Friday, May 08, 2015

Survey finds more than half of Britain's 18 to 25-year-olds do not know what VE day celebrates

It marked the end of years of blood, sweat and tears – but most young people have no idea what VE Day is.

With two days until the 70th anniversary, a survey found 54 per cent of Britons aged 18 to 25 did not know that Friday's VE Day celebrates the end of the Second World War in Europe.

And 38 per cent could not identify Winston Churchill as the prime minister who declared victory in Europe on May 8, 1945.  Seven per cent believed it was former US president John F Kennedy, another 7 per cent said Margaret Thatcher and 4 per cent thought it was Tony Blair.

The Onepoll survey, commissioned by SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association), the Armed Forces charity, questioned 1,000 young people about VE Day and the Second World War.

Asked which country's invasion by Germany led Britain to declare war in 1939, 55 per cent were unable to identify Poland – and 4.5 per cent said it was the invasion of England.

David Murray, chief executive of SSAFA, said: 'It is a real shame that so many of our young people do not have a basic level of knowledge of the Second World War.

'Many of them probably have not-too-distant relatives who fought in what was by far the biggest world war we have seen, in terms of lives lost.'

More than a third believed the first moon landing, Britain's entry into the European Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall had all happened before VE Day. And nearly three-quarters drastically underestimated the death toll, unaware that 60 million died.

Overall, women knew more than men on the details of the war and the poll revealed Scots to be most knowledgeable, while Londoners performed worst.

Mr Murray, who served for more than 30 years in the RAF, said: 'The nostalgic memory of VE Day is being played out across Britain and so it should be. As a nation we have a strong tradition of celebrating our Forces and we have much to be proud of.'

Three days of commemorations will begin on Friday, when party leaders, royals, and veterans will gather for a day of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London.

At 3pm – the moment in 1945 that Churchill declared an end to war in Europe – there will be a two-minute silence across the country. Schools are being encouraged to hold events and observe the silence.

At a service in Westminster Abbey on Sunday, the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be joined by veterans and their families, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of Allied nations.

A parade will go from the abbey past the balcony of the Treasury building, where Churchill made his historic VE Day speech.


All state secondaries should allow boarders, says public school head: Sir Anthony Seldon believes adding facilities would create 'civilising' atmosphere

Every state secondary in the country should become a boarding school because it would create a ‘civilising’ atmosphere, according to a leading head master.

Sir Anthony Seldon called for boarding facilities to be built to cater for at least 10 per cent of pupils at all schools and said it could even work at tough inner-city comprehensives.

He said having boarders at a school could help reduce issues like knife crime because pupils would feel the buildings were ‘somebody’s home’.

He said life at boarding schools had changed in the last few decades and were now and were now enriching places where pupils could enjoy comradery and extracurricular activities.

Boarding could particularly benefit those from poor backgrounds who might not have access to arts and sporting clubs at home, he added.

He said: ‘The boarding life has changed unimaginably in the last 15 years and it is something that many children would benefit from in Britain, regardless of social class, and whoever wins the next election there should be a huge drive to get many to offer boarding in many more state schools.

‘I also think it would help civilise those schools and ground them. If there are some residents there – if people are having breakfast there, and staying overnight and there’s activities all the time, it changes the atmosphere of the school.

‘If you stay with friends, you get more engrossed and more involved in a place. My experience in [state] boarding schools like Wellington Academy is that it subtlety changes the nature of the school. It makes it more homely.’

He said that while fifty years ago, boarding schools had a ‘brutal’ image which had been propagated by films and books, most had changed beyond recognition.

While there are only 38 state schools with boarding facilities, he called on the next government to push for more of the 3,000 in England and Wales to adopt them.

Currently, the existing schools receive funding for the government for lessons but parents pay for the boarding fees, which can range from £9,000 to £12,000 – with some places subsidised.

He suggested that places could be means-tested, with those who could afford to paying for accommodation and others funded by the state.

He added: ‘I think it can absolutely work in an inner city school. ‘Very few young people in those schools are involved in knife crime. I think it can actually help if people felt this was somebody’s home they were coming into.

‘I would love to see inner city comprehensives that had boarding attached to them, maybe 10 per cent of the children at that school were residents at that institution and this could be people having difficulties at home, of any number of kinds, or both parents working or one parent working, and there is nobody at home to supervise homework.’

He said the long-term benefits for society as a whole would counteract the cost to the taxpayer as it would turn out more well-rounded individuals.

‘Boarding can provide a real stability in young people’s lives that some young people lack in their home life,’ he said. ‘You’ve got those kind of children and the ones that are in homes which are not like that but where parents working and it just happens to suit them better.’

Irfan Latif, head master of Sexey’s state boarding school in Somerset, welcomed the suggestion.  He said: ‘You would have weekly boarding, you would have full boarding, to allow for those families which have chaotic lifestyles, where both parents are working, to allow these children the opportunity for extended education.’

He said boarding schools were no longer seen as places with ‘cold showers’ and overcrowded dormitories and were able to provide arts, drama and sport activities which ordinary state schools may not have the facilities for.

He added: ‘We would like to see the funding come from the state – for the state to take a real grip of this, to allow boarding to be available to all children.’

Sir Anthony, whose school sponsors the state boarding school Wellington Academy in Wilshire, is due to start as Vice Chancellor or the University of Buckingham from September.


Flashback: Education Secretary Hails Baltimore Schools for Steep Drop in Suspensions

Sixteen month ago, Education Secretary Arne Duncan went to a high school in inner-city Baltimore to talk about "the need to rethink and redesign school discipline practices." He said too many schools resort to suspensions and expulsions, even for minor misbehavior.

And he hailed Baltimore schools for achieving "a modern-day low" in the number of student suspensions.

"Schools should remove students from the classroom as a last resort, and only for appropriately serious infractions, like endangering the safety of other students, teachers, or themselves," Duncan said in his January 8, 2014 speech at Frederick Douglass High School.

The school is right across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where -- according to the Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake -- last week's chaos in Baltimore first erupted:

"A lot of this started with high school kids," the Baltimore mayor told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last Tuesday. She described the rioting and looting as "an evolving situation that started with a lot of kids after they got out of school."

