Friday, August 05, 2016

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Criminal Charges Against 13 Year Old for Burping in Class

Another argument for school choice...

The scene is Albuquerque's Cleveland Middle School, where a 13-year-old class clown is disrupting things by constantly burping during teaching time. So the teacher bounces him to the vice principal's office, who has a sneaking suspicion that the kid is involved in selling pot on school grounds. The boy is made to take his jeans and shoes off but no drugs are found.

The kid—a pain in the ass in all likelihood, let's be honest—is suspended for the rest of the school year. As over-the-top as that seems, there's worse yet to come. He's also criminally charged under an impossibly vague statute that reads in part:

No person shall willfully interfere with the educational process of any public or private school by committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions of a public or private school.

And now, as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley writes,

Teachers and administrators have been criminalizing juvenile conduct rather than dealing with such issues with the students and their teachers....the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has issued an opinion upholding one of the most ridiculous examples of the criminalization of our schools. The Tenth Circuit said that Albuquerque school officials and police were justified in ordering the arrest of 13-year-old boy who was burping in class. The Tenth Circuit ruled that the school officials and police officer were entitled to immunity for their excessive response to what was at worst a class clown.

When you encounter this sort of ridiculous overreaction on the part of school officials—which is then certified by even-more-august authorities—it is no wonder why Americans are losing confidence in major institutions of political, commercial, and civic life. These are not the actions of authorities who have belief in themselves and the things they run. They are the behaviors of a society in decline, to be honest, that no longer feels as if it can exercise power at any level except via banishment and extreme action.


'Visionary' £7m eco-school to be demolished because of leaky roof

One of Britain's first eco-schools which cost £7 million when it was built just six years ago is to be demolished because of a leaky roof

Plans have been unveiled to scrap the abandoned eco-school at Dartington, Devon and replace it with a new £6 million facility.

More than 300 pupils at Dartington Primary School have been taught in temporary classrooms for the past two years due to the award-winning new complex suffering leaks shortly after opening in 2010.

The school was meant to be one of the first zero carbon primary schools to be built in the country.

But Devon County Council now aims to replace the troubled school site with a new complex which will cater for 315 pupils plus a nursery for 30 youngsters.

The project contains plans for 12 classrooms, a new school reception, an admin section, a kitchen and a plant room along with a new school hall. The target completion date has been set as early 2018.

The council's planning and design statement said: "The existing school was vacated in the summer of 2014 and relocated into a series of rented buildings. "Subsequently it was accepted that the vacated buildings were beyond economic repair.

"As the existing school is now unoccupied, demolition, clearing of site and construction of the new school can take place without causing disruption to the running of the school. "Therefore the existing school site has been identified as a suitable location for the new school building.

"The proposal therefore seeks a means to safeguard the jobs that the existing school provides whilst contributing to employment in Dartington."

It will provide significant social benefits to the local community by maintaining the existing primary school provision for Dartington and its catchment area.

The proposal also provides significant environmental improvements.  The building has been designed to have a high thermal, natural light and ventilation performance, contributing to an environmentally sustainable building."

The abandoned complex was described as "visionary" when it opened in 2010. Solar panels were installed to power the classrooms and rainwater was collected on the school grounds so that it could be filtered and used again.

It had initially been hoped that repairs would fix the leaky eco-primary school.  But pupils moved into temporary classrooms in 2014 and have been there ever since.


Australia: Trainee teachers flunk mandatory literacy and numeracy tests

HUNDREDS of student teachers have flunked basic literacy and numeracy tests required to graduate and work in school classrooms.

The two hour mandatory tests show between 5.5 per cent and 6.9 per cent of graduates cannot read or write well enough to teach despite spending up to four years studying at university. Those who fail to pass will have to resit the tests.

About 265 trainee teachers — one in 14 — failed to pass the numeracy test and 210 — one in 18 — failed to correctly answer the literacy questions, data released by the Federal Government shows.

Student teachers marked with a fail did not meet a standard which included questions about working out percentages, spelling frequently used words and identifying common grammatical mistakes.

The strict new standards have been imposed on trainee teachers as Naplan scores have flatlined and writing scores for students in the early years of high school plummeted over the last five years despite record government spending on education.

In pilot tests last year 500 of 5000 university students did not make the grade, the results suggesting thousands of new teachers are fronting classrooms without the proper skills to teach.

The tests aimed at ensuring future teachers have literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30 per cent of the adult population have been rolled out nationally in a bid to arrest Australia’s slide down the international rankings.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday said 94.5 per cent of candidates in this year’s tests — conducted in May and June — met the standard for literacy and 93.1 per cent reached the numeracy benchmark.

“Families rightly expect their children to get the best possible education from teachers with the best possible skills … no new graduate should be registered to teach without meeting these standards,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Australians want to know that school students are learning from teachers with strong personal literacy and numeracy skills.

Sen Birmingham said the results — better than last year’s trial tests which up to 10 per cent of student teachers failed — were “extremely encouraging”.

“Today’s results are an improvement on the voluntary trial that was run last year and show through this laser focus on literacy and numeracy that our new teachers are graduating with better skills,” he said.

