Friday, August 21, 2015

Credentialism is killing the classroom

“I wish college were like this!”  I hear this exclamation over and over at the seminars put on by organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Humane Studies.

Attendees are blown away by the excellence of the content, the professors’ willingness to engage students even in free time, and the intelligence and interest level of the other participants.

And it’s not just the students who see a difference. Faculty also talk about how these seminars are far better than typical college classes.

What causes this distinction?  One obvious explanation is self-selection. Faculty and students who choose to give up a week of their summer to discuss ideas are high caliber and highly engaged.

But college has self-selection, too. Shouldn’t it be full of professors and students who are earnest truth and knowledge seekers of the finest quality?

With the rare exception of one or two classes, college is nothing like this. Why does the self-selection only produce quality learning in these seminars?

It’s because college offers an official credential — a degree. Educational experiences outside of college do not.  That’s it. Every other difference is insignificant.

Imagine how different these summer seminars would be if they offered an official, government-approved piece of paper at the end — something without which you couldn’t get past the first screening of job applications. A summer seminar selling a magical ticket to a job that Mom and Dad would feel proud of and that society would respect would be overwhelmed with attendees. And many of them wouldn’t give a hoot about what they had to do to get the paper at the end. Demand for faculty would spike, and many instructors would do whatever it took to get the paycheck and retreat to quiet corridors where they could be with their books and the few colleagues who actually care.

It would become, in a word, college.

The evidence is everywhere that the credential is killing the classroom. I’ve guest taught entry-level college classes before. It’s pretty painful. Most of the students are half asleep, grumpy, forlorn, texting, and generally inattentive.

I like to joke that if aliens from another planet came down and observed a typical class at a typical university and were asked what they had witnessed, they would scan the cinder block and fluorescent room, ponder the pained look on student faces, and conclude it was a penal colony. Imagine their surprise when told these people are not only here of their own free will, but paying tens of thousands of dollars for their suffering.

Not every classroom is that painful, but few inspire the joy of learning. Consider this: when class is cancelled, everyone is happy — students and professors alike. What other good can you think of where you pay in advance and are excited when it’s not delivered?

What other good can you think of where you pay in advance and are excited when it’s not delivered?

But what is the product that colleges are selling? The professors may not always realize it, but it’s not their lectures the students are buying. It’s nice to get a little enjoyment and knowledge out of the deal, but that’s not what tuition pays for. After all, if that’s all that students were seeking, they could simply sit in on classes without registering or paying.

They are there for the credential. The credential is the signal to the working world that they are at least slightly better, on average, than those without it. That’s it.

In some fields the credential is required, and in many others alternative ways to measure competence are illegal, so the signal of a degree retains artificially enhanced value. Even so, that value is fading.

Large institutions form because transaction costs are high, with tons of individuals exchanging goods, services, and information separately. This is why family names mattered so much in times past. Economist Ronald Coase famously explained the existence of firms using this basic logic. It works for universities, too. When it’s hard to prove your worth, you get a trusted institution to vouch for you. It’s a shortcut that reduces risk on the part of those who want to hire you.

But each passing year, the value of this institutional reputation-backer declines compared to the available alternatives. Technology has dramatically reduced information costs, so it is now easier than ever to vouch for yourself — or to get vast networks of clients and customers to vouch for you.

Whose steak is the best? Where once you had to rely on a few food critics or word of mouth among a small set of friends, now Yelp reviews let you consult a vast array of food lovers.

With reputation markets, you can build a better signal than what college is selling.

As long as legal and cultural norms make the degree the primary signal of value in the marketplace, the classroom will continue to decline in quality. When the majority of students are purchasing one good (the credential) but are made to endure another (the classroom), they will continue to see formal education as more of a cost than a benefit — and they will behave accordingly, sliding through to minimize pain and suffering.

The classroom isn’t doing the credential any favors, either. Most employers admit that a degree signals very little these days. Everyone has one. Most universities sell as many as they possibly can. Cases of professors passing bad students and universities passing bad professors are well known, and the institutions’ clout is waning.

Even employers who still require a degree ask for much more on top of it, because sitting through a bunch of classes you didn’t care about and doing the minimum amount of passionless hoop-jumping doesn’t convey much about your energy, eagerness, and ability to create value in a dynamic market.

My professor friends sometimes chastise me for what they think are unfair criticisms of college. What I’m suggesting, however — that the credential should be separated from the classroom — reflects my respect for great professors and the value of their style of education.

Classroom learning at its best — classes like those I’ve experienced in summer seminars — is so powerful and so valuable that I hate to see great education destroyed and diminished by artificial attachment to a supposedly magical credential. The subsidies, loans, restrictions, requirements, and licensure laws, as well as the parental and societal worship of college as the great economic security blanket, have filled the classroom with so much clutter that it’s a rarity for quality interaction to occur.

I’m excited to see the cleavage between the credential and the classroom happening right in front of us. It’s not the proliferation of free online university courses that will fundamentally change the college experience in countries like the United States, where access to information is already rich. The “massively open online course” is just a new delivery system for a current good — and one that most Americans aren’t buying anyway. The real shift is occurring as fewer and fewer employers look to the degree as the dominant signal, and as more and more young people build their own.

When the dust settles, we’ll see great teachers and researchers doing their thing with eager audiences of students who are actually there to purchase that unique product, not just suffering through it on their way to getting something else they really want. The host of mediocre faculty will lose, but the good ones will win big, both in economic opportunity and in quality of the craft. So will the young customers who wish to learn from them.


Another Education Subsidy

If elected president, Hillary Clinton has promised to spend $350 billion to make college “more affordable.” The U.S. already has an $18 trillion debt (and growing by the day), but Clinton wants to add to it. That’s not affordable.

Too many young people are graduating from universities unable to find jobs, or are underemployed. references a 2014 study of youth joblessness by the Economic Policy Institute. It found “…roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 were unemployed. That figure is based on a 12-month average between April 2013 and March 2014, so it’s not a perfect snapshot of the here and now.

Still, it tells us that the post-collegiate job market, just like the rest of the labor market, certainly isn’t nearly back to normal. (For comparison, the unemployment rate for all college grads over the age of 25 is 3.3 percent, which is also still higher than normal.) More worrisomely, the EPI finds that a total of 16.8 percent of new grads are ‘underemployed,’ meaning they’re either jobless and hunting for work; working part time because they can’t find a full-time job; or want a job, have looked within the past year, but have now given up on searching.”

The problem isn’t just at the university level; it’s at the jobs level where Obamacare, higher taxes and overregulation have reduced incentives to hire people, or forced many to accept part-time work.

When I entered American University as a freshman in 1960, tuition was $450 a semester. Today you probably can’t get out of the bookstore for that amount. I received no federal subsidies. My father paid for the first year and I paid for the rest by working and getting a small student loan from the bank, which I quickly repaid.

