Thursday, December 29, 2016
They Grew Up in a Poor Neighborhood. How School Choice Changed These Brothers’ Lives
Carlos and Calvin Battle grew up in the poorest neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where nearly two-thirds of children are living in poverty. In 2016, only 42 percent of students attending the local public high school graduated.
In an attempt to get her sons a better education, their mother, Pam Battle, enrolled Calvin and Carlos in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
The program provides low-income families vouchers to send their children to private schools, and has shown a promising ability to increase graduation rates. However, many—including teachers unions, the Obama administration, and the education establishment—have worked to shut down the program.
Watch the video to see how the program influenced the Battle family, and to hear why Calvin and Carlos think programs like it could help others succeed not just in school, but in life.
A Georgia college student is suing his school over his First Amendment right to free speech
Lawyers for Georgia Gwinnett College student Chike Uzuegbunam filed a lawsuit against the school on Monday.
Uzuegbunam “believes it is his duty to inform others” of his evangelical Christian beliefs and “for their own benefit, that they have sinned and need salvation through Jesus Christ,” the lawsuit says.
“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” Casey Mattox, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.“That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that [Georgia Gwinnett College] and many other colleges are communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit legal organization representing Uzuegbunam, says the university cannot censor Uzuegbunam because it would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“The First Amendment guarantees every student’s freedom of speech and religion,” Travis Barham, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel, said in a statement. “Every public school—and especially a state college that is supposed to be the ‘marketplace of ideas’—has the duty to protect and promote those freedoms.”
The student says officials at his college restricted his ability to share his faith with other students, limiting him to free speech in a small zone and requested he ask permission in advance to use the space.
The lawsuit claims the college “burdens his free speech because he is prohibited from saying anything that might offend, disturb, or discomfort anyone who happens to hear him lest he be punished for ‘disorderly conduct.’”
All students must submit a free speech zone request three days prior to using the two small speech zones on campus, the lawsuit says. The college has a “Freedom of Expression Policy” that requires students to submit a free speech area request form, along with all publicity materials, for all activities in the designated free speech area.
“Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is committed to providing a forum for free and open expression of divergent points of view by students, student organizations, faculty, staff, and visitors,” the college’s student handbook says. “GGC also recognizes its responsibility to provide a secure learning environment which allows members of the community to express their views in ways which do not disrupt the operation of the college.”
The Freedom of Expression Policy says:
Reasonable limitations may be placed on time, place, and manner of speeches, gatherings, distribution of written materials, and marches in order to serve the interests of health and safety, prevent disruption of the educational process, and protect against the invasion of the rights of others as deemed necessary by Georgia Gwinnett College.
The college defines the free speech zones as “the concrete area/walkway between Student Housing and the Student Center or the concrete in front of the Food Court area, Building A.”
The areas are “generally available from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday,” the handbook says.
“On occasion upon written request, other areas and other times may be authorized, and the college reserves the right to modify the free speech areas based on the operational needs of the institution,” the policy adds.
Alliance Defending Freedom calls the zones “ridiculously” small and says they take up less than 0.0015 percent of the campus.
The school stopped the student named in the lawsuit from handing out religious literature and talking to students about his religion this past summer even after he followed the protocol set by the college, Alliance Defending Freedom claims.
The student claims that in August, he was allegedly following school rules while “preaching the love of Christ.” Campus police stopped him after about 20 minutes because of “some calls” complaining about him, according to the lawsuit.
“If students want to speak—whether through oral or written communication—anywhere else on campus, then they must obtain a permit from college officials,” the lawsuit says. “Thus, students may not speak spontaneously anywhere on campus. If students violate this policy, they violate the college’s Student Code of Conduct and expose themselves to a variety of sanctions, including expulsion.”
A spokeswoman for the college told The Daily Signal that Georgia Gwinnett College is unable to comment on the lawsuit.
“Officials at Georgia Gwinnett College were not notified of the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation,” the spokeswoman told The Daily Signal in an email.
“When Mr. Uzuegbunam tried to share his religious views in one of the speech zones after reserving it for this purpose, defendants required him to stop because his speech had generated complaints [and] informed him that his speech constituted ‘disorderly conduct’ because it had generated complaints,” the lawsuit goes on to say.
The lawsuit requests that the school suspend its policy on free speech zones
Here’s why non-government schools work better
KEVIN DONNELLY comments from Australia:
In 2004, in Why Our Schools are Failing, I argued Australia’s competitive academic curriculum was being "attacked and undermined by a series of ideologically driven changes that have conspired to reduce standards and impose a politically correct, mediocre view of education on our schools”.
