Friday, June 12, 2015

IMPACT Teacher Bonuses Haven’t Had Much Impact on Test Scores in D.C. Public Schools

Money can't make dumb kids smart.  If your theory is wrong, you won't get the results you expect. And the result below shows the falsity of "All men (and kids) are equal".  Any informed psychometrician would have predicted these results -- despite the great and worthy efforts of Ms Rhee

Despite spending millions of dollars on teacher bonuses and incentives, a new report reveals that disadvantaged students enrolled in the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) have made little progress since the school system was reformed to great national fanfare eight years ago.

In 2007, the D.C. Council passed the Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) which created a school chancellor who, along with the mayor, would have control over the city’s struggling public schools rather than the city’s Board of Education.

Michelle Rhee, the DCPS chancellor from 2007 to 2010, gained national attention in 2009 for creating IMPACT, a pay-for-performance evaluation system that monetarily rewards teachers based on students’ test scores, classroom observations, quality of the school community, and the educators’ overall professionalism.

The IMPACT program cost $3.2 million in FY 2010 and $3.9 million in FY 2011. It was originally funded by private sources, but taxpayers had to pick up the tab after the end of the 2012 school year when the private funding ended.

Since then, the District of Columbia has spent millions of dollars on IMPACT bonuses. According to the DCPS FY 2014 budget, the program cost over $3.6 million last year alone.

However, there is little academic progress to show for eight years of IMPACT incentives, with more than half of the system’s black and Hispanic students still failing to reach grade-level benchmarks in reading and math.

“More than half of black and Hispanic students, those with disabilities, those eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, and English language learners score below proficient, and there is little evidence that these gaps are narrowing significantly,” according to  a new study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Some improvement is evident since 2009, but more than half of these students still score below proficient. There is little indication that these performance disparities—in test scores or in graduation rates—are lessening,” the study noted.

The NRC report states that 80 percent of the public school teachers in D.C. who were rated by IMPACT as “effective” or higher in 2013-2014 returned to teach the following year. However, they were not evenly distributed throughout the school system.

“The lowest-income students tend to have teachers with the lowest IMPACT scores,” the NRC report stated , “and this relationship persists even when average IMPACT scores are compared across the schools within a single ward.”

The distribution of “effective” teachers was not the only distinction between the city’s affluent and disadvantaged wards. Advanced Placement courses are not as available to students in low-income areas as they are to others living in more affluent areas, according to the report.

Similarly, although graduation rates have fluctuated since 2007, they “remain disturbingly low” for minority and low-income students, the report states.

Test scores have also shown a lack of improvement for certain student groups.“Black and Hispanic students, those with disabilities, those eligible for free or reduced price lunches, and English-language learners are much more likely to be in the lowest performance categories than other students,” the NRC report noted.

According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), D.C. students scored below the national average in 4th and 8th grade reading and math tests.

In reading, 4th graders in D.C. scored 205 compared to the national average of 220 and 8th graders scored 247 compared to the national average of 266. In math, 4th graders scored 228 compared to the national average of 241 and 8th graders scored 265 compared to 283.

But disadvantaged 4th graders in D.C. only scored 194 in reading - 13  points lower than the national average of 207 for their low-income peers. And DCPS’ 58.3 percent graduation rate is also considerably lower than the 2013 national average of 81 percent.

Low test scores and high drop-out rates existed in D.C. before the IMPACT program, and were a major factor in the development of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally-funded program created in 2003 that gives vouchers to low- income students to help them attend private schools.

Six years later, the Obama administration purposely allowed the voucher program to expire. However, in 2011, House Speaker John Boehner and then Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) created the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act which re-established funding to the program.

Currently, 1,442 D.C. students receive vouchers to attend private schools. The voucher program had an 89 percent high school graduation rate in 2014, which was higher than the national average.

However, President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget has cut funding to the D.C. voucher program.


Sugar Daddy Obama to Forgive Student Loans

In April, we noted a bid by former students of Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit higher education company, to stop paying their loans on grounds they had been defrauded. Corinthian went out of business and its graduates are having trouble finding work.

But they found an ear at the White House. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Monday a new program to forgive the loans of students of Corinthian or other schools that are found to have defrauded their students.

The effort to set things right and make these defrauded students whole may be honorably intentioned, but the cost to taxpayers could be immense. If all 350,000 Corinthian graduates over the last five years applied for relief, the tab could reach $3.5 million. And that doesn’t count previous Corinthian students or students of other for-profit colleges.

One gets the feeling the door has been opened for a massive new entitlement, especially given how far the federal government is already involved in student lending. Indeed, Duncan said as much: “This is our first major action on this but obviously it won’t be the last.” Because who could say no to helping those in need?


Nevada Education Accounts … Not Your Father’s School Choice Program

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval made education reform history last week when he signed the nation’s first universal education savings account program into law.

The accounts are designed to give every Nevada student who has been enrolled in public school for at least 100 days an opportunity to have an educational experience tailored to their individual needs. This is one step forward for school choice, but it is one giant leap for how our nation understands schooling.

