Friday, April 01, 2016

Chicago Teachers Throw Students Under the Bus

Friday is April Fools' Day, but the theatrics being staged by unionized teachers in Chicago is no joke. A dispute over new contract provisions has prompted city educators to schedule a walkout at week’s end. For purely selfish reasons, parents will need to make alternative arrangements for nearly 400,000 students while union leaders works to assuage their demands. According to The Daily Signal’s Leah Jessen, “In a contract offered in January, the district sought to phase out a 7-percent pension payment that the school district pays toward a teacher’s required 9-percent pension. The union did not accept the offer.” That’s too bad, because a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided.

Let’s be clear: Chicago teachers already enjoy undue privileges. A report by Illinois Policy Institute’s Ted Dabrowski notes, “According to a 2014 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, Chicago teachers receive the highest lifetime earnings when compared with teachers in the 10 largest school districts in the nation. Those high salaries end up costing CPS twice — first in large payroll costs, then again in higher pension costs.” Some additional facts:

The accrued benefits for all members of the CTPF [Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund] have grown by 400 percent since 1987. That’s an annual rate of 6.1 percent a year, more than twice the rate of inflation and far faster than the growth in incomes of the taxpayers who pay for those pensions. … Not only do Chicagoans already pay more in taxes and fees than residents in any other major Illinois city, they’ve just been hit with a record property-tax and fee increase of more than $700 million annually.
More importantly, these prodigious salaries and higher benefits have not helped students. Heritage Foundation research associate Mary Clare Reim says that “Chicago spends almost $20,000 per student in the public school system, yet students' academic achievements are subpar.” Furthermore, the city suffers a $1.1 billion education budget shortfall. “The city needs to get its fiscal house in order before artificially raising wages for teachers,” Reim rightly adds.

This isn’t the first time Chicago teachers have played this ruse. A Illinois Policy Institute press release adds, “In 2012, teachers walked out of the classroom for more than a week to demand unaffordable salary and benefit increases. Now, the CPS budget is in worse shape, but CTU is exploiting the needs of students to demand even further concessions.”

Violent thugs aren’t the only thing plaguing Chicago. So are greedy and entitled educators who demand increasingly more but with no accountability. Many Democrats argue that keeping troublemakers in schools keeps them out of trouble in the streets. Too bad they aren’t making that possible.


Definitely No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

There is now virtually no area free of the government’s tentacles, and that includes the kitchen. From forcing restaurants to disclose the number of calories in their dishes, to regulating how many ounces of soda can be offered to patrons at any given time, the regulatory state has a more powerful say in what foods and beverages you can or cannot ingest. (Awfully strange considering how often conservatives are accused of invading women’s privacy when it comes to their bodies.) Well, here’s something else to chew on: If the Department of Agriculture gets its way, schools that are deemed nutritionally delinquent could face millions of dollars in fines thanks to Michelle Obama. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama. The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains. A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies. The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.

The proposed rule unwittingly notes, “It is important to note that the statutory scheme only anticipates assessments be established in instances of severe mismanagement of a program, disregard of a program requirement of which the program operator had been informed, or failure to correct repeated violations [emphasis original].” Except everyone — even children running lemonade stands — knows that the government exceeds its authority all the time. So it’s hardly difficult to see the additional problems this would create.

Of course, more students could opt to bring their own lunches. But that raises another question: At what point will the government begin regulating those too? The bottom line is that Michelle Obama, or any first lady for that matter, is not an elected lawmaker. Which means they shouldn’t get to force policies on the rest of us — under threat of legal correction, no less.


Australia: Federal Labor party clueless about schools

Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and Kate Ellis have today demonstrated that Labor either don't have the faintest idea of how our school education system is structured in Australia or that they are hell-bent on telling lies all the way to the election. 

"Malcolm Turnbull has today said that he will abandon school education in this country." - Bill Shorten, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: The Commonwealth doesn't run any schools or employ any teachers. States and territories run 100 per cent of government schools in Australia.

"It [school funding] is a core responsibility of the federal government." - Chris Bowen, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: In 2013-14 the Commonwealth provides just 13 per cent of the average per student funding in a government school. School funding is a core function of the states and territories, who provide 87 per cent of funding. (Source: 2016 Report on Government Services)

"We don't want to see the system broken down into each state and territory having totally different systems, totally different funding models." - Kate Ellis, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: States and territories do run different systems and apply different funding models. For example, 2013-14 per student funding for government schools in Victoria was less than $12,000 but in Western Australia was more than $17,500 for government schools. (Source: 2016 Report on Government Services)

Labor love a system where accountability is blurred and the buck can always be passed from one level of government to another. 

Labor’s implementation of the Gonski model resulted in 27 different funding arrangements with government and non-government sectors, resulting in different payment levels depending on the deal they could get out of Bill Shorten on the eve of the 2013 election.

However, Australians deserve better than a further blurring of the lines in school education and the pretence that funding is the only thing that matters. 

The Turnbull Government wants to deliver clarity, accountability and the incentive for our school systems to innovate and be their absolute best rather than being strangled by multiple levels of government bureaucracy.

Press release from Senator Birmingham

Thursday, March 31, 2016

UK: Militant teachers demand schools stop promoting 'British values' as it makes children from other cultures feel inferior

Teachers are demanding that schools stop promoting 'fundamental British values' over claims it could make children think other cultures are inferior.

The National Union of Teachers said telling children about the country's democracy, law and traditions could encourage 'cultural supremacy' and urged a new focus on 'international human rights' instead.

Under government guidelines, which are aimed at tackling extremism in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal, children must be taught about being a British citizen as well as tolerance other faiths and lifestyles.

However, union leaders said the term was demeaning to other cultures 'particularly in the context of multicultural schools and the wider picture of migration'.

Delegates passed a motion in favour of campaigning to scrap it during the NUT annual conference in Brighton today.

Christopher Denson, an NUT representative from Coventry, said: 'We need to fight to reject this notion of British values, to fight for notions of human values and human rights.

'We have to stand together across communities to bring down barriers, bring down borders, to say no to Islamophobia, no to anti-Semitism, no to fascism and any form of racism.'

The motion said that migrants make a 'huge economic, political and social contribution' to the country and that public services and businesses would 'face severe difficulties' without them.

It criticised the government for only taking in a 'minute fraction' of refugees and vowed to campaign for 'policies that welcome' them to the country.

The union agreed to 'gather and collate' teaching materials on migrants and refugees for members to use in classrooms from now on.

Mr Denson said he disliked using the term 'fundamental British values' in his classroom when many of his pupils had ancestry in countries which had encountered British colonialism.

He said: 'The inherent cultural supremacism in that term is both unnecessary and unacceptable.

'And seen with the Prevent agenda, it belies the most thinly veiled racism and a conscious effort to divide communities.'

He added: 'It's our duty to push real anti-racist work in all schools. And that doesn't mean talk of tolerating other's views, but genuine, inclusive anti-racist work.'

He said he had requested a week of themed assemblies every year in his school, with topics including apartheid and the rise of Islamophobia 'in the context of anti-Semitism in the 1930s'.

'This year we focussed on the migrant crisis in Calais, the Mediterranean and beyond,' he added.

