Saturday, May 06, 2006


For the past four years I have been writing a novel about two schools that form an unlikely partnership: one a rich, wildly successful boarding school, the other a fast-failing urban comprehensive. As my husband and I and our two children had all attended private secondary schools, I was familiar with independents. But the heroine of Wicked! A Tale of Two Schools is battling to save her comprehensive, so I needed to research the state sector, and in particular state school heads.

And what an inspiring bunch I found them. I was constantly bowled over by their compassion, their courage and their humour, and appalled by their vast workload, lack of resources and the stranglehold of red tape against which they struggled. I took out a subscription to The Times Educational Supplement and found a brave and beautiful deputy head called Katherine Eckersley who, when her school in Derby was closed, managed to chivvy the local authority into giving her a building and funding to "save" year 10, who would otherwise have been uprooted and transferred to other schools to take their GCSEs. It seemed to me that a miracle had happened.

All the older teachers at the Village Community High school, who'd been demoralised trying to control large, unruly classes, came back two or three days a week and, as Mrs Eckersley's "golden oldies", taught these 60 children in small classes. The teachers were free to teach and the children, previously regarded as no-hopers, were able to learn and have attention and love lavished upon them. The result was a happy school.

On other occasions I was appalled by the brutality with which schools were shut. Virginia Frayer, the marvellous former head of the Angel primary school, in the London borough of Islington, misread the privately controlled education authority's request to visit her thriving and successful school, hoping she would have a chance to ask for more funding. When told the real reason, she gasped: "But you haven't seen over my school; we've all spent weeks making it beautiful." Back came the deadly reply: "I don't need to see over a school to close it down." I only hope the designer flats built on the site of the Angel are ever more haunted by the weeping of children.

I also detested the way schools that shut have to endure the humiliation of other schools descending like vultures to appropriate desks, books, computers and lab equipment, though I rejoiced in the story of the enterprising school that flogged off the girls' uniforms to the local sex shop.

In other schools I encountered extraordinary poverty. Tactlessly teasing an enchanting little girl for wearing a long-sleeved winter shirt in the summer, I was hissed at by the head that her family couldn't afford two shirts. Then there was Danijella, the asylum seeker who was put in charge of the school bird table. She was discovered tipping bird seed, stale cake, discarded fat and broken biscuits into her school bag to augment her family's rations at the holding centre.

I was frequently moved to tears by the heroism of pupils who were determined to get an education in the face of daunting odds. One child was single-handedly looking after three younger sisters, as her mother lay in a drugged stupor on the living room floor. Such children face a wall of indifference and cruelty beyond the school gates: no food in a freezing cold house, drunken parents waiting to knock them about, or worse. But they love their parents and won't sneak because they're so terrified of being taken into care. One of the heroes in Wicked! is Paris, who has been in care since he was two, and who regularly goes missing as he travels the country searching for his mother.

I know it costs a fortune to keep a child in care - far more than to send them to Eton or Harrow - and children like Paris get only 10 pounds a month clothes allowance, so someone somewhere is doing nicely out of the arrangement.

I was horrified too by the vulnerability of teachers who are accused of abuse: arrested, named and shamed, allowed no contact with anyone from the school until a court case comes up often months later - their lives, too, are truly blighted.

My husband claims he can play the piano with only one hand because he was always using the other one to fend off a music master at his Yorkshire prep school. Perhaps schools were once dens of vice, but the pendulum has swung much too far when you can't give a pupil a lift home in a snowstorm, or cuddle a sobbing child who's just been taken away from her parents.

I was depressed by the creeping erosion of freedom and fun. No more conker fights, detentions if you chuck a snowball, no playground slides, experiments in science being phased out for fear of litigation. Half the joy of physics was seeing teachers emerging from a cloud of black smoke with their eyebrows singed, wailing: "But it worked with the other division."

Consider too the poor jack russell cast as Bill Sikes's dog in a Stroud school production of Oliver!, then sacked for health and safety reasons, an experience that his owners said had left him much saddened. He might have been cheered up by the dreadful but hilarious statistic that, in a survey, 80% of secondary school children thought Winston Churchill was the dog in the television advertisements for an insurance company. It makes one wonder if English history is still taught in schools.