President of the Australian Council of Deans of Education Professor Tania Aspland said the “right mix of both personal and academic traits” was needed to make great teachers.

“This is why universities use a variety of means, not only academic scores, to select teacher education students,” she said.

“We also work hard to ensure our students can combine theory with strong practical school experiences during their studies.”

The test data shows that Victoria and NSW have the most students who have completed or registered to sit the test but hundreds of trainee teachers in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland still have to comply.

The tests were a key recommendation of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group and have been endorsed by all state and territory education ministers.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

'After School Satan' Clubs To Be Offered to Schools

“After School Satan” programs may soon be offered to certain elementary schools across the country.

“The Satanic Temple (TST) has announced that this coming school year (2016) will find their organization operating in elementary schools across the nation where they will be offering their new After School Satan Club program to students,” a TST press release says.

“While the presence of a religious organization in public schools will no doubt be shocking to some, evangelical litigants — primarily the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) represented by lawyers from the Liberty Counsel — have solidly established the legal rights of religious organizations to operate clubs in public schools.”

The satanic programs are to be offered to schools that host, or have hosted, "Good News Clubs" by the Child Evangelism Fellowship program.

“To be clear, the pre-existing presence of evangelical after school clubs not only established a precedent for which school districts must now accept Satanic groups, but the evangelical after school clubs have created the need for Satanic after school clubs to offer a contrasting balance to student’s extracurricular activities,” the TST website says.

TST spokesperson, Lucien Greaves says, “School districts across the nation have received letters from The Satanic Temple explaining that we will be offering our clubs in their schools this coming school year, and parents in those schools can expect to be presented with a permission slip from their children in the first weeks of the Fall semester. All of the districts we’ve approached are nearby to local chapters of The Satanic Temple, and each school district has hosted, or is now hosting, Good News Clubs in their schools.”

The After School Satan program has been launched with a YouTube video featuring old film clips of school children tracked with backwards music, can be seen above.


Anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment Could Damage Nevada School Choice Reform

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening education choice in Nevada.

The lawsuit revolves around a century-old law with a “shameful pedigree” that the U.S. Supreme Court has said arose during “a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general.”

That law, known as a Blaine Amendment, has been used against the state’s new education savings account program, which the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice calls “the most sustainable, inclusive, equitable educational choice program in the country.”

The Nevada Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the case today, Duncan v. Nevada, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The court will also hear arguments in a separate but related case, Lopez v. Schwartz, which centers on school funding. As Leslie Hiner of the Friedman Foundation explains:

“Despite the litigation, thousands of Nevada families have applied for ESAs [education savings accounts] hoping the court will overturn the Lopez decision and uphold the Duncan decision, which would allow parents to access this new form of education funding in the 2016–2017 school year.”

The ACLU claims the education savings account program violates this law even as the Institute of Justice notes the language of the law does not apply to “publicly funded educational assistance programs like Nevada’s ESA Program” and “does not constrain the private choices of private individuals.”

As we concluded in our 2014 article in the Journal of School Choice, education reformers must contend with a set of ignoble, mostly 19th century laws—such as the one in Nevada—that have created a major roadblock to school choice programs.

The “Blaine amendments” derive their name from politician James G. Blaine. To supporters, Blaine was the great “Plumed Knight” and a leader, but detractors accused him of abusing the public purse for personal gain and being a cunning manipulator. Blaine’s political opponents used to shout the phrase, “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The continental liar from the state of Maine!”

In 1875, Blaine unsuccessfully pushed for a federal constitutional prohibition of aid to “sectarian” schools. As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the 2000 Mitchell v. Helms decision, “Consideration of the amendment arose at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general, and it was an open secret that sectarian was code for Catholic” (Mitchell v. Helms, 2000, 120 S. Ct. 2530, 2551).

While the amendment to the U.S. Constitution failed, many states adopted such amendments, including Nevada. As we explain in the Journal of School Choice:

“The common schools were 19th century ‘agents of civic assimilation’ … ‘The common school and the vision of American life that it embodied came to be vested with a religious seriousness and exaltation. It became the core institution of American society,’ wrote education historian Charles Glenn. ‘In close alliance with, but never subordinate to the Protestant churches, the common school occupied a “sacred space” where its mission was beyond debate and where to question it was a kind of blasphemy.’ Catholics sought to establish their own schools, and proposed that funding should follow, as it had to the common school. Supporters of the common school movement perceived a threat to its mission in such proposals.”

So when he ran for president against Grover Cleveland in 1884, Blaine backed a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from giving public money to “sectarian” schools. While the amendment passed the House, in the Senate it failed to gain the two-thirds majority necessary for a constitutional amendment to proceed.

Even before the effort for a federal Blaine Amendment in 1876, 14 states had included language in their constitutions restricting aid to religious schools. Congress also required territories in the process of crafting constitutions for admittance into the union to include the restrictions. By 1890, 29 states had such restrictions. All of these provisions (including those not codified in state constitutions but appearing elsewhere at the state and local level), were passed between 1835 and 1959, starting in Michigan and ending in Hawaii.

