Saturday, December 24, 2005


Daily newspapers hold an honored place in American tradition as the principal forum for the public's conversation, but that seems to be changing. Americans today rate daily newspapers less "believable" than local and national television news, and a majority think newspaper reporters are out of touch with mainstream society.

This study, based on telephone surveys of education print reporters and analysis of 403 education-related articles published over eight months by four daily news publishers in Virginia, suggests the criticism may be warranted when it comes to daily newspaper coverage of elementary and secondary education.

Newspaper reporters unanimously agree that K-12 education is a complex issue, and nearly two-thirds (63%) say too little attention is paid to it. Most Americans would likely agree. Public education consistently ranks at or near the top of their domestic concerns, in part, because it is undergoing dynamic reform and innovation. Yet readers would have to look long and hard to find the larger education story in their daily newspapers:

Newspapers rely on the public school industry to set the education news agenda. Nearly two-thirds of journalists surveyed (63%) say the most common trigger for an education news story is "an announcement or press release by a federal, state, or local education agency." All journalists named federal and state Departments of Education, local public school boards and officials, teachers, and parents as sources used by their news organizations in the last six months. Half or fewer named public policy "think tanks" and independent research organizations as sources used during the same period (50% and 38%, respectively). Journalists cited the public school industry as their primary source of information on vouchers and tuition tax credits, despite that industry's open hostility to these innovations.

Newspapers' education news coverage is largely a conversation of, by, and for the public school industry. 65% of published articles related to topics of foremost interest to the public school industry, namely, public school funding, public school staffing, and public school wage and benefit proposals (261 of 403 articles).

Other topics of public interest received substantially less attention: 22% addressed student achievement/state Standards of Learning performance (88 articles);

7% discussed the federal No Child Left Behind Act (28 articles); 3% were related to miscellaneous matters such as school boundary proposals (14 articles); and

3% addressed public education reforms and innovations such as charter schools, home schooling, vouchers, and tuition tax credits (12 articles).

95% of all sources cited in all articles were government/public school-affiliated sources (1,364 of 1,438 sources); 5% were non-government/public school-affiliated sources (74).

Newspapers disenfranchise other constituencies with a stake in the public education service and an interest in reforms and innovations to deliver the service more cost-effectively and better.

Taxpayers who bear the cost of the public school service received scant attention from newspapers. In 261 public school funding-related articles, individual taxpayers were quoted six times (less than 1%) and taxpayer advocacy groups were never quoted.

Only two of the 403 articles addressed vouchers and tuition tax credits, two public education innovations favored by about half of all citizens and parents, according to state and national polls.



A federal judge ruled Tuesday that it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present ``intelligent design'' as an alternative to evolution because it is a religious viewpoint that he dismissed as a ``relabeling of creationism.'' In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, in a harshly worded opinion, rebuked an ``ill-informed faction'' on the Dover Area School District board for adopting a religiously motivated policy that violated the separation of church and state. The broad, precedent-setting and detailed 139-page opinion examined the scientific, religious and legal roots of the evolution debate. Jones concluded that the theory of evolution ``represents good science,'' and intelligent design does not.

Intelligent design holds that the theory first promulgated by Charles Darwin cannot explain the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies the existence of an unidentified intelligent force or designer.

``In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question'' of whether intelligent design ``is science,'' Jones wrote in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District. ``We have concluded that it is not, and moreover'' that intelligent design ``cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.''

An appeal is unlikely given that eight of the nine board members who approved the policy that prompted the lawsuit were voted out in last month's election, and their replacements have said they do not support teaching of intelligent design in science class. Recently elected school board chair Bernadette Reinking said the new board was planning to take up the issue of intelligent design at its Jan. 3 meeting but will in all likelihood not appeal the case. ``I'm glad that it is finished,'' Reinking said. ``The board wanted some finality to this.''

Eleven parents in Dover, a growing suburb about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, sued their school board a year ago after it voted to have teachers read students a brief statement introducing intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class. The statement said there were ``gaps in the theory'' of evolution and that intelligent design was another explanation they should examine.


Students attack university journalism course

Scores of dissatisfied and angry students in the University of Queensland's journalism course have attacked the quality and standards of their program, according to a report in The Australian newspaper. The complaints are from both local and international students. UQ once laid claim to having the best journalism school in Australia, but standards appear to have plummeted since the former Department of Journalism was forced into a bitterly-opposed amalgamation with communication studies and public relations. It resulted in the departure of most senior journalism staff including the head of department and foundation professor, as well as revised courses and fewer practical assignments. The students have expressed their views on a dedicated blogspot site.

Meanwhile, the former Head of the UQ journalism school has struck out on his own and founded a private and now fully accredited Jschool of his own which is having great success at turning out students who are recognized for their skills. See here. Private enterprise beats insane bureaucracy again. Why the UQ powers that be decided they wanted to merge different departments into one super-Department remains something of a mystery. Some old-fashioned "big is better" thinking, apparently. The "small is beautiful" idea has been around for a long time now but has apparently not as yet reached the bureaucratized dinosaurs running UQ. If "big is better", how come General Motors is now on the verge of bankruptcy?


