Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A national teachers' union's war machine is on the move in Colorado

Interesting that Leftists were once all in favour of "reform".  In the case below, Leftists are going all out to resist reform while Republicans want to bust open a corrupt and incompetent system that is not delivering good education.

For months, one of America’s most important fights over parental choice in education has been raging on suburban street corners, in school gymnasiums, and in voters’ mailboxes in Douglas County, Colorado. Now, the nature of the race has been irrevocably altered in its final weeks by the full-scale deployment of a national teaching union’s political war machine.

As the county’s Nov. 7 school board election rapidly approaches, the nation’s second-largest national teachers union has thrown down the gauntlet in a bid to strangle parental choice. With two slates of candidates vying for four open seats on the district’s seven-member board of education, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington, D.C., pumped $300,000 into the race in early October.

Newly filed reports appear to indicate that the union’s investment has now doubled to $600,000. Combined with at least $100,000 in dark money, these contributions equate to a nuclear-level show of national political force in a suburban Colorado community.

Ironically, the four anti-choice and anti-reform candidates supported by the tidal wave of national union cash have repeatedly assured Douglas County voters that they represent the “grassroots” of the county. Calling themselves the “Community Slate,” they have decried outside money and influence and sought to paint the opposing, pro-school-choice “Elevate Douglas County” candidates as the beneficiaries of deep-pocketed out-of-state interests. They cast themselves as the David to the pro-school-choice slate’s Goliath.

Campaign finance disclosures show that Elevate Douglas County candidates have indeed received some support from organizations and individuals outside Douglas County. However, the vast majority of that support originated in Colorado, and it is dwarfed by the sheer scale of the union’s spending.

The stark contrast of the Community Slate’s grassroots narrative with the revelation that these candidates are themselves backed by big money from Washington, D.C., has landed like a bomb in Douglas County, which now finds itself exposed to the full fury of the union’s national war machine. That machine is daily bombarding residents with an unprecedented level of political artillery attacking candidates in favor of parental choice and supporting the union’s chosen four.

Backlash to the deployment of full-scale national political warfare in suburbia has been intense. For example, the Douglas County GOP issued a scathing statement condemning the Community Slate’s deception and endorsing the four Republican candidates running as part of the Elevate Douglas County slate.

Yet many who watch school board races in Colorado are not surprised. A similar strategy of obfuscation was utilized during a heated school board recall election in neighboring Jefferson County in 2015. There, activists working to unseat three conservative school board members repeatedly denied union involvement and framed their effort as exclusively “parent led.” It wasn’t until after these activists won the election that voters discovered the truth: Teachers unions provided 99.9 percent of the primary recall front group’s funding. This time, voters discovered large-scale union involvement as mail-in ballots arrived on their kitchen tables.

The 2017 Douglas County School District Board of Education race was always destined to be one of the most closely watched in the nation. The outcome of the race will decide the fate of a critical constitutional case that could throw open the doors of opportunity for students nationwide by invalidating the use of archaic, discriminatory Blaine Amendments to hobble publicly funded scholarship programs that allow K-12 students to attend nonpublic schools. Community Slate candidates have indicated that they intend to end this litigation — litigation one of their own running mates started in 2011 — prior to final resolution if elected.

The union’s heavy investment in Douglas County illustrates that AFT, whose president recently issued the outrageously inaccurate statement that parental choice programs are “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” understands the stakes in Douglas County. And it is willing to do whatever it takes to halt the advance of educational freedom.

The fight over Blaine may be the centerpiece of this year’s Douglas County school board race, but it is far from the only issue. Approximately 20 percent of the district’s students attend public charter schools. Though the union-backed candidates have tried to thread the political needle on charter schools, many charter leaders and parents worry about what a 7-0 majority backed by AFT might mean for their schools. Those concerns are not unfounded. AFT is a notoriously militant opponent of charter school expansion, which the organization’s president has called a “coordinated national effort to decimate public schools.”

AFT’s Colorado chapter likely also sees this election as a lifeline. The Douglas County school board ended its collective bargaining agreement with a local affiliate of AFT in 2012. Reinstituting a union contract in the county would net millions in annual revenue for the Colorado chapter of the union — revenue that could stave off the encroaching monopoly of the National Education Association in Colorado.

