached out to Iris Outlaw, the leader of the seminar, for comment, but Outlaw did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.


The boycott-Israel brigade undermine the university

On 16 December 2013, a pre-eminent academic disciplinary body, the American Studies Association (ASA), used the occasion of its annual conference to push through a boycott of Israeli universities. This unprecedented attack on academic freedom came on the back of campaigns organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which, in its most recent incarnation, began in Britain in 2005 and rapidly migrated to the US. Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), describes the BDS campaign as ‘the most influential current version of a long-term effort to delegitimate the state of Israel’.

The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, a collection of essays edited by Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm, aims to provide an immediate and badly needed response to the ASA boycott. This impressive volume successfully counters every argument made by BDS proponents as well as providing extensive context to debates around both academic freedom and the state of Israel. Nelson draws upon his knowledge of the AAUP, an organisation founded in 1915 with a key objective of enshrining the importance of academic freedom in higher education. The historical comparisons highlight the parlous state of academia today, and help explain why the BDS movement has gained such traction in universities. The contributors to this volume rescue the concept of academic freedom, and through it the idea of scholarship itself, from the sneering contempt of the boycotters and their attempts to redefine academic freedom beyond all recognition.

The book contains numerous examples to illustrate the deleterious effect boycotts have upon academic freedom. We’re told of authors who refuse to have their books translated into Hebrew, Israeli academics pulled from the editorial boards of journals, PhD students prevented from taking up scholarships, as well as many more mundane examples of academics not being able to speak at conferences or take part in collaborative research projects. Steven Salaita, a leading BDS advocate who is now more famous for recently having his tenured position at the University of Illinois rescinded, is quoted as saying he is ‘tepid about academic freedom as a right’. This was before he accepted money from the AAUP to help him fight his own case on the grounds of academic freedom. Perhaps more scurrilous are the Orwellian attempts of the likes of Sunaina Maira, editor of The Imperial University, to promote the boycott on the grounds that it ‘enlarges academic freedom for all’. Presumably, this is all except Israeli academics.

In his contribution, David Hirsh argues that the ASA’s boycott is built on a notion of ‘the collective guilt of Israeli intellectuals’. He provides a thorough analysis of the ‘myth’ of the institutional boycott, exploring how, in reality, it is a wholesale attack upon individual academic freedom. Russell Berman notes the inherent dishonesty of the BDS proponents’ suggestion that individual Israelis can exempt themselves from the boycott if they use private finance for international conference attendance and denounce the policies of their government towards Palestinians. He notes the irony of a boycott being ‘premised on that strangely neoliberal illusion that one can strip away [institutional] infrastructure without harming the individual scholar at all’.

The AAUP reminds academics that universities should be ‘institutions committed to the search for truth and its free expression’. At the heart of the BDS movement lies the opposite belief – that academic freedom should be conditional on the identity or political views of the individual scholar. Presumably this requires a morally attuned elite to sit in judgement on their colleagues and decide whether denunciations of Israel are expressed with sufficient veracity. We are reminded that the AAUP ‘cannot endorse the use of political or religious views as a test of eligibility for participation in the academic community’. This point is reinforced by Martha Nussbaum: ‘For a group to say that journals and academic conferences have a litmus test, namely a particular position on the actions of the government of Israel, is infinitely more threatening than if it simply boycotted all Israeli scholars alike.’

The BDS-driven notion that academic freedom should only be afforded those with the ‘correct’ political outlook reinforces the belief that knowledge cannot be judged objectively, that its worth, rather, is based on the identity of the originator. Academics-cum-activists bring this argument from their classroom, where they suggest to students that what passes for knowledge is merely a reflection of the perspectives of dominant social groups. Many of the contributors to this book recognise injustices towards Palestinians and are quick to point out problems with the Israeli government’s policies. But the point made repeatedly is that solutions to oppression are always to be found in more objective judgements – that is, in more academic freedom, not less.

Many contributors explore how boycotts not only restrict academic freedom but are often anti-Semitic in intent, if not in effect. Those campaigning for boycotts are often less bothered by success than they are with creating a moral climate where specific demands can change while the general opprobrium goes unquestioned. Paul Berman argues campaigners are trying to convince themselves that their mission is ‘modern and progressive’ rather than ‘disgraceful and retrograde’. Some chapters point to the historical precedents of boycotts directed against Jews, which the current crop of BDS campaigners reiterate and present anew. Nelson cites work by Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler to suggest the boycotters, or at least their most influential spokesmen, ‘argue for the ultimate BDS solution - dissolution of the Jewish state’. Emily Budick reinforces this point with her claims that ‘many of those who support the BDS movement against Israel do not actually believe that Israel has any right to exist’.

One of the most difficult questions for the authors of this book to confront is why Israel is singled out in this way when other nations show even less regard for human rights and have been responsible for worse atrocities. When this question was posed directly to one of the ASA boycott proponents, the blithe answer was: ‘Why not?’ Brahm and Romirowsky suggest ‘Israel simply had to be deemed somehow uniquely to blame for something - and so it was’. Sabah A Salih digs deeper and has a far more satisfactory answer. He points to an ideological shift which has taken place in the West since the 1970s, wherein the US is considered to be out to impose its hegemony on the world. And ‘as a colonial creation, Israel plays an indispensable role in this dirty effort’. Salih suggests the most virulent criticism of Western culture today originates from within the West itself: ‘The achievements of the Enlightenment are now routinely the subject of ridicule. … The revolutionary project that liberated humanity from the monarch and feudal lord… is now generally derided.’