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, December 23, 2005


Congress just passed the single most anti-competitive, anti-consumer law in America in the wee hours of the morning on Monday. They outlawed the refinancing of student loans. Yet news of it was missing from the AP reports. Below are two explanations of what they did (written before they did it):

"The largest lenders in America have a plan to improve the federally guaranteed student loan program. They want to 1) Eliminate competition; 2) Raise prices; and 3) Hope no one notices. If not for Hurricane Katrina grinding all business in Washington to a stop, they might have gotten their way - and raised the prices of attending college by $10 billion a year, costing the average student more than $6,000 for more expensive student loans.

But student loan legislation is back on track, with legislators expected to create a new education bill in the next two weeks. In the meantime, lots of people are wondering why student loan borrowers can't have more choice, lower interest rates, better terms, and more competition among lenders. Especially when it also means reducing the federal budget deficit.

This heightened awareness of student loan programs comes every five years or so when Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. Since the last legislation, the student loan market has been hit with what Citizens Against Government Waste calls a "perfect storm" of more students going to college, tuition doubling and the annual volume of student loans tripling to $50 billion - all in less than ten years.

Last year, the Student Loan Marketing Association, the former federal agency that controls the vast majority of the industry with more than $100 billion in student loans, went private and has quietly become one of the most profitable companies in America.

So a lot has changed since the last time Congress looked at student loans.

And a lot more change is on the table. Chief among these changes is what to do with student loans in an era of changing interest rates. Many students and parents want the option to refinance their loans at a lower, fixed rate over a longer period of time with the lender of their choice. Just like any other loan.

Today, some can - and do. But current law says most cannot: If students get their loans from a single lender, they cannot change that lender - even if another lender offers them better rates, terms or service. It's called the Single Holder Rule, and it helps ensure Sallie Mae and the other big lenders keep their customers safe from competition.

It works.

The same law also says most borrowers can only consolidate their loans once. It worked, too, until some students and parents recently discovered a loophole they could use to move their loans to a lender offering better rates.

But the big lenders are determined to use their legislative muscle to protect that business.

Student loan experts agree that this kind of anti-competitive practice would not be allowed in most business situations. But this is not a business school seminar. This is a real world situation with one of the most profitable financial businesses in America.

"Big lenders that participate in the student loan program do not like the federal consolidation program because the lender is forced to pay fees and taxes to participate and because it increases competition in the market - as most students (but not all) can shop around to find the best deal and service for their loans," said Sarah Wasserman of the United States Student Association in front of a congressional committee. "Due to low interest rates in the past few years, more and more students have consolidated their loans, increasing the likelihood that these students will switch lenders. The lenders that hold the lion's share of the total outstanding student loan debt would like to eliminate the current low-fixed rate benefit in order to do away with the competitive market so that they can protect their portfolios and profit margins."

"Most big financial institutions don't like consolidation loans because they're less profitable," said Barry Morrow, CEO of Collegiate Funding Services, in congressional testimony. "Opponents of the consolidation loan program claim that the program benefits primarily doctors, lawyers and other high-income professionals. However, data we are providing to the Committee shows quite the opposite. Less than 4% of consolidators are doctors and lawyers - and nearly 20% are nurses and teachers. Their average age is only 27. This is not a program that favors the affluent."

Wasserman, Morrow and many others say students and their parents should be allowed to refinance their students loans whenever they want, with whomever they want, at whatever rates and terms the market will bear. Just like a home loan. But first, parents and students will have to change some hearts and minds in Congress.

New legislation passed by the House of Representatives would give the students the choice between fixed and variable rate consolidation loans, but with a twist: the loans would carry more fees and a higher interest rate, removing the major incentive to consolidate in the first place.

Another provision would eliminate a student's right to consolidate their loan before leaving school in order to lock-in lower rates.

"The new legislation is clearly toward big lending institutions and their hefty profits, not students and their thin wallets," said Congressman George Miller of California.

The Senate version is not as onerous. But it would fix the rate on all new loans at 6.8% for students and 8.5% for parents. Hardly a bargain in today's market, and if market rates should go down over the coming years, students and parents would be paying a hefty premium to scrape together the money needed for school.

In a company newsletter, Sallie Mae executives said they support the move from a fixed to a variable interest rate consolidation program even though it will actually diminish their profits".


Ohio Congressman Boehner's "Tricks" Are Not For Kids

When Ohio Congressman John Boehner recently told a gathering of student loan bankers that he had some "tricks up my sleeve to protect you," he wasn't talking about new tricks. He was talking about the oldest trick in the book: "Protecting" business people from competition and innovation. Stopping consumers from getting lower rates and better terms for their student loans. These tricks are not for kids.

The student loan business is now one of the most profitable in America, says Fortune Magazine. And it did not get that way because student loan bankers are smarter, better or less expensive than bankers in other industries. It is more profitable because they have more protection from competition. And now Boehner, head of the House Committee that oversees student loan legislation, is promising them even more protection from the one force that drives down prices, improves service, and stimulates innovation: Competition, of course. Which in the student loan business in almost non-existent. Thank you, Congressman Boehner.

That is the way it was until earlier this year, when in January, the Department of Education ruled that borrowers looking to reconsolidate their student loans could sidestep the longstanding anti-competitive rule against doing so. It was cumbersome, but effective. Borrowers had to use a two-step process of reconsolidating into the federal governement's Direct Loan Program, then reconsolidating again with a private lender offering better rates. Before then, borrowers were locked in to their current lender no matter what other lenders offered them a better deal.