On my travels around schools I also learnt how to converse with teenagers of either sex. "What football team do you support?" or "I've actually met Colin Firth," always breaks the ice. (Although, interestingly, the character that girls most frequently cite from Pride and Prejudice is Mrs Bennet: "Because she's soooo embarrassing - like my mum.")

To return to Katherine Eckersley. I was proud to be invited to the end-of-school prom, but I goofed. Imagining it meant some kind of promenade concert, I arrived in a crumpled pink suit only to find all the children, ravishing in ball dresses and dinner jackets, spilling out of limos. My embarrassment was soon dispelled by lashings of "teacher's lemonade" (bottles half full with Fanta and half vodka) as we danced to a splendid band in a hall transformed by hundreds of cut-out gold stars. When the prom king was crowned, one of his mates yelled out that it was the "first time there'd been a poof on the throne since James I", so they had learnt some English history after all.

When the balloons came down, the girls burst them with their stilettos to symbolise the end of a fantastic year. Outside the night was lit up by fireworks, culminating in white stars spelling out "Goodbye Village High". The words I heard over again as sobbing children flung their arms round Katherine were: "Oh, Miss, I'm going to miss you, Miss."

The children's GCSE results weren't spectacular by beastly league table standards; only a handful had gained the magic five. But so many who had been expected to get none notched up several Bs, Cs and Ds and, fired with new confidence, went off happily to sixth-form colleges, or to learn to be hairdressers and carpenters, or take up places in sports academies.

I was unable to celebrate with them that year, but I did spend a wonderful results day at another favourite school, Barnwood Park in Gloucester. Most schools e-mail their results, or pin them in envelopes to the noticeboard. Gill Pyatt, Barnwood Park's inspiring head, broke the good (and bad) news personally to every girl and was so good at praising and comforting them all. Summoned by mobile and text, excited parents were soon storming the playground, bearing flowers in cellophane tubes and cards in coloured envelopes. One girl, flabbergasted to get the magic five, rang the factory where her dad worked and made them broadcast her results over the PA system.

Looking back, I am touched that so many heads trusted me enough to let me wander round their schools, where I saw marvellous and imaginative teaching. "Macbeth was a killing machine on a fantastic high having routed the terrorists who were trying to overthrow King Duncan," wrote Claire Matthews, an English and drama teacher at Archway School, Stroud. "For homework," she had added, "if you were a costume designer, how would you kit out the weird sisters? Or imagine you're a war correspondent, like John Simpson, and write a script telling the viewers at home about Macbeth's first victory."

Wandering along the corridors at Archway, I found a touching poem written by a year 10 pupil: "Love is like rugby football, it can get a little rough." On the staffroom wall was a sign saying: "Thought for the week: chewing gum. We're gumming down." Then I remembered a postcard attached to the filing cabinet in the general office at Village High: "One man gets run over on the roads every five minutes and he's getting very fed up with it."

What I loved about schools is that despite the tragedies, cheerfulness always breaks in. Having my photograph taken with the girls at Barnwood Park, they told me that while eating their packed lunch in the playground, they'd been bombarded "by ginormous killer gulls", so they'd put a pretend owl called Ernie up on the roof to terrify the birds. As I left, however, two gulls were happily perched on Ernie's head and five others were noisily queuing up for a turn. It seemed to sum up education.


Australian Leftist leader calls for tax breaks for private school parents

(More support for the view that Australia is the world's most conservative country)

Parents who sacrifice their lifestyles to send their children to private schools should be thanked and supported with tax incentives and childcare support, says Labor Party national president Warren Mundine. Just a day after Labor leader Kim Beazley discarded his predecessor Mark Latham's class-war policy of cutting public funding to the nation's wealthy private schools, Mr Mundine said his party should consider offering tax breaks on school fees and direct subsidies for parents using the private school system, similar to the childcare rebate.

