Saturday, January 15, 2005


This evening I want to tell you a secret. Have any of you heard about "bubble kids"? This is a term your school district will not explain in its newsletter. The reason they won't post it is that "bubble kids" get all the help in the testing furor. Bubble kids are those who fail by only one or two points - or bubbles. The kids bubble in their answers on test forms. So a bubble kid is one who missed the passing score by only one or two bubbles.

I sat in several meetings with the principal, the dean of instruction, and the department heads when we were told to identify the bubble kids in our subjects. These kids are important to the school because they can make the school look better in the test scores. They are so close, the reasoning goes, that they can benefit from tutoring and therefore help the scores.

So the bubble kids are identified, divided into groups, and tutored relentlessly. The kids who missed by 5 or 6 points, maybe 10 points; what happens to them. It's simple. They cant raise their scores enough to help the schools rating, so they are ignored. Why would you waste your time with them the school thinks, they can't help us. They don't get intense help with their work. After all, don't you know, they won't ever pass anyway. Why waste valuable tutoring time on them? Of course, what a brilliant idea - work with the kids who can make you look good and throw the others to the sharks. I truely wish I knew which of our administrative geniuses brought that obscene idea into the district. Thats Sheldon Independent School District, always go for the easy stupid solution instead of the complex one that would require planning, actual thought, listening to teachers, or giving a care.

You may ask what about the kids who can go on. They can't help much more either. After all they have already passed the test. But, ohhhhh those precious bubble kids. If we could just get those kids to get two more questions right then we might be recognized. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be.

The concept of the bubble kid was created to help school ratings, not to help all the kids who need help. What morally reprehensible thing to do. My school district - The Sheldon Independent School District did it. I witnessed it because I was in the meetings. We had to identify the "bubble kids" for each subject and design tutorials for them. The lower kids could just go jump because they couldn't help the district or the building. This was the same brilliant district that had the ever popular group strip searches.

Post lifted from Teacher's Viewpoint


Schoolkids in Newton, a Boston suburb, aren't measuring up in math tests, writes Tom Mountain in the Newton Tab. Thirty-two percent of sixth-graders are in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, and school officials are flummoxed:

The school department offered no tangible explanation for these declining scores other than to admit that they have no explanation, as articulated by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Carolyn Wyatt (salary $106,804), "[The results] have decreased, incrementally, each year and continue to puzzle us." She went on to admit that this downward trend is peculiar to Newton and "is not being seen statewide." Again, she offered no explanation, but she did assure the School Committee that her assistant, Math Coordinator Mary Eich (salary $101,399), is currently investigating the problem.

But according to Mountain, it turns out that between 1999 and 2001, Newton adopted an "anti-racist multicultural math" curriculum:

In 2001 [Superintendent Jeffrey] Young, Mrs. Wyatt and an assortment of other well-paid school administrators, defined the new number-one priority for teaching mathematics, as documented in the curriculum benchmarks, "Respect for Human Differences--students will live out the system wide core of 'Respect for Human Differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors."

It continues, "Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others . . ." It goes on and on.

"Nowhere among the first priorities for the math curriculum guidelines is the actual teaching of math," Mountain observes. "That's a distant second." It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out why Newton's kids are falling behind.

Post lifted from Taranto

Is public education working? How would we know? "Imagine you're five feet eight inches tall. When you change the unit of measurement to yards, you're 1.9 yards tall. Are you shorter because the number is smaller? No. Or go to centimeters. Now you're 173 centimeters tall. Does the larger number make you taller? Of course not. Yet this is the effect we experience trying to judge the quality of public education in the U.S. There are so many different standards, all competing for mindshare with the public, it's almost impossible to know what's right any more. There are state standards. And in some states, such as California, there are multiple state standards. ... Some of these standards, like those of the No Child Left Behind Act, are new. We don't really know yet whether they're actually telling us what they say they are."