While federal help for education has been around since the mid-19th century, most notably with the GI Bill after World War II, direct grants and other federal help to universities began to increase in the late ‘60s, leading to a rise in the cost of tuition. As University of Colorado law professor Paul F. Campos noted recently in The New York Times, “…over the past 35 years, college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled…”

Campos rejects the view promoted by some that federal subsidies are necessary because of cuts at the state level: “…far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.”

U.S. education in the 21st century is based on a 20th-century model. No one ought to be “entitled” to tax money to go to expensive schools like Harvard or Yale, or even public universities. Community colleges and the online universities that offer students flexibility to work and study cost less and provide necessary knowledge, or trade skills for the job market. Athletics and the rest of the university culture may be fine for those who can afford it, but for students and parents who can’t there are many more options than when I attended college.

Hillary Clinton’s proposal is a vote-buying effort that will add one more entitlement to an economy that can’t afford it. Given the sharp decline of the Chinese yuan it looks like China, the main U.S. debt holder, may have reached its lending limit.

If American politicians can’t be an example of what living within one’s means looks like, how can we expect younger people to embrace a Puritan ethic that served us well before envy, greed and entitlement took over?


Turning down Oxbridge was the best decision I ever made

A bit of Northern assertiveness below, I think

By James Kirkup

Before we start, I should make clear that I have nothing against people who went to Oxbridge. They can’t help it, poor things.

Besides, they usually don’t know any better: they spent their formative years sweating to get into the place they were told was the apex of ambition and achievement, then years more locked in a medieval cloister where it was drummed into them that to them and their gilded peers belongs the world and all that’s in it.

And when I say locked in, I mean it. It was a stern porter with a fat bunch of keys who persuaded me to turn down a place at Oxford.

I was staying in a college for entrance interviews, and wanted to go out that evening to meet the other person from my (bog-standard, northern, comprehensive) school in town for the same reason. “Door’s locked at 12,” he told me. What if I want to stay out later than that? (I didn’t, but that’s by the by.) The answer stays with me now, more than 20 years on: “Why would you want to do that? Everyone here is happy to be back by then.”

That was that, really. When, some time later, said college kindly indicated it would open that studded door to me, I politely declined, and went to Edinburgh instead. That remains one of the best decisions I’ve made.

All this is to say I agree with Matthew Taylor. The chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts is now quietly regretting suggesting that kids with good A-levels should “stick two fingers up” to Oxbridge and similar institutions, but he had a point. There really can be more to life after A-levels than a “top” university.

When A-level results arrive today, there will be 18-year-olds whose hearts practically burst with pride: they’ve made it, they’re going to Oxford or Cambridge. They are right to be proud. Their work and talent deserve all the accolades that life will now bestow on them.

But there will also be those of equal talent and industry who don’t make it. What do our rigid ideas of Oxbridge and success mean for them? A university education is supposed to open the mind and expose us to new ideas. But our thinking about choosing a university rests on largely unquestioned consensus: Oxbridge best, Russell Group good, all else second-rate. Like all consensus, it deserves to be challenged.

So too does the idea that everyone should go to university for three years after school. Happily, massive open online courses (or Moocs, as they are known) will change that assumption here as they are already doing elsewhere. Moocs allow anyone with an internet connection to study at any university enlightened enough to put its courses online. Harvard and Stanford lead the way; currently Britain’s “best” haughtily decline even to offer Moocs.

With a similar lack of imagination, some big UK recruiters lazily hire almost exclusively from Oxbridge. Those pretty colleges are actually factories. They used to churn out churchmen, then civil servants. Now it’s fresh meat for the high-pay, long-hours professional services industries: banking, consultancy and law.

That means a “top” university often yields a top salary. Statistics suggest new Oxbridge graduates earn 12 per cent more than contemporaries from other first-rank institutions. No statistics suggest they are 12 per cent more interesting, 12 per cent more creative, 12 per cent happier.

Oxbridge: it’s what everyone wants to do. But who wants to be everyone?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Poll: Only 40% of Teachers Support Common Core

A reasonable idea hijacked by the Left

Less than half of Americans (49 percent) and only 40 percent of teachers now say they support Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Public support has dropped 16 percent since 2013, when 65 percent of Americans were in favor of the Common Core standards, according to the ninth annual Education Next poll released Tuesday.

But the greatest change in opinion has been among teachers.

In 2013, 76 percent of teachers said they were in favor of the Common Core. In the new survey, only 40 percent say the favor Common Core--representing a 36-point drop in two years.

The poll, conducted in May and June by Paul Peterson and Martin West of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, asked a representative sample of 4,083 this question: "As you may know, in the last few years states have been deciding whether or not to use the Common Core, which are standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of the Common Core standards in your school?"

Among teachers and parents, the two groups most directly impacted by CCSS, “respondents who believe the standards have had a negative effect on schools (51%) exceed those who think they have had a positive effect (28%),” researchers noted.

Support for Common Core is down among both Republicans and Democrats. In 2013, 57 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats said they supported CCSS. But by 2015, that percentage had dropped 20 points for Republicans (to 37 percent) and seven points for Democrats (to 57 percent).

Now exactly half (50 percent) of Republicans responding to the survey say they oppose Common Core, compared to just 16 percent of Republicans who were against it in 2013.

Among Democrats, who are the most likely to support Common Core, opposition over the last two years rose consistently, from 10 percent in 2013, to 17 percent in 2014, to 25 percent in 2015.

According to its website, Common Core is “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics” that have already been adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Four states – Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia – never adopted the Common Core in the first place.

Four other states – Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina – initially adopted the standards, but then later rescinded them. Mississippi and Tennessee have taken steps to do so as well.

Minnesota adopted the Common Core English language arts standards in 2010, but not the mathematics standards.

Proponents claim that standardizing school curriculums across the U.S. will raise student achievement and better prepare future American workers for the rigorous competition they will face in a global economy.

But Common Core has been harshly criticized for eliminating poetry and classic literature, requiring school children to solve unnecessarily complicated math problems, and for not taking young children’s developmental stages into account by asking first graders to do things like “compose and decompose plane and solid figures”.

During the 2014-15 school year, tens of thousands of students opted out of the new standardized tests that align with Common Core. Some school districts reported participation rates of less than 50 percent, which could jeopardize their portion of the program’s $4 billion in federal funding.

Opponents also say that Common Core amounts to a federal takeover of education, which historically has been a function of local governments.

“Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington,” wrote Lindsey Burke, education fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who called Common Core "the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to students: local school leaders and parents.”


Are British schools cheating to give children better grades?

As pupils gear up to receive their GCSE and A Level results, an ITV documentary has investigated whether some schools are taking duplicitous measures to achieve top marks.