Three years later, in Dumbing Down, I repeated the claim, arguing that Australia’s cultural-left education establishment, instead of supporting high-risk examinations, teacher-directed lessons and meritocracy, was redefining the curriculum "as an instrument to bring about equity and social justice”.
At the time the Australian Curriculum Studies Association organised two national conferences involving leading education bureaucrats, professional organisations, teacher unions and like-minded academics to argue all was well and that critics such as the News Corp’s newspapers were guilty of orchestrating a "black media debate” and a "conservative backlash”.
The Australian’s campaign for rigour and standards in education, especially its defence of classic literature and teaching grammar, was condemned by one critic as a "particularly ferocious campaign” that was guilty of wanting "to restore a traditional approach to the teaching of English”.
Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s clear where the truth lies. Despite investing additional billions and implementing a raft of education reforms, Australia’s ranking in international tests is going backwards and too many students are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and culturally impoverished.
In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, Australian students were ranked 22nd; in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, Australian students were ranked 20th in mathematics; and in the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, our Year 4 science students were outperformed by 17 other countries.
Australia’s national curriculum, instead of acknowledging we are a Western liberal democracy and the significance of our Judeo-Christian heritage, embraces cultural relativism and prioritises politically correct indigenous, Asian and sustainability perspectives.
Instead of focusing on the basics, teachers are pressured to teach Marxist-inspired programs such as the LGBTI Safe Schools program where gender is fluid and limitless and Roz Ward, one of the founders, argues: "It will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people.”
What’s to be done? It’s rare that those responsible for failure are capable of choosing the right way forward. Organisations such as ACSA, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research are part of the problem, not the solution.
Instead of education fads and a command-and-control model mandated by such bodies, where schools are made to implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, assessment, accountability and staffing system, schools must be freed from provider capture and given the autonomy to manage themselves.
As argued by Melbourne-based Brian Caldwell: "There is a powerful educational logic to locating a higher level of authority, responsibility and accountability for curriculum, teaching and assessment at the school level. Each school has a unique mix of students in respect to their needs, interests, aptitudes and ambitions; indeed, each classroom has a unique mix.”
The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice.
In a paper this year — The Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement — European research Ludger Woessmann identifies "school autonomy and private competition” as important factors when explaining why some education systems outperform others.
Instead of adopting ineffective fads such as constructivism — where the emphasis is on inquiry-based discovery learning, teachers being guides by the side and content being secondary to process — it is vital to ensure that teacher training and classroom practice are evidence-based.
Not so in Australia, where the dominant approach is based on constructivism.
In opposition, and when arguing in favour of explicit teaching and direct instruction, NSW academic John Sweller states that "there is no aspect of human cognitive architecture that suggests that inquiry-based learning should be superior to direct instructional guidance and much to suggest that it is likely to be inferior”.
American educationalist ED Hirsch and Sweller argue that children must be able to automatically recall what has been taught. Primary schoolchildren, in particular, need to memorise times tables, do mental arithmetic and learn to recite poems and ballads.
After citing several research studies, Hirsch concludes: "Varied and repeated practice leading to rapid recall and automaticity is necessary to higher-order problem-solving skills in both mathematics and the sciences.”
Even though Australia has one of the highest rates of classroom computer use, our results are going backwards.
A recent OECD study concludes "countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”.
At a time when Australia’s education ministers are deciding a new school funding model after 2017, it is also vital to realise investing additional billions, as argued by the AEU and NSW’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, is not the solution. Australia has been down that road across 20 years and standards have failed to improve.
The debate needs to shift from throwing more money after bad, a la Gonski, to identifying the most cost-effective way to use resources to raise standards.
As noted by Eric Hanushek and Woessmann in The Knowledge Capital of Nations, the focus must be on "how money is spent (instead) of how much money is spent”.
And here the research is clear. Stronger performing education systems embrace competition, autonomy, diversity and choice in education, and benchmark their curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning against world’s best practice and evidence-based research.
Teachers set high expectations with a disciplined classroom environment, students are taught to be resilient and motivated to succeed, there is less external micromanagement, and parents are engaged and supportive of their children’s teachers.
As argued in the Review of the Australian National Curriculum I co-chaired, it is also vital to eschew educational fads and new age, politically correct ideology and ensure what is taught is based on what American psychologist Jerome Bruner describes as "the structure of the disciplines”.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:48 AM