Mr Mundine called for an end to the ideologically driven debate that has dominated the ALP's education policy for the past two or three decades and for debate instead on the best ways to support families in their choice of education. "I think they're great parents, I take my hat off to them," Mr Mundine said of people who sent their children to private schools. "These families are contributing on top of their taxes. They're paying for education twice. "They're paying $4 billion (in private school fees) on top of their taxes to provide the best education for their kids. Not all are wealthy people, they're just ordinary, average Australians trying to do the best for their kids."

Mr Mundine, a father of seven, said his own children attended both public and private schools. His two children still at school include his daughter, Garra, 14, who attends St Scholastica's at Glebe, in Sydney's inner west, and son Yawun, 17, who attends St Joseph's College in the northern suburb of Hunters Hill.

Despite confirmation yesterday that wealthy private schools may not secure real funding increases under Labor's plan, Mr Beazley's pledge that no private school would be worse off won support from elite school principals unhappy with the current funding system. Melbourne Grammar principal Paul Sheahan said the Howard Government's funding system for private schools was unfair and said it had entered into too many special deals with different schools.

The federal Government's funding model - known as the socio-economic status (SES) model - does not take private school fees and income into account when determining funding. Instead, it links enrolment details of where students live with census data on average income and education levels.

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. My home page is here


Friday, May 05, 2006

California parents, taxpayers, finally understand government schools are failing their children

Californians have a low opinion of the state's education system, with residents of Los Angeles taking a dimmer view of their public schools than those in any other region, a poll released Thursday says. The Public Policy Institute of California survey found that just 15 percent of Los Angeles County residents gave the local public schools an A grade and 14 percent gave a D or F. By comparison, Orange County and San Diego residents gave their schools the highest rating, with 25 percent giving an A, and only 7 percent giving a D or F.

Los Angeles Unified School District board President Marlene Canter said the public perception lags the actual improvements the district has undergone in test scores and others areas in the last few years. "We're dealing with 30 years of neglect," Canter said. "What we have seen in the last six years is more progress than has happened over the last 30. "I think it will take time for the perception of success to catch up. We're moving in the right direction." She said, for example, the district has shown one of the best improvements in API scores at the elementary level in the state. One problem facing the district, she said, is adequately communicating some of the successes to the public.

The poll comes as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing a controversial effort to establish control over the Los Angeles Unified School District. Villaraigosa said he was not surprised by the survey's findings. "I think there are a lot of reasons people are unhappy with their schools," Villaraigosa said. "I think people are looking for change and fundamental reform in the education system." He noted that statewide, education is underfunded and per-pupil spending in California is near the bottom among the states. "It's no wonder people are upset with the schools," he said. Villaraigosa's comments came at a news conference where he promised to take an active role to win voter support for Proposition 82, the measure on the June ballot that would increase income taxes on those making over $400,000 a year to fund a statewide preschool program.

The poll found 51 percent of likely voters support Proposition 82, and 40 percent oppose it. That measure would impose taxes on the wealthy, but the poll found most average Californians wouldn't be willing to let their own taxes increase to help improve education. Sixty-three percent of Californians would oppose an increase in the state sales tax and 72 percent oppose an increase in property taxes to help provide additional funding for schools. A majority, however, was willing to raise taxes on the rich, with 64 percent supporting raising the top income tax rate on the wealthy to pay for education.

"The public's frustration with the state of education is palpable," PPIC survey director Mark Baldassare said. "They see lots of rhetoric but little progress." LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer said the district has made substantial progress in recent years. The lower poll ratings, he said, reflect the characteristics of large urban areas where people typically feel disconnected from their government institutions. Over the last six years, he said, Academic Performance Index scores are up 196 points at the elementary level, compared with a state average increase of 125 points. Meanwhile, the district is building more new schools more rapidly than any other large urban district in the country. "We are rapidly changing," Romer said. "If you took this poll five years ago, you'd have found a whole lot more negative. If you take it five years from now, you'd find a lot more positive." .....