'We organised a politics day for Year 8s [aged 12 to 13] in the week before Easter.

'They had a day to form a political party in their tutor groups to come up with a manifesto, film a broadcast, and make banners and take part in a debate.

'Apart from the quality of the work, the other thing that really made my proud was that every single tutor group had as a policy, 'refugees welcome, open the borders'.

'We need to be pushing at every level for anti-racism to be in the core curriculum for every child.'

Many of the activists at the conference said they had been to migrant camps over the channel to take food and provisions.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT said: 'Schools and teachers play a key role in welcoming migrant and refugee children and young people to this country, and supporting their progress within schools.

'The NUT condemns the Government's inadequate response to the current migrant situation, which has exacerbated the suffering for so many, including school-age children and young people.

'The NUT has produced a guide to Welcoming Refugee Children to your School and has a dedicated section on its website for teaching resources which have been provided by teachers for teachers, on the issue.

'The NUT will continue to work with Show Racism the Red Card, Hope Not Hate and others, to campaign for Government policies that welcome migrants and refugees to this country. The NUT will also continue to press for anti-racism work to be enshrined within the curriculum of all schools.'

The requirement on schools to teach fundamental British values was introduced in 2014 in a bid to crack down on extremism in schools.

It followed the Trojan Horse scandal, in which state schools in Birmingham were infiltrated by hardliners who tried to impose an Islamic agenda.

Ofsted, the schools regulator, has been penalising schools which do not sufficiently show that they are promoting British values.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Teachers should not be playing the role of fifth columnists in the ideological war currently being fought over our national identity and our national sovereignty.

'Teaching children that British values are part of "cultural supremacism" will, at best, make them feel guilty about being British and, at worst, radicalise them in order to 'make up' for the sins of their fathers.

'If one wishes to destroy a nation and build a "brave new world" you begin by indoctrinating and brainwashing the children.

'This process of 're-education' has started some years ago in our schools and we are, now, seeing its consequences in the suppression of free speech on our university campuses.

'The notion of 'value relativism' - that all views are equally valid - has reached saturation point in our schools.

'In many classrooms this has led to the views of terrorists being given equal weight to those of the victim of terrorism. Against this background the latest motions from the NUT come as no surprise, at all.'


Glenn Reynolds: How PC culture is killing higher education

Universities like Emory trivialize education by rewarding politically correct student dictators

If I were to offer one piece of advice to university presidents, it would be to watch the scene from The Social Network in which Harvard President Larry Summers tells the Winklevoss twins to grow up and stop complaining about the actions of other students. “This action,” says Summers, “the two of you being here, is wrong.”

That’s precisely the response that university presidents should give to students who come, claiming fear and trembling, to see university presidents because they’re unhappy with the speech of other students. Instead, all too often, these students are indulged in a way that the Winklevoss twins were not, with consequences for the university, for higher education — and, actually for the complaining students themselves — that are likely to prove disastrous.

The latest example of this phenomenon can be found at Emory University in Atlanta.

At Emory, students of the “social justice” variety were upset when someone chalked ”Trump 2016” on sidewalks. The students announced that they felt “fear” and “pain” as a result. The students challenged the administration; one student demanded that it “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate.” According to TheEmory Wheel, another student complained: “I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe (here). But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school.”

Emory President James Wagner at first showed a bit of resistance, but quickly caved, promising to identify and discipline the authors of the offending pro-Trump writings. TheEmory Wheel reported, "The University will review footage 'up by the hospital [from] security cameras' to identify those who made the chalkings, Wagner told the protesters. He also added that if they’re students, they will go through the conduct violation process, while if they are from outside of the University, trespassing charges will be pressed."

As New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal wrote, this response was “extremely creepy, and a sign that something has gone seriously wrong.”

Writing in The Atlantic,Conor Friedersdorf noted that this sort of embarrassing student “activism” is actually fueling Trump’s rise. And as Reason’s Robby Soave commented: “No wonder so many non-liberal students are cheering for Trump — not because they like him, but because he represents glorious resistance to the noxious political correctness and censorship that has come to define the modern college experience.”

But Friedersdorf makes another point, one that college presidents should keep in mind: The Emory protesters managed to fill a conference room and meet with Emory President James Wagner, but they don’t actually represent the feelings of Emory students overall. He observes: “On Yik Yak, a social media app popular among college students in large part because it permits anonymous speech, the Emory student reaction to the chalk controversy wasn’t mixed, as often happens when one views that platform during a campus controversy. It was clearly, overwhelmingly antagonistic to the student activists.”

Freed from a fear that student “activists” — and their allies in the university’s Student Life and Diversity offices — might punish them, students expressed their true feelings, and they demonstrate that the “activists” are a small, unrepresentative slice that is being indulged at the expense of the university as a whole. (This is probably why so many campus administrations and activists don’t like Yik Yak: It allows students to express themselves without fear of repercussions.)

And indulging those activists is dangerous to universities because it makes them ridiculous. As Friedersdorf also notes, Emory and its “fearful” students were widely mocked, even in the liberal press. And they deserved to be mocked, because their behavior was childish and silly.

Higher education already faces falling enrollments, reduced public support and a general decline in public esteem. In Connecticut, the state legislature is even looking at taxing the enormous endowment of Yale University. Universities used to be revered, but now, as Walter Russell Mead writes, “From the point of view of much of the public, highly-endowed colleges are becoming an underperforming asset: The feeling is growing that elite fat cat universities are an expensive luxury, and that the money spent propping up their endowments would be better spent buying school lunches for needy kids, or topping off up the pensions of retired civil servants.”

When students at Emory University — annual cost of attendance, $63,058 per year — act so foolishly , and worse, are indulged by those who are supposed to supply adult guidance, it gives the appearance that higher education is largely a waste of societal resources. That’s not a good place to be, right now. University presidents, take note.


'Precariat' generation missing out on Australian lifestyle

The story below is probably correct.  It is one of many stories that report on the unemployability of many young people today.  And where lies the blame for that?  Squarely on the Left-dominated educational system with its emphasis on saving the planet and glorifying homosexuality.

 Kids are encouraged to embark on studies that lead nowhere.  Take the kid used as an example below.  What did he do his degree in? "Contemporary music". Making money as a musician has always been a grind.  It's an oversupplied market. I knew a lot of musicians once and they were all usually "skint". 

My son shows how it can be if you have useful skills.  He was "headhunted" during his very first job interview by a member of the interviewing panel and given a job immediately.  So what are his skills?  He is an IT professional.  He is at ease writing multiple computer programming languages.  And such skills don't necessarily take long to acquire.  I learnt to program computers in the FORTRAN language from a course that consisted of just 4 mornings.

Young Australians have fewer opportunities for full-time work and affordable housing, creating a new "precariat" social class lacking security and predictability, according to a new book.

Jennifer Rayner, author of Generation Less: How Australia is Cheating the Young, said policies skewed towards the older generation dramatically increased disparities between the young and the old.

This, she said, had placed an "enduring handicap" on those born from the 1980s onwards.

"There have always been gaps between younger people and older people in Australia, and that's true everywhere because young people are starting out in life, because they haven't had as much time in the workforce," Ms Rayner said.

"But over the last 30 years in Australia what has happened is that all of those gaps are getting wider.