The impact of ‘reason and its accomplishments’ now being perceived as a problem by many within universities is, as Salih notes, the repositioning of culture from an affirmation of universal values to a confirmation of identity. This creates a climate receptive to the demands of the academic-boycott movement. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin points out that 48 per cent of boycotters are affiliated to humanities departments compared to only seven per cent within science disciplines. Of these humanists, by far the largest proportion specialise in English or literature, and 92 per cent of this group have research interests that include class, gender, race or empire. In his chapter, Berman suggests the roots of much of this can be traced back to Edward Said’s ‘shoddy, theoretically incoherent and factually inaccurate proto-BDS primer, Orientalism’, which, Brahm and Romirowsky argue, encouraged the presenting of the Arab-Israeli conflict solely through the lens of anti-Zionism, as to do anything else would make one ‘orientalist’.

Said’s Orientalism, however influential, can’t be held solely responsible for the destruction of liberal academic values. What’s being argued here is the bigger point that Israel, considered the embodiment of Western imperialism, became a sitting target for the scholars Berman characterises as being ‘against scholarship’, and for whom the academic, political and personal had been wrapped up into one moral mission. The BDS movement emerged in a context of increasingly predominant anti-racist and anti-imperial scholarship that, as Musher notes, reinforces a connection between ‘academic and political commitments’. Nancy Koppelman argues that many contemporary humanities scholars ‘reduce colonialism to simple matters of European cruelty and power’. This means that whatever the political intentions of certain key individuals, the academics and students swept up in the BDS campaign are ‘passionate about justice, sometimes without knowledge of the facts and consequences’.

Ultimately, many of the arguments presented in this book are also moral. But as Budick, citing Todorov, reminds us, no moral courage is needed to take a position with which everyone else agrees. Instead, she urges each and everyone of us ‘to investigate the truth and examine for ourselves what constitutes “the good” and what does not’ . This book does far more than make the case against academic boycotts of Israel: it reminds us what academic freedom actually means and its crucial importance in underpinning the entire scholarly edifice. We abandon this at our peril. At the same time there is also recognition that this alone is not enough to counteract the BDS movement. Equally as important is the need to mount a defence of liberal academic principles more broadly: to argue that knowledge is more than just identity and perspective; to assert the aspiration towards, and the possibility of, seeking truth; and to draw a distinction between scholarship and activism.  This book is a vital step in this direction.


Michelle Obama: 'Small Number of Students Are Getting Every Advantage'

Speaking at a "college opportunity summit" on Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama described "two worlds" of college-bound students:

"[T]he fact is that right now, a small number of students are getting every advantage in the college admissions race, while millions of other students who are just as talented can't even begin to compete."

Mrs. Obama was making a pitch for expanded college counseling. She said too many students go through school without any real guidance on how to get into college or how to pay for it.

She described one world, where students "don't know what classes to take, or how to prepare for the SAT or the ACT. No one helps them decide which colleges to apply to. No one reviews the their applications. And plenty of kids have no idea that they're eligible for financial aid, so they assume they just can't afford college, and they don't even bother to apply.

"Now, that's one world. The other world is much smaller -- it's a world of schools where the question (for students) isn't ... whether they're going to college, but where. Kids in this world start preparing for college long before they even start high school. And from the first day of freshman year, they've been shepherded through every step of the process.

"They've got SAT and ACT prep courses, they take those tests again and again to improve their scores. Counselors have much smaller caseloads, and they walk kids through every deadline, they edit every draft of their essays."

In fact, the Obamas' own daughters go to such a school, but the first lady didn't mention that. However, she did joke that she and the president "wonder how we ever managed to get ourselves into college," since they didn't have the kind of counseling available to the privileged children of today. Nevertheless, both Obamas ended up at Ivy League schools.

Because "millions" of low-income students don't have the same advantages of the "small number" who are "shepherded through the process," colleges don't always get the very best students, Mrs. Obama said: "They're getting the students who can best afford to succeed in this system. And we are leaving behind so many bright, hungry, promise-filled kids."

According to the first lady, some of those kids are literally hungry.

She mentioned an "excellent student" from Albuquerque, New Mexico, named Roberta Gutierrez whose family was so poor, Roberta "had to skip lunch for a week" just to pay the $15 fee to take the PSAT in her sophomore year. Roberta did well on the test, and with the help of school counselors, she learned that she would be eligible for for thousands of dollars in scholarships. "And Roberta, of course, she was shocked," Mrs. Obama said.

Roberta's school now holds fundraisers to ensure that low-income students can take the PSAT for free. Meanwhile, Roberta went on to get a full scholarship and is planning to get a PhD in psychology.

Unless more students get quality school counseling, "We are depriving ourselves of so much human potential in this country -- from the scientific discoveries these kids might make, to the businesses that they might build, to the leadership that they might one day show in our communities." Mrs. Obama called that a "tragedy for our country."

She told the gathering of college presidents and school counselors that higher education is no longer just for students in the top quarter or the top half of the class -- "it has to be for everyone. So we are going to need a college-counseling system that reflects this new reality."


