Sunday, July 31, 2016

Superhead who claimed Britain's education was broken puts pupils in detention at lunch and restricts food if their parents have failed to pay for school meals

Interesting that nobody has mentioned the idea of getting the father to contribute to his son's food expenses

A headteacher who made her name at a Tory party conference by claiming Britain's education was 'broken' is forcing children to eat by themselves and restricting food as a punishment for their parents failing to pay for school lunches.

Katharine Birbalsingh, a favourite of former education secretary Michael Gove, is imposing 'lunch isolation' on pupils whose parents are behind on payments.

Children who are put in lunch isolation are given a sandwich and piece of fruit instead of their usual hot meal with dessert, and made to sit on their own for the whole lunch hour.

Critics called the measure at Michaela community school, a secondary free school in Wembley, north London, 'stigmatising'.

But Miss Birbalsingh said it was an attempt to encourage parents to 'change their ways' and support their children.

She rose to national prominence when her speech at the 2010 Tory party conference about failing schools provided the backdrop to Mr Gove's sweeping education reforms.

The sanction emerged in a letter from deputy head Barry Smith to Dionne Kelly, who fell behind on meal payments for her 12-year-old son Reon. It read: 'The deadline for this term's lunch payments was 1st June 2016. 'You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed into Lunch Isolation.

'They will receive a sandwich and piece of fruit only. Only when the entire outstanding sum is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates.'

Ms Kelly, an unemployed care worker, said she had already paid the money by the time the letter arrived, but Reon had received the punishment anyway.

She said: 'I found the letter quite threatening. Isolating children for their parents not paying upfront is degrading. It's embarrassing for poor families.' The letter appeared to be addressed to several parents, as it began with the address: 'Dear families', but the school would not say if others had received it.

Ms Kelly, a single mother, received the letter only two weeks after Reon had started at the school. She said she had not yet registered for free school meals, but planned to try to claim the money back.

The school charges meals at £2.50 a day, with payment required upfront. She has now moved Reon to another school.

The school has a traditionalist academic ethos with a long school day: 7.55am-4pm. Full lunch menus at Michaela, which markets itself as having a 'private school ethos' but with 'no fees', include meals such as vegetable bolognaise pasta bake and salad followed by chocolate crunch, or vegetable tikka masala in a jacket potato with iced sponge for dessert.

Miss Birbalsingh admitted that she and Miss Kelly 'did not see eye to eye', and insisted Miss Kelly had not paid for her son's lunches. Miss Birbalsingh added: 'The letter from Barry Smith…was sent in an attempt to encourage mum to change her ways and support her son by paying for his food.

'The vast majority of secondary schools use isolation to discipline children.'

Miss Birbalsingh added that the lunch isolation was part of half a day in isolation imposed because of poor behaviour the day before.

Sam Royston of the Children's Society, said: 'No school should punish and potentially stigmatise a child because a parent has not paid for, or is unable to afford, school meals.  'Schools should be doing everything they can to support parents who may be struggling with the costs of feeding their children.'

Miss Birbalsingh, 43, told the 2010 Tory conference that the education system was 'broken' and 'blinded by leftist ideology'. She lost her job in the backlash that followed and later started up her own free school.


Leaked Emails: The Democratic Party Has No Idea What to Do About Common Core, Will Ignore It

The Common Core national education standards are deeply unpopular with conservatives and left-leaning teachers unions. But since it's not a wedge issue, the Democratic Party has no idea how to exploit it for political gain.

Instead, the party is simply ignoring Common Core altogether, according to internal emails recently leaked by Wikileaks. Eric Walker, a communications director for the DNC, explicitly told staffers that they "should not be touching it at all." Here's the relevant section of his email:

"Common Core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all. Get rid of it.  Most people want local control of education so having Cruz and Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that"

Common Core was a bipartisan reform first backed by the Bush administration and enthusiastically pushed by the Obama administration, which incentivized the states to adopt it. The standards themselves were birthed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal was to create a set of universal math and English standards, but critics contend that Common Core essentially creates a national curriculum—one that has been very poorly implemented.

Conservatives don't like to cede control over educational matters to the feds. But a lot of liberals don't like Common Core, either. That's because it requires teachers to prepare students for high-stakes standardized testing, which they claim undermines their autonomy within the classroom.

Donald Trump has promised to put an end to Common Core. Some states that have formally backed out of the standards actually continue to abide by them—they just don't refer to it as Common Core. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supports Common Core, though it's clear we won't hear her talk about it anytime soon.


Facebook blames its lack of diversity on America's lackluster public education system

Facebook blames its lack of diversity on the scarcity of quality computer science instruction in American public schools.

An annual diversity report released Thursday revealed the social media giant is still staffed with a lot of white men. The numbers indicate only 2 percent of its U.S. workforce is black and 4 percent hispanic, and when looking at technical staff, 1 percent is black and 3 percent hispanic. These figures have remained the same since 2014. Women make up 33 percent of the U.S. workforce; and 17 percent of technical staff.

In a blog post on the data, Maxine Williams, Facebook's global head of diversity, said the company's diversity problem was due to a lack of available talent and the public education system's failure to provide computer science classes.

"It has become clear that at the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system," Williams wrote. "Currently, only 1 in 4 US high schools teach computer science."

Williams goes on to share the low number of diverse students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam, stating that in 2015 seven states had fewer than 10 girls take the test, and no girls took it in three.

She adds, "No Black people took the exam in nine states including Mississippi where about 50% of high school graduates are Black, and 18 states had fewer than 10 Hispanics take the exam with another five states having no Hispanic AP Computer Science (CS) test takers. This has to change."

What's Facebook going to do about this? The company, which has a history with investing in public education, promised $15 million to toward computer science education over the next five years.

"Facebook's five-year commitment will help to drive the development of curricula, public school teacher-training and student skills-building, particularly among traditionally underrepresented populations in engineering and computer science," Williams wrote. "It will give thousands of students across the country the access to computer science they deserve."

Many observers are criticizing the company's response, saying the pipeline argument is a weak excuse.

"There are a ton of opportunities to increase demographic representation in tech companies with the people that already exist in the workforce," Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity consultancy that works with many Silicon Valley firms, told the Wall Street Journal.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Leslie Miley, director of engineering at Slack and an advocate of diversity in Silicon Valley, called Facebook's statement a "f------ insult."

Facebook may still lack diversity, but this year's numbers did show some promise. While current representation in U.S. senior leadership is 3 percent black, 3 percent hispanic and 27 percent women, 9 percent of new senior leadership hires in the U.S. are black, 5 percent hispanic and 29 percent women, Williams wrote. What's more, Asians represent 38 percent of Facebook's U.S. workforce and this number has increased by 2 percent each year.


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