This is precisely what Washington Post authors Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown get wrong in their analysis of the program last week.

“Since 2006, 27 states have opted for one of three methods that transfer public tax dollars to private schools: Vouchers for students from low- and middle-income families or disabled students; tax credits, up to 100 percent of tuition, for donations to private school scholarships; and education savings accounts, which allow qualifying families to use public funds to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, online education and other services,” wrote Layton and Brown.

“Under the law that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Tuesday, children must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days before they can receive a voucher.”

Education savings accounts represent school choice 2.0. Vouchers were the rotary phones of school choice—a necessary step but not the final destination. Education savings accounts are the smartphones. “We are heading in the direction of iPhone choice programs—they still do that one thing well, but they also do a lot of other things,” said Dr. Matthew Ladner, senior fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Hatched in Arizona in 2011, education savings accounts give parents “debit cards” they can use to pay for pre-approved educational options. This new method places students’ needs first instead of funding a system that may not work for them.

In Nevada, students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch can have 100 percent of the state per-pupil funds that would have been spent on them in public school deposited into the account to be spent on education products or services such as private school tuition, textbooks, curricula, online courses, dual enrollment college courses and AP exams. Students who don’t qualify for federal free and reduced lunch can have 90 percent of their per-pupil expense deposited into their account for the same allowable uses. Unused funds can even roll over from one year to the next.

This ability to separate the financing of education from the delivery of services has the potential to transform the educational landscape of America—which has significant room for improvement. The most recent National Assessment for Educational Progress scores show only 26 percent of high school seniors are proficient in math and just 38 percent in reading.

Massive centralization and spending haven’t catalyzed academic improvements, but education choice options have led to increased graduation rates, increased parental satisfaction and increased college enrollment.

Decentralizing education and placing accountability back in the hands of parents, who are closest to the students and know the needs of their children best, is student-centered education reform. Building on the conceptual foundation of vouchers economist Milton Friedman established in 1955, universal education savings accounts are, to date, the ultimate in school choice because they enable all students to have access to a top-notch, customized education that meets their unique learning needs.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Improving Black Education

By Walter E. Williams

Last summer's Ferguson, Missouri, disturbances revealed that while blacks were 67 percent of its population, only three members of its 53-officer police force were black. Some might conclude that such a statistic is evidence of hiring discrimination.

That's a possibility, but we might ask what percentage of blacks met hiring qualifications on the civil service examination. Are there hundreds of blacks in Ferguson and elsewhere who achieve passing scores on civil service examinations who are then refused employment? There is no evidence suggesting an affirmative answer to that question.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the Nation's Report Card, nationally, most black 12th-graders' test scores are either basic or below basic in reading, writing, math and science. "Below basic" is the score received when a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. "Basic" indicates only partial mastery. Put another way, the average black 12th-grader has the academic achievement level of the average white seventh- or eighth-grader. In some cities, there's even a larger achievement gap.

Black students and their parents believe that their high-school diplomas are equivalent to those received by whites. Therefore, differences in employment or college admittance outcomes are likely to be seen as racial discrimination. The fact of business is that if seventh- or eighth-graders of any race compete with 12th-graders of any race on civil service exams or the SAT, one should not be surprised by the outcome.

In terms of public policy, what to do? It all depends on the assumptions, implicit or explicit, one makes about black mental competency. If one assumes that blacks cannot academically compete with whites, the "solution" is to eliminate the "disparate" impact of civil service exams and college admittance requirements by dumbing them down or eliminating them in order to achieve "diversity." I do not make that assumption, so then what to do?

Many black parents want a better education and safer schools for their children.

The way to deliver on that desire is to offer parents alternatives to poorly performing and unsafe public schools. Expansion of charter schools is one way to provide choice. The problem is that charter school waiting lists number in the tens of thousands. In Philadelphia, for example, there are 22,000 families on charter school waiting lists. Charter school advocates estimate that nationally, over 1 million parents are on charter school waiting lists.

The National Education Association and its political and civil rights organization handmaidens preach that we should improve, not abandon, public schools. Such a position is callous deceit, for many of them have abandoned public schools. Let's look at it.

Nationwide, about 12 percent of parents have their children enrolled in private schools. In Chicago, 44 percent of public-school teachers have their own children enrolled in private schools. In Philadelphia, it's also 44 percent. In Baltimore, it's 35 percent, and in San Francisco, it's 34 percent. That ought to tell us something. Suppose I invite you to dine with me at a restaurant. You find out that the restaurant's chef doesn't eat there and neither do the servers. That suggests they have some inside information from which you could benefit.

Politicians who fight against school choice behave the way teachers do. Fifty-two percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have school-age children have them enrolled in private schools. Thirty-seven percent of members of the House of Representatives and 45 percent of senators who have school-age children have them enrolled in private schools.

The education establishment says more money is needed, but more money does not produce higher quality. New York City spent $20,331 per student in fiscal 2013. Washington, D.C., spent $17,953, and Baltimore allocated $15,050. Despite being among the nation's highest-spending school districts, their education quality is among the lowest. Parents, given vouchers and choice, could do a far superior job in the education of their children — and at a cheaper cost.


