Friday, January 05, 2018

World Language Classes Vanish From Many Oklahoma High Schools

This is good. As few as 98% of American students get any use out of a language learnt at school.  Only Spanish is of some use, for obvious reasons. Learning another language is hard and the effort is more fruitfully deployed elsewhere

A fourth of high schools across the state have eliminated world language classes over a decade, erasing the chances for thousands of students to acquire skills that could better prepare them for college and the job market.

The number of high schools without a single world language class has nearly quadrupled, from 39 in 2006 to 149 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data collected by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. That means a third of Oklahoma high schools now don’t offer a single course.

A national study released in June by the American Councils for International Education found that 12 percent of Oklahoma students were enrolled in a world language course in 2014-15. (The term used to be foreign language.) That was below the national average of 20 percent and the seventh lowest rate in the country.

The trend has particularly hit rural areas.

Nearly all Oklahoma schools without world language classes have fewer than 300 students and are located in rural areas, indicating a significant divide in language education between rural and urban and suburban schools, where the most robust language programs are located.

To become proficient in a language, students require advanced-level courses, such as honors level, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. But those classes are increasingly concentrated in the state’s urban areas, with a few exceptions.

In 40 of the state’s 77 counties, no schools offer an advanced-level world language class. That’s up from 27 counties a decade ago.

Oklahoma, like most states, doesn’t require students to take a world language class to graduate.


Opposition to new black charter school in California

FAIRFIELD — The Solano County Central Democratic Party and the teachers association for the Fairfield-Suisun School District oppose the petition for the Elite Charter School.

But the proposal goes before the board for the Solano County Office of Education on Jan. 10 with two board members saying the “opportunity gap” the charter school cites must be addressed.

Ramona Bishop, the former Vallejo City School District superintendent who is the lead petitioner for Elite, advised the board of education at its Dec. 13 meeting to do its homework.

You’ll see somebody who understands managing programs and finances, Bishop said.

Perhaps more significantly for the fate of the controversial charter school proposal, county education board members Dana Dean and Amy Sharp said the opportunity gap for African-American and Latino students that Elite seeks to counter has to be addressed.

If Elite isn’t the application that will address the opportunity gap, asked Dean, what will?

For the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association, which opposes Elite, the question seems to be what will happen to public education if the county board approves Elite’s petition?

“For the first time in a long while, we have an active threat of a non-public charter school seeking approval at the Solano County Office of Education,” said the website for the teachers union. “Public education is being invaded in Solano County.”

A non-public charter will drain away funds from public education – less money to use in existing public schools – and must be provided a facility by the school district, according to the teachers association.

“They do not have their own governing board and do not have to respond to the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s governing board,” the website adds. “It is literally a blank check without oversight and at the expense of public education.”

School district officials are already contending the budget will have to be cut, the teachers association said.

“If the district has to fund a charter school, those cuts will not come to Elite charter school but will come from your school budgets and teachers’ pockets,” according to the website.

Solano County Board of Education member Mayrene Bates had a different concern about instructors and the charter school.

She asked Bishop, “Where are you going to find teachers?”

The former Vallejo school superintendent said the charter school said some teachers were not comfortable about speaking to the board of education.

Board member Dean, while asking opponents of Elite what their alternative is, also spoke about her concerns involving the proposed charter school’s petition. Grammatical errors, leaps of logic and syntax problems troubled her, Dean said.

More troubling, she added, was that supporters of Elite are people of color and opponents white.

Dean said she wasn’t suggesting racial undertones but that the “opportunity gap” Elite cites must be deal with.

The Rev. Danny Jefferson, president of the Vallejo Faith Organization, had told the board that people of color always have to struggle when seeking to obtain power and resources.

The 506-page charter school petition states staff at the Elite schools will focus on accelerating the achievement of all students while “eliminating the opportunity gap.”

African-American and Latino students are the two groups in Solano County whose performance is below the average, according to the petition. The graduation rate for the two student groups is below the average while dropout rates exceed the average, the petition adds.

“The Elite staff will focus on ensuring that students attending the school will receive instruction on the history and accomplishments of mainstream America while also receiving cross-cultural instruction on the history and accomplishments of African-Americans and Latinos,” according to the petition.

Schools would open in August 2018 with children in kindergarten through sixth grade, and at full capacity in 2022-23 will serve more than 2,500 children and teens in kindergarten through 12th grade at three campuses, according to the petition.

Solano County Board of Education members will begin their Jan. 10 meeting at 6 p.m. in the Peña Adobe Room, 5100 Business Center Dr. in Fairfield.


UK: Outspoken Conservative educator criticized

On Jan. 1, England’s new Office for Students launched with the mandate to ensure students get value for their money. That same day, the university regulator set off a social media storm by appointing a controversial board member, and then seemingly inflating his credentials.

The Department for Education said board member Toby Young, a Tory who is a journalist and free school founder, previously held teaching posts at two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and Cambridge.

Unfortunately, Young was only doing his postgraduate duties.

“I taught undergrads at Harvard and Cambridge and was paid to do so but these weren’t academic ‘posts’ and I’ve never made that claim,” Young told the Guardian. The education department responded saying his “diverse experience includes posts” at the institutions, but has since altered the announcement to reflect that he was a teaching fellow at Harvard and a teaching assistant at Cambridge. Young followed up on Facebook to say that this should not disqualify him as boards are strengthened by diverse backgrounds. “If it just consisted of university professors the sector could be accused of marking its own homework.”

Young is the co-founder of four free schools (the UK’s version of charter schools) and runs the New Schools Network, a government-funded charity to promote free schools in England. He would be one of 15 members of the Office for Students’ board.

The controversy over Young’s appointment has exploded beyond his inflated teaching credentials. Unions and Labour members of parliament have criticized past comments he made about inclusivity, as well as tweets they dubbed misogynistic and homophobic. Young has apologized for the tweets, clarifying his meaning on inclusivity, and highlighting the fact that he has started four free schools where a third of kids are eligible for the pupil premium, given to poorer students.

The Office for Students was created to be a market regulator for universities, keeping an eye on critical issues such as vice chancellors’ pay, grade inflation, freedom of speech on campus, and whether universities are delivering the value for money they promise (universities were free in the UK until 2012, when they started charging £9,000 a year; the average student now has £50,000 in debt after graduation).

The office was born from the passage of the Higher Education and Research Act, which passed into law last year after two-and-a-half years of debate, through multiple governments and elections, as well as opposition.

Young’s columns for the right-wing Spectator have been highlighted in the debate over his appointment. In a 2012 column he wrote:

“Schools have got to be ‘inclusive’ these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”

He called on the government to “repeal the Equality Act because any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist’ and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.”

According to the BBC, he later clarified his comments by saying that “I’m using ‘inclusive’ in the broad sense to mean a dumbed down, one-size-fits-all curriculum, rather than the narrow sense of providing equal access to mainstream education for people with disabilities.”

He also noted that he had not used the word “troglodyte” as a synonym for children with special educational needs.

The Independent, a left-wing publication, highlighted some misogynistic comments Young allegedly made on Twitter, and since deleted, on the size of women’s breasts and how hot women at the Emmys were.

On Tuesday, Young said he was a defender of women’s rights and regretted the “sophomoric” comments.

Some of those things have been sophomoric and silly – and I regret those – but some have been deliberately misinterpreted to try and paint me as a caricature of a heartless Tory toff. 23/

Boris Johnson, the UK’s bombastic and also-politically incorrect foreign minister supported Young’s appointment.

Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson, is the minister for higher education, and has been an advocate for the creation of the new organization.


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