Sixty percent of adults rated the state's public education as "not so good" or "poor" in preparing students for jobs and the work force.

More here

British school selection to be purely racial

No mention to be made of any differences except racial differences. Any mention of merit forbidden

Schools are to be required to balance the social and racial mix of all their pupils under new government rules designed to end backdoor selection, The Times has learnt. In plans described as a "minefield" by head teachers, schools will also have to carry out detailed research into applicants to ensure they "attract all sections of local communities".

At the same time they will be banned from asking about the financial, employment or marital status of parents before a child is admitted, to ensure fairness. Heads will also be barred from inquiring about a child's "behaviour or attitude" at primary school when deciding on admissions.

Ministers were given a warning last night that the rules in their proposed new admissions code would create extra red tape for staff and divert resources from teaching. John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "These proposals are inconsistent and I think they will place impossible demands on head teachers." The measures were promised by ministers to appease Labour MPs who are unhappy over plans for trust schools.

The Tories, who support the creation of independent trust schools, accused the Government of planning a "draconian" admissions code with "prescription piled on prescription". Nick Gibb, a Tory schools spokesman, said: "The code is far too prescriptive and . . . reflects the Left's obsession with admissions rather than standards." He added: "The purpose of the code is to make the system of admissions crystal clear but measures like this are not crystal clear. "It will be an extra bureaucratic burden on head teachers when what they should be focusing on is raising the quality of teaching at the school. Instead, they will be bogged down conducting analysis for social engineering reasons."

The statistical work will be required from all "admission authorities", meaning the governing bodies of foundation, voluntary-aided and academy schools. In practice, much of the extra work will fall upon senior staff, heads fear. The requirement is included in a "skeleton" school admission code seen by MPs analysing the Education and Inspections Bill.

If schools fail to carry out the analysis and act upon any shortfall of certain categories of children they can be ordered to do so by the Education Secretary, the document states. The Liberal Democrats will propose a system of anonymous admissions, which they believe will be fairer than the Government's proposed rules.

Mr Dunford added: "The provisions on a mixed intake are a bit of a minefield because I do not know how people will determine whether schools have a balanced intake. "Encouraging schools to have a more balanced intake is good but it could mean a large amount of work for head teachers in making all the calculations into whether they have got the approved mix in their school. I think that whole area needs a lot more work."

The proposed code states that schools "must act" upon the new statistical information about children's backgrounds. Secondary schools should work with primary schools in more deprived areas, for example, to encourage applications from children of poorer families. The document adds: "Faith schools should similarly work with local primary schools to encourage local people of the faith, or of other or no faith, to apply for their school."

The code also urges schools to make it clear that there is no charge related to admissions. "It is poor practice for schools to refer to donations and voluntary contributions in their prospectus," it states. A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We need to ensure that schools reflect their local community and some schools will already look at these issues. This is about serving a local community and we are clear that schools need to have open and transparent systems."

Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister, has said that consultation on the code will begin in September and that it will come into force next February and govern admissions for September 2008.



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. My home page is here


Thursday, May 04, 2006


Dan Janke knew something was wrong when he walked into the principal's office and found the superintendent waiting for him. When Janke sat down, the school administrators delivered a shocking message: Janke, an art teacher in the New Ulm, Minn., public schools, was suspected of sending sexually explicit e-mails to sixth-grade girls.

Janke was sent home that afternoon, suspended while police investigated. Within days, the truth came out. Two seventh-grade boys had posed as their teacher in an online chat with the girls.

Every teacher can recall times when a student has tried to get even. But the revenge assumes a new dimension online, where children raised in front of the computer often hold the upper hand. From New York to California, students are facing suspension, expulsion and even criminal charges for online spoofs targeted at teachers and school officials. In Florida, a high school English teacher sued a student who she said posted her picture online, along with sexually explicit comments.

This month, some Coon Rapids middle-schoolers got a bogus e-mail purportedly from one of their teachers, inviting them to visit him on MySpace. When they clicked on the link to the popular networking site, they were taken to a Web page filled with pornography and hate speech. Other assaults come on Web sites such as, where students can grade their teachers on a scale of 1 to 5, complete with nasty comments and frowning cartoon faces.

