Saturday, December 11, 2004

An Evaluation of Florida's Program to End Social Promotion

Students learned more when they were not automatically promoted

Nine states and three of the nation's biggest cities have adopted mandates intended to end "social promotion"- promoting students to the next grade level regardless of their academic proficiency. These policies require students in certain grades to reach a minimum benchmark on a standardized test in order to move on to the next grade. Florida, Texas, and seven other states, as well as the cities of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have adopted mandatory promotion tests; these school systems encompass 30% of all U.S. public-school students. Proponents of such policies claim that students must possess basic skills in order to succeed in higher grades, while opponents argue that holding students back discourages them and only pushes them further behind.

This study uses individual-level data provided by the Florida Department of Education to evaluate the initial effects of Florida's policy requiring students to reach a minimum threshold on the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to be promoted to the 4th grade. It examines the gains made in one year on math and reading tests by all Florida 3rd graders in the first cohort subject to the retention policy who scored below the necessary threshold, comparing them to all Florida 3rd graders in the previous year with the same low test scores, for whom the policy was not yet in force. Because some students subject to the policy obtained special exemptions and were promoted, the study also uses an instrumental regression analysis to separately measure the effects of actually being retained. The study measures gains made by students on both the high-stakes FCAT and the Stanford-9, a nationally respected standardized test that is also administered to all Florida students, but with no stakes tied to the results.

The authors intend to follow the same two cohorts of students in future studies to evaluate the effects of this new policy over time. The findings of this study, evaluating Florida's program after its first year, include:

* Low-performing students subject to the retention policy made gains in reading greater than those of similar students not subject to the policy by 1.85 percentile points on both the FCAT and the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students subject to the retention policy made gains in math greater than those of similar students not subject to the policy by 4.76 percentile points on the FCAT and 4.43 percentile points on the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students who were actually retained made gains in reading greater than those of similar students who were promoted by 4.10 percentile points on the FCAT and 3.45 percentile points on the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students who were retained made gains in math greater than those of similar students who were promoted by 9.98 percentile points on the FCAT and 9.26 percentile points on the Stanford-9.


The findings of this study demonstrate that after one year, Florida’s retention policy has significantly improved the academic proficiency of low-performing third-grade students. Further research on this and other programs will add vital information to the debate over objective retention policies. For now, however, the early results are quite encouraging for the use of retention based on standardized tests to improve academic proficiency.

More here


England's position in the world education league has slipped after not enough pupils and schools sent in results.

The Government has dismissed the embarrassing results, drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, as inconclusive and not comparable to other years and other countries. It was the only OECD country to fail the criteria for the study this year and the poor results have raised suspicions that the Government was happy the see them left out.

In the second three-year study of about 250,000 students from 41 countries, English 15-year-olds scored worse in maths, science and reading than 17 other industrialised nations, including Liechtenstein and Macau, a region of China.

Maths tests for 14-year-olds at Key Stage 3 return ever-improving results year on year and the number gaining GCSE passes in English and maths is rising. The OECD study, released by the Programme for International Student Assessment, however, appears to show standards falling against an international criteria.

In 2000, the programme's study ranked England eighth in maths and reading and fourth in science out of forty countries. In the past three years students have apparently fallen to No 18 in maths, No 12 in reading and No 11 in science. David Miliband, the Schools Minister, said: "The OECD say themselves that the data cannot be compared with UK past performance or the performance of other nations as it doesn't meet their technical requirements. "We've made clear our disappointment that the UK response rate was below the technical requirements. We remain fully committed to international comparison studies and aim to learn the lessons with a view to full inclusion in Pisa 2006."

Although almost two thirds of Britain's schools returned results the OECD ruled that too few schools and pupils had responded to be eligible. The Government said yesterday that it would seek to ensure that sufficient schools participate in the next tests in 2006.

Alan Smithers, the director of education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, added to the Government's woes by pointing out that England's pupils were ranked No 18 overall on the basis of achieving 519 points in maths, but they could rank as low as No 24 if there were any bias. "If the response rate is low, it is likely that the better-performing schools and pupils would have taken part in the tests. So it is fair to assume that our results are an overestimate," he said.

