Friday, October 07, 2016

The Academic Curtain

Thomas Sowell

Back in the days of the Cold War between the Communist bloc of nations and the Western democracies, the Communists maintained pervasive restrictions around Eastern Europe that were aptly called an “iron curtain,” isolating the people in its bloc from the ideas of the West and physically obstructing their escape.

One of the few things that could penetrate the “iron curtain” were ideas conveyed on radio waves. “The Voice of America” network broadcast to the peoples of the Soviet bloc, so that they were never completely isolated, and hearing only what the Communist dictatorships wanted them to hear.

Ironically, despite the victory of democracy over dictatorship that brought the Cold War to an end, within American society there has slowly but steadily developed in too many of our own colleges and universities a set of restrictions on what can be said on campus, either by students or professors, or by outside speakers with views that contradict the political correctness of our time.

There is no barbed wire around our campuses, nor armed guards keeping unwelcome ideas out. So there is no “iron curtain.” But there is a curtain, and it has its effect.

One effect is that many of the rising generation can go from elementary school through postgraduate education at our leading colleges and universities without ever hearing a coherent presentation of a vision of the world that is fundamentally different from that of the political left.

There are world class scholars who are unlikely to become professors at either elite or non-elite academic institutions because they do not march in the lockstep of the left. Some have been shouted down or even physically assaulted when they tried to give a speech that challenged the prevailing political correctness.

Harvard is just one of the prestigious institutions where such things have happened — and where preemptive surrender to mob rule has been justified by a dean saying that it was too costly to provide security for many outside speakers who would set off campus turmoil.

Despite the fervor with which demographic “diversity” is proclaimed as a prime virtue — without a speck of evidence as to its supposed benefits — diversity of ideas gets no such respect.

Students taught economics by Keynesian economists are unlikely to hear about the 1921 recession, with double-digit unemployment, where the government did nothing, and unemployment fell by more than half, as the economy recovered on its own.

Nor are they likely to learn how grossly misleading are many of the income statistics cited to justify the agenda of the left. As economist Alan Reynolds put it, many people “form very strong opinions about very weak statistics.”

Students are unlikely to go through college without being assigned to read “The Communist Manifesto” — often in more than one course — while a classic like “The Federalist” is seldom assigned reading, even though it is a very readable and profound explanation of the principles on which the Constitution of the United States is based, written by three of the men who actually wrote the Constitution.

On the racial front, landmark studies like “America in Black and White” by Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom are unlikely to see the light of day in courses or even on college bookstore shelves.

While there is no “iron curtain” around our campuses, there is a curtain, and its effects are dangerously close to the effects produced by the “iron curtain” around the Soviet bloc. What is lacking is anything like the Voice of America broadcasts to pierce the academic curtain.

In an electronic age, there are plenty of sources from which forbidden facts and suppressed views can be beamed into the many electronic devices used by college students.

There are many recorded speeches and interviews of outstanding thinkers, from the past and the present, with viewpoints different from the prevailing groupthink on campus, and these can be presented directly to students with electronic devices.

Someone from the real world beyond the ivy-covered enclaves would have to do it. And it is not yet clear who would do it or who would finance it. Perhaps some of those donors who have kept on writing checks to their alma maters, while the latter surrendered repeatedly to ideological intolerance, might consider such a project. Campus mobs could not shout down thousands of scattered iPads.


Meet the Senator Opposing Obama’s Mandate for Transgender Bathrooms in Schools

Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, is known for his conservative values. So when he decided to take on the Obama administration over its mandate to schools on transgender bathrooms, it came as no surprise to those familiar with the reserved, red-headed senator.

But instead of attacking the Obama administration on the policy itself, which allows transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity instead of their biological sex, Lankford is taking a different approach.

The 48-year-old senator is challenging the process the executive branch used to implement the sweeping policy, arguing that it was wholly unlawful.

“This administration has been notoriously focused not on passing legislation, but trying to find ways to be able to do things through regulation,” Lankford told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “But even as they try to do things through regulation, they’re not trying to actually follow the rules of regulation—they’re just making it up as they go, and trying to push as hard as they can and saying, ‘Sue me … I’m going to do what I want.’”

How the administration pushes through these regulations “makes a very contentious relationship between the American people and our government,” Lankford said.

On May 13, the departments of Education and Justice sent what’s called a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools across the nation with guidelines on how to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

Citing legal documents, the letter suggested schools could be at risk of losing their federal funding if they did not comply. The letter triggered an ongoing debate over whether the Obama administration has the authority to impose such requirements on schools.

Lankford was among lawmakers who protested the executive branch’s actions. As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, he held a series of hearings on Capitol Hill.

The third hearing examined the Department of Education’s interpretation that a portion of federal law known as Title IX applies to gender identity, as outlined in the administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter to schools. That has been a major point of contention between liberals and conservatives.

The subcommittee’s hearing, held Sept. 22, included officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Education.

Lankford focused his questions on what he called the administration’s failure to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act, a law that requires proposed rules to be made public in the Federal Register with information that includes:

A statement of the time, place, and nature of public rule-making proceedings.

Reference to the legal authority under which the government proposes the rule.

Either the terms or substance of the proposed rule or a description of the subjects and issues involved.

“If they don’t follow the clean structure—what’s called the Administrative Procedure Act—then agencies really are creating new rules that people think are law but they’re simply just guidance from agencies,” Lankford said, adding:

"But people in the field, in businesses and universities or nonprofits, they just see a letter that comes from an agency and they assume they have to follow it. And [government officials] are absolutely overreaching what is allowed by law."

Defending the “Dear Colleague” letter on transgender students during the hearing, Amy McIntosh, a deputy assistant secretary from the Department of Education, said the letter was legitimate because it was “not legally binding.”

The administration’s guidance, sent in the form of a letter, “is not binding, does not have the force of law, and it does not specify a single way that states and school districts can stay in compliance with the law,” McIntosh said.

“There are a lot of districts that disagree,” Lankford replied.

Title IX, passed in 1972 and applying to all educational institutions that receive federal money, prohibits discrimination based on sex.

It covers approximately “16,500 local school districts, 7,000 postsecondary institutions, as well as charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums,” according to the Department of Education.

Lankford argues that when Congress passed Title IX, it was clear the law applied to sex, not gender identity.

“They passed a bill dealing with sex,” he said. “This administration has reinterpreted that, and said what they meant in the 1970s was actually gender, not sex. So they’re changing the way that it’s interpreted.”

To expand or amend the law, Lankford argues, the administration must go through Congress or at least abide by the Administrative Procedure Act.

Lankford cited the Violence Against Women Act as an example of an instance where Congress passed a law with the intention of applying it to both sex and gender. In that law, he said, Congress “used both sex and gender in its terminology.”

“Congress can pass something with both, but they did not on the Title IX requirements,” he said.

The term “sex” refers to whether a person was born male or female, while a person’s “gender identity” refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may be different from biological sex.

A variety of lawsuits have challenged the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX. One was filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates free speech, due process, and religious liberty on college campuses.

Robert L. Shibley, executive director of the organization, said Lankford’s hearings are “an important part of Congress’ oversight powers and responsibilities.” But ultimately, he said, “this will be resolved through actual congressional action.”

“[The administration] is basically using these ‘Dear Colleague’ letters,” Shibley said, “to push through what are really changes in the law that should at least have to go through the notice and comment process under the Administrative Procedure Act, which ideally would go through Congress itself and be passed through law if there’s going to be a change in legal requirements.”

In explaining the decision to send guidance on transgender students to schools and universities that receive federal funding, McIntosh said of the Education Department:

The Office of Civil Rights was engaged in investigating and reaching agreements with states and districts because those complaints seemed to be accelerating as, in general, the world has been paying much more attention to gay and lesbian and transgender rights in the recent years.

We felt that it was important that we tell a broader audience … how we were interpreting Title IX.

Lankford acknowledged that congressional hearings will only get him so far, and said he plans to continue fighting the Obama administration’s actions through Congress, the administrative process, and the courts.

“It’s a long process, obviously,” he said.

Lankford said he doesn’t object to extending greater protection against discrimination to students who desire it, but said those decisions should be left up to local school districts to work out.

“I don’t want any child to be bullied, I don’t want anyone having an unsafe situation at a school. But the local school districts should be those entities that actually handle that, not have someone from Washington, D.C., have a one-size-fits-all [solution] for every district, whether it’s Hawaii, Alaska, Oklahoma, or Maine, to say this is how you will handle this issue,” he said, adding:

Those districts can handle it, and they should have some sort of protections that are in place. It’s entirely reasonable for the federal government to step in and say to a district, ‘What are you doing to make sure that every student is protected and is in a safe learning environment?’ That’s a reasonable request by them. But to tell them exactly how to do it, that is an overreach. That is left up to the state to make that decision, not a federal responsibility.


Intolerance at Australian Universities too

Greg Sheridan

A sign of our energetic participation in the global madness is the vicious, ugly protest at the University of Sydney against an honorary doctorate for John Howard.

Without doubt, Howard is the greatest Australian prime minister since Menzies. His only serious competition is Bob Hawke, who was certainly a fine prime minister, but Howard puts Hawke in the shade for longevity and his extraordinary achievement in getting GST and securing the nation’s borders.

When I was an undergraduate at Sydney University back in the 1970s, a sizeable number of its academics supported Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and every other communist dictator. That made them all fellows in good standing in the university community. But a democratic giant like Howard — who won four elections perfectly peacefully, and lost two perfectly peacefully, and who has written two splendid books — is somehow or the other profoundly offensive to the newly authoritarian and deeply illiberal atmosphere dominant on our campuses.

The truly mad element here is that this is the new atmosphere of our campuses in repose. Previously they became deeply intolerant during some political crisis, such as the Vietnam War. Now they are intolerant all the time.