While Blaine lost the election and the constitutional amendment failed, numerous laws with similar language were passed at the state level. Today, 37 states have Blaine amendments on the books, and they have created a significant impediment to education reform.

Nevada’s education savings account program has been a watershed moment in school choice. The near-universal option will empower up to 93 percent of Nevada children to use state education funding to craft a completely customized education option, including private school tuition, online learning, special education services, and therapies, and more. Here’s hoping they have the chance to do so when they get ready to start school again this fall.


CA: Bill would prevent LGBT discrimination at religious schools

The conflict between religious freedom and gay rights has a new battleground - California's religious colleges and universities.

A bill moving through the Legislature would remove a longstanding exemption from anti-discrimination laws for religious institutions, potentially exposing the schools to civil rights lawsuits from students and employees.

Some schools call the measure, SB1146, an attack on their free exercise of religion and say the exemption allows them to craft campus policies in line with their faith.

Currently, religious institutions can assign housing based on sex, not gender identity, and discipline students for violating moral codes of conduct, which can include anti-transgender or strict sexuality provisions.

The bill tries to force schools to "change 2,000-year-old teachings to be in line with LGBT ideology," said Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido.

"It's no longer 'live and let live.' It's 'If you don't toe the line with us, we'll take you to court big time,'" he said.

The law faces an upcoming test in the state Assembly after passing the Senate.

Bill supporters say it would be the first law of its kind in the nation and would create a safe space for LGBT students.

Its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, argues that students who attend religious colleges or universities should have the same rights and protections as students who attend other schools.

"Opponents of LGBT equality have been using the pretext of exercise of religion to justify discrimination," said Rick Zbur, executive director of the advocacy group Equality California.

Under the proposed state law, schools would also have to disclose if they have been granted exemptions from federal Title IX rules against discrimination to prospective and current students, faculty and staff members.

Some religious school officials worry the measure would mean they wouldn't be able to sign an agreement with the state necessary to accept Cal Grant funding given by the state to low-income students. School officials say, in order to sign, they need the exemption to laws prohibiting discrimination.

"They're putting a gun to our head: 'Either change the way you believe and practice your faith, or you won't be able to participate in Cal Grant,'" said John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, which has campuses in Rocklin and San Jose. "We want a license to be faithful and don't want the state to have a license to discriminate."

Patti Colston, a spokeswoman for the California Student Aid Commission, said nothing in the bill would explicitly prevent a religious institution from voluntarily participating in Cal Grant. It would, however, create a path to legal recourse for allegations of discrimination.

Anthony Villarreal, 25, a former track and cross country athlete at William Jessup, is among those who say they would have benefited if the law were in place. He says the university dismissed him in 2013 after learning that he lived with his boyfriend.

The university maintains Villarreal violated a policy prohibiting violent behavior after being arrested and charged with domestic violence. Villarreal acknowledges he was arrested after a domestic violence call involving the home he shared with his boyfriend, but he says charges were never filed.

Villarreal now works three jobs to pay off student loans for an education he has yet to finish. It's too late for him to sue, but he supports the legislation.

"It isn't out to attack Christian universities or wipe them off the face of the planet," he said. "They shouldn't have the legal right or entitlement to discriminate against anyone."

Not all religious schools publicly oppose the bill or have been granted federal exemptions.

Of the estimated 32 faith-based higher education institutions in California, at least seven since 2009 requested exemptions from Title IX, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

A wave of requests nationwide came after the Obama administration applied Title IX protections to gender identity starting in 2013. Earlier this year, the administration sent a directive on the anti-discrimination policy's applications to transgender students and 11 states sued in response.

Erin Andrews, 35, a senior at Biola University who identifies as a gay Christian, organized a protest this year against her school's request for a Title IX exemption. She believes Biola is violating its own Christian principles by not being open and accepting, and she calls the bill a stepping stone for the LGBT community.

"We're at a Christian university, we're all sinners," said Andrews, who is president of the group Biolans' Equal Ground. "If you're going to protect a certain group of sinners, you need to protect us all."


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Taxpayers' Tuition Burden

The estimated average annual cost for instate students at a public university is now over $19,000, and for students attending a private university the cost jumps to an average of $44,000. With the ever-rising cost of college, many students are taking on low-interest government loans. Currently 93% of all student loans are government owned, with total outstanding loan debt standing at over $1.2 trillion.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, but what is clear is that students are taking on more debt than ever before to earn a bachelor’s degree. To make matters worse, less than 19% of all students earn their degree within four years, and for every extra year spent at a public university a student adds an estimated $22,826 in costs.

If this news weren’t concerning enough, the number of students who have defaulted on loan repayments should be. This past school year, 43% of students with federal loans were either in default, delinquency or had postponed payment — to the tune of over $200 billion. And guess who picks up the bill? Taxpayers, who ultimately back any government loan.

During the Obama administration, the burden on taxpayers has only worsened due to the expansion of the income-based repayment program, which caps at 10% of discretionary income what borrowers are required to repay each year. That’s coupled with the loan-debt forgiveness program for undergraduates, who have remaining loan debt forgiven after 20 years. Those who enter work in the public sector can receive loan debt forgiveness after only 10 years.

