Friday, June 29, 2018

There are good reasons why poor British children struggle in school

Barbara Ellen below has a point about expectations but she misses a lot.  The British class system is rather imprisoning but it is possible to break out of it and move into middle class lives.  Plenty do. They have to change their accent to do so but beyond that the main requirement is brains.

There is good evidence that for a long time now in Britain smart people have been moving into middle and upper class circles -- so that the class continuum is largely now in Britain an IQ continuum.  There are dumb aristocrats but they rapidly become poor aristocrats.

So the poorly performing working class British children are largely that way because they were born that way. Migrant children are the product of different selective pressures.

Are underprivileged migrant schoolchildren just smarter or are they harder workers than other children with similar backgrounds? Or perhaps it’s just that hope hasn’t been drained out of migrant families? Yet.

Schools in deprived areas with a high intake of white, working-class children tend to receive poor Ofsted assessments, while those with a high proportion of migrant children fare significantly better. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, puts this down in part to white, working-class communities suffering the “full brunt of economic dislocation in recent years and, as a result, can lack the aspiration and drive seen in many migrant communities”. Which sounds about right, except that nothing about this seems recent. The very problem is that it’s ingrained.

It seems farcical to pit poor “indigenous” kids against poor migrant kids (they’d have plenty in common – poverty, for one thing). It also barely needs stating that most migrant children would be dealing with many challenges that make their achievements all the more impressive. However, there’s one factor that migrant children might not have to contend with – the generation above them (maybe even two or three generations) being systemically ground down by entrenched lack of opportunity and the prevailing atmosphere of demotivation that this generates.

This could produce two markedly different environments in otherwise economically similar homes. The migrant family (still full of hope about opportunities in Britain) sends the child off to school with the incentivising message: “Work hard, and you’ll get somewhere.” Then there’s the other family, the end product of generations that have seen industry collapse, communities devastated, higher education monetised, apprenticeships disappear. Where are they supposed to find the will or the energy to say to their children: “Work hard and you’ll get somewhere”? Could they be blamed for thinking that it’s a lie?

With this in mind, it’s a miracle that so many disadvantaged families continue to encourage and support their children at school. If some don’t, the reason seems to be rather more complex than “poor Britons don’t give a toss about their kids’ schooling”, when the vast majority do. Far from being uncaring and indifferent, these parents, like their parents before them, could simply be exhausted and demotivated, not to mention ashamed and embarrassed. After all, these are communities that have been practically gaslit by a society that, for all the glaring inequality, has the gall to tell them that it’s all their own fault they didn’t get anywhere.

The result is a deeply embedded hopelessness that migrant families, for all their other challenges, have yet to experience or, indeed, pass on as a toxic inter-generational inheritance. Put bluntly, it could be that deep-rooted despair and cynicism about life chances in the UK hasn’t managed to kick the spirit out of migrants yet. Well done to migrant children for doing well at school; let’s hope that it isn’t bred out of them.


It's Past Time We Tackled U.S. Education Reform

While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been the source of several negative and polarizing news stories since her appointment, there have actually been very few major news items about what the Department of Education is doing.

We have some idea of what the future of the Department will be, given that it is part of a larger Trump Administration plan to consolidate government. The plan, as of now, is to combine Education and Labor into one Cabinet-level department, the Department of Education and the Workforce.

However, supporters of Betsy DeVos – myself included – have not seen much in terms of education policy coming from her office. Things, by and large, appear to be running as they have been, and aside from her rolling back Title IX memoranda for colleges going after sexual assault, there has been little to celebrate.

Frankly, it appears as though the faith we had in DeVos to be a driving force behind education reform was for naught. There has been no major push for any reform, and there appears to be no sign of any push on the horizon.

Congress, controlled by Republicans, has similarly done very little on education despite reform being a part of the Republican Party’s list of goals for years. President Donald Trump hasn’t talked about it, and Republican pundits are so busy discussing the Trump tweet of the moment or pushing back against the latest media critique that they have simply not had the time to address some of the lofty goals that the administration had signaled they would be pursuing.

However, prior to Trump’s candidacy and seemingly-impossible nomination and election, education was considered by many to be the next big issue Americans would have to grapple with. And it should be.

Education, and reforming what education is in America, is the topic of conversation that always gets left for when there seems to be nothing else to talk about, and in treating it that way, it is always left until the last minute, giving us terrible policies like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and encouraging states to accept Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by dangling money in front of them in exchange.

While those policies are no longer in play (NCLB has since been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the CCSS has received major pushback from both the Right and the Left), the mentality that led to them is still firmly in place.

We should be having the conversations. We should be working to improve the education system, public and private, so that we provide our children with the best possible education we can offer them.