In May, the Department of Education set aside another longstanding anti-consumer policy by ruling that borrowers who are still in school could convert their variable rate student loans into fixed-rate consolidaton loans before rates increased in July. That way they could take advantage of historically low interest rates, much as millions of other borrowers do with their home loans.

While borrowers celebrated, consumer bankers plotted. Enter Boehner. Buried deep in legislation to raise prices on student loans are provisions that will largely outlaw the reforms that introduced so much competition into student loans earlier this year. If passed, student loans would once again be the only thing sold in America that cannot be freely refinanced.

Columnist Dick Morris calls the anti-refinancing scheme an "obnoxious .. ripoff." Terry Savage, the financial columnist of, says there is "no way" borrowers should support this plan." The New York Times calls it "Robbing Joe College to Pay Sallie Mae," the country's largest student loan provider. The Times Union of New York, calls plans to outlaw refinancing a "student loan shame.' Boehner's tricks are not for kids.


Australia: Boys' education funds unveiled

Feminize education and then throw money at the problems that creates: Brilliant!

More than 800 schools across Australia will receive Federal Government funding to target the education of boys in an effort to bridge the gap with girls. Education Minister Brendan Nelson said 801 schools would receive grants in round one of the Government's $19.4 million Success for Boys program. Dr Nelson said the first round of funding would result in 235 individual schools and 113 school clusters receiving grants of between $10,000 and $80,000 to help them improve the way they work with boys.

The program aimed to support boys at risk of disengaging from school, and improve their learning outcomes and engagement in school, he said. Three key intervention areas of benefit to boys will be addressed by schools - giving boys opportunities to benefit from positive male role models and mentors, improving literacy teaching and assessment and using information and communication technology to engage boys in learning. "It is imperative that nothing is done which undermines the important and necessary progress made in the last 20 years in the education of girls," Dr Nelson said. "However, the evidence is overwhelming that boys are falling behind in our education system. Many boys enjoy school and are successful in their studies. However, it is of concern that many others are under-performing in a range of key educational areas and broader social indicators. We know that boys are underperforming in literacy, are less engaged with school, and overwhelmingly outnumber girls in disciplinary issues."

Since 2003, the Federal Government has committed more than $27 million to improve boys' educational and social outcomes, he said.



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, December 22, 2005

University denies charter to Christian group

The usual unconstitutional anti-Christian bigotry

California State University, San Bernardino has refused to allow a Christian group to organize on campus, saying it would discriminate against non-Christians and homosexuals. The Christian Student Association's proposed constitution included a statement on sexual morality and required members and officers to be Christian. State law prevents student groups at public universities from excluding people based on religion or sexual orientation. "We are not permitted to charter them under Title V," said Christine Hansen, director of student leadership and development in the office of Student Affairs. She was referring to a section of the state education code.

Ryan Sorba, who tried to form the association, accused the university of discriminating against Christians. "This is about whether or not the First Amendment is allowed to exist at Cal State San Bernardino and whether or not Christians are allowed to exist," Sorba, 23, who also is president of the College Republicans, said Monday. Similar controversies are playing out on other California campuses.

A group called the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit last month against the California State University campuses in Long Beach and San Diego, alleging that Cal State's systemwide policy forces students to abandon their Christian beliefs if they want benefits that other organizations receive. Chartered student groups are eligible for money from student fees and can invite speakers to campus, post fliers and use university rooms for meetings.

Several Christian organizations began campaigning on Monday to force the university to approve Sorba's club. "This is political correctness gone amok. There is no way we are going to let this thing pass," said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman and founder of the Traditional Values Coalition in Washington, D.C. Sorba has generated controversy in the past by using the College Republicans' name on anti-gay signs and coordinating an affirmative action bake sale at which minorities were offered snacks at reduced prices.


Australian university admission standards low too

Students are gaining entry to university despite failing Year 12, prompting a warning from Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson that academic standards are "unacceptably low". A new Department of Education website shows for the first time the minimum academic scores for every undergraduate course in the country. The site, shows that students secured places at the Royal Melbourne Institute's Bachelor of Applied Science course this year with a minimum entry score of 48 if they were prepared to pay $15,600 a year for a full-fee degree course.

Dr Nelson yesterday urged vice-chancellors to review their entry standards after warning that some students "shouldn't be at university". Describing the university entrance score as a "black science", he said some students with entrance scores in the low 50s had told him privately their raw score for Year 12 results was in the mid-30s. Their results were "scaled up" as part of the process to arrive at a Tertiary Entrance Rank or Universities Admission Index.

University chiefs confirmed that some students had gained entry on even lower scores, through special entry schemes which take into account disadvantage and illness. Dozens of university courses have a cut-off score of below 55, including Central Queensland University's Bachelor of Arts at Bundaberg, the Bachelor of Business at Gladstone and the University of Adelaide's Diploma in Wine Marketing. Nursing degrees had a minimum entry score of just 53.5 at the University of Ballarat, and 55 at James Cook University. While students require 99 or above to secure a place in law at the University of Sydney, the cut-off score at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory is just 60.

The figures reveal students can cut 10 points or more from the score they require to gain entry to their preferred course if they are prepared to pay up to $200,000 for a degree.