It is not yet clear what the final outcome of the Douglas County school board race will be. But as national political forces collide with parental choice supporters in suburban America, the stakes could not be higher. And the county will never be the same.



Labour MP attacks university where one in three colleges failed to admit a black British student with A-levels in 2015

So why is that bad?  What is gained by pushing blacks into situations where they will be out of their depths?  The distribution of IQ among blacks indicates that very few will be capable of an elite education.  So there will be too few of them to have one or two in every elite school

Nearly one in three Oxford colleges failed to admit a single black British A-level student in 2015, with the university accused of “social apartheid” over its admissions policies by the former education minister David Lammy.

The data shows that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a place to a black British pupil with A-levels in 2015, the first time the university has released such figures since 2010. Oriel College only offered one place to a black British A-level student in six years.

Similar data released by Cambridge revealed that six colleges there failed to admit any black British A-level students in the same year.

Lammy first requested the ethnicity data from Oxford and Cambridge in 2016. While Cambridge provided it immediately, Oxford finally released it on Thursday after it was informed that the Guardian was preparing a story.

As part of a set of data released by the two universities that also revealed a stark regional and socio-economic divide in their intake, the figures showed that just 1.5% of all offers from the two universities to UK A-level students went to black British candidates.

Lammy said the figures showed that many colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge failed to reflect the UK’s population, and called into question the universities’ claims to national standing.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain,” Lammy said.

The figures are the first to update the embarrassing data published in 2010 – after freedom of information requests by Lammy – that revealed Merton College, Oxford had not offered a single place to a black British student for five years.

While the new data represents an improvement from before 2009 – when 21 Oxbridge colleges offered no places to black students, compared to 16 in 2015 – the figures suggest that elite colleges still struggle to recruit black British school pupils, especially from state schools.

A handful of black British students – an average of 3.5 each year between 2010 and 2015 – who do not have A-levels gain places at Oxford. In most cases they come from independent schools that enter their pupils for alternative exams such as the international baccalaureate.

The new figures also show that some parts of the country – especially disadvantaged regions of Wales and the north-west of England – have largely missed out on efforts by the two universities to widen their admissions base and admit students from outside the south of England.

Only three Oxford colleges and six Cambridge colleges made at least one offer of an undergraduate place to a black British A-level student in each of the six years between 2010 and 2015.

Oriel College, Oxford, made just one offer to a black British A-level student in the same period. Data released by Oxford after the Guardian’s inquiries showed three further black students with other qualifications were offered places at Oriel.

“Difficult questions have to be asked, including whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds,” said Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham and the first black Briton to attend Harvard Law School.

Lammy noted that “there are almost 400 black students getting three As at A-level or better every year,” yet few of them are attracted to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. Around 3% of the British population identified as black in the last UK census.

In response, a spokesperson for Oxford said rectifying the probem would be “a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society – including from leading universities like Oxford – to address serious inequalities”.

Oxford said students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds made up 15.9% of its 2016 UK undergraduate intake, up from 14.5% in 2015, and that offers to black students had more than doubled since 2010. Those figures include British Asian students and other minorities.

“We’re also working with organisations such as Target Oxbridge and the newly formed Oxford black alumni network, to show talented young black people that they can fit in and thrive at a university like Oxford. All of this shows real progress and is something we want to improve on further,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Cambridge said that its admissions decisions were made on academic considerations alone, while spending £5m a year on access measures including work with black and minority ethnic school pupils.

“The greatest barrier to participation at selective universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is low attainment at school. We assess the achievements of these students in their full context to ensure that students with great academic potential are identified,” the spokesperson said.

“Widening participation further will require government, schools, universities, charities, parents and students to work closely together. We will continue to work hard with all parties to raise aspirations and attainment to improve access to higher education.”

The data emerged after a long-running tussle between Lammy and Oxford, with Oxford refusing to publish detailed breakdowns of its admissions decisions by ethnic group despite repeated requests, including a direct approach by Lammy to Oxford’s vice-chancellor.

Lammy’s initial request for the ethnicity data last year was refused by Oxford, despite Cambridge supplying the breakdown of offers and applications and Oxford itself having produced the same data in 2010.