What this all means is that an alarmingly growing amount of the cost of college is now being covered by taxpayers. This is the result of the government seeking to promise greater access to education by covering costs, and through easy-access student loans and loan forgiveness programs, which in turn has encouraged universities to increase the overall cost of education. Is it any wonder so many young people are calling for “free” college? Half of them already aren’t paying for it.


New law to allow concealed handguns on Texas campuses

Texas will allow holders of concealed-handgun licenses to carry their weapons into public university buildings, classrooms, and dorms starting Monday, which is also the 50th anniversary of the mass shooting at the University of Texas’ landmark clock tower.

The campus-carry law pushed by Governor Greg Abbott and the Republican legislative majority will make Texas one of a handful of states that guarantee the right to carry concealed guns on campus.

Anyone who holds a Texas handgun license will be able to have a concealed hangun on campus.

To get a license, a person must be at least 21 (18 if in the military) and pass both classroom and gun range training courses. There are also restrictions on convicted felons, people charged with felonies, and high-level misdemeanors, or people with a history of mental illness.

Texas has more than 1 million holders of concealed handgun licenses.

Generally speaking, the law allows guns in buildings, classrooms, and dorms, but rules may differ from campus to campus, as each school is required to map that out.

For example, at the University of Texas at Austin, where faculty and students vigorously protested the law, teachers will be allowed to declare their offices as gun-free zones, but most will post signs announcing it.

Dorm residents can have guns in common areas, such as dining areas and lounges, but not sleeping rooms, where no storage of weapons is allowed. Exceptions to the room restrictions will be made for visiting family members who are licensed to carry handguns.

At Texas A&M University, guns are allowed in dorm rooms and teachers must get permission to ban guns from their office.


Australian TV host has questioned a school scholarship aimed at LGBTI students

SONIA Kruger has unleashed controversy on morning television yet again, this time laying into a scholarship program for LGBTI high school students.

The television host slammed the scholarship as “reverse discrimination” on the Today Extra show this morning, two weeks after her call for a ban on Muslim immigration sparked a widespread backlash.

Dubbing the program “odd”, Kruger said she did not understand why a $7000 scholarship was being reserved for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex student.

“I don’t think it should have anything to do with the awarding of a scholarship,” Kruger said. “I thinks scholarships should be given on merit.”

Her comments followed today’s front-page story in The Australian, which revealed that the Australian Business and Community Network Scholarship Foundation had reserved a place in its Year 10 scholarship program for an LGBTI student.

Family Voice Australia criticised the scholarship as “another example of ideological activism making its way into schools”.

The lobby group’s national policy officer Damian Wyld argued it was inappropriate for children to “be asked to declare their sexuality or gender identity”.

“Why should children, especially in a school setting, be asked to declare their sexuality or gender identity? Many 15-year-olds are still working through issues around sexuality,” Mr Wyld told The Australian. “Offering a financial ­incentive to identify as ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex’ is completely inappropriate.”

The scholarship application form, which must be filled out by the school principal, includes a question about sexual orientation. Applicants have the option of choosing “prefer not to say”.

Kruger’s co-host David Campbell disagreed with her position, arguing that the ABCN’s decision to allocate a single scholarship for a LGBTI student was “hardly a big deal”.

“There are tonnes of other scholarships that are set aside for kids who are supremely talented,” Campbell said, rattling off a number of sport-based programs.

Chris Pycroft from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby applauded the ABCN and its corporate backers, saying that the socio-economic disadvantage suffered by LGBTI students often went unrecognised.

“The research shows that the significant majority of these high school students do experience abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Mr Pycroft told

“The impacts of homophobia, discrimination, harassment is often not considered and the implications are not often realised.”

According to Beyond Blue, LGBTI young people have dramatically higher rates of depression and anxiety than their heterosexual peers, with same-sex attracted Australians up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

Mr Pycroft said school bullying remained a major stress for young people grappling with their sexuality, and that while there was “more of a general acceptance of gay people within society”, this had not filtered down to the schoolyard.

He dismissed criticisms of the scholarship program as being part of an LGBTI push to expose school students to “politically motivated ideologies”, and argued that it was wholly appropriate for Year 10 students to discuss their sexual identities if they chose to.

“There’s a difference between a politically motivated ideology and people simply being who they are,” Mr Pycroft said.

ABCN offers mentoring and financial assistance to students across Australia, with financial backing from companies including Optus, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Scholarship Foundation has awarded 41 scholarships since its inception in 2013.


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Wages for graduates don’t justify huge university fees, unless you’re a doctor, dentist or go to Oxbridge, says report

Comment from Britain

Student debt payments wipe out the benefit of higher 'premium' earnings for most graduates who don't attend top universities, according to a new report.

Campaigners behind the report say the 'carrot of higher graduate earnings' should not be used to justify increased fees at universities - some of which are now topping £9000 - as unless you attend an Oxbridge university or become a doctor or dentist, the wage gap is too great.

Politicians who use higher earnings to argue for higher fees should be 'challenged for gross mis-selling', experts say.

The report by the Intergenerational Foundation focuses on tuition fees in England which are capped at £9,000 and paid back in instalments once graduates reach a salary threshold.