Professor Smithers said that he did not believe that the latest results reflected a particular downturn in teaching; rather that the study in 2000 was out of kilter with all previous findings, particularly in maths. He added: "The Government should ask itself how it is that the results of national tests keep bounding up, whereas the performance in international tests are at best static and at worst falling."


[Yes. The source is the London "Times", despite the illiteracy above of "an international criteria"]


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, December 09, 2004

It's not just American blacks who can't do Math: "For a nation committed to preparing students for 21st century jobs, the results of the first-of-its-kind study of how well teenagers can apply math skills to real-life problems is sobering. American 15-year-olds rank well below those in most other industrialized countries in mathematics literacy and problem solving, according to a survey released Monday. Although the notion that America faces a math gap is not new, Monday's results show with new clarity that the problem extends beyond the classrooms into the kind of life-skills that employers care about. And to the surprise of some experts, the US shortcoming exists even when only top students in each nation are considered."

A city's schools test a new way

School privatization gets a boost from good results in Philadelphia

When the Philadelphia School District was struggling several years ago, one of the lifelines tossed to it was thrown by Edison Schools, Inc., a New York-based for-profit offering a can-do approach to public education. Since then, the nation's largest educational management company has had troubles of its own, ranging from failure to perform successfully in a number of the public schools it was serving to a virtual collapse in the value of its stock.

But if privatizing school management has not proven to be the panacea many in Philadelphia had hoped, neither has Edison been the district's undoing, as activists and others warned when the firm was brought in during the rancorous and bitter state takeover of the district in 2002. On the contrary, test scores are up district-wide, and some of the most impressive gains have come in 20 of the toughest schools, those turned over to Edison in a last-ditch effort to jump-start them into performing. "They've done a superb job with the most difficult schools," said James Nevels, chairman of the state-appointed School Reform Commission, which took over after the school board was disbanded.

Many thought the company itself wouldn't last. Stock prices had plummeted by 2003, some districts canceled their contracts, and the company went private that spring. But Edison spokesman Adam Tucker says the company's slide has been reversed and it enjoyed its first operating profit in its 12-year history at the end of last year. The district, says chairman Nevels, has seen no evidence of financial troubles, but is free to terminate the contract "at will."

"Centralized control is not working in American urban education," says Paul Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University. One way to find out what does work, he insists, is to explore a range of options in a Philadelphia-like mix. Before the state takeover, the school district, with 200,000 students and 276 schools, seemed badly in need of new solutions. The Reform Commission, which hired CEO Paul Vallas, formerly head of Chicago schools and credited with positive reforms in that district, selected Philadelphia's 45 worst-performing schools and divvied them up for intensive care.

Edison got the worst of the lot, including eight middle schools generally thought to be among the most intractable.

Edison "did a number of things right," said Nevels. They brought in their curriculum model, high in structure, heavy in math and reading, and full of opportunities for staff development. Edison's centerpiece, many believe, is a benchmark assessment component, in which students are tested every six weeks. Scores are available immediately. Unlike traditional achievement tests, where results come well after students have moved on to the next grade, the Edison model immediately detects strengths and deficiencies in classes as a whole as well as in individual students. Students are then grouped according to the precise skills needing more attention. "We can be more diagnostic in our approach," said Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Shaw Middle School.

Among the year's achievement highlights, student scores on the 2003-04 Pennsylvania state tests were up substantially in the district as a whole, and Edison's gains mirrored the district's. Edison's average annual gain in the number of students scoring at or above proficiency level was 10.2 percentage points in fifth- and eighth-grade reading, and 9.6 percentage points in math. Prior to the partnership, the same schools' average annual gain in proficiency was less than one-half of one percentage point. Having Philadelphia's worst-achieving schools hold their own is a source of pride to Edison and a confirmation to the district that private management can work.

More here


Teachers and class aides across New South Wales are being punched, kicked, spat at, head-butted and threatened with knives, replica guns, petrol bombs and other weapons in the classroom. The incidents, details of which have been obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information, are part of a catalogue of dozens of violent acts perpetrated on teachers in schools across NSW during the past year. More than 1000 serious incidents in state schools - many involving violence - have been reported to the Department of Education.