Dr Nelson forced universities to publish the information as a requirement of the 2003 changes allowing universities to increase HECS charges and lift the price cap on full-fee degrees. "It is obvious we will still see in 2006 a significant number of people going into university who should not be," Dr Nelson told The Australian. "I think universities accepting students with tertiary entry scores in the mid-50s or less need to seriously think about standards," he said. "The black science which is the ultimate enter score ... is such that those students who are getting UAIs of 55 actually have raw scores in the 30s."

Dr Nelson signalled that he was prepared to consider an overhaul of university funding to allow greater flexibility. Currently, a "use it or lose it" rule applies to university student places, forcing vice-chancellors to lower the entry standards for courses or hand the places back to the commonwealth. "We're basically rewarding universities for filling every place irrespective of the standard of the applicant, and we effectively penalise those that hand places back," Dr Nelson said. "It goes without saying that the lower the tertiary entrance result the less likely it is that the student is going to be academically equipped for the academic program."

At Deakin University, students could secure entry to a Bachelor of Arts course with an entry score of 51. The University of NSW required a score of 99 or above for HECS students wishing to study law, but only 94 for students prepared to pay for a full-fee degree costing $19,000 a year or $100,000 for a degree. The gap between the cost of a taxpayer-supported HECS degree and a full-fee degree for students who miss out on marks is shrinking. For example, at the University of Tasmania students can study law at a cost of $6000 a year for a HECS degree, which can be paid back after graduation.

Melbourne University deputy vice-chancellor Peter McPhee said the critical issue when setting entry scores was the demand for places. High-demand courses such as law and medicine attracted a higher score simply there were so many applicants. "The cut-off score is really about who gets an offer of a HECS place," he said. However, he stressed that students who failed to secure 50per cent or more in Year 12 were not told they had failed. "They're not told they failed Year 12, they just get a score," Dr McPhee said. "That's not the language they use. They say the person has completed Year 12."



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, December 21, 2005

Dangerous Class Assignments

Post lifted from Dr. Helen

If you think that boys don't suffer from abuse at the hands of women, than you have to read this. It is the story of a 13-year-old boy who was first abused by his mother and then by the school system who treated him as a criminal rather than a victim of abuse. Why is it that liberals will go to great lengths to fight for the rights of people who are not really victims and then deny the real victims any solace? It is hard to believe that such an abusive counselor is allowed access to a school system--if I were this kid's parent--I would be down at this school in a flash. Here is a portion of the story:

My cousin rarely cries. I figure he picked that up from one of us, his brother, me, or one of my brothers. But now, he’s practically in tears. Why? Because the class assignment was for them to write about their experiences with the causes of rape. The girls had to write about times they felt “pressured” by boys. And the boys… well, they had to write about times they tried to “force” themselves on girls. Not pressure them, force them.

This is the sort of fmnst trite that keeps boys silent. I wonder how many of the boys in that class have been abused. I wonder how many of them have been raped. I wonder how many of them go home to a house full of violence and say to themselves, “I won’t be like this when I grow up” only to have some moronic narcissist say, “You have a penis. Yes you will.”

Since when do counselors in schools have a right to abuse children in this way? And any 13-year-old boy who dares stand up to one of these "feminists" is made to feel powerless, both by the school who allows this indecency and by the lack of support from other parents and school administrators. Everytime something like this happens in a school--there should be a backlash--against the person who advocated such a stupid assignment and against the school that allowed such a person to victimize innocent young people. Raising hell against this state-run form of mental abuse is the only way to get this outrageous behavior to stop.

Update: Now this rape indoctrination is extending to college campuses-- read Lionel Tiger's article in the Wall Street Journal.

Thousands of Scottish pupils failing on the basics

Thousands of Scottish pupils are failing to achieve basic standards in literacy and numeracy, according to a league table of academic standards published for the first time today. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a picture of acute failure by Scotland's education system. More than three in ten pupils at S2 level - their second year at high school - are failing to achieve the basic standards in reading, while just under half failed the standards for writing. Just six in ten pupils achieved the requisite standard for maths. The one bright spot is that the number of pupils achieving the basic standards has increased on all three measures since 2002....

The new figures will, for the first time, allow parents to compare the performance of pupils at S2 level - seen by experts as a vital stage in their academic development. The Level E assessment is a national benchmark of attainment across the school curriculum, which the majority of pupils should have reached by the end of S2, when they are typically aged 13 or 14.

The Scottish Executive remains opposed to publishing school league tables, although such information is available in England. Westminster MPs have argued that the publication of results encourages excellence and allows parents to make a more informed choice of which school to choose for their child. Scotland's education minister, Peter Peacock, has said parents should not have access to raw data unless the social status of pupils is included.

Last night, opposition politicians and parents' groups called for an end to "the culture of excuse-making" and said the Executive needed to find ways of engaging with families who had rejected education across the generations. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative education spokesman, said the percentage of pupils achieving Level E needed to be much higher and said Scottish education was suffering under the comprehensive model. "These very poor figures once again illustrate that Scottish education is suffering from too many politicians and bureaucrats running our schools, too few parents being allowed a choice in selecting a school for their child and headteachers not having enough freedom to decide what is best in their own unique school environment for each individual child. "The Executive's comprehensive one-size-fits-all approach to schooling in Scotland is becoming more and more discredited. Tony Blair could not have put it better himself when he said: 'For the better-off, the British education system is full of options. But for a middle- or lower-income family, whose local school is the option and which is underperforming, there is nothing they can do, except take what they are given'."