That's the same Frederick Douglass High School where Duncan announced the Obama administration's first-of-its-kind guidance on easing school discipline, especially for minority students.

"Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today," Duncan said at the time. (This was months before the nation's attention was focused on alleged racial discrimination in police practices.)

"Exclusionary discipline is applied disproportionately to children of color and students with disabilites," Duncan said. He added that as many as 95 percent of suspensions nationwide are for nonviolent misbehavior, such as being disruptive, acting disrespectfully, tardiness, profanity, and dress code violations.

Duncan also talked about Baltimore City Schools specifically:

"A decade ago, in 2004, principals and educators routinely suspended students for minor infractions in Baltimore City Schools. In a school system with about 88,000 students, school officials handed out more than 26,000 suspensions."

Ducan explained that a new CEO for the school district changed the rules, placing mental health professionals in middle schools, handing more discipline problems with mediation, counseling and parent-teacher conferences.

"As a result, the number of suspensions in Baltimore City Schools dropped by about two-thirds, from 26,300 suspensions to 8,600 last year...In just the last school year, the number of suspensions district-wide fell by almost 25 percent to a modern-day low," he said.

Speaking to CNN last week, Mayor Rawlings-Blake made it clear that she, too, wanted to avoid a crackdown on Baltimore's young people.

She defended the city's lenient response to the unruly high school students at Mondawmin Mall:

"And we tried to have a response that was appropriate and not excessive. And that's what our parents are asking us for. We worked very closely monitoring the situation trying to make sure that we were responding appropriately...It wasn't allowing rioters to loot and to burn down," she insisted. "It was making sure that we had a -- an appropriate response to what was going on..."


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Trigger warning: College kids are human veal

Abetted by idiot administrators, today’s students seem incapable of living in the real world

Every time we seem to have reached peak insanity when it comes to the intellectually constipated and socially stultifying atmosphere on today’s college campuses, some new story manages to reveal vast new and untapped reservoirs of ridiculousness. In a world of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and official apologies featuring misgendered pronouns that start a whole new round of accusations, wonders never cease.

So when ’60s-radical-turned-Reagan-fanboy David Horowitz shows up at University of North Carolina to equate Islam with terrorism for the thousandth time, the student body gets the vapors, tries to shut him down, and creates the hashtag #notsafeUNC.

When a student publication prints a story called “So You Want to Date a Teaching Assistant?” in a special satirical issue, the whole run gets pulped.

When Laura Kipnis, a feminist professor at Northwestern, publishes an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education extolling her experiences sleeping with professors while a student, two current undergrads lodge complaints with the university’s Title IX office.

What does it say about the state of the campus today that comedian Chris Rock says he skips college tours now because today’s students are too “conservative”? He doesn’t mean that in a political sense. He means “in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.”

But really, what is wrong with kids these days and, more important, the supposed adults who look after them? They act as if they are raising human veal that cannot even stand on their own legs or face the sunlight without having their eyeballs burned out and their hearts broken by a single deep breath or uncomfortable moment. I’m just waiting for stories of college deans carrying students from class to class on their backs.

As a first-generation college student way back when, one of the very greatest things about college was engaging with ideas and attitudes that were different than what you already knew. Attending Rutgers in the early ’80s, you could walk from one end of the centuries-old College Avenue Campus to the other and encounter screaming matches over divesting the stocks of companies that did business in South Africa, whether Nicaragua was already a Soviet satellite, and the supposedly self-hating theology of Jews for Jesus.

Hardly a week went by, it seemed, without a public demonstration for and against the burgeoning gay rights movement, a protested showing of the anti-abortion movie Silent Scream, and debates over how great and/or evil Ronald Reagan actually was. The whole idea of college was about arguing and debating, not shielding ourselves from disagreements.          

Even as it seemed to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of exotic new ideas, outrages, and attitudes, it wasn’t paradise, and I shudder to think of the insensitivities that were taken for granted by the privileged and internalized by the oppressed of the day. Nobody wants to return to the days when campus was segregated by race, gender, and lest we forget, class.

But the way students and especially administrators talk about college today, you’d think parents are paying ever-higher tuition so their children can attend a reeducation camp straight out of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’s as if college presidents, deans, and the ever-increasing number of bureaucrats and administrators and residence-life muckety-mucks walked away from Animal House firmly believing that Dean Wormer was not only the hero of movie but a role model. At all costs, order must be enforced and no space for free play or discord can be allowed!

A case in point is the administrative reaction to an April 16 lecture at Georgetown University by Christina Hoff Sommers. Way back in the 20th century (1995), Sommers, then a professor at Clark University, published Who Stole Feminism?, a wide-ranging and controversial critique of what she termed “gender feminism.” Where “equity feminists” such as herself pushed for legal and political equality under the law, Sommers accused “gender feminists” of discounting massive and ongoing improvements between the sexes, calling for privileged status for women and, ironically, reinscribing the idea that females needed special protection from brutish males.

Fast-forward 20 years. Sommers is now a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and talking at one of the nation’s leading basketball factories at the request of the College Republicans and the Clare Booth Luce Institute, a conservative organization named for the late playwright, stateswoman, homewrecker, and acid-eater. Sommers’ talk, titled “What’s Right (and Badly Wrong) with Feminism,” was in no way mandatory (like chapel used to be at religious schools) and it contained no surprises to anyone even barely acquainted with her work.

In a nutshell, Sommers still believes in “equity feminism” and still abjures “gender feminism.” She talked about the themes of her 2001 book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism in Harming Our Young Men, which started as an article in that seething crucible of misogyny The Atlantic. And she covered similar ground to that discussed in her popular YouTube series, The Factual Feminist.

During her talk, which can be viewed online here, protesters stood with signs warning that Sommers might trigger post-traumatic-stress flashbacks. They also denounced her as a rape apologist. (She regularly notes that sexual assaults have been declining for years, especially on college campuses, and she’s argued that Rolling Stone’s retracted story of a nonexistent gang rape at the University of Virginia exemplifies how ideology clouds the minds of many activists, journalists, and scholars.) At various points, some of the protesters asked questions and Sommers gamely answered them.

