Sunday, March 01, 2015

Put ALL pupils in maths and English sets based on their ability to improve performance, says British PM

"Sets" are the British version of streaming

All schools should put pupils in sets based on ability, David Cameron said last night in an apparent hint at future Tory education policy.

His comments go much further than Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who last year denied reports that the party wants compulsory setting in all secondary schools.

Mr Cameron has long been an enthusiast for setting, but his ambition has been thwarted by parts of the educational establishment and by the Liberal Democrats.

Some Tories are also concerned at the idea of imposing compulsory rules on academy schools, which are run on the principle that they are free from state control.

In an interview with Woman & Home magazine, the Prime Minister said: ‘All schools, in my view, should set by ability, particularly in English and maths.’

His comments will cheer traditionalists and millions of parents but not teaching unions, which believe that setting can be elitist.

Although Mr Cameron’s comments suggest he wants to go considerably further, a senior Tory source insisted he was not announcing new policy.

However, he confirmed the Prime Minister’s concern at standards in thousands of ‘coasting’ schools.

The source said: ‘As his comments suggest, the Prime Minister is a very strong supporter of setting – it’s about placing children with others of similar ability so that they can learn at the right pace.

‘Where a school is failing we think it is right that part of the toolkit for putting things right should include bringing in setting.

‘The vast majority of schools already set in core subjects, and if there is a successful school doing very well without setting then we would not impose it – we want to take a pragmatic approach.

'Our focus is on schools that are failing parents and pupils, and the Prime Minister has also spoken about the need to improve standards at schools that are coasting.’

Mrs Morgan, who replaced Michael Gove as education secretary last year, stamped on reports last September that the Tories back the idea of compulsory setting.

Reports claimed that the Tories would attempt to introduce setting in all secondary schools, with the policy enforced by Ofsted. Mrs Morgan said there was ‘absolutely no truth in these rumours’.

Setting is backed by Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said in 2012 that bright teenagers fail to achieve top grades in some comprehensives because teachers insist on mixed-ability classes and concentrate on weaker students.

Sir Michael said gifted children were being held back in some schools that do not allow setting to stretch their best pupils. He said mixed-ability classes, which became fashionable following the introduction of comprehensive schools, could be a ‘curse’ to able children.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has described the idea of compulsory setting as ‘educationally unjustifiable’, saying it is the ‘last thing’ ministers should do if they want to close the attainment gap between rich children and poor.

The union said: ‘The evidence is overwhelming that this practice holds back poor children, denying them access to an appropriately demanding curriculum.’

Under the existing Tory plans, announced last autumn, regional schools commissioners would be given new powers to impose setting in failing schools as part of a package to turn them around.


The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.

Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.

“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” said Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”

The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.

“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.

The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.

The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.

In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.

“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).

Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.

A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.

DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Now, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, conservatives argue that Congress has an opportunity to gives states a way out from federal control of K-12 education.

In addition to allowing states to withdraw from the 80-plus programs created under No Child Left Behind, conservatives are also advocating for policies that expand the concept of portability, which is perhaps the opposition’s biggest point of contention with the Student Success Act.

As it’s currently written, the Student Success Act would allow states to make Title I dollars allocated to low-income school districts to be portable to public and charter schools.

In a perfect world for conservatives, students could use Title I dollars in a private school of their choice.

In doing so, money could follow a student to an education option that best suits his or her unique learning needs, which proponents argue provides students who are trapped in failing schools a way out.

“Title I formula funding is some of the most complex in education law and all too often, does not reach the students who it was intended to help,” said Burke. “Portability would move towards funding students instead of districts and empower families with control over education policies that affect their children every day.”

Democrats believe portability robs funds from vulnerable, low-income school districts, and instead directs them to wealthier school districts that don’t need Title I dollars.

Duncan said the current portability provision included in the Student Success Act would be “devastating” to the nation’s poorest schools, stripping them of education funding they can’t afford to lose.

“Rather than helping improve the schools that need it most, the Republican bill would actually cut investments in these schools while increasing funds for some of the wealthiest areas in the country,” he said in a statement.

That approach is backward. We can’t just cut our way to opportunity. Our kids deserve better. Every child—no matter his or her ZIP code—deserves a quality education, including access to high-quality preschool and a fair shot at getting ahead.

Bipartisan Solution?

As an alternative, the Senate Education Committee is drafting their own version of the Student Success Act, one that they believe could pass with bipartisan support.

“Bipartisan discussions between [Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,] and [Sen. Patty Murray’s, D-Wash.,] staffs on fixing No Child Left Behind are moving along well, and Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues,” an aide for Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told The Daily Signal yesterday.

“Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues. [He] hopes to fix this broken law to help states, school districts, and schools better serve all students,” she added.

Alexander and Murray have not released details of the proposal.

With the Obama administration already suggesting that the president would veto the Student Success Act—and the Senate working on their own bipartisan version—the chances of enacting any legislation that includes the conservative A-PLUS solution are bleak.

But that won’t stop Walker from trying.

“The president has threatened to veto practically everything under the sun and yesterday’s veto of Keystone clearly showed he is more interested in playing politics than working with Congress,” said Walker, adding:

Parents and teachers—not government bureaucrats—should have the ultimate say in education. They know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students. A-PLUS further empowers states and offers greater flexibility in federal education spending. It is smart, conservative education reform that strengthens the broader goal of the Student Success Act to remove the federal government from classrooms.


Students for Justice in Palestine Outraged by Mysterious Flyers Showing Hamas Executions

UCLA’s chapter of anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was enraged by a series of posters depicting Hamas executions that appeared early Sunday around the school campus.

“These posters are a clear example of hate speech directed against Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as supporters of Palestinian freedom and equality,” SJP asserted in a statement. “They rely on Islamophobic and anti-Arab tropes to paint Palestinians as terrorists and to misrepresent Students for Justice in Palestine as antisemitic.”

The group, which has often been accused of antisemitism, claimed that it is an organization that prides itself on its opposition to racism and bigotry, and that it is open to students “from all walks of life.” Furthermore SJP said they are concerned that they flyers will delegitimize their efforts to persuade university regents to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

“Defacing school property and intimidating a specific group of students creates a deeply harmful environment that prevents student learning and community-building,” the statement continued. “Coupled with the recent uprise in Islamophobia on a national scale, we are concerned for the safety of our fellow students and student organizers.”

One of the posters depicts a Gazan with a bag over his head as Hamas executioners stand by his side, while another shows the body of an alleged collaborator being dragged through the streets of Gaza. Each sign was tagged with “Students for Justice in Palestine” and carried the hastag “#JewHaters” at the bottom. The flyers were spotted all around the UCLA campus including kiosks, fraternity and sorority rows, and at an apartment complex that houses undergraduate students, SJP said in its statement.

SJP further claimed that the posters are part of a “larger, egregious pattern of anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim bigotry” that has gone unchecked throughout the university. They called on the UCLA campus community to condemn racism against Palestinians, Arabs and/or Muslims.

Those responsible for the posters told The Daily Caller anonymously that the victims depicted in the posters were accused of supporting Israel. The source referenced stories of those who were tortured and killed by Hamas after aiding Israel, according to the report.


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