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish National Party's education spokeswoman, said: "These statistics don't tell us anything new. The problem is that they allow the Executive to hide behind poverty as their excuse for failing these children. Generations of parents have been switched off by schools and need to be encouraged to get involved in their children's education."

However, last night education bodies and COSLA, the local authority umbrella group, said the figures had to be interpreted with care and said what appeared to be poor results may be due to deep-seated social factors, such as poverty and ill-health. The Rev Ewan Aitken, COSLA's education spokesman, said: "It really infuriates me the assumption that, taken on their own, these figures in themselves tell us anything significant about the effectiveness of our schools. "Every school has its own context. That context includes issues such as levels of poverty, levels of support from parents and the community, levels of support from business, transport, the quality of the school building, relative mobility of the cohort and much more. "For example, one school I know of in a middle-class area has low results because every year up to 80 per cent of the school population can change because it serves a barracks. That does not mean the children are doing badly; it simply means that the cohort being assessed is not the cohort that the targets were set for."

Ronnie Smith, head of the EIS teaching union in Scotland, said: "If the percentage rate in reading or writing changes, it could have something to do with the cohort of pupils being different, or perhaps the difficulty in finding English teachers that year. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with gathering and publishing these figures, but it serves no real purpose unless we drill down and see if there are any underlying factors."



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, December 20, 2005


Headteachers, teachers and their assistants will have "a clear legal right" to tackle school bullies, restrain disruptive pupils and confiscate mobile phones under measures to be published in the Government's education Bill. Schools will also have the power to act on bad behaviour by collaborating with each other to set up more "cooling off" units for permanently disruptive pupils in an attempt to restore teachers' authority and tackle bad behaviour in the classroom. The move to strengthen teachers' disciplinary powers comes after repeated calls by teaching unions and schools' taskforces for a new law to give teachers an automatic right to discipline pupils.

The measures, which will be in the education Bill in February, will give headteachers the right to delegate the power to discipline pupils to all teachers and assistants as they see fit. Those who will exercise the disciplinary powers would be properly trained and could use them on the school premises and on school trips. Their powers would extend to journeys to and from school to prevent bullying outside the school gates.

Until now the ability to discipline pupils has been based in common law but, by enshrining it in statutory law, headteachers hope there will be less occasion for parents and children to challenge them on the grounds of their legal rights. "Our White Paper will strengthen teachers' authority and give them the confidence to take measures on all forms of bad behaviour," Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister, said yesterday. She added that it would "strengthen the message for parents and pupils that the culture of disruption and failure to take responsibility will not be tolerated".

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that he fully backed the plans and hoped that they would "end the inappropriate challenges by parents on behalf of their badly behaved children". Schools will also be encouraged to work together to provide on or off-site "sin bins", in addition to the existing pupil reform units for unruly children who cannot be educated in school.

The Government said yesterday that 289 secondary schools across 21 local education authorities had agreed to work together to deal with disruptive children.



State Higher Education Commissioner Stan Jones has news for those in Central Indiana who think the state's dropout crisis is limited to Indianapolis: It's a white, suburban problem too. If anything, the typical dropout in the heart of Central Indiana, as in the rest of the state, is white and likely to reside in small towns or in Marion County's suburban townships. Some high schools in counties surrounding Indianapolis have graduation rates nearly as low as those of Indianapolis Public Schools.

The failure of state and local educators to report realistic graduation rates, however, conceals such dismal performance. Says Jones: "They think their schools have nice facilities and things are fine, when in fact things are not." As Central Indiana goes, both economically and socially, so will the rest of the state. Which means that failing to deal with the educational destinies of its children, especially the poor, will bode ill for Indiana's future. A Star Editorial Board analysis of preliminary data from the Indiana Department of Education shows abysmal performance for many high schools in 18 major school districts in Central Indiana. Only 8,400, or a mere 66 percent of Central Indiana eighth-graders who made up the original class of 2005, graduated on time. Where are the remaining 4,400? Most likely not still in school. IPS, with a graduation rate of 39 percent in 2005, remains home to the region's worst dropout factories. But the district's numbers improved four percentage points from the previous school year.

And poor results are spread throughout the region. Three Marion County suburban township districts -- Pike, Wayne and Decatur -- graduated 60 percent or less of their students on time. Some districts, including Carmel Clay, have graduation rates over 80 percent. Other districts clearly are struggling...

One of the schools is Shelbyville High -- 90 percent white -- where just 199, or 64 percent, of the 300 or so freshmen who made up the original class of 2005 graduated four years later. For first-year principal Tom Zobel, it means accepting "the numbers are what they are" and working to stem the tide. Two of the school's "goal action teams" are developing ways to lure students into regularly attending school. A social worker was hired to help at-risk students obtain services such as counseling or welfare. To improve basic skills, the entire school now devotes 20 minutes each morning to reading.

Shelbyville High's problems are similar in some ways to IPS' -- many low-income students struggling in school and in life; children falling behind in early grades; in some cases inadequate support and motivation from parents for their children's academics. Says Zobel: "We fight the same issues that everyone else is fighting."

