Friday, February 10, 2017

Why the Demos Dissed DeVos

The Senate Tuesday finally cleared the way for Betsy DeVos to take over as head of the Department of Education — but just barely. Last week, DeVos' nomination fell in danger after two teacher union-supported Republicans (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) opted to join Democrat obstructionists. This put the Senate in a 50/50 split, leaving absolutely no room to spare, which always opens the door for backroom deals being cut over future legislation. Vice President Mike Pence cast the pivotal tie-breaker vote in the Senate.

Never before has a cabinet confirmation come down to a tie-breaker, and the reason this one did is because DeVos is a threat to the Democrats' stranglehold on shaping the worldview of the next generation of Americans. Not only is the vote historic, but the role DeVos will play in America’s future may well be too. She stands ready to upend the Democrats' government school status quo, especially their urban poverty plantation schools. The situation is so crucial that public policy protagonist Thomas Sowell temporarily came out of retirement to lobby on her behalf. He warned, “American education is at a crossroads. If the teachers' unions and their allies can defeat the nomination of Mrs. DeVos, and the Republicans substitute someone else more acceptable to the education establishment, a historic opportunity will be lost, and may never come again in this generation.” Republicans (most of them anyway) should be applauded for not wasting this opportunity.

“What matters is what families and students think about having a change agent in this position,” Janine Yass argues in a Washington Examiner op-ed. “If you judge from the tens of thousands of families on waiting lists for charter schools and for scholarships in private schools it is apparent that poor families are desperate for someone who will fight for them for a change.” Yass also scolded the media for ignoring “the faces of the millions of families and students who have been the victims of bad education policy.” Sadly, Democrats and their media cohorts are more interested in protecting what they accurately consider the Holy Grail, because indoctrination masquerading as education is the pathway to statism. And Americans are fed up with it. Thankfully, with the help of DeVos' agenda, they will be ignored no more.


University report finds ‘unacceptably high’ rates of Alaska public school students enrolling in remedial classes

A University of Alaska report found that an average of 74 percent of students who graduated from a subgroup of five state high schools had to take at least one remedial class when they enrolled at UA, even after many had already passed a comparative class in high school.

The two-page report, with an accompanying joint statement from Alaska university and public school system officials, said the findings highlighted shortcomings in high school students' readiness for college-level work. Students requiring remediation must pay for the developmental credits that don't count toward their degrees and can face delays in college graduation to fit in the classes, if they graduate at all.

"The students come and take remedial courses, and then they fail these remedial courses and leave," said Herb Schroeder, vice provost and founder of the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

"If you're put into a developmental course, the chances that you'll ever get a degree are very low, and that's just wrong," UA President Jim Johnsen said last month.

Schroeder spearheaded the recent report, which was provided to Alaska Dispatch News last month. His ANSEP program works with students starting in middle school. For the past two decades, he said, he has encountered students "woefully underprepared for college work."

Over the past year, Schroeder said the Office of Institutional Research at UAA studied transcripts for Alaska students who enrolled in UA between fall 2006 and fall 2015. ANSEP compiled the data to determine how many students had to take remedial classes in college and which high schools they had graduated from.

"We were shocked," Schroeder said of the report's findings. "We knew it was bad, but it's worse than we expected."

The report is limited in scope, which some school superintendents criticized. It only examined Alaska schools with 10 years of graduation data and with 10 or more graduates enrolling at one of the UA's campuses in fall 2015. That whittled the total down to 37 high schools, eliminating small rural schools from the analysis.

The report found that an average of 61 percent of students at the 37 high schools had to take at least one developmental class at UA. The rates ranged from 31 percent at Valdez High School to 78 percent at the Galena Interior Learning Academy.

The report then further drilled down into data from five high schools with the highest average rate of developmental coursework over those 10 years: Galena Interior Learning Academy, a district-run boarding school; Juneau-Douglas High School; Ketchikan High School; Kodiak High School; and Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a state-run boarding school.

About 74 percent of the 1,550 students who graduated from those five high schools and enrolled at UA within a year had to take at least one remedial class in math or English, the report said.

Overall, the 1,550 students had an average, cumulative high school grade point average of 3.16.

Schroeder said the students' strong grade point averages suggested that they were pushed through the school system and received diplomas without learning the material.

"That's the thing that's most disturbing about the whole situation," Schroeder said. "The schools are telling the state that these kids are ready for college and they have this high GPA and their parents are being told that they have this high GPA, but then when they show up at the university, they're not ready."

However, the superintendents that oversee the five high schools questioned Schroeder's findings. They said recent improvements weren't reflected in the 10 years of data that the study summarized into a single percentage point.

"I wouldn't call it a study, it's more of a simple data pull," said Mt. Edgecumbe Superintendent Janelle Vanasse. "I think there are some risks when you do a simple data pull and you draw conclusions and you don't consider variables."

Vanasse and other superintendents said the schools measure success by taking into account a number of factors including ACT and SAT scores, college scholarships, attendance rates, GPAs and more. Plus, some superintendents noted that a student's grade in a high school class also accounted for participation, homework completion and work on group projects — more than just results from an exam.