Thursday, October 06, 2016

UK: Labour's opposition to new grammar schools is 'rank hypocrisy' because they send their own kids to selective schools

Labour's opposition to new grammar schools is 'rank hypocrisy' because senior figures send their own children to selective schools, the education secretary has claimed.

Justine Greening - who is thought to be sceptical about Theresa May's plans for a new generation of grammar schools - used her main speech to the Tory faithful in Birmingham to slam Jeremy Corbyn's campaign against the policy.

Ms Greening launched a defence of the policy and insisted it would offer more flexibility to parents and help ensure every child got a good education.

She also announced she would spend £60million on creating 'opportunity areas' in six parts of the country most struggling with social mobility.

Days after it emerged controversial peer Shami Chakrabarti was sending her son to the exclusive Dulwich College, Ms Greening said the Labour campaign against new grammars was 'classic' from a party which insists on telling voters 'do as I say, not as I do'.

Speaking at Birmingham's International Convention Centre, she said: 'Unless you can afford to move to the right area, education has been the ultimate postcode lottery.

'That’s why our green paper is asking how we can create more great school places in more parts of the country, including selective places.

'Grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap between children on free school meals and their better off classmates.

'That's because in grammars, those children on free school meals progress twice as fast as the other children, so the gap disappears. And 99% of grammars schools are rated good or outstanding.

'But in spite of this, Labour's approach to grammars is: close these schools down.

'And it’s rank hypocrisy. Because Labour Shadow Ministers send their children to grammars too.'

Labour leader Mr Corbyn found a rare issue on which he could unite his fractious party by coming out firmly against grammar schools.

He has been criticised for the move as he and several colleagues attended grammars as children while senior Labour politicians have used private selective schools.

Despite the controversy, Mr Corbyn scored a win over Mrs May in the final PMQs before party conference season by focusing on the issue.

And he used his main conference speech in Liverpool last week to call Labour activists out for a national campaign day against the policy.

Ms Greening's plan for 'opportunity areas' will aim to offer high-quality careers advice, and mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities.

And they will work with organisations such as the Careers & Enterprise Company, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the National Citizen Service.

The Education Secretary told activists in Birmingham: 'This Conservative Government is determined to build a country that works for everyone, and education is at the heart of that ambition.

'Opportunity Areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter what their background.

'Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical. This is about giving children in these areas the right knowledge and skills, advice at the right time, and great experiences.

'My department will work with local authorities, education and skills providers, businesses, and the wider community, not just to focus on what we can do to help inside schools, but also create the opportunities outside school that will raise sights and broaden horizons for young people.'


Oxbridge freshers are to get classes in sexual consent that teach them how not to rape their fellow undergrads

Freshers at Oxford and Cambridge universities are being put in classes telling them not to rape.

Each first year has to attend a controversial 'consent class' during Freshers' Week in October, which teaches students not to sexually assault others.

Classes at Oxford University are compulsory - with the same workshops at Cambridge being run on an opt-out basis.

Rugby players at Oxford University will also be made to attend anti-misogyny workshops later in the year to stamp out 'lad culture' among players.

The initiative has been branded too little too late by some, with one student saying: 'I've never been to a consent class and I've still managed never to have sexually assaulted anyone.'

But Orla White - Vice President for Women at Oxford University, has defended the classes, saying the discussions 'break taboos'.

The 21-year-old, who graduated from Oxford in 2016 and is now in charge of running the workshops, said: 'The classes are really important to initiate conversations around consent.

'They break taboos and encourage discussions which didn't happen in sex education at school.

'The feedback we get is extremely positive because students can discuss the issues in a safe environment with people their own age.'

Not everyone agrees, with one undergraduate refusing to attend a similar workshop at Warwick University.

George Lawlor, 20, said: 'If you need to be taught what is and what is not consent by the age of 18, a 90 minute seminar at the start of university is not going to fix that.

'Most people at university know exactly how to treat other people and would never take advantage of someone, whether they're drunk or not.'

George, from Rugby, Warwickshire and is in his final year at Warwick University, added: 'I've never been to a consent class and I've still managed never to have sexually assaulted anyone.

'Consent education starts at home and it's about something more than that - it's about having respect.'

At Oxford, each undergraduate college must schedule a 90 minute sexual consent class as part of their welcome timetable.

Here students will be told that no means no and it is still classed as rape even if the victim was drunk.

Classes are compulsory for all first year students, but there is no penalty if students fail to attend.

Miss White, from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, said: 'We say the classes are compulsory to encourage people to attend, but we don't follow up on who does and doesn't go.

'There could be a number of reasons why a student doesn't attend.'

During sessions, students are given several scenarios where they must discuss if sexual consent was given - such as if alcohol has any impact on consent and whether someone in a loving relationship can be assaulted.

At Cambridge University, similar classes are put on and at certain colleges students must opt-out if they don't wish to attend.

Audrey Sebatindira, Women's Officer at Cambridge University Students' Union, commented: 'The purpose is to bust myths about sexual violence, encourage students to openly discuss sexual consent, signpost them to relevant organisations and individuals and to reinforce the importance of bodily autonomy.

'There's only one workshop that freshers attend as part of a host of other freshers talks, but students are encouraged to continue having these conversations throughout the year.

'Some have even gone on to run uni-wide campaigns of their own around the issue of consent.'

Oxford University have also been criticised in the past for hosting Good Lad workshops which are compulsory for members of the rugby team.

Last year, rugby players were banned from one of the biggest tournaments of the year if they didn't attend the anti-sexism workshop.

Good Lad are set to run the workshops for the rugby team again this year - and failure to attend will affect the team's accreditation within the university.

A spokesperson for Good Lad added: 'We have worked with the rugby team [at Oxford] for a number of years now and this is set to continue this year.

'Furthermore, we run workshops with all the college rugby teams at Oxford each year.

'Our core product is workshops promoting a decision-making framework which equips men to deal with complex gender situations and become agents of positive change within their universities, sports teams, social circles and broader communities.

'We call this 'Positive Masculinity'.

'We then discuss proximal and salient scenarios to demonstrate how positive masculinity can work in situations young men are likely to encounter.

'To date, the response has been extremely positive with several groups coming back year after year, and feedback indicating an extremely high approval rating.'

Miss White said it's up to individual sports teams whether or not they ask the organisation to come in, but has confirmed if Good Lad do put on a workshop for a team then every team member must attend.

Failure to do so affects the team's accreditation by the university.

Miss White added: 'Good Lad is their own organisation, but we collaborate with them and the workshops are recommended by SportsFed.

'It's down to individual sports clubs to decide whether or not to run them, but many do, and when they are run within clubs, attendance is compulsory.

'Later in the year, we'll be rolling out an accreditation scheme for sports clubs, and one of the requirements for an excellent mark will be engagement in training provided by Good Lad and the student union.'


Racist policy at ANU

Discriminating against the Han.  American Ivy league universities do the same.

Australia's top-ranked global university is moving to lower its proportion of Chinese international students, a group it describes as "dominating" international student numbers.

Documents unearthed in a freedom of information request reveal the Australian National University has since 2015 quietly implemented a "diversification strategy" in an attempt to lower its share of Chinese enrolments.

ANU has the largest proportion of Chinese students in the Group of Eight universities. Over 60 per cent of its commencing international undergraduate enrolments were from China in 2016.

The documents, obtained by ANU student newspaper Woroni, reveal the university has been concerned about the financial risk of heavy dependence on the Chinese market.

There was a need to "mitigate potential risk exposure in the event of market downturn," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington is recorded as saying in the minutes of a February 2016 ANU Council meeting.

The diversification strategy aims to recruit students from other nations such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.

But the documents reveal mixed success for this strategy, with enrolment from only Singapore and India growing since the implementation of the diversification plan in early 2015. Enrolments from those countries grew by 8 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively. 

However, in the past five years, enrolments from Chinese students have grown from 42.1 per cent of the international student intake to 59.1 per cent in 2016.

"The University remains exposed to the Chinese international market," a report dated May 2015 said. "Diversification strategies at College and Central level are addressing this issue, but will take time to make a meaningful impact," it said.

 Anne Baly, Director International for ANU, told Fairfax Media the university was motivated mainly by creating a diverse, internationalised student body.

"I suspect ANU is not totally alone in this," she said. "We welcome and actively recruit the best and brightest students from around the world. For us, having a student body that is reflective of the global community at large is great for all students."

Ms Baly said over-reliance on any one country for international students "in itself is not a great business model, but I think that the driver behind this is about diversity. It's not like we're moving away from recruiting students from China. They are overwhelmingly great students to have."

There had been no particular problems with racial tension between groups on the campus, Ms Baly said.

But she said concentrations of students from any one country makes it "hard to provide them with the international experience", because they tended to socialise and work within their language group.

"We would be looking to encourage a broader group of students across all disciplines as well."

The uni was pursuing its diversification strategy through marketing in other countries and pursuing student exchanges through partnership agreements, she said.

ANU International Students department president Harry Feng said he was unaware of the diversification strategy, but said "I am not concerned as long as all the applicants… are treated fairly with the same set of standards."

ANU has agreements with hundreds of overseas education agencies who act as middlemen in the recruitment of ANU international students. One of the FOI documents, a May 2015 report on the diversification strategy, indicates the university management was aware of the need to improve the management of such agents.

In 2015, an ABC Four Corners investigation exposed the sometimes corrupt and fraudulent activities of Chinese education agents, including some representing ANU.

Ms Baly said the university worked through reputable education agents and managed such relationships very carefully.