It claims that an estimated £100,000 lifetime graduate earnings premium is often used by politicians to justify increasing fees for university courses, changing the terms and conditions, or increasing interest rates.

But the report claims that apart from Oxbridge, medical and dentistry graduates, there is no guaranteed graduate earnings premium for the many young people entering higher education.

Instead it says even that even if a student does achieve a lifetime premium of £100,000, spread over 45 years it amounts to £2,222, before Income Tax and National Insurance, which it says is 'simply not enough to cover the interest accruing on the average loan'.

Research shows that Oxbridge graduates have an starting salary of £25,582, with the average for the top 30 universities including the Russell Group being £21,031, reported The Sunday Times.

The starting salary from post-1992 universities which are less selective is £18,009.

Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, said: 'Any politician that dangles the carrot of a graduate premium on future earnings to justify increases in student fees, interest rates on loans, or adjusting student loan repayment thresholds, should be challenged for gross mis-selling.'

It comes after it was revealed graduates who studied medicine at university rake in bigger salaries than students of any other subject, new research reveals.

Medical students were easily the highest earners ten years after graduation, earning an average of almost £50,000, a ground-breaking study found.

Those who studied creative arts were found to have the lowest salaries on average, at £17,900 for men and £14,500 for women.

Academics at the Nuffield Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies studied the link between earnings, students' background, degree subject and university attended.

Earlier this year it was revealed graduates are facing fewer job vacancies and lower pay amid a slowdown on the employment front, according to a new report.

Jobs site Adzuna said there was an 8% fall in graduate jobs in April compared with the same month a year ago, down to 12,850.Average entry-level advertised salaries reached a 30-month low of £23,309, a study found.

Cambridge and Oxford were the best cities for graduate jobs, while general vacancies were also said to be strong in Guildford, Reading, Exeter and Winchester.



Easier access to university has devalued degrees, created huge debt and made some feel like failures

Comment from Australia

AUSTRALIA’S university system is letting students down and pumping out graduates with “broken dreams and a large student debt”, the head of a body representing the country’s most prestigious institutions has noted.

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson has highlighted the broken state of the system in a wideranging speech she delivered today at the Graduate Employability and Industry Partnerships Forum.

She said the removal of caps on student numbers and the introduction of a “demand driven” system, had led to unintended consequences.

Universities were now pumping out an oversupply of graduates, making it hard for some to get jobs despite spending significant time and money on their education.

Ms Thomson also noted that the value of vocational study had also been eroded, with people forced to consider going to university “or be labelled a failure”.

Almost 40 per cent of Australians aged 25 to 34 years old now had an undergraduate degree, an achievement helped by the world’s most generous income-contingent student loan scheme (HELP).

But Ms Thomson said reaching this goal had not led to the “career utopia” many graduates dreamt of, and had come at enormous financial cost to the country.  “Personally we all know the barista or bartender, with an honours in law,” Ms Thomson said.

“The young guy serving in Officeworks who is a mining engineer; the young woman in the bakery with two degrees in the marketing space. None of us are happy with those outcomes.”

Not only was this a big expense to students, but the economy was also paying. Student debt from HELP will be almost $200 billion in 2024-25, something which universities know is unsustainable.

It comes as the government tries to find ways of raising money to cover this increasing burden. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking at allowing universities to set their own fees for some “flagship courses”, as an alternative to the unpopular proposal put forward by ex-PM Tony Abbott that all university fees be deregulated. Universities could also see their government funding cut by 20 per cent.

The idea released in an options paper with the Budget suggested allowing universities to set their own fees for courses in which up to 20 per cent of their students were enrolled.

But the Group of Eight (representing Sydney University, Melbourne University and others) and the Australian Technology Network of Universities (representing RMIT, the University of Technology, Sydney and others) have criticised the idea.

The network said there could be an “inequitable drift” of those who could afford to pay to attend certain “prestige” courses at particular institutions, making similar courses at other universities seem less attractive.

Student debt is already a growing problem, especially as degrees no longer guaranteed jobs. This could potentially saddle the government with writing off bad debts if students could not afford to pay their loans back.

Encouraging more students into the university system had also led to businesses no longer valuing bachelor degrees because they had become a base level of achievement in many areas.

“More graduates feel they have to keep studying, to seek out a masters — and with it more student debt — to give them a career edge — or even parity in some cases,” she said.

Ms Thomson said there was an “uncomfortable trend” of employers asking job seekers for university qualifications even if they are applying for non-professional jobs that previously would have required a TAFE certificate or less.

“Over past months my staff have pointed various examples out to me, including advertising for a recruitment team co-ordinator, an admin co-ordinator and a PA in a property development firm who had to have completed a bachelor with a major in property,” she said. “Each of these noted that a degree qualification was a must.”

She said asking people to get university degrees for jobs that didn’t need them risked diminishing the value of university education. “University isn’t for everyone. It was never intended for everyone,” she said.

“Equally there should never have come a point where entering a ‘trade’ was seen as a lesser pathway.