In one, a box of animal parts was left on a school teacher's desk with a "vile" letter threatening violence, rape and death against her. Police were called to Cumberland High School in the city's west after the animal parts were left for a teacher by three female students - two in Year 11 and one in Year 7. Another female teacher suffered an electrical shock from a student's "stun gun" pen, numbing her arm and hands for more than hour. At Rooty Hill High School a male student gave the pen to his female teacher saying it was jamming. When the teacher pressed the pen's top she suffered a "significant electrical shock". Teachers have had chairs thrown at them, struck with rocks, bitten and had their cars vandalised. In one serious incident at Baulkham Hills in Sydney's northwest an ex-student tried to run over a male teacher.

Cyber violence is also on the rise with the internet increasingly used to make threats against teachers and schools. Threats to a teacher's life were posted on the website of Newtown North Public School and pictures of a known terrorist pasted next to the teacher's class page. The serious incident report filed to the Department of Education said: "The teacher is experiencing extreme distress and is on leave for two weeks and has filled out a worker's compensation form." At Macquarie Boys High School a student used the school computer at lunchtime to post a request on the internet for a teacher to be killed.

Education Minister Andrew Refshauge said yesterday the safety of students and teachers was a "top priority at our schools".

"From next year principals will have even stronger authority to discipline disruptive students," he said. "Principals soon will have the power to suspend students who carry weapons or inappropriately use new technologies such as e-mail and SMS."

But parents also have made serious threats on school staff, the documents show. One father was overheard to say he would put a laser sight on a gun and put a bullet in the principal's head.

A student at Cooranbong Public School at Lake Macquarie placed nails against the teacher's tyres causing punctures. Another teacher had the bonnet of his car badly scratched. Weapons in schools are also causing concern. Scissors are frequently used but in one case a meat cleaver was produced and in another a gun was found under a demountable.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, December 08, 2004


As rebellious teenagers they chanted "we don't need no education", but 25 years later the former pupils from Islington Green School disagree with the sentiment of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall". The Times has tracked down the anonymous choir members who once called for their teacher to "leave those kids alone" and found that, as well as pursuing a legal action for unpaid royalties from the song, they are now singing from a rather different hymn sheet.

Ian Abbott, 40, was one of 13 pupils whom their music teacher, Alun Renshaw, sneaked into the Britannia Row studios to record the chorus for the song in 1979. "We don't need no education does not hold, especially with children," he said at the weekend. "Some of my nieces, for example, have been having problems at school. I say to them: 'You must knuckle down', and they say: 'But why? Look at what you sang'.

"But education is so important. I really regret the fact that I did not do an awful lot at school and I would like to go to university now and get a degree. But work gets in the way when you get older."

With Pink Floyd in tax exile, the pupils, aged 12 to 15, never met the band and were robbed of fame because Margaret Maden, their infuriated head teacher, banned any publicity when told of the controversial lyrics. She had been brought in to turn around Islington Green School, then regarded as a sink-estate school. She had sought to increase the number of children from Islington's new influx of middle-class families.

Now a respected educationist, Professor Maden said: "The influence of middle-class and ethnic children was quite palpable on all kids. We believed in a balanced intake and this reflected the area we were in."

Tabitha Mellor, 38, now a teacher in Hackney, said: "There was a real mix of Cockney and the bohemian middle class. We were lucky to have that education and I was privileged to have lived in such an area. Maden was fantastic because I think she got the highest grades ever and saw us right through. She was an educational genius and was one of the inspirations for me to become a teacher. I now try to inspire my kids like that. It helps that I can tell them that I had a No 1."

Mirabai Narayan, the granddaughter of Stephen Swingler, the former Labour minister, is now a learning mentor dealing with problem children at a primary school in Camden. She said: "It's strange now because I do wonder whether that song has influenced my choice of career. My job now is to help to overcome barriers to learning for kids and if I listen to the song now it makes me shiver - especially the line about `dark sarcasm'. Nowadays as teachers we are told never to use sarcasm with children."



A recent New York Times op-ed by economist Jeff Madrick takes the tone and sophistication of a cable-TV ad in trying to convince Americans that we need to toss more money into subsidizing college education for students. "To economists," Madrick writes, "higher education is like motherhood or apple pie. It will cure just about anything, from globalization and outsourcing to technological change and income inequality." Wow! Get my credit card and hand me the phone! Madrick admits to some hyperbole in that sentence, but proceeds to argue seriously that the taxpayers would be foolish not to spend more on higher education for more students. Why?