Several issues involving pro-Beijing Chinese students at ANU have made the news this year, including an incident where the head of a Chinese student group allegedly bullied a campus pharmacy worker over displaying the Falun Gong-linked paper The Epoch Times in the shop.

Chinese dissident and ANU maths student Wu Lebao told the Australian Financial Review he was forced to move out of a flat he sublet from fellow Chinese students after they discovered his political views. A Chinese PhD student at ANU drew attention for creating a pro-Communist party nationalist video that went viral online.

The university also launched an investigation into students using essay cheating services advertising online in Mandarin in January. 

Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute said universities were exposed when overly dependent on international students from a single market.

"As a general rule, heavy financial reliance on an international source country does have risks – we saw this with Indian students a few years ago, when bad publicity about crime in Australia, a high dollar and changes to visa rules combined to reduce student numbers," he said.

"There is also the risk that political factors overseas make it harder for students to travel overseas or economic problems in their country make foreign education less affordable."

ANU was Australia's top-ranked global university in the 2016 QS World Rankings and second highest in this year's Times World University Rankings. International students' enrolment decisions are typically influenced heavily by global rankings.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Trump: ‘Common Core Will Be Ended, and Disadvantaged Children’ Will Go to the School of Their Choice

In a campaign speech in Bedford, N.H., GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said Thursday that in his administration, Common Core state educational standards will be ended, and disadvantaged kids will be able to choose what school they want to go to.

“Common core will be ended, and disadvantaged children will be allowed to attend the school of their choice,” Trump said, adding that “the catastrophe known as Obamacare will be repealed and replaced, and it’s dying of its own volition anyway.”

According to the Department of Education website, state education chiefs and governors in 48 states developed the Common Core, which is “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.”

Besides the District of Columbia, 42 states have adopted Common Core standards.

Trump also touted his economic agenda, which he said “can be summed up” with three words: “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“We’re going to pass the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan, and we’re going to lower .. the business rate from 35 percent all the way down to 15 percent, making America into a magnet for new jobs and growth,” he said.

“Every wasteful and unnecessary regulation will be eliminated along with ever illegal executive order. We will unleash the power of American energy,” Trump said.

Trump said the U.S. is “sitting on $50 trillion of untapped energy reserves, and we’re going to put that wealth into the pockets of the American people, and we’re going to start reducing debt.”


British Primary school outlaws RUNNING in the playground: Parents demand 'let kids be kids'

Children have been banned from running in the playground by a primary school, in an intervention labelled 'ridiculous' by parents.

Teachers at Hillfort Primary School in Liskeard, Cornwall, brought in the ban after children kept on 'ending up in first aid' - and instead put on activities such as sand play, a choir and Lego.

But parents have condemned the school for using health and safety as an excuse to 'remove the liberty to spontaneously run in the playground'.

Parent Caroline Wills, who has a six-year-old daughter in Year Two, told MailOnline today: 'Kids will be kids. How far is the school going to take this?

'In this day and age kids are stopped from being kids in so many ways. They have got to be allowed to be children.'

But Lee Jackson, who has an eight-year-old son in Year Four at the school, said: 'My son is always falling over and banging his head and hurting himself.

'Having one area for quiet play is a good idea, then they've got the choice.'

Children have been dancing to the YMCA instead and the school reported a '30 per cent drop in first aid incidents and an 80 per cent drop in behavioural incidents'.

A petition, which has more than 150 signatures, was started by Leah Browning, 32, whose son Jago attends the school. She said she was delighted with the support she had from other parents and members of the local community.

She told MailOnline: 'I started the petition because I want my son and others to be able to run during imaginative play in the playground.

'It's a big thing for a child of five to be cooped up all day. Running releases endorphins. In the newsletter the school originally sent out, the issue seemed to be about bad behaviour.

'I felt this should be addressed with the individual children – the majority shouldn't be penalised for the behaviour of the minority.'

But Ms Browning said the headmaster has now come back to parents explaining that the new arrangements do not actually mean a total ban on running.

She added: 'The school has come back and said the worry was over kids bumping into each other. I'm ecstatic if it means the children can run. 'As long as my little boy can carry on being a superhero and running in the playground, as he ought to be able to, I'm happy.'

In the petition, the parents say: 'Please lift the ban on running in the playground at Hillfort Primary School at lunch time break.

'Ensure that there is adequate funding and provision of suitable staff to safely supervise lunch break.

'Enable and empower children's right and freedom to run freely through spontaneous, child led play, in the playground during lunch time break.

'Do not allow 'health and safety' to remove the liberty to spontaneously run in the playground during imaginative and child-led play.'

The parents added that the school should consider 'alternative options to reduce risk, as required without removing liberty to move freely during play'.

They suggested staggered lunch break times, making the playground bigger, 'or other creative alternatives to removing the right to play freely in the playground'.

The school's headmaster Dr Tim Cook, who has been in his position since last November, defended the ban but said it would be reviewed in the future.

Dr Cook said the school has had one complaint about the ban, which was revealed in the school newsletter on September 23 and implemented last Tuesday.

He added: 'I sat down with some of my senior colleagues to assess the problem with children running across the playground and ending up in first aid.

'We've tried to be a little more reactive and proactive and put in place eight to 10 lunch time activities for the children including a choir, sand play, and Lego.

'I left our Year Five class dancing to YMCA just last week. Children can still run in the early years' playground and we have two football courts which the children can run in.

'This is just a ban on running from one side of the playground to the other.

'This has only been in place for three days, but we have already noticed a 30 per cent drop in first aid incidents and an 80 per cent drop in behavioural incidents.

'I'm on the gate every single morning and not one parent has approached me about this.'

Dr Cook has admitted that communication on the issue could have been better. He added: 'If I have any admission of guilt it's that I could have been clearer in my communication originally - I do accept that.

'Some of the points on the petition aren't factually accurate and I have flagged them up for review.

'I do take exception to the claim that we're not putting enough staff in place or that we're using this as a means of cutting back lunch staff.

'We have the same amount of staff who try their very best to do what is best for the children.'

The school said it would be reviewing the new policy over the next couple of weeks and will retract it if staff feel it is not having a positive effect.

The school also clarified in a newsletter last week that it had only stopped running where it takes place directly across the playground, after some children had been hurt by others running into one another.

Despite many parents opposing the move, one mother of two children at the school, said she thought that having different sorts of structured play at lunchtimes was 'brilliant', particularly to help children who might be shy or at risk of being bullied.

'I can't understand why parents would complain about it, it's crackers,' she said.

'Not all kids are into running or boisterous. Some prefer to sit and be quiet. Now my daughter can sit in the sunshine and read a book without feeling like she's a wally.'

'There's karaoke, there's sand pits, and it's all interactive, so if your child finds it difficult to mix or join in with others sometimes, there's something there for them. It gives them a chance to join in and be social.'

It comes a year after Old Priory Junior Academy in Plympton, Devon, banned children from doing cartwheels and handstands at break times over safety fears.

Pupils at that school were told in June 2015 that they couldn't perform 'gymnastic movements' in the playground after some children had been left with injuries.

Emma Hermon-Wright, the school's interim headmistress, said she introduced the ban because the children were attempting moves 'beyond their capability'.


Is taking a gap year before college a good idea?

Malia Obama’s not the only high school graduate delaying college for a year. Here’s why they’re doing it.

The two-sentence press release the White House issued this spring about first daughter Malia’s plan to take a gap year before starting at Harvard in September 2017 sent tremors through certain circles. “Our website traffic the next day was more than nine times what it usually is,” says Ethan Knight, founder and executive director of the American Gap Association, based in Portland, Oregon. Google searches for the term spiked dramatically that day, too, but within a week were back to the status quo — probably because much of the activity was from people simply wondering “What the heck’s a gap year, anyway?” After all, only about 1 percent of American students defer college to take one.

The idea of young people putting off school or work to “find” themselves has been around at least since Jack Kerouac published On the Road in 1957. In 1969 a company called Dynamy was formed in Worcester as one of the first experiential learning programs in the US specifically for gap years. By the 1980s, the concept began gaining in popularity when Cornelius Bull, an educator who had spent time in Europe, started the Center for Interim Programs in Princeton, New Jersey, and Northampton. As headmaster of the Verde Valley prep school in Sedona, Arizona, he saw students transformed by their service work in Mexico and on Navajo reservations. “That’s what lit them up,” says his daughter, Holly Bull, now president of Interim. “That’s what they talked about and remembered at reunions, and that got him started.”

Department of Education data are clear that, on the whole, not going right to college from high school often means never going at all or never graduating if you do go. What differentiates a gap year from simply taking some time off is that most kids who take them have already been accepted at a school and are pursuing their chosen course through hands-on learning with intentionality and purpose. “People are scared to take a break,” says Mia McCue, a 19-year-old Natick High School graduate who started at American University this fall. She took a gap year because “I just needed to do something different to make me excited about school again.” That did not mean sitting around the house posting on Instagram or taking an extended vacation. McCue’s parents supported her decision but encouraged her to learn something. She ended up spending most of her break time doing volunteer work and picking up Spanish in South America. Afterward, she says, “I felt a new excitement to go to school that I wasn’t feeling at the end of senior year.”

It’s not an uncommon sentiment. One of the reasons gap years have been steadily increasing in popularity in the past five or 10 years is the growing pressures students face in high school. “They’re totally burned out,” says Jane Sarouhan, vice president of Interim Northampton. “They’re taking three AP courses, playing sports for the season, and taking as ambitious an extracurricular schedule as possible.” In addition, the prevalence of social media, which allows kids to curate a “perfect” image, and the more involved style of parenting that’s become the norm in recent years mean many young people lack the self-sufficiency, maturity, confidence, and emotional intelligence needed to succeed in college or the “real world.”