For educators, Internet harassment is "one more stressor to add to a very stressful job," said Sandy Skaar, president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, the teachers' union in the state's largest district.

A student with a grudge - or playing a misguided joke - can put out a damaging message to thousands of people. With the Internet, adolescents have a powerful megaphone. Do they have the maturity to use it responsibly? Janke doesn't think so. "We don't let people drive until they're 16," he said. "They can't vote until they're 18, and they can't drink until they're 21. Yet kids in the third grade are on the Internet. "We have given them this big responsibility, when they're not ready for it without proper supervision and training," Janke said. "It's a dangerous thing."

Teenagers operate in a different world from adults, said Ascan Felix Koerner, a University of Minnesota professor who studies adolescent communication. "The moral compass fails them sometimes, and they're not fully appreciative of the consequences," he said. "They might create a website, and their peers would take it as a joke, and they perceive that adults would take it that way, too."

Kirk Bauermeister didn't know he was on MySpace until his teenage daughter told him. Students at the middle school in Costa Mesa, Calif., had created a fake MySpace site for Bauermeister, the school principal. "The anonymity of it makes it real scary," Bauermeister said. "It gives people the ability to do and say things they'd never do in real life."

Many schools have blocked access to MySpace on school computers, but Bauermeister said it's often futile: "As soon as we block it, they find a way around it."



So who needs to read and write to go to college?

Students who do not pass will not graduate and will not receive a diploma, yet that does not necessarily mean the door to college is closed. It is possible, in fact, to get a bachelor's degree or higher without a high school diploma - as long as students go to community college first. While a diploma or its equivalent, such as the General Educational Development certificate, are required to enroll in CSU or University of California campuses, no such requirement exists at the state's two-year community colleges. Community college enrollment is open to anyone 18 or over.

Still, some campuses are watching the state's exit exam figures and are expecting they will counsel students on their options if the exit exam proves too tough. "Our counsel would be to go to community college," said Jeff Cook, executive director of enrollment services at Cal State East Bay - where he anticipates a "minimal" number of would-be freshmen will be turned away in the fall because they have not passed the exam. Once a student completes 60 units of transferable credits at a community college, they are eligible to transfer into CSU, Cook said. By that time, a diploma does not matter. "Once they've earned 60 units, the CSU doesn't look at their high school record at that point," he said.

Ditto at the University of California, said spokesman Ricardo Vazquez. But UC officials may also grant some wiggle room to would-be freshmen who have not passed the exit exam. "The university assumes that all students offered admission to UC will have passed the California High School Exit Exam, but if it turns out that is not the case, then individual situations will be reviewed by campuses on a case-by-case basis," he said. "Given our rigorous admission standards, we assume that all students will have passed the test," Vazquez said. "We expect very, very few, if any, of those cases."

Community colleges have varying degrees of concern about the exam and its impact on future students. "You don't need a high school diploma to go to a community college, you don't need a high school diploma to get an (associate of arts) degree, and you don't need a high school diploma to transfer to a four-year university from a community college, so it's not an issue for us," said Barbara Christensen,

More here

UK: Headteachers hit out at new "babysitting" role: "Schools will become 'a national babysitting service' as a result of government plans to force them to open from 8 am to 6 pm, the leader of Britain's biggest headteachers' organization said yesterday. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it meant a 50-hour school week for some children -- with headteachers seeing more of them than their parents."


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. My home page is here


Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The Cleveland Bar Association is threatening to fine the parents of an autistic boy $10,000 for not hiring a lawyer when they brought, and largely won, a court case on their son's behalf four years ago. After a long court battle, Brian and Susan Woods settled their case with the Akron school district in 2002 when the district agreed to send Daniel, now 11, to a private school.

But in February, the Cleveland Bar Association took issue with the Woodses' handling parts of that case themselves and not through a lawyer. The bar charged them with unauthorized practice of law and threatened a $10,000 fine, saying that although the Woodses were allowed to represent themselves, they could not act as lawyers for their son. The charge is normally filed against nonlawyers who provide legal services for pay, but is rare against parents.

