Thursday, May 05, 2016

UK: Ofsted chief condemns families for 'exam strike'

The head of Ofsted has condemned parents who took their children out of lessons yesterday in protest at testing.

Michael Wilshaw said grammar and maths assessments for six and seven-year-olds could improve Britain's 'mediocre' position in international education rankings.

He stressed the tests helped identify struggling children, pointing out that poorer pupils had the odds stacked against them if they fell behind.

Councils had threatened £60 fines for families involved in the 'kids' strike' but it will be left to headmasters to take action. Few are likely to do so.

Only around 2,000 pupils were withdrawn from school yesterday, notably in Brighton, Newcastle and Hackney in north-east London. Some regions were almost entirely unaffected.

Sir Michael, who is chief inspector of schools, said: 'As I have long argued, children who fall behind in the early years of their education struggle to catch up in later years.

'If by the age of seven, a child has not mastered the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics, the odds will be stacked against them for the rest of their lives. This is especially the case for poorer children.

'All the evidence shows that social mobility does not start at the age of 16, or even 11, but at a much earlier age. That is why it is so critical to lay solid foundations from the start of a child's education.

'I understand testing can sometimes be stressful but I am also confident that most schools do everything they can to minimise the stress that children experience in preparing for and sitting these tests.'

Formerly called Sats, the key stage tests are held at the end of infant and junior school to help teachers assess pupils and measure school performance.

Children do not have to revise or even know the tests are taking place. The individual results are not published.


Teacher is shocked after receiving a letter from the Department for Education with FIVE grammar mistakes in it

A teacher's open letter to the Department for Education has gone viral after it sent her a note littered with punctuation errors.

Mary Davies, 38, from Yarm, North Yorkshire, had originally written to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, to express her concerns about recent changes to the testing of writing and spelling at Key Stage 2.

However the letter she received in response contained five mistakes - with Mrs Davies taking to Facebook to point out the irony.

Mrs Davies is now threatening to use the letter as an exercise in her classroom, challenging her pupils to spot the errors.

She initially wrote to her MP concerned children across the country had been given too much to learn in a short space of time.

Speaking to FEMAIL, Mrs Davies told how her class was worried about their upcoming SATs tests:

She said: 'I have been running weekly Booster classes for my Year 6 pupils for the last few months, in order to help them to feel more confident about the aspects of maths, spelling, punctuation and grammar that they will be tested on next week.

'Despite the additional sessions and the exceedingly hard work they have been doing in class all year, the children are extremely anxious about what faces them.'

The teacher, who has more than 17 years experience, had given up hope of receiving a reply from Mrs Morgan, but six weeks later she received a letter written by the Department for Education, on behalf of the Education Secretary.

It reiterated that 'spelling and handwriting are key elements of the national curriculum in primary school'.

So it came as a surprise that the letter itself contained several grammatical and punctuation errors.

In disbelief Mrs Davies decided to post a response directly to the DfE Facebook page, which has now been shared more than 13,000 times and has 1,500 comments.

The teacher thanked the DfE for sending the letter: 'I will be using it next week with my Year 6 pupils to develop their evaluating & editing skills.'

She added: 'I'm sure they will easily be able to spot the 5 punctuation and grammar errors, and, as this won't take too long, I can then ask them to use the interim teacher assessment criteria to judge the level of your letter.'


Elitist panel at premier university: Islam good, America Islamophobic

Georgetown University's "Islamophobia" Song Remains the Same
In Europe and the United States, "Islamophobia has grown exponentially in 2015.  In fact it is pretty much at its highest point," stated Professor John Esposito on April 14 at his academic home, Georgetown University.  His comments typified thepanel, "Race, Religion and U.S. Presidential Politics," and its hackneyed attribution of growing global concerns about Islam to irrational "Islamophobia."

Esposito criticized largely negative global media coverage of Islamic issues "with very little coverage of the broader context, the mainstream communities of Muslims around the world."  He referenced Media Tenor, a think tank directed byRoland Schatz, a frequent speaker at Georgetown's Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) headed by Esposito.  Yet Media Tenor's 2013 study on Islam in the global media showed the esteemedWall Street Journal's reporting on Islam as heavily negative, indicating a dearth of worldwide good news concerning Islam.