"What the data shows is that young people are going backwards compared to the people the same age 15 years ago."

Less than one in 30 young people reported being underemployed in the 1970s. But that figure now stood at about one in six, Ms Rayner said.

The number of young people working casually also jumped from 34 per cent in 1992 to 50 per cent in 2013.

Over the same period, the percentage of people working without entitlements in their 40s and 50s barely moved.

Unless policies around housing and the casualisation of the workforce changed, the disadvantage would become entrenched, Ms Rayner said.

"The fact that all of these trends and factors are ganging up on young people means that their experience of being an Australian is basically different from other generations," she said.

"The [youth] are currently part of the precariat and they will find themselves locked in there as they grow older, if these trends continue, and if nothing changes in their circumstances."

Ms Rayner said instability affected the material and emotional wellbeing of the young.

Something that 26-year-old Sam Johnston knows only too well. Mr Johnston moved to Melbourne in 2015 with his girlfriend Edie after a year travelling overseas.

He failed to find full-time work, but a bachelor's degree in contemporary music and a graduate diploma in education from Southern Cross University in NSW means he has a debt of about $30,000 "hanging over his head".

Mr Johnston said he "gave up" looking for full-time work in the "depth of winter" and was now focused on his gigs, which were easier to get. He also volunteers as a teacher's aide and tutors students to gain experience.

But the lack of income and the absence of a community in the new city has taken a toll.  "I had a bout with depression last year which lasted nine months," Mr Johnston said.  "I am still on antidepressants now, which is coming to a close very shortly."

Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said the book's finding was consistent with the institute's research.

"There is a real danger of a generation that will be less well off than its parents," Mr Daley said.

"You can see it in an older cohort that has much more wealth than their predecessors, whereas wealth in younger households is not going up very fast.

"You see it in incomes, you see it in ... very rapidly falling rates of home ownerships."

Several factors, including rapidly falling interest rates, an age-based tax, welfare, and superannuation system geared towards older workers, were responsible for the situation, Mr Daley said.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Racial aspects tinge Mass. charter debate

When the campaign to create more charter schools kicked off with a State House rally last fall, black and Latino charter school parents gave emotional testimony about the importance of the schools to their families.

Political operatives at the rally agreed, saying that bringing high-quality education to urban areas is the civil rights issue of our time.

But when charter school opponents formally launched a campaign of their own on the State House steps two weeks ago, the first speaker was the president of the New England Area Council of the NAACP. Juan Cofield warned that charter schools are sapping resources from the traditional schools that serve most minority students, and creating a two-track system.

“As Brown vs. the Board of Education taught us,” he said, invoking the landmark school desegregation case, “a dual school system is inherently unequal.”

The high-stakes fight over lifting the state’s cap on charter schools has become highly racialized, making one of the most contentious political contests in Massachusetts’ recent history even more tense.

The debate has raised uncomfortable questions about charter school discipline of black children. It has left white liberals who oppose charter school growth in an awkward standoff with parents of color who support it. And it has put left-leaning politicians in a difficult spot.

“The hardest moments [in politics] are when it’s not clear what the right thing to do is, and this issue really pushes those buttons,” said state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who cochairs the Legislature’s education committee. “You have very sympathetic, righteous people — parents — on both sides, saying, ‘Look, I just need you to help me help my kid.’ ”

At issue is a proposed Massachusetts ballot question that would allow for the creation or expansion of 12 charter schools per year, with a preference for proposals in the lowest-performing districts. The measure, if approved by voters in November, would allow for significant additions to the state’s existing stock of 81 charter schools.

A small group of senators is trying to work out legislation that could appease both sides in the debate and keep the question off the November ballot — possibly pairing a modest charter expansion with changes in charter school law favored by critics.

The battle promises to be enormously divisive, with both sides pledging to spend millions if the issue goes to the ballot.

Mostly white business leaders and hedge fund executives are bankrolling the pro-charter campaign. The largely white teachers union leadership brings much of the anti-charter money to the table.

But minority communities may be most affected by the debate. Last year, 58 percent of Massachusetts charter school students were black and Latino, compared with 27 percent in schools statewide.

Even in Boston and cities like Lawrence and Lynn, charter schools serve larger proportions of minority students than traditional public schools. In some urban charter schools, more than 90 percent of students are black and Latino.

That sort of racial isolation has raised deep concern, in some parts of the country, about charter schools exacerbating segregation — especially because charters serving large minority populations are often among the lowest performing.

But that concern is muted in Massachusetts, which has some of the highest performing charter schools in the nation — including many serving black and Latino students. Some parents, in fact, say they feel more comfortable in academically rigorous, heavily minority schools than in schools with whiter student bodies.

Shaleea Vass-Bender, 38, an administrative assistant who grew up in Mattapan, attended suburban schools as a child through the state’s Metco program. In the fourth grade, she said, administrators suggested she take remedial classes — a move her parents resisted after independent testing showed she was performing above grade level.

When her own son got into Metco, Vass-Bender said, he tested above average but was told to attend summer school before classes began.

“I said, ‘No, I’m raising a little black boy and I know how hard he works, I know the preschool education that I gave him, and I know how much I’ve invested in him,’ ” she said. “ ‘I will not have him quickly tracked as being a student who needs extra help.’ ”

Vass-Bender chose, instead, to send her son to Edward Brooke Charter School in Mattapan, part of a network of three Boston charters serving mostly black and Latino students that have some of the highest test scores in the state.

The trouble, critics say, is charter schools like Edward Brooke are sapping committed parents, talented students, and millions of dollars in state funding from traditional public schools that serve the bulk of black and Latino students.

Charter operators counter that their schools are open to all, through a lottery system, and serve large numbers of students from low-income, single-parent homes.

And many of their most outspoken critics, they complain, are white activists from expensive Boston neighborhoods who have more high-quality schools at their disposal than the black and Latino parents filling up the charter school waiting lists.

Megan Wolf of Jamaica Plain, who belongs to a group called Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST) that is a leading critic of charter schools, said her organization is sensitive to the fact that much of its membership is white.

But QUEST, she said, works closely with groups like the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts, an advocacy group composed of teachers, administrators, parents, and students. And it is the people behind the pro-charter movement, she argued, who are disconnected from the on-the-ground reality.

“I think it is interesting that a lot of people who are leading the charter debate have no children in the Boston Public Schools at all and are white, privileged, and leading investment firms,” she said.

One of the most contentious issues is the discipline largely white charter school staffs mete out to mostly black and Latino students.

Marlena Rose, coordinator for the Boston Education Justice Alliance, raised the issue during the charter opponents’ State House rally, saying her own daughter had struggled at a charter school under “an unbearable discipline system that shamed and embarrassed her and her friends” with demerits for minor infractions.

“To this day, I feel like I placed my child in emotional harm’s way,” she said, “because she eventually shut down in the charter environment.”

Charter schools have some of the highest suspension rates in the state, with several suspending around 40 percent of their students for at least one day during the 2014-2015 school year. And activists say the suspensions can alienate students from school and send them spiraling — feeding what they call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

But while national research shows suspensions have deleterious effects, local charter school advocates say there is little evidence of systemic harm here. While Boston charters have a higher suspension rate than traditional public schools, they also have a higher “stability” rate. That means charter school students are more likely than traditional public school students to finish the year at the school where they started, rather than transferring or dropping out.