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Emotions are what matter at universities now

(See also today's postings on  TONGUE-TIED)

Columbia Law School is permitting students claiming to be impaired due to the emotional impact of recent non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner matters to postpone taking their final exams. Here is the text of a message from interim dean Robert Scott to the law school community:

The grand juries’ determinations to return non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally. For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.

For these reasons, after consultation with students in the law school and with colleagues on the law faculty and in the administration, I am taking the following steps to assure our responsiveness and involvement in this particular moment:

- In recognition of the traumatic effects these events have had on some of the members of our community, Dean Greenberg-Kobrin and Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Director, Academic Counseling, have arranged to have Dr. Shirley Matthews, a trauma specialist, hold sessions next Monday and Wednesday for anyone interested in participating to discuss the trauma that recent events may have caused .

- Several members of the faculty have agreed to schedule special office hours next week to be available for students who would like support and/or would like to talk about the implications of the Brown and Garner non-indictments. These office hours will include:

Conrad Johnson – Monday, 12:00 – 2:00, Room 833
Olati Johnson – Monday, 12:00 – 4:00, Room 630
Susan Sturm – Wednesday, 2:15 – 3:15, Room 617
Katherine Franke – Monday, 1:00 – 3:00, Thursday, 9:00 – 11:00, Room 637

- I support the idea of an open community dialogue to discuss the concerns of students in the wake of recent events, and to share diverse and collective notions of injustice that these cases raise. I will encourage all members of our community to attend.

- The law school has a policy and set of procedures for students who experience trauma during exam period. In accordance with these procedures and policy, students who feel that their performance on examinations will be sufficiently impaired due to the effects of these recent events may petition Dean Alice Rigas to have an examination rescheduled.

- Several members of the faculty have agreed to work with students to develop a reading group, speaker series, and/or longitudinal teach-in next semester in which the group would explore a series of sessions where we educate ourselves and formulate a response to the implications, including racial meanings, of these non-indictments. In an effort to include the larger community in which we live and study, this work may include a collaboration with Columbia’s Center for Justice and with the Schomberg Center.

In closing let me just add my hope that through these and other efforts all members of the Columbia Law School community can can come to have a greater sense of mutual support and trust.

The key passage, bolded in the original, is the rescheduling of exams for the “sufficiently impaired.” This, I’m told, is the essence of what the black students association asked for. The stuff about counseling, dialogue, re-education, etc. looks like window dressing.

The video of Garner is certainly disturbing. But anyone so unstable as to be incapable of preparing for and taking exams due to grand jury proceedings not involving themselves or their families should be given an indefinite leave of absence in which to get better.

What is really behind the request for postponement of exams? I suspect it’s the fact that the students in question would rather protest with their friends and perhaps disrupt New York City than read cases, review lecture notes, or whatever it is that students do these days to prepare for exams. In addition, the students in question presumably want the law school to take their side on what they take to be a political question. In other words, this is, in part, a power play.

In 1970, many colleges closed up shop early following the shooting of students by the National Guard at Kent State University. The shootings disturbed many students, but we weren’t too distressed to attend class and study for exams. We just didn’t feel like it.

Instead, we were intent on causing trouble. College administrators figured that, under the circumstances, it would be better to send everyone home.

College administrators come and go, but for the past 45 years they can usually be counted on to take the path of least resistance when the left agitates. Even when doing so results in behavior and conduct that seem like self-parody.


Food Fascism at work

The following is an academic journal article that says school lunches made by parents are no good. You would only take it seriously if you thought that official guidelines were wise.  But since official guidelines and food "wisdom" generally change a lot from time to time the results could reasonably be ignored     

Quality and Cost of Student Lunches Brought From Home

By Michelle L. Caruso et al.


The nutritional quality and cost of lunches brought from home are overlooked and understudied aspects of the school food environment.

To examine the quality and cost of lunches brought from home by elementary and intermediate school students.

Design, Setting, and Participants
An observational study was conducted in 12 schools (8 elementary and 4 intermediate) in one Houston, Texas, area school district from October 6, 2011, to December 5, 2011. Participants included 242 elementary and 95 intermediate school students who brought lunches from home.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Foods brought and amounts eaten were recorded along with student grade level and sex. Nutrient and food group content were calculated and compared with current National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines. Per-serving prices for each item were collected from 3 grocery stores in the study area and averaged.

Compared with the NSLP guidelines, lunches brought from home contained more sodium (1110 vs ?640 mg for elementary and 1003 vs ?710 mg for intermediate students) and fewer servings of fruits (0.33 cup for elementary and 0.29 cup for intermediate students vs 0.50 cup per the NSLP guidelines), vegetables (0.07 cup for elementary and 0.11 cup for intermediate students vs 0.75 cup per the NSLP guidelines), whole grains (0.22-oz equivalent for elementary and 0.31-oz equivalent for intermediate students vs 0.50-oz minimum per the NLSP guidelines), and fluid milk (0.08 cup for elementary and 0.02 cup for intermediate students vs 1 cup per the NSLP guidelines). About 90% of lunches from home contained desserts, snack chips, and sweetened beverages, which are not permitted in reimbursable school meals. The cost of lunches from home averaged $1.93 for elementary and $1.76 for intermediate students. Students from lower-income intermediate schools brought significantly higher-priced ($1.94) lunches than did students from middle-income schools ($1.63).

