Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bright British pupils do 50% worse if they're poor

Hmmm.  I have read the PDF of this study and am not greatly impressed.  I am perfectly sure that the overall conclusion (headline above) of the study is pretty right but I see some deficiencies in methodology and in the reasons given for the findings.

I am particularly unimpressed by the measure used to classify children as "bright".  The authors assess that by the grades in core subjects attained at the end of primary school.  But that is a product of many things -- as the report itself acknowledges -- rather than straight intelligence.  So what it tells us will necessarily be obscure.  The authors were obviously up against the current anti-intellectual horror of IQ measurement.  Nonetheless, school attainment does correlate substantially with IQ so the measure used was not entirely hopeless and did produce intelligible results.

I see the results as reflecting mainly school quality.  The authors did assess that but the measures used were, I think, distorted by political correctness.  Assessing a school as "poor" when it contains mostly minority students would cause much grinding of mental gears and the final assessment will probably therefore be dishonest to a substantial degree.  And in another bow to political correctness, the authors seem to have taken no notice of race.  The very word "race" is a no-no, of course.  Yet it is a major factor in educational attainment. In the USA, educators have been agonizing for years over the "gap" in black versus white school attainment.

So it's my suspicion that a frankly-done study would show that students who fall behind their previous levels of attainment during High School do so very largely because they are sent to  poor schools.  Poor people live in poor locations, where the schools too are poorer in various ways.  And a major reason why why schools in poor areas offer an inferior education is that poor areas are also the major location for minorities.  And middle-class parents flee as if from the plague when it comes to sending their children to schools dominated by minorities.  They know, as I suspect we all do, that minorities are harder to discipline, harder to teach and tend to drag standards down to the lowest common denominator.  A bright student sent to such a school will undoubtedly receive an inferior education.

And since I am already deep into political incorrectness, I will mention something else.  The popular category "minorities" is inadequate.  Children of subcontinental origin appear to be no great problem.  It is children of sub-Saharan African ancestry who give themselves and everyone else big problems.  Their combination of high restlessness and low IQ make them a bane on any classroom.  Where they are present in numbers, the amount taught will be minimal indeed.

So the solution to the problem of disadvantaged bright children is a lot simpler than the authors of the study below suggest:  Academic selection.  Send high IQ pupils to schools where they will be in the company of other bright students only.

So we return to the old Grammar School controversy.  Leftists hate such schools because they are "elitist" and transgress against the impossible ideal of "equality". 

But perhaps there is a middle way.  Grammar schools have a whole ethos that separates them from other State schools.  But why not have a State school that is generally indistinguishable from other State schools except that it requires success in an 11-plus exam for enrolment? Any other "solution" is pissing into the wind. 

Because I believe (and research has long shown) that IQ is the overwhelmingly main factor in educational attainment, I predict that such schools would get results as good as formal Grammar schools.

To break any mental logjams about IQ, let me refer readers to an amazing study here  -- which shows how wide is the reach of IQ.  It is the main factor in something well outside education and in a field that one would not expect -- unless one already knew how  wide is the reach of IQ into human behaviour.  Just read the first sentence under "Results".

If the Tories win the forthcoming election, academic selection may be revived to a degree but I can see no hope for poor but bright pupils otherwise.


Bright children from poor backgrounds are half as likely as their richer peers to succeed in tougher A-level subjects, a study shows.

Researchers found those from disadvantaged families were far less likely to study and score highly in English, maths, science, humanities and languages.

Pupils who do not take these so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects have less chance of obtaining a place at the prestigious Russell Group universities, which often favour them.

Researchers commissioned by the Department of Education at Oxford University also found poor children are much less likely to get three A-levels in any courses.

The wide-ranging study also showed that going to a decent nursery, reading for pleasure and attending an outstanding school can boost a disadvantaged pupil's chances of getting good results. Taking part in school trips and getting into a daily homework routine can also help them.

The research is based on data drawn from more than 3,000 young people who have been tracked from the age of three for the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project.

Researchers found that just a third of bright but disadvantaged students took one of more A-levels facilitating subjects, compared to 58 per cent of their wealthier peers with the same academic ability.

Less than a fifth of the poor students followed gained at least a B in these subjects, compared to 41 per cent of their advantaged classmates.