So far, so good. This is exactly the way college is supposed to work. Student groups invite speakers who give talks and answer questions. Words are exchanged, ideas debated, tempers flared, and everyone walks away hopefully a little wiser in epistemological humility or, more likely, even more secure in the fact that she alone possesses Truth with a capital T.

Then there’s Georgetown, which boldly claims to provide “a unique educational experience that prepares the next generation of global citizens to lead and make a difference in the world.” Which in this instance means demanding that the protesters’ faces and questions be edited out of the video posted at YouTube by the Clare Booth Luce Institute. The university’s assistant director of the center for student engagment, Lauren Gagliardi, emailed the College Republicans demanding that an “edited version [of the video] needs to be released without students who did not give permission to be taped.” Gagliardi also threatened that if the folks at the Luce Institute were “unwilling or unresponsive to the request, [then] Georgetown will need to step in.”

Good luck with that. Over at the blog Legal Insurrection, Laurel Conrad of the Luce Institute is having fun with the request and staking out a common-sense defense, writing, “It stretches credulity that Georgetown and its students would not understand that the lecture was a public event. The video camera was in plain view, and audience members themselves appear to be taking video and photos. It could not shock any student that he or she was on camera.”

In her post about the incident, Conrad invokes the “Streisand Effect,” which refers to attempts to shut down publicity that inadvertently increase it. (In 2003, La Barbra tried to block publication of her Malibu home in an online public database of aerial photographs, which caused over 400,000 people to access the site hosting the picture. Before Streisand’s demand, the image of her spread had been accessed just a half-dozen times.) By raising a stink, Georgetown has made the incident and video bigger than it ever was by inspiring news coverage on Fox News and at various news sites (including this one).

Perhaps the negative publicity from threatened reprisals will help break the spell that lies upon today’s campus climate like a patient etherized upon a table. Or perhaps all the stories of political correctness run amok and demands for “freedom from speech” are wild exaggerations and the phenomenon barely exists outside the confines of a few elite academies warehousing the overindulged offspring of America’s upper classes until they are shunted off into make-work jobs at their parents’ firms.

Either way, this much seems likely: Today’s students are even less prepared to deal with anything approaching the real world than those of us who graduated into a world that didn’t even pretend to care what our senior thesis was about. Take it from me, kiddos: The whole world is a microaggression when it isn’t openly kicking you up and down the street. And if your vast clone army of administrative busybodies can’t fully protect you from disappointment on campus, they’re even more useless once you’ve graduated and start paying off your student loans.


Charter schools and the aspiring classes

There is significant research concluding that the ever-spreading charter schools in the U.S. are markedly improving pupils’ performance. Charter schools are free to attend, open to all children and publicly funded but independently run – the most similar comparison close to home being the Free Schools Programme in England. Since the first charter school law passed in Minnesota in 1991, almost seven thousand have opened with two and a half million children now being educated in a charter school.

Previous studies have looked at lottery estimates. These compare how charter applicants perform when admitted to a charter school with how they would have performed had they attended a state school as the randomness ensures there are no systematic differences between those selected and not selected. But these studies do not account for pupils who never applied to a charter school and ended up attending one. Or for pupils attending charter schools for which demand is weak.

A new discussion paper (pdf) by Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Joshua D. Angrist, Peter D. Hull, and Parag A. Pathak does just this by testing the treatment effects of charter school attendance on middle-schoolers that are part of the new takeovers in New Orleans and Boston.

Takeovers see traditional state schools closed and then re-opened as charter schools. Students enrolled in schools designated for closure are eligible to be ‘grandfathered’ into the newly-opened charter schools. This means that they are guaranteed a place.

What this new paper finds is that highly disadvantaged students have experienced substantial gains in their achievement after enrolling in takeovers passively. It was previously believed that urban charter lottery applicants enjoy an unrepresentatively large benefit from charter attendance because they are either highly motivated or uniquely primed to benefit from the education these schools offer. Now we have both estimates from grandfathering and lottery-based research that weigh against this view.

These successes have also prompted similar approaches to be explored in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee despite the controversy caused by the proliferation of charter takeovers in New Orleans, Boston and elsewhere.

Charters Without Lotteries: Testing Takeovers in New Orleans and Boston is one report of what is becoming a substantial compilation of literature on why charter schools are working. They are some of the top-performing schools in the country with a higher percentage of charter school students accepted into a college or university. They are raising the bar of what is possible and should be expected in public education.

Teachers in charter schools are given the freedom to innovate and have more powers to explore the best practices. The schools can adopt themes and focus on specific fields like STEM subjects, performing arts or meeting the special needs, for example, of autistic children.

How charter schools are quickly extending choice to the poorest is exciting. And crucial. It is not widely recognised that choice already exists – but for the wealthiest. The most privileged can not only afford private schools but through the state school catchment system the housing market is the market for schools. An accepted way of boosting real estate is by improving schools as families want to buy houses in areas with good schools. School choice gives the poor a way to access the already existing market.

The disadvantaged are on the rise and benefiting more than ever from state education as a result of what is the best prominent educational movement in the U.S right now.


For-profit college chain files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

After Education Department pressure

Embattled for-profit college operator Corinthian Colleges Inc. on Monday filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the final step toward a full shutdown in the wake of a financial crisis that began last summer.

Corinthian’s bankruptcy filing Monday morning came as a group of former-Corinthian students lobbying for blanket forgiveness of their debts said they canceled a meeting with the U.S. Department of Education for fear that the department would use the meeting to announce extremely strict loan-forgiveness procedures.

When Corinthian said last week that it had closed overnight all of the 29 schools that hadn’t been sold in an earlier deal or previously wound down, 16,000 students that were enrolled at the time of the shutdown became eligible to have their student loans forgiven. However, the tens of thousands of students that previously attended a Corinthian school aren’t eligible because they weren’t enrolled at the time of the closure.

The bankruptcy filing doesn’t legally change those students’ bid for loan forgiveness, but the timing does highlight the law’s disparity between corporate and student debt, said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the nonprofit student-debt advocacy group Institute for College Access & Success.