Jon Clark, network codirector for the Edward Brooke schools, said many charters use suspensions as one-day “timeouts” that help to build the safe, strong culture parents crave — signaling, particularly at the beginning of the year, that harassment and cheating are not allowed.

Clark said Edward Brooke students who are suspended at least once during the year are no more likely to withdraw from school than those who are not suspended, according to internal data.

But Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and author of a recent national study on discipline at charter schools, said more research is needed to verify Massachusetts charters’ claims that suspensions are not doing long-term damage.

“If they’re going to make assertions like that,” he said, “it counters everything we know” about the impact of suspensions nationwide.

This sort of debate, over the approach and effectiveness of charter schools, could go a long way toward determining whether more will be allowed in the state. Pro-expansion operatives say their polling shows that white, suburban voters believe, for now, that inner-city schools are struggling and view charter schools as a strong alternative.

Opponents say they can convince those voters that opening more charter schools means draining resources from the majority of black and brown students, who attend traditional public schools.

“Even if [charters] are doing better, it’s better for the few,” said Cofield, of the NAACP. “Society ought to be concerned about the many.”



UK:  'Axe the Ofsted bullies': Teachers call for school inspections to be scrapped because they cause too much stress for staff

Teachers just hate any evaluation of their work

Teachers have called for an end to schools inspections by Ofsted because they cause too much work and anxiety for staff.  The National Union of Teachers said the regulator put undue pressure on schools, which often live in fear of ‘the dreaded phone call’.

One activist said it acted like an ‘ogre’ and a ‘bully’ and left teachers in fear of the ‘ever-circling vulture that is Ofsted’.

They voted today in favour of scrapping the watchdog, and replacing it with a ‘proper system of accountability’.

Alternatives suggested by teaching unions in the past have included peer-to-peer regulation, but this has been branded ‘soft’ by critics.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, advocated a new system which involves ‘self-evaluation’, formulated ‘in discussion with the profession’.

She said: ‘Ofsted is one of the causes of unsustainable levels of pressure and workload for teachers, heads and pupils.

‘Teachers are professionals who strive to improve teaching and learning in their school, and want to provide the best outcomes for their students. School inspection models must assist in this.

‘Teachers need to have confidence in the inspectorate, the reliability of its judgements, and its capacity to support schools and promote improvement.

‘Instead, Ofsted is having a negative impact on children’s education, disrupting important planned activities, and causing additional stress and pressure. It is not fit for purpose.’

Members voted to speak with the Labour Party to lobby for a new system, and ask them to scrap Ofsted if they win the next election.

Teacher Mark Slatter, from West Sussex, seconding the motion, said his school was ‘expecting the dreaded phone call, any time now, saying Ofsted will be coming’.

He said: ‘Even before they arrive, my head teacher informs me that we cannot get “outstanding” or even “good” because of past and predicted results.

‘What kind of system prejudges a school and assumes it requires improvement before it even steps over the threshold?’

He said teachers in departments in need of improvement have not been given any indication on how they can become better.

NUT Executive member Amanda Martin, presenting an amendment to continue to build support for alternative models of school accountability, described Ofsted as ‘the big bully, the ogre, the workload creator, who causes anxiety, fear and worry, the ever-circling vulture that is Ofsted’.

She said: ‘The amendment calls for Ofsted to be abolished. Not because we don't want to be made accountable, but simply because it is not fit for purpose.’

The motion described Ofsted as ‘a political tool", ‘used increasingly to drive a narrow and reactionary vision of education’.

It said the watchdog had ‘no place in any proper system of school accountability’ and should be immediately stopped.


Detroit Charter Schools Bring Hope for City

Are the charter schools in the Motor City bringing about a renaissance of sorts? You can scroll through pictures of the urban decay creeping through the buildings of Detroit. The schools were just as dismal. In January, the teachers' union for the city, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, sued to remove the emergency manager because it was dissatisfied with how he was doing his job. Detroit schoolchildren went to school and dodged leaky roofs and cockroaches. You can imagine the kind of education provided in places like that.

Recently, Washington Examiner commentator Jason Russell wrote about two charter schools that renovated old buildings and started providing a different public education, one with science labs, guest speakers and health centers. “Not all charter schools are created equal. … Nor would I say charter schools are the answer for everything,” said Kimberly Solomon, principal of University Prep Science & Math Elementary School. “I believe in choice, and I believe that charter schools offer that choice for parents who may not be pleased with the school that’s immediately in their district.”

Just think, for all the good charter schools are doing for students, teachers' unions want to regulate them away, like what they’re doing in New York. But as the results show: Freedom and competition are good for students, whether they are in New York, Detroit, or anywhere in between.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

British headteachers tell staff to use pink ink when they are marking because it is ‘less aggressive’ than red so children will not feel like a failure

Teachers have complained about a ‘ridiculous’ marking system which forces them to use pink ink for negative comments because it is ‘less aggressive’ than red.

The bizarre system is being implemented by some headteachers who believe pink is a softer colour which will make children feel less like failures.

Many are also making staff use up to six different coloured pens to give different types of feedback to pupils as part of a ‘triple’ or ‘deep’ marking strategy.

In one example, a school has asked pupils to respond to teachers’ comments in purple or blue, and if teachers want to give encouragement they have been told to use a ‘positive’ green pen.

It is thought the system was inspired by Marking Matters, a guide from Ofsted, the schools regulator, issued in 2011 but withdrawn last year.

At the conference of the NASUWT teaching union in Birmingham at the weekend, teachers voted to escalate industrial action over the pressures of the marking system.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘Too many schools are continuing to impose marking regimes which pupils and teachers find debilitating.

‘Teachers are being subjected to policies which dictate when to mark, how to mark and even the colours of the pens to be used.’

Michael Parsons, who teaches at Roath Park Primary School in Cardiff, said his school uses a system of pink and green pens for marking.

He said: ‘It’s green for growth and pink for progress. To be honest it’s lost on me . . . and I know it’s lost on the children.’

Lee Williscroft-Ferris, a modern languages teacher from Durham, said that in one school he worked at he had to draw a pink box at the end of each piece and insert positive comments in green ink and suggestions for improvement in pink.

According to a recent survey, primary teachers on average spend 10 hours a week on marking.

The government this weekend accepted recommendations made in an independent report to encourage teachers to give more verbal feedback in lessons.

Teachers have long complained that the complicated marking systems create unnecessary extra work and detract from actual teaching.

It is understood heads have adopted them so that they have written evidence of rigorous feedback to show to Ofsted inspectors.  But education secretary Nicky Morgan is against the practise and is working on strategies to reduce teacher workload.

A source close to Mrs Morgan told the Sunday Times: ‘The notion that we expect books to be marked in a particular colour of ink is ridiculous.’


Mass.: At private schools, a surge of Chinese students

EVERETT — Pope John XXIII High School once epitomized the parochial school experience, a concrete building where hundreds of poor Catholic children from Irish and Italian immigrant families sought a new future. For decades, a student from farther away than Malden or Chelsea stood out. ​

Walk through the same doors now, and the tones of Mandarin Chinese bounce off the lockers. International flags fly between stained glass windows in a chapel-turned-dining hall. In one classroom, a crucifix hangs over a bookshelf with a Chinese dictionary — a reminder that almost half the school’s population hails from abroad. Three-quarters of those students come from China.