The Department of Education’s most recent statistics found the average US student who goes to college within a year after high school takes just under six years to graduate. The data on gap-year students are limited, but indicate 90 percent of them do go on to college within a year of high school graduation, and they tend to be more likely to graduate on time, have higher GPAs, and be more engaged in campus life than their counterparts. “There’s more and more pressure to be on this conveyor belt, finishing school, pursuing a master’s, getting a career,” says Alia Pialtos, assistant director of admissions at Dynamy. “There’s not time to explore what one’s really passionate about. A gap year allows students to think of themselves as a whole person.”

While safety is a priority in formal gap-year situations, part of the point is for students to challenge themselves to make good decisions and handle tough situations. “The most important thing on the gap year is you learn your limits,” says 21-year-old Laura Ippolito of Andover, who started at Montana State University in September 2015 after a post-high school stint studying in South America, the American West, and Southeast Asia. “You learn that where you think your limits are, they’re actually way past that.” Facilitated gap-year programs — which perhaps two-thirds of gap-year students choose to join, at least for the first portion of their time off — also usually involve shared introspection and mentoring that could be considered a kind of life coaching.

All this comes at a price, of course, in addition to the rising financial burden of earning a four-year degree. A semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Wyoming, or Colorado’s Where There Be Dragons, for example, starts at around $10,000 and can go well into the mid-five-figure range. Costs like those raise the question of whether the experience is only for rich kids. A 2014 survey of gap-year students found that nearly 45 percent estimated their parents’ annual incomes at $100,000 or higher. But some programs have started to help, like Oregon-based Carpe Mundi, which provides scholarships and other support for local low-income students interested in a gap year.

To save money, students can also build a gap year that lets them live at home. Maya Ludtke, 20, lived with her freelance-journalist single mother in Cambridge while working at a City Year AmeriCorps program in a Roxbury elementary school. She was paid $1,200 a month, before taxes, and upon completion won an AmeriCorps award worth nearly $6,000. The job came with a 90-minute commute each way and long days. “It really was like a different world,” she says. “I learned there’s a lot of work you can do right in your own community. I came out of it thinking I really need to take advantage of the fact that I got into a really good college [Wellesley], and I kind of see its value more.”

Other opportunities include volunteering, internships — some with stipends — job shadowing, and community service programs. Students can sometimes receive college credit for work they do on their gap year, and it’s even possible to find financial aid for the experience (check for a long list of scholarships and grants).

Daniel Lander, who spent his year between Concord Academy and Harvard interning in local, national, and international politics, says: “Watching people trying to pass comprehensive climate legislation or health care bills was really cool in a way that studying calculus wasn’t. It helped me frame questions about what I wanted to get out of college, as opposed to just focusing on studying and moving on to the next level without interrogating where my passions might lie.”

Not all universities allow deferments, but many are creating their own gap or “bridge” year programs for students who want to defer. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a $7,500 fellowship, and Tufts University provides financial aid for its new 1+4 service learning programs. At Boston College, “we strongly endorse gap years” for students who want them, says John Mahoney, director of undergraduate admissions. “It’s important for students to have a good sense of why they’re going to college and what they’re going for. If a gap year helps with that, we’re behind it all the way.”

What students get out of gap years may make them well worth the cost. “Taking longer to graduate, changing majors, or maybe even changing schools in the middle, semesters abroad, all that is potentially much more expensive than figuring out what you want to do in advance on your gap year,” says Dynamy’s Pialtos. While financial benefits are nice, the character building and, sometimes, resume building that students get out of their time between high school and college are even more valuable. “Colleges are tracking gap-year students, and they’re more mature, more focused, more rested, and less inclined to be swept along by the partying, and they have a far greater sense of their personal power,” says Holly Bull. “They have fewer emotional issues and roommate issues. Why wouldn’t any college want that in their freshman class?”

Or, as Maria Ippolito, Laura’s mother, puts it, she’s “just a very different person than the kid who left to go on the gap year. She’s more worldly and kind of fearless.”


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Dozens of Islamic schools are operating in Britain despite being deemed 'unsafe'

Dozens of Islamic schools continue to operate despite inspectors finding that pupils are unsafe, exposed to extreme views or unaware of basic British values, a Mail investigation reveals today.

The findings suggest that a supposed Government crackdown on extremism in schools – following the Trojan Horse scandal – has failed to materialise.

Five Islamic schools have been allowed to stay open after inspections found they were failing to protect children from extremism or radicalisation.

Some 18 are still open despite Ofsted warning that pupils are ‘unsafe’ there.

These include one where children were given books about stoning to death, and another where 99 pupils were found to have gone missing and to be ‘at risk of exploitation’.

Even in the most extreme cases – where the Government has tried to shut a school – staff have been able to use legal challenges to keep it open. At least two failing Islamic schools are continuing to teach children while staff try to drag Ofsted through the courts over their damning reports.

The findings are based on research into the 105 Islamic schools in England, which are all registered – and therefore legal – independent schools, and should be monitored by Ofsted.

But there are understood to be thousands more children educated in unregistered illegal faith schools across the UK. In what MPs described as a ‘shocking scandal’, we can reveal that:

At least nine Islamic schools have stayed open despite having 'limited or no' music teaching, and 16 do not teach art properly; 

Male and female staff were separated by a screen during meetings at one Islamic school;

Another school was found to be teaching children in buildings infested with pigeons, mice and rats;

Several treat boys and girls 'unequally' and allow sexist views to go unchallenged;

Pupils at one Islamic school said they did not know what Christmas was;

Several schools have been repeatedly rated inadequate with serious failings, but have been allowed to stay open. 

A source close to Education Secretary Justine Greening last night said she is taking the Mail’s findings ‘very seriously’ and is ‘pressing her officials to see what changes can be made’.

The Government pledged a crackdown on extremism in schools following the Trojan Horse scandal in 2014 – a campaign to introduce strict Muslim ideology in a string of Birmingham state schools.

Then education secretary Michael Gove vowed schools would be shut down if found not to be protecting pupils from the threat of extremism.

But more than two years on, 30 of the 105 Muslim schools have not been inspected at all by Ofsted. Seven appear not to have been inspected in five years or more.

At Darul Uloom Islamic high school in Birmingham, inspectors found a large number of leaflets ‘containing highly concerning and extremist views’, such as ‘music, dancing and singing are acts of [the] devil and prohibited’. Serious safety concerns and a very narrow curriculum were also discovered.

But despite being officially struck off by the Department for Education, the school is refusing to close. It remains open five years after major concerns were first raised – when a preacher was filmed making racist remarks about Hindus and ranting that ‘disbelievers are the worst creatures’. A spokesman for the school said it disputes the Ofsted reports as well as the conduct of the inspectors, accusing them of racism.

Ofsted found Al Ameen primary school, in Birmingham, was not promoting British values. Year 6 pupils said they thought France was in Britain and none who spoke to inspectors knew what an MP was. Books promoting inequality of the sexes were found and when a pupil drew an explicitly violent picture, staff failed to acknowledge it as inappropriate.

Another Islamic school in Birmingham was found in March to have cameras in girls’ changing areas. Inspectors said pupils at Al Burhan grammar school were unsafe, ‘feel vulnerable and that their dignity as teenage girls is not fully respected’. Yet it continues to operate and was allowed to keep its ‘outstanding’ rating. A spokesman for the school said Ofsted’s concerns ‘were all swiftly addressed’.

In one Leicester school, pupils were found to have stereotyped views of women, but these went unchallenged. Inspectors noted that just one cup was being used for all students to drink from.

At Jameah girls’ academy nearby, pupils ‘expressed great discomfort at the thought of being educated in a mixed-gender, multicultural setting’.

In Tower Hamlets, East London, books promoting gender inequality and punishments including stoning to death were found at Jamiatul Ummah school.

Ad-Deen primary in Ilford, Essex – founded by Sajeel Shahid, who trained the ringleader of the 7/7 attacks – did not teach British values and failed to prevent children from going missing from education. It follows an Ofsted warning last year about the safety of children from Birmingham and Tower Hamlets who stopped attending school with little explanation.

At the Institute of Islamic Education in Dewsbury adult men who had not been vetted shared overnight accommodation with boarding pupils as young as 11. A recent inspection, however, found standards at the school have now been met.

Four failing schools are contesting Ofsted’s findings through costly court proceedings, claiming they have been the victims of a ‘witch hunt’ – two of which are continuing to operate despite an official ban.

A judge has refused to name one school that is challenging a highly critical Ofsted report in the High Court, provoking a backlash last week.

Tory MP Philip Hollobone last night said the Mail’s revelations were ‘a shocking scandal’, adding: ‘There is no point having Ofsted inquiries and investigations if their findings and recommendations are not implemented as soon as possible.’

An Ofsted spokesman said: ‘Inspectors report on independent schools and it is the Department for Education’s responsibility to cancel their registration.’

A DfE spokesman said: ‘Extremism has no place in our society and when we find schools promoting twisted ideologies or discrimination … we will take action, including closing the school or working with the police as necessary.’


Mass: Former Chelmsford High student files lawsuit alleging sexual assault, retaliation

A former Chelmsford High School student who was allegedly raped by at least three teammates during a school football camp in 2013, then was told by his coach that what happened "is part of growing up,” has filed a lawsuit saying he was retaliated against for reporting the accusations to law enforcement.

"It’s a serious sexual assault case," said attorney Brian Leahey, who represents the teenager and his parents. In the aftermath of the alleged attack, Leahey said, school officials "whitewashed” what happened and blamed the victim.

He said the teen and his parents "feel very strongly that what happened was wrong and they want to hold those who are responsible accountable.”

In a statement, the Chelmsford Public Schools said it wouldn’t comment on the accusations "other than to categorically deny them.”

"We will respond in more detail as the suit progresses,” the statement said.