That means we have to talk about private school vouchers, school choice, public school funding, free pre-Kindergarten and college, and every other issue in between.

DeVos supporters saw in her a chance to push for greater access to school choice, an issue that appears to be overwhelmingly supported by the American public. A Gallup poll from August 2017 shows that the majority of Republicans and Democrats prefer private schools over public schools. In January, the American Federation For Children released it’s national school choice poll, showing nearly two-thirds of Americans support the idea of school choice.

But, there has been little movement on that front, and given the attention that the President and his administration seem to be paying to higher-profile issues like immigration and tariffs it’s easy to see why: School choice and education reform don’t make for attention-grabbing headlines.

Granted school choice isn’t the only education reform policy on the table, but it is one of the more widely-debated ones, and it’s one of the reforms that government can have a big, public hand in promoting or renouncing, making it incredibly political.

What kinds of reforms can we push that really only require local and state input or are teacher-centric? How about continuing the push for more access to STEM education? How do we accomplish that?

These are the conversations parents should want to see more of if they don’t want to already. One reason the child separation policy disturbed people so much is that it had a decidedly negative impact on children. The same goes for education.

You can make or break a child’s future by giving them or denying them access to the best possible education. Why don’t we focus more on giving them that education and that future?

As a conservative, as a parent, and as an educator, I hope we can start having these discussions. I hope that we can get our politicians to take part – not by playing political games but by actually discussing, debating, and voting on these issues. I hope we can get the Department of Education to be more proactive in seeking and implementing good reforms that benefit our students, not just one type of school over another.

It’s high time we did all of this and more. For our children’s sake.


Australia: Real reason teachers walk away

Unending, deadening, bureaucratic interference with their work

HALF of our teachers are quitting within five years of graduating. We’re at crisis point, and as one teacher explains, it’s not changing.

THOUSANDS of Australian teachers are abandoning their careers every year, leaving our students much worse off. Something is seriously wrong in our education system.

Gabbie Stroud had high hopes walking into her career as a teacher. She was dedicated, and loved working with kids. But over a decade, she was worn down by the system. Below is an extract of her new book, Teacher, showing why it’s more than the daily grind that’s pushing our educators to the brink:

I HAD arrived at school earlier than usual, signing a form at daycare agreeing to pay the extra fifteen bucks for an early drop-off. I needed to prepare an activity for my class. We had been reading Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, and today we were going to search the school for a lost green sheep. It would be a chance for students to get familiar with the layout of the school as well as engaging them in a rich literacy task. Boxes ticked. One day closer to maternity leave.

On coloured paper I had drawn and laminated sheep — a blue sheep, a red sheep, a yellow sheep, an orange sheep — and I was dotting them around the school. One had been taped to the underside of the slippery dip. Another had been pinned to the tuckshop menu board. I would deliver a couple to classrooms as well. The green sheep himself, a plush soft toy, would be waiting for us in the Principal’s office. The Principal seemed bemused by the entire activity, but had agreed to play along.

I hustled into Gretel’s class and explained the activity while she started up the bank of computers against the back wall of her classroom. “Sounds great,” she said, never looking up. “Sit it on my desk and when you bring your class down to find it. I’ll do the whole shocked and surprised routine.”

“Thanks.” I dropped off the orange sheep and lumbered out the door. I glanced at my watch. Twenty minutes until show time. One sheep left to deposit.

“Hey, Lana.” I knocked on her door, but didn’t wait for her welcome. “Can I please leave this sheep in here with you? And then later this morning I’ll come down with the Kindies?”

“I can’t do this,” Lana said, and for a moment I thought she was talking about my activity.

“Okay.” I took a step backwards. “I can ask someone else.” There was something about her face I didn’t recognise, even though I’d been teaching with her for years. But then it clicked and I did recognise it and I was terrified. It was stress. And defeat. And possibly desperation. All brought to life on the pale, frowning face of my long-time colleague and friend.

“No,” she said and slumped forward in her seat. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.” She shoved at the paperwork in front of her. “None of it!” She shook her head.

I moved towards her, abandoning the red sheep and putting my arm around her shoulders. Outside a child shouted, Too bad, so sad! and there was the tattoo of school shoes across the concrete.

“I know, it’s so exhausting,” I said, rubbing my hand across her back. “Let’s just take a minute and have a cry and then we’ll get our s**t together, hey?”

“No,” she said. Her stare was defiant. “I can’t do it anymore.” Tears started streaming and I felt panic grip me. I glanced at my watch. Fifteen minutes.