For one thing, people who have college degrees earn more, on average, than people without them. Quoting Madrick, "According to the 2000 census, for example, the median income of an American man with a college degree was about $52,200, 60 percent higher than the $31,600 for those with a high school degree." He doesn't explicitly draw the conclusion, but apparently Madrick believes it follows that individuals who didn't pursue college would necessarily have had higher earnings had they done so, as if there were some automatic connection between years of formal education and earnings.

And that is nonsense. Rather than looking at median earnings of the two groups, which for college graduates is pulled up greatly by the superwealthy (Michael Jordan, for example) and for nongraduates is pulled down by many people who scarcely work at all, we should focus on individuals at the margin. That is, among those people who might have gone to college but chose not to, would their earnings be significantly higher if they had gotten a degree? Consider a young man who has just graduated from high school with mediocre grades and an SAT score that could have landed him a place in one of the nation's many nonselective colleges. He decides that he would rather just start earning a living; so instead of applying to colleges, he enrolls in a school that teaches auto mechanics. After a few months of study, he is ready to start working and gets a job as a trainee mechanic at an auto dealership.

Did he make the wrong choice? Would his financial future be better if he had gone to college instead? It is hard to see that it would be. He wouldn't be paid more as a mechanic for having first obtained a bachelor's degree before learning that trade, and would be in the hole for all the costs and forgone earnings of his college years.

But, Madrick would probably reply, he would have become qualified to pursue many other, higher paying jobs. The trouble with that argument is that there are many people today with college degrees who have learned that they aren't the guarantee of high-income employment that they had supposed. One of our hypothetical auto mechanic's classmates might have chosen to enroll in at a nonselective university, earned a degree in any of dozens of popular majors, and after graduation entered the job market only to find that the best job he could get was delivering pizza. In her book Bright College Years, Anne Matthews noted that a third of the Domino's pizza deliverers in the Washington, D.C., area have B.A. degrees. Such anecdotal evidence of the fact that a degree is no assurance of landing a good job was backed up by economists Frederic Pryor and David Schaffer in their book Who's Not Working and Why, in which they noted that an increasing percentage of college graduates are taking what used to be regarded as "high school jobs."

The dirty little secret behind the glossy promotional material so carefully crafted by colleges and universities is that many will accept just about anyone, and in order to keep students happy enough to stay in school-and paying, of course-the academic requirements are abysmal. A large percentage of the students enrolled in college today are what Professor Paul Trout calls "disengaged students." They are in college just because they want a credential, not because they have any desire to learn. They don't read, resent assignments, won't accept criticism, and are quick to complain about professors who don't treat them the way they want. Hordes of those young people, most of them educationally handicapped by their years in government schools, get degrees every year, but are turned down for jobs more demanding than delivering for Domino's or serving Starbucks.

Pryor and Schaffer write that "The low functional literacy of many university graduates represents a serious indictment against the standards of the U.S. higher educational system." Actually, it is an indictment against the standards of the entire government education system. The crucial point is that sending even more of these students through college will do no one any good. It won't make the slightest dent in that "liberal" b^te noire, income inequality, to confer college degrees on still more marginal students. Nor will it stop outsourcing. Sometimes American firms turn to workers in other countries when they can't find the labor they need here, but that alleged problem won't be solved by sending more young Americans on a four-, five-, or six-year detour through college where they will learn little of any use.

But isn't it true that more and more jobs require a college education? Recently, I have been looking at an array of employment ads and have observed that many jobs which call for little background skill or knowledge-for example, bank teller, purchasing agent, loan officer-now "require" a college degree. That doesn't mean, however, that the work is so intellectually demanding that it couldn't be done by someone without the supposed skills of a college graduate. It simply indicates is that the employer has decided to use the absence of a degree as a preliminary screening device, concluding that since so many young people now go to college, it's reasonable to assume that anyone who hasn't would be difficult to train. (As further proof that these "requirements" often have nothing to do with skill or knowledge, I also found cases where two companies were hiring for the same job, one insisting that applicants have a degree and the other not.)