The complaint filed in US District Court in Boston asserts school officials were slow to tell law enforcement about the student’s accusations and "whitewashed the events” during its own investigation into the incident at Camp Robindel in Moultonborough, N.H.

The suit also alleges school leaders failed to intervene as the 15-year-old boy was bullied and branded a liar by his peers and harassed by some teachers because he had accused "star athletes” or students with close ties to Chelmsford and its public schools.

"Star athletes and those that embrace it can do as they please as rules do not apply to them,” Leahey wrote in the suit, which singled out Chelmsford athletic director Scott Moreau and former football coach Bruce Rich for embracing a "sports culture that puts winning ahead of everything else.”

"They encouraged their athletes to bully, harass, hurt, and attempt to injure each other under the guise of ‘team building’ where such tactics are used to ‘teach’ athletes about what it takes to ‘become a man’ tough enough to play sports for Chelmsford and compete for championships,” Leahey wrote.

The lawsuit was filed under seal in August and later amended. A redacted version of the complaint was made public Thursday, Leahey said. It names Moreau, Rich, the town, its school committee, and several former and current school administrators and teachers.

The alleged assault occurred in August 2013 in a bunkhouse, where the student said he was dragged into the shower area by a 15-year-old boy and held down as another teenager tried to rape him with an object, according to the lawsuit.

After the boy fought back, two of the alleged assailants held the student’s arms and legs while a third raped him with an object, the complaint said. Two other players participated in the alleged attack, but the teenager couldn’t see them, the suit said.

The boy and his parents are named in the lawsuit, but the Globe does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault or their relatives. His suspected attackers are referred to in court papers by initials. At the time, they were 15 years old, Leahey said.

After the student returned home, he told his family that he had been attacked, prompting his mother to e-mail Rich and Moreau, the complaint said.

Moreau told the teenager’s mother not to go to police, the lawsuit said, and then failed to show up for a meeting at the school. While the student and his mother waited for Moreau, the complaint said, Rich came by and allegedly said, "You will get through this. We will get through this. This is part of growing up.”

Rich declined to comment Friday. Messages left for school committee members, Moreau, and other former and current school employees named in the lawsuit were not returned.

Moultonborough police opened an investigation after the boy’s family reported the alleged attack to a Lowell police detective, the suit said. Moultonborough police Sergeant Scott Fulton referred questions about the case to the Carroll County attorney, who did not return messages.

At the end of the 2013-2104 school year, the boy left Chelmsford High and repeated 10th grade at his new school, Leahey said. He is now 18 years old. The complaint doesn’t specify how much money the family is seeking beyond saying they want to be reimbursed for the teenager’s private school expenses.

"We’ll let a jury decide what the appropriate number is to compensate them for all the damages they suffered,” Leahey said. "What happened to my client and his family shouldn’t happen to anybody.”


It’s time for vocational schools to get some respect

Mass. employers depend on their graduates and say more must be done to address long wait lists and out-of-date facilities

On a Monday morning in late spring, city buses arrive like clockwork on Malcolm X Boulevard, disgorging students hunched over cellphones, earbud wires trailing down the fronts of hoodies. They file toward Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where executive director Kevin McCaskill, in a suit and pin-striped shirt with matching pocket square, and two other administrators greet them as if part of a receiving line. “Good morning! Good morning! Good morning!” McCaskill booms at bleary-eyed kids moving as if they are battling a stiff wind.

Among those passing through the metal doors is Reno Guerrero, who emigrated several years ago with his mother, older sister, and younger brother from the Dominican Republic to Dorchester. Guerrero, 19, wears a white T-shirt, jeans, and white socks with soccer sandals. His hair is close-cropped, and a shadow of a beard is shaved to precision points at his temples. Clear stone studs sparkle in each earlobe. He is feeling nervous about his senior presentation on engine repair, the culmination of three years of course work plus intensive training in automotive technology. But the nerves are tempered by excitement. He’s learned he’s been accepted to MassBay Community College, and he already has a job lined up for after graduation at a garage that services Boston’s city-owned vehicles. “Cars, for me, is everything right now,” he says. “It’s what I know how to do, and I’m going to do it for life.”

Guerrero is a success story, but his school, one of the most beleaguered in the state, fits a different stereotype: the vocational school as a place where “you stuck people who had nothing going for them,” says Katherine S. Newman, a social scientist at UMass Amherst. In 2014, Madison Park had a four-year graduation rate of 63 percent (the statewide average is 86), and on the 2015 math MCAS, only 24 percent of its students scored at least proficient (the statewide average is 79). Almost 60 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged, nearly triple the statewide rate, and it has almost double the rate of students with disabilities of the Boston Public Schools overall.

Madison Park’s widely known designation as one of the state’s underperforming schools has obscured what’s happening across the rest of the Commonwealth: rising interest in vocational schooling. Students want into vocational schools for the job opportunities. The Commonwealth’s 55 vocational schools claim some 48,000 students, but more than 3,000 others are wait listed at schools without seats to accommodate them. Massachusetts vocational schools are stretched thin at a time when local employers anticipate the majority of jobs they’ll create in the next few years will be well suited to vocational school grads. Business owners and others fear not enough is being done to address the problem.

“We’re turning away work because we don’t have the people to do it,” says Michael Tamasi, CEO of Avon-based AccuRounds Inc. His company, which makes precision-machined parts for industries, including medicine and aerospace, recruits heavily from the voc-ed schools in southeastern Massachusetts and Greater New Bedford.

“Employers are clamoring for training,” says Barry Bluestone, a professor of public policy at Northeastern University, who has co-authored two recent studies on vocational education in Massachusetts. The October 2015 report, “Meeting the Commonwealth’s Workforce Needs,” analyzed 675 occupations, from journalist to bank teller, and found state employers anticipate having 1.2 million relevant job openings between 2012 and 2022. In the January 2016 report, “The Critical Importance of Vocational Education in the Commonwealth,” 90 percent of employers surveyed wanted a larger pool of vocational-school graduates and nearly the same percentage agreed the schools themselves should have more modern equipment. Of respondents, 75 percent said they prefer to hire voc-ed graduates for entry-level positions and 61 percent for higher-level jobs.

Despite that interest, vocational schools have a long history of disfavor to overcome. Bluestone says public opinion about them started to trend negative after the 1963 federal Vocational Education Act required the schools to educate all comers, including prisoners and adults who needed retraining. With US manufacturing becoming a smaller part of the economy and automation replacing workers, a perception emerged that these were schools of last resort.

Unlike many industrialized countries, the United States “pushed the blue-collar training agenda into an educational corner and virtually assured that anyone who ventured there would be tarred by stigma,” UMass’s Newman and coauthor Hella Winston argue in their new book, Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century.

This national notion that vocational education tracked students toward dead-end, non-white-collar professions also took root in Massachusetts. Former lieutenant governor Tim Murray, an ardent advocate of vocational ed who is now president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, says that while the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act pumped more than $80 billion into schools to enhance academic standards, accountability, and school choice, it eliminated the position of associate commissioner of vocational technical education. After that, voc-tech programs “were treated as second-class citizens, because [state education overseers] were just so focused on MCAS,” Murray says about the standardized test that has been a high school graduation requirement since 1993.

In fact, many of the state’s vocational schools, or “vokes,” as they’re called, now see higher MCAS pass rates than the state’s comprehensive schools, have average dropout rates of below 1 percent, and send 57 percent of their students to post-secondary schools. Vokes offer the same core academic courses as comprehensive schools and many even offer Advanced Placement courses, along with vocational training.

Brendan O’Rourke, a lanky 18-year-old from Arlington with a shock of dark hair, shows me around Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington one day last spring. “My parents thought voke schools were for knuckleheads,” he confides as we walk through the underground “trade floor” where students in football field-size rooms bend over car engines, measure and cut PVC pipe, blast sheet metal with blowtorches, and fashion electrical circuits on pegboard walls.

O’Rourke explains that his middle school wood-shop teacher saw him struggling in English and math and suggested Minuteman as an alternative to Arlington High School. O’Rourke and his parents drove the 3 miles to the school, nestled on 66 wooded acres in Lexington just off Interstate 95, and after touring it, decided he should apply. He was admitted on the strength of his grades, attendance record, discipline history, recommendations, and an interview.

In the office of Minuteman’s superintendent-director, Edward A. Bouquillon, a rendering of a sleek new $144.9 million school building sits on an easel. In September, after an eight-year battle, voters in the towns that make up the Minuteman regional school district green-lighted the building. The school is refashioning itself into a “career academy” where students follow individualized educational tracks with access to state-of-the-art equipment relevant to potential careers in the state’s booming biotech and engineering industries. It will also continue to offer more traditional vocational pursuits like plumbing and cosmetology. Such a facility, Bouquillon says, will generate “a robust pipeline of qualified, joyful individuals to work in the region.”

Minuteman’s 87 percent graduation rate, like that of many Massachusetts vocational schools, is better than the state average for the nearly 950,000 students in the public schools. This is so even though almost half the students come into the school with an Individualized Education Program for a range of educational challenges such as autism spectrum disorders; intellectual, developmental, visual, or hearing impairments; and anxiety or depression. The data suggest vocational education’s mix of academic classwork with hands-on training helps these kids excel, and parents are noticing — one reason for the wait lists at many schools.

“The problem we found is, because the waiting lists are so long and they have so many applicants, to some extent these vocational schools are ‘creaming,’ ” Barry Bluestone says. “They’re taking the best students, not the worst. They’ve set the standards pretty high.”

Wearing white lab coats, hair tucked under protective caps, seven of O’Rourke’s classmates sit at a long table, pipettes in hand. Small class sizes are not unusual in vokes; as one administrator puts it, teacher-student ratios need to be smaller in classrooms where kids are wielding blowtorches or wiring transformers. O’Rourke and his classmates in the biotech track have to create an unadulterated bacteria culture in a petri dish.