“This nation is built, literally, on its trades and its TAFE diplomas. Enormous economic value. Irreplaceable in the past, present and the future.  “We should be encouraging vocational study, not allowing it to be seen as a consolation prize.”

She said under the demand-driven system, those studying degrees had increased but those doing other qualifications had languished.

“I doubt it was ever intended that the demand driven system would set up society to consider the lack of a degree as a failure,” she said.  “But that is what has been occurring. There is anecdotal evidence of family aspirations leading to students being channelled away from TAFE and a trade into a degree program.”

She said more opportunities should be opened up for students who did not want to complete degrees.

Ms Thomson said universities shouldn’t just be degree factories that aimed to teach narrow skills.

This was more important than ever as degrees no longer guaranteed jobs and someone graduating today would likely have 17 jobs across five careers in their lifetime.

She said teaching was one example of a career that was pumping out way more graduates than could realistically get jobs.

Quoting an article in The Australian from the University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis, Ms Thomson noted there were 80,000 students studying teaching but only 7000 full time jobs on offer each year.

In another example, Ms Thomson said other graduates may begin a degree with good career prospects at the time, but the job market could be very different by the time they finished a four-year degree.

Ms Thomson used the mining boom as an example.  In 2007, 100 per cent of mining engineering graduates who wanted fulltime work were employed but by 2013, this had dropped to 83 per cent.

The numbers are even starker for geology students.  In just two years (from 2012 to 2014), those working fulltime fell from 84 per cent to just 57 per cent.

“Universities must play a vital role in making a graduate more generally employable, and knowledgeable,” she said.

She said students needed to be taught portable skills such as research, teamwork, analytical thinking, problem solving, communication and project management.

“And it is a fallacy to assume that such generalist degrees do not lead to good employment outcomes,” she said.

Ms Thomson pointed to a US study that showed liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree were making more money on average than those who studied in professional or pre-professional fields by their mid-50s. They were also employed at similar rates.

She said the key was finding a balance between graduates who do end up working in specific careers, and those who don’t. “Both are essential, as I say — the key is finding the balance.”

While many graduates did not end up working in the field they studied for, universities played a role in giving students the confidence to venture into self-employment, and/or diverse employment.  “The cost to the nation of their degree has not been wasted, nor has the cost to themselves,” she said.

“We have provided them with a strong foundation to contribute to the economy — as they are doing — and will increasingly need to be able to do, if they are to be successful in a career that will increasingly be marked by technological breakthroughs and disruption.”

Ms Thomson said universities were often criticised for not turning out work ready graduates but said there should also be discussion about whether businesses were asking more of today’s graduates.

She said part of the problem may be that businesses could no longer afford to give graduates the time to adjust to their roles, or to give them old-fashioned on-the-job mentoring.

“Which leads me to repeat — that universities have a far broader role in society, and for our students, than being a degree factory for jobs.”


Poll Finds That Black People Learn They Are Discriminated Against In College
An extensive new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that over 80 percent of black Americans who have attended college say have been victimized and treated unfairly for racial reasons.

While a majority of non-college-educated black Americans — 59 percent — say they have suffered discrimination or unfair treatment in their lives because of their skin color, the figure is 81 percent for black Americans who have at least some college experience, the Pew poll shows.

Over half of all black people who have attended college (55 percent) say they have been eyed with suspicion because of their skin color in the last year. Similarly, 52 percent of black Americans with college experience say they have been treated as if they are not intelligent.

Among black Americans with only high school diplomas or lower levels of education, 38 percent say they have been treated with suspicion because of their skin color and 37 percent say they have been treated as less intelligent.

Nearly half of all black Americans who have completed at least some college (49 percent) say their skin color has been an impediment to success in life. Just 29 percent of black Americans with a high school education or less say race has made it harder for them to be successful.

Pew researchers sought out professors to resolve the paradox of why black people who have attended college say they have suffered more racial discrimination, feel they have been treated as if they are not intelligent and say their skin color is a detriment to life success.

New York University education professor Michael Sean Funk — who believes “diversity should be an imperative for all institutions of higher education” — suggested that black people who go to college are probably exposed to substantial discussions about race in class and in social settings. Such discussions lead to more awareness about race, Funk proposed.

Duke University public policy professor William A. Darity Jr. — a big Bernie Sanders fan — observed that black people who attend and graduate from college are more likely to end up working in places where there are large numbers of white people. Encounters with lots of white people could cause stress for black people because of race, Darity told Pew Research.

Pew Research also mentions the unusually large number of race-related protests on America’s college campuses this year. (RELATED: Mizzou Activists Demanded Generators And A TOASTY FIRE PIT As They Protested Poop Swastika)

The Pew poll notes U.S. Census Bureau data which shows that black people who earn bachelor’s degrees tend to earn quite a bit less than white people with bachelor’s degrees — $82,300 annually for black college grads compared to $106,600 per year for white college grads.

Also, according to the Pew poll, 54 percent of black Americans with household incomes of at least $75,000 per year say their skin color has been a disadvantage in life. Just 32 percent of black Americans with incomes below $30,000 say race has been a disadvantage in life. (Among black Americans with incomes between $30,000 and $74,999, 43 percent say their skin color has encumbered their lives.)