“Our laws allow for a clean start for corporations,” Ms. Abernathy said of the current bankruptcy laws under which Corinthian is seeking protection, “and essentially the students are requesting the same things.”

She added the Corinthian students are seeking essentially the same relief that would be provided under so-called lemon laws, which don’t require each purchaser of a car that is shown to be a lemon to prove individual harm.

“Corinthian was essentially a lemon,” she said.

Corinthian spokesman Joe Hixson Monday disputed that, saying, “Hundreds of thousands of satisfied students who completed their programs, passed relevant certification programs and earned employment in their chosen field.”

The Department of Education didn’t provide specific comment Monday about the meeting with Corinthian students.

However, in a statement the department said, “Corinthian’s bankruptcy filing follows aggressive enforcement actions taken by the Department to protect students; bringing accountability and transparency to the entire for-profit college sector remains a top priority for us. The Department remains committed to protecting students and ensuring that those who have been hurt by fraud—including at Corinthian—receive the debt relief they are entitled to.”

Corinthian’s bankruptcy filing does put a halt to pending litigation against the company, including scores of lawsuits brought by state attorneys general and federal agencies alleging the company used illegal tactics in marketing itself to students and inflated of job placement rates—charges the company has consistently denied. The filing also will allow the company to liquidate what remains of its assets to repay creditors and lenders.

At its high point, before a cash crunch threatened to take the company down overnight, Corinthian Colleges employed more than 10,000 people, operating more than 100 campuses attended by 81,000 students.

Early last year, the Education Department asked for certain educational statistics from the company, which Corinthian said it couldn’t produce by the deadline. In response, the agency placed a 21-day hold on the company’s access to federal student loan funding. Corinthian eventually provided more than 1.2 million pages to the department in response to the request, the company said in court documents.

That funding accounted for 90% of Corinthian’s revenue and the company said it wouldn’t survive. Ultimately, the Education Department agreed to provide Corinthian with enough federal funding to keep operations going as it attempted to sell some of its assets and wind down the others. That process was still going on until April 22 when the last potential buyer for its remaining schools withdrew from the process, forcing the immediate shut down.

But during the roughly 10-month long process, Corinthian did manage to sell 50 campuses to ECMC Group, a nonprofit education company that specializes in the collection of student loan debt. As part of that deal, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped negotiate $480 million in private student-loan forgiveness, but federal loans weren’t affected.

Since then, hundreds of former students have organized under a group called the Debt Collective and began refusing to repay student loans, arguing that all Corinthian students should receive blanket student loan forgiveness because of the fraud allegations.

The company listed assets of $19.2 million and debts of $143.1 million in its chapter 11 petition filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

Corinthian said it filed for bankruptcy with the support of its lenders to “conduct a prompt and responsible closure of the campuses in the interest of the Debtors stakeholders, including creditors, employees and students.”


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Being pregnant doesn't feel good either!' 14-year-old girl's brutally-honest sex education quiz answers earn her a suspension

If every teenager shared the knowledge imparted by one confident 14-year-old girl during her sex ed class, unplanned teen pregnancy would practically be a non-issue.

A newly-surfaced image shows a series of brutally-honest and hilarious answers given by a young girl in response to a series of suggestions for explanations a sexual partner may give in order to get out of wearing a condom, such as 'I'm clean' or 'they cost too much'. The teenager pulled no punches on her responses, to say the least.

The post turned up last week on Imgur and has since gained fast internet fame after being posted to Reddit. 'Two years ago today, my then 14-year-old sister got suspended for submitting these answers for her sex-ed class,' wrote the original poster on Imgur. 'I'm so proud of her.'

The questionnaire, called 'Objections to Condoms' asks the writer to consider the possible objections one might hear from a potential sexual partner on the subject of condoms, and instructs he or she to match the phrases with the preprepared answers on a separate sheet. However, clearly unhappy with the pre-written suggestions, this girl decided to provide her own answers instead - and the results are both funny and wise.

Some of the gems include answering the objection 'Condoms don't feel good. It won't be natural,' with: 'Being pregnant doesn't feel good either', or answering the plead 'Just this once; we hardly ever have sex', with 'Now you know why'.

In another example, the condom objector claims that 'By the time you put a condom on, you've lost the mood,' to which the girl responds that if you don't put one on, 'you get a little baby and AIDS!'

On the issue of the cost of condoms being too high, the 14-year-old points out that 'STD treatments and babies cost more'.

The quiz is also littered with clever and sarcastic responses such as her answer to the excuse of 'I don't have a condom with me', to which she replies: 'I don't have my vagina with me.’

The original poster, who claims that she and her sibling are from Montreal in Canada, says that her sister was suspended for the explicit language contained in the responses.


Another West Virginia County Cracks Down on Testing Opt Outs

Freedom and Independence? Ha! Nice one, Harrison.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a county in West Virginia was trying to intimidate students who wanted to opt out of the standardized testing mandated under Common Core standards. Despite assurances from the State Superintendent of Education that there were no consequences to students for opting out, schools were fearing a loss of funding, and therefore overreacting to parents exercising their rights by singling out and pressuring students to comply.

Unfortunately, it seems the situation has gotten worse. The Superintendent in Harrison County, one Mark Manchin, has gone public with his anti-opt out position.

“We simply cannot allow them to opt out,” he said on the Mike Queen Show, “or decide that they don’t want to participate in the statewide assessment.” Manchin went on to say that he had given school principals the authority to discipline students at their discretion for failing to take the test, which, it should be repeated, the State Superintendent said they were allowed to refuse.

The county is classifying the decision to opt out as “insubordination” and applying appropriate disciplinary measures, although Manchin stopped short of detailing exactly what these might be.

This kind of county-by-county tyranny further underscores the need for more school choice in West Virginia. If a school denies the student’s right to opt out of a test, the student should be able to opt out of that school and pursue education in a county that values parental choice more highly. As things stand, students are forced into schools based on where they live, and depending on the county, are forced into tests that neither they nor their parents think are beneficial to their educations.