Walker's Budget Makes Important Education Reforms

Wisconsin is moving closer to repealing Common Core

As Scott Walker tours the country on his campaign for the presidency, he has not forsaken his state, turning in a budget that would make important reforms in education policy. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyze the budget in full - it contains rather more spending and borrowing than most conservatives would like - but in the area of education reform it takes some pretty important steps forward.

Most importantly, the budget would prohibit the State Superintendent, a vocal proponent of Common Core, from advertising or promoting the standards to local school districts. This is important because, while school districts in Wisconsin are permitted to opt out of the standards, few have done so as a result from pressure from the Department of Public Instruction. Walker’s budget would relieve that pressure, and allow schools to determine their own destiny. Last July, Walker came out strong against the standards, saying “Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The reason most of the districts have adopted Common Core standards is because the statewide mandated tests are aligned with them. Walker’s budget calls for new tests, which would make it easier for schools to opt out without fearing failure on the tests.

In other parts of the budget, Republicans in the state legislature are taking education proposals farther than Walker originally intended. These include lifting caps on the number of school vouchers in the state and expanding the opportunity to open independent charter schools.

Not everything the legislature did was an improvement, though, with the rejection of some large spending cuts that would contribute towards balancing the state’s budget. After the amendment process is complete, the legislature will have to vote on the two-year budget and resubmit it to Gov. Walker for his signature.

These state-level reforms come just as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new bill, under the name The Every Child Achieves Act, would maintain federal testing mandates, but would also forbid the Department of Education from incentivizing or coercing states into adopting Common Core or similar standards. This would free up states like Wisconsin to ditch Common Core for good without having to worry about losing funding as a result. Until now, this has been the biggest hurdle for many states who would like to lose the standards, but feel unable to due to pressure from the federal government.


UK: Children from poor homes 'facing bias': Teachers less likely to consider pupils from lower incomes families as bright

Because that is what is usual.  These findings simply say what teachers mostly experience

Poor children are less likely to be considered bright by their teachers, according to new research.  Even when youngsters from lower income families perform as well as their classmates on independent tests, they are still less likely to be judged as 'above average', it suggests.

The study, by University College London's (UCL) Institute of Education concluded that teachers can have unconscious biases that influence how they see the abilities of children in their class.

Teachers do not just under-rate the abilities of disadvantaged children, it found, they are also more likely to judge boys as good at maths and girls as good at reading.

The research involved analysing information on nearly 5,000 seven-year-olds at English state schools who are being followed as part of the Millennium Cohort Study, comparing teachers' perceptions of the youngsters' reading and maths abilities with their results in these key subjects on independent tests.

Overall, the findings indicate that teachers tend to perceive children from poorer homes as less able than their richer classmates who achieved similar scores on the tests.

Pupils from higher income families had a 48 per cent chance of being rated as 'above average' in reading, compared to 37 per cent of those from lower income backgrounds, the study found.

In maths, wealthier children had a 42 per cent chance of being judged as able, while poorer youngsters had a 32 per cent chance.

The study also concluded that 29 per cent if children from lower income families were rated below average at reading by their teachers, compared to 20 per cent of their equally bright classmates from richer backgrounds, while in maths, higher income youngsters had a 19 per cent chance of being rated as below average, and poorer pupils had a 26 per cent chance.

Researcher Tammy Campbell said: 'This is not a conscious thing. It's an unconscious stereotyping by teachers that's going on. It's down to the information they are bombarded with about which children are expected to perform at what levels.'

The findings show that boys were more likely to be judged above average in maths by teachers compared to girls who has scored equally well on the tests, while in reading, the opposite was the case.

Children who were reported by teachers as having special educational needs (SEN) were also likely to have their abilities under-rated compared to youngsters without SEN but with similar scores on the tests.

And while in general, teachers' assessments did not appear to be linked to a youngsters' ethnicity, once other characteristics were taken into account, black Caribbean girls tended to be under-rated in reading and maths, while Pakistani girls were more likely to be under-rated in reading and Bangladeshi boys' maths skills were more likely to be over-rated.

The study suggests that the results are important as teachers' assessments of pupils make a significant part of pupils' scores in primary school.

Ms Campbell said: 'These findings show that there are factors affecting attainment, as evaluated by teachers, which are outside of children's and parents' control. Unless they are addressed, they may continue to play a part in creating and perpetuating inequalities.'

She added: 'National statistics and education policy could inadvertently contribute to the problem. Initiatives such as the pupil premium may convey the message that children from lower-income families are inherently less able.

'This might make it more difficult to recognise a low-income child who is performing well, or at least at the average. This is something policymakers could take into account when implementing new initiatives.'


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The College Board's Sabotage of American History

A stellar group of American historians and academics released a milestone open letter yesterday in protest of deleterious changes to the advanced placement U.S. history (APUSH) exam. The signatories are bold intellectual bulwarks against increasing progressive attacks in the classroom on America's unique ideals and institutions.