Conclusions and Relevance
Lunches brought from home compared unfavorably with current NSLP guidelines. Strategies are needed to improve the nutritional quality of lunches brought from home.


The Left did NOT introduce free university education to Australia

The Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme introduced by the conservative Menzies government in 1951 gave free education to the top third of High School graduates  -- more than 20 years before the Whitlam government

Former prime minister John Howard has reportedly taken a swipe at actress Cate Blanchett, declaring her speech at Gough Whitam's memorial service "outrageous".

During her address at the Sydney Town Hall in November, Ms Blanchett said news of Mr Whitlam's death filled her with an "inordinate sadness".  "The loss I felt came down to something very deep and very simple. I am the beneficiary of free, tertiary education," the actress told the state memorial service.

The Whitlam government abolished university fees in 1974. The policy would remain in place for 14 years.

However, News Corp publications report Mr Howard believed Ms Blanchett's praise was misdirected.

"That speech of Cate Blanchett's was outrageous," Mr Howard said. "Cate Blanchett is a talented actor, I admire her talent, but to suggest that Whitlam introduced free university education is wrong.

"The last three years of my university education were completely free and that was 11 years before Whitlam came to power. "This idea that it just arrived (with Whitlam) is complete nonsense and it ought to be called out more frequently."

In 1989, Labor education minister John Dawkins established HECS, meaning students would pay tuition fees but only when earning a decent wage.

The architect of the HECS system, Bruce Chapman, has said Whitlam's impact on higher eduction should not be underestimated.

"Whitlam's higher education agenda and Dawkins' had one thing in common: to take away any need for people to find money to enrol in university," Chapman said in November. "Gough Whitlam left a legacy of a system without upfront fees that has lasted for 40 years."


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Student Privacy Concerns Add to Common Core Resistance

There are many things to hate about Common Core standards. From convoluted, unsolvable math problems, to an increased reliance on soulless standardized testing, to a lack of local control and adaptation to individual circumstances, just about everyone can find something to object to. One of the most concerning aspects of the program, however, is the invasive collection of personal data from students, an area that has received far too little attention in media discussions of education.

All states opting into Common Core have agreed to substantially expand their State Longitudinal Data Services program, which allows schools to collect and store student data. In exchange for this enhanced data collection, states received federal grants from Race to the Top, essentially a cash prize for schools that do things the Department of Education wants them to do under the blanket terms “innovation,” “reform,” and “excellence.”

The exact nature and extent of the data to be collected remains the subject of disagreement. Several groups are alleging that extremely sensitive personal information, such as mental health info, is being collected, although this has been denied by state Departments of Education. The words and actions of government officials, however, tell a different story, and indicate that we should be loath to take such dismissals at face value.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in outlining the administration’s goals, said the following in a 2009 address:

We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult.

This is a bit creepy in its scope, but at least it focuses on academic metrics. A 2013 study from the Department of Education paints a far more chillingly Orwellian picture of the future of American schools. The study recommends the tracking of student moods and psychological conditions, even going so far as to suggest that technologies such as facial expression cameras and eye-movement trackers be used to evaluate student attitudes. Are we really meant to trust these people when they claim they are not interested in invasive data mining of every student?

At the very least, we should be worried about the lack of transparency. When experts of different political persuasions can look at the same program and come to different conclusions about what it actually does, there is obviously a need for greater clarity. Parents need to know what sort of information is being collected from their children, and who has access to it.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents have a right to access the data if they are willing to invest the time and effort. However, the Department of Education has acted unilaterally to allow other government agencies—or even third parties such as companies that make education products—access to student data without any parental notification requirement. Furthermore, FERPA does not protect data privacy on students who are homeschooled by their parents.

Some states, such as Florida and Louisiana, have passed legislation in an attempt to curb student data collection, but analysts have warned that these programs are not severable from the main thrust of Common Core, meaning that states will need to go further in removing the standards altogether if they want a functional education system.

Fortunately, the trend appears to be promising for opponents of Common Core. No fewer than three governors—Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker—have rescinded their earlier support for the standards, several states have withdrawn entirely, and several more, such as Ohio and Tennessee, are taking affirmative steps to withdraw early next year. Teachers, parents, children, and even some of the country’s largest unions have turned against Common Core, recognizing what an unworkable disaster the program represents.

The Department of Education has succeeded in promoting a policy so dangerous to student privacy that opposition is rapidly nearing unanimity. If only government regulators were always this self-defeating.


First new grammar school for 50 years likely to win approval

Britain's first new grammar school for 50 years is likely to be given the go ahead in a move which will help quell a Conservative rebellion.

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, is expected to approve the new school in Kent in January following a submission of updated principles by a local Conservative council.

Her decision is likely the be applauded by senior Tory MPs, who have called for an expansion of grammar schools to be included in the Conservative manifesto.

The new school will open in the town of Sevenoaks, officially as an "annexe" of the existing Weald of Kent school nine miles away. The new school – which already has planning permission and a £16 million building fund – will admit 90 pupils a year from 2016.

Previous proposals were rejected by Michael Gove, then education secretary, after they failed to clear bureaucratic hurdles put in place by the previous Labour government.