Chinese students have flocked to US universities for nearly 40 years. But as that country’s middle class balloons and competition for college acceptance rises, some families aim to jump-start the process by sending children abroad as early as junior high. This influx has spurred a side industry ripe for exploitation and shifted the makeup of secondary schools nationwide, particularly in private-school hubs like New England.

Elite boarding schools have found the surge so great that many are attempting to maintain a balance by accepting fewer Chinese. But many day schools, faced with financial pressures, have seized on the opportunity to enroll full-tuition students through partnerships with recruitment agencies, new dorms, and rejiggered curriculums.

“This school is not the school that was here in the 1980s,” said Tom Ryan, head of school at Pope John XXIII.

Chinese made up 35 percent of the 92,000 foreign secondary school students in the United States in 2015, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, by far the largest group studying here. The number of international students in New England alone rose from more than 9,000 in 2010 to nearly 14,000 last year.

International enrollment at the Newman School in the Back Bay shot up from 29 percent to 36 percent in the past five years, with 70 percent of those Chinese. The MacDuffie School in Granby has more than doubled its international population in the past four years, to 160 out of 297 students total.

Lexington Christian Academy recently acquired a dormitory, largely for international students who pay $61,860 a year for tuition and housing. In 2011, Pope John XXIII officials converted the school’s fifth-floor convent into a dormitory for foreign students. Tuition there is $9,500 annually, plus about $30,000 for room and board.

This new wave of Chinese students, even as they seek educational opportunity, is also more vulnerable because they leave their families at a young age, travel halfway across the world, and juggle the insecurities of teenage years in a country they don’t understand.

Some of these so-called parachute kids sink, but many do master a system of teaching much different than they knew, improve their English, diversify traditionally monochrome campuses, and better situate themselves to attend a US university. And yet the transition can feel jarring.

“The first day I arrived at my host family’s, I shut the door all day and stayed in my room,” said Ran Yixin, who entered George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, as a hesitant 17-year-old sophomore.

Then the south China native started watching football games with her host father, joined the cheerleading squad, volunteered at a local church, and became a discerning lobster eater. She graduated last year and now attends Bunker Hill Community College.

“You need to be versatile; you can’t be only good at studying,” said Ran, who like many international students, bounced between host families.

The desire to attend a US college often drives families, but, like Ran, many also seek to avoid the rigidity of the Chinese education system.

Most public school students in China focus their academic career on passing a single test, the national college entrance exam, which is taken in their senior year. Students study long hours, and their score on this test, called the gaokao, determines where they go to college and what majors they pursue.

This method, while prized for its rigor, leaves little time for hobbies or self-examination.

“The education system in China is quite harmful for personal interest,” said Ran’s father, Ran Qihui, who paid about $46,000 a year for the US private high school.

Some Chinese parents worry the American approach, which emphasizes extracurriculars and encourages students to follow their passions, fails to instill the same level of academic skills as the Chinese model.

Unless parents can afford to accompany their children, it also tears families apart at the child’s most formative age.

“It’s like they start college four years earlier,” said Tracy Ren, a Beijing mother whose son went to Choate Rosemary Hall, the same Connecticut boarding school President John F. Kennedy attended. “If you want to send [your kids abroad] at 14, they’re gone.”

Ren helps run a parental support group on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app, that translates to “Circle of Moms who want to Send their Kids to the US.” It has 50,000 followers.

Many of these are parents like Robby Yang, caught between keeping a child nearby and encouraging them to leave. Any reservations the Chinese father had about sending his son abroad ended when the boy started elementary school in Beijing.

He noticed that parents were asking the teacher what supplemental material they should buy for their 7-year-olds, in addition to after-school English classes and regular homework.

Yang tried to ignore the intensity of his son’s kindergarten, where some of the kids could read novels. But the child would cry because he couldn’t list addition tables or write as many Chinese characters as the others.

“This kind of competition is everywhere,” said Yang, who works on the investment side of Pearson, a multinational education and publishing company, and commutes three hours a day so his son can attend a well-regarded school.

Schools acknowledge that revenue from these full-paying students motivates their recruitment. Many also hope to cultivate affluent international families into donors.

But administrators also say the influx is reshaping classrooms that historically have lacked diversity.

“We’re going to end up with a population of students who maybe aren’t so interested in putting a wall around their own country,” said Steven Griffin, head of school at the MacDuffie School.

An entire industry, both in the United States and China, has sprung up to funnel young foreign students to American prep schools.

Fees can run as high as $50,000 for an agent to guide a family through the admissions process. Many of these businesses make additional profit by housing students in makeshift dorms or placing them with host families.

Schools use agents because they believe it lends legitimacy to students’ applications. But it also makes for unusually close partnerships between admissions officers and businesses, with money as a primary incentive.

“International students are a very lucrative market,” said Xi Zhang, founder of Boston-based, a website that provides information in Chinese about US secondary schools. “Although they can claim ‘I want to make sure our student body is diverse,’ lots of schools are doing this for the money.”

The MacDuffie School finds 80 percent of its international students through agents, Griffin said. The school pays agents a cut, 10 percent of the $51,000 tuition that schools receive from the family the first year, and 5 percent in subsequent years.

Sparhawk School, an Amesbury day school, requires students from China, Vietnam, and Korea to apply through the Cambridge Institute for International Education, a recruiting company whose affiliate operates the school’s new dormitory in nearby Haverhill. The Waltham-based company, founded less than a decade ago, partners with more than 200 private and public high schools and universities, one of the largest agencies of its kind.

Although third-party companies assist many families with the unfamiliar process, some also manipulate naive parents eager to see their children succeed.

While the surge in international students brings more diversity of thought, it also threatens to shift the demographics too far in one direction, Upham said. His association has started a national campaign to encourage boarding schools to enroll more domestic students — 2,020 more by the year 2020.

Meanwhile, the region’s elite prep schools, with their larger endowments, face less pressure to recruit international students.

Enrolling too many foreign students can backfire, said Chris Blondin, associate admissions director at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, which has 17 Chinese students out of 400 total. Chinese families aren’t attracted to schools that look too much like home, he said.

In coming years, the Newman School aims to reverse strategy and recruit more US students.

Headmaster Harry Lynch is proud of Newman’s global reputation, but he frequently hears that the school is not well-known in Boston.

Lynch sat in his office one recent afternoon surrounded by stacks of American textbooks. The bell rang and students from around the world raced past his open door to class. “When I look at the future of the school,” Lynch said, “it has to rebalance.”


Australia: Federal Labor party MPs Lobby Sydney University To Maintain  Antisemitic "Centre"

Pressure is mounting on the University of Sydney to back away from planned changes to its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), with Federal Labor MPs writing to the University and urging it to reconsider.

In a letter seen by New Matilda, three Federal MPs and four of their state counterparts have implored the institution not to “downgrade” the Centre into a mini-department.