Representatives of several advocacy groups - plus the National School Boards Association, the American Bar Association and the Ohio bar's Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law - could not recall any cases of parents being charged with this misdemeanor offense. Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide the case, ordered the bar to present evidence on why the case should not be dismissed, saying it appeared that "Woods has not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law."

Michael Harvey, the Rocky River lawyer handling the charges for the bar association, said the goal is to protect the rights of children. Harvey said special education laws are so complex that children need experts, not untrained parents, looking out for their rights. "You hope parents will do the right job for the child, but that's not always the case," Harvey said. Harvey said that although the bar is officially seeking a $10,000 fine, it would be happy with an admission that the Woodses broke the law and an agreement not to do it again.

Brian Woods thinks he's being intimidated to prevent parents from handling cases themselves - and to protect the large fees lawyers charge for such cases, which can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

More here


(Note that when the Brits used to refer to "Public schools", they meant a place where you go to be educated when you do not have a personal tutor. That usage is now dying out however -- with "independent school" being the preferred term for the same thing. Some of the people quoted below do use the old terminology, however

Private schools face a fresh battle to preserve their charitable status in the face of a powerful campaign to end the tax break that helps to keep many of them in business. A coalition of charities and Labour MPs will target legislation this summer in an effort to block the tax breaks that give fee-charging schools 88 million pounds a year. Campaigners claim that the Charities Bill fails to put an end to the presumption that private schools should have charitable status.

The Bill calls on independent schools to demonstrate that they benefit the wider community to justify their tax advantages. But, according to the Charity Commission's interpretation of the proposals, private schools and other charities that charge high fees will have to prove only that the less fortunate are "not entirely excluded" from their services.

Campaigners, led by the British Red Cross, among others, say that this does not go far enough. In a joint letter to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, they say that the public benefit test will have "minimal impact" on charities that charge high fees unless a more robust definition is drawn up. "The Bill does not go far enough. Anyone able to benefit from a charity's service must have a reasonable chance of doing so," the charities said in a joint statement. Their stance is supported by between 35 and 40 Labour MPs, who are planning to rebel against the Government when the Charities Bill is debated in the House of Commons this summer.

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes & Harlington, said that he hoped to table an amendment to the Bill with a more robust definition of public benefit, modelled on Scottish law, to ensure that charities charging high fees did not place "unduly restrictive" conditions on people wanting to benefit from their services. "I would like to exclude public schools [He is using the old terminology. He means private schools] from being charities. However, if they do want to demonstrate how they are in the public interest, we need to raise the bar and then ensure they do it properly," he said. John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, North Yorkshire, said that to pass a robust public benefit test a public school would have to do a lot more than merely allow the local comprehensive to play football on its grounds once a year or offer a couple of scholarships.

Rosamund McCarthy, a charity law specialist at the firm Bates, Wells & Braithwaite, said that the public benefit clause could scupper the Bill. "A lot of people might see this as an assault on public schools, but it is not. It's about identifying what is truly charitable. The vast majority of the public have no idea that the majority of independent schools are charities. It would be a tragedy if the Bill falters on this point because there are a huge number of very good things in it," she said.

Stephen King, of the Independent Schools Council, said that his members already provided immense public benefit to the wider community. "For every one pound in taxation benefits they get, schools are giving 3 pounds in assistance with fees," he said. A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that the Government's proposed definition of public benefit did provide a sound basis for the Charity Commission to determine whether organisations should have charitable status.



Head teachers said that they should be free to sue pupils and their families if allegations of abuse are made maliciously. Members of the National Association of Head Teachers voted unanimously to support legal action against children who make unfounded accusations of physical or sexual abuse with the intention of wrecking teachers' careers. The union said that the threat would help to deter malicious children who, at present, suffered no repercussions for making allegations that they knew to be untrue.