Moms and dads in my adopted home state of Colorado have been mocked and demonized for helping to lead the fight against the anti-American changes to APUSH. But if there's any hope at all in salvaging local control over our kids' curriculum, it lies in the willingness of a broad coalition of educators and parents to join in the front lines for battles exactly like this one.

As the 55 distinguished members of the National Association of Scholars explained this week, the teaching of American history faces "a grave new risk." So-called "reforms" by the College Board, which holds a virtual monopoly on A.P. testing across the country, "abandon a rigorous insistence on content" in favor of downplaying "American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective."

The top-down APUSH framework eschews vivid, content-rich history lessons on the Constitution for "such abstractions as 'identity,' 'peopling,' 'work, exchange and technology,' and 'human geography' while downplaying essential subjects, such as the sources, meaning and development of America's ideals and political institutions." The scholars, who hail from institutions ranging from Notre Dame and Stanford to the University of Virginia, Baylor, CUNY, Georgetown and Ohio State, decried the aggressive centralization of power over how teachers will be able to teach the story of America.

This is not a bug. It's a feature, as I've been reporting for years on Fed Ed matters. These so-called APUSH reforms by the College Board, after all, are part and parcel of a radical upheaval in testing, textbooks and educational technology. It is no coincidence that the College Board's president, David Coleman, supervised the Beltway operation that drafted, disseminated and profits from the federal Common Core standards racket.

The social justice warriors of government education have long sought, as the NAS signatories correctly diagnosed it, "to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective." Their mission is not to impart knowledge, but to instigate racial, social and class divisions.

Their mission is not to assimilate new generations of students into the American way of life, but to turn them against capitalism, individualism and American exceptionalism in favor of left-wing activism and poisonous identity politics.

The late far-left historian Howard Zinn has indoctrinated generations of teachers and students who see education as a militant political "counterforce" (an echo of fellow radical academic, domestic terrorist and Hugo Chavez-admirer Bill Ayers' proclamation of education as the "motor-force of revolution.") Teachers aim to "empower" student collectivism by emphasizing "the role of working people, women, people of color and organized social movements." School officials are not facilitators of intellectual inquiry, but leaders of "social struggle."

The APUSH critics make clear in their protest letter that they champion a "warts and all" pedagogical approach to their U.S. history lessons. But they point out that "elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries — all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict" as a result of the APUSH overhaul.

"Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events," the scholars point out. "No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects, but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals."

This is precisely why I dedicated the past two years to writing my latest book, "Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs." When it comes to understanding the foundations of our free-market economy, the Founding Fathers' embrace of private profit as a public good, and the boundless entrepreneurial success stories of individual American achievement, our children's diet is woefully unbalanced.

Reclaiming our kids' minds begins long before students reach the A.P. U.S. history classroom. Restoration begins at home.


Free Speech versus Disruptive Speech

Free speech on America’s college campuses is under assault, with politically correct student activists plotting—sometimes successfully—to silence talks by controversial professors and guest speakers. Ironically, the activists typically claim that they are merely asserting their free-speech rights and ensuring that civil discourse remains civil. But in fact, these self-appointed guardians of civility and good taste are guilty of violating the spirit of free inquiry and public discourse, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Donald A. Downs. Such a spirit is what animated the authors of the First Amendment as well as the leaders of the modern civil rights movement.

“Disrupting or silencing speakers is not reminiscent of the moral authority of civil rights leaders, but of the arrogance and bullying tactics of the wearers of jackboots and the bearers of Gulag arrest warrants,” Downs writes in a widely published op-ed. “Were such behavior to become the norm—and sadly too many college authorities confuse such action with free speech these days—political discourse would become nothing less than a shouting match. The bell would toll for free speech in America.”

Downs also clarifies various misunderstandings about the First Amendment. Because it stipulated that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” the amendment isn’t violated when student activists try to interrupt a speaker—not unless they are acting on a government’s behalf. Rather, what the activists are guilty of doing is undermining the ethos of free inquiry and expression on which a constitutional democracy depends. “Shouting speakers down is anathema to the cardinal principles of free speech even if the First Amendment is not directly at stake,” Downs writes. “Statutory laws punishing such behavior are legitimate.”


125-Year-Old NY Women’s College Will Start Admitting Male Transgender Students

 Barnard College, an all-women’s college in New York City that is affiliated with Columbia University, announced on Thursday that it will consider transgender “women” for admission. This means “those applicants who consistently live and identify as women,” even if they were biologically identified as males at birth.

The announcement came just days after former Olympian Bruce Jenner made a debut as a transgendered woman named “Caitlyn” on the cover of Vanity Fair.

The new policy, which coincides with Barnard’s 125th anniversary, will be implemented for students applying for admission for the fall 2016 semester.

“Since its founding in 1889, Barnard’s mission has been to provide generations of promising, high-achieving young women with an outstanding liberal arts education in a community where women lead,” Barnard President Debora Spar and Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

“Every aspect of this unique environment is, and always will be, designed and implemented to serve women, and to prepare our graduates to flourish and make a difference in the world,” they said, adding that this policy change occurs “in furtherance of our mission, tradition and values as a women’s college, and in recognition of our changing world and evolving understanding of gender identity.”