I’ve got to get her together. I need another teacher in here, but I don’t want to leave her. S**t! She’s got car keys in her hands. She is really sobbing. This isn’t a brief breakdown, this is something else.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” I said with a voice that was warm and confident and reassuring. It was my teacher voice — Lana had one too — but she looked at me in the same way a little one does when they’ve spilled an entire tub of yoghurt down their front. “I’m going to call Pip because her class goes to the library this morning and she’ll come and take your class. So we can stop worrying about that.”

Lana looked at me, nodded, and asked for some tissues. I found the box and passed them to her.

“Then I’m going to ring the Principal. I’m going to tell him to get a relief teacher for your class for the rest of the day.”

She nodded again. “Thanks,” she whispered. “You’re probably just really tired,” I said and squeezed her arm.

“No!” Her voice was loud. Wild. “This isn’t tired! This is something else. This is … This is … I can’t do this anymore.” New tears came and she leaned over her desk, over the books and the papers and the laptop and the awards and the stickers, and sobbed.

I made the phone calls and our teaching community rallied. Madge offered to take my class for a bit and I sat with Lana until she had stopped sobbing and shaking. “I’m so sorry,” she was saying. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

The Principal came to her room, sat beside her and found his teacher voice, too. He talked about stress leave and mental health and going home right now and not to worry — we would sort out the details later.

“I’m sorry,” Lana said again. “It’s okay,” he said. “And don’t apologise. Happens to the best of us.”

I found her bag and phone and I watched her go, bent over and frail like someone sick, very sick, about to die.

That’s me, I thought. That’s going to happen to me. And the baby rolled inside, uncomfortable under my skin.


“I can’t believe it,” I said. We were in the library after school, waiting for the staff meeting to begin, debriefing about Lana and wondering how she was feeling now.

“I mean, Lana’s so steady and calm and bombproof. She never seems stressed or frazzled. You never see her busting someone’s arse at the photocopier because she’s left things to the last minute and needs to jump the queue.”

“Appearances can be deceiving,” Jule said. “We all wear stress in different ways,” added Madge. “She’ll come good,” the Principal said. “Eventually.”

“You reckon?” I could still see her face — that was the face of a teacher having a breakdown.  “I’ve seen it before,” he said. “Plenty of times.”

Something about the way he said it, that nonchalant, casual manner, made me feel like exploding all over the room. I wanted to see my body fly against the walls in wet, red, meaty splatters. I closed my eyes for a moment, wondered at this anger that kept flaring inside me. Then, I took a breath and asked, “So what are we doing about it?”

He shrugged, opened his diary. “Nothing we can do. Okay — let’s start this meeting. First up, funding cuts.”


“Are you okay?” I was lurching out of my car, willing my body to move faster to get to my friend, to hold her and hug her.

Lana nodded and watched me, framed in her doorway. She was in trackies and uggies, and her face was bare. “I’ve never seen you in trackies,” I said.

“Or without make-up, probably,” she said. She tried to force a laugh, but it turned to a sob, and I stood there and hugged her as close as I could with the buffer of a baby between us. “Thanks for coming around,” she said, ushering me inside.

“I’m worried about you,” I said. About me, I thought.

“It’s stress,” she said simply, flicking on the kettle and pulling mugs from the cupboard. “I’ve seen the doctor; even saw a psychologist today. I just can’t seem to find a way to make my work and my life manageable.”

I nodded, watching as she moved about her kitchen. There was a weariness to her, like she was just out of hospital and recovering from surgery.

“Let me,” I said and took her place in the kitchen, making tea and finding biscuits.

“I mean, I’ve got some hormonal stuff that needs sorting out,” she said. “At my age, that’s pretty normal. But I just can’t see how I’m meant to go on being a teacher for another 20 years. I think about those professional teaching standards coming in and I just think, When am I going to get those done?”

“I try not to think about them,” I said. “Or the national curriculum.”

“Oh, my God,” Lana said. “That as well. I’m a teacher with over 25 years of experience, but these past few years none of that seems good enough. I’ve got to learn this new teaching technique and integrate new technology and promote the school at this thing on the weekend and help that student manage his emotions …” She sniffed. “I just wonder where it’s all going to end?”

“Me too,” I agreed.

“I bet you’re getting excited about the baby.”

“Yeah,” I said, touching my belly. “Probably for all the wrong reasons though.”

“Maternity leave?”

“Yep,” I admitted.

“I get it,” she said. “I get it.”

I stayed until Lana’s husband came home from work, watched as they embraced and she found fresh tears. Driving home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just had a glimpse of my future. This baby would buy me time away from the classroom, but then what? I would have to return and continue the battle, slogging it out day after day with big dark shadows of standardisation lurking over my head.

Part of me felt like sobbing, just like Lana.


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