In turn, Central Indiana's problems are reflected throughout the state. Only 72 percent of the statewide class of 2004 graduated; nearly 20,000 dropped out. Rural and industrial parts of the region, like other areas of the state, are struggling to transition from traditional manufacturing to a more knowledge-based economy. Meanwhile, Marion County townships, now more urban than ever, are confronting the same social and economic ills that have long confounded IPS.

The state's inaccurate method of calculating official graduation rates -- districts such as Shelbyville can claim 96 percent of students graduated in 2004 -- has created complacency. While a more accurate method for calculation will debut with the 2006 graduating class, inflated rates will continue to be fed to the public and the federal government until then. While some Central Indiana districts, notably IPS, have begun to acknowledge their problems, candor needs to become more common. School administrators, especially in suburban districts, too often have refused to admit the reality of low graduation numbers. But when nearly a third of Indiana students don't graduate from high school on time and the state ranks 46th in the nation in the education level of its work force, the time for platitudes about student achievement has long passed.


War of the words: "Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has launched a war of words in an effort to take over the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Villaraigosa has rhetorically lambasted the leaders of the LAUSD over lagging test scores and dismal dropout rates. Villaraigosa has impeccable progressive credentials, but his attempt to improve the grim status of the LAUSD has led him into a conflict with the same teacher's unions that he once served as an organizer. ... Villaraigosa believes that improvement of the public education system is vital to the city's economic future. The spectacle of seeing a committed progressive struggling against the unions is not as surprising as it might seem at first blush. Anyone making a sincere attempt to challenge the status-quo inevitably comes into conflict with unions."


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, December 19, 2005


Success through a lot of work

As young teachers at a large San Jose high school, Greg Lippman and Jennifer Andaluz could have claimed success: All the Mexican-American students in their humanities program were admitted to college. Instead, they faced a frustrating truth: “We were taking students who were doing well coming in to high school and were going to college with us or without us,” Andaluz said. “We weren’t making a difference.”

Meanwhile, Hispanic students from poor and blue-collar families were lost in the system. Half dropped out; only 10 percent went on to a four-year college. Successful students from low-income, Mexican immigrant families were like needles in a haystack, Andaluz and Lippman concluded. They didn’t want to spend their careers sharpening a few needles. “We wanted to educate the haystack,” says Andaluz. So they started a charter high school, Downtown College Prep, to prepare left-behind students to succeed at four-year colleges.

To make sure they were making a difference, they recruited students with less than a C average in middle school and students who would be the first in their families to go to college, if they got that far. Some 85 percent in the first class were Mexican-American— the children of janitors, construction workers, cooks and cashiers. The average ninth grader entered with fifth-grade reading and math skills. Many had been passed along from grade to grade without doing homework or mastering the basics.

Charter schools are independently run public schools freed from some regulation in exchange for improving performance. Downtown College Prep received the same state funding as the average California school, but no money to pay for classrooms, much less for educational extras. The founders raised the extra money they needed for small classes and a longer school day from Silicon Valley philanthropists. They opened their school in 2000 in cramped classrooms rented from a church and a bankrupt fitness center six blocks away. At first, Lippman and Andaluz thought they could boost achievement simply by setting high expectations and motivating students to work toward the goal of college. Quickly they realized students needed more than ganas: — the desire to succeed. Most needed to learn fractions; some needed basic reading skills. Recent immigrants needed help with English.

As a charter school, Downtown College Prep had the flexibility to try ideas, look at what wasn’t working and try something else. The founders cheerfully admitted their mistakes, learned and improved. “We’ll do whatever’s legal in the state of Californiato educate our students,” Lippman said. Over time, students came to accept long hours, uniforms, daily homework assignments — and calls to their parents when homework wasn’t done. They became hooked on the attention they got at the school and willing to do almost anything — even homework — to remain in the school community. Each year, the new students come from more disadvantaged families, measured by parents’ income and education. Yet the school’s score on the state’s Academic Performance Index now surpasses the California average. All graduates have gone on to four-year colleges.

Downtown College Prep is making a difference. And it’s not alone. Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit, compared high-minority, high-poverty high schools that have a “high impact” on student achievement with “average-impact” schools that don’t make much of a difference for low-performing students. High-impact schools give extra help, such as mandatory summer school or after-school tutoring, to students before they fail. Average-impact schools wait. Downtown College Prep requires all incoming ninth graders attend a summer school orientation and requires a daily 70-minute study period for all students in ninth through 11th grade. (I was a volunteer tutor.) High-impact schools assign teachers based on their specialties and students’ needs; in average-impact schools, seniority and teacher preferences determine who teaches what. Often the most experienced teachers choose to teach the easiest students while the neediest students make do with inexperienced teachers.

Downtown College Prep doesn’t have a lot of easy students; it’s staffed by non-union teachers who’ve chosen to teach there because they share the school’s values and believe in the mission. At most schools, students who are behind get extra time to learn English and math. But the high-impact schools make sure students also meet college-prep requirements while average-impact schools put students on a remedial track that keeps them out of college-prep courses. Downtown College Prep’s ninth graders who take remedial English and remedial math also take the college-prep English 1 and Algebra 1 course, even if it’s very likely they’ll fail the first time. They can try again in summer school. If necessary, they can repeat ninth grade. It’s not easy for a high school to make a difference in students’ lives when they arrive with a long history of failure and frustration. It’s not easy. But it can be done.