Allegations of malpractice by staff at British schools are probed in Exposure: Making The Grades, which airs tonight, after some teachers have accused their colleagues of cheating.

Cathy James, who runs the whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, said the problem is more widespread than many realise.

'We have seen a huge increase in calls from the education sector and a fifth of those calls relate to exam fraud and that's a really shocking statistic for us,' she said.

According to the programme, last year there were 217 penalties issued to schools and colleges, up from 140 in 2013 - a 55 per cent increase. And there were 119 penalties issued to school and college staff in 2014, up from 100 penalties the year before.

Unfair advantages given to students may include giving students too long in exams, providing answers, and a lack of security in the exam hall.

The problem is said to have developed after league tables based on exam results were introduced in 1992, putting more pressure on schools to perform well.

Schools can obtain more financial rewards if they feature highly in league tables, while the jobs of heads and teachers are at risk if a bad Ofsted inspection means the school goes into special measures.

John Nield, a former Chief Examiner for the exam board, AQA said a 'money-for-marks culture' has encouraged malpractice.

He said: 'I think that because of government policy schools, academies are almost invited to manipulate controlled assessment marks in order for them to hit their targets, and if they hit targets they get money.

'There are the majority of schools who wouldn't have anything to do with that but the minority make it difficult for teachers to keep their jobs, for students to get the qualifications that they deserve and the parents to get the results that they want for their students as well so everybody suffers by every single piece of malpractice.'

Teachers who have anonymously taken to online forums to air their grievances say many of the problems stem from 'controlled assessments' which were introduced five years ago to replace coursework.

The controlled assessments are administered and marked by teachers, leading to allegations that some are too generous when marking, or get students to repeat the test until they get it right.

According to the show, one teacher on a forum revealed: 'I'm being told I have to let pupils re-do a controlled assessment in which they have done badly.

'I've also been told to mark it as though it is a draft. This is against exam board regulations. I have raised the issue with the Head but he is refusing to listen to me. Others in my department have agreed to do this so my pupils will be disadvantaged if I don't.'

The show quotes another teacher who wrote in a forum that such cheating is 'rife in my school.'

They added: 'Controlled assessments are little more than a cheats' charter. The work produced cannot be checked in a way that ensures any degree of integrity. 'Over time, this has become out and out cheating, and at the same time, many teachers have convinced themselves that what they are doing is fine.'

Pupils Zac Brown and Robert Holmes said they had to re-do the same controlled assessment when they were studying their science GCSE in 2013.  Robert said: 'I redid the exam at least six or seven times. When we redid the exams it was the same questions same sheets everything was exactly the same.  'I don't know why the teachers were getting us to do it over and over again, I just went along with it.'

Zac added: 'I did think it was a bit strange that we were having to do the same paper over and over again with the same questions but yeah I just kind of went along with it because I wanted to pass my test.'

The school was investigated by AQA - an independent education charity and the largest provider of academic qualifications taught in schools and colleges - and cleared of any wrongdoing.

The school told the programme: 'Following two separate investigations by AQA no malpractice was found of the type alleged. The school cooperated fully with these investigations and will continue to do so.'

AQA said they take allegations of cheating at Prospect School - and others made across the country - seriously.  In a statement read out on the show, they said: 'We owe it to the thousands of dedicated teachers we work with to make sure that no one gets away with breaking the rules. We'd rather lose a customer than risk undermining the value of qualifications that students across the country work so hard for.

'That's why we've taken action against 170 teachers in the past three years when we've found evidence of malpractice.

'In terms of controlled assessments, students are allowed to sit more than one - and these can have common themes, but they can't be identical.

'In the case of Prospect School, our investigators interviewed students who said they'd repeated the same controlled assessment, but the evidence didn't back this up and we concluded that the assessments the students sat were different.'


Australia: Teacher shortfall looms with influx of Gen Y into the profession

THE NEXT generation of teachers will have little loyalty to their jobs with graduates already leaving teaching after being shocked by the profession’s high demands.

In three years, Queensland will hit a significant shortfall of teachers with mature-aged teachers retiring and generation Y teachers graduating to take their place instead, Griffith University Dean and Head of School of Education Prof Donna Pendergast warned.

But Speaking at a Making Great Teachers forum last night, Professor Pendergast said the workforce would experience a huge culture shift with the new generation of teachers.

“The teacher workforce is about to undergo a literal facelift with an influx of new, mostly Y generation teachers, many of whom will not be career teachers like their predecessors,” she said.

“(They) will engage in portfolio careers with little loyalty to employers and without the tendency to be enticed to stay put for career progression.”

She said things like the high demands of teaching, the overwhelming workload, physical and professional isolation, conflict between expectations and reality and difficult initial teaching allocations could often challenge new teachers.

Around 20 per cent of Queensland teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching with Prof Pendergast saying the number of teachers leaving might increase with the next generation.

“That might be a really good thing, having people coming into the profession and bringing energy and interest into the role,” she told The Courier-Mail.

“When they decide it’s not for them then they are prepared to go somewhere else.”

She said the incoming generations were unlikely to “wait in line” for a promotion.

Prof Pendergast said beginning teachers who were “unrealistically optimistic” when heading into the classroom could often be overwhelmed by workload and inadequate inductions.

“One of the biggest things is student behaviour and part of that is because teacher graduates aren’t familiar with children,” she said.

“Some get into schools and realise they don’t really want to be surrounded by hundreds of children.”

Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates said students did not always appreciate the complexities of being a teacher.

He said it was important students were given the right practical experience.  “It’s about how to teach and preparing for the curriculum, as much as it is about classroom management,” he said.

“Pre-service education is not about how to produce a completely well-rounded professional but it is about how to provide a good start to a career in education.”


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Attractive young women unacceptable?

A combination of jealousy and boiler-suit feminism at work here, methinks.  Amusing that the young women are accused of selling themselves short.  Since when were slim and attractive young blue-eyed blondes at a disadvantage?  They've got the world at their feet, much as others may simmer about that

IT’S currently recruitment season at American colleges — a time when sororities and fraternities put their best foot forward and try to recruit new members for the upcoming academic year.

But “rush season” turned sour for the University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority after its recruitment video — filled with white, blonde, bikini-clad college students — was labelled “worse for women than Donald Trump” in a widely-shared opinion piece.

The video was viewed more than 500,000 times after being uploaded to YouTube last week, but was removed on Sunday after writer A.L. Bailey slammed the clip as “objectifying”, “forced” and “unempowering”.

Bailey’s piece on news site, titled ‘Bama sorority video worse for women than Donald Trump’, has been shared more than 18,000 times on Facebook. Alpha Phi has since deleted their Twitter and Tumblr accounts and made their Facebook and Instagram pages private.