Kent county council has insisted the updated plan will be "compliant with the regulations" which state that any new grammar school must be the satellite campus of an existing institution.

The previous plan would have created a mixed "annexe" to the existing girls' grammar school. Under the new plan the Sevenoaks site will also be girls – only.

The Daily Telegraph understands the Mrs Morgan believes the new application is "much stronger" and is likely to approve it in January.

David Cameron and his education ministers have so far resisted calls to repeal a ban on the opening of new grammar schools, which select pupils on the basis of their academic ability through the “11-plus” exam.

But a grassroots Tory group, Conservative Voice, is building support among backbench MPs for a change in policy which it says would be popular with millions of middle-class parents.

Damian Green, one of the MPs, said: "I'm delighted that this will be the first new grammar school for decades. I hope it's the first of many. It shows that it is possible to create grammar schools even under the existing laws.

"I would like to see a change of law so this is an option for parents in many other parts of the country. There is room for grammar schools because they are the best way of spreading opportunity to children from disadvantaged backgrounds."

There are 164 grammars in England. The best dominate secondary school league tables for exam performance, as their pupils outshine their peers in fee-paying private schools.

Mr Cameron, who was educated at Eton, triggered a furious row within the Conservative party in 2007 after ruling out an expansion of grammar schools, saying parents do not want their children “divided into sheep and goats at the age of 11”.

Last week, it emerged that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is backing similar plans for a grammar school annexe in her Maidstone constituency. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary and MP for Sevenoaks, has supported the Kent plan, saying it is "deeply unfair to parents in my constituency" that the town does not have a grammar school.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, became the latest leading Conservative to back the expansion of academic selection, saying grammar schools have been the "great mobilisers and liberators of people".


Nicky Morgan: ex-soldiers to teach children 'grit'

Pupils will be taught the value of “grit" and "determination” under plans to use former soldiers to strengthen the “character” of the nation’s schoolchildren.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, has allocated almost £5 million to eight projects in England to help pupils learn resilience, self-confidence and respect.

Schools that are particularly successful at developing “well rounded” pupils will be given awards by a panel of education experts, under the plan.

Mrs Morgan, who became Education Secretary in the summer reshuffle, said the courses would help pupils develop the “character and resilience” they need to succeed afer leaving school.

“For pupils who may have faced challenges or difficulties in their personal life, these initiatives run by former armed services personnel can offer a sense of greater aspiration and can help build the skills and confidence they need to go on to good jobs and successful futures," she said.

“Coupled with the new character awards schools will now have the tools and support they need to ensure they develop well rounded pupils ready to go onto an apprenticeship, university or the world of work.”

Last year, more than 52,000 pupils took part in projects run and designed by former service personnel to instil a “military ethos” in schools.

The courses encourage pupils to volunteer, understand how to learn from mistakes and overcome failures, try out new activities, and develop aspirations for their lives. The government has now allocated an extra £4.8 million to these “military ethos” projects.

In a separate move, schools that build character, resilience and grit in their pupils will be recognised through a new national competition.

The "Character Awards" will offer cash prizes of £15,000 each for up to 27 schools across England. One further national prize of £20,000 will be given to the school judged to be the best in the country at developing character.


Monday, December 08, 2014

The new segregation

Organizers of a recent Ferguson protest at the University of Missouri requested “only people of color” take part in the event’s “die-in,” one element of a larger demonstration that prompted at least two classes to be shelved so students could participate.

“During the demonstration we will hold a ‘die-in’ in the student center. We are asking that only people of color be the ones to do so,” event organizers stated in an email obtained by The College Fix. “We are asking non-people of color to stand holding hands in solidarity.”

“The ‘die-in’ is meant to represent black bodies that are killed unjustly. It was requested that others stand in a circle holding hands,” student Ebony Francis told The College Fix in a telephone interview.

Tuesday afternoon’s rally attracted hundreds of students and faculty and lasted more than 90 minutes as participants vented frustration over the decision by a grand jury to not indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The “die-in” – a play on “sit-in demonstrations” popular at universities – was 4 1/2 minutes of silence to represent the 4 1/2 hours Brown lay dead in the street after Wilson shot him. During the die-in, a large group of black students laid on the ground, although a couple of white students still took part despite organizers’ instructions.

According to comments on social media, at least two classes were essentially canceled so students could take part in the demonstration, which began with a “walk-out.”

Organizers asked the campus community to leave “classrooms and offices with their hands up and meet us in the Student Center at 12:00pm to move in solidarity and inform this campus and our community that we will not tolerate injustice against black and brown lives,” according to organizers’ email.

Junior Daniel Beaman told The College Fix his psychology class was shelved Tuesday as a result. He said his professor invited students to participate in the walk out and, although the scholar did not leave the classroom, did not offer a lecture.

“I paid for my class. I don’t want to cut it short, so I don’t want to leave early unless I absolutely have to,” Beaman said in a telephone interview.

When asked what he thought of organizers’ stipulation that only people of color be involved in the “die-in,” Beaman, who is white, said “if they are trying to make a message that is against racism, I think they may have failed. The email makes it appear as if white people are not victims of police brutality. Like it’s only a black issue.”

