Monday, July 16, 2018

End of the red pen: Leading girls’ school bans teachers from writing negative comments on exam papers

So how do they learn?

One of the country’s leading girls’ schools has banned teachers from writing negative comments on pupils’ end-of-year exams, it has emerged.

Putney High School in south-west London had already stopped grading pieces of work for pupils aged 11 to 14 in order to stop girls getting overly “fixated” on their mark.

Now the £19,000-a-year school has taken things one step further by axing comments in favour of symbols, allowing girls to work out themselves where they have gone wrong.

When marking the Year Nine girls’ end-of-year exams, teachers were banned from making any comments “other than a brief line of genuine praise”.

Antony Barton, head of English at the school, explained that following the school’s successful policy to stop grading homework they began to think: “How about encouraging the students to recognise their own mistakes, without comments?”

Writing an article in the Times Education Supplement magazine, he said that evidence suggests that the best feedback for students encourages them to take ownership of their learning.

“The [Year Nine] summer papers had to receive a summative grade, so we instead put an end to all teacher comments other than a brief line of genuine praise,” he said.

“We had given the marking criteria to the students before the exam but, on this occasion, they also received a sheet of symbols with their returned papers.

“The definitions alongside the symbols explained the seemingly mystical annotations that adorned the margins – symbols identifying that a particular line contained a structural problem, unclear expression or flawed logic, for example. The precise nature of the error, however, was something the students had to determine.” [How unhelpful!]

He went on to describe how students were initially surprised by the move, but quickly got used to it.

He wrote: “Where were the comments they had come to expect? Still, the tendency they had developed towards reading comments carefully and reflecting on their errors was a transferable skill. With a subtle nudge in the right direction, the students began identifying error after error.”

Last year, the headmaster of a secondary school banned teachers from marking because it risks damaging children’s confidence.

Gary Schlick, the head of Bedminster Down School in Bristol, said that issuing pupils with grades, scores and comments on their work may come across as negative, and does little to encourage children to improve.

Under the new regime, teachers are encouraged to replace traditional marking with a series of techniques which Mr Schlick believes will boost attainment.

Five years ago, the Tory MP Bob Blackman took his concerns to parliament after a teacher in his Harrow East constituency informed him that a secondary school had banned staff from using red ink for fear of upsetting pupils.

The move was condemned as "political correctness gone wild" and ministers at the time denied that the Government issues guidelines on the colour of teachers' pens.


Socialist student group petitions to cancel Jordan Peterson's upcoming Texas lecture

Fear of intellectual diversity

A socialist student organization at the University of Texas, San Antonio is doing all it can to prevent a lecture by clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson.

Members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at UTSA recently tweeted out a link to a petition started by a local transgender activist, calling on the Tobin Center for the Preforming Arts to prevent Peterson from delivering a planned lecture in October.

“No platform for transphobes,” the tweet reads, while linking to a petition to protest Peterson’s lecture.

According to the petition, Peterson is one of the most “vocal and divisive anti LGBTQ individuals in North America,” who “makes a living promoting conversion therapy and spreading lies about transgender people.”

“Considering the damage that San Antonio and our trans community would suffer if state lawmakers pass a bathroom bill next Spring, why in the world would we give this man a stage in our most celebrated performance hall,” the petition reads.

Peterson rose to fame in 2016 after speaking out against a proposed law in Canada which he felt would legally compel individuals to use certain types of speech when referring to individuals based on gender self-identification. Since then, he has become a popular defender of free speech on college campuses, often appearing alongside other speech advocates such as Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin, and Sam Harris.

Despite efforts by the YDSA to promote the petition to have Jordan Peterson barred from speaking, less than a thousand people appear to have signed the petition. Meanwhile, Peterson has become so popular that he has embarked on an extensive speaking tour across the U.S. and Europe, where he regularly appears before sold-out audiences eager to hear him speak.


Mass.: Governor Baker proposes using state cash bonanza for school safety measures

Governor Charlie Baker proposed Friday plowing $72 million into school safety, harnessing a surge in tax revenue to hand local districts an election-year cash infusion for hiring more mental health specialists and upgrading security at educational facilities.

The plan comes in the wake of several high-profile mass shootings at schools across the United States, and is part of a national trend of government leaders trying to reduce the risk of such tragedies.

“This is something that we have been discussing with colleagues at the local level for the past several months, especially after Parkland,” Baker said at a news conference, referring to the February shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others. “Their number one request was funding to enhance the state support for social workers, mental health workers, and counselors in schools.”

The proposal would make $40 million in grants for such positions available through the middle of 2020.

It would also appropriate $32 million for school security and communications upgrades such as cameras and alarms; training for school resource officers, educators, and others; creating a tip line to provide public safety and school personnel with timely information on potential risks; a public awareness “Say Something” campaign; and other similar efforts through the middle of 2021.

Baker also noted to reporters that he recently signed into law a bill, championed by the Legislature, that gives courts the authority to strip weapons from people who have been identified by their families as a danger to themselves or others. And he underscored that, according to recent federal data, Massachusetts had a lower per capita rate of firearm deaths than any other state.

The safety package is part of Baker’s budgetary framework to spend the $1 billion in unexpected tax revenue the state saw in the fiscal year that ended June 30. After accounting for certain mandatory spending — including about a half-billion-dollar deposit into the state’s rainy day fund — Baker, a Republican who is up for reelection in November, is proposing $575 million in outlays with the surplus cash.

The proposed money for cities and towns left some municipal officials smiling ear to ear.

“There’s a lot to like here,” Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said in an e-mail. “We hope this proposal is on a fast track, because municipal leaders can put these resources to work immediately to help every community.”

But Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston expressed frustration that the governor didn’t propose using more of the revenue windfall to help cities pay for education.

“I am disappointed by the continued underfunding of existing education obligations for cities and towns, despite having adequate resources to do so while still making new investments,” Walsh said in a statement. With state tax revenue way above expectations, “I encourage the governor and the Legislature to return to the practice of fully funding the charter reimbursement and support students at Boston Public Schools and across the Commonwealth.”

The governor files a final spending plan after the end of every fiscal year — to pay, for example, bills that exceeded expectations on, say, health care for the poor. What’s unusual this year is policy makers have the flexibility to spend so much unanticipated cash.

Experts and politicos on and off Beacon Hill attribute at least part of the windfall, and maybe most of it, to the federal tax overhaul that President Trump pushed through at the end of last year.

“We believe tax reform had a big impact on a whole series of decisions that people made with respect to estate tax revenue, with respect to corporate tax revenue, the repatriation of funds from overseas, and the capital gains numbers,” the governor said, referring to levies paid on investment profits. “We believe all of those things were related to tax reform and turned into very big [tax revenue] numbers” for the state.

Like any other bill, the Democratic-controlled Legislature will have a chance to rewrite it, adjusting spending priorities. Spokespeople for the House speaker and Senate president did not respond to requests for comment.


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