Thanks to subsidies, including the very low tuition at many state universities, we already have far too many students going to college. What students need and employers want is not the paper credential of a college degree, but trainability. If you really desire to give the poor an opportunity for a better life than menial labor, don't put them through college. Instead, make sure that they get a solid primary education so they can use English well and handle basic math. Doing that doesn't require more "investment" in college, but radical change in our woeful K-12 system.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Australian kids are having to go to hospital in order to learn how to read. The problem is particularly bad in the State of Victoria -- which has Australia's most Left-wing government. That the schools are being run for the benefit of the teachers rather than for the students is the obvious conclusion

Children's clinics at hospitals across the country are clogged with patients whose real problem is their inability to read rather than a medical ailment, says the chairman of the Federal Government's inquiry into reading. Ken Rowe, appointed last week to head the national inquiry into the teaching of literacy, said psychology clinics at hospitals were straining to cope with the deluge of children seeking medical attention for problems caused by their failure to learn to read at school. "Hospitals are complaining that their clinics are being filled with kids who are being referred for things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," he said. "But once the pediatricians sort out the children's literacy problems, the behaviour problems disappear. What is essentially an education issue has become a health issue."

The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne is overhauling its clinical services after an internal audit revealed that a quarter of all children who attended the emergency department and other outpatient services for medical help were diagnosed as having non-medical conditions such as learning difficulties and behaviour problems. Vicki Anderson, director of the hospital's department of psychology, said she and her colleagues were stunned by the audit's findings on all outpatient referrals to the hospital. "The figures show that families and GPs are voting with their feet to see pediatricians to deal with these kinds of non-medical problems, when they should be dealt with in the education department," Professor Anderson said.

About 500 children have been treated at the hospital's Learning Difficulties Centre in the past year; demand for its services has almost doubled each year for the past five years. Professor Anderson said many children who were sent to the clinic because their teachers, families and GPs believed they had ADHD did not have the condition. Rather, the child's inattention or poor behaviour in class was secondary to their failure to learn to read at school.

"ADHD is clearly overdiagnosed," Professor Anderson said. "The appeal of a pill for ADHD is much easier than arranging twice-a-week remedial reading sessions. It's cheaper for the school and much less time-consuming to put an ADHD label on these kids. By doing that, you put the problem on the child, not on the system." Professor Anderson said specialists in charge of child psychology clinics at large hospitals in other states had similar concerns about the growing number of struggling readers attending their clinics. She said families often sought help at the hospital's learning difficulties clinic because they faced long waiting times at schools - sometimes up to six months - to have their child's learning problems assessed by educational psychologists employed by the education department.

A spokesman for Victoria's education department said the department was unaware of long waiting lists for assessment of learning problems. "The department is quick to assist any students who are struggling to learn," he said.



Why not for all?

Aboriginal parents will have a say in selecting teachers and managing public schools that will open for extended hours under sweeping changes to be announced by the State Government. Reclassifying schools with high concentrations of Aboriginal students as "community schools" would eventually affect 50 to 150 schools, the Minister for Education, Andrew Refshauge, confirmed yesterday. Aboriginal parents on new school management boards would hand-pick staff in consultation with the principal, the schools would have flexible hours - for after-hours and holiday use - and be able to focus on Aboriginal culture and languages. The measures are recommended in a yet-to-be-released review of Aboriginal education obtained by the Herald.

In another state first, Dr Refshauge indicated yesterday that community school teachers may be paid based on their performance, rather than the union award, a measure supported by the Federal Government but opposed by teacher unions. He said the community schools and personalised study plans for 33,600 Aboriginal school students would be implemented in 2006 as part of a 10-year scheme to raise the low academic standards of indigenous students. The study plans will be developed between the school and family and could include home reading strategies and school attendance agreements.

The Government has not decided if the boards of the community schools would control their budgets, which would set a precedent in NSW public schools, where funding is allocated for specific purposes by a centralised bureaucracy. "We haven't determined what is the best way of handling that," Dr Refshauge said.

The senior vice-president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, said devolving budgets to schools would "cut them adrift" from the Department of Education and allow the Government to shift responsibility for poor academic performance to the Aboriginal communities. He said the union was prepared to vary teaching awards so these schools could open for 48 weeks a year and negotiate other industrial issues that were "above minimum staffing agreements". "But we will not tolerate the politics of deregulation ... where governments devolve budgets and in doing so shift responsibility and, more importantly, blame," he said.