During the protest, organized by representatives from the Legion of Black Collegians, MU NAACP, and MU4MikeBorwn, participants chanted slogans such as “Black lives matter!” and “No racist police. No justice! No Peace!” and read the names of black people who have been killed in acts of violence by police and civilians.

Senior Naomi Daugherty, student leader for MU4MikeBrown, gave a speech that included a “white privilege checklist,” citing examples of instances where whites received advantages not afforded to black people.

“If you aren’t afraid to bring children into this world because they might be killed for being black, you have white privilege,” she said, according to the Missourian.

The University of Missouri is not the only campus at which white students have been asked not to play a role in Ferguson demonstrations. “White folks” in Massachusetts were asked to keep their hands down at a campus walkout Monday afternoon, Campus Reform reports.


Chief British school inspector in fresh attack on 'weak' secondary schools

Ofsted will issue a warning over poor standards in secondary schools this week as figures show the number of failing comprehensives has soared by almost two-thirds.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, will say that overall performance in state secondaries has “stagnated” over the last 12 months after years of improvements.

Publishing his latest annual report, he will raise fresh concerns over schools’ failure to tackle indiscipline and raise standards among white working-class boys.

The chief inspector is also expected to criticise standards of leadership and governance, saying too many weak head teachers are struggling to stamp their authority on schools.

It follows a series of reports into the “Trojan Horse” affair in Birmingham where it was claimed governing bodies were being infiltrated by hard-line Muslims.

Sir Michael will tell of an “impressive upward trajectory” in primary schools over the last 12 months but warn of “worrying signs” that standards in secondary education are failing to improve.

The comments are made as new figures published by Ofsted showed a 62 per cent rise in the number of state secondary schools placed in “special measures” over the last 12 months.

Some 147 schools – almost one-in-20 of the total in England – were on Ofsted's blacklist at the end of the last academic year in August compared with just 91 a year earlier.

Overall, almost a third of secondaries are now deemed to be inadequate or “require improvement" – Ofsted’s two lowest categories – compared with just 18 per cent of primary schools.

The conclusions are likely to be seen as a blow to the government which has enabled thousands of secondaries to be released from local council control to run their own affairs as independent academies.

More than six-in-10 secondaries are now academies compared with just one-in-seven primary schools.

But Sir Michael has clashed with the government over the programme by criticising standards at a number of high-profile academy chains and demanding new powers to directly inspect groups of schools – a move resisted by the Department for Education.

In a recent speech, Sir Michael said his annual report published in 2013 had showed “unmistakeable signs that England’s education system was improving”.

“Our statistics showed that although we had toughened up inspection, more schools were getting to good at a faster rate than at any other time in Ofsted’s 21-year history,” he said.

“Some 78 per cent of schools were judged to be good or outstanding based on their last inspection compared to 70 per cent the previous year.

“Since then, we have seen primary schools continue on their impressive upward trajectory, although there are some worrying signs that overall standards in our secondary schools are stagnating – in terms of both inspection judgements and, it would seem, examination results.”

Ofsted currently ranks schools on a four point scale – outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate. The very worst schools are put in “special measures”, usually resulting in a change of headship.

Under the regulator’s inspection system, schools previously deemed poor are also subjected to more regular checks.

Figures show that 50 per cent of secondary schools inspected over the last 12 months were in the two lowest categories. This compared with just 44 per cent in 2012/13.

Separate data – tracking standards achieved in the most recent inspection of all schools – showed 29 per cent of secondaries overall were deemed not good enough. This was unchanged from 2012/13.

Among primary alone, standards are improving, with just 18 per cent of all schools deemed underperforming compared with 21 per cent a year earlier.

Launching his annual report, Sir Michael will criticise standards of leadership in schools, the acceptance of bad behaviour and a failure to raise standards among poor pupils.

In an earlier speech, he said: “I see too many schools where head teachers are blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity – and losing respect along the way. After all, every hour spent with a disruptive, attention-seeking pupil is an hour away from ensuring other pupils are getting a decent education.

“We need to tackle the casual acceptance of this behaviour that persists in too many schools. Classroom teachers must have the support of their senior leaders to tackle these problems. It isn’t rocket science.”

He has also spoken of the importance of needing to "shorten the long tail of under-achievement that still scars our education system – a long tail now largely made up of white working class kids".

Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: “The picture that Sir Michael is describing can be traced back to the pattern of policy-making over the last 16 years. The fact is that the Blair government recognised how inadequate primary schools were in the late 90s and did something about it with policies like the literacy and numeracy hour; setting clear expectations that have been built on over the last decade-and-a-half.

“Secondary schools have not received the same systematic intervention. The big policy change of this government – the academies programme – will take time to show it has been a genuine success.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Delivering better schools so our young people can succeed in life is a key part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain. As a result, England's schools have been transformed in recent years with 800,000 more children now being taught in good or outstanding schools since 2010.

“Figures released by Ofsted this week show improvements in the proportion of primary schools rated good or outstanding this year despite the tougher inspection framework while the proportion of good and outstanding secondary schools have remained at their highest ever level.

“This has been achieved by acting swiftly on failure, turning round underperforming schools by pairing them strong sponsors and encouraging high quality schools to open. Thanks to this approach and the hard work of teachers more pupils than ever before have the chance to attend a good or outstanding local school.”