The findings also show that just over 35 per cent of the sixth-formers identified as clever based on their test results at age 11 got three A-levels in any subjects, compared to 60 per cent of their high-achieving, richer peers.

An analysis of the data found that sixth-formers who did two to three hours of homework each night were nine times more likely to gain three A-levels than those who did none.

The study said: ‘Spending time on homework is likely to reflect both student motivation and engagement, study skills and independence, school policies and the priority teachers attach to encouraging students to study at home (or provide opportunities after school), as well as parental attitudes and support.’

The study concludes that encouraging reading for pleasure, educational trips, the chance to go to a good nursery and school, feedback on school work and a supportive home life can help disadvantaged youngsters to get good results.

It suggests that bright, poor students should get ‘enrichment’ vouchers, funded through the Pupil Premium - public funding for disadvantaged children - to help with educational trips, reading for pleasure and studies outside of the classroom.

 We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust which commissioned the report, said: ‘The fact that bright disadvantaged students fall so far behind when they reach their A-levels shows that government and schools urgently need to do more to support able students from less advantaged homes.

‘We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students. It is also vital that schools advise their students on the right subject choices at GCSE and A-level so as to maximise their potential.’

Professor Pam Sammons, co-author of the report, said: ‘There is no silver bullet that alone can make a difference but a combination of good schools and pre-schools, the right home learning environment and supportive teachers ready to monitor progress and provide good feedback can all ensure that bright but disadvantaged students get the chance of a good university education. There are important lessons here for teachers and policymakers seeking to reduce the equity gap in attainment.’


Conservatives Critique Jeb Bush’s Stance on No Child Left Behind, Common Core

As president, George W. Bush made passage of No Child Left Behind one of his first priorities. Now, his brother Jeb Bush is speaking out in favor of reauthorizing the law as he plots his own run for the White House.

“The goal of conservatives should be to limit federal intervention in education by restoring state and local control of education,” says @lindseymburke

Writing for The Washington Post, the former Florida governor blamed President Obama for failing to improve the legislation. Instead, Bush said the current administration has issued “a patchwork of waivers and side deals, given out by fiat and without consistency.”

Claiming that “most states had no accountability system” prior to No Child Left Behind, Bush said the 2002 law created “a common yardstick.”

“Now, all states participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of high-quality tests known as the Nation’s Report Card,” Bush wrote. “The results give us an apples-to-apples comparison among states. Annual testing and reporting also force states to confront their failures, especially the substandard education often offered to disadvantaged children.”

Bush acknowledged “NCLB is far from perfect,” but said its flaws “can be fixed in the reauthorization process.” He said changes should put “local districts in control of making vital decisions about standards, curriculum and academic content.”

Reauthorization Debate in Congress

Last month, as the House prepared to vote on the law’s reauthorization, GOP leaders quietly pulled the bill after a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said the proposal didn’t go far enough in scaling back the federal government’s role in education. Senators are reportedly close to reaching a bipartisan deal on their own version of the bill.

Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, said reauthorizing No Child Left Behind without significant changes would be settling for the status quo.

“If we really want states to ‘take the lead on education,’ as Gov. Bush proposed in his op-ed,” Burke told The Daily Signal, “the best option on the table for doing so isn’t a reauthorization of a 620-page No Child Left Behind rewrite.”


Burke has championed the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) legislation that would let states completely opt out of the programs and mandates authorized under education law. They could then direct funding to their education priorities as opposed to mandates from Washington.

“The goal of conservatives should be to limit federal intervention in education by restoring state and local control of education, not reauthorizing the nation’s largest K-12 education law in a way that codifies four decades of ineffective policy,” she said.

Burke added that Florida’s recent improvements to its own educational system are proof of what the states can accomplish when they are free from excessive intrusion from the federal government.

“Gov. Bush is correct in saying the federal government ‘should be subservient to the role of states,’” Burke said. “In order to get there, however, we need to stop the federal education spending spree, and begin eliminating the dozens upon dozens of grant programs that have accumulated at the U.S. Department of Education over the decades.”

As governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, Bush spearheaded several education reforms in the Sunshine State, leading it to make some of the greatest education gains in the country, Burke said.