Overall, 71 percent of black Americans say they have suffered ill treatment or discrimination because of the color of their skin. Just 30 percent of white Americans say they’ve been treated unfairly or suffered discrimination because of their skin color.

The Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center bills itself as a nonpartisan think tank which covers public opinion and demographic trends. Pew regularly rolls out various polls.

The Pew poll on racial discrimination, conducted from February to May 2016, sampled 3,769 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia via mobile phones (1,688 respondents) and landlines (566 respondents).


Monday, August 01, 2016

Liberal Governor Throws Poor Children Out of Private Schools

The previous Republican Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, created a school voucher program that allowed poor Louisiana students to attend private schools. Then Louisiana elected a Democratic governor in 2015, who was beholden to the teachers’ unions.  

Louisiana has had budget issues for several years now. When it came time to make budget cuts, Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, has decided to cut the voucher program. His stroke of a pen has screwed poor, mostly black kids out of an education, just a month before schools start in Louisiana.

From National Review: 

Nikesha Hudson is one of the tens of thousands of parents in Louisiana who have, out of devotion to their children, fought to place them in private schools that participate in the state’s school-choice program. As the public-school system crumbles around them, these parents perform the due diligence necessary to enroll their children in area Catholic schools that offer the faith-based structure and consistent academic excellence that put their children on a path to achievement. 

 Her daughter, Nicole Jack, was a prime candidate for Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Despite coming from a disadvantaged community, she demonstrated real academic potential; her mother knew she’d be the perfect fit for the school-choice program and their desired Catholic school. 

 “My daughter is very gifted. She makes straight As, and she reads beyond her grade level, so she deserves to go to a better school,” Hudson told WDSU in New Orleans.

 So Hudson applied for the Louisiana Scholarship program in hopes of qualifying her daughter for the $4,800 tuition assistance. In April, the family learned she was approved by the Louisiana Department of Education. The agency cautioned that her placement was contingent upon continued funding for the scholarship. 

Hudson is one of the parents who lost her scholarship money from the state. This was despite the fact the state raised $2 billion in taxes in this past year. 

Scott McKay at The Hayride describes the voucher program as a miniscule item in a state budget of $26 billion. He describes the cuts as “an active, hostile act by the governor in service to his masters in the teacher unions.” 

Democrats prioritize teachers’ unions over children in education. They consistently fight to weaken education standards and prevent any attempts to escape the government monopoly in education or create competition to it. Children always suffer as a result, like they are in Louisiana. 


Parents and teachers should report homophobic, racist and religious bullying to the police, says British official

Parents and teachers are  to report homophobic, racist and religious bullying to the police, the Home Secretary said as she vowed to "stamp out" hate crime.

Amber Rudd says that Britain is a proud and diverse society and warn that hate crime has "no place in a 21st Century Great Britain that works for everyone".

The plan comes after a sharp rise in so-called “hate crime” incidents such as barging, spitting and assaults directed at racial and religious minorities around the time of the European Union referendum a month ago.

Mrs Rudd is today publishing a hate crime action plan which encourage schools and parents to "challenge" hate crime in the playground and report it to the police.

She will announce a survey to establish the levels of bullying in schools, while teachers will given new teaching materials to children understand that hate crime is unacceptable.

Police will also face further scrutiny to ensure they are taking hate crime seriously with a review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the watchdog.

Mrs Rudd says: "Those who practise hatred send out a message that it's OK to abuse and attack others because of their nationality, ethnicity or religious background.

"That it's OK to disregard our shared values and promote the intolerance that causes enormous harm to communities and individuals.

"Well, I have a very clear message for them. We will not stand for it. Hatred has no place whatsoever in a 21st century Great Britain that works for everyone.

"We are Great Britain because we are united by values such as democracy, free speech, mutual respect and opportunity for all. We are the sum of all our parts - a proud, diverse society. "Hatred does not get a seat at the table, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out."

The Hate Crime Action Plan was originally drawn up by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, when she served as Home Secretary.

It comes after official figures suggested that young people account for one in 10 victims of religious hate crime and 8 per cent of race hate crime.

The Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently working on new teaching materials.

The Home Office said that they will "equip teachers to facilitate conversations around international events and the impact they have on communities here in the UK".

Synagogues, churches and mosques will be given government cash to protect themselves against attacks by racists, under plans to be published this week.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, will launch a new “hate crime” action plan, including a drive to punish offenders more harshly by ordering prosecutors to press for tougher sentences in court.

A £2.4 million fund will be set up to pay for “protective security measures” at places of worship, the Home Office said.

There were reports of racist graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre in west London and laminated cards with the message "Leave the EU - no more Polish vermin" being delivered to members of the migrant community in Huntingdon.

Ms Rudd said such acts of hatred directed at any "community, race or religion" have "no place whatsoever in our diverse society" and must be "kicked to the kerb".

“Where crimes are committed we must make sure victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced," she said.

“At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility towards people who have come to live in our country, let me be absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable for people to suffer abuse or attacks because of their nationality, ethnic background or colour of their skin. We will not stand for it.”