Bailey describes the video as a “parade of white girls and blonde hair dye, coordinated clothing, bikinis and daisy dukes, glitter and kisses, bouncing bodies, euphoric hand-holding and hugging, gratuitous booty shots, and matching aviator sunglasses.

“It’s all so racially and aesthetically homogeneous and forced, so hyper-feminine, so reductive and objectifying, so Stepford Wives: College Edition. It’s all so ... unempowering.

“These young women, with all their flouncing and hair-flipping, are making it so terribly difficult for anyone to take them seriously, now or in the future,” she writes.

Sororities often have a significant focus on service and charity work, writes Bailey, but the video lacks any mention of these core ideals.

“It lacks substance but boasts bodies. It’s the kind of thing that subconsciously educates young men on how to perceive, and subsequently treat, women in their lives. It’s the kind of thing I never want my young daughters to see or emulate.

“To the incoming PNMs [potential new members], this video has a clear sales pitch: beauty, sexuality, and a specific look above all,” she continues. “They’re selling themselves on looks alone, as a commodity. Sadly, commodities don’t tend to command much respect.”

Bailey questions whether the 72 women who live in the Alpha Phi house thought about the message they were selling in the video.

“Did they think they were selling the kind of sisterhood that looks out for all women? Or were they focused on having the hottest video in the popularity contest that is sorority recruitment?” she asks.

“Were they satisfied with being perceived as selling a gorgeous party-girl, cookie-cutter commodity? Were they satisfied with being the commodity?

“Most importantly, did they realise they are a group of young women blessed with potential who are selling themselves, and each other, short?”

According to the university, over 2442 women registered for formal recruitment this year and 93 per cent of those — 2,261 women — received ‘bids’ and were selected to join a sorority.

The number of women who registered increased year-on-year by 7 per cent, and the total number of bids increased by 10 per cent.

The university responded directly to criticism of its lack of racial diversity in a statement: “Of the total number of women who accepted bids, 214 were minorities, a number that increased by nearly 13 per cent.”

In a statement to US news outlets, the University of Alabama’s associate vice president for university relations Deborah Lane criticised the video.

“This video is not reflective of UA’s expectations for student organisations to be responsible digital citizens. It is important for student organisations to remember what is posted on social media makes a difference, today and tomorrow, on how they are viewed and perceived,” she said.


More British students opt for toughest senior High School  subjects: Entries for maths, sciences and humanities up by 13% since 2010

More teenagers are taking the tough A-level subjects favoured by Oxbridge this year following a Government campaign to drive up academic standards.

Entries for the ‘facilitating subjects’, which include maths, the sciences, English, geography and history, have risen by 13 per cent since 2010 to 435,583 and now account for just over half of all qualifications taken, official figures show.

The numbers taking maths have risen by more than half in a decade. Take-up has gone from 7 per cent of pupils in 2006 to 11 per cent this year, when there were 93,000 candidates.

Geography, English literature and history have also seen year-on-year rises but so-called ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses have fallen out of favour, with take-up of general studies falling by a quarter to 17,400.

However, languages suffered this year, with a drop in numbers taking French and German, although Spanish saw a rise in entries.

Yesterday, education experts said the figures were a ‘vindication’ for former education secretary Michael Gove, who campaigned to get more teenagers to study core skills subjects.

Richard Cairns, head teacher of Brighton College, an independent school, said: ‘Michael Gove’s determination to rebalance education in England is being realised.

‘Sixth-formers have begun to understand that if they want a place at a top university, they need to study the demanding A-level subjects that prepare them properly for the most challenging degree course.’

In 2011, the Russell Group of top universities produced a guide listing the subjects most useful for would-be entrants.

This year’s figures are believed to show the highest take-up since then.

Preliminary statistics released by the Joint Council for Qualifications show that the take-up of facilitating subjects has increased by 0.8 per cent since last year.

The change follows new performance measures which mean schools are now judged on the number of pupils that achieve a C or above in tougher subjects at GCSE.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said yesterday that the drive to persuade more pupils to study core academic subjects has been a success.

He added: ‘As a result thousands more pupils, from all backgrounds, are studying subjects that will secure them a place at a top university or an apprenticeship and that will help to secure well paid employment.’


Australia: Academics hate the idea of competition

IT WAS Budget night 2014 and Professor Bruce Chapman, the man credited with inventing HECS, went to the lock-up fully expecting it to be a “bit of a bore”.

“When we heard the announcement about the planned policy reforms, I don’t know what the sound of what one hand clapping is, but I do know what the sound of three jaws dropping was,” Prof Chapman recalled.

Prof Chapman attended the Budget lock-up with two colleagues who had both worked in the office of former Treasurer John Dawkins, responsible for one of the biggest shake-ups of tertiary education in Australia, including the introduction of HECS. But those reforms paled in comparison to what the Federal Government proposed in 2014.

Prof Chapman, who spoke at a forum on university financing at ANU last week, said he had been modelling various parts of the university financing system for 25 years or more. The Abbott government’s plans were so radical he had never even considered them.

“(We) had never modelled any of this because we thought the likelihood of it ever happening were close to zero,” he said, calling them the “most radical suggested reforms to Australian higher education” ever.

The plan to deregulate university fees was rejected by the Senate, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will not give up on the reforms, insisting they are necessary if Australian institutions are to flourish.

Other experts are not so sure, and one US academic is concerned Australia could do more harm than good by pressing ahead.

Despite initial support for deregulation among Australian universities, there has been more scepticism about whether student fees should be deregulated, particularly if aimed at improving Australia’s ranking on international tables.

This week it was revealed that Australia now has more than half of its public universities listed in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities, and four universities in the top 100.

Experts at the ANU forum also expressed concerns that universities would be encouraged to chase profits rather than educate students.

Professor Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan in the US said it was unclear why the reforms were needed.

“What problem are people trying to fix?

“If the goal is to get more money — and I haven’t seen any evidence there’s insufficient funds for teaching ... it seems to be getting more funds for research ... that would cost tax dollars and people don’t want to spend money.”

During the forum Prof Dynarski provided “gory details” of the problems in the US system, which had seen student debt double between 2001 and 2011. There was now a push to implement elements of the Australian HECS/HELP system to address some of the issues.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government wants to cut university funding in Australia by 20 per cent and allow universities to make up the shortfall by deregulating student fees. Allowing universities to increase fees would also enable it to put more money into research, which is the measure largely used to rank universities.

“It seems like what would really need to happen is a more robust system for funding research, and the grown-ups should sit down and agree to that rather than dumping (the expense) on to the kids,” Prof Dynarski said.

“This place doesn’t seem to be broke so don’t try to fix it too much because you might definitely break it.”