A New Definition of Free Speech

The Left's intolerance of free speech is reaching new levels on college campuses.

Many of you reading this may be the first college graduates in your family. Until the passage of the GI Bill in the wake of World War II, college graduates were a rarity. But those who obtained their degree received a well-rounded education in classical knowledge and were often the elite in their community. While millions in the wartime era did valuable blue-collar work, it was often those white-collar college graduates who were the upper management or the financial backers and investors. Once the campus gates were opened to returning servicemen, though, a college degree became more commonplace, and for the first couple of decades after these veterans returned they used their knowledge and experience to build the America that, among many other achievements, conquered disease and took men to the moon and back.

Alas, the generation spawned by those veterans, dubbed the Baby Boomers, embarked for their own college educations in the late 1960s while chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go.” Slowly but surely, the classical education that their forefathers had for generations received was replaced by a politically correct plethora of classes and majors that redefined liberal arts as, well, ultra-liberal. Over time, those who protested in the 1960s became the administration of the very institutions they threatened to burn down during their protests, and the entire experience has been watered down: Campuses that used to invite vigorous debate now have “free speech zones,” and co-eds that used to thirst for knowledge have become “snowflakes” who need a “safe space” when they’re confronted by opinions other than their own or an election that doesn’t go their way.

With this in mind, on Wednesday night a planned appearance by Breitbart contributor and Donald Trump backer Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled due to rioting at the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannopoulos, whose planned tour of campuses around the country was already cut short by one stop when UCLA pulled the plug on what was supposed to be his last speech, had his Berkeley event halted when a crowd of rioters estimated at 1,500 broke a barricade and entered the building where he was slated to speak. The Left, said Yiannopoulos on social media, “is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

Given Milo’s status as a foreign national (he’s Greek-born, raised in Great Britain), his career in writing on technology and his homosexuality, one would think colleges would welcome his unique perspective with open arms. But being a vocal backer of Trump and stating that “it’s time to get back in the closet” for gay men makes Milo persona non grata on campus.

But Yiannopoulos is just one example of the rapidly developing information silo on college campuses. Another conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro — who also draws controversy as an Orthodox Jew — has seen Marquette University faculty attempt to sandbag his upcoming speaking engagement by posing as students and drying up the ticket supply. (At least this would be a protest without the need for “black bloc” miscreants such as those who destroyed property in Berkeley.) Shapiro also had a run-in last year on a college speaking tour over abortion as he debated two pro-choice students at Maryland’s Salisbury University.

The situation on campus has become so extreme that even inanimate statues are now being sent packing. At California’s Pepperdine University, a statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood for nearly 25 years will be taken down and relocated to the school’s campus in Italy.

University president Andrew Benton explained in an e-mail to students, “For years the story of Columbus and the fascinating exploration that brought him to the new world was taught in schools across America … Later, as the impact of the arrival of explorers was assessed more fully, especially as those impacts related to indigenous people, a different view formed. Today, for many, including those within our campus community, stories of conquest and the art associated therewith are painful reminders of loss and human tragedy.”

Oh, dear. We wouldn’t want to offend the snowflakes with the idea that Columbus paved the way for Western civilization to come to what’s now considered the West, would we?

For the past 30 years, the concepts of inclusion and tolerance have been used to bully those who hold a Christian, pro-American or moralist worldview. And the bullies are ostensibly the inclusive and tolerant ones — those who believe all cultures are equal, promote political actions like unfettered immigration and admittance of Islamic refugees, endorse marriage that goes beyond just same-sex to include plural arrangements, and loudly demand recognition of gender flavors that put Baskin-Robbins to shame. Those who prefer secure borders, consider American exceptionalism to be a reality, believe marriage is between one man and one woman and think restrooms should be safe spaces for those of the gender to which they were born are dubbed as discriminatory and intolerant. Freedom of speech, it seems, doesn’t apply for them.

Consider where we’ve gone in 70 years. Back in the days after World War II, the government paid fighting men to educate themselves about the greatness of their Western heritage, exposing them to the entire spectrum of thought from Aristotle to Zechariah. Today, our waif-like college students demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, beggar themselves for a college degree and learn more and more about less and less, leaving them no better enlightened than they were when they arrived. The concept of higher education just isn’t what it used to be, and freedom of speech was long ago a casualty in that culture war.


UK: Super‑selective grammars to take brightest 10 per cent

The new generation of grammar schools will be highly selective and cater only for the brightest 10 per cent of children.

While the country’s 163 grammars typically aim to admit the top 25 per cent of pupils by academic ability, Theresa May’s planned expansion of the system is expected to be more elite in an attempt to reassure local schools that not all top pupils will be selected. This will make the new grammars more selective than all but the top private schools.

Under the plans, a standardised 11-plus exam could be drawn up to prevent “test tourism”, when parents travel long distances to sit exams where their children are most likely to receive a grammar place, the prime minister’s advisers suggested.


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