Minuteman’s academics and opportunities clearly suit O’Rourke. “I got to work at Boston College’s research lab the summer of my sophomore year and the summer of my junior year, and that was such a great influence on me wanting to go to college,” he says. “Because some of the research I did was so out of this world, I couldn’t think I wanted to be anywhere but in a college lab.”

O’Rourke would go on to achieve his goal; he graduated in May and now is a biology major at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

When Tim Murray was a Boy Scout growing up in Worcester, he recalls earning part of a merit badge by visiting Worcester Vocational High School. Built in 1909, the school was funded by local industrialists intent on turning the influx of Irish, French, and Swedish immigrants into a trained workforce. Today, Worcester’s immigrants come from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Burundi, Somalia, Liberia, and Vietnam. Like other “gateway cities” — New Bedford, Springfield, Brockton, Fall River — with high unemployment and large minority communities, skill building is in demand. Worcester Technical, which replaced the old voke in 2006, has some 1,400 students. There were 500 students wait listed for the class of 2019.

Murray is a driving force behind the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education coalition, which brings together the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, chambers of commerce around the state, and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a public policy group of CEOs that aims to promote job growth. One of AVTE’s primary goals is to get thousands of students off wait lists and into the metal shops and industrial kitchens.

To do so requires “a new level of thinking,” Murray says. “It’s about better utilizing the dollars right now that are allocated in the education world and in the workforce training world. It’s about more flexibility of funding. It’s thinking in some new ways about after-school and summer programs to get these skills for those kids on waiting lists.

“We can do this,” he says. “We wouldn’t necessarily have to build new $100 million schools.”

David J. Ferreira, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, says that “ideally, we would build another two or three schools” to get at least some of the kids off waiting lists. But, statewide, the overall number of high school students is stagnant, and in areas such as Western Massachusetts and Cape Cod, enrollment is actually dropping. “When the existing buildings aren’t full, it’s hard to make a case to build new schools,” Ferreira says. With the biggest waiting lists generally in gateway cities that can’t share the tax load with wealthy towns like Lexington or Dover, “the state’s got to pick up a bigger piece of the action,” he says, never an easy proposition.

Like Murray, Ferreira believes that regional vocational school staff offering after-hours programs for local high school students could be part of the solution. For instance, at Greater Lowell Technical High School in Tyngsborough, the state’s largest voke with 2,250 students, superintendent-director Roger Bourgeois says the school has turned away a hundred qualified students each year since 2013. At the same time, the school has completed a $65 million renovation, adding a new cafeteria, a cyber cafe, and 13 new science labs. Grant money is available to schools for innovative proposals, and Bourgeois pictures offering four of Greater Lowell’s 24 vocational programs (one each from the personal service, construction, technology, and manufacturing/transportation clusters) as a half-day session. Wait-listed students would attend academic classes in their local high schools in Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, and Tyngsborough from late morning through mid-afternoon, then get bused to Greater Lowell for shop classes.

Ideas like Bourgeois’s may have merit, Ferreira says, but “Massachusetts tends to be very parochial. . . . It’s hard to get partnerships going. Even if you’re able to start them, money gets tight, and those programs disappear.”

Unlike Murray, Bourgeois believes the 1993 Reform Act has actually helped vocational education. Being held to the same standards as comprehensive high schools busted the myth that if you go to voc school, you can’t go to college. “That was the number one question that we got for 20 years,” Bourgeois says. “ ‘Can they go?’ Yes, they can, because we’re still giving them quality academics in addition to the training.”

A case in point is Greater Lowell student Alvin Tran. In a computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing class last spring, Tran works on the design of a water purification device. He shows off a plastic prototype he generated on a 3-D printer. Tran’s parents emigrated from Southeast Asia. His brother, older by one year, is a senior at Greater Lowell and hopes to be the first in the family to attend college. Tran, a junior honors student and tennis standout, also plans to go to college, possibly at UMass Lowell. He is thinking about pursuing civil engineering. “I like math,” he says, “so this suits me.”

But vocational students also come out of high school with a real skill. They could, as Murray puts it, “earn and learn” their way through college. “They’re generally more serious students, and they’re work-ready,” he says.

Tim Murray says Madison Park’s “underperforming” school label is  partly to blame for vocational education’s tarnished reputation in Massachusetts. “Public policy leaders at the State House and others — the Boston media, the business community — saw voc-tech education and the issues surrounding it simply through the prism of Madison Park,” Murray says. “They said, ‘This is what’s happening at Madison Park. This is what must be happening around the state. It’s not working,’ when in fact, Madison Park is the outlier.” Northeastern’s Barry Bluestone says we may need to scrap Madison Park and “start over again.”

Kevin McCaskill, who became Madison Park’s first-ever executive director in April 2015, disagrees with Bluestone. There is no waiting list at his school, designed for 1,500 students, but enrollment is up to 930 from 800 last year. “I think it’s just a matter of putting the right people in the right spot and making some great things happen,” McCaskill says. “The word in other segments of the Commonwealth is that [vocational ed] is the wave. We’ve really got to get Boston in tune that this is one of the hottest things going. Vocational education has been big for a long time. Why not be big in Boston?”

Like other voke schools, Madison Park is enormous, more than a million square feet of 1970s Brutalist-style concrete architecture. After the morning rush on that day back in May, Madison Park’s wide halls seemed eerily quiet. But in a room smelling of raw lumber, senior Kayla Colon, thick black ponytail falling to her waist over a Roxbury Community College T-shirt, maneuvered a plank through a table saw. At a break, she showed off a meticulously crafted toy chest with a hinged top, a present for her then 4-month-old daughter. Colon spent three years in the facilities-management program at Madison Park. She knew as soon as she tried out the program — which encompasses carpentry, electricity, plumbing, painting, papering, and landscaping — that it was right for her. “I like to work with my hands,” she said.

Colon graduated from the program this year. She considered joining the carpenters’ union but plans instead to study criminal justice at Roxbury Community College, which is close to her home in the South End and has a day-care center for her child.

Colon’s classmate at Madison Park, Reno Guerrero, who graduated with her, is now taking classes at MassBay. His Madison Park teachers had assured him that with the skills he learned in high school — and the city garage job that will cover his college tuition — he’s likely set for life. He hopes they’re right. His older sister has married and moved out of their Dorchester home. It’s all on him and his brother, he says, to “return all that happiness” that his mother has provided the family in the challenging years since they emigrated. He sees other teens doing drugs and joining gangs, but he doesn’t want that for himself. “I love cars,” he says simply. “This is my passion. I have to do what I love to do, and if I want to do this in the future, even if it’s not easy at first, I have to study hard and work hard.” He hopes, now that he is earning a salary, his mom will be able to quit her job as a taxi driver.

“Madison taught me how great it is to have an education and about being a professional in life,” he writes me via text. “I just can’t ask for anything better. Madison Park saved my life.”


Monday, October 03, 2016

Educators accused of sexual misconduct often find new posts

Vermont Academy fired an assistant dean in 2007 for allegedly propositioning a 16-year-old female student in lewd text messages. Yet the boarding school still produced three recommendations for its former employee, and he landed a job months later at Wesleyan University in Connecticut — overseeing student sexual misconduct hearings.

Brooks School in North Andover kicked a former admissions officer out of her campus residence in 1993 after she was accused of sexual misconduct with a male student. Even after her banishment — and Brooks’s $300,000 settlement with the student and his family — the admissions officer held jobs at two more private schools in Massachusetts.

And at Emma Willard School, a private school in Troy, N.Y., a teacher was fired in 1998 after he allegedly raped a student. But the school still wrote him two recommendations, and he later found a job at a private school in Connecticut.

The Globe Spotlight Team, as part of its ongoing investigation of sexual misconduct at the region’s private schools, identified 31 educators since the 1970s who, after being accused of sexually exploiting, assaulting, or harassing students, moved on to work at other schools or other settings with children, sometimes with a warm recommendation letter in hand.

It is a pattern that put additional children at risk. In seven of the cases reviewed by the Globe, the educators faced fresh sexual misconduct accusations in their new jobs.

In an era when employers routinely conduct multiple interviews with job candidates, check references, and search their backgrounds online, how could some of the most prestigious private schools in the country fail to discover that applicants had left previous jobs amid accusations of misconduct?

The answer, it turns out, lies in a toxic combination of schools and abusers alike trying to hush up scandals, schools failing to ask enough questions before hiring educators, and the fact that these are private institutions, with nothing like the scrutiny given their public counterparts. Private school teachers don’t even have to be licensed in most states, meaning it is harder for the state to block fired teachers from continuing to work in education and less likely for there to be a public record of any disciplinary action.

Revelations this year that some of the leading private schools in the country covered up sexual misconduct have infuriated and distressed many parents, students, and alumni, and have prompted at least two dozen schools to launch investigations. More than 100 private schools in the region have been touched by sexual abuse allegations involving more than 300 students over the past 25 years, the Spotlight Team found, including many cases that are only now coming to light.

Some of the schools played a direct role in sending accused staffers to other institutions. In nine of the 31 cases examined by the Spotlight Team, schools where teachers faced allegations of sexual misconduct nonetheless wrote the teachers letters of recommendation or served as references, in what critics describe as a deliberate effort to conceal scandals and help disgraced employees.