Barnard is the last of the "Seven Sister" schools to admit transgender women. Other women’s colleges have similar open policies regarding transgender students.

For example, Mount Holyoke College only denies admission to those students who are biologically male and identify as such. Biologically born females, even if they identify as male, and males who identify “as other/they/ze and when ‘other/they’ identity includes woman” are eligible to enroll.

But the admission of biological males to all-women’s colleges also raises questions about their mission to educate women.

“What would you say to those who consider this definition of a ‘woman’ anti-feminist?” asked a Barnard College representative. She refused to comment and abruptly ended the interview.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Dress Code: Public School Prohibits Wearing Cross on Graduation Cap

The principal of a Florida high school says the controversy over a Christian cross on a graduation cap was overblown.

According to the Gainesville Sun, a cap with a cross decoration was not worn at Chiefland High School’s commencement ceremony Friday, after the senior was told she wouldn’t be allowed to wear it when getting her diploma, which angered some in the audience.

Principal Matt McLelland confirmed that a student, who was not identified, had a decorated cap. She was given a plain cap before the ceremony because of restrictions on decorating graduation caps.

“We have a dress code for graduation,” which indicates what colors and styles of clothing students can wear, and what they can put on their caps, McLelland said.

The only decorations the school allows are the student’s graduating class and the school’s initials -- this year, “Class of 2015” or “CHS” only.

He said the policy has been in place for several years, and letters about the dress code went home with students.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with religion,” McLelland told the Gainesville Sun.


Common Core Update: State and Federal

As the Senate prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a bill which could have big implications for the American education system, state legislatures and governors have been busy tackling their own reforms to Common Core education standards. Here’s what’s been going on in several key states.


The Louisiana legislature is currently working on a three bill “compromise package” that supporters are saying would allow for the repeal of Common Core standards in that state. However, there are concerns that this package is toothless, merely calling for review of the standards without clear prohibitions on adoption and implementation of federal mandates.

Governor Jindal, who opposes Common Core, was initially wary of the package, saying that it didn’t go far enough, but he has since agreed to support it. Since the State Superintendent of Education supports Common Core, it seems unlikely that the review process will yield any very strong reforms.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, a bill prohibiting the state department of education from requiring Common Core standards passed the legislature in May, only to be vetoed by Governor Maggie Hassan. Gov. Hassan is the first governor in the nation to actually sign a veto of Common Core repeal, although the bill in question would probably not have accomplished all that much anyway, as it lacked specific prohibitions on adopting the standards.


Governor Haslam has signed HB 1035 into law, a bill which was being branded as a Common Core repeal. I’ve written before about how this bill was actually fairly weak, and accomplishes little more than a rebranding of the standards, rather than a meaningful repeal. Let’s hope that this is seen as a first step towards better reforms, and not a “mission accomplished” kind of moment. The danger is that the legislature and governor will consider their job done and move on to other issues, when in fact, there is much more work to be done.

The ESEA reauthorization bill, known as the Every Child Achieves Act, currently contains language that would prevent the federal government from being able to coerce states into accepting common standards, and would make it easier for states like Tennessee to pass more meaningful reforms, instead of falling into the rebranding trap to continue to collect federal dollars.

Unfortunately, the Every Child Achieves Act also contains unacceptable federal testing standards and a number of other provisions that undermine state autonomy in education. FreedomWorks opposes any federal involvement in education, having looked in vain for any such authorization in the U.S. Constitution.


UK: Top girls' public school set to ban homework - because it's making teenagers DEPRESSED

Cheltenham Ladies' College is making wellbeing as important as grades.    Meditation sessions, long walks between classes and no homework? It sounds like most children’s dream education.

But it could become a reality at a top independent school trying to combat teenage mental illness.

Hoping to ward off early signs of depression and anxiety, Cheltenham Ladies’ College is making their students’ wellbeing as important as their grades.

The school’s principal, Eve Jardine-Young, told The Times she was even considering abolishing homework in a bid to improve her students’ welfare.

'What we’ve been reflecting on a lot in the last few years are the big national trends in the worsening states of adolescent mental health,' she said.

'We’ve created this epidemic of anxiety for ourselves as a society, and if our obligation as educators is to try to the best of our ability to set young people up as best we can, then to ignore this whole area or to trivialise it is really irresponsible.'

From September, students at the 162-year-old school will go to weekly meditation classes and have twice as long to wander between classes.

It is also considering university-style ‘fliplearning’, where pupils read up on a subject before the lesson.

Meanwhile, an independent school in Perthshire [Scotland], Morrison’s Academy, has banned cricket because of wet weather and overly ‘complicated’ rules. It said the pressures of exams were also a factor. [More Scottish hatred of all things English]


Monday, June 08, 2015

Desperate Ivies

"Diversity" at all costs.  A reasonably qualified Hispanic is like gold

A HIGH school senior in southern California has achieved a surprising academic clean sweep — he has been accepted to every Ivy League school.  Seventeen-year-old Fernando Rojas, the son of Mexican immigrants whose schooling stopped in the eighth grade, is planning on attending Yale University.