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sorry, Clinton And Sanders, There's No Such Thing As Free College

"The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see." - Ayn Rand

Candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination for president, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, have both promised that if elected, they would put forth legislation that would dramatically reduce tuition and student debt for public universities in one form or another. This opportunity is a lie in itself. In order for the federal government to pay for all these students, it would be necessary for more tax money to get funneled to students who hold no real obligation to complete their degrees, and a lot of students who should not have gone to college in the first place would get degrees they don't know what to ultimately do with.

The first issue to bring up regarding this progressive scheme to attract millennial voters is the financing of this project. Lindsey Burke, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, pointed out in her Daily Signal article, "Why Free Community College Is Anything But Free", a fundamental issue with financing tuition free 2-year college alone:

    "Once again, the administration is pursuing initiatives to subsidize rising costs, instead of working with Congress on policies that actually would address the driver of college cost increases: the open spigot of federal student aid. Over the past several decades, college costs have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, thanks in large part to federal subsidies."

By sending more grants and subsidizing higher education even more, that bad habit only creates the incentive for schools to drive up the costs, the ultimate reason behind soaring tuition rates. Because of this effect, every year students take out thousands of dollars in student loans to cover the cost of an education they can't afford, in order to get a degree for a job that doesn't exist or isn't available, leaving them with debt and unemployment. This betrayal of the American people takes away from ways people can still invest in themselves without being slaves to debts owned by the banks.

The idea behind free community college alone isn't about greater access to education. In today’s world, information is everywhere thanks to greater access to technologies and the internet, bridging the gaps between social mobility and economic opportunity greater than any point in human history. Looking at great sources like a local library or even the online Khan Academy alone shows just several ways people can access knowledge on their own accord. These resources are free and readily available to the entire public, the only thing that free community college would do is grow faux credentials by inflating the number of degree holders and promote more obtrusive, more burdensome, federal regulation.

The problem behind the average $29,000 student debt in America is obvious, and the reason why Sanders and Clinton don't want to talk about it is because its extremely easy to win votes by promising to give people something by taking the money, and resources from other people, by use of the government in order to provide it. Burke brings about a common sense solution to address this madness:

    "Allow markets in higher education to work by limiting federal subsidies instead of increasing them, and costs will fall for students attending colleges of all types."

The second point is that the two candidates assume that there will be jobs waiting for the influx in college graduates. In a speech Sanders gave on August 11th:

    "It makes no sense to me that when we need nurses, we need doctors, we need dentists, we need more people involved in healthcare, that when people leave school, for the crime of wanting to be involved in healthcare, they have enormous debts. That makes no sense... I will fight to implement as president, that will make every public college and university in America tuition-free."

Just looking at that one quote alone should point out two instant things Sanders fails to understand:

1) Sanders is the reason there are so few medical professionals right now- In my recent article discussing why Bernie Sanders is wrong about healthcare being a human right, I showed how Obamacare (which Sanders voted for and still supports expansion of) has led to the decrease in doctors and medical professionals since its implementation. According to a recent study :

    "... The analysis finds that exchange plan networks include 42 percent fewer oncology and cardiology specialists; 32 percent fewer mental health and primary care providers; and 24 percent fewer hospitals. Importantly, care provided by out-of-network providers does not count toward the out-of-pocket limits put in place by the ACA."

2) Government doesn't decide what jobs are needed, markets do- FreedomWorks policy analyst Logan Albright spoke of how the Obama administration distorts market projections when he stated that:

    "...Throughout his presidency, Obama has labored under the delusion that a liberal arts education is the best thing for absolutely everybody. But we are living in a time when trade and vocational schools are becoming extremely important, as are technical colleges, and the good old-fashioned work experience that led dropouts like Bill Gates to become great entrepreneurs."

This should be common sense, someone with a degree in 18th century French basket weaving studies (I made that degree up, but would it surprise you if it existed ?) is gonna have a hard time getting a career started since there is literally no market for someone who is an expert in 18th century French basket weaving studies. The reason why I choose this metaphor is because most of America's students fail to understand that some degrees just have a terrible return on investment in the long run. Unless Clinton and Sanders start controlling the economy directly and can manipulate supply and demand, that scenario would also have to force them to limit what people learn and what degrees they have to choose from.

That's the fault that progressives ignore, risk! When little Johnny Graduate graduates from high school and decides to major in 18th century French basket weaving studies, that is the risk he is taking,his money, his time, and ultimately his life choices; Johnny Graduate alone is responsible for himself and has to deal with the results of his decisions without dragging down other people with him, or using government to fulfill his entitlements through force and coercion.

The federal government subsidizes this bad behavior already by giving schools who want a profit, and students who want a degree, a financial steroid which creates falsified hope and pushes the real issue down the road. Bernie Sanders specifically should not be taken seriously at all (not that I am suggesting Clinton is any more economically literate), since it should be a red flag that anyone would be advocating for socialism in America while socialist Europe is literally falling apart.


UK: Boys shun university and choose to be apprentices or start their own businesses instead

While more and more young women are racking up thousands in student debt, it appears boy are shunning university in favour of training as apprentices or starting their own businesses instead.

On Thursday, hopeful university applicants across the country eagerly opened their A Level results to determine the next step in their education.

But shortly afterwards, UCAS revealed that nearly 60,000 more girls will be starting their degrees this autumn compared to boys.

The figures revealed that one day after results were received, 241,680 girls across the county had secured university places - compared to just 184,390.

Among 18-year-olds, 117,360 women from the UK will enter full-time higher education in 2015 compared to 89,640 men - a difference of nearly 28,000

They suggest that growing numbers of boys are forgoing higher education and choosing to train in more practical areas or establish start-up companies.

And it's no wonder a rising number of school-leavers are opting to begin their careers earlier.

Instead of paying tuition fees like their former classmates, there are a huge range of appealing apprenticeships available for talented young people these days.

British Airways, the Dorchester Hotel, Rolls-Royce and English National Opera are among companies offering apprenticeships to talented youngsters.

Meanwhile, Crossrail created more than 400 apprenticeships during the construction of the new railway.

The apprentices working across the project have been trained in a range of professions from construction to accountancy, quantity surveying to business administration.

Perry Torrance achieved 10 A grades and an A* at GCSE - but decided not to continue with his A Levels.  The 18-year-old, from Essex, took an NVQ in professional cookery and is now a demi chef de partie at central London restaurant Bird of Smithfield.

'Don't just do A Levels because that's what your mates are doing,' Mr Torrance told the Times. 'Think about what you are good at and what you enjoy - could that be a career option for you?'


UK:  Junior High School exams  punish top pupils 'for being too sophisticated'

Leading headteacher says the most intelligent children are penalised because they go above what is required

Bright pupils may pick up lower GCSE grades than their peers next week as they are too sophisticated for marking schemes, a leading headmaster says.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said the most intelligent children are often penalised in exams because they go above and beyond what is required.