Nearly one-third of Colorado high school graduates who enrolled in public in-state colleges last year needed remedial classes in math, writing or reading, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. CCHE Executive Director Rick O'Donnell said the data show an "expectation gap" between the state's high schools and colleges and a clear need for rigorous statewide high school graduation requirements, an effort the commission tried unsuccessfully to push through the legislature last year. "Either higher education is expecting too much . . . or our K-12 schools are expecting so little, it's a scandal," O'Donnell said.

Of the 28,268 students who went from Colorado high schools to Colorado public colleges in fall 2004 - the most recent year for which data are available - 8,366, or 30 percent, needed remediation. That's up from 28 percent the previous year. The numbers are particularly troubling, O'Donnell said, because they include only students who went straight from high school to college. High school graduates who took time off before college are not included. "This probably understates the problem," he said.

There also are costs to taxpayers. The CCHE estimates that providing the remedial classes cost the state nearly $11 million last year. The study also found that minority students needed remediation at a higher rate than white students, and women needed help more often than men. Jefferson County Public Schools, the state's largest school district, is home to the high schools at the top - and bottom - of the remediation ranking. More than 70 percent of graduates of Jefferson County Open School, an "options school" focused on hands-on learning, required remedial help when they arrived at a Colorado college or university. In contrast, just 1 percent of graduates at Jeffco's D'Evelyn Jr./Sr. High School needed any remediation.

D'Evelyn Principal Mark Hartshorne said the school's graduation requirements are tougher than the district's. That's possible because D'Evelyn, like the Open School, is an options school that students must apply to attend. So while Jeffco doesn't require foreign language study to graduate, D'Evelyn students take three years of it. "Some people think we only accept kids based on test scores, (but) that's not true," Hartshorne said. "We have a random lottery (selection process). Do we have some really, really bright kids here? Absolutely. We also have quite a number of kids who are just plain kids like everybody else."

His school's success supports, he believes, the argument for raising high school graduation requirements, whether in the district or across the state. If D'Evelyn students representing 54 Jeffco elementary schools can do the work, why not others? "I really think, for the very large majority of students, whatever bar you set, they can achieve at that level," he said.

Colorado is one of just three states that does not have statewide high school graduation requirements, according to Achieve Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps states raise academic standards. Instead, local school boards set the requirements, resulting in differences across Colorado's 178 school districts. So the CCHE, in an attempt to toughen graduation requirements, approved admissions standards in 2003 for the state's colleges and universities. They go into effect in fall 2008, meaning current high school sophomores will be the first to face the standards, which are higher than many district graduation requirements.

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


Sunday, December 18, 2005


Except for affirmative action, there would be even fewer of them

More middle-class children are attending Britain's elite universities, despite government schemes aimed at widening access for poorer students. The class system is being perpetuated by teachers advising pupils according to their own university experiences, say the authors of a new study. From The Margins To The Mainstream, a report on widening participation in higher education, will raise pressure on top universities before tuition fees of 3,000 pounds start next year.

In spite of institutions paying lip service to improving opportunities, in reality only the newer universities are embracing the agenda, as "equality of participation by students from lower socioeconomic groups remains a challenge", the authors say. The study found that last year the Russell Group of 19 top universities accepted 30.5 per cent of their students from families of higher managerial and professional occupations, compared with 33.5 per cent in 2000. They took 11.9 per cent from families of lower managerial positions last year, compared with 11.2 per cent in 2000. The report stated: "Applicants from the highest socioeconomic groups have increased their share of applications to the more selective institutions."

For 2005-06, universities were granted 284 million pounds by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to widen participation and increase retention rates. At least 30 million was meant to help to target students in worse-off areas. In 2002-03 England had the lowest rate in the UK of poor children at university, with 28.6 per cent, compared with 41.6 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Part of the reason, says Liz Thomas, of the Higher Education Academy and an author of the report, is that teachers who select pupils for outreach programmes are out of touch and projecting their own memories on to the universities. "If they are thinking what higher education was like when they went there, they may be directing their students to the same institutions and so perpetuating the class system," she said. One way to change that, Dr Thomas said, would be to engage teachers better with top universities' open access schemes.



An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English, which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday tasks, a federal study shows.

From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.

The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks, such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.

Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who dropped out of high school.

Inside the numbers, black adults made gains on each type of task tested in the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, run by the Education Department. Hispanics, though, showed sharp declines in their ability to handle prose and documents. White adults made no significant changes except when it came to computing numbers, where they got better.

The results are based on a sample of more than 19,000 adults, age 16 or older, in homes, college housing or prisons. It is representative of a population of 222 million adults.

The 11 million adults who are not literate in English include people who may be fluent in another language, such as Spanish, but are unable to comprehend text in English.



They have become the victims of a desperate attempt by an Australian university to cover up a threat to its reputation

Clara He was the respected head of a University of NSW medical research laboratory based at Liverpool Hospital in western Sydney four years ago. Today she is in a cubbyhole buried so deep in the hospital bowels that mobile phone radio signals usually cannot reach her. To get her pay, she has to report her hours to the cleaning manager of the hospital, her direct employer. But He counts herself luckier than colleague Juchuan Chen, who doesn't even have a desk and who is on a UNSW [University of New South Wales] contract that runs out at the end of this month.