Superintendent Manchin attempted to underscore his point with a powerful, albeit misguided hypothetical:

“What if a parent doesn’t like another decision that we make here? They’re going to, unilaterally, to allow their student to opt out of disciplinary issues, or other issues that we have at the school system and [the administration] allow that to take place?”

What if, indeed? Maybe people would get the education they actually want instead of that which the government decides to ram down their throats. Education should not be a battle of teachers against parents, but rather should be a collaborative search to find the best, most effective methods for each individual child. The adversarial relationship these centralized standards are creating is one of the most potent objections to Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments.


Obama While Trying to Kill School Choice in D.C.: We Need to Make Sure ‘All Children’ Get 'Great Education'

After having presented a budget to Congress that would phase out a school-choice program that allows a limited number of children to escape Washington, D.C.'s public schools, President Barack Obama delivered a weekly address today that said all Americans have a responsibility to make sure all children—not just their own—get a great education.

Obama’s two daughters go to Sidwell Friends, one of the most expensive private schools in Washington, D.C.

“All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do,” Obama said, while sitting in a public library in the Anacostia neighborhood of D.C. “And a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before.

“Making sure all our kids receive one is the surest way to show them that their lives matter. And it’s the smartest way to prove to them that in communities like this, and in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all.”

Obama's address was titled: "Ensuring Every Child Gets a Great Education."

In 2003, Congress enacted a program for “opportunity scholarships” in Washington, D.C. These allowed some students in public schools to get a voucher to help offset the cost of attending a private school. When President Barack Obama came to office in 2009, he tried to kill the program, then settled on a plan that would allow then-current recipients of the vouchers to continue, but would not allow new people into the program. When Republicans took back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they renewed the program and extended it through 2016.

However, Obama’s latest budget proposal calls for phasing it out again—and preventing children in D.C. public schools from escaping to private ones.

“The Obama administration has tried for years to sunset the program, and the president's fiscal 2013 budget request zeroed out funding for the program, though the proposal was never carried out,” Education Week reported last month.

“The fiscal 2016 budget request includes $43.2 million, down from $45 million last year, and $3.2 million of that must be used to carry out an evaluation of the program,” reported Education Week. “In addition, the proposal specifically states that the money will be made available until it's all used up, an attempt to sunset the program once again and block new enrollees.”

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation has noted that more families in D.C. would like to participate in the program than currently have the opportunity to do so.

“Nearly 6,000 kids from lower-income families have benefited from these scholarships–which reach more than $8,300 a year for primary school and more than $12,500 a year for high school,” writes Moore. “That’s still about one-third lower overall than what it costs per pupil to educate students in Washington, D.C.’s public schools.”

“Almost all – 97.4 percent--of the D.C. students who get the scholarship money are blacks and Latinos,” says Moore. “Even more would like to take advantage of the program: Every year four times as many D.C. minority children sign up for the voucher program as there are funded slots available.”

The price this year for attending Sidwell Friends, where President Obama’s children are enrolled, is $37,750 per student.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A third of British primary pupils 'will fail new tests'

One in three 11-year-olds are expected to fail rigorous new tests being introduced next year, it was claimed yesterday.  Almost 200,000 primary pupils will be told they are not properly prepared for secondary school after the exams next summer.

The tests in maths, English and science will be made harder from 2016 in a bid to raise standards for those in the last year of primary school.  It is hoped the tougher tests will help pupils gain a better grasp of basic skills before they start the next phase of their education.

But yesterday it was claimed thousands of children will fail to meet the required standards, with secondary schools expected to lay on summer classes to help those who are behind.

The new sample tests, due to be released after the election, will cover the 12 times table and calculating the area of a parallelogram.

One question asks children to divide 1,652 by 28 using long division, while another requires them to work out which fraction needs to be added to 1/3 and 1/4 to make up one whole.

Pupils will also have to recognise adverbs, use the subjunctive and identify a subordinate clause.

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. The Tories have already announced that if they win the election, any child who fails the tests will have to resit them in their first year at secondary school.

A source close to the Education Department told the Sunday Times: ‘I do not think all politicians are aware of the problem that there will be such a massive drop in pass rates in these new tests.  ‘Conscientious parents will of course be worried if they are told that their child is not school-ready.  ‘But this is really a measure of the school and not the child.’

The tests are being brought in next year at the same time as a harder curriculum in primary schools.

They 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.

Last night a Conservative spokesman said: ‘Those primary schools that have prepared well for the new curriculum ... should not see a drop in the pass rate. The new curriculum is well within the ability of all pupils.’


British private fees are too high for the 'squeezed' middle classes, says headmaster of Eton

Britain's most elite independent schools have become too expensive for middle class families, according to the head master of Eton College.  Tony Little said many private schools had become out of reach for those who might traditionally have hoped to send their children there.

Many top public schools charge more than £30,000 a year, and overall fees continue to rise above the rate of inflation, recent figures show.  A study by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) this week showed that fees at independent schools have increased by 3.6 per cent this year.

Mr Little said that while heads had increased efforts to recruit pupils from poorer homes with bursaries, the soaring costs were still an issue for most families.  He said: ‘If you’re talking about this phrase “the squeezed middle” not being able to afford [fee-paying schools], that is a concern to a lot of people.’

Mr Little said Eton was able to afford to offer fees assistance to students from a range of backgrounds, but that was not the case with other schools.

He added: ‘We look at everybody individually and see … whether they measure up to have financial assistance. But we are all very aware of this effect [of high fees] on the middle classes.’

Boarding fees at Eton, Winchester and Harrow all exceed £34,000 a year, while at top day schools they can be more than £20,000.

Mr Little said that the top boarding schools had no choice but to charge high fees because of the pastoral support and facilities they offer.

He suggested that parents who could not meet the costs should consider ‘no- frills’ alternatives. He said: ‘Not all boarding schools need to offer all the facilities and all the subjects. As a parent, my advice [would be] to look closely at the options of what they can afford and what they think would be good for their child.’

Mr Little, who has been the headmaster at Eton since 2002, is due to leave this summer to join a chain of independent schools based in Dubai.

He suggested that in the future, there should be a ‘needs-blind’ admission system in which clever pupils would gain a place regardless of their family circumstances.