“Gov. Bush is in a good position to recognize that the best path forward is to allow states to completely free themselves from large scale federal directives like No Child Left Behind,” she said.

Conflict Over Common Core

In the op-ed, Bush also addressed the hot-button issue of Common Core education standards, which many conservatives oppose.

“We’ve seen more than 40 states voluntarily work together to create the Common Core standards for language arts and math,” Bush wrote. “I support such rigorous, state-driven academic standards. Some states would rather set their own standards, and that’s appropriate, provided they are high standards. But no matter what, no state should be forced to adopt standards mandated by the federal government.”

“Common Core grows federal intervention in education by putting federal fingerprints on the content taught in local schools across the country,” says @BrittanyLCorona

Brittany Corona, a research assistant in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said the creators and early supporters of Common Core—Achieve Inc., National Governors Association, and Chief Council for State School Officers—had a different idea in mind. They called for federal incentives to be attached to the adoption of the standards in their 2008 report, “Benchmarking for Success.”

“From the beginning,” Corona said, “the effort has been incentivized by federal funding. Common Core can largely be described as an extension of the same failed logic of No Child Left Behind: all that’s missing in education is more centralization.”

Common Core supporters maintain there’s nothing nefarious about the standards. Michael Brickman, national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently told The Daily Signal that Common Core is just a “set of goals and expectations” to standardize what students across the nation know when they graduate from high school.

“In many cases, it’s the exact things that conservatives have been calling for for a long time,” said Brickman, “mainly, a back-to-basics approach of focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Brickman said everyone should know “what’s actually in the standards.”

“Let me be clear, I’ve seen some of the posts on Facebook about confusing math, I’ve seen the posts about what they don’t like about indoctrinating curriculum in schools. … They’re right. The parents who are out there concerned about those things are absolutely right. But they need to know that these things have nothing to do with Common Core.”

Brickman said that Common Core is often blamed for decisions made at the local level. He said that parents should remain engaged with their local school districts.

Heritage’s Corona, however, maintains that Common Core is the wrong approach to education reform.

“Common Core grows federal intervention in education by putting federal fingerprints on the content taught in local schools across the country,” she told The Daily Signal. “States should also ‘take the lead’ in their own standards writing and test creation, ensuring state autonomy over decisions about what is taught.”


Oklahoma's Campus Totalitarians

A video showing Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members chanting racial slurs and singing about lynching has put the spotlight on the inherent conflict between First Amendment-protected speech and college speech codes begetting “zero tolerance” policies. These policies have mistakenly enshrined the “right” not to be offended.

There is little question the chant was offensive. “There will never be a n—– at SAE. There will never be a n—– at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– at SAE,” belted out students on one of five buses chartered to take them to a Founder’s Day party at a country club in Oklahoma City two Saturdays ago.

The fraternity’s national organization conducted its own investigation and announced it was shutting down the OU chapter. “We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way,” their statement reads. “Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.”

All well and good, but then University President David Boren crossed the line. He expelled two students identified as leaders of the chant, using the dubious rationale that has usurped the Constitution on far too many college campuses. It is the idea that offensive speech creates a hostile learning environment, and, as night follows day, such an environment engenders a “zero tolerance” policy. “I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma,” said Boren. “I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country.”

Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claims Bowen and OU “would’ve been compelled to do something” or the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division would have gotten involved via Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Several legal scholars weighed in on the issue, and most believe the university trampled the Constitution.

“The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. UCLA constitutional expert Eugene Volokh agrees, explaining there is no constitutional exception for speech that creates the aforementioned hostile environment, nor speech that simply refers to violence absent a direct threat to an individual.

Geoffrey Stone, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, addressed the Title VI argument, noting that it is intended to combat literal discrimination, and statements by students in a private environment aren’t close to violating it. “The statements were made in the innocuous setting of a bus,” he explained, “and any disruption came from the showing of the video, not from the students' speech.”

Volokh also tackled the burden of proof issue, explaining the university might be able to discipline students involved in the frat’s admissions decisions if they can be shown to “have denied membership to people based on race, or intentionally tried to communicate to potential members that they would deny them membership that way.” And while SAE may insist that those who depart from its principles no longer use its name, and students who have engaged in the chant may pay a social and economic price for their actions in the court of public opinion, Volokh insists the government or University of Oklahoma “generally cannot add to this price, whether the offensive speech is racist, religiously bigoted, pro-revolutionary, or expressive of any other viewpoint, however repugnant it might be.”