Most days Chen visits He, who has been banned from her former laboratory and does little research for the university. They have a cup of coffee together and quietly rue the day they became whistleblowers. UNSW has maintained Chen, its direct employee, has been treated well. After much soul-searching during an extended university investigation of their complaints, He and Chen (and a former PhD student at the laboratory) went public with allegations against their boss, respected immunologist Bruce Hall. They said he had bullied them and, more seriously, had mis-stated some of his research findings and details of a research-funding application.

After they made their allegations, which continue to be all strongly denied by Hall, He says they were the subject of rumours and threats, possibly by some opponents of their complaints - not by Hall himself. "We first complained to the hospital and university shortly after 9/11 and we were called terrorists," He says. "Then they [the opponents] played the racist card, as I was told our complaint was really about the Chinese denigrating Australian research. This is total nonsense. It was about the vital principle of scientific integrity." After she went on television, He says, she received threatening phone calls and her house was stoned.

There had been difficulties at Hall's laboratory for some time, and in October 2001 some staff members at the immunology and transplant laboratory complained to He as head of the laboratory. "When I approached Professor Hall about this he was very abrupt," she says. "Instead of taking me into his office to discuss the situation, he abused me in the hall in front of my colleagues and other hospital staff."

Some complaints revolved around Hall's managerial style, but most of the more serious scientific allegations arose from Chen, a veterinary microsurgeon who performed surgery and carried out experiments on test rats at the laboratory. Hall, a physician, is an expert in immunology, the body's defence system for fighting disease and foreign bodies, including foreign organs commonly transplanted today, such as kidneys, hearts and livers.

Human transplant patients are given powerful drugs to suppress the body's immune response and usually have to take them for the rest of their lives, opening them to the possibility of infections and even cancers. But Hall believes he has detected certain immune cells that are the main ones responsible for tolerance of foreign organs. This is the holy grail of the transplant world; if he can turn on these cells, patients will not have to take powerful drugs for the rest of their lives. Hall's experiments have involved injecting treated cells into test rats that have had heart transplants to see if they can tolerate the transplants better than control rats that do not receive the cells. "The problem was that repeated tests showed that the controls [rats] had the same reaction as the treated rats," Chen says. "Whenever I tried to talk to Professor Hall about this, he berated me and told me I was doing it incorrectly, that I was incompetent. He never questioned whether his hypothesis was right or not."

Then Hall wrote a scientific paper for the Transplant Society of Australia and New Zealand and put Chen's name on it, even making him the point of contact, allegedly without telling Chen. Chen disagreed with the paper and claimed it included "embarrassing inaccuracies" - such as an experiment that Chen believed had not occurred - that "ruined my scientific credibility". These problems soon led to even more serious allegations that other tests in another paper were false; were not done. These results were used in the laboratory's applications for grant money from the federally funded National Health and Medical Research Council, the supreme research body.

He initially complained to the hospital about Hall's management style and these scientific matters, but she says she was told she should go to university administration because Hall was a member of university staff and funded mainly through the university. He and the two other laboratory members then made an official disclosure about the operations of Hall's unit, particularly about the scientific allegations, to the university administration under the Protected Disclosures Act, which is supposed to protect whistleblowers. The university, then under vice-chancellor John Niland, appointed the then dean of medicine, Bruce Dowton, to investigate it. He says they felt isolated and ostracised and that their side was not being listened to fully by the university. UNSW denies this. After more than four months passed without any decision, He and Chen went to the ABC and publicly revealed their grievances, which were also reported in The Weekend Australian.

Dowton's report came out only after the media reports. It criticised Hall's management style and recommended he apologise to certain staff members and undergo management training. It also criticised him over the authorship issue, but on the more serious charges it found that Hall was not guilty of any wilful scientific fraud or misconduct. But members of the university's governing council, who by then had heard the allegations in the media, were not satisfied with this and they forced a report by an independent group of eminent experts. That group consisted of former High Court chief justice Gerard Brennan and three medical professors: John Chalmers from the University of Sydney; Judith Whitworth, director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research; and David Weatherall, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University. They concluded - in a report that was made public after Hall took the university to court to stop its publication - that Hall had behaved with a "reckless disregard for the truth" and had "deliberately deceived" and "seriously deviated" from "commonly accepted" scientific practices.

But that was not the end of the saga. Hall maintained his full innocence and said that the investigating committee had been misled and "did not understand the science". The university management then organised its own committee of experts to examine the Hall allegations. This report, accepted by the then vice-chancellor, Rory Hume, found that Hall was guilty of academic misconduct but not the more serious charge of scientific misconduct. Hall was not dismissed and UNSW paid the rental for a new research unit for Hall and his wife, neurologist Suzanne Hodgkinson, at the Australian Technology Park in inner Sydney.

Chen is now effectively redundant and the university has indicated it will not review his contract at the end of the year. Chen says: "I would advise people to think very, very carefully before they become whistleblowers." But He is just as determined as she was four years ago. "I'm not leaving," she says. "I'm not going to give them the satisfaction. I believe in the principle and I believe I was right." The NSW Ombudsman's Office has been investigating the handling of UNSW whistlelowers including Chen and He and it's understood a report on its findings will be released early next year.



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