The national speech and debate champion from Fullerton High School tells The Orange County Register in Saturday’s editions that he applied to all the elite schools hoping he might be accepted to one. But they all wanted him.

The Ivy League is a group of eight private universities in the United States, famed for their academic excellence, selecitivty in admissions and social elitism. They are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania.

He tells the newspaper he was “excited and scared” after realising he would have to choose among them.

Rojas attributes his success to hard work and guidance from his siblings.

His debate coach at Fullerton, Sal Tinajero, says Rojas’ biggest motivation was letting his parents know that their hard work meant something.


Cultural Cleansing of Christian Males

By Patrick J. Buchanan

As a Jesuit university forgets its faith, the culture war against Christianity is picking up speed

Last week came word Saint Louis University will remove a heroic-sized statue of Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. from the front of Fusz Hall, where it has stood for 60 years.

The statue depicts Fr. De Smet holding aloft a crucifix as he ministers to two American Indians, one of whom is kneeling.

Historically, the statue is accurate. Fr. De Smet, "Blackrobe," as he was known, was a 19th-century missionary to Indian tribes who converted thousands. A friend of Sitting Bull, he spent his last years in St. Louis.

And as the mission of this Jesuit university is, presumably, to instruct the Catholic young in their faith and send them out into the world to bring the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior to nonbelievers, what exactly is the problem here?

According to SLU Assistant Vice President for Communications Clayton Berry, "some faculty and staff ... raised questions about whether the sculpture is culturally sensitive." Senior Ryan McKinley is more specific: "The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy."

But if the founder of Christianity is the Son of God, then Christianity is a superior religion. What Ryan and those faculty and staff seem to be ashamed of, uncomfortable with, or unable to defend, is the truth for which Saint Louis University was supposed to stand.

But simply because they are cowardly, or politically correct, why should that statue be going into the SLU art museum? Why should not they themselves depart for another institution where their sensitivities will not be assaulted by artistic expressions of religious truths?

The message the SLU president should have given the dissenters is simple: We are a Catholic university that welcomes students and faculty not of the faith. But if you find our identity objectionable, then go somewhere else. We are not changing who we are.

Yet another missionary to the Indians is now becoming a figure of controversy. On his September visit to Washington, D.C., Pope Francis plans to canonize Fr. Junipero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan whom John Paul II beatified in 1988, who converted thousands of Indians in California in the 18th century, when it still belonged to Mexico.

Fr. Serra established nine missions up the coast, among them missions that would grow into San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Not only is Fr. Serra's name famous in California, his statue has stood since 1931 in the U.S. Capitol in one of two places set aside for the Golden State. The other statue representing California is that of President Ronald Reagan, unveiled in 2009, which replaced a statue of the preacher Thomas Starr King.

With the pope coming here to canonize Fr. Serra, the war drums have begun. It is said the priest accompanied Spanish soldiers who brutalized the Indians, and Fr. Serra helped to eradicate their religion and culture, replacing it with his own.

Now a move is afoot to remove Fr. Serra's statue.

According to the Religion New Service, "State Sen. Ricardo Lara, an openly gay Los Angeles Democrat, wants to replace a bronze statue of Serra with a monument honoring Sally Ride, the nation's first female astronaut. Lara said Ride would become 'the first member of the LGBT community' to be honored in Statuary Hall."

Another drive is underway by feminists to remove the visage of Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill and replace it with that of a woman, preferably a minority woman. Jackson, it is said, was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokees in the Trail of Tears.

Yet, Jackson, slashed across the head by a British soldier in the last days of the Revolution for refusing to polish his boots, was also arguably the greatest soldier-statesman in American history.

Gen. Jackson led the 1815 defense of New Orleans against the British invasion force, and crushed the Indian marauders in Florida, drove out the Spanish governor, and cleared the path for annexation.

Twice elected president, Jackson is, with Jefferson, a father of the Democratic Party, and he and his proteges Sam Houston and James K. Polk virtually doubled the size of the United States.

One Internet poll advanced four leading candidates to replace Jackson: Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Wilma Mankiller and Harriet Tubman.

But when we look at who is currently on America's currency — George Washington on the $1 bill, Abe Lincoln on the $5, Hamilton on the $10, Jackson on the $20, Ulysses S. Grant on the $50, Ben Franklin on the $100 — do any of these women really compete in terms of historic achievement with what those great men accomplished?

Aren't we carrying this affirmative action business a bit too far?

What all these arguments are at bottom all about, however, is a deep divide among us over the question: Was the European Christian conquest of America, given its flaws and failings, on balance, a great and good thing. Or not?


UK students give their verdict on universities

A third would choose different course if given another chance as thousands say they are badly run and poor value for money

Students are becoming disillusioned with university because of disappointing courses and poor value for money, a study has found.