He said private schools had a ‘moral imperative’ to admit children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  He said: ‘[At Eton] we’ve got the infrastructure in place to be needs-blind but we need more money and that’s what we are seeking to do and that’s what we have been seeking to do for the last 10 years.’

Mr Little added that the arguments about selection and grammar schools in the state sector had become a political ‘hot potato’.

‘I believe in streaming pupils by ability and individual subjects, and how you do that … is almost immaterial,’ he told the Sunday Telegraph.

‘The important thing is that when it comes to a subject like maths you’re putting young people into groups where they can go along at a similar pace and can be extended and challenged properly.’


Atlanta judge reduces sentences for three educators in cheating case

An Atlanta judge on Thursday reduced the sentences of three former school administrators convicted of participating in a widespread test-cheating scandal, saying he was uncomfortable with the stiff sentences he handed down earlier this month.

In a rare move, Judge Jerry W. Baxter reduced each of the administrator’s prison terms from seven years to three, with seven years of probation instead of 13. He also reduced their fines from $25,000 to $10,000, but he maintained the requirement for 2,000 hours of community service.

The original prison term — far longer than prosecutors had sought and longer than many violent criminals serve — triggered public debate and a flood of criticism. Baxter, hinting that he might retire soon, said that he wanted to “modify the sentence so I can live with it.”

He urged the three defendants, all former high-level administrators within Atlanta Public Schools, to begin their community service now instead of waiting for their appeals to play out, a process that could take years. By doing so they could possibly earn a suspended prison sentence, he said.

“I’m not Oliver Wendell Holmes, but I do have a feel for trials and cases, and it’s my humble belief that this case is going to be affirmed,” he said. “If I am reversed and you are correct, you will still have served the community, so it’s not like you have wasted time.”

Critics had accused Baxter — who called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town” — of initially sentencing out of anger, doling out particularly harsh punishments to defendants who rejected his advice to admit guilt and take plea bargains.

On Thursday he seemed more weary than furious, and he made a plea on behalf of the poor children who bore the brunt of the cheating scandal when they were told they were working on grade level even though they were behind.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution uncovered the cheating scandal in 2009, and state investigators later concluded that nearly 180 educators had cheated in dozens of Atlanta public schools. High-level administrators had ignored or covered up cheating allegations since at least 2005, the investigators said.

Investigators found that a climate of fear and intimidation pervaded the district, and teachers and principals helped students get more correct answers on standardized tests largely because they were afraid for their jobs or reputation.

“There’s a lot more to this tragedy than the cheating,” Baxter said. “I mean the poverty, and the utter hopelessness in a lot of these neighborhoods. . . . Teaching in these areas — and there are fine teachers and dedicated teachers — that alone is not going to solve the problem.”

Baxter said he hopes that the cheating scandal forces Atlanta to “put a microscope” on the problems facing poor communities and “make things better for these children that didn’t ask to be born in these conditions.”

The three former administrators — Tamara Cotman, Michael Pitts and Sharon Davis-Williams — were among 11 former public school educators who were convicted April 1 of taking part in the conspiracy to falsify student scores on standardized tests.

One gave birth to a baby recently and has not been sentenced. Sentences for the others will apparently stand. Five were sentenced to either a year in prison plus four years on probation or two years in prison with three years on probation.

Two defendants chose to negotiate lighter sentences in exchange for admitting their guilt, apologizing for their actions and waiving their rights to appeal. One must serve six months of weekends in the county jail; the other has been sentenced to a year of home confinement, meaning she must stay home from dusk until dawn but is otherwise free.


Monday, May 04, 2015

UK: School heads say too many new teachers are not up to the job, don't have a basic grasp of grammar and can't control their pupils

A damning report by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found many new recruits are so badly trained that they cannot control a class or properly teach their subject.

The NAHT survey of its members found that the poor quality of applicants was the main reason for a growing recruitment crisis in schools.

Many heads preferred to stick with classroom-hardened supply teachers than risk hiring inexperienced staff.

The report lists a catalogue of failings that heads have witnessed in young teachers, ranging from a weak grasp of grammar to a ‘poor work ethic’.

These findings will disappoint the Government which has been attempting to inject more rigour into teacher training – although experts said its reforms had yet to take hold.

The poor quality of training will also undermine Labour’s insistence that all new teachers must achieve the professional qualification.

The report, published today, found that seven in ten heads felt the quality of new teachers was the same or had declined over the past five years.

Critics say the college and university education departments that produce most of the 30,000 new teachers each year are dominated by academics who are more interested in ‘fanciful’ theories than practical techniques.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said the Marxism-influenced ‘madness’ that had infected education departments in the past had been replaced by lecturers who ‘have lost touch with what actually works in the classroom’.

He said efforts by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove to reform teacher training might be derailed if Labour wins power.

Under the School Direct programme, groups of schools recruit would-be teachers and provide them with far more hands-on experience than traditional university courses.

Professor Smithers said: ‘There is a risk that Labour will back away from school-based training because it will be pressured to do so by the unions and the education establishment.’

The survey of 1,789 heads last September found there were growing problems recruiting teachers at all levels, including deputy and assistant heads. While a shortage of teachers was a key factor, the top reason given was the quality of applicants.

Many said that while there were plenty of applicants in their area, they were not of the right standard.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said the findings were ‘worrying’ and showed that teacher training reforms were not yet working.


Obama Administration Says Non-Profit Status ‘Going to Be an Issue’ for Religious Schools

Is the Obama administration about to wage war on religious schools?

One of the more startling portions of oral arguments today at the Supreme Court was the willingness of the Obama administration’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, to admit that religious schools that affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman may lose their non-profit tax-exempt status if marriage is redefined.

Justice Samuel Alito asked Verrilli whether a religious school that believed marriage was the union of husband and wife would lose their non-profit tax status.

The solicitor general answered: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue.”

This should not be an issue. Citizens and organizations that continue to believe the truth about marriage should not be penalized by the government.

Even if the Court says that all 50 states have to recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage, there is no reason why the government should coerce or penalize institutions of civil society that simply ask to be free—without penalty—to continue to operate in accordance with the belief that marriage is a union of husband and wife.