The CPACS is headed by Associate-Professor Jake Lynch, and has campaigned outside of the classroom on a number of issues. Lynch and others involved in the Centre are concerned the changes to its structure will threaten that side of its operations.

So too are Federal MPs Melissa Parke, Maria Vamvakinou, and Laurie Ferguson, who along with state MPs Paul Lynch, Julia Finn, Lynda Voltz, and Shaoquett Moselmane have signed a letter protesting the restructure and sent to the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Professor Barbara Caine.

“CPACS’s efforts to promote debate on issues like accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka, West Papua, Palestine and human rights generally provide the Australian and the global community with a sophisticated, alternative voice on topical and difficult issues, as reflected in acclamations for CPACS’ work by the likes of Dr Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” their letter says.

The letter goes on to urge the University to reconsider changing the Centre’s status.

“It cannot be good for our democracy and academic reputation to attenuate such voices. It would be particularly disturbing if a prestigious institution like Sydney University, by the simple expedient of withdrawing resources from CPACS, is seen to supress reflection and debate on important, even controversial, matters.”

The move follows similar action from NSW state Greens MPs, who wrote to the University earlier in the week warning the changes to the Centre could look like a ‘politically motivated attack’ to the broader community.

After being contacted for comment today, a spokesperson for University said they did not comment on correspondence with MPs. The University has previously argued the changes to the Centre are due to falling enrolments, but that has been disputed by Lynch.

Lynch has previously been the subject of controversy thanks to his support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions campaign. MPs who signed the letter, including Federal members Melissa Parke and Maria Vamvakinou, have been among Labor’s most outspoken supporters of Palestine.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg REFUSES to condemn stoning of women in university talk

An agitator from the organisation that backed Jihadi John has failed to condemn the stoning of women during a controversial lecture at an elite university.

Moazzam Begg, outreach director for CAGE, spoke at the University of Exeter as part a National Union of Students campaign to sabotage government counter-terrorism measures.

It is just the latest in a long line of appearances on campuses by the group, which recently provoked horror after calling the Islamic State killer a 'beautiful young man'.

They are working with members of the NUS to urge a boycott of the Prevent scheme, which requires academics to look out for signs of radicalism.

Yesterday, critics voiced their disquiet that Mr Begg was given an unchallenged platform to preach his views to more than 750 students at Exeter.

A video posted online shows he repeatedly refused to denounce the punishment of stoning for adulteresses when challenged by a student.

Anthony Glees, a terror expert at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘It's sickening that Exeter University has allowed Moazzam Begg onto to its campus to incite students to oppose Prevent.

‘It is high time universities stopped the NUS and Begg from exploiting our tradition of lawful free speech and misleading students about how best to keep Britain safe from Islamist extremists.

‘Opening the door to Begg will close the minds of our students making Britain less safe and less free.’

Mr Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, spoke last Wednesday at the ‘Students Not Suspects’ event, organised by the university Socialist, Feminist and Islamic Societies in partnership with Friends of Palestine.

Also on the four-seat panel was Shelly Asquith, the NUS’s vice-president for welfare, who is a key anti-Prevent campaigner and Jeremy Corbyn activist.

One student questioned Mr Begg over an interview he gave to Julian Assange alongside CAGE research director Asim Qureshi.

In the interview, Mr Qureshi stated that, if all conditions were met, a women could be stoned to death for adultery.

At first, Mr Begg dismissed the question as a ‘red herring’ and denied Qureshi had supported stoning adulteresses.  But after more prompting, he said: ‘The reason why I'm here is because of what was done to me.  ‘I'm here because of Guantanamo.  ‘I'm here because of terrorism and the effects of anti-terror legislation.

‘I’m terms of asking Qureshi’s personal views and so forth you can ask him whenever you get the chance to speak to him.

‘As far as I’m concerned, I’m very clear. I don't know anyone who's been stoned to death in the UK, I don't know anyone who's been tried as adulterers in the UK, I don't know anybody who's applying those rules in the UK, and that's what I’m concerned with.'

Gray Sergeant, of Student Rights, a project run by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, was present at the event and said CAGE was an inappropriate group to invite onto campus.

He said: ‘The NUS "Students Not Suspects" tour has given CAGE an unchallenged platform at universities across the UK despite the group’s history of defending convicted terrorists.  ‘Campuses should be places for robust debate, not for misinformation to be spread without opposition.’

An NUS spokesman said the event was not organised by the NUS and that ‘individual officers’ were attending in a personal capacity.

They added: ‘NUS does not work with CAGE. Individuals associated with CAGE have made comments which contradict NUS’ policies, on anti-Semitism and violence against women.’

Exeter student union vice-president of welfare and diversity, Naomi Armstrong, said CAGE were ‘misguided’ and that the union had played ‘no part’ in inviting them.

However, she said: ‘We have never blocked any event from external speakers in over ten years and free speech and debate are important values to us, even if we don't agree with what people themselves say.’

A University spokesman said: ‘At Exeter we are working hard to comply with the expectations of the statutory Prevent duty within the context of our particular environmental risks, while also rigorously defending academic freedom and the right of students and staff to freedom of speech and other legislation such at the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.

‘We understand that speakers and events play an integral role in the learning environment and are a valuable contribution to the student experience.

‘We will protect the right to debate openly and freely and will always seek to allow events to go ahead providing they are within the law.’

Responding to the criticism about his appearance at Exeter, Moazzam Begg said yesterday in a statement: ‘I was not asked to condemn stoning (of men or women) - the recording clearly shows this.

‘I was asked to disassociate with the view of my colleague Asim Qureshi regarding his views of someone else and, their view of his view on stoning.

‘This is bizarre because Mr. Qureshi has said: "...from an evidentiary perspective, it [adultery] is almost impossible to establish...the fact that you even have a punishment [stoning of adulterers] taking place means that the rule of law is being abused at some point because its impossible to establish that evidentiary standard."

‘This is a concerted attempt once again to smear those brave voices who challenge the growth of the surveillance State and the government attack on dissent.

‘CAGE is proud of its role in this growing global movement that crosses boundaries that have often been used to divide by the same security State.’


UK: Homosexual  men accused of "oppressive behaviour"

Students say homosexuals are the new source of misogyny
For generations gay men have faced harassment and discrimination for their sexual preferences. And although they are still a target for violent attacks in many places, the National Union of Students (NUS) has passed a motion calling for the abolition of representatives of gay men because “they don’t face oppression”.

Instead, the NUS has accused the traditionally-abused group of displaying “oppressive behaviour”.

The NUS lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference has passed a resolution that says homosexual men were often the perpetrators of misogyny and other prejudice within gay and lesbian student.

The ban follows a trend in university campus to exclude any views or objects that may offend and the rise of “no-platforming” policies.

The motion, which defended safe spaces and no-platform policies, said: "Misogyny, transphobia, racism and biphobia are often present in LGBT+ societies. This is unfortunately more likely to occur when the society is dominated by white cis gaymen."

“Cis” relates to someone whose identity conforms with their biological gender and it seems to refer to masculine gay men.

The motion adds: “Gay men do not face oppression as gay men within the LGBT+ community and do not need a reserved place on society committees.”

The NUS motion said gay men should no longer be represented in gay and lesbian societies.