A third of undergraduates said they may have chosen a different course if they could start again, while more than 10 per cent said their university experience had been worse than expected.

Around one in three complained that their course has been poor value for money, with a third of these people describing value as ‘very poor’.

And three quarters of students said their university had ‘probably not’ or ‘definitely not’ provided enough information about how tuition fees are spent.

The findings come amid a growing debate over the £9,000 tuition fees imposed under the last government.

Some universities have advocated taking a new consumer-style, value-for-money approach given the large scale of debt saddling most graduates.

The figures are contained in the 2015 Student Academic Experience Survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

While more than 85 per cent of the 15,000 undergraduates surveyed said they were generally satisfied with their courses, many expressed reservations.

Around 12 per cent said the reality of their academic experience had been worse than expected, while 49 per cent said it had been worse in some ways and better in others.

Interestingly, of the 61 per cent who had not had their expectations completely met, more than a third of the group partially blamed themselves.

When asked to list why their expectations had not been met, 36 per cent said they had not ‘put in enough effort’ – the most common reason.

Meanwhile, 32 per cent also said the course was poorly organised, 30 per cent said they had received fewer than expected contact hours and 29 per cent complained about quality of teaching and support.

Nick Hillman, director at HEPI, said: ‘The most striking new finding is that a whopping three-quarters of undergraduates want more information about where their fees go.

‘Providing this is coming to look like an inevitable consequence of relying so heavily on student loans. If it doesn’t happen soon, it could be forced on universities by policymakers.’

Professor Stephanie Marshall, chief executive at HEA, added: ‘It is important to note the relatively high numbers who do not feel supported in independent study.

‘We know that the skills developed through independent study are important to employers and to lifelong learning. Providing guidance and structure outside timetabled sessions is key here.’

While contact hours on their own have been shown not to be a good measure of the quality of learning, students with fewer scheduled hours are more likely to say they would have chosen another course.

Around 38 per cent of undergraduates receiving 0 to nine contact hours would change courses in comparison to 28 per cent for those on 30 or more contact hours.

Only 26 per cent of those with fewer contact hours feel they receive good or very good value for money compared to 56 per cent of those with more than 30 contact hours.

The results also suggested that undergraduates are less satisfied, less happy and have less of a sense that what they are doing is worthwhile than the general population.


Sunday, June 07, 2015

Campus Sex: Soon a Thing of the Past?

Even casual observers might know that a number of campus rape stories have fallen apart in a very public way in recent years. Between the Duke lacrosse case, Columbia University’s “mattress girl” and the fake Rolling Stone story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, one might look askance at yet another allegation. Even those who still believe campus rape is an epidemic have to admit that these stories are a setback to the cause.

We also know that campus rape does exist, with the big question being just how prevalent it is. National Review writer and attorney David French argues, “The liberal standard is, increasingly, to treat every single suspect as a rapist unless there is an unmistakable indication of actual innocence — something that isn’t even the object of either the criminal or civil justice systems. For obvious reasons, they don’t apply this standard to any other area of criminal or civil law. Would they say that every murder suspect is a killer unless there’s been a finding of actual innocence?”

The fact that campus rape exists, though, is no excuse for false accusations. In today’s poisonous environment, accusation tends to equate with conviction regardless of the evidence (or lack thereof).

Complicating the situation even more is the “yes means yes” law that passed in California last year and quickly spread to other cities, states and campuses. The problem with the law is its vagueness — when asked how an accused person can prove prior consent to a sexual encounter, one lawmaker (who voted for the California bill) figuratively shrugged her shoulders and conceded, “Your guess is as good as mine.” She assumed it would be up to a court to decide.

What sort of contract would a man need to sign first? (Preferably a marriage license, of course, but that horse is out of the barn.)

In an attempt to make matters worse, California is now considering a bill to mandate that affirmative consent instruction be added to high school health classes. In a backhanded way, perhaps the state is promoting abstinence — but it’s also wrecking the perception of normal relationships.

It’s sadly ironic that leftists' sexual revolution has produced a culture of casual, meaningless “hook ups” — sex without consequences. They have found the results unpalatable, but their “solutions” merely make matters worse. Besides, don’t they want government out of the bedroom?


Nevada Governor Signs Nation's First Universal ESA Program into Law

On May 29, the Nevada State Assembly voted to create the first universal education savings account (ESA) program for K-12 students in the country. Since Sandoval signed Senate Bill 302 into law parents will now be able to opt their children into the ESA program and use funding for a variety of approved educational options, including private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks and therapies. Most students would receive 90 percent of the per-pupil funding allotted to students statewide, which is approximately $5,000. Low-income and special need students opted in would receive 100 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding. To be eligible for the ESA program, children would have to attend public school, including charter schools, for at least 100 days before using funding granted through the proposed ESA program.

This is the fifth ESA program in the country, but is by far the most inclusive ESA law to date. Other ESA programs aim to help low-income families and/or special needs students while the Nevada law allows any parent to opt their child into the ESA program (as long as the child has attended a public school for 100 consecutive days.)