The review by the Department of Education was ordered by Dr Refshauge after decades of poor school results by Aboriginal students. Now comprising 4.5 per cent of public school enrolments, fewer than 40 per cent of Aboriginal students finish year 12 - half the rate of all other students - and truancy is a serious problem from late primary school onwards. The new school model will include financial incentives to attract experienced teachers to remote towns, with the "possibility that performance pay could be part of it", Dr Refshauge said.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Too many graduates not ready for work or college: "Elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. are failing to equip many high school graduates with the skills necessary to succeed in college-level coursework or workforce training, concludes a new report from ACT. To prepare students properly for college and the workplace, the report urges strengthening the high school core curriculum and ensuring K-8 students have mastered foundational skills in reading, writing, and math before entering high school. Since the publication of A Nation At Risk in 1983, ACT has advocated a 'core' curriculum of required courses, consisting of four years of English and three years each of math, natural sciences, and social sciences."

A testing time for teachers as panel examines literacy policy

Phonics coming back in Australia?

The way teachers instruct and the way they are trained will come under the microscope in the Federal Government's national literacy review. International reading research and the various methods used to test the reading skills of primary school students will also be investigated under the review's terms of reference released yesterday by the federal Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson.

Dr Ken Rowe, a research director with the Australian Council for Educational Research who will chair the inquiry, said its most important aspect would be gathering and analysing national and international research on the teaching of reading to ensure government decisions were based on best practice. He also said that when it came to international literacy standings, Australia was "right up there" with Finland, New Zealand and Canada, and was performing better than Britain and the United States. "But there is still a concern that because we're living in an information society which demands an increasingly high level of verbal and written communication skills, some children are not getting on to a growth trajectory as early as they should in terms of literacy," he said.

The review was announced by Dr Nelson last month after he was lobbied by a small group of psychologists, linguists and speech therapists, collectively known as The Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy network. When interviewed by the Herald two weeks ago - and before his new appointment - Dr Rowe described the actions of the network and its spokesman, Kevin Wheldall, as "a form of attention-seeking behaviour", and said that while there was an element of truth in Professor Wheldall's criticisms of the widely used Reading Recovery program for students struggling in literacy, it was not the whole truth. "To claim [Reading Recovery] is not effective is absurd," he said, adding that teachers were "not that stupid" to believe that one teaching method, and one teaching method only, would succeed in equipping all students with competent reading skills.

Dr Rowe will now chair a committee comprising a number of education academics, including the president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education, Professor Terry Lovat, the chair of the National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership, Dr Gregor Ramsey, and Professor Alan Rice, the interim dean of Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Educational Studies. Other committee members include a teacher, a school principal, the mother of a child with learning difficulties, and the Herald and Sun-Herald columnist Miranda Devine.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Home-schooling is about learning, not teaching "Ignore the individuals who claim that parents need to be certified in order to teach their children at home. What arrogance on the part of any schoolteachers and administrators who speak such nonsense. Are any of those people certified to teach every subject, K-12? How many of them are even certified and qualified to teach the classes to which they are assigned? That last question is the only part of the No Child Left Behind legislation that I find interesting, even comical. Schools are having to report how many teachers are, and have been, teaching classes in subjects they have never studied; never attended training; hold no certification. Sur-prise, Sur-prise!"


Liberal professors routinely harass conservative students

Most Journal readers over a certain age can remember going all the way through college without politics intruding in the classroom. Until the Vietnam War, for instance, few students knew their professors' views, and even then most politicking took place on parts of the campus where participation was voluntary. That is no longer true--and, as a new survey commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) documents, it is making many students uneasy.

The ACTA survey was conducted this fall by the Center for Survey Research & Analysis at the University of Connecticut, among students at 50 top U.S. universities and colleges. It sought to ascertain the perceived levels of classroom politicization and of intellectual intolerance among faculty members. The results were striking.

For instance, nearly half said that their professors "frequently comment on politics in class even though it has nothing to do with the course" or use the classroom to present their personal political views. In answers to other questions, the majority acknowledged that liberal views predominate. Most troubling, however, were the responses to the survey item "On my campus, there are courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor's political or social views in order to get a good grade"--29% agreed.

