Thursday, October 10, 2019

Florida Middle School Teacher Labels Trump an “Idiot” in Exam Question

A teacher at Watson B. Duncan Middle School in Palm Beach, Florida has been reassigned from regular classroom duties after labeling President Donald Trump an “idiot” in an exam given to students.

The multiple-choice question asked students to correctly identify the U.S. President described as “45th Pres.; 2017; Republican; Real Estate businessman; idiot.” The four possible answers were Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Obviously, the “correct” answer is meant to be Donald Trump.

The source of the exam question appears to be an online database called Quizlet, which allows educators to upload, edit, and share study materials and exam questions. It is unclear whether the teacher wrote the question herself or borrowed it from another user. Since the database is used by educators nationwide, it is possible that other teachers used the same exam question in their classrooms. The teacher has not yet been publicly identified.

Alarms about the exam question were first raised by Duncan Middle School parent Cam Cary, whose daughter took the quiz. Cary shared an image of the question on Twitter and promised to “raise some hell” with the school principal. “This was an actual question on my daughter’s middle school test today. Furious,” he wrote. “Indoctrination will not continue ... Not having it!”

Cary subsequently contacted administrators at the school and reported that he had a “long talk” with school principal Phillip D’Amico. “I let the school know that teachers’ personal opinions do not belong in the classroom no matter what you believe,” Cary reported in an update on Twitter. “That kids need to be free thinkers and not told how to think."

Principal D’Amico issued a statement via email acknowledging that “the question was inappropriate, and demonstrated an unacceptable lack of good judgement on the part of the teacher.” He also confirmed that the teacher has been reassigned while the school conducts an investigation. “I apologize for the incident, and for the offensive verbiage used in the question,” he added.

Florida Senator Rick Scott also condemned the teacher for politicizing the classroom. “This is UNACCEPTABLE,” he tweeted. “This liberal teacher was trying to indoctrinate kids in Florida with your tax dollars! The teacher should be fired immediately.”


Diversity Rankings Hold Deep Meaning for the University of California, the State, and the Nation

Even after the Supreme Court’s 1978 Bakke ruling, the University of California persisted in admitting students on the basis of race and ethnicity, not merit and test scores. Californians put a stop to such discrimination in 1996 by passing the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, which bans racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. Opponents argued that the measure would end minority representation, but that turned out to be wrong.

As Fox Business reports, “The number one most diverse public university in the country is UC Davis, where 30,066 undergraduates are enrolled at a diversity index rate of 77.64.” The diversity index is a continuum that ranges from 0 to 100 to calculate whether a population is more evenly divided across race and ethnic groups. By this standard, UCLA comes second, UC Santa Barbara fourth, UC San Diego sixth, UC Berkeley ninth, and UC Irvine tenth. So diversity endures, but only in race and ethnicity.

A student can pass through the UC system without learning much about Nobel Prize-winning economists such as F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. UC literature departments are not strong on writes such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel. UC bosses such as the outgoing president Janet Napolitano are not strong on the First and Second Amendments.

Still, as Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, after Proposition 209 was enacted there was an increase in the number of black and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system, including an increase of 55 percent in the number graduating in four years. There was also an increase of 63 percent in the number graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. And after voters banned racial preferences, Sowell shows, the number of black and Hispanic students graduating with degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering rose by 51 percent. Also after 209, the number of doctorates earned by black and Hispanic students in the UC system rose by 25 percent.

The lessons should be clear. Proposition 209 promoted merit and achievement while allowing ethnic diversity to thrive. If other states pass similar measures, California might become a leader again.


Australia: Phonics focus of teacher training

Education Minister Dan Tehan will push universities to overhaul their teacher training courses to ensure that graduates learn how to teach children to read and write using the phonics method, amid damning evidence that many new teachers are ill-prepared for the classroom.

Mr Tehan is due to meet with the heads of university teaching faculties this week and said he was confident he would be able to sec­ure their co-operation to deliver on one of his key election promises.

“I have raised this with the education deans and they are looking forward to working with the government on this,” he said on Sunday.

“Every indication they’ve given to me is they are looking forward to making sure phonics is a key component of what teachers are taught when they are doing their degrees.”

The push to embed phonics, which explicitly and systematically teaches the correspondence between letters and sounds, into initial teacher education comes amid widespread concern about declining literacy rates among Australian children.

Mr Tehan signalled his entry into one of the most hotly debated areas of education ahead of the May election when he announced the Coalition would roll out a voluntary “phonics health check” for Year 1 students and would “ensure that teaching students learn how to teach phonics for use in the classroom to improve the literacy of their students”.

Doing so, however, will likely come up against significant opposition, with a recent research report by high-profile literacy advocate Jennifer Buckingham revealing that most teaching courses preferenced the balanced literacy approach to reading instruction, which promotes whole-word recognition and encourages children to guess at unfamiliar words, despite repeated scientific studies finding systematic phonics instruction to be the most ­effective way to teach children how to read.

According to the report, which analysed more than 60 teacher education courses, just 5 per cent of units appeared to have a specific focus on teaching beginning readers to read. And just 6 per cent of units referenced the recognised essential elements of evidence-based reading instruction: phonics awareness, phonics, ­fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Australian Council of Deans of Education president Tania Asp­land said the deans did not claim to be literacy experts but faculties were keen to work with the government and other stakeholders to ensure all education courses were providing graduates with evidence-based strategies for teaching children to read.


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