UK: Number of primary schools investigated for trying to fiddle SATs figures rises by 40%

The number of primary schools investigated for cheating in national tests soared 40 per cent in a year to more than 500, official figures have revealed.

Growing numbers of teachers are being accused of ploys such as giving pupils help with answers during the tests and altering their finished scripts.

Investigations last year led to results being quashed in 37 schools in at least one subject – a six-fold rise on 2012.

The trend emerged days before the Government publishes this year’s national primary school league tables showing how pupils performed in tests for 11-year-olds at England’s primary schools.

The lists are expected to reveal how around 800 primaries failed to meet minimum standards in the three Rs this summer, putting them at risk of being taken over by new management or even closed.

Separate data detailing the extent of improper administration of tests was published recently by the Standards and Testing Agency.

These figures showed 511 cases of alleged cheating in 2013 – up from 370 in 2012 and 292 in 2011.

Of these, 73 related to the reading test for six-year-olds which checks how well they can use the ‘phonics’ method of reading to decode words.

This is a sharp rise on 2012, when just 25 cases were reported.

Common allegations included the test administrator giving pupils too much help and coaching pupils on the test content in advance.

Other cases involved teachers failing to cover wall displays which could have assisted the children in rooms where the test was held.

Some cases, however, involved teachers opening test papers early by mistake and reported these breaches themselves.

The STA noted ‘a general increase in the number of cases reported’ for each category of allegation.

Most cases of alleged cheating in primary schools relate to national tests for 11-year-olds in English and maths, the figures showed.

Officials received 438 reports of cheating in so-called SATs in 2013 – up from 345 the year before.

The STA suggested the increase could be ‘largely attributed to an increase in the number of tests that schools had to administer’. These include a new test of English grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Almost three-quarters of cases of so-called maladministration in SATs were said to have happened while the papers were being sat.

They included 41 cases of ‘changes to paper in another hand’, up from 29 in 2012, and 85 cases of ‘test administrator over-aiding pupils’, which was down from 94 in 2012.

The breakdown also included 29 cases of children cheating themselves, slightly up from 28 in 2012.

Following investigations, there was a sharp rise in the number of schools whose results for an entire year group were annulled in at least one subject.  Results at 37 schools were quashed in this way – up from six in 2012 and seven in 2011.  In addition, results for individual children or groups of children at 51 schools were downgraded or annulled.

It follows a ‘toughening up’ of procedures to tackle maladministration, the STA told teachers’ journal Academies Week.

Schools no longer have a right to appeal against an STA decision and where there is any ‘doubt’ the results of a whole year group will be cancelled rather than simply individuals or small groups.

Schools where results are known to have been annulled include Cartmel Church of England Primary, in Cumbria, where papers were changed after the tests had finished.

Some maths and spelling tests taken this spring were altered following an investigation, leading to pupils being given no results for maths and writing.

While deploring cheating, teaching unions have warned that heads and teachers are being put under increasing pressure to drive up results to avoid the threat of Ofsted censure or falling below Government floor targets.

A spokesman for the Standards and Testing Agency said: ‘Ensuring pupils leave primary school having mastered the basics is a key part of our plan for education and parents must be confident their children’s tests are administered appropriately and that allegations of cheating are dealt with seriously.

‘We have toughened up on maladministration by removing the appeals process and sharpening the methods we use to detect it.’


Sunday, December 07, 2014

What America Should and Should Not Learn from Chinese Education

Gene Veith noted an interesting potential outcome of allowing the kind of education fit for free people into Hong Kong:

Today, the still-Communist Chinese are blaming the liberal arts curriculum in the schools of Hong Kong for the pro-freedom movement currently roiling that city, with the protests generally led by liberal arts students. The movement is being called “scholarism.” In the mean time, the Chinese government wants to impose a pro-government purely economic curriculum. Sound familiar?

Anything Communists blame for spreading freedom shoots immediately to the top of my “most-wanted” list – in an entirely different sense in which the Party would mean that.

Veith’s note comes at an appropriate time, because Chinese expatriate Yong Zhao’s recent book makes a related critique. The University of Oregon professor argues the Chinese system may be efficient, but it’s also highly dependent on culture (Chinese parents prod their children academically, while American parents are overall rather lackadaisical) and cookie-cutter. He notes the ironies of Americans rushing over to China to pattern our education system after theirs as they rush over here in an attempt to introduce some creativity into their classrooms. Both are missing the point, he says. In a review, Rick Hess quotes the book’s last line: “In no way can China serve as the model for the future. In fact, we don’t yet have a model that will meet the needs of a global future. We will have to invent one.”

This is a salient critique against the entire “twenty-first century global skills” push. It is foolish to hand a kindergartener an iPad, because when she graduates college in 16 years, iPads will have morphed beyond our wildest dreams. It is foolish to suppose we can pinpoint a child’s future perfect career, even at a plausible age such as 16 rather than five, because Americans switch jobs every four years, and careers several times.