Jack Matthews, LGBT gay men's representative at the University of Manchester, slammed the motion for disregarding the struggles that gay men faced and called it "disgusting and extremely disrespectful".

He added: "The only way the LGBT community has been able to achieve their rights is by standing together as a community. We need to take the torch from our elders and carry this on. We shouldn't be starting internal conflicts and segregating ourselves."

Tom Slater, creator of a free speech ranking, said: "Campus sexual identity politics is disappearing up its own backside. We've had feminists banning other feminists for being the wrong kind of feminists.

"We've had gay rights campaigners smeared as racists and transphobes, purely for promoting free speech. Now the NUSLGBT campaign is calling for reps for gaymen to be abolished because they're effectively not oppressed enough."


Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.

The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.

“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ he said.

“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.’’

Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school, even in the senior years, and requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10. Its old-school policy bucks the prevailing trend in most Aus­tralian high schools, and many primary schools, to require parents­ to purchase laptops for use in the classroom.

Dr Vallance said the Rudd-­Gillard government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students, was money wasted. “It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple,’’ he said. “They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.’’

Sydney Grammar students have access to computers in the school computer lab, and use laptops at home.

But Dr Vallance regards­ laptops as a distraction in the classroom. “We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity,’’ he said. “It’s about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation.

“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher and a motivating group of classmates, it would seem a waste to introduce anything that’s going to be a distraction from the benefits that kind of social context will give you.’’

Academically, Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top-performing schools, and is frequented by the sons of Sydney’s business and political elite. Almost one in five of its Year 12 graduates placed in the top 1 per cent of Australian students for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank university entry scores last year.

The school’s alumni includes three prime ministers — Malcolm Turnbull, who attended on a scholarship, Edmund Barton and William McMahon — as well as bush poet Banjo Paterson and business chief David Gonski, the architect of a needs-based funding model to help disadvantaged students.

The private boys’ school, which charges fees of $32,644 a year, routinely tops the league tables in the national literacy and numeracy tests.

Dr Vallance said he preferred to spend on teaching staff than on technology. “In the schools where they have laptops, they get stolen, they get dropped in the playground, they get broken, you have to hire extra staff to fix them, you’ve got to replace them every few years. They end up being massive lines in the budgets of schools which at the same time have leaky toilets and rooves and ramshackle buildings.

“If I had a choice between filling a classroom with laptops or hiring another teacher, I’d take the other teacher every day of the week.’’

Dr Vallance — who will step down as headmaster next year, after 18 years in the job — is a Cambridge scholar, a trustee of the State Library of NSW Foundation and a director of the National Art School.

In 2014 the Coalition government appointed him as a specialist reviewer of the national arts curriculum, which he criticised as “rambling, vague and patronising’’ with “a tendency towards the elimination of rigour’’.

Dr Vallance said yesterday laptops had “introduced a great deal of slackness’’ in teaching. “It’s made it much easier of giving the illusion of having prepared a lesson,’’ he said.

He also criticised as “crazy’’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.

“That means generations of students will be doing NAPLAN on computers, they won’t be allowed to write by hand, which I think is crazy,’’ he said. “Allowing children to lose that capacity to express themselves by writing is a very dangerous thing.’’

Dr Vallance said Sydney Grammar had been studying the difference between handwritten and computer-typed tasks among boys in Year 3 and Year 5.

“In creative writing tasks, they find it much easier to write by hand, to put their ideas down on a piece of paper, than they do with a keyboard,’’ he said.

Dr Vallance said he was sure people would call him a “dinosaur’’. “But I’m in no way anti-technology,’’ he said. “I love gadgets. It’s partly because we all love gadgets so much that we have these rules, otherwise we’d all just muck about. Technology is a servant, not a master.

“You can’t end up allowing the tail to wag the dog, which I think it is at the moment.’’

Dr Vallance said computers in the classroom robbed children of the chance to debate and discuss ideas with the teacher.

“One of the most powerful tools in education is conversation,’’ he said.

“The digital delivery of teaching materials across Australia has had a really powerful normative effect.

“It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things — the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.’’

Dr Vallance said it was a “really scandalous situation’’ that Australia was “spending more on education than ever before and the results are gradually getting worse and worse’’. He said it cost $250,000-$500,000 to equip a moderate-sized high school with interactive whiteboards, which are only used at Sydney Grammar if teachers request them. “That’s a huge amount of money in the life of a school, that could translate to quite a few good members of staff,’’ he said.

“I think when people come to write the history of this period in education … this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.’’

The OECD has also questioned the growing reliance on technology in schools. In a report last year, it said schools must give students a solid foundation in reading, writing and maths before introducing computers. It found that heavy users of computers in the classroom “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes’’.

“In the end, technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,’’ the OECD report concluded.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

British teachers to call for ‘safe space’ for children to discuss radical Islamic views

Teachers are to debate whether to launch a campaign so that schools and colleges "ensure a safe space" for pupils to discuss radical ideas without the fear of being branded extremists or risking being reported to the police.

The motion will also include a discussion on whether to call on the Government to withdraw the Prevent strategy which imposes a duty to spot signs of students being radicalised.

"We want it to be possible to come into school and know that there is a safe space to discuss ideas and we don’t want teachers feeling that they need to close the space. There are some already thoroughly discussed cases where people have got it wrong."
Christine Blower, NUT general secretary

This follows concerns among teachers that a statutory duty upon teachers to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism is actually closing space for debate and leading to radicalisation.

Teachers argue that there are already "long established and robust" safeguarding mechanisms in schools to spot potential radicalisation among pupils.

However, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory duty on teachers to prevent young people from being "drawn into terrorism".

Already, there have been cases where pupils have been wrongly referred to the authorities for comments they made in class and some teachers are shutting down spaces of debate as a result, the motion will say.

Speaking ahead of the motion, which will be discussed at the NUT’s annual conference in Brighton on Saturday, Christine Blower, the union’s general secretary, said: "The precursor position for us is that teachers know that they have a moral as well as a professional responsibility to keep young people safe. That’s keeping them safe from everything from sexual grooming to preventing them from becoming radicalised not just from Islam but also from extreme right wing ideas.

"Young people are more likely to be preyed to radicalisation of one kind or another when they are at home surfing the internet than at school. It’s important that schools have the space and that teachers use the professional judgement to allow for debate to happen. That way young people will have reasonable ideas rather than unreasonable ideas when they are sitting at home in front of the computer.

"We want it to be possible to come into school and know that there is a safe space to discuss ideas and we don’t want teachers feeling that they need to close the space. There are some already thoroughly discussed cases where people have got it wrong.

Her comments followed a conclusion by David Anderson QC, an independent reviewer of the terrorism legislation, who said that "if wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile…"

Ms Blower added: "Of course we have to keep children safe, but we need to review the prevent agenda, which is having the outcome in some spaces of closing down the space for debate rather than allowing for the debate that will vaccinate young people against [radical ideologies]."

Reaction on the motion, Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: "The requirement on schools to spot and report radicalisation risks teachers over-reacting. Schools themselves should be safe spaces in which ideas can be expressed.

"Let's trust the teachers, on the one hand, to report real concerns about children attracted to terrorism and, on the other, to protect children from being bullied because of who they are and what they think."