That total doesn’t include the notorious case of an athletic trainer at St. George’s School in Rhode Island who got a recommendation but didn’t take a new job. Headmaster Tony Zane wrote a letter of recommendation in 1980 for Al Gibbs, whom he had just dismissed amid allegations that Gibbs had sexually abused female students in the training room. Gibbs “has had a great deal of experience as a trainer, and he is most certainly competent,” Zane wrote — the same day he sent a St. George’s colleague a letter saying that Gibbs could not return to school “because of Al’s behavior in the training room.’’ A total of 31 former St. George’s students recently told investigators that Gibbs — who died in 1996 — harassed, groped, or raped them.

Officials at several schools that unwittingly hired teachers with a history of misconduct allegations were dismayed, when contacted by Globe reporters, to learn of their staffers’ pasts. A Wesleyan spokeswoman, Lauren Rubenstein, said administrators had no idea that its associate dean of students, Scott Backer, had been dismissed by Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vt., in 2007 and later sued by the former student whom he allegedly propositioned. The case was settled out of court in 2011.

“Had we been aware of this, Mr. Backer never would have been hired,’’ Rubenstein told the Globe in an e-mail in July. She added that Backer had received letters of recommendation from two deans at Vermont Academy and its athletic director.

Hours after the Globe inquired about Backer’s past, Wesleyan fired him and promptly hired a law firm to review about eight years of misconduct hearings that Backer participated in. The review concluded he handled those hearings properly, according to Wesleyan. Backer did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Stanley Colla, the recently appointed interim head of Vermont Academy, said the 2007 recommendations were “unauthorized letters’’ but declined to elaborate.

Last week , the Pomfret School in Connecticut admitted writing recommendation letters for four educators accused at the time of misconduct, including one teacher who resigned his current job in July, days after the Globe contacted his school in Colorado.

A total of six educators were fired, resigned, or left shortly after recent Globe inquiries about the accusations lodged against them in prior jobs in New England.

Among them: H. Andrew Thomsen, a longtime math teacher and soccer coach at Suffield Academy in Connecticut who abruptly left his position this summer a few days after the headmaster talked to a woman who reported Thomsen’s alleged misconduct. Janna Jacobson accused Thomsen of initiating a sexual relationship with her in the 1970s, when she was a student at Kingswood Oxford School in Connecticut and he worked there.

Suffield headmaster Charles Cahn III said that his school contacted Kingswood Oxford to check references before hiring Thomsen in 1995. Kingswood Oxford officials didn’t disclose at that time that they had investigated another female student’s complaint against him in 1994 with inconclusive results, Cahn said. That former student and Jacobson both contacted the Globe this year, and Suffield launched an inquiry. Thomsen did not return several messages seeking comment.

Peter Tacy, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools from 1989 to 2004, said school leaders have sometimes failed to disclose allegations of sexual misconduct to other schools out of a misguided belief that the wrongdoing was an isolated incident.

“They are guilty of wishful thinking,’’ he said. “It might very well be that someone who steals might not do it again. But particularly with sexual misconduct, it’s likely to happen again.’’

Tacy called it “dangerous and irresponsible” for schools to hide sexual misconduct. “A well-run institution that finds out it has been lied to by a colleague institution can no longer roll over,’’ he said. “We have an ethical responsibility to tell the truth.”

Much more HERE 

U of Michigan Student Successfully Changes His Preferred Pronoun to ‘His Majesty’ on Class Roster
As Heat Street‘s Politics Editor Jillian Melchior reported this week, a new policy at the University of Michigan allows students to choose their preferred pronouns— including the gender-neutral “they” and “ze” — to appear on class rosters.

With that in mind, one conservative student, Grant Strobl, who is also chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom board of governors, decided to troll the university administration by officially requesting his pronoun to be changed to “His Majesty.”

And it worked!

Although Storbl says he has “no problem with students asking to be identified a certain way,” he thought it important to show just how ludicrous it is for universities to institutionalize the use of “arbitrary” pronouns and threaten disciplinary action if students and staff repeatedly fail to use them.

“I henceforth shall be referred to as: His Majesty, Grant Strobl. I encourage all U-M students to go onto Wolverine Access, and insert the identity of their dreams” he told the College Fix.

The university vice president and provost of student life said employing preferred pronouns was “one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity and to cultivate an environment that respects all gender identities.”

Students can now add or change their preferred pronouns, and the changes will only be shared with “those who have a legitimate education interest in this information,” according to the new website.

Since the announcement, several students have followed Srobl’s example, registering an array of of regal pronouns.

The college made the change following a student-led initiative, Wolverines for Preferred Pronouns, which garnered over 750 signatures on this year.

We’ll see how long the administration will bow to “his majesty”‘s wishes.


BDS on campus -- update

BDS on campus was off to a quick start in September. Most notable was the appearance of an explicitly anti-Israel student-taught course at the University of California at Berkeley called “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis.” After strenuous protests, the course was canceled, ostensibly on procedural grounds, but then reinstated by the Department of Ethnic Studies after the student instructor, a BDS supporter and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member, made what he described as “cosmetic changes” to the syllabus. These changes simply rephrased statements as questions. The faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, is the co-founder of SJP and a leading member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). BDS supporters condemned the initial cancellation of the course as ‘censorship.’

Courses vilifying Israel and describing it as a ‘settler colonial’ entity are common but are rarely structured or marketed as blatantly. The mainstreaming of the Berkeley course, with the explicit approval of multiple levels of the university faculty and administration, represents an escalation of political incitement against Israel within American academia.

In the wake of the Berkeley course controversy, antisemitic posters began appearing on campus, decrying “Jewish bullies” and alleging among other things Israeli government involvement in the initial course suspension.

The antisemitic orientation of BDS protests is becoming clearer, as is the utility of public shame. An example of this in September was the scheduled appearance of expatriate Israeli writer and BDS activist Miko Peled, recently quoted as calling Jews “sleazy thieves,” on behalf of SJP at San Diego State University. After Peled’s comments were criticized his appearance was canceled, as was an earlier appearance at Princeton. Even ‘Jewish Voice for Peace,’ a group with whom Peled had partnered many times, felt compelled to condemn his antisemitic remarks. JVP later reversed its stance.

For now, classical antisemitic rhetoric still remains partially outside the range of accepted campus behavior, even for BDS advocates. But the findings of an investigation commissioned by the City University of New York which found that SJP protests, that included shouts of “Death to Jews,” were protected speech indicates the boundaries of acceptability are shifting. In general, anti-Israel bias and antisemitism are increasingly acceptable under the rubric of ‘anti-racism.’

The effectiveness of shaming also depends on both vigilance and a cultural capacity for shame. Both become far more difficult when pro-BDS activists are deeply entrenched within student government and when the campus culture fully embraces ‘intersectional’ theories about the unity of all oppression and the a priori validity of all conspiratorial accusations.

This was confirmed in September when the Oberlin College student government condemned an alumni group that had complained about antisemitic statements from a faculty member and about campus BDS. The student government statement condemned the alumni “witch-hunt” against the now-suspended faculty member, Joy Karega, the ‘tireless campaign’ “to create a false image of Oberlin, damage the value of an Oberlin education, and then assert that the only appropriate response is that which they have already proposed,” and accused them of “surveillance, intimidation, marginalization, and harassment of Oberlin students.”

The student statement was designed to push back against alumni at a time when there is increasing alumni mobilization against BDS. A recent example of this was the call from retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz for alumni and donors to boycott and divest from universities that embrace BDS. Historically, alumni efforts have had limited success at individual universities against BDS but the Oberlin statement demonstrates how threatening alumni pressure is to extremists and their cultural dominance, at least at small and financially vulnerable institutions.

The unacknowledged domination of anti-Israel bias and BDS at academic institutions was also in evidence at Syracuse University. There an invitation to show an Israeli film was withdrawn after the sponsoring Syracuse faculty member was warned (as she put it in an email to the filmmaker) that “that the BDS faction on campus will make matters very unpleasant for you and for me if you come.”

Public exposure of the incident in The Atlantic led to a cover-up from the university, including a statement from the Provost effectively blaming the sponsoring faculty member for impugning the university’s reputation, a  mea culpa from the faculty member, and a petition from pro-BDS faculty members denying that any pressure to disinvite the filmmaker had existed.

Another Syracuse faculty member pointed out in an interview that there was no corresponding pressure to disinvite pro-BDS speakers and noted that various units within the university were already carrying out “stealth boycotts” of Israel in contravention of institutional policy. Such covert and personal boycotts are difficult to measure but are likely to be more widespread than generally realized.

At the same time, the impact of “anti-normalization” was demonstrated during an incident at Georgetown University, where protestors disrupted an academic event discussing the career of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One of the protestors was quoted as saying “We want to bring visibility to the normalization of Netanyahu’s war crimes to campus and the oppression faced by the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state. We’re concerned that a conversation about the Israeli state took place without talking about it as an occupation and apartheid… Georgetown as a Jesuit institution needs to be held accountable for its complicity in this and all state violence.” The protestors, who were removed form the room, also chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Rejection of any mention of Israel that is not condemnatory, even in an academic discussion, exemplifies the BDS movement’s efforts to shift Israel into a uniquely demonic moral category beyond politics or intellect. It does so by creating a secular religious drama wherein conventional liberal ideals such as free speech, human rights, and intellectual inquiry are necessarily transcended by the absolute evil of Israel and the absolute good of Palestinians.

The Georgetown incident, and more violent ones that occurred in the previous academic year, demonstrate how the BDS movement is becoming more disruptive on American campuses. This pattern follows the lead of the anti-Israel movement in Britain and across Europe, where the existence of Israel rather than the ‘settlements’ is the primary objection.

More HERE 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

UK: Another Muslim school with "disappearing" money

The founder of a flagship free school has been jailed for five years for defrauding the Department for Education of £69,000 from government grants.

Sajid Hussain Raza, 43, was jailed at Leeds Crown Court with former academy staff members Daud Khan, 44, and Shabana Hussain, 40, who were sentenced to 14 months and six months respectively.

