Thursday, November 05, 2015

Discipline needed with disruptive students

A recent, widely publicized incident in which a policeman was called to a school classroom to deal with a disruptive student has provoked all sorts of comments on whether the policeman used "excessive force."

What has received far less attention, though it is a far larger question, with more sweeping implications, is the role of disruptive students in schools.

Critics of charter schools have often pointed to those schools' ability to expel uncooperative and disruptive students, far more readily than regular public schools can, as a reason for some charter schools' far better educational outcomes, as shown on many tests.

The message of these critics is that it is "unfair" to compare regular public schools' results with those of charter schools serving the same neighborhoods -- and often in the same buildings. This criticism ignores the fact that schools do not exist to provide jobs for teachers or "fairness" to institutions, but to provide education for students.

"Fairness" is for human beings, not for institutions. Institutions that are not serving the needs of people should either be changed or phased out and replaced, when they persistently fail.

Despite the painfully bad educational outcomes in many public schools in ghettos across the country, there are also cases where charter schools in the very same ghettos turn out students whose test scores are not only far higher than those in other ghetto schools, but sometimes are comparable to the test scores in schools in upscale suburban communities, where children come from intact families with highly educated parents.

Charter schools with such achievements should be celebrated and imitated, not attacked by critics because of their "unfair" exemptions from some of the counterproductive rules of the education establishment. Maybe such rules should be changed for all.

If the critics are right, and getting rid of the influence of uncooperative or disruptive students contributes to better educational results, then the answer is not to prevent charter schools from expelling such students, but to allow other public schools to remove such students, when other students can benefit from getting a better education without them around.

This is especially important in low-income minority schools, where education is for many their only chance for a better life.

Back in the supposedly bad old days, before so many people became so politically correct, there were schools and other institutions that were basically dumping grounds for students who endangered the education -- and often even the safety -- of other children.

Yet a front-page story in the New York Times last week dealt with how Success Academy, a high-performing charter school network in New York City's low-income and minority neighborhoods, has been accused of "weeding out weak or difficult students."

The Times' own story opens with an account of a child who was "not following directions," who "threw tantrums," was screaming, threw pencils and refused to go to another classroom for a timeout. Yet the headline declared that charter schools "Single Out Difficult Students."

"Singled out" usually means treating someone differently from the way others are treated for doing the same things. Are convicted criminals "singled out" when they are sent to jail?

The principal of a Success Academy school in Harlem was accused of telling teachers "not to automatically send annual re-enrollment forms home to certain students, because the school did not want those students to come back."

A mother in Brooklyn complained about her son's being suspended repeatedly, and her being called repeatedly to come to school to pick him up early. She admitted that he was "hitting, kicking, biting and spitting at other children and adults."

After he was transferred to another public school, "he was very happy and had not been suspended once." How happy others were to have him in their midst was not reported.

It would be wonderful if we could develop ways to educate all students, despite whatever kinds of attitudes and behavior they had. But how many generations of other youngsters are we prepared to sacrifice to this hope that has never yet been fulfilled?


UK:  Tough new tests for primary schoolchildren to be reviewed as education chiefs come under pressure from headteachers

Rigorous new tests for primary school pupils will be reviewed as education bosses come under pressure from headteachers to scrap them.

Tests in maths, science and English are due to be made harder next year as part of a drive to raise standards and help pupils gain a better grasp of basic skills before starting secondary school.

But teachers and unions have raised concerns over the assessment of young children, saying this will put both pupils and staff under too much stress.

Under the new scheme, children will be given a baseline assessment when they are five from which their progress can be measured, a further assessment at seven, and a tough new version of the SATs exams for 11-year-olds.

The idea is to ensure that children who show aptitude at five are still achieving when they leave primary school, and is intended to test the school, rather than any individual child. 

On Tuesday, education Secretary Nicky Morgan is set to reveal in a speech to think tank Policy Exchange that the means of testing primary pupils will be reviewed,The Sunday Times reports.

The newspaper reports that the review has been prompted by concerns that headteachers would be reluctant to work in schools which performed badly in the new tests out of fear they could be sacked.

'Our children are over-tested at all stages of our education so I welcome anything that will reduce the current stressful arrangements for them,' Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Lecturers told the Sunday Times.