ACTA's president, Anne Neal, is alarmed. "One case of political intolerance is too many," she says. "But the fact that half the students are reporting [some] abuses is simply unacceptable. If these were reports of sexual harassment in the classroom, they would get people's attention."

A recent informal survey at Yale, where students answered questions about academic freedom posed by the Yale Free Press, the conservative/libertarian student paper, also deserves attention. Although the entire first run of its November issue containing the study was stolen on campus, it can be downloaded at To sum up: While some Yalies said that politics either didn't arise in class or caused no problem because they shared the professor's views, others recounted unpleasant experiences. One example:

"My teacher came into class the day after the election proclaiming, 'That's it. This is the death of America.' The rest of the class was eager to agree, and twenty minutes of Bush-bashing ensued. At one point, one student asked our teacher whether she should be so vocal, lest any students be conservatives. She then asked us whether any of us were Republicans. Naturally, no one volunteered that information, whereupon our teacher turned to the inquisitive student and said, 'See? No one in here would be stupid enough to vote for Bush.' "

Some students undoubtedly find such banter fun. But for others it can be chilling. And just as teachers' freedom of speech must be protected, so must students' freedom to learn, if it is threatened. After all, as ACTA's Anne Neal points out, "The inability to benefit from a robust and free exchange of ideas-- intellectual harassment if you will-- goes to the very heart of the academic enterprise."



A primary school head teacher was admitted to hospital after being attacked in a classroom by an eight-year-old pupil. The boy, who has not been named, was at the centre of a police investigation yesterday after the incident last week at a school in Glasgow. Strathclyde police confirmed that an inquiry had begun and the boy would be reported to the children's panel in connection with the alleged assault. It is understood that the incident last Wednesday at Pinewood Primary School in Drumchapel came after an argument between Margaret Henderson, 47, the head teacher, and the boy. It is claimed that Ms Henderson, who was in charge of a class of 33 pupils, was pushed and fell over a table. She was taken by ambulance to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where she received treatment for back injuries. She was later discharged but has yet to return to work. A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the authority would consider what action to take after police inquiries had been completed.

Teaching unions and politicians condemned the incident which came after the publication of a government report showing record levels of violence and lack of discipline in some of Scotland's schools. Willie Hart, the Glasgow area secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country's biggest teaching union, said: "I very much regret the fact that this has happened. We want a proper inquiry into this."

Figures from the Scottish Executive reveal that in 2004 there has been a significant rise in violence against teachers. The survey of 1,800 Scottish teachers found that 59 per cent believed that discipline in schools was a serious problem, compared with 36 per cent in 1996. The study found that teachers blamed the changing nature of society for a "lack of automatic respect for authority and a greater readiness to challenge adults, as well as a rising awareness of young people's rights which was not matched by a corresponding awareness of their responsibility". Figures showed that 8 per cent of secondary school teachers had experienced aggression from pupils compared with 1 per cent in 1996. Secondary heads reported that they suffered physical aggression from 17 per cent of pupils in 2004 compared with 2 per cent in 1996. In primary schools, teachers reported a drop in aggression among pupils but a rise in aggression directed at staff. The survey revealed that 12 per cent of primary head teachers said that they or their staff had experienced physical or verbal aggression from children.

Ewan Aitken, education spokesman for the local authority umbrella organisation Cosla, said: "Any physical aggression towards teachers is unacceptable but the reasons for this kind of destructive behaviour are much more to do with all of society and not just schools. "Children are only at school 15 per cent of the time so you have to ask what is happening the other 85 per cent of the time to make them behave like this. What we are talking about here when kids are expressing violence is something more deep rooted than school."

Pinewood was built 35 years ago on the Drumchapel estate. Its concrete classrooms are due for demolition and some parents claim that standards at the school have fallen in recent years. It was alleged by one parent that an Asian teacher at the school left after serving just one year because she was subjected to racist insults from children. On one occasion it was claimed that she was stabbed in the hand with a pen. Another parent praised Ms Henderson and said she hoped the head teacher would return to work. "She is really good. She won't tolerate any nonsense. I just hope what has happened won't put her off and she comes back."

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said: "A 47-year-old woman was injured after an incident at Pinewood Primary in Drumchapel on Wednesday, November . "An eight-year-old boy will be the subject of a report to the children's panel in connection with the incident."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here