He said the issue was most apparent in history and English, which can be more subjective. As markers are not necessarily specialists in the particular text or historical period they are assessing, they may not credit pupils for extra insight.

They may even mark them down for not adhering to a formulaic marking scheme. Pupils often struggle to cope with the simplicity of questions, which are pitched too low for their level, he said.

Mr Cairns, whose independent school will send 28 pupils to Oxbridge this year, said: ‘The two subjects which always cause problems are English and history. The marking is more subjective, and there’s a range of texts you can choose from. Sometimes, markers are marking things they know little about.

‘They can mark papers on medieval history even if they don’t know much about it.  ‘It can mean they stick to the marking scheme and they don’t always give credit to the better pupils who question the fundamental evidence in [for example] history, and go beyond it.

‘The children are being asked to jump through hoops and they can’t understand why, because they can see beyond the hoop. They often find it slightly distressing.’

He said it was hard to ‘train’ children to cater to the marking schemes.

‘It’s fundamentally a GCSE problem, because it’s one exam for all pupils,’ he said.  ‘That causes some consternation among some children who can’t see the point in the question because it’s self-evident.

GCSEs do a disservice to brighter children and you do find that in some subjects the bright children don’t get the top grades, particularly in the humanities.’

On Thursday, Brighton College had some of the best A-level results in the country, with almost all grades A* to B, and 82.8 per cent A or higher.

The school pays its teachers extra to do examining to maintain ‘quality control’ in the system. To mark GCSE papers, examiners usually need recent teaching experience, a degree in the subject they are marking and a teaching qualification.

But exam boards often struggle to recruit enough markers as it is hard for full-time teachers to take on extra work.

Last year, exam board OCR almost missed the deadline for returning A-level results, partly because it had not recruited enough markers and some dropped out. Earlier this year it was revealed hundreds of grades are ‘guesstimated’ every year because exam papers are lost in the post.


Monday, August 17, 2015

UK: Pupils behaving badly

For a new teacher looking forward to starting a new post, there is one thought above all that brings fear and trepidation into his or her heart: will the kids behave? Indeed, how do teachers command the attention of 30 young people and hold sway over a classroom? To most adults, this prospect is their idea of hell. But, if teachers can master their nerves, teaching is their chance to make a real difference to the lives of their pupils.

I don’t mean this in the sense of addressing society’s ills or challenging the injustices that the young face in the world. I mean teachers can make a real difference by imparting knowledge of the world to their pupils and helping them make sense of it. This is the way teachers change lives: by opening up whole new realms of understanding that their pupils would not otherwise experience. And herein lies the challenge for teachers: they have to believe that what they are teaching is the most important thing in the world for their pupils to learn. This is the source of their authority in the classroom. It is what gives them the right to stand in front of pupils and demand their attention.

Developing this sense of authority is not a straightforward task. And it’s no good looking for affirmation outside of the classroom, because we live in a society that constantly undermines the authority of adults in general. Wherever you look, we are all being told we are doing it wrong. Whether it’s Tristram Hunt, Labour’s education spokesman, criticising parents for not ‘getting down on all fours’ and speaking to their children as toddlers, or the obsession with looking for answers in the Chinese education system, adults are encouraged to think that we don’t really know how best to raise and educate children.

It is for this reason that the problem of school discipline has become so intractable. According to UK government figures released in July, 240 primary-school pupils were permanently excluded for assaulting adults in the 2013/14 school year. On the one hand, it seems outrageous that teachers can’t seem to deal with pupils below the age of 11. On the other hand, some pupils now become lost to us from a very young age.

When the schools minister, Nick Gibb, tried to relax the guidance dictating the circumstances under which headteachers can permanently exclude a child from school – changing the standard from ‘would seriously harm the education or welfare of others’ to ‘would be detrimental to the education or welfare of others’ – he was attacked by children’s charities and advocacy groups. According to them, he was marginalising pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and pupils from ethnic-minority backgrounds, both of whom are over-represented in the exclusion figures. But this was not the issue here; Gibb was trying, somewhat clumsily, to help headteachers exert more control over the behaviour of pupils in general. The new guidance was quickly rescinded, but the question remains: why do we have to exclude pupils in the first place? Why can’t we get pupils to behave without resorting to such extreme measures?

It is too easy to blame allegedly feckless parents, who defend their children’s actions by claiming teachers are singling them out. Parents can, with some justification, complain about the arbitrary nature of a school’s disciplinary methods when they seem to serve no purpose other than to exert control over pupils. What we are missing here is that teachers and parents should work together in order to get the best out of each and every child.

In one sense, this means that, as a new teacher, the people you really want to impress are the pupil’s parents; win over the parents and the child will follow. That is why new teachers should take parents’ evenings very seriously. That brief chat with a child’s family cements the common purpose you share in helping the child succeed. However, in the broader sense, this means all adults sharing a common belief in the need to encourage young people to work hard not only for their own sake, but also so that they can one day inherit and shape the world we all share. That responsibility rests on all of our shoulders.


"Social Justice" Rules U.S. Schools

Cool mornings in August, the smells they bring, and the chirping of crickets during the day all remind me September is very near. Automatically and unbidden come the familiar, bittersweet feelings of another school year approaching. They waft over me for a second or two before I remember that my life is no longer controlled the school calendar. I'm free of it. I'm detached. I'm liberated and I like it, especially when I see many of the trends that drove me out of public education accelerating.

Seattle public schools are implanting IUDs (Intra-uterine devices) in girls as young as sixth grade. That's shocking enough, but what's worse is they're doing it without parental permission!

I retired from public school only four years ago, but when I read stories like this it seems like a century. We used to get memos warning us that students may not take a Tylenol without written permission from parents, but now the school can implant a birth control device in an eleven or twelve-year-old girl's uterus without her parents even knowing about it? What's going on?

Left wing sites like hail the practice as liberating and do not mention that it's done without parental knowledge or permission. To read their article, it's all good and exciting. Salon quotes Katie Acker, a health educator at one Seattle school: "It's absolutely amazing and crazy. The birth control culture, for lack of a better term, and the conversations have just changed so much ... conversations are just happening so openly and so excitedly. There's so much pride around, ‘I've got this method, I've got this method [say students to each other].' It's not a hush-hush thing anymore."

Isn't that wonderful? I agree with Acker when she say's "It's absolutely amazing and crazy." After that, she loses me. At one point Acker described how excited she was when the whole girl's gymnastic team gathered around as an IUD was implanted in the uterus of one of their teammates. Clearly, Acker sees sex between middle schoolers and teenagers as wonderful. Investigating her profile in the King County School System, I can see nothing about cautioning her students to avoid sex until they were older. I suspect she'd look at me blankly if I suggested students might wait until marriage for sexual activity. She especially recommends a site called "Bedsider" for her students. Browsing it, I found lots of suggestions for how girls could overcome inhibitions and enjoy themselves.