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.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

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Thursday, January 13, 2005


How unsurprising

"Catherine Hickey is vicar of education for the New York Catholic Archdiocese and one of the city's unsung heroes. Against all odds, she runs a school system that successfully serves thousands of the city's poor and minority families. Despite an average per-pupil expenditure of only $4,500 or so, Catholic high school graduation rates are twice as high as the city's public schools. This accomplishment is even more impressive-some would say miraculous-when viewed against the backdrop of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that the state is facing. After a decade of litigation, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in 2003 that the main reason New York City's children weren't getting a "sound basic education" as guaranteed by the state constitution was gross underfunding of the city schools.

Gotham's education budget stood at $13.8 billion a year at the time. It is currently $15.3 billion, making for a per-pupil expenditure of nearly $15,000. Mayor Bloomberg recently testified in the remedy phase of the case that no one could expect him to provide the city's schoolchildren with a decent education for such a piddling amount. Nothing less than an extra $5.4 billion in annual aid from the state-bringing the city's per-pupil spending up to $20,000-would enable him to fulfill the promises of academic improvement he made when Albany gave him control of the schools.

When I told Catherine Hickey about the mayor's plea of poverty, she seemed flabbergasted. An ever-increasing spending gap between the public and parochial school systems is already putting enormous pressure on the Catholic schools. As the city education budget increases, some of that money goes to increased public school teacher salaries: first-year New York City schoolteachers will soon be earning about $42,000. That's more than what even veteran teachers make in parochial schools. To keep their teachers from leaving to work in the public system, the Catholic schools will have to boost teacher salaries, too, forcing tuition to go up and putting the squeeze on their low-income families.

Once upon a time, we would have expected Gotham's conservative education reformers to rally to the aid of the Catholic schools, recognizing that a healthy parochial school system is in the city's interest. No one saw this more clearly than former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He knew that Catholic schools challenged the public school monopoly to do better, reminding us that the neediest kids are educable and that throwing more and more of the taxpayer's money at the public school problem isn't the answer. He pushed for a pilot voucher program that would allow thousands of poor kids to escape their failing public schools and attend a private school of their choice. Stymied on taxpayer-funded vouchers, he then supported a private voucher program sponsored by a group of conservative New York philanthropists.

Today, though, conservative education reformers seem to be expending much of their energy cheering on Mayor Bloomberg's reform agenda. This was understandable early on, when the mayor seemed to be applying the lessons that the Catholic schools taught. Notably, Bloomberg didn't complain about money. Instead, he recognized that the problem was a "dysfunctional" and uncompetitive system. He also promised a "back-to-basics" curriculum and an end to bilingual education-both hallmarks of the Catholic school approach-and a thorough reform of the teachers' contract.

Now, three years into Mayor Bloomberg's term, it's time for conservatives to rethink their enthusiasm. True, Bloomberg deserves some kudos for his plan to open 50 charter schools (of uneven quality, though, and a drop in the bucket of a total of 1,200 schools) and for allegedly ending "social promotion" in the third and fifth grades. But the city schools have seen no movement on bilingual education and work-rule reforms. Worse, the city has turned classroom instruction over to a claque of progressive education ideologues who are enforcing a leftist pedagogy that endangers the worst-off kids, who most need a highly-structured pedagogical approach. Not only does Bloomberg oppose vouchers, his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, has blocked thousands of students in failing schools from exercising their right to public school choice under the No Child Left Behind Act....."

More here


How dreadful that parents are doing everything they can to get their kids away from dangerous big city schools destroyed by political correctness

Nearly half of the school districts in California are struggling with an unnerving drop in enrollment, forcing large school districts in San Jose, Oakland and elsewhere to close schools and squeeze their remaining students into fewer campuses. Where did those students go? Some have transferred to private schools, while others have left California altogether. But many have moved to the Central Valley and Southern California's Inland Empire, where young families -- many who can't afford to raise their children in Silicon Valley and other coastal hubs -- and recent immigrants are buying homes and putting down roots.

For Bay Area families, that means fewer neighborhood schools and growing budget deficits, since the loss of each student means the loss of roughly $7,200 in state funding. While the San Jose Unified School District closed three schools last year and is expected to shut three more this summer, the Elk Grove Unified School District, south of Sacramento, is bursting at the seams. ``We get about eight new students a day,'' said Elk Grove spokesman Jim Elliot. ``Or enough to fill an entire classroom every three to four days.''

Public school enrollment in California -- hovering around 6.3 million right now -- has always been volatile and difficult to accurately forecast. Numerous factors, from birth rates and immigration to boom-bust economic cycles, housing growth and recession-related migration out of state creates a combustive brew. And California is now seeing inland counties gaining students at the expense of districts that hug the Pacific coast. San Jose Unified is just one example. Last year, declining enrollment and a gaping budget deficit led the 31,000-student district to close Erikson, Hammer, and Hester elementary schools. The process was a painful one, and some teachers wept as they packed up their classrooms. ``We didn't like it, we didn't want it, and we didn't think it was fair,'' said Susan Sveinson, a former Erikson parent whose twin daughters made the transition and are now in the third grade at Allen Elementary. Small things -- like the fact that Allen's school day starts later than Erikson's did -- took a lot of getting used to. ``I don't wish this upon anybody,'' Sveinson said. ``It's the hardest thing that I've ever had to go through as a parent, but I understand that something has to be done.''

But this fall, revised enrollment figures once again stunned the district's senior staff. An additional 633 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade -- more than the population of one entire elementary school -- left San Jose Unified between October 2003 and October 2004. The controversial process of consolidating campuses started all over again, and nine elementary schools -- including Allen -- were on a possible closing list......

More here


Falling enrollment threatens to close several small schools in southern Dallas. Local charter schools, however, are growing and show no signs of slowing down. In fact, evidence suggests the two trends are linked. In southern Dallas, the rise of charters appears to be a significant factor in the Dallas Independent School District's falling enrollment there. Throughout the 1990s, DISD's enrollments grew by an average of 3,175 students a year. Those gains stalled in 1999 -- the first year that local charter schools enrolled large numbers of students.

In 1999, 3,726 students who lived in DISD attended a publicly financed charter instead. By 2003-04, that number had nearly tripled -- to 9,307, according to data obtained from the Texas Education Agency. Meanwhile, since 2002, DISD's enrollment dropped by 5,684 students. "My biggest problem is growth," said Tom Wilson, who runs the Life Charter School on Ann Arbor Avenue in southern Dallas. Last school year, 632 of Life Charter's 1,100 students lived within DISD's boundaries, according to state records. Mr. Wilson said that while his school draws students from 13 different public school districts, most come from nearby neighborhood schools. Five DISD schools are within one mile of Life Charter, and all of them have seen their enrollments shrink since the charter school opened, state records show. Two of the schools have lost one quarter of their students.

A similar enrollment trend appears in Houston, home to the state's largest charter school population. Houston school district enrollments also grew steadily through the 1990s but began falling in 1999, the same year that charter school enrollment soared. It also happened in San Antonio. Overall, about 61,000 Texas students attend more than 300 charter schools this year. Charter schools in Dallas are growing where DISD's enrollment is declining: Oak Cliff and southern Dallas, areas long troubled by poverty, high crime, low-performing schools and other social problems......

Parents at Life Charter School say they like the school's discipline, structure and family atmosphere. They also wanted their children in a school where they were challenged and where parental input is valued. Vincent Delgado, founder of Golden Rule Charter School, said he's scrambling to keep up with the needs of his growing school. In just its third year, Golden Rule's enrollment hit 430 last year, almost all of them students living within DISD's boundaries. In an attempt to provide more personal attention, he scaled back to 300 students this year until a new 500-student facility is ready for occupancy in August. "We are surrounded by traditionally low-performing schools, and parents are taking that into consideration," said Mr. Delgado, a former DISD teacher. Parents, he said, are "searching for alternatives."......

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


Wednesday, January 12, 2005


"It has not been a good week for state education in Britain. First came a study from London University's Institute of Education (reported by dehavilland and the UK press). It explored whether smaller class sizes do indeed produce better results. Smaller classes formed a key Labour pledge when it was first elected. While doubts have been raised about older children (11+) level, it had been widely assumed that smaller classes at primary level (5+) gave better results. The report says:

No evidence was found that children in smaller classes made more progress in mathematics, English or science.

Indeed, a counter-indicator emerged, in that levels of literacy among children aged 11 in classes of fewer than 25 pupils were lower than those who were in groups of more than 30 children.

In fact family poverty, rather than class size, had the biggest effect on results. Those eligible for free school meals (taken to be a social indicator) fell further behind in English and maths as they progressed through school.

Now the Commons Education and Skills Select Committee has said there is no evidence to support the claim that more money in education equals better results. The Labour-dominated committee says bluntly that the Government is wrong to claim that billions of pounds in extra funding for schools has produced better examination results.

Despite Chancellor Gordon Brown's claims to the contrary, the committee said that GCSE exam results had improved no more rapidly during Tony Blair's Government than when the Conservatives were in power, even though public expenditure on secondary schools had risen up to ten times faster.

The Government needs to take great care in making claims about the effectiveness of increased investment in education in increasing levels of achievement which the evidence cannot be proved to support. Links between expenditure and outcome remain difficult to establish.

The select committee's report on public expenditure in education said that the Treasury had "simply asserted" a direct link between spending and exam performance in the 2004 Budget, with no supporting evidence. These two reports do not, of course, prove any case, but they do suggest that the link between extra money and better results might be more tenuous than the UK government, and especially its Chancellor, has assumed. It could be that the mountain of additional spending might bring forth only a mouse of achievement.

(Post lifted from Madsen Pirie)


Boarding Schools Nurturing Low-Income Students

Lynnette Blackmon liked the small classes and energetic teachers at Maya Angelou Public Charter School in the District, but she was often hours late. "I had a big tardy issue," said the tall, slender 17-year-old. Most schools try to persuade students to get out of bed in the morning by lowering their grades or giving them detention when they don't, but Maya Angelou is one of a small but growing number of schools that have a different approach to the problem. They invite teenagers who need extra help to live in school quarters. Last year, Lynnette moved into a well-kept brick rowhouse on 13th Street NW -- one of three rented homes, each staffed with an adult resident supervisor, in which her school houses 15 of its 110 students. Not only did she stop being late, she said, but her grades rose, and she began to shed a crippling shyness. Living with four other girls, she said, "forced me to interact with people."

A generation ago, American boarding schools were generally of two kinds: private institutions for the college-bound children of the wealthy, or state-supported facilities for children under court supervision. But now a few private schools and charter schools, which are independent public schools exempt from ordinary rules and procedures, have set themselves up as boarding schools for low-income students who want many of the advantages and the support given to bankers' and lawyers' children at Groton and St. Mark's. "At the residence, they make sure you do your homework," said Blackmon's friend and housemate Ingrid Nunez, 16. The students are in bed by 11 p.m., they said, and up in time to catch the Metro to school, a mile from the boarding home. "Local philanthropists, educators, judges, clergy and others around the country are starting local residential schools rather than just despair of the conditions so many youth live in, and fail in," said Heidi Goldsmith, founder and executive director of the Washington-based Coalition for Residential Education. There are only about 30 such schools, public and private, in the country, but more are planned, she said.

Some experts think the idea makes sense. "Boarding schools can nurture a shared commitment to disciplined study and achievement," said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California-Berkeley. "It builds a tighter community of learners, among dedicated teachers and students who gain a new sense of confidence. Rich parents who have sent their kids to boarding schools have understood this for centuries." The movement toward boarding schools for low-income students has made some of its greatest strides in the District, where both Maya Angelou and the SEED Public Charter School receive an extra $14,000 in federal tax dollars each year for every student who lives on their premises.

SEED, a seventh- to 12th-grade school, has all 300 of its students living on a new campus in a low-income section of Southeast Washington, its dormitories as shiny and well-equipped as any New England prep school. The school's founders, Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, said they realized that the school would not work without government aid, so while raising millions in private funds to build the dormitories, they helped persuade Congress to add a boarding stipend to the D.C. school funding law.

More here


Universities are losing millions of dollars every year because dissatisfied students are pulling out of courses. And as students face tuition fee increases of up to 25 per cent for federally funded places, or pay thousands of dollars more for full-fee places, university chiefs are struggling to ensure that poorer students, people with disabilities and those from non-English speaking backgrounds are not forced out of the market.

At the University of Western Sydney alone, 1520 students left last year, according to an internal student exit survey seen by the Herald. Of those, 319 were overseas or postgraduate students; their withdrawal cost the university more than $4 million. "With the pipeline effect this loss increases to $9,283,200 over the full duration of the courses concerned," the survey report says.

Yesterday, a pro vice-chancellor at the university, Geoff Scott, said the student drop-out rate was a sector-wide issue and it was important to find out why students were leaving, because of the cost not only to them personally and universities but to the country. "We really need to come to grips with why people leave," Professor Scott said. "And where we find it's something to do with the quality of the experience, we really need to address it. We don't want to lose folk who wanted to stay but couldn't afford to, or are single mums struggling to make ends meet, or older people trying to upgrade skills."

The survey, completed by 496 of the 1520 students who left, found 70 per cent of respondents had "permanently withdrawn" - though 39.5 per cent hoped to return - with 24 per cent moving to another tertiary institution. "Of the students who moved to another institution, 30 per cent reported they were now studying with TAFE," the report said.

The reasons for leaving were mixed - some the university could do something about, but there were also "more general life factors" that were beyond its control. More than 35 per cent of students said the course was not what they had expected; 24 per cent said they had conflicting employment commitments; and 20 per cent cited difficulties with enrolments, paying fees and student admissions. Just over 10 per cent said they had problems with access to staff, and almost 9 per cent said the teaching was "un-motivating". Almost 9 per cent had suffered financial difficulties. The report lists six categories under the heading "university factors". Under "staff", it says respondents listed "unhelpful teaching staff, staff with insufficient knowledge to respond accurately to particular inquiries, unprofessional teaching staff (late to class and unprepared), missed lectures".

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


Tuesday, January 11, 2005


After all, you can be expelled for saying "Merry Christmas" or calling homosexuals "queer"! And don't you DARE bring along an asthma inhaler or any cold tablets!

"Amid concerns from students and parents, officials have added security at Wilmer Amina Carter High School, where two major race-related fights broke out last month. More uniformed school resource officers now roam the campus, where four additional surveillance cameras also have been installed. Beyond the new hardware, administrators are working on a system to increase communication about possible fights, including those that might occur off campus, such as one just two days before the school's first major brawl on Dec. 10. Such smaller altercations can lead to larger problems.

Law-enforcement officials responded to a call of dozens of teens fighting in the streets just off the campus at 2:42 p.m. Dec. 8, and sheriff's officials received a call that hundreds of students were fighting on Bohnert Avenue, just two blocks south of the campus, sheriff's Lt. Tony Allen said. When deputies arrived, the fight had dwindled to a handful of students, and it appeared to be two girls fighting each other, Allen said.

The area just southwest of Carter High falls under the jurisdiction of the sheriff's Fontana station. Officials there are familiar with high school disturbances, having worked with Bloomington High School last year during on-campus racial tensions and rumors of fights. Rialto school district officers were also on the scene Dec. 8, so deputies let them handle the call, Allen said. School security officers returned the students to school and contacted their parents, Rodriguez said. An assistant principal was also notified.

Two days later, on Dec. 10, a fight broke out on campus between two Latino youths. It quickly escalated to a race-related incident between Latinos and blacks. Eight students were involved in the fight and about 100 watched. The following week, on Dec. 14, a larger fight ensued, involving hundreds of students. Racially divided camps lined up on opposite sides of the lunch area and came at each other with fists raised. Fifty-seven students were treated for minor injuries. School was canceled for the rest of the week. "We just don't know if that fight (on Dec. 8) was connected (to the on-campus incident),' said Ana Rodriguez, interim spokeswoman for the Rialto Unified School District. "You can never tell.'"

More here


"I was edumacated in another country, so I can't comment on my own personal experiences with American gummint-provided education. However, as a university instructor (graduate student) I have noticed some alarming things that must be a result of said education. From the last two astronomy classes I taught:

- Most of the students were incapable of constructing a simple x vs. y graph and computing the slope of a line.

- Many complained about the math. One student assured me that y = mx + b was "graduate level" mathematics.

- One student had never heard of "hydrogen." (She kept putting it in quotation marks as though it were some mysterious substance scientists concocted.)

- Several didn't know the formula for calculating an average.

- Most were calculator-dependent (though I'm guilty of this, myself).

- Most had never heard of Newton or Kepler. Most knew who Galileo was, but didn't know that he was persecuted for his discoveries.

- One student wore headphones during the lectures he actually attended, and only wrote down whatever went on the blackboard. He missed at least 30% of the material that way, and ended up doing very poorly in the class.

- My personal favorite: The student who had the audacity to complain to me that it was unfair that important material was being presented in the Friday lectures. (Her weekend began on Thursday night, so this was a problem.)

The scariest observation I made was that very few students could think critically. I often structured their homework sets in such a way that the answers to, say, the first two questions would automatically provide the answer to the third question -- yet most students would crap out on the third question, even though they answered the first two correctly. They resented being made to struggle for more than 30 seconds on a question, or having to crack open a book (or even using Google to find the answer). They also could not evaluate the plausability of the answers they came up with. Sometimes a small mistake in a calculation would lead them to get an obviously wrong answer, like the distance to the nearest galaxy is 10 km from earth. But they'd just underline the answer anyway, and hand it in without even considering the absurdity of such an answer. I get the impression that students are just spoon-fed answers in high school.

I keep hearing about how hard it is to get into UT, but I don't see it. High schools must literally be giving away grades. I had students who handed in 20-40% of the required work, but still sent me emails at the end of the semester asking, How could I have possibly failed the course!? The students who did well in my class, I'm convinced, did so in spite of the lackluster education they received prior to university. The best students had great attitudes: a zest for learning coupled with a good work ethic. It was in their makeup to do well, and even the crummiest high school education wouldn't have stopped them.

I realize that not every single public school in America is necessarily horrible, but overall I still give American government-provided education -- and parents, for that matter -- an F+. People say that this generation is the entitlement generation, and I'd say that's about right. They not only want benefits without having to pay for them, but they also want an education without having to know anything.

(From the comments section on Kim du Toit's blog. Via Marc Miyake)


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


Monday, January 10, 2005


The Australian system is similar to the European one

Many Europeans greatly admire the vitality, creativity, and optimism that characterize America's competitive, free-market economy. Indeed, the benefits of choice and competition form the basis for the American success story.

That is why when I came to the United States from Belgium in 1980, I was surprised to discover the virtual absence of choice and competition in this country's primary and secondary education system. After all, even many European governments--despite their reputations for favoring large public sectors--still encourage an open educational market, where students have the choice and the ability, regardless of income, to attend public or private K-12 schools nationwide.

In countries such as Belgium and France, annual government grants cover the operating costs of schools: salaries (except for religion teachers), books, heating, and the like. The capital investment in buildings and facilities are borne entirely by a school's organizing body, whether it is a local public education authority, a private foundation, or religious institution. The annual grant for each school depends on the number of students enrolled. If a student leaves a certain school for another, the money follows the student. To deal with church and state issues, tax monies are allocated without regard to any religious affiliation of a recipient school. True, all private and public primary and secondary schools must observe a minimum curriculum required for accreditation, but this curriculum includes the option for a course on religion.

A system where the funding follows the student and where it is possible to attend any school of choice (regardless of family income) forces public and private schools to compete for students among themselves and with each other. If parent and student decide that the present school does not deliver, they are able to seek a better school elsewhere. If enough students leave, the school faces bankruptcy and liquidation. This provides a powerful incentive for administrators and teachers to keep a lean operation and continually improve on the service they deliver.

More here


Still a long way to go to catch up with America, though

According to figures published in the Times Higher Educational Supplement (THES), 10 per cent of UK academic staff are now professors. Are standards slipping somewhat?

There were 1715 more professors in 2002-03 than in 1999-2000. Oxford University has 5.4 per cent professors and Cambridge about 10 per cent, but Essex University and the London School of Economics are pushing 20 per cent. Richard Wilson, a professor at Loughborough University, told the THES: 'There is a symbolism attached to the title professor. If we give these titles out willy-nilly, it debases the currency.' While traditionally professors had to be both leading researchers in their field and active participants in the life and running of the university, many chairs are now awarded on the basis of teaching or administration.

Universities - especially new universities - are struggling to attract high-quality staff, and seem to be issuing professorships as a lure. But while the marketisation of higher education has been the driving force for this process, it mirrors a general fall in standards throughout education. Expectations of excellence have been lowered, from schools through to the highest levels of academia. Wide access to high-quality education would be desirable, but this current hodgepodge seems to be making education worse, not better. The result is more students who know less, being taught less, by more academics who are less well qualified



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, January 09, 2005


Private universities are a recent phenomenon in Australia. And it is pleasing to see that overall univerity enrolment is dropping -- as Australians wake up to useless credentialism

Demand for private universities has surged even as student interest in public institutions has fallen, and is expected to jump higher this year as private fee-paying students become eligible for government loans. Enrolment in NSW universities dropped by more than 5 per cent from 2003 to 2004 and was static nationwide, but Australia's two main private universities have recorded strong growth.

Student numbers at the University of Notre Dame, which is Fremantle-based but opens next year in Sydney, increased by almost a quarter from 2003 to 2004, adding about 670 students to its books. Bond University on the Gold Coast experienced an 18 per cent rise, with about 620 more students on campus.

There was a 15 per cent drop in student numbers at the University of Western Sydney, and a 2.5 per cent increase at Macquarie University and the University of Technology, Sydney. The University of Sydney recorded a 1.6 per cent drop, and enrolment at the University of NSW fell by almost 4 per cent. Many public universities have been reducing their intake to eliminate the widespread practice of enrolling above their funding quotas, but figures released by the Universities Admissions Centre last month show that fewer people are applying for undergraduate study. Marginally fewer year 12 students applied to enter university in 2005 than did the year before. Mature age applications fell by almost 6 per cent.

However, the executive director of Notre Dame's Sydney campus, Peter Glasson, said the Catholic university's "big growth area" was Australian mature age students. Notre Dame began in 1992 by offering only diplomas in education, adding programs gradually until 2001 when it began rapidly expanding its course offerings. Medicine will be offered in Fremantle this year, and at the university's planned Sydney campus in 2007. Next year in Sydney it will offer law, business, teaching, nursing, and arts. Nevertheless, Notre Dame was committed to a maximum of about 5000 students in Fremantle (up from about 3000 now), with the Sydney campus planned to rise to the same limit over the next 10 to 12 years, Mr Glasson said. Notre Dame's pay-as-you-go fees are only marginally above the deferrable charges of public universities, but Mr Glasson said the Federal Government's new FEE-HELP scheme this year, which lends private students up to $50,000 towards their fees, is likely to boost demand even more.

The Vice-Chancellor of Bond University, Robert Stable, attributed the private boom to small class sizes, close relations with industry, an emphasis on the quality of undergraduate teaching, and a more flexible approach. Bond offers a third semester over the summer when the public universities are on holidays, allowing "people who are particularly enthusiastic about getting out into the workforce" to cut a year from what would normally be a three-year degree, Professor Stable said.

A higher education policy analyst at Griffith University, Gavin Moodie, said private universities' strengths were that they were "smaller, they're more nimble, [and] they're more entrepreneurial". Mr Moodie said their growth was part of "a general change in social views" that matched the increasing demand for private high schools.



The Palestinian Solidarity Movement is a far-Left and pro-terrorist organization that recently had its annual conference at Duke University. The university was forewarned of the nature of the organization but refused to cancel their hosting of the event. The meeting went off as expected with the usual outpouring of "anti-Zionist" hatred and advocacy of terrorism. But the end of the official meeting was not the end of the hatred at Duke. It soon became crystal clear that the so-called "anti-Zionism" was in fact just plain old antisemitism:

"And indeed the close of the conference did not mark the end of Duke's experiment in "discussion and learning." To appreciate what happened next, it helps to know that, unlike the Duke Conservative Union, the university's two Jewish organizations, the campus Hillel (known as the Freeman Center) and a student group called Duke Friends of Israel, had opted from the beginning to refrain from criticizing the university for agreeing to host the conference. In fact, in a demonstration of their own commitment to free expression, the groups publicly praised the decision. At the same time, and in the same spirit, they formulated a "Joint Israel Initiative." This was a resolution pledging that both they and the PSM would conduct a civil dialogue, would together condemn the murder of innocent civilians, and would work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the eve of the conference, the Jewish groups also staged a "rally against terror."

But whatever hopes the Jewish campus organizations held out for civil dialogue were rapidly dashed. Representatives of the PSM refused to sign the Joint Israel Initiative, objecting in particular to its condemnation of violence. Not only that, but in the aftermath of the conference, even as the open anti-Semitism on display there was going entirely without censure, Duke's Jewish organizations themselves--and Jews in general--became the object of furious attack.

The first salvo was an article in the Chronicle by one of its columnists, a Duke senior named Philip Kurian. Headlined "The Jews," it denounced Jews as "the most privileged 'minority' group" in the United States and in particular bemoaned the "shocking overrepresentation" of Jews in academia. Replete with references to the "powerful Jewish establishment" and "exorbitant Jewish privilege in the United States," the article went on to characterize Jews as a phony minority that can "renounce their difference by taking off the yarmulke."

Mr. Kurian's column was followed by an even more intense anti-Semitic outpouring on the Chronicle's electronic discussion boards. "I am glad you have the courage to stand up to the Jews," wrote one correspondent. Another said he "was thrilled to read Mr. Kurian's belligerent critique of that long-nosed creature sitting squarely in the middle of the room that nobody is allowed to talk about. Yes--that elephant Mr. Sharon . . . and his treasonous cousins in America."

One posting, beside providing a link to an online article blaming the Jews for the outbreak of World War II, called for "an investigation into the Jewish community's practices and leadership during the past 150 years." "Whenever anyone says anything negative about the Jews," expostulated still another writer, "they go after them with Mafia-style ruthlessness. . . . This is the reason Jews are the most hated people on earth and why they have always been kicked out of every country."

Having welcomed known anti-Semitic agitators onto its campus, how did the Duke administration react when the aftereffects of the agitation began to play themselves out before its eyes? Responding to Mr. Kurian's article in a letter to the Chronicle, President Brodhead first condemned the "virulence" of some of the PSM's critics. He then pronounced himself "deeply troubled" by Kurian's sentiments, while offering assurances that Mr. Kurian "probably did not mean to . . . [revive] stereotypical images that have played a long-running role in the history of anti-Semitism." Reverting to his by now standard mantra, Mr. Brodhead stressed again that the central issue was the importance of "education through dialogue." "I am grateful," he wrote, "to the many individuals and groups who helped turn last week's Palestine Solidarity Movement conference into a peaceful and constructive event" and "proud to be at a school where difficult matters are dealt with in such a mature and constructive way."

It is all but impossible to imagine the president of Duke offering a similar encomium to, say, a conference of neo-Nazi rabble-rousers on his campus, or defending a parade of speakers dilating on the "diseased" history of, say, black Americans. It is in fact impossible to imagine Duke agreeing to host such debased goings-on in the first place. In that sense, the administration's appeals to free expression and dialogue were the purest disingenuousness".

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.

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