This line of questioning between Alito and the solicitor general picked up on a theme that Justice Antonin Scalia had started with the lawyer representing the same-sex couples suing the states.

Scalia asked about the religious liberty concerns if the Supreme Court creates a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. When the lawyer replied that we hadn’t seen many religious liberty violations in the states that have democratically redefined marriage, Scalia pounced: that’s his point. Here’s how he explained it:

They are laws. They are not constitutional requirements. That was the whole point of my question. If you let the states do it, you can make an exception. … You can’t do that once it is a constitutional proscription.

Scalia repeated himself, almost verbatim, mere minutes later: “That’s my whole my point. If it’s a state law, you can make those exceptions. But if it’s a constitutional requirement, I don’t see how you can.”

This highlights another reason why it would be wise for the Supreme Court to not disregard the constitutional authority of states to make marriage policy. Not only is there nothing in the Constitution that requires the redefinition of marriage, but a ruling saying that there was could create unimaginable religious liberty violations. These situations are best handled democratically.


Australia does new universities well

Australia has more world-class universities opened in the past 50 years ago than any other nation, with 16 in the top 100 worldwide and seven in the top 50, according to a survey released today.

The University of Technology, Sydney, tops the list of Australian universities, sitting in 21st spot ­internationally, according to the Times Higher Education Top 100 Under 50 2015 rankings.

The ranking compares universities established in or after 1965. UTS, which jumped 26 places from 47th in the rankings last year, leapfrogged the universities of Newcastle and Wollongong and the Queensland University of Technology to claim top spot.

“The ranking shows something really positive, which is that Australia has the Group of Eight up there holding their own in the traditional rankings, but it also has strength and depth further down,” said Times Higher Educa­tion’s rankings editor Phil Baty.

“That is different to the UK and the US, which have the very best universities in the world, but they also have a very long tail of very poor ones. That’s not the case in Australia.”

UTS vice-chancellor Attila Brungs said the improvement in its ranking was “a result of work we started doing around research and international partnerships in 2009. We are bearing the fruits of efforts planted quite a few years ago.”

Australia’s performance has raised questions about the govern­ment’s higher-education reform agenda — which is currently on ice after being knocked back twice in the Senate.

Mr Baty said the apparent strength of the sector called into question elements of the government’s reforms, including tuition-fee deregulation.

“Deregulated fees would put a bigger gap ­between the very best and the rest,” he said.

Linda Kristjanson, the vice-chancellor of Swinburne University, which entered the top 100 for the first time at 65, said the rankings confirmed the strength of the Australian sector. “It should cause us to continue to critically evaluate proposed changes which would radically alter the policy and funding settings on which this success has been built,” Professor Kristjanson said.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

New NAEP Scores Show America’s Schools Still Failing

The latest 8th grade U.S. history, civics, and geography results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released Wednesday, April 29, showed no significant change from the last assessment in 2010.

For 2014, the NAEP scores show only 18 percent of students scored proficient in U.S. history, 23 percent in civics, and 27 percent in geography.

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom describes the NAEP scores released today as “bleak.”

“The scores weren’t particularly surprising,” said McCluskey. “We’ve known for quite some time that American students have pretty poor historical, geographical, and civic knowledge, and nothing has happened since 2010 that should have radically changed that. Indeed, the focus on mathematics and reading, to the possible detriment of history and civics, may have been amplified a bit with the move to Common Core standards, though since the advent of NCLB math and reading have been essentially the first and last words in school ‘success.’” 

School Choice as a Solution

Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform says parents need additional educational options for their children if scores such as these are ever to improve.

“It’s appalling that not even 30 percent of our nation’s 8th graders are proficient in subjects like civics and history that are so fundamental to our nation’s founding and democracy,” said Kerwin. “If we don’t act now and take bold steps to empower parents and accelerate the pace at which they have access to opportunities that dramatically change their children's learning outcomes, we will not be able to move our nation forward.”

Underachievement in the Middle Class

Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute Lance Izumi, says the unimpressive NAEP scores are an indication many parents believe their children are attending better schools than they are in reality.

"One of the key points to understand is that the low scores on the history, geography and civics NAEP exams are not due only to the performance of low-income students,” said Izumi.  “Non-low-income students, many of whom are from middle-class and more affluent backgrounds, underperformed on each of the NAEP exams.  In fact, as a group, non-low-income students scored well below the proficient benchmark on the history, geography and civics NAEP.  The underachievement of these middle-class students indicates that many schools in affluent areas are not as good as parents think they are, and that middle-class parents need to push for reforms like school choice that will help them and their children."

Expanding Choice

Susan Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, agrees with Izumi. Meyers says school choice will be necessary in order to see positive gains in measurements such as NAEP scores.

"Students can't function in today's world with such inadequate skills," said Meyers. "Until we have significant school choice in every community and schools feel the pressure to compete for students, they will continue with the same, tired and failed policies that are not educating our children. This is why parents want and deserve the freedom to choose a school that works for their child. They don't have time to wait."

Unsurprising and Disappointing

Matt Frendeway, national communications director for the American Federation for Children, says the NAEP scores are not at all surprising.

"National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores were released today, and like every year, serve as a national reminder that our nation's public education system is largely failing our students,” said Frendeway. “The best way to challenge the status quo and help students is by offering parents access to choice and redefining public education by funding students, especially low-income students, and allowing parents to choose the best school for their son or daughter.”

Executive Director Roger L. Beckett of Ashbrook Center, an independent center at Ashland University, says students are missing important lessons regarding the American government and Constitution.

"The recent NAEP scores in history and civics further demonstrate America's crisis in history and civics education,” said Beckett. “The test scores remain abyssmal. America is an experiment in constitutional self-government. If we are not preparing future generations with an understanding of our past as well as an understanding of how American government works, we risk seeing this great experiment fail. Today's tests show yet again how badly we need a revival of history and civics education in our schools.”

McCluskey of the Cato Institute says he is not convinced the disappointing NAEP scores will change anything. 

“These scores are neither surprising, nor will they likely have much lasting impact on the public consciousness,” said McCluskey. “History, civics and geography just don’t seem to matter that much in the current, top-down education system.”