A government spokesman said: "We make no apology for protecting children and young people from the risks of extremism and radicalisation. It’s irresponsible to draw attention to such ‘sensationalist’ cases and undermine the efforts of teachers who use their judgement and act proportionally. Prevent is playing a key role in identifying children at risk of radicalisation and supporting schools to intervene.

"Good schools will already have been safeguarding children from extremism and promoting fundamental British values long before this duty came into force. We have published guidance on the Prevent Duty and made a wide range of advice and materials available to the sector through our Educate Against Hate website."


A Facebook status post mocking "safe spaces" at  Ryerson, a major Canadian university, causes rage

It was posted by a student there -- by a member of a student organization

The status, which was posted by Dan Petz, the RMA’s vice-president of corporate relations, included a rant about "fascist practices disguised as ‘safe spaces.’"

Petz, a third-year commerce student, wrote, "Please if you need a safe space go home, you can be safe there. I am growing sick of this childish nonsense and I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to be coddled like a little bitch. I am not going to take it anymore, and neither should you."

Screenshots of the status were shared on Facebook, with students expressing concerns over Petz’s inflammatory comments.

Petz, who currently sits on the course unions committee at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), also ran for a seat on the Ryerson senate this month as the Ted Rogers School of Management representative.

John Sullivan, a third-year RTA school of media student, shared Petz’s status on his own Facebook page, saying that he was worried that an elected representative of a Ryerson course union was denouncing the need for safe spaces on campus.

"If someone has a shitty opinion, that’s fine. But if someone has that shitty opinion as they’re actively trying to get more involved in student life and they express that opinion in ways that aren’t conducive to creating a better environment for students, then that’s when I kind of go, ‘Well hey, if this person is supposed to be a representative of the school, then I’m not really comfortable with that,’" Sullivan said.

Rabia Idrees, the current Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president equity, said that it is "easy for somebody who has never had the need for safe spaces to say that they aren’t necessary.

"For somebody like me, who is racialized and a woman, if I saw something like this in the classroom, and the majority of people had the same kind of mindset, that wouldn’t be a safe space for me," Idrees said. "That would affect my own learning ability.

"He has not really thought out how this affects all of the other people who are not male, not white, not in a business program and don’t see the world in numbers."

Alyson Rogers, co-founder of the Ryerson Feminist Collective, said that she finds it "extremely concerning that he is a representative of Ryerson students."

"If (Petz) is someone who feels he can walk out in the world and feel safe and not have any concerns about his safety, then that’s great, but not everybody has that luxury," she said.

"That’s actually a huge privilege to have. I think there needs to be some understanding that not everybody has that, so there is a real need for safe spaces on campus," Rogers said. "A comment like this is extremely insensitive and only takes into account his lived experiences and discounts those of everybody else on this campus."

The RMA distanced itself from Petz after his comments began to pick up traction on social media, saying in a statement on its Facebook page that the opinions and political views of its team members "are not necessarily in line with that of the (RMA) as an organization."

Ryerson currently has six equity service centres on campus sponsored by the RSU, including the Racialized Students Collective, RyeAccess, the Centre for Women and Trans People, the Trans Collective, the Good Food Centre and RyePride. As well, the Aboriginal Multipurpose Student Space is a dedicated safe space for aboriginal students.

Petz did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


The Hypocrisy Behind the Student Renaming Craze

University students across the country — at Amherst, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UC Berkeley and dozens of other campuses — are caught up in yet another new fad.

This time, the latest college craze is a frenzied attempt to rename campus buildings and streets. Apparently some of those names from the past do not fit students' present litmus tests on race, class and gender correctness.

Stanford students are demanding the rebranding of buildings, malls and streets bearing the name of Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan priest who some 250 years ago founded California’s famous chain of 21 coastal missions. The sainted Serra was often unkind to Native Americans and by our standards racist in his worldview.

Harvard is ditching its law school’s seal because it is based on the coat of the arms of the Isaac Royall family. Isaac Royal Jr. donated his estate to create Harvard’s first law professorship, but he and his family owned slaves, so apparently that cancels out his philanthropy.

For students, politically incorrect actions in politically incorrect eras mean that otherwise generous historical figures have to be judged as bad in all aspects — at least by 21st century standards. But why the sudden nationwide renaming frenzy — and how is it any different from other campus fads?

Are students aware of the historical antecedents, like the fickle ancient Roman practice of the postmortem erasing of someone’s name from all mention (damnatio memoriae)? Have they any idea that they are playing roles right out of George Orwell’s dystopian works "Animal Farm" and "1984"? Do they know the history of the verb "Trotskyize"?

The renaming craze is not really about race, class and gender correctness at all. If it were, there would be no Warren Hall at UC Berkeley. Before liberal Earl Warren became chief justice of the Supreme Court, he was the California attorney general who instigated the wartime internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-American citizens. There also would be no Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. President Wilson was a man of dubious racial attitudes who infamously re-segregated the federal workforce.

Instead, the "Animal Farm" rules of the current campus bullies go something like this: Some incorrect people from centuries ago are bad, but other politically incorrect people from the recent past are not quite so bad if they were at least sometimes liberal.

Or are students even hypocritical with their made-up litmus tests?

Few students are demanding, for instance, that San Diego State University drop the school nickname "Aztecs." The imperialistic Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of victims from among the tribes they conquered — often ripping out the hearts of their living victims — and enslaved even more.

Should UC Berkeley students demand the renaming of their Cesar E. Chavez Student Center, on the contemporary campus principle that not being a saint in the past means becoming a sinner in the present? Chavez, the iconic farm-labor activist, sent his lieutenants down to the southern border to use violence to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the U.S. He courted Ferdinand Marcos, the cutthroat dictator of the Philippines, to support his union. And Chavez tried to implement the Gestapo-like management principles of the discredited cult Synanon among his United Farm Workers hierarchy.

Is the logic of the campus bullies that some heroes did not mean to do bad things, and so they cannot be judged by the standards of the moment — at least not if they were liberal and deemed politically correct?

Students fail to realize that revolutionary tastes change quickly, and yesterday’s PC hero can become today’s pariah. Based on students' own expanding definition of sexual assault and the curtailment of freedom of speech, former president and notorious womanizer Bill Clinton would not be allowed to set foot on any campus because of his past exploitation of women. Nor would his enabler, Hillary Clinton, who in the past has sought to demonize her husband’s female accusers.

There are other hypocrisies in the campus renaming fad.

Why would Stanford students just stop with airbrushing away Father Serra’s name? The university’s co-founder, philanthropist Leland Stanford, who was also governor of California, exploited Chinese laborers to help build the transcontinental railroad. He even dubbed them a "degraded" people.

Today’s students, however, have invested tens of thousands of dollars into their blue-chip Stanford-branded educations. So far, they have shown no desire to lose that snob appeal and expensive cachet — or perhaps have their degrees restamped from Stanford to something more politically correct but less marketable, such as Ohlone College, which would honor the original pre-Colonial peoples of the surrounding Silicon Valley region.

In the 1930s, half-educated student faddists swallowed goldfish. In the 1950s, the silly campus craze was to cram into phone booths. In the 1960s, students went feral and torched buildings.

Now, they pout and rename things.