The trio were convicted in August of making payments into their own bank accounts between 2010-2013 from grants given to help set up the Kings Science Academy in Bradford in 2011.

The academy was praised by then prime minister David Cameron during a high-profile visit in March 2012. It has since become part of the Dixons Academies Trust and is now called Dixons Kings Academy.

Jailing the three defendants, Judge Christopher Batty said: 'The three of you were convicted by the jury of a number of counts relating to your dishonest dealings with public money during the periods when you were setting up the Kings Science Academy and, in your case Sajid Raza and Daud Khan, also in the first 15 months of its operation.'

The prosecution's allegation that £150,000 of government grants were included in the fraud was dismissed by the judge. He said that the amount defrauded was £69,000, with the rest used legitimately by the school.

Judge Batty said free schools were part of the Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto to allow flexibility and specialism within education and to allow children to be taught in ways not catered for in the current education system.

He said: 'They are called free schools because of the way they were set up, entrusted with funds as a trust, a non-profit making organisation. They were set up to educate children. They were not set up to be a vehicle for making money by those who ran them.'

Raza made the application for the 500-place secondary school to open in September 2011.

The proposal was approved and grants were given by the Department for Education to cover the costs incurred during the setting up of the school.

The court heard that Raza and his sister Hussain, a teacher at the school, made a series of payments into their own personal bank accounts from these grants.

Khan, the financial director, did not receive any payments but the court heard the fraud could not have taken place without his participation.

Raza and Khan also submitted inflated or fabricated invoices for rent, fees for heads of department and recruitment services.

The trial heard that Raza, the founder and principal of the school, used some of the money to make mortgage repayments on rental properties he owned to alleviate his own financial problems.

He had 10 county court judgments against him by August 2013 and was making a £10,000-a-year loss on his rental properties.

Benjamin Hargreaves, defending Raza, said his client's motivation was 'entirely genuine' and Judge Batty said he believed the defendant did not set up the academy with the intention of fraud.

But he told him: 'This school may well have been the thing you always wanted to pursue but you also wanted money. Making money was important to you because of the school and because of the debt around your neck.'

He added: 'In the end, it was this exposure to debt that probably drove the offending in relation to the Kings Science Academy frauds.'

Raza was found guilty of four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting and two counts of obtaining money by deception.

Hussain, a teacher at the school and Raza's sister, was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception.

Khan, the financial director at the school, was found guilty of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.

Kings Science Academy was among the first wave of free schools set up as part of a flagship education policy introduced by the government following the 2010 general election.      


UK: Headteacher who decided to ditch ALL homework because she said teachers don't have time to mark and prepare lessons is reported to the education watchdog

A headteacher has been reported to the education watchdog after she decided to stop giving homework to pupils because she believes 'teachers don't have enough time to mark and prepare lessons'.

Catherine Hutley, principal at Philip Morant School and College, in Colchester, Essex, claims scrapping after-school work will allow staff to use the time to plan better lessons.

But the move did not go down well with all parents, and one has reported Ms Hutley to Ofsted.

Haidee Robertson-Tant, whose children are in Year 7 and Year 9 at the school, said she was left seriously concerned about the impact on children's education after the headteacher's decision.

She has now contacted the school's governors to complain, as well as the school and Ofsted.

She is also considering setting up a meeting so parents can meet to discuss their concerns.

Mrs Robertson-Tant said: 'There was already a lack of homework last year and I had to get a private tutor to give my son additional support in Maths and English. 'I fear children will fall behind because of this decision.

'The school held an event to tell us what was being proposed and asked for our views. The next thing it has been introduced.

'I think there are a lot of frustrated parents out there who don't have a clue what is going on. 'Insisting the curriculum is completed in lessons will put more strain on teachers.'

Mrs Robertson-Tant said voluntary extra study also created more arguments. She added: 'I think the idea of reducing homework is right but there needs to be more guidance. 'If you make it optional, children will not do it.'

A number of parents have commented on the issue, including Emma Macey Clarke who said: 'I think homework should be set in limited amounts at secondary school just to check the children have understood what they've learnt.

'I don't, however, agree to nightly homework and ridiculous projects that take up all our weekend time. 'What happened to spending time with our children, playing at the park?

Schools which have previously scrapped homework have made the move to reduce mental health problems among pupils. Some have extended school hours instead.

Ms Hutley previously said she accepted the move was controversial but said she was 'genuinely excited' about the innovative approach and is convinced students - who are aged between 11 and 18 - will benefit.

Speaking earlier this week, she said: 'The job of a teacher is impossible. There are not enough hours in the day for a teacher to teach, set homework, mark homework, and plan their lessons.

'It is a move away from a more traditional approach but we would not do anything which would hinder the progress of our children.

'We have the most dedicated and committed staff you could possibly ask for. They are working every hour God sends but planning lessons can fall by the wayside.

'We want it to be the number one priority so teachers can plan for students' individual needs and keep on top of their progress on a daily basis.'

Ms Hutley said out-of-school-hours learning will still be encouraged through the school's website with prizes offered to the most dedicated students.

She said homework was too often made up of finishing curriculum work which had not been completed in class.

She also said it would stop children who do not complete their homework from falling behind.

Ms Hutley said the move away from traditional homework had been discussed for a year.

She added: 'We are aware opinions on this issue are polarised with many parents and carers delighted by the change but others concerned by what the move will mean for their child.

'We have carefully analysed the performance and progress of our students and the impact homework has had on this.

'We know homework is not working for the majority of our students.

'This new approach allows us to more carefully track and monitor students both academically but also against skills critical for their lives ahead.'

The school, which has 1,650 students and was rated 'good' in its last Ofsted report, has already got rid of academic banding and the use of mobile phones at school.

Ms Hutley added: 'If, for any reason, we start to see this new approach to homework is having a negative impact on students' progress, we will do something about it.

'But I do not believe that will happen.'

Last year the independent boarding school Cheltenham Ladies' College announced plans to ditch homework in response to an 'epidemic' of mental health problems.

In 2013 Jane Austen College, in Norwich, said pupils would be expected to complete all their work during timetabled hours, and extended the school day to 5pm.


I’m a Black Woman Whose Relatives Fought for Civil Rights. I’m Disappointed in NAACP’s War on School Choice

Virginia Walden Ford   

Thanks to a lawsuit, over 92,000 kids, many of them children of color, from low-income families are at risk to lose their privately funded scholarships to attend the private schools of their choice.

And to add insult to injury, the NAACP is one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

Last week, the Florida Education Association—the state’s largest teachers’ union—along with the Florida NAACP and other plaintiffs made a third attempt to challenge Florida’s tuition tax credit scholarship program, which allows individuals and companies to receive tax credits if they donate to a scholarship fund that helps low-income students attend the school of their choice.

After losing in trial court and then again in the 1st District Court of Appeals, the Florida Education Association and NAACP, along with other parties, appealed to the state Supreme Court on Sept. 14. Their lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the 15-year-old education choice program.

In January, over 10,000 people rallied in Tallahassee, Florida, in support of the scholarship program and heard Martin Luther King III declare that this fight "is about freedom—the freedom to choose for your family and your child.”

The NAACP, which was started to support the rights of black people, is now taking a position that, in my opinion, only hurts black children and other children of color’s chance of getting a quality education in this country through access to school choice. Involving itself in lawsuits against the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program seems counter to their mission.

I have been involved in advocating for school choice for the last 20 years and I still don’t understand why anyone, especially the NAACP, would oppose families having a choice in education.

In January, over 10,000 people rallied in support of the scholarship program and heard Martin Luther King III declare that this fight "is about freedom—the freedom to choose for your family and your child.”

As a young mother raising kids in Washington, D.C., when I found my son failing in school and honestly needing to be in a different kind of educational environment, I had no choice but to continue sending him to a public school that was not in his best interest. Had it not been for the generosity of a neighbor who saw something special in my son and provided a scholarship for him to attend a school that better met his needs, I shudder to think where my son would be now.

Because of that scholarship, he was able to be successful and graduate and move forward with his life.  This is what I’ve seen over the years with the children who have had access to school choice, including public charter schools and private and public scholarship programs like the tuition tax credit scholarship program in Florida.

I’ve watched them succeed when most people expected them to fail. I’ve seen children go on to college when this possibility had never even been discussed with them. I’ve seen entire communities come out and support the families whose children were thriving in schools that their parents chose. It’s been incredible seeing low-income families obtaining the American dream because their children were able to obtain a quality education.

My cousin Rev. Joseph C. Crenchaw was a civil rights leader with the NAACP and the president of the Little Rock, Arkansas, chapter during the Little Rock Central High School crisis in the ’60s—a crisis about children of color having access to equal, quality education. My father, William Harry Fowler, was the first black assistant superintendent of the Little Rock School District and a member of the NAACP.

Both my cousin and my father were adamant about making sure black children were able to receive the best education possible. I was a beneficiary of that fight and attended Little Rock Central High School myself and know that it made a difference in my life and the lives of my classmates.

But now the NAACP, who fought so hard for us to get the education we deserved in the ’60s, is trying to make it harder for parents to make the same decisions our parents did then on behalf of their children.

Threats to school choice options like the Florida tuition tax credit scholarship program create unnecessary limitations for families who can’t get access to quality education simply because they live in the "wrong ZIP code” or don’t have resources to attend quality private schools.

This is exactly why I, and so many others, continue to fight for school choice options. When I look at the changes in the lives of the families I serve, I know that I will continue to do whatever I can do to empower them to determine the direction of their children’s future.

My hope is that the NAACP and other leaders in the African-American community who support these lawsuits in Florida will spend a moment talking to the parents and children who have been touched by school choice.