Schatz, who has previously suggested that the media refrain from reporting bad news about Islam in the absence of countervailing good news, has questionable objectivity.  He has dubiously asserted that the "hurting of innocents is absolutely not in keeping with the Koran" and described Egypt's former Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, as "remarkably challenging and funny."  Less humorously, Schatz's collaborator in the C1 World Dialogue has endorsed Islamic doctrines concerning wife-beating and genocidal apocalyptic predictions concerning Jews.  Gomaa also supported bizarre ideas about the companions of Islam's prophet Muhammad drinking his urine.

Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) analyst Engy Abdelkader decried on the panel the current climate surrounding Islam exhibited in American presidential candidates who "are not fit to even run in an election cycle."  "People are still recovering from the Islamophobia that Ben Carson unleashed on the United States," she ranted, for whom "it pays to be Islamophobic" by questioning sharia adherence.  He was "literally receiving increased [campaign] funds for subscribing and disseminating prejudiced, biased, unacceptable viewpoints," entailing that many Americans consider his concerns legitimate.  Likewise legitimate are Donald Trump's proven claims of news reports documenting New York City area Muslims celebrating the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda (AQ) attacks, despite her denials.

Using an infographic, Abdelkader linked increasing criticism of Islam to an oft-repeated theme of hate crime attacks upon Muslims.  Many Muslim leaders have a "strong perception" that the "mainstreaming of Islamophobia by the political candidates also created fertile ground for these violent attacks" although "causation is difficult to prove."  She cited the February 2015 Chapel Hill, North Carolina, killings of three Muslims as a hate crime, but evidence about the shooter indicates a mentally unstable man with no particular anti-Muslim animosity. 

Overall, her analysis ignores statistics debunking theories of "Islamophobia" backlash (Jews are actually the main religious hate crime targets), biased reporting notwithstanding.

By contrast, Abdelkader dismissed the July 2015 murderous assault upon a Chattanooga, Tennessee, armed forces recruiting office, subsequently officially classified as inspired by foreign terrorists, as the action of an unstable Muslim.  She cited ISPU studies showing a "positive relationship between the Muslim identity and the American identity for Muslims in America." 

Similar positive correlations between national and religious identity in a recent study of British Muslims broadcast on television, however, did not preclude their expression of extremist views.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer Naureen Shah could only describe American attitudes towards Islam as irresponsible, as if the United States faced no actual jihadist threats.  "The United States has been on a permanent war-footing since the 9/11 attacks" and a "sense of crisis grips our nation" that "seems to ratchet up every time there is another major attack among Western people," she stated.  "The election is a symptom of Islamophobia, Islamophobia that is rooted deeply into America now" as "people mobilize around hate and prejudice."

Islamic terrorism appeared to Shah as the stuff of horror fiction as "Muslims embody the fear of terrorism," being the "zombies, the vampires, and the monsters of terrorism."  Muslims are like vampires "who seem normal, who seem assimilated, but then the next thing you know they turn around and they radicalize."  She criticized that three different entities conducted the 1979 Iranian seizure of the American embassy, the 9/11 AQ attacks, and the March 22 Brussels Islamic State (IS) attacks, yet "are assimilated into a single threat, the Muslim threat."  She overlooked common Islamic ideological affinities between Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda outgrowth, and Al-Qaeda's quiet ally, Iran's Islamic Republic.

Analogous to the panel's title, Shah consistently conflated concerns about Islamic ideology with racial prejudice as the "Muslim identity is racialized into this suspicious other."  Speaking of enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, she said "you are a brown man and you are a Muslim," as if all jihadists there or elsewhere are "brown."  Human rights supporters should oppose a "national security agenda that tries to villainize a set of people based on their national origin and their religion."

Defender of Islam and Washington Post journalist Ishaan Tharoor completed the panel's bias while referencing his strained analysis of "Islamophobia" as a threat to European democracy.  He also cited his previous contorted comparison of modern Syrian refugees with Jews fleeing Nazism, writing that belies this anti-Israel writer's lack of concern for modern Jews (consider this uncritical Hamas propaganda citation). 

He nonetheless conceded that recent "really unfortunate scenes" of sexual assault in Cologne and other European cities were a "disaster for Muslims and also a disaster for the idea of Europe."  This mild language euphemizes a European-wide outbreak of sexual assaults linked to Muslim migration that, among other things, have led to descriptions of Sweden as the "West's rape capital."

The panelists' presentations of Muslims as permanent victims, never perpetrators, have become weary through the years, like a bad Pachelbel Canon.  As Islam repeatedly originates controversies and crises, these prominent talking heads respond in effect with "who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes."  Perhaps these arguments' tiredness explains why only about 35 listeners appeared for an event billed as sold out, an ironic sign of hope.


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