Last month, headteacher and key government adviser on primary education Dame Alison Peacock, revealed that children at Wroxham School in Hertfordshire, where she teaches, would not be assessing five-year-olds.

Another 3,000 headteachers are also understood to be planning to keep their school's own methods of assessing Reception children instead of the new system, while the NUT union has threatened a boycott of the tests for five-year-olds.

'We are not doing the baseline,' Dame Alison told TES. 'We already have a very comprehensive way of assessing the children: we do it through observation and talking to the children.'

The new tests are designed to be a similar level to those taken by pupils in the highest-performing countries in the world. The UK has failed to make the top 20 in rankings for maths, reading and science, based on the international Pisa tests for 15-year-olds.

Earlier this year it was claimed that one in three 11-year-olds were expected to fail the new tests, with almost 200,000 primary pupils set to be told they were not properly prepared for secondary school after the exams next summer.

Around 85 per cent of children who sit the current Year 6 Sats achieve at least a level 4B – the standard expected of an average 11-year-old.

But the failure rate for the new tests is expected to be twice as high, putting headteachers at risk of being sacked. 

Any child who fails the tests for 11-year-olds, will have to resit them in their first year at secondary school.

In her speech, Morgan is expected to announce that she is setting up a committee including Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), to review the new assessment system.

A Whitehall source told The Sunday Times: 'Nicky Morgan wants to end the football manager syndrome of headship, the idea that heads get six months and if they have not improved their school enough by then they are out. She wants to get good head teachers into the worst schools.'

A spokesman for the Department for Education told MailOnline that the assessments and tests for children would remain whatever the outcome of the review.

The new baseline assessments will not be scrapped,' he said. 'All primary school assessments at five, seven and 11 will remain, indeed we are looking at ways to make them more rigorous.'


Blitz on schools that fail white working classes: 1,500 elite teachers will be drafted in to help as part of new drive to increase standards

An elite group of 1,500 teachers will be parachuted into weak schools as part of a new drive on standards, Nicky Morgan will announce today.

The National Teaching Service will target poor performing schools – many of which are in white working-class areas – with teams of talented teachers and heads.

It is part of a determined push to create opportunities for children from poorer backgrounds, whom the Education Secretary says have been written off in the past.

In a major speech, Mrs Morgan will accuse Labour politicians and their union allies of pushing working class children into subjects such as ‘nail technology and study skills’.

Labour ministers were guilty of ignoring the academic potential of children from working-class homes, while at the same time making sure their own children studied key academic subjects, she will say.

Education experts believe many children in poorer white communities, especially in rural areas and coastal towns, are failing to make enough progress.

In future, secondary schools will be evaluated by the standards watchdog Ofsted on how many pupils take, and pass, the ‘EBacc’ of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a foreign language at GCSE, Mrs Morgan will announce.

Astonishingly, in 2010 only 22 per cent of pupils studied all those subjects. The figure now stands at 40 per cent, but ministers want nine in ten pupils to take them.

Mrs Morgan will say that too many children are not being give a ‘fair shot to succeed because of where they live’. The National Teaching Service will see the ‘brightest and best’ teachers recruited to work in poor performing areas.

They could receive extra cash, and be fast tracked to senior jobs in return for spending two years in a struggling school. The scheme has echoes of the ‘Teach First’ scheme used by Labour to push talented graduates into weak urban schools. A pilot project is being launched today in the North West and the target is for 1,500 recruits by 2020.

In her speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank, Mrs Morgan will accuse Labour and its union allies of ‘tacit snobbery’ and ‘a fatalistic lack of confidence in human potential’.

Their ‘world view’ was that ‘kids from poorer homes could never succeed academically’.

‘Nothing exposes that snobbery more than the fact that these politicians and policy makers were never thinking about their own children,’ she will say.

‘They weren’t going to allow their 14-year-olds to settle for study skills or nail technology; they weren’t going to let them narrow their scope at 14 by filling their timetable with BTECs and NVQs. On the contrary. They made sure their children would study “key” academic subjects, which they told everyone else weren’t essential.’

There are 20 council areas where the majority of pupils still do not get five good GCSEs in any subject. Among them are Knowsley, Salford and Rochdale, all in the North West.

Mrs Morgan will announce details of five new sponsors for academy schools in the region, which have been given grants totalling £5million to try to improve school performance.


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