Parents, probably born way back in in the regressive 20th century, are seen as obstacles to an enlightened 21st century "progressive" lifestyle. Conservative sites pointed out that students in Seattle Schools could not buy a can of Coca Cola in school, but they could have IUDs and hormonal implants inserted into their bodies. How do they reconcile this? Is there no reaction from parents in Washington? Has leftist Kool Aid been added to the water supply up there? Has the left become so dominant that conservative parents have been intimidated into silence?

Teachers' unions endorse all this. Public school "health" classes in California elementary schools encourage students to ask themselves how they know whether they're male or female. The Los Angeles Times reports that: "Starting this fall, students applying to the University of California will have the option to choose among six gender identities listed on undergraduate admissions forms: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming and different identity." Who is behind this? Former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who is now president of the University of California system.

Clearly our public schools, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary see themselves as agents of social change. Sixties radical terrorist and Obama good buddy Bill Ayers, for example, became an education professor at the University of Illinois where he instructed public school teachers that their primary mission as teachers was to bring about social change - not instructing students in reading, writing and arithmetic.

Ayers was not alone up there in Illinois. He's representative of an enormous trend in public education across the United States. What is "social change" in their minds? Again, Janet Napolitano is instructing her professors not to say things like: "America is the land of opportunity," "There is only one race, the human race" and "I believe the most qualified person should get the job." These, according to, are considered "microaggressions" and indicative of subconscious racism in anyone who may utter them.

Other examples of "microaggressive" speech at the University of California include "America is a melting pot" and "Affirmative Action is racist." All of these "microaggressions" are phrases I used regularly when I taught US History, along with "Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough." Clearly, neither I nor anybody who thinks like me, is suitable to teach in our brave new schools anymore. It feels good to be out.   


Half Australia’s unis in world elite as QUT joins top 500 in ARWU

It should be noted that, although it is the oldest, the Shanghai Jiao Tong index is only one approach to ranking universities.  That being said, I am mildly pleased that UQ did so well.  I graduated from there and my son still goes there

Australia now has more than half its public universities listed in a prestigious international ranking after Queensland University of Technology made the top 500 for the first time.

Melbourne University was again named Australia’s best university by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, being placed at 44th in the world for a second year in a row.

Making up four universities in the top 100, Melbourne was followed by Australian National University and the University of Queensland, both on 77, and the University of Western Australia on 87.

Australia now has 20 universities in the top 500, with its overall strong performance consolidated by three institutions — Curtin, Wollongong and Deakin — all making a significant move upwards in the Chinese-based ranking.

Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of Melbourne University, said he was incredibly relieved with the result having watched governments in Asia and Europe lift research investment in their universities.

“Having 20 universities in the top 500 is something to be proud of. That helps us attract the best international students which gives us the income to stay competitive,” Professor Davis said.

The ARWU, which comes out of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, is based on objective measures of research performance, such as academic papers and citations and the number of Nobel laureates a university has produced. It bears no reflection on teaching quality.

Tony Sheil, an expert in university rankings from Griffith University, said Australia was the only medium-sized world economy “with half its university system ranked in the world elite”.

“For the first time Australia matches Canada and Italy and is well ahead of Japan which has ‘lost’ 18 universities in the top 500 since 2003. Japan originally had 36 institutions listed and was at the time by far the strongest performer among Asian countries,” Mr Sheil said.

“This is a remarkable advance for the credibility of the Australian higher education model.” Mr Sheil said.

Peter Coaldrake, head of QUT, said big investments in science and engineering had finally paid off after his institutions’ inclusion in the ARWU having proved “elusive” for many years.

He said his and other universities had been hiring high-performing professors from around the world which was contributing to Australia’s overall strong performance.

Harvard was listed the world’s best university for the 13th year in a row. It was followed by Stanford, MIT, University of California Berkeley and Cambridge.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Head Start" Initiative Crashes and Burns

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” ~Milton Friedman

Clinging to the hope that a model for a universal preschool program could run effectively, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a project known as Head Start CARES in order to put this concept to the test. The purpose of this initiative was to put to the test three "evidence-based" ways of helping children in lower income communities develop a love of learning, which would eventually grow their academic prowess and help create a rise in the number of high school graduates in impoverished communities throughout the country. Sadly, Head Start has proved to be a failure to launch. According to Heritage Foundation research fellow David Muhlhausen, PH.D. "Experimental evaluations released in 2014 and 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that enhanced Head Start CARES demonstration programs had little to no effect."

In a 2014 speech given days after the president's State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that:  "Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road...But here's the thing: We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."

The president's rhetoric echoed that of former President George W. Bush's failed No Child Left Behind policy, and the original Head Start program launched by President Johnson in 1965 during the rise of the Department of Education. Part of the failed understanding of this issue starts from the assumption that greater access to preschools/ pre-kindergarten education is actually beneficial to youngsters. Evidence has cast a shroud of doubt over this concept, showing that preschools really do not create any long term benefits to students in terms of whether it boosts their possibility of graduating with a degree in the long run. FreedomWorks policy analyst Logan Albright has put into question as to whether it is the right call in the first place to "remove children from their parents and impose a structured, one size fits all educational system on them". Numerous studies by education professionals have even shown that preschool damages a child's problem-solving ability by inhibiting creative thinking, backfiring from the original intent of the program in the process.

Much like the Common Core debacle brought about by excessive spending via the Department of Education (providing the financial incentive to states which adopt a style of core curricula), many policy makers are simply asking whether or not more money thrown at these failed projects would fix the tragic results they helped create. However, every year since 1992, spending per student in the public school system has risen to an average of $10,705. Mr. Albright points this out once again that no matter how much the federal government spends, the results still continue to crash and burn:

"President Obama’s Race to the Top program awarded more than $4 billion in federal funding to states that implemented specified reforms. The result led to a lot of compliance costs for states without much to show for it. The Head Start early education program costs around $8 billion a year, despite the program’s own analysis finding that it doesn’t work. The programs keeping getting bigger and more expensive, but the results remain elusive..."

The depressing statistics regarding the students academic levels alone prove that Head Start has failed to raise the standards of the students that took part in the program. According to a column by Andrew J. Coulson (senior fellow of education policy at Cato's Center for Educational Freedom ), government researchers administered "44 academic tests" to students who were about to finish the first grade, in order to see the difference in results from students who had or had not participated in Head Start. After the results were looked over, they showed that "not a single one of the 114 tests administered to first graders — of academics, socio-emotional development, health care/health status and parenting practice — showed a reliable, statistically significant effect from participating in Head Start."