“Nevada is leading the way in creating innovative programs and approaches to educating its students,” said Matt Frendewey, national communications director for the American Federation for Children. “We applaud Gov. Sandoval and the Nevada legislature for their commitment to students and providing each and every one of them with a quality education.”


Who cares what colour philosophers are?

It’s their ideas that matter, not their race or sex

Who’d be a philosopher? Once accused of interpreting the world rather than changing it, philosophers today cause embarrassment simply for existing. They are, it seems, just too white and male for the modern university. In the UK, philosophy has been described as a subject ‘for posh, white boys with trust funds’, and stands accused of being dominated by an ‘aristocracy of sex’. In the US, Project Vox aims to ‘recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy’. The privileging of identity politics within the academy means that campaigns such as Why Is My Curriculum White? are treated with the utmost seriousness.

Philosophy’s apparent problem with race refuses to go away. Most recently, Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, a leading light in the Why Is My Curriculum White? campaign, has been informed he will not be offered a permanent position at University College London when his fixed-term contract expires at the end of September. Coleman, who strikes out his surname to highlight the way it was imposed upon his family by Jamaican slave-owners, is one of only a handful of black academics employed in a philosophy department at a British university. Now, his proposed ‘critical white studies’ course, which he claimed would put white hegemony ‘under the microscope’, will not be running. Coleman told Times Higher Education that his colleagues did not want him ‘turning the spotlight on to the ivory tower, putting the fear of God into many of its scholars – predominantly racialised as white – who had contented themselves hitherto to research and teach in an “aracial” – aka white-dominated – way’.

News of Coleman’s imminent departure has been used as evidence of the entrenched racism in academia as a whole and the discipline of philosophy in particular. There have been demands for him to be reinstated, including the inevitable petition urging UCL to ‘Keep Your Black Academics’. The signatories want UCL’s senior managers to ‘intervene to create a permanent, tenure-track position in the department of philosophy’ for Coleman, despite the fact he has few of the credentials normally expected of someone in such a role. Those who have written to Times Higher Education in support of Coleman argue that the requirements for an academic post – such as peer-reviewed publications and research funding – are themselves symptomatic of the way higher education advantages some groups over others.

This public discussion about what qualifies someone to be employed as an academic is useful. It can sometimes seem as if university recruitment panels make arbitrary decisions, based on either tick-box criteria or who they know, with little appreciation of the broader scholarly contribution an individual might have made. Likewise, debating the content of the philosophy curriculum is also important. Students urged to engage with material just because it has always been taught lack any sense of its significance. Arguments about what is most important for students to know prevent academic disciplines from ossifying. There may well be books or scholars that tradition has overlooked and are deserving of a place on the curriculum. Such debates throw open the question of how and why academic judgements are made; in so doing, they also expose the tyranny of identity politics within today’s universities.

Many of those demanding greater representation of black people and women within philosophy suggest that decisions about which philosopher gets taught, and which academic gets to teach, have traditionally been made on the basis of biology rather than merit. They argue that the problem with the existing curriculum is that while it appears politically and racially neutral, it actually serves the interests of white men. Knowledge itself is increasingly viewed not as objective, but as ideologically loaded and representative of the perspectives of a dominant ruling elite. The problem, academic activists argue, is that not only are philosophers such as Mill, Nietzsche and Kant white men, but their work also reflects a worldview that is exclusive to white men and has little to offer anyone else. Within a couple of centuries, criticism of philosophy has moved from a focus on what philosophers think to who they are.

When scholarship was connected to goals of truth and objectivity, the separation of the identity of the individual academic from his or her work and the elimination of subjectivity were fundamental principles. Today, many within universities argue that objectivity is a myth and call instead for recognition of the subjective identity of academics and students alike. Those currently arguing for more black and female philosophers do nothing to challenge their own premise that the curriculum reflects biology rather than merit. They still want potential academics to be judged not on their intellectual contribution but on their gender or skin colour. The UCL petitioners are asking the university to keep its black academics, and not its best, most experienced or most exciting lecturers.

The focus on identity appears to offer a radical challenge to the staid norms of academic work and the historical dominance of white males. It appears to empower groups that have traditionally not been represented or had their views heard in academia. However, it does so in a way that rejects any aspiration towards universal values, and prevents people from going beyond the limits of their own biology or their narrow range of experiences. The assumption that no one can speak outside of their own identity actually prevents criticism of any particular ideas.

Identity politics encourages a focus on a concept of the self that is far removed from the rational, autonomous individual that had traditionally been assumed to be both the creator of, and audience for, academic work. Where emotion was once considered detrimental to scholarship, now the focus on subjectivity and individual identity places feelings at the heart of the university. One consequence of this is a heightened sensitivity to perceived offence, which can be seen in the demand for course content to come with trigger warnings, and for potentially upsetting material to be removed from the curriculum. Ironically, the academics-cum-activists’ dismissal of individual autonomy and rationality is perhaps most detrimental to those who come from the least powerful social groups. The best philosophers speak not just to black students, or to posh white boys; they remind us all of what it means to be truly human.