The former education minister – who has campaigned for years over widening access to top universities – remained unhappy that Oxford refused to release detailed figures showing offers to British students of Caribbean and African descent. The earlier data obtained by Lammy showed that only one black Briton of Caribbean descent had been accepted as an undergraduate at Oxford in 2009.

“I have been pressuring the University of Oxford to publish this data for over a year and they have only begrudgingly decided to partially publish it now,” Lammy said, calling the university’s decision “defensive” and “evasive”.

“While I am pleased that Oxford has backed down to avoid further embarrassment, I am disappointed that the university has combined all black people together into one group – why should they be the only institution that doesn’t break down data properly when you need granularity to understand different ethnic groups?”

Oxford responded that it had offered to publish the limited data – aggregating black students into a single category – last year. “We made an offer to Mr Lammy in September 2016 to provide data about offers made to black and white candidates by college in each year. To break the information down further would allow the specific ethnic background of some individual students to be identified,” the university said.

“This is not information the Data Protection Act allows us to disclose without the consent of the student.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Lammy said: “I just don’t think the universities fully understand what they’re doing. Oxford spent £10m on this and what we’ve seen over the last decade... is we’ve gone backwards on social class, we’ve made no progress on north/south divide and we’ve made little progress on race.”

He went on: “We have a huge chasm between a child in Salford last year, no offers at all, a child in Middlesborough - two offers to a child in Middlesborough in six years and children in the London borough of Richmond or Barnet for whom the success rate is considerable.

“Many more children coming from London and the south east, the children of bankers, judges, making their way to Oxbridge but children in our housing estates even if they get three As they’re not able to get in.”

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford University, told the programme: “We see a very different picture. If you look at the data correctly and properly, you’ll find poor students who get three As or more are more likely to get into Oxford than if you’re a more well off student. It’s a question of proportion more than looking at the raw numbers.”


British graduates are too 'socially conscious' to become bankers, Teach First boss claims

Good if youthful idealism can sometimes be funneled into something useful.  I don't think there will be any shortage of recruits in the finance industry, however. 

Ambitious graduates are no longer interested in pursuing careers in banking because they are too “socially conscious”, the outgoing head of Britain's biggest graduate recruiter has said.

Since the financial crash, lucrative graduate schemes in the city have lost their allure as big pay packets alone now fail to motivate young people, according to the founder of Teach First.

The charity recruits ambitious graduates and after minimal training, parachutes them into tough inner city schools where they are tasked with raising aspiration among some of the most deprived children in the country.

Brett Wigdortz, who set up Teach First in 2002, said that the charity has grown in popularity due to a change in attitudes among young people. "I really think it has come about through the social change that millennials want to make," he said.

"We have really tapped into something that people want to make a difference and to help improve the lives of children. That has become a more popular thing for graduates to do than just to focus on just money.

"We showed there was a huge demand for socially conscious gradate jobs."

Mr Wigdortz said that it prior to he financial crash of 2008, a large proportion of graduates from top universities were attracted to careers in finance.

"Ten to 15 years ago, there was a large part of graduates that felt if you're smart you need to go into banking," he said. "Too much talent was being sucked into one sector.

"Now things are more balanced. We saw that there was an untapped resource that graduates who really wanted to make a difference."

Teach First has been the biggest graduate recruiter for the past three years, with over 1,400 graduates each year sent to teach in deprived schools. The vast majority - around 70 per cent - of recruits are from the elite Russel Group universities. 

"The whole idea that the UK's top talent is going into teaching in lower income schools is a huge achievement," he said. "We are about a fifth of teachers in low income schools."

A number of similar graduate schemes have been set up - often by Teach First alumni - to attract high achieving graduates into front line roles in social services, prisons and the police.

"I think it is a really positive development that you see lots of graduates who want to make a difference," Mr Wigdortz said.

Mr Wigdortz, who will step down this week after running Teach First for 15 years, said that the British education has undergone a major transformation. "The system has a higher expectation of lower-income children," he said.

"Andrew Adonis and Michael Gove helped to make that change. 15 years ago I visited a number of schools where headteachers would say stuff like 'You can't expect too much of them' or 'If I keep them off the street that is a success'. That was a common belief 15 years ago.

"The system is not fair, there are still a lot of children out there not getting what they deserve but it is better."


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