American citizens must ask their policy makers an essential question, if pumping more money into these failed programs, which are detrimental to our students has proven not a single positive result, what will throwing even more tax payer money do other than prove to be even more wasteful? The constant waste, disappointment, and culture of corruption we are seeing in our academic institutions (in large part to intervention from the federal government) has proven that decentralization is the best way to help students achieve their highest potential when they are treated as individuals, instead of just cogs in the machine of blanket policies and resolutions.


All schools may become academies [charters], says British PM in bid to 'extend opportunity to all'

Every school could become an academy in the next five years, David Cameron will say today, as he pledges to ‘extend opportunity to all’.

Marking 100 days since the formation of the first all-Tory Government for 18 years, the Prime Minister declares his intention to be ‘bolder still’ in public service reforms.

He will accuse Labour of having abandoned attempts to reform the public sector. Instead, its leadership candidates are intent only on appealing to the party’s ‘Left-wing base’, he says.

Every school should have the chance to become an academy so every child can have an excellent education, he will say.

Headmasters and not ‘bureaucrats’ should decide how schools are run to ensure ‘strong standards and discipline’.

Mr Cameron will also make a broader argument that Conservative values offer the answer to Britain’s social problems.

Just as the Tories have won the argument on how to manage the economy, so Conservative principles can answer the challenges facing society, he says.

He defends free enterprise, saying it is an ‘ally not an enemy in generating wealth and extending opportunity to all’.

On schools he says: ‘When Labour leadership contenders say they want to phase out academies, I say the opposite.

‘I want every school in the country to have the opportunity to become an academy and to benefit from the freedoms this brings. In doing so, we can extend educational excellence and opportunity to every school and every child in our country.’

Academy status gives schools independence from council control and is credited with driving up standards.

Invented by Labour under Tony Blair, it was used initially as a way to turn around failing schools in working class areas.

With Michael Gove as Education Secretary, the Tories hugely accelerated the process of converting schools into academies. There are now more than 5,000 out of around 20,000 schools in England.

Labour leadership contenders Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have made clear their desire to scrap both free schools and academies and return powers over education to councils.

Mr Cameron will say that Tory stewardship of the economy is ‘generating growth, creating jobs, clearing the deficit and offering the British people the security they need to get on in their lives’.

For Labour, shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell said the Tories were failing to stand up for working people.


Why are Australian pre-schoolers behaving badly?

"Experts" say too much testing and formal learning is behind the soaring number of prep suspensions.  But that's a kneejerk explanation for almost everything from Leftist teachers.  A small revival of discipline is the probable cause.  Pupils who are disruptive SHOULD be removed to protect the learning environment for others

SUSPENSIONS of Prep students in Queensland have soared 130 per cent in only five years as our littlest students crumble under the pressure of schoolwork instead of play. Prep suspensions leapt from 379 in 2010 to 572 in 2013 and to a staggering 873 last year, according to the Department of Education and Training (DETE) data.

Teachers and health professionals believe the bad behaviour in young pupils is a result of the stress of too much formal learning forced on them by the national curriculum.

Educational author and former teacher Maggie Dent told The Courier-Mail play-based learning in Prep has been relegated below the more academic curriculum which is stressing many children who are responding with “inappropriate behaviour”, such as social isolation and aggression.

Ms Dent said while Queensland was a hotspot, it was a similar picture nationwide as many kids failed to adapt to the “schoolification” of Prep, aimed at making kids NAPLAN-ready by Year 3.

She said the “push down” of formalised learning for children under six and the “stealing and demonising of play for children aged four to six” was fuelling an education crisis in young ones.

“The rise in aggressive behaviour being exhibited by many younger children, mainly in the boys, is a sign that they are unable to cope with environments with no opportunity to play, no fun, little movement and developmentally inappropriate tasks,” Ms Dent said.

At kindy, Alex Bate was a “happy little man”, socially active, emotionally healthy. The next year in Prep, mum Simone witnessed a dramatic turn in his character, as Alex became stressed, anxious and fearful.

“He started to have huge anxiety issues,” Bate recalls. “He’d become teary and not want to go to school ... He’d shut down in class, wouldn’t answer questions and cry at the prospect of doing show and tell.”

Bate ended up keeping Alex home for about 40 days of that year. It wasn’t that he wasn’t ready for school. He just wasn’t ready for a brand of schooling that hits five-year-olds with structured schoolwork – sight words, workbooks and even homework.

Brisbane pediatrician Andrea McGlade said her Possums Clinic had recorded a spike in Prep-aged children presenting with behavioural problems as a result of their difficulties in coping with a sit-and-learn curriculum.

Dr Andrea McGlade with her daughter Gemma Ware, 5, says many prep kids are too young to make “good behavioural choices”.  “Most of these children have underlying developmental or learning difficulties that mean that they are struggling to adapt to the requirements of the classroom,” Dr McGlade said.

It is hugely concerning that children are ever suspended from the early years of school, she says, but particularly prep kids too young to make “good behavioural choices”.

She says there has been no deterioration in the developmental status of prep-aged children, proven by two Australian Early Development Censuses in 2009 and 2012. What has changed in that time, though, is the arrival of the new curriculum.

With teachers tied to more rigid schoolwork structures and targets, they have less flexibility to adapt teaching to help these children through, she says.

A DETE spokesman rules out any link between the suspensions and behavioural problems in schools and says it may mean schools are simply tougher on discipline in line with greater disciplinary powers given to principals in 2014.

But teachers, health professionals and commentators say it’s part of an education crisis in young people, driven by a culture
of academic achievement fuelled by NAPLAN and being foisted on kids too young, overwhelming many and sparking bad behaviour.

At an age when our youngest should be carefree, they are instead anxious, even aggressive and often marginalised. And, according to some, it may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Early Childhood Teachers’ Association president Kim Walters can recall when prep suspensions were in single figures.

The national curriculum and its effect on children, she says, is a huge talking point among teachers with the problem set to worsen under DETE’s new early-start provisions allowing children to start the school year aged four (if they are five before July 31.)

Walters says the concerns are borne out in a recent survey of early-childhood teachers showing only 12 of 62 prep children in the teachers’ care were coping. (Most were girls). Almost 60 per cent of the teachers thought kids should be at least five before starting prep, and only 4 per cent of prep teachers supported the early-entry provision. Importantly, the teachers noted that while most kids may be academically ready, they are not ready physically, socially and emotionally.

While acknowledging the suspension spike, Queensland Principals’ Association president Michael Fay says 873 pupils is a fraction of Queensland’s 45,000 Prep pupils, and principals cannot ignore behaviours that disrupt other students. Fay says it’s also important that principals do not condone or ignore behaviour in these early years.

Two years on from his prep struggle, Alex, now 7 and in Year 2, is thriving after two tough years.  “This year he finally seems ready to start more formal learning,” Bate says. “But back then, he simply was not ready.”