Perhaps there are some things we should learn from China and some we should run away from screaming. A servile, job-based curriculum that intends to dampen the intellect and propagandize the emotions should definitely be out, as it is in Hong Kong. How about resuscitating a truly liberal arts education (not mere “humanities”), accompanied by matching teaching methods that are successful in China (and everywhere else)? By the way, this also produced some of the greatest civilizations in history, including forming the people who in turn formed America. Back to Veith:

It’s called ‘liberal’ from the Latin word for ‘freedom.’ It goes back to the distinction in ancient Greece and Rome between the ‘servile’ education given to slaves (nothing more than training for a job) and the ‘liberal’ education given to free citizens of the Greek democracy and the Roman Republic – one that required the cultivation of the intellect and other human powers, as well as knowledge of the cultural heritage that must be transmitted to the new generation.


Low-Income D.C. Students Denied Scholarships Despite Law Giving Them Preference

Some Washington, DC children are being denied participation in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gives students from low-income families scholarships to attend private schools, despite a law giving preference to these students with siblings in the program.

The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, which reauthorized the program in 2011, says students with a sibling already in the program are to be given priority.  But that preference is denied for some families.

Tiffany Jones, a fifth grader at St. Thomas More Catholic Academy, was denied participation in the program even though her sister, Sabriah, a seventh-grader at the academy, has received a scholarship for two years. The scholarship pays for Sabriah’s tuition, books, uniform, and saxophone lessons.

The children’s father, Gary Jones, a site leader at the finance company Duff & Phelps, said he was told Tiffany would have to wait at least four years for test results from a study group before she was eligible.

“With this program, it’s a good program, don’t get me wrong, because it allowed us to put our children in better schools,” Jones said. “But to me it’s penalizing parents who have multiple students in the school.”

Jones took a second job as a part-time cashier at the downtown DC Marshall’s store to pay the $4,090 for Tiffany’s tuition and her clarinet lessons at the academy. But despite receiving a $1,000 scholarship from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and moving his family to a smaller, two-bedroom apartment, Jones is behind on his payments to the school.

“Even with two jobs, my wife is still not working, so I have to take care of the bills and everything else,” he said.

Because he works evenings three to four times a week, Jones isn’t able to spend as much time with his children or help them with their homework.  “I don’t get that time like I used to because a lot of nights when I come in they’re asleep, and then I see them in the morning when we head out for school and work,” he said.

The scholarship program was established in 2004 to provide opportunities for students from low-income families to attend participating private schools. The fund provides scholarships of up to $12,572 for high school and $8,381 for elementary and middle school. Approximately 1,500 students were enrolled in 46 schools in 2013.

The program has a 93 percent graduation rate, compared to 58 percent of DC public school students having graduated on time in 2012.

The SOAR Act established control groups of students to track the progress of the program, but those study groups are no longer necessary, argues Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children and former member of the DC City Council.

“I think that the accountability and the evidence that the program works is clear,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of the politics of education, kids’ priorities are placed in the backseat, and we see that not just in DC but all over the country.”

More than 14,700 DC children have applied to the program since it was established in 2004-05. Since then, more than 5,900 students have been awarded scholarships. Of the students who received scholarships, 64 percent of their families are receiving SNAP and/or TANF benefits for the 2014-15 school year. The average annual household income for 2012 for students in the program was $21,086.

The program began in 2004 and was a part of a citywide effort to improve all of DC’s educational sectors, including traditional public, public charter, and non-public schools, in order to expand quality educational opportunities.

It is the first federally funded program of its kind, according to The program was the product of a bipartisan effort involving former DC Mayor Anthony Williams, DC City Council members, school leaders, the White House, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Department of Education.

The Scholarship Opportunity Program office didn’t return a call for comment.


Australia: What to give a child who can't read?

In the state of Victoria, there are approximately 40,000 students in Years 3 to 9 whose reading and numeracy skills are either at or below the minimum standard that will allow them to learn and achieve at school.

These numbers are calculated using the latest results from the National Assessment Plan for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and school statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That there are large numbers of students either barely literate or illiterate - lacking the fundamental skill for educational success, secure employment, and quality of life - is common knowledge and has been evident for some time.

What did the education policy platforms from the Labor and Liberal parties promise Victorian families in response to this enduring and profound problem with literacy and numeracy?

The Labor party promised to build 10 new 'tech' schools, and provide $680 million dollars for building upgrades, plus hundreds of millions of dollars for breakfast clubs, school uniforms, eye-tests and glasses, camps and excursions, and driver training. Only one policy announcement from Labor actually pertained to the core work of schools - teaching and learning - the requirement for all new registered teachers to have completed a course in teaching students with disabilities.

The Liberal party policy platform was even worse in this respect. It expressly acknowledged the lack of improvement in literacy and numeracy results in the state at least since NAPLAN started in 2008, yet proposed no solutions. Instead, it promised $1.2 billion for building upgrades on top of a whopping $4.5 billion in funding for unspecified 'Gonski' funding, plus further millions for first aid training for students, 3D printers, foreign languages, student leadership, school safety grants, and mental health initiatives. Not one concrete policy proposal for improving outcomes for students in literacy and numeracy.

There is no doubt that the quality of school facilities is important, and it is a defensible use of public money, within limits. Some of the other programs, such as breakfast clubs, are also good things but most schools where breakfast clubs are needed are already providing them with community support.

Many of the programs dreamt up by the two major political parties, however, would be difficult to justify for inclusion in a school education budget even if schools were excelling at their core function - education. And clearly they are not. Families in Victoria deserve much better. Let's hope that the Andrews Labor government delivers much more than it promised.