Prosecutors will be issued with fresh guidance on racially and religiously aggravated offences and encouraged to pursue tougher sentences by applying to courts.


How an Australian school ditched drugs and violence to became a "grammar school"

Sounds like a big committment of personnel worked.  Would have been expensive

Just days into his new job as principal of North Geelong Secondary College, Nick Adamou was calling the cops on his students.

Students showing up to school, supposedly to do their VCE, were skipping class to deal drugs in the corridors. "When I say it was visible, I mean visible," Mr Adamou recalls.

But cleaning up the school's drug problem didn't prepare him for the challenges ahead.

In 2014, a female student was stabbed with a knife at the school, for which a fellow student was charged.

Violent and aggressive parents regularly descended on the school grounds, threatening to beat either their own children or other kids they didn't like (invariably, those from ethnic minorities).

The principal was soon in court, seeking restraining orders against the parents.

Eating an orange during an interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Adamou reflects on just how far his school has come.

In the five years since he took the job, the public school has earned the reputation as a "grammar school" among locals, with the VCE completion rate leaping from 50 to 93 per cent.

Over the same period, student numbers have nearly doubled, and the school which was once avoided like the plague is now over-subscribed.

Mr Adamou believes that in revolutionising his school, he is offering a brighter future for his students. "Education is the only way out of poverty, and we do have a lot of that here," he said. "This is why I work in schools."

A Fairfax Media analysis has revealed that schools which have most improved their VCE completion rate – that is, the number of students starting their VCE in year 10 that actually finish the course in year 12 – are located in working class areas.

The most improved schools (nearly all are state schools) have improved by up to 10 per cent over the past five years. They include Carrum Downs Secondary College, Epping Secondary College and Wyndham Secondary College.

These schools are not snagging the state's top VCE marks.

But they're quietly raising the profile of their students, by boosting the number of students doing their VCE, and by extension, broadening their students' tertiary and career options.

They're doing this by offering students mentors, introducing helpful learning apps and computer programs, applying principles of "positive education" (a fusion of positive psychology and best practice teaching), and with the help of Gonski funding, investing in youth workers and education consultants.

Teaching experts also believe that the sector has experienced a "sea change" in the past decade, as younger teachers adopt a practice Melbourne University's senior lecturer in education policy, Dr Glenn Savage, called "clinical teaching".

"It's this idea of diagnosing and understanding where a young person is at, and taking them forward using strategies that are based on evidence. Across Victoria and nationally, we are seeing a difference in the way principals are trying to measure the impact of learning in the classroom."

Dr Savage said teachers are being held "more accountable" by principals and parents, for their students' results.

"Teachers are being asked to provide evidence to show how young people are going, and how the evidence can be used to plan ways forward and make improvements for those students. While this should always have been the bread and butter work of teachers, I don't think it has been."

Mr Adamou admits that he expects a lot from his staff.

As the school grew in size, he hired a fresh crop of talented teachers, and asked them to start tracking their students' performance from year 7 to year 12, in order to identify areas where students were consistently struggling.

The teachers would involve careers counsellors in the process of working with students and their parents, in helping them develop their strengths.

Mr Adamou also launched an accelerated program and a vocational course for non-English speaking students, and word quickly spread about changes at Geelong North.

Families from Golden Plains, West Geelong, Manifold Heights, Essendon, Reservoir and Dandenong started enrolling their students.

The school still has a "long way to go" in terms of achieving competitive grades, the principal said. But to have catapulted from a 50 per cent participation rate in VCE to achieving VCE marks that nudge the top ten per cent in the state, is no small feat.

"We are now concentrating especially on getting students study scores above 40. It's not going to be long, this year will be the beginning of outstanding results."

Education academic Dr Savage said there was a common misconception that teachers at poorer schools had low aspirations for their students.

While there were unfortunate cases of this occurring, he said many schools in poorer areas were being run by passionate principals and teachers who were trying to change the culture in their community.

The best teachers were continually changing their teaching methods to suit the individual needs of the students, he said. 

Richard Jones, who has been principal at Laverton College P-12 for the past 14 months, applies that principle at his school, where 30 per cent of the students are refugees from Sudan and war-torn countries in the Middle East.

These students come to class with varying levels of knowledge, and yet the school's VCE completion rate hit 100 per cent for the first time in 2014.

Mr Jones said the key was constantly seeking student feedback – asking students to rate how well they understood a lesson at the end of each class, and explain topics in their own words.

Teachers at Epping Secondary College dealt with a 30 per cent VCE drop out rate and chronic absenteeism using different strategies.

In a bid to appeal to tech savvy students, they rolled out programs called Edrolo and Your Tutor, which give students 24/7 access to teachers and tutors online. The virtual teachers answer questions and offer supplementary classes that revise class content.

The school also runs tutorials teaching about the power of positive education – a technique increasingly used by educators (including at elite private school Geelong Grammar) to encourage students to focus on their strengths and build motivation.

"A lot of students think maths is not my forte," said principal Helene Alamidis. "The philosophy of positive education is about changing that, and showing them that they can. It's about the effort that they put in, and the strategies that they put in place to achieve."


Sunday, July 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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