On the other hand, the university might pay a price for expelling those students based solely on what they said. A board representing OU’s disbanded SAE chapter hired lawyer Stephen Jones, who served as Timothy McVeigh’s lead defense attorney during the Oklahoma City bombing trial, “to assist them in evaluating” their legal position, Jones revealed. He further explained he was retained “to protect the due process rights, the First Amendment rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment rights” of the fraternity’s members. The board is primarily concerned about their “physical safety,” Jones said, adding that some of them “have frankly been afraid to go to class.”

Jones outlined the parameters of a possible lawsuit, insisting the university’s response to the video was a “premature rush to judgment” that implicitly painted all fraternity members “with a tar brush” identifying them as bigots or racists.

For far too long, university campuses have been strangled by political correctness that actively promotes a stultifying conformity at best, and outright totalitarianism at worst. In his book “Unlearning Liberty,” Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) president Greg Lukianoff chronicles hundreds of examples of campuses where the need for “intellectual comfort,” an obsession to punish those who “offend,” the emergence of “free speech zones,” and student demands for “trigger warnings” for “sensitive” course materials have rendered the free and open exchange of ideas completely obsolete. Even worse, students who fail to abide by such restrictions face mandatory sensitivity training, kangaroo student courts where they are presumed guilty until proven otherwise – or, as this case and many others like it indicate, expulsion for constitutionally protected speech.

America has long abided the immortal words attributed to Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the essence of the First Amendment, and it doesn’t evaporate once one steps onto a college campus – no matter who gets offended by something as “uncomfortable” as Freedom of Speech.


Australian PM ready for poll fight on deregulation of universities

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his commitment to the government’s university reform package and planned curtailment of growth in pension spending, as well as the crackdown on local Islamist extremism foreshadowed last year.

In a wideranging exclusive interview with The Australian on Sky News yesterday that included a defence of his style of government, Mr Abbott also defended his doubts on funding remote indigenous communities.

He said his Coalition government’s resolution mattered rather than its struggle for strong support as measured in opinion polls.

The Prime Minister told editor-at-large Paul Kelly and foreign editor Greg Sheridan of The Australian that the higher-education funding reforms were very important to universities, which needed regulatory strings loosened if they were to be among the best in the world.

Asked if the fee changes might be dropped like the Medicare co-payment recently, Mr Abbott said failure of these reforms affecting taxpayer-subsidised student fee levels would impede the universities and indicated his government would be prepared to take the changes to the next election if frustrated in the Senate.

“This is a reform which has already been adjusted somewhat in the process of bringing it thus far. But the reform as adjusted is one we stand by,” he told Sky News.  “I am expecting that the Senate will see sense because just about every vice-chancellor is campaigning for this.”

The government plans to press ahead with its universities reform package in the Senate this week.

Christopher Pyne says he is “contemplating victory” for his higher education reforms, which will be decided by a Senate vote on Wednesday.

Vowing to “fight to the end” on the contentious reform package, the Education Minister said this morning that passing the legislation to deregulate the sector was critical for the university sector.

“I’m contemplating victory on Wednesday because it’s too important not to win for students and for universities and for Australia,” Mr Pyne told ABC Insiders program this morning.

“I’m never embarrassed about putting forward a good reform policy and fighting for it.  “I have never left the battlefield. I always fought right through to the end and we will fight right through to the vote,” he said.

He said there was no “credible alternative” to deregulating universities, and urged crossbench senators to embrace reform.

Mr Pyne said negotiations with the crossbench would continue early this week.  “Everything is on the table except the centrepiece of the reform which is deregulation, which is going to be good for universities and students, all the other matters are open to negotiation.”

Mr Pyne said he was “not contemplating” what would happen in the event the bill was voted down.

Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said the opposition would work with the higher education sector to ensure adequate future funding.  “We are happy to work with the higher education system to ensure funding is adequate,” Ms Plibersek said.

Mr Abbott said just one Australian university was now ranked in the world’s top 50. “Why not try to get two in the top 20. Unless we take the dead hand of Canberra away that is going to be extremely difficult,” he said.


No comments: