Saturday, October 29, 2005


Cognitive scientists are generally agreed that one of the most important faculties of the human brain and its associated sensory apparatus is the ability to detect patterns. It is patterns that make the world intelligible, that carry meaning, that make it possible for the past to be a guide to the future. So primordial and so powerful is this faculty, however, that it brings with it also a large capacity for error, for imputing patterns where there are none, or at least none that are meaningful.

It is with that in mind that I hesitate to claim that I have detected a pattern in some things that I have read lately. But denying that there is a pattern in these bits of published news and opinion strains my bump of skepticism. See what you think.

1. A student at the University of Iowa published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper titled "On schooling's useless lessons." The upshot was that she is in college to qualify for her chosen profession and cannot understand why she is required to take courses in subjects she deems irrelevant to her goals. Listen:

"[M]ost students aren't going to be mathematicians, historians, or chemists. So why do we have to take these classes?...

"Not only did the gen-ed classes waste my time and money, but they also hurt my GPA..Statistics and astronomy bored me, so I opted not to attend class and neglected to study for them..As it turned out, my GPA was below3.0 after my first year. I had to take summer classes to raise it..I cannot imagine what I would have done if I were not admitted [to my chosen professional course]. I would have had to change my major.

"How is this fair?"

If that doesn't break your heart, you're made of sterner stuff than I.

2. A week later an AP wire story appeared in my local newspaper, informing me that an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune has surrendered her 2004 degree from the University of Southern California after a classmate revealed that she had done the Walton scion's homework for over three years, netting about $20,000 for her efforts.

3. Same day. New York magazine published an article that opens thus:

"This story begins, as it inevitably must, in the Old Country.

"At some point during the tenth century, a group of Jews abandoned the lush hills of Lucca, Italy, and -- at the invitation of Charlemagne -- headed for the severer climes of the Rhineland and Northern France."

The author is a frequent and, presumably, trusted contributor, and New York magazine is, so far as I know, a respectable publication. So who was responsible for fact-checking? If you haven't caught it yet, here's the problem: Charlemagne died in 814 CE. No one is expected to know that particular fact, but many generally educated persons might recall that he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor at Christmas in 800. This would make his survival into the tenth century highly unlikely on the face of it.

Two points define a line; are three sufficient to establish a trend? Let me just note that the student's intended major was journalism; that the heiress's degree was from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC; and that, obviously, the New York author is a working journalist. One, already in the business, evidently doesn't know a simple fact of history (and didn't check it out). The other two have made quite manifest, in their distinctive ways, their disdain for knowledge.

But my aim is not to disrespect journalists or the schools in which they train. The problem I am suggesting is far wider. Thus my last piece of evidence:

4. Same day. The Wikipedia, an online project to create an encyclopedia by means of contributions and editing by volunteers, irrespective of their knowledge of their subjects or ability to write coherently, has just lately begun to come to grips with the fact that some substantial proportion of the articles thus generated are substandard. They have therefore launched "Project Galatea," whose aim is to have still more self-selected volunteers impose "large-scale, sweeping stylistic improvements." Note that the improvements hoped for are stylistic, not a matter of accuracy or adequacy. In the "Philosophy" of the project, prospective stylists are told this:

"While there is no need to be an expert on the article you're working on (in fact, there are some advantages to being completely ignorant of the subject to start with), by the time you're done, you will have at least a working knowledge of the topic."

Another point, spang on my line. How worried ought I to be? How worried are you?

Here is what I wonder: Whence this notion that citizens, especially those who aspire to careers of informing the rest of us, need not bother with what once would have been considered the common body of knowledge? And where on earth did the idea arise that knowledge might actually be a hindrance?

I do not blame computers or the Internet. Well.except for one thought that gives me pause. How is it that these tools that were to make achieving our lofty goals easier have instead been commandeered to move the goal posts?

What or whom then to blame, if any? Nicholas Carr has written lately in his blog "Rough Type" about the other-worldliness of much of the literature of the World Wide Web and the simple, communal, yet transcendent virtues it is imagined to foster. He notes, too, the strong preference for the amateur over the professional. I'm inclined to see this as a particular instance of a more general phenomenon, the replacement of the adult by the adolescent as the paradigm citizen.

Adolescents already know all they need to know. They are uninterested in what may have come before them and confident that it did so for naught. They see instantly into the heart of the world's problems and believe them to be simple of solution. They value sincerity, authenticity, getting real, over experience or effort. Approved attitude trumps informed opinion with them, and does so by means of social pressure rather than by, say, demonstrated efficacy. And their sense of entitlement can sometimes border on solipsism.

More here


From top down, starting with Chancellor Klein, the Mayor has relied almost exclusively on non-educators to set policy about matters in which they have no expertise, but impose with raw and unmonitored power. They have abolished curriculum and replaced it with a single, mandated teaching style and methodology that has been discredited and despised by almost all educators, except those whose careers tend to prosper and wallets fatten by its advocacy.

The public has a stake in the demoralization of the entire public school professional staff citywide. Some people see educators' universal loathing for Chancellor Klein as nothing more than spoiled unionists griping because someone is finally standing up to them and showing them who's boss.

It is bad enough to show contempt for teachers in every way imaginable, plus more that nobody ever dreamed possible. But worse yet is the devastating damage being done to a whole generation of children, whose alleged educational gains under Bloomberg and Klein are fraudulently manufactured by their corrupt consultants and press agents.

The reign of Chancellor Klein, under union and sanity-busting Mayor Bloomberg, has formed many unholy alliances, among the most spectacular of which is Columbia University Teachers College. In the past, its admirers hailed TC as the high temple of progressivism. Throughout the twentieth century, with only minor exceptions for deviant professors who strayed from the party line, Teachers College could reliably be counted on to instill generations of new teachers and administrators with pure progressivist doctrine. In recent years, those who entered its hallowed halls were greeted by a bronzed head of John Dewey, the patron saint of Teachers College. Given its devotion to progressivist principle. Teachers College became home to critics of standardized testing and standardized instruction. With the advent of the Bloomberg/Klein era of education reform, Teachers College has abandoned almost all of its progressivist principles in exchange for power over the school system's instructional program and millions of dollars in grants and contracts.....

Teachers College, though it has been paid to help set the tone, is not wholly to blame for some of the bizarre and unprecedented antics of the current Department of Education. In the last hour since I started this essay for the New York Resident, I got two phone calls from bewildered teachers. One is a thirty-four year master teacher in Region 3 who was formally censured by the principal because he was sitting at his desk taking attendance during a ninety-minute class session. Teachers are under orders to be circulating around the room every minute. This teacher has for decades spent 6 hours after school for no extra pay, every day, communicating with parents, planning lessons and processing papers.

The second received a letter in his file reprimanding him for asking why it is required to use a stopwatch issued by the DOE to time precisely the mandated length of each lesson. Mayor Bloomberg is no more the "education mayor" than China is a "people's republic." The schools are suffering from a reign of terror and our children have been made into caged birds that can neither fly nor sing.

(Excerpt from another post by RedHog)

UK: Asbo bars London teenager from going to school: "A teenager has become the first youth in Britain to receive an anti-social behaviour order that bans him from going to school. The two-year Asbo on Gary Addy, 16, stops him from going within 50 metres of any educational premises in the east London borough of Newham unless he has prior permission from the headteacher. Police and officials from Newham council imposed the order last Thursday after staff at Eastlea community school in West Ham complained that the teenager assaulted them with eggs and water in July."


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Friday, October 28, 2005

How Do We Get Students Ready for College?

A lament frequently heard by college professors is that many incoming students are not ready for college-level work. Even though what passes for “college-level work” isn’t what it used to be at many institutions, professors still report that their students struggle with reading, writing, and basic math. (Lest one think that such laments are only heard at unselective, fourth-tier schools, Patrick Allitt’s book I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student, which recounts Professor Allitt’s difficulties in teaching American history at Emory University, will serve as an antidote.) The question is, what can be done about this problem?

In the October 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Charles B. Reed (chancellor of the Cal State system) and Kristin Conklin (a program director at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices) address that question (“Enrolling in College, Ready or Not”). Reed and Conklin write,

After they are admitted, students must meet institutional placement standards, measured by tests that colleges require them to take. Most of those tests focus on language skills like critical reading and writing, as well as mathematics, because those skills are the foundation of further learning. If a student can’t meet certain standards, he or she must take remedial or developmental education before moving on to regular college-level course work.

Quite true, but many students who manage to pass the placement tests still have serious academic deficits, and it is an article of faith that passing a semester in remedial (“developmental” is a lovely euphemism, but I decline to use it) English or math will suffice to get a student ready for regular college studies.

The authors recognize that the solution to the problem does not lie within higher education, but rather in the years that precede it. K-12 academic standards have been eroding for years, thanks to the “best practice” notions widely taught in American education schools. Required reading on that depressing subject includes Rita Kramer’s Ed School Follies, Martin Rochester’s Class Warfare, and Cherie Pierson Yecke’s The War Against Excellence. Today, your typical high-school graduate believes that school is just a rather boring, obligatory use of his time that is tolerable only because it leads to the paper credentials necessary to unlock the door to high-paying employment. Put a lot of young people with that attitude in a classroom and a professor has little choice but to water down the material and make sure he keeps the kids entertained. On that point, one more book to read—Generation X Goes to College by Peter Sacks.

Here is what Reed and Conklin propose: “[E]ach state needs to agree on one consistent set of readiness standards for all public higher education within that state. Otherwise schoolteachers and students cannot have a clear, focused view of what being prepared for college means and how to achieve that.” A quintessentially bureaucratic approach—have public officials come up with a set of standards.

It isn’t by accident that government schooling is the way it is. Millions of teachers are doing things exactly as they believe they should—and want to. The soft, undemanding approach to education suits most of them perfectly. Why, for example, is it now rare to find a teacher who will take a red (or purple or any other color) pen to a student essay and give it severe, line-by- line scrutiny? Without that, students simply won’t learn to write well. Alas, the idea that there are rules for good writing is now regarded by writing theorists as the stuff of Neanderthals. And besides that, grading essays takes a lot of time and criticizing the way students write is apt to upset them . Even if the teacher were capable of giving students a useful writing critique (something we should not assume), it’s much easier not to bother.

State “college readiness” standards are bound to become a political game in which the end-product will be an impressive-sounding document that won’t accomplish anything. The officials and interest groups involved will find a way to say that students need to be proficient in English and math that will take up enough pages to justify all the time that went into writing the document. Whatever the standards ultimately say, the teaching of the 3Rs will continue pretty much as it has in the past. Public education, after all, is not like a business where people need to worry about losing their jobs if they don’t perform.

Speaking of public education (or more accurately, government schooling), the complaints about students who are not college-ready almost always pertain to those who have spent their K-12 years in government schools. Most children who have either attended private schools or who have been home-schooled are well prepared for anything college professors throw at them. Sometimes, in fact, those students find that college courses are too simple and boring. Private schools don’t have elaborate standards for “college readiness,” nor do parents who home-school. Somehow, though, the results are much better when the focus is on learning rather than on meeting bureaucratic standards.

Several years ago the writer Jonathan Rauch made the case for “enlightened defeatism” with respect to big government. Much as I want to hope that somehow government schooling will change its stripes and start graduating lots of students who are eager and well equipped to learn in college, I strongly suspect that enlightened defeatism is in order about that. No matter what conferences are held and what standards are written, freshman classes at most colleges and universities will continue to be largely composed of “disengaged students,” as Professor Paul Trout calls them. (See his article “Disengaged Students and the Decline of Academic Standards,” Academic Questions, Spring 1997.)

For decades educational “progressives” have been promoting the idea that institutions need to adjust to the supposed needs and desires of the students. That is the implicit message in all the talk about “learning styles” and “multiple intelligences”—schools must conform to their students. To suddenly do an about-face and insist that students and teachers must adjust to some definite set of college-readiness standards is simply too jarring to imagine.


British schools 'should be allowed to punish disruptive pupils'

What an original thought!

TeachersS must be given explicit legal rights to punish pupils and to restrain unruly children by "reasonable force", ministers will be told today. A government task force on behaviour in schools will say that present powers to maintain discipline are too vulnerable to legal challenge. It will also press for schools to be given rights to seek orders from magistrates against any parents who are unwilling to co-operate with teachers. "Some parents and carers need to be challenged to take their responsibilities seriously," the report by 13 senior head teachers will say.

The group will call on Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, to introduce a national charter that will spell out the rights and duties of parents, pupils and teachers in keeping order in schools. Ms Kelly set up the behaviour task force this year to bring forward proposals for enforcing "zero tolerance" of indiscipline and classroom disruption. The group, led by Sir Alan Steer, the headmaster of Seven Kings High School, in Ilford, Essex, will publish its recommendations today. Details were leaked to The Times Educational Supplement.

The task force said that teachers' powers to act "in loco parentis" against unruly pupils were open to challenge. It said: "The Government should introduce a single, new piece of legislation to make clear the overall right to discipline pupils."

It welcomed the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which gives head teachers the power to search pupils for weapons without their consent, but said that additional powers might be necessary to enable them to search pupils for stolen property and drugs.

The recommendations come two days after David Bell, the head of Ofsted, reported a slight improvement in behaviour at schools in his annual report. However, he said that disruption remained "a major problem" for some secondary schools.

When Sir Alan met Tony Blair to discuss the work of his task force, he told the Prime Minister: "We do not want to produce a report that just ends up in the filing cabinet." The report recommends changes to procedures for dealing with disruptive pupils. Parents should retain the right to appeal to an independent panel against a school's decision to expel their child. But panels should be prevented from reinstating pupils on procedural technicalities. The task force said that all schools should develop policies on the use of mobile phones by pupils. The National Union of Teachers backed the recommendations


Sticking to the book

Books are better for student study than digital detritus

Yesterday The Sydney Morning Herald quoted HSC students denouncing critics of Year 12 English courses - we think they meant us. Apparently because "the media lies" it is important for young people to know what the reptiles of the press are up to, the students said. Presumably by studying episodes of the D-Generation's Frontline TV series, which is on the NSW syllabus. Or the book jacket that students in that state can study. Not the book, just the cover and publisher's blurb. Or any of the modern movies that are on course lists around the country. Or blogs and other digital resources, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission website - which is also set for study in NSW, even though the organisation no longer exists.

Using literature to learn how to critically analyse what authors are up to should be a core component of any English course. But the world is not short of good books suited for the task. Books - not blogs, not digital ephemera, but books, the artefacts that really inquisitive students will find behind the paperback cover set for study. Reading a whole book takes time and discipline, and it is about the best way imaginable to learn how to analyse authorial intent and interpret their arguments.

But all that examining the ATSIC site will do is expose students to propaganda from an organisation that in the end represented only itself. There are all sorts of objective sources that set out the condition of indigenous Australians that could be provided to support any of the many books by Aboriginal authors about the poison of racial prejudice. The study of ATSIC is irrelevant. And The Australian believes that studying the D-Generation for advanced English courses betrays the educational interests of students and will appal parents who want kids to develop a love of literature. And if students are really interested in analysing the motives of powerful organisations, here is a question to critically consider: "The study of senior school English is shaped by a contempt for the Western canon and a belief held by education theorists that all texts are equal. Discuss."

The above is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper (a national daily) of 22 October


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Below is a letter from two members of the CTA to all other members

In every public school in California, we teach our students about our right to freedom of speech. We teach them the value of being able to disagree, but still respect the opinions of those you disagree with. Apparently, freedom of speech is not something our union, the California Teachers Association (CTA) supports.

We wrote to you last week because we strongly disagreed with the political and financial decisions being made by the leadership of the CTA. The purpose of our email was to express a legitimate opinion and to inform our colleagues of our concerns.

Never in our wildest imagination did we believe that the CTA would threaten us with jail time for exercising free speech! Two days after we sent our email, the CTA announced that it was seeking to press criminal charges against us. This is what was reported in the Sacramento Bee:

"CTA Chief Counsel Beverly Tucker sent letters Friday asking the district attorneys of Sacramento, Alameda and Los Angeles counties to investigate the e-mails and `take appropriate action including filing criminal charges.'" (10/15/05)

This is what happens when you challenge the political agenda of our union's leadership.

They do not tolerate a different point of view and instead threaten us with criminal charges because we dare disagree with them. We will never stop speaking out on what we believe and no amount of threat or intimidation will deter us.

We can only assume CTA leadership reacted this way because we are telling you information they don't want you to know. For example, did you know that the CTA has already spent over $60 million THIS YEAR ALONE on political consultants and television ads? They have spent so much money on politics that they are seeking a $40 million loan just to keep providing basic services to teachers. According to a sworn affidavit by CTA Controller Carlos Moreno, an inability to get this loan would "cause great financial harm to CTA and affect CTA's ability to continue to deliver its current level of services to members over the long term."

How is it that our current leadership allowed our union to spend so much money on politics that it must now put itself even deeper in debt in order to provide actual services for teachers? Did you know that our leadership had a private meeting in June where they voted to raise our dues by $180 in order to cover the debt created by all of this political spending?

Our union leadership has grown quite adept at wasting our money on politics. In the past few years alone the CTA has spent over $100 million on political consultants and television ads supporting ballot measures that have NOTHING TO DO WITH EDUCATION!

Here are just a few examples, and you decide for yourself if you agree or disagree with how our leadership spends OUR MONEY. Did you know that CTA:

*Spent $10,000 fighting AGAINST the Three Strikes Law?
*Spent more than $2 million this year on ballot measures dealing with prescription drugs, state energy policy and an abandoned effort to regulate the way people buy cars?! (WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH TEACHING???!!!)
*Spent more than $2 million in 2004 in support of a losing ballot measure that would have made it easier to raise taxes?!
*Spent close to $3 million last year in a botched effort to roll back Prop. 13 and raise property taxes?! Then tried to do it again this year, spending more than $2 million, and botched that one too! (AN UTTER WASTE OF YOUR MONEY!)

Now what on EARTH does state energy policy, and shopping for cars, have to do with education? And what does it get us, as teachers in the classroom? Not a thing.

The millions they wasted on things like that abandoned car shopping campaign sure could come in handy in my classroom. Or yours.

As we mentioned, the CTA leadership is seeking criminal charges against us for sending you these emails. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with our view of the union leadership, we hope you will at least support our right of free speech to voice our opinion.

More here


IS there a literacy problem with senior school English students? Not so, according to Mark Howie, head of the English Teachers Association NSW. In a paper posted on the Australian Association for the Teaching of English's website, under Latest News, Howie argues the literacy crisis is a media beat-up and that critics' concerns "have no basis in fact".

Never mind the research carried out by academics at the Australian Defence Force Academy, where 600 undergraduates had to be tested as many found it impossible to write a well structured and grammatically correct essay. Howie also appears unaware of the admission by Roslyn Arnold, dean of education at the University of Tasmania, that as many as one in 10 students undertaking teaching courses need remedial lessons as a result of inadequate writing skills.

As to why many students, after six years of secondary school, are at risk, one needs to go no further than looking at how English teaching has changed through the years and how Year 12 is examined. The NSW English (Standard) and English (Advanced) Paper I is a case in point. This week's paper provides ample evidence of how English has been dumbed down and how examinations are so user-friendly that all can succeed. Not only does the paper include numerous visual images, as writing is no longer considered privileged, but, in question one, where students are asked about a particular book, all they are asked to look at is the front and inside covers.

In addition to the concern that the comprehension questions are more suited to Year 10, also troubling is that questions such as "In what ways might the front book cover and inside book cover appeal to a potential reader" ignore the fact there may be some students wanting to argue the counter case.

The way section III is structured is also flawed in that not only are the questions so broad and nebulous that students can easily use pre-prepared answers, but none of the questions ask students to critically analyse individual texts in any substantial way.

Adrian Mitchell, head of the department of English at the University of Sydney, describes Paper I as bland and like "cold gravy". He also suggests that many of the illustrations in the paper are facile and unimaginative and that, in attempting to meet the needs of all, the paper fails to stimulate and challenge better performing students.

An interesting exercise is to compare Year 12 NSW English Paper I with equivalent papers produced during the mid-1990s. Not only did the 1995, 1996 and 1997 papers contain fewer pictures and images, with the result that students were expected to read more, but the material and the questions were more challenging.

Being able to use pre-prepared answers because of generic questions and shifting the emphasis from close textural analysis to discussing texts in terms of broad themes and ideas is also a criticism of the NSW Advanced English paper.

No matter what type of text, whether poems, plays, novels, multimedia websites, speeches or hypertexts, the same question is asked on the basis that they are of equal worth. Thus a Paul Keating speech and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission website are treated in the same way as Shakespeare's King Lear and Jane Austen's Emma.

It should be noted that the malaise represented by the adoption of what Baden Eunson, an academic at Monash University, describes as English lite, is not restricted to NSW. On comparing what is expected of students, as represented by present examination papers and what was expected from Victorian Year 12 students during the '60s, Eunson makes the point that an emphasis on teaching and assessing correct grammar, punctuation and spelling has largely disappeared.

The draft English examination being circulated as part of Western Australia's extension of outcomes based education to the senior years also represents a watered-down, critical literacy view of English. Questions such as, "Write a set of instructions for the use of the 21st century" and "Write a contribution to an online chat room in which you discuss something (for example, sport/project/hobby/film/performance/event/gaming community)" appear to have little substance or worth.

As one of the teachers contributing to the Perth-based PLATO website says: "What level of language expression, grammar and spelling would be acceptable for writing in a chat room? A student could argue that any old rubbish is acceptable, 'cz thts wot eye rte in a cht rom'."


Tennessee: No. 1 reason teachers ousted is sex : "Sexual impropriety is the No. 1 reason teachers lose their licenses in Tennessee. Two in five teachers whose licenses were revoked by the State Board of Education from 2003 through the present were accused of sex-related violations or inappropriate contact with students, according to a Tennessean review of state records. In about a third of the 35 sex-related revocations, teachers who had licenses in more than one state lost their Tennessee license when they got into trouble somewhere other than Tennessee. New rules passed by the state board last week would also allow for administrators to lose their licenses if they fail to report teachers who resign after allegations emerge. The idea is to prevent problem teachers from moving from one district or state to another."


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


But can he make it happen? Three different reports below:

Prime Minister Tony Blair has unveiled plans for a huge shake-up of state education - describing it as a "pivotal moment" for his last term in office. The reforms will be "irreversible" and driven by the needs of parents and pupils. They will also free schools from local authority control, he said. Teachers will have an "unambiguous right" to discipline children, he said.

But reports say Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott fears the plans will disadvantage the poorest pupils.

Public school educated Mr Blair said he had been lucky enough to have "a very privileged education", during his speech to parents in Downing Street. Outlining the reforms, he said: "We will continue to put more money into our schools, but we will also complete the reforms we began so that in time we will have a system of independent, self-governing state schools with fair funding and fair admissions." The changes would be "driven above all by the needs of pupils, the wishes of parents and the dynamism of the best teachers", he said. "We want to see that change being made irreversible."

A White Paper, to be published on Tuesday, will allow schools, not councils, to decide how pupils are selected and the courses and teaching methods they offer.

But Mr Prescott fears the plans will see the poorest pupils paying the price for making schools independent and giving parents more choice.

BBC education correspondent Mike Baker said the reforms would see the majority of schools becoming "trust" schools. These would have the "freedoms of city academies and a more arm's-length relationship with local councils", he said. They would also be backed by businesses, faith organisations and parents groups. Under the plans, local education authorities would have a more strategic role, monitoring standards and commissioning services rather than running schools.

The paper will also see transport subsidies for poorer pupils and school choice advisers to help parents select schools. They would also make it easier for independent groups to open state funded schools.

Mr Prescott has questioned whether the 17 new city academies championed by Mr Blair have raised standards. He is said to be worried about plans to bring some of the ethos of public schools to the state sector.

Ex-Labour education secretary Baroness Morris said she agreed that head teachers should have the right to manage their own schools. But she argued that Britain's most successful schools should federate with mediocre schools, giving them the leadership expertise they need to raise their standards

(From The BBC)

Blair takes a cane to the Left over school reform

TONY BLAIR has set the stage for the biggest showdown with the Left in his last term of office by promising to force through changes to enable state schools to match the best in the private sector. As left-wing MPs began mobilising against the schools White Paper, which is to be published today, Mr Blair made it plain that he would face down his critics and introduce legislation early next year to create "irreversible change" and "real parent power".

Although John Prescott is among ministers who fear that the plans might disadvantage the poor, Mr Blair said in Downing Street yesterday that complaints from the Left that the Government was privatising public services and giving too much to the middle classes were a version of the old "levelling-down mentality that kept us in opposition for so long".

Criticism from the Labour back benches was swift. Ian Gibson, the MP for Norwich North, said that he was "dismayed that all the good work that is being done could be destroyed by the changes that are taking place. "There will be a lot of people disquieted about that and there will be a lot of lobbying going on to try to row back on some of the proposals." Members of the far-Left Campaign Group are also reported to be spoiling for a fight.

Mr Blair, who appears to be relishing one of his final reforming battles, confirmed the key plans, disclosed by The Times last Monday. He said that the proposals could be taken "to their final stage". All schools are to have the same freedoms as city academies. All will be able to take on external partners and no one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new partners coming in simply because there are surplus places locally. Mr Blair admitted that in health and education there would be, in a sense, a market. "The parent and the patient will have much greater choice. But it will only be a market in the sense of consumer choice, not a market based on private purchasing power. And it will be a market with rules. Personal wealth won't buy you better NHS service. The funding for schools will be fair and equal."

Mr Prescott has said at least twice in Cabinet that the new generation of schools run by independent charitable trusts with the power to set their own curriculums and teaching methods was promoting the "public school ethos" and discriminating against the poor. Cabinet sources said that he had secured some changes to the proposals, and that he was prepared to go along with the White Paper.

Yesterday Mr Blair insisted that the reforms would help the poorest inner-city pupils because they were aimed at schools that were underperforming and aimed at giving "as good an education in the state sector as anyone can buy in the private school system". "I have no doubt that the changes will be controversial in certain respects, but I have also no doubt that they are right for the country, and in particular right so that every child in our country, not just those from a privileged background, gets the best chance to succeed," he told parents. Mr Blair said that in two years almost all secondaries would be specialist schools, and there would be 200 academies by 2010. Academies could provide a legal model for independent state schools, with independent schools allowed to join the state system.

Under the plan it would be easier for parents to complain or to replace the school leadership. They would also have greater choice and have a say on the curriculum, meals and uniform. It should be possible to reform failing schools more rapidly, and schools should be free to seek partners such as charities, and businesses.

(From The Times)

The historical background

TONY BLAIR is said to enjoy comparisons between himself and Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister but, on schools at least, he has more in common with John Major. In September 1995 Mr Major declared that "all state schools should gain the benefits of becoming self-governing, independent schools free to parents". Mr Blair said yesterday: "We want every school to be able quickly and easily to become a self-governing independent state school."

Mr Major ran out of time, hampered by party divisions over his plan to make schools grant-maintained. Mr Blair faces opposition in Cabinet and on Labour's backbenches to his proposals. Will he also run out of time? The Prime Minister dismisses the comparison of his plans with grant-maintained schools, arguing that the latter enjoyed unfair privileges, "creating a two-tier system". The same criticism is levelled against his plans by John Prescott and Labour's traditional wing. The "parent power" reforms, they say, favour elite schools while condemning the poor to sink schools.

However, Mr Blair is clearly conscious of the impending judgment of history on his commitment of "education, education, education". His rhetoric to parents yesterday suggested that he believes this latest Education White Paper will fix the problems facing schools for all time. Government's role in future, Mr Blair said, will be to remove itself from the education system "except to help where help is needed". Will Mr Blair's successors be able credibly to promise that education is their priority when power resides in the relationship between 24,000 schools and their parents?

The White Paper faces two big questions if it is to achieve such revolutionary ends. Do parents want the power offered to them to shape the school system, and will local authorities give it up? Mrs Thatcher claimed "parent power" as a slogan before her landslide 1987 election victory. Mr Blair understands the electoral consequences of opposing consumer choice. He now seeks to make "real parent power" his legacy as Labour leader

(Comment from The Times)


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I normally restrict my posts to cover only the three "allied" countries of the USA, the UK and Australia but I am also a great supporter of Israel. I think I am just about as Zionist as a WASP can be. So what I hear about the school system in Israel is a great sadness to me. I reproduce below an article from 2003 as background and follow it up with a current article:

The everyday threats to life and limb in Israel make it hard for Israeli policymakers and citizens alike to focus on much more than the immediate security situation. The abysmal performance of Israeli students on international educational exams, however, should be no less a source of concern about the country's future.

Jews in Israel, it would seem, are fast becoming a glaring exception to the title ``the people of the Book." Last year's international exams in math and reading comprehension found Jewish students in Israel lagging far behind their contemporaries in other industrialized nations.

In an international literacy test, Israeli students floundered in the bottom third of of 35 industrial states, next to such centers of learning as Slovenia and Moldava. Approximately 30% of eighth-graders in Hebrew-language schools failed the last Education Ministry reading comprehension exam, and the average grade of Jewish pupils in written expression was 56.

Over half of the eighth graders tested failed the international math exam, receiving grades from 0-45. Israel was the only country to rank in the bottom third of industrialized nations for the last three years running.

A comparison of the results of standardized international tests over the last five years shows that the gap between low achievement schools and high achievement schools has widened dramatically despite the Education Ministry's focus on improving the performance of pupils from low achievement schools. Over that period, the gap has grown from 11 points to nearly 18.

Unfortunately the source of that increased gap has not been improved performance in schools in more affluent areas. Scores are declining across the board. Overall there has been a 10-point drop in mathematics scores, and a similar decline in reading comprehension. In 1997, the average grade of Jewish eighth-graders on international math exams was 60. Last year, the comparable figure was 50. In reading comprehension, the average score dropped from 69 to around 60.

A number of studies correlate scores of pupils in mathematics to overall national wealth. And that correlation can only be expected to grow in coming decades as human resources, rather than natural ones, play an increasingly large role in wealth creation.

To be sure, Israel is still producing its share of geniuses. Israel has been a world leader in the high-tech revolution, and Israeli science continues to be responsible for an astounding number of breakthroughs in medical research. Nevertheless, in a world in which knowledge is increasingly correlated to the ability to earn a decent living, it is not enough for a country to produce a disproportionate share of geniuses. A country where technical knowledge is not dispersed over a wide swath of the population will have difficulty attracting international investment in non-labor intensive fields, and income gaps will continue to grow.

THERE ARE NO EASY answers to the educational failure of the Israeli school system. Yet some clues as to how the overall performance of Israeli Jewish students could be improved might be garnered from the success of SHUVU, a network of independent religious schools for children from Russian-speaking homes. On the face of it, the SHUVU system would seem to have few factors operating in its favor. In general, immigrant students do even worse than the national average on mathematical exams. The average score for new immigrants on the most recent international exam was 42.

The general economic level of the students' homes is low. Nearly half the students come from single-parent homes. Contrary to a common myth, SHUVU is not an elite system - approximately 40% of the families are from the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union. Finally, many of the teachers in the SHUVU system are products of Bais Yaakov seminaries and lack a B.A. (The success of these teachers should perhaps force a reconsideration of the government's refusal to recognize a Bais Yaakov teaching degree.)

Despite these negative factors, the level of math instruction in SHUVU schools is way above the national average. Using the Ministry of Education guidelines as a base, SHUVU adds another 20-25% more material each year. Dov Kaplan, a doctoral researcher in science education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who has headed the math departments in both secular and SHUVU schools, attests that the level in the SHUVU schools is significantly higher.

When the new curriculum was instituted five years ago, teachers insisted that the goals set were impossible, but experience has shown otherwise. On a visit to a SHUVU school in Ashdod last year, Education Ministry Director-General Ronit Tirosh was shocked to find second-graders at the beginning of the school year multiplying single-digit numbers in their heads. She remarked that the SHUVU curriculum should become a model for all Israeli schools.

From the beginning of first grade, SHUVU schools work on mathematical thinking, not just rote memorization. The recent Education Ministry survey found that Israeli junior high schools are particularly weak in developing independent cognitive mathematical thinking.

Three times a year, the students are tested on all the material learned. In the lower grades, the average scores are well over 90%, and even with the addition of much more difficult material in fourth-grade, the average scores remain consistently above 85%, and never dipped below 75%. Of the 130 SHUVU students in Nahariya who participated last year in the Orange Math Olympiad for grades 6-10, 90 reached the first level of the competition, 30 made it to the semifinals, and two were finalists.

To some extent, the success of the SHUVU schools in math instruction needs no explanation. More hours are devoted to math instruction than in state schools, teachers receive classroom supervision two or three times a year, all teachers have thrice yearly training seminars, and every teacher has a hot-line to SHUVU's methodological center in Jerusalem if problems arise in teaching the material

But Dr. Shmuel Lazinkin, head of the methodological center, attributes much of SHUVU's success to intangible factors. Chief among these he lists the dedication of the teachers. Strikes are unknown in SHUVU schools, despite the fact that salaries are often late. Though teacher salaries are lower than in the general school system, teachers contribute many teaching hours without pay to private instruction of weaker students and those transferring from other school systems.

Equally important is the learning environment in the schools. Israeli schools have among the highest rates of violence in the Western world. Only in the United States do more students carry weapons to school. Fifteen percent of Israeli students age 11-16 come armed for ``self-protection" at least once a month. Nearly half the male students and over a third of the female students in that age group experience physical harm in a violent episode in the course of the school year.

In such a Blackboard Jungle of rampant violence and poor discipline learning becomes impossible. No wonder that in a recent study of 28 Western nations, Israeli students reported the highest levels of dissatisfaction with school.

Over the last three years, I have personally visited at least 10 SHUVU schools and the contrast to these grim statistics could not be more stark. The enthusiasm of the students is palpable. And that impression is borne out by a survey of SHUVU parents. Eighty-four per cent of the parents feel that there is less violence in the SHUVU system; nearly 80% that the cultural level is higher; and 70% that the decorum is superior. (Virtually all the rest thought the two systems were equal.) Not surprisingly, 84% of the parents report that their children enjoy school quite a lot or very much.

While the SHUVU model cannot be automatically exported to all Israeli schools, much could clearly be learned from its successes.


The Ultra-Orthodox system is showing the way forward

Israel's failing education system is ripe for an educational variant of the "broken windows" theory. Our test results in math and reading comprehension increasingly resemble those of countries from which we import foreign workers. A 2003 international study revealed that the level of student satisfaction in Israel is the lowest of 28 industrialized countries. Many of these failures result from the rampant violence and general air of disrespect in schools. The status of teachers is low in the eyes of their students and society in general. According to a recent poll published by "Mishmar HaChinuch," an educational watchdog group, few parents would advise their children to consider teaching as a profession because of its low status.

Teachers themselves have contributed to their low status and lack of authority. When they come to class dressed in bare midriffs and d‚colletage, imitating their students imitating Britany Spears, they are viewed as figures of ridicule, not serious professionals. Two Bar Ilan professors recently found that Israeli teachers place fewer demands on their students and more readily accept sloppy work than teachers in the rest of the developed world.

A number of the new Education Ministry reforms are designed to reduce the general air of anything goes. Students are to stand when their teachers enter the room, and dress codes have been instituted for students and teachers. These reforms are straight from the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] educational system, where uniforms for girls and strict dress codes for boys are the norm. No haredi student would think of calling a teacher by his or her first name, and teachers are usually addressed in the third person. Not surprisingly, teaching is the highest status calling for haredi women, despite pay scales lower than the secular system, and one of the highest for men.

To judge by the educational marketplace, even secular parents are discovering the virtues of haredi education. SHUVU, a system originally created for Russian-immigrant children, added nearly 2,000 students this school year, 10% of them from native Israeli families and another 70 French immigrants. A SHUVU school in Kfar Saba designed for native Israelis opened last year with 28 students. Despite the sustained opposition of the municipality, the school began this school year with 122 students, as many as the building can hold. The Kfar Saba example is part of a larger pattern. In 1999, a haredi-run school with 25 first-graders opened up in Tzoran near Netanya. For the first month, the 25 six-year-olds had to run a gauntlet every morning of jeering demonstrators, some with large dogs.

The next year the school reopened in nearby Kadima with 125 students, and the third year with 300. Among those 300, were three children of the principal organizer of the original demonstrations against the school. He was so struck by the poise with which the young Bais Yaakov teachers guided their charges past the screaming demonstrators that he chose them for his own children.

Even Modi'in, a city without a single haredi resident, now has a haredi-run school (or did until two weeks ago when the city refused permission to reopen.) LeMa'an Achai started two years ago with nine students. It began this school year with 130 students, from a mixture of secular and national religious homes, in temporary headquarters in Modiin Ilit.

These schools have one thing in common: virtually all the teachers are Bais Yaakov-trained. And in each case word of mouth has enabled the schools to mushroom in size. In a survey of SHUVU parents, over 80% attribute their decision to transfer their children to the general respect for learning and lower levels of violence. In addition, they almost invariably cite the dedication of the teachers.

There is perhaps a larger lesson behind the success of haredi teachers operating in a framework of respect and authority. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, a day devoted to crowning G-d over us as King, we would do well to consider how much we suffer from the feeling of living in a hefkervelt [a world where anything goes]

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Monday, October 24, 2005


A radical plan to give parents much greater choice over the schools their children attend has been blocked by Whitehall in a humiliating rebuff to Tony Blair.

The proposal - to bring forward by several months the date at which parents apply for school places - was originally put up for inclusion in the long-awaited White Paper to be unveiled this week by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary. The Prime Minister enthusiastically supported the move, which would have boosted pupil numbers at popular schools while less popular ones could have closed. Just weeks ago he told colleagues it would be in the White Paper.

However, the proposal was rejected by senior officials at the Department for Education and Skills, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. Instead, the paper will contain vague promises to offer more schools greater "freedom" and more "independence". Thousands of primaries and secondaries will be offered "trust" status, giving them more say over their own day-to-day affairs, while more resources will be directed at brighter children between the ages of 11 and 14 to ensure that they do not fall off the pace during their first years at secondary school.

There will also be greater emphasis on "banding" children of differing abilities, along with measures to deal with "disengaged parents" who let their children play truant and who do not do enough to make sure that homework is done properly. Ms Kelly is said to have endured a "rough ride" when she outlined the proposals to the rest of the Cabinet on Thursday. Some Left-leaning ministers protested that the measures were aimed at satisfying middle-class families and would do little or nothing to help those from disadvantaged communities. Mr Blair, however, is infuriated at the refusal by the department's leading officials to countenance the admissions plan. It would have seen parents, who currently "choose" a secondary school for their children in October or November, doing so in January of the same year.

This would have given local authorities more time to ensure that the best schools could expand to take more pupils. The Prime Minister told colleagues he was quite prepared to see worse-performing schools close if necessary.



A few stars are still twinkling in the inky pre-dawn sky when Koyampurath Namitha arrives for work in a quiet suburb of this south Indian city. It's barely 4:30 a.m. when she grabs a cup of coffee and joins more than two dozen colleagues, each settling into a cubicle with a computer and earphones.

More than 7,000 miles away, in Glenview, Ill., outside Chicago, it's the evening of the previous day and 14-year-old Princeton John sits at his computer, barefoot and ready for his hourlong geometry lesson. The high school freshman puts on a headset with a microphone and clicks on computer software that will link him through the Internet to his tutor, Namitha, many time zones away.

It's called e-tutoring - yet another example of how modern communications, and an abundance of educated, low-wage Asians, are broadening the boundaries of outsourcing and working their way into the minutiae of American life, from replacing your lost credit card through reading your CAT scan to helping you revive your crashed computer.

Princeton is one of thousands of U.S. high school students turning to tutors in India. "Hello Princeton, how are you? How was your test?" Namitha asks. "Hello, yeah ... I'm good," Princeton replies. "It was good."

Namitha works for a company called Growing Stars, based in Cochin and Fremont, Calif. Princeton and his 12-year-old sister Priscilla each meet with their online math teacher twice a week. The chitchat ends quickly and a geometry worksheet pops up on Princeton's computer screen. Teacher and pupil speak to one another, type messages and use digital "pencils" to work on problems, highlight graphs and erase mistakes. Princeton scrawls on something that looks like a hyped-up mouse pad and it shows up on Namitha's screen. He can also use a scanner to send copies of assignments or textbook pages that he needs help understanding. "Here we go," Princeton says, as they begin a lesson on such concepts as parallel lines and complementary angles in the quiet coziness of the family's suburban home. Above him, on the desk, sit plastic figurines of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the Statue of Liberty. On the walls are framed photos of his family, including his grandparents who - by coincidence - live in southern India. His mom, Bessy, brings him orange juice and cookies.

"India has very good teachers, especially in math and science. Also, these subjects are culture-free so it is comparatively easy for Indian teachers to teach them," says Kiran Karnik, who heads India's National Association of Software and Service Companies. "Online tutoring is an area which shows enormous potential for growth." Most companies are reluctant to talk about earnings. But Shantanu Prakash, chief executive of India-based Educomp Datamatics, estimates that Indian online tutoring companies earned about $10 million last year, 80 percent of it from the United States. That's small change in the Indian information technology industry - a business built largely on the outsourcing that is shifting jobs from the West to cheaper, foreign locations. Annual export revenue from offshore outsourcing last fiscal year totaled $17.2 billion. But about a dozen Indian software firms are banking that online tutoring will flourish in America, where falling standards are causing concern.

The first e-tutoring businesses started less than three years ago, and already thousands of Indian teachers coach U.S. students in math, science or English for about $15-$20 an hour, a fraction of the $40-$100 that private tutoring costs in the United States. The Indian firms have benefited from the growing U.S. government-financed tutoring industry - which had revenues last year of nearly $2 billion. That growth is partly due to the No Child Left Behind law, which requires schools to test students in math and reading every year from third grade through eighth grade.

While the outsourced tutoring companies are competition for their U.S.-based counterparts, the National Education Association - a professional organization that represents millions of American teachers - "enthusiastically supports the continued and expanded use of distance education," according to a statement and its guidelines for promoting quality teaching in class and online.

However, not every child has Internet access at home, said Denise Cardinal, an NEA spokeswoman. "We think that good tutoring and good public schools should be available to every student, regardless of the family's income," she said. Princeton's family, like others with college-bound students, pays its own tutoring bills, seeing online tutoring as a way to get high-quality instruction at a lower cost.

Most full-time teachers at Growing Stars earn about $230 monthly. But while the money is good by Indian standards, what's missing is one-on-one contact. "This is a bit like teaching in a void," says Priya Shah, who helps high school students improve their English writing skills. "The lack of eye contact is a disadvantage, but it's a gap which one overcomes with time." But the work is much less stressful than teaching a class of 40 kids or more, and the tutor can adapt to the individual student's learning pace.

That was evident during Princeton's class. "Princeton, let's go over that again," Namitha says a couple times when he didn't understand, patiently redrawing a diagram on the screen. When he gets answers correct, Namitha flashes a smiley face on his screen. "Oh, I am smart," Princeton half-jokes.

The system isn't perfect. Sometimes Princeton has to repeat himself so Namitha can hear him. Or his computer freezes up. "It's so old," he says. "That's why I'm asking my dad to get a new one." But despite the glitches, Princeton's mother, Bessy Piusten, is pleased with the results, saying her children have been getting all A's and B's since they started online tutoring about two years ago.

Daughter Priscilla, who takes online algebra lessons, wants to be a neonatal physician. Princeton wants to be a pharmacist. Their mother is a respiratory therapist at a Chicago hospital, and her husband is a radiology technician.

At the end of the session, Namitha assigns Princeton problems for their next meeting. "Homework! C'mon!" Princeton protests. "Fine, fine. But without homework, life would be wonderful," he says. His little sister, who is watching, giggles. Princeton acknowledges that because of his tutor "math is now easy for me." Maybe some day, he adds, he'll be able to chat with his tutor via video screen. But either way, he prefers an online tutor over an in-person one. "If I talk back to that person, they won't do anything to me," he says, laughing. "This way is much better."



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Reps. John Boehner (R-OH) and Bobby Jindal (R-LA) today led a group of House education leaders in introducing the Family Education Reimbursement Act (H.R. 4097), an innovative proposal to assist the students and families affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes as well as the public, private, and charter schools that have enrolled displaced students. For one year, the bill would create Family Education Reimbursement Accounts to allow families and schools to bypass existing bureaucracies and provide reimbursement to schools on behalf of children displaced by the storms.

“As the Gulf Coast rebuilding and recovery effort continues, we must not lose sight of the needs of the schools and communities that have welcomed displaced families. Public, private, and charter schools have all opened their doors to hurricane affected students, and we should put in place a simple reimbursement process for schools that cuts through the layers of bureaucracy,” said Boehner, chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee.

"Parents know that the continued education of their children is a top priority, especially at a time such as this," Jindal said. "I am confident that, through this legislation, everyone can work together to make sure that children who have been uprooted will continue to have the educational opportunities they deserve, that their parents are empowered to make the best choices for their children, and that the communities and schools that have opened their doors to so many students are not financially punished for that generosity. This legislation will cut through the typical red tape and bureaucracy that otherwise might have hindered parents in their efforts to give their children the best education possible."

“As the recovery continues, we cannot allow red tape and bureaucracy to stand in the way of meaningful assistance for the schools that have so generously opened their doors to the students who have lost their homes, their schools, and their communities. Reimbursement accounts are a simple, straightforward plan to empower families and provide relief to the schools that have enrolled displaced students,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA).

More here


When it comes to mastering reading and math skills, California's students lag behind their peers across most of the country, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress released Wednesday.

The test, often called the nation's report card, has been around for decades. This is the second time that every state has been required to participate under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Administered to fourth-and eighth-graders every two years, the assessment is now seen as a key indicator of No Child Left Behind's progress. Taken by 660,000 pupils nationwide, the exam shows California's fourth-graders ranked 44th in math and 48th in reading. The state's eighth-graders fared even worse: 44th in math and 49th in reading. Nationwide, 36 percent of fourth-graders have achieved proficiency in math, compared to 28 percent in California. In reading, the results are more bleak: 31 percent of American fourth-graders are proficient, compared to 22 percent of Californians.

The results also highlight the continued achievement gap between white and minority students: In California, 46 percent of white fourth-graders were proficient or above in math. But just 12 percent of African American students and 14 percent of Latinos reached that level. Nationally, math scores rose slightly, but reading scores were flat for both grades, compared with results of two years ago.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said while it's clear California must do more to improve student achievement, "there are valid reasons to question the fairness of state-to-state comparisons." In a statement, O'Connell said the exam "is not aligned to the content taught in California's classrooms." [I believe it!] He also pointed out that California has the highest proportion of English learners and tested a higher proportion of them than any other state.

No Child Left Behind supporters like Russlynn Ali say O'Connell is making excuses. "NAEP is not directly aligned to any state standards," said Ali, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based group that works to improve minority and low-income student achievement. "But it is regarded by experts nationwide as an assessment of the common sets of skills that students should be able to master no matter what state they live in."

While California does have a higher proportion of English learner and low-income students, who traditionally score lower on standardized tests, the state's white and affluent students didn't fare much better, Ali pointed out. For example, California's white eighth-graders only outperformed their peers in New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana. "For the fifth largest economy in the world, these data are simply embarrassing," Ali 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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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