UK: 5,000 more pupils at private schools: Economic recovery and students from abroad boost independent school numbers

The number of children attending private schools has risen by more than 5,000 in a year because of the economic recovery and an increase in pupils from abroad.

The total of 517,113 – compared with 511,928 last year – is the highest since records began in 1974 and represents around 7 per cent of the school-age population.

The Independent Schools Council’s annual census reveals that the increase in numbers comes despite the fact that school fees have risen by an average of 3.6 per cent at the same time.

Parents now pay around £15,675 a year to educate a child privately, but head teachers said finances were improving for many families.

The ISC, which represents 1,267 institutions, said one new pupil in five was from overseas, with their numbers up by 4 per cent from 24,382 to 25,267.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the organisation, said the overall rise was remarkable and ‘shows parents continue to value an independent education’.

The figures showed many pupils move from the state sector to independent sixth forms, with around 14 per cent of school children over 16 now attending an ISC institution.

Responding to the survey, a Conservative Party spokesman said: ‘We are specifically targeting an extra £2.5 billion toward the education of the most disadvantaged every year.’

The survey showed pupil numbers are up even in regions hit hard by the recession.  Wales, for example, recorded its first increase since 2008 – up 4.7 per cent from 7,410 to 7,756 pupils.

Pupil numbers have also risen in the North from 68,960 in 2014 to 69,000 this year. A record number of pupils, 170,000, now receive help with their fees, to a value of £836million, up £60million from last year.

Part of the increase in pupil numbers is also down to ten new schools, with 2,000 pupils, joining the ISC in the past year.

Paul Norton, principal of Kings Monkton School in Cardiff, said first year entry this year had doubled, which was ‘unheard of’.

Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said pupil numbers at his school had risen by 34 per cent since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.

He added: ‘With young people facing a tougher jobs market than ever, parents are responding by investing money in their children’s secondary education in order to make sure that they get the top grades that leading universities now demand.’

Hilary French, head of Newcastle High School for Girls, said: ‘There is a growing mood of optimism, a sense that local industry and businesses are thriving.

‘We are definitely seeing that translate into an increased demand for places, with a lot more interest in our school.’


Public Schools in D.C. Suburbs May Make ‘Gender Identity’ a Protected Class

The school board in Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., plans to vote May 7 on a proposal to add gender identity as a protected group to the district’s nondiscrimination policy.

School board member Ryan McElveen proposed the change based on the recent opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) which reverses a 2002 opinion and grants local school boards the authority to expand nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s critical for Fairfax County, as the largest school division in the state, to make the statement that we unequivocally protect, value and embrace all of our students and employees for who they are,” the Washington Post quoted McElveen as saying of the proposal.

However the proposal has met with opposition from Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, concerned parents, and some state delegates who claim that the implications of such a change have not been addressed.

“We have no presentations about what the implications are, what the actual, real-life implications are and how this translates to the way a school functions and how our facilities are set up and what this means for parental rights,” School Board member Elizabeth Schultz told Tuesday. “We’ve had no parent or public engagement of any sort, and so this is a little bit like passing a policy to find out what’s in it, and I think that’s not very good governing.”

Schultz questioned if the new policy would allow “a student of any age” with “gender confusion” to use opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms.

“What do we do if that happens in the high school level and…it does involve locker rooms for sports teams, for athletic clubs, for physical education. I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know who decides -- you know, is it just somebody who says that they have this issue? Do they need to be undergoing some treatments? Do we need to have a medical doctor?

“There are very complex issues here that they’re struggling with and we want to respect people’s struggles, but that doesn’t mean that you undermine the rights of 99.7 percent of our population to provide special privileges and you create a protected class for a very, very tiny group of people, and that’s a significant concern,” Schultz emphasized.

“Where are students’ rights and where are parents’ rights and where are rights of other staff members?” she asked.

Two Virginia Republican delegates also expressed concerns at a recent school board meeting.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) and Del. David A. LaRock (R) cited case law in their argument that the school board does not have the authority to create protected classes.

“Seven attorney generals from 1982 to 2010 in eight opinions all concluded that the General Assembly is the only body with authority to establish or change public policy to define classes of individuals of forbidden discrimination,” Marshall told those gathered.

Former Fairfax County School Board member, Mychele Brickner, echoed Schultz’s concerns, telling, “I believe that as parents learn about this and comment to the school board through e-mail or voicemail that they don’t want this type of thing -- I mean this has tentacles that could reach into the far reaches of the school system.”

Brickner said that a male second grade teacher, for example, under this new policy could come to class dressed as a woman and ask to be referred to as a woman. “How does that impact on the children?” she asked. “And the parents? It impacts on everyone, and nobody can answer these questions.”

Brickner also emphasized that this change is not needed.

“We already have a non-discrimination policy -- that is policy 1450 -- and it prohibits any type of discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity,” she explained. “I am not certain why they want to go ahead and put this in because I believe there are major ramifications for putting the language in there.”

Traditional Values Coalition President and Fairfax resident Andrea Lafferty is urging Fairfax parents and taxpayers to voice their objections.

"Of course, we are concerned for those psychologically unhealthy individuals who are confused and don't identify with the body parts they were assigned at birth. These people deserve our understanding and require counseling and other help,” Lafferty said in a statement.

"But our overriding concern must be with the vast majority of students who harbor no confusion about their sexual identity. Parents who object to exposing children to this confused behavior should not be forced to subordinate their sincerely held beliefs in order to accommodate the condition of a very small group of individuals.

"The tyranny of a very small minority must not be allowed to dictate a practice which is contrary to the more common sense beliefs of the majority," Lafferty concluded.

Parents have weighed in on both sides of the issue.

Steve Hinkley, an Alexandria resident and middle school parent, believes Fairfax should change the policy.

“I think it’s great that they would take a lead and show the rest of the nation that everybody should be treated equally,” he told Washington’s ABC affiliate WJLA-TV.

However Alex Strong, a father of four students in the school system, told the local FOX news station that he is against changing the current policy.

“While I respect any individual and their choices and what they do in their life, that's something I feel at an elementary school age is just too soon to have to deal with,” he said.