Michael Murphy, who proposed the motion, told delegates that it was not intended to hinder investigations of justifiable accusations against heads. "But the pendulum has swung too far. All we want is balance, fairness and freedom from fear," said Mr Murphy, head of Corpus Christi primary school in Wolverhampton. "If you do something wrong you expect to be accountable for it. But we must support those good people who do their best to support children and their communities but are thwarted by misguided and malicious individuals."

Heads who faced an allegation of abuse suffered the humiliation of suspension, isolation from the school and their colleagues, police investigation and the possibility of dismissal for gross misconduct. "Then the Crown Prosecution Service throws the case out. Our colleague goes back into the school and is left to face the reprehensible outcome of this malicious, unproven and unnecesary allegation alone. The perpetrator walks away without accountability. This cannot be right, fair or just," Mr Murphy said. The conference voted to instruct its ruling council to investigate "ways of taking legal action against a young adult, or member of their family, who make a clear cut, provable malicious allegation".



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. My home page is here


Tuesday, May 02, 2006


It's a bold name for a piece of legislation. You'd be hard pressed to find a dentist that claimed, "No tooth shall ever have a cavity ... ever." There is no emergency room with a sign on the doors that reads, "No one will ever die here again ... and this time we mean it." It's absurd, of course. Some people don't brush their teeth. Some bullet wounds are bigger than others.

There's only so much any one doctor or dentist can control. The notion is almost as crazy as "No Child Left Behind." Many of our kids come in not knowing their alphabet. At other schools, all the kids arrive knowing the alphabet, with many already beginning to read. Still, at other schools, no children come in without any letter recognition at all, not even the ones in their names. There's only so much any one teacher can control. Some needs are just bigger than others.

Now, for us, the legislation has become tangible. It's easy to rail against something before the first shoes begin to drop. Just a few miles down the road from the school where I teach is another school in our district. Same teacher qualifications. Good people. It was one of the first schools to take on our district writing program. Teachers from that school were out training the rest of us. When I was looking for the most effective ways to service kids in my Title I program, I asked the person running their program. Learned a few things, too. Top-notch administrator. Somebody I'd want to work for. Just a few miles down the road from us.

And, that's a potentially failing school under "No Child Left Behind." On the other hand, our school received an honorable mention from the state of California under their Distinguished School Program. And the schools are just a few miles down the road from each other. Just a few. So, what's the difference? Same district. Same mission statement. Same practices and techniques. Same adopted materials. Are we, as a staff, that much better? More dedicated? Harder working? If only it were that easy. Each school has its seasoned veterans, its shining stars. Even some rookies. Just like all schools.

So, why were we invited to apply to be a distinguished school, while this other school is allegedly failing? The answer is poverty, mostly. Though only a few miles down the road, they have a far greater number of kids receiving free lunch. Their parents are much more likely to hold jobs, rather than build careers. Their families are also much more transient than ours. And they have greater language issues. Have you ever tried to take a standardized test in a foreign language? Don't bother. So what will happen if this school fails to meet testing goals again this year? Money will have to be diverted from the kids and put aside for transportation. Kids from this school will get to choose a new school in our area and this school will have to flip the bill to get them there. And which kids might actually leave? The kids who are doing well. The kids whose families are on top of it enough to make the move. This takes those kids away from their school testing totals. It takes away their brightest and best. And, once they leave, who will be "left behind"? Poor kids, the disenfranchised. Now we've got poor kids at an even poorer school.

And my school? Well, by luck, we may wind up with their brightest and best. We are, after all, just a few miles down the road. If that happens, our test scores will go up. The real answer is easy. The execution is not, but the answer is no great stretch. It's the same answer for most of society's ills. Fight poverty. Don't seek to make people poorer. You want children to perform better in school? Fight poverty. Their poverty....



Head teachers threatened a campaign of disobedience yesterday to wreck the Government's testing regime in primary schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers voted unanimously at its annual conference to oppose the continued publication of league tables of test results for 11-year-olds. Mick Brookes, its general secretary, said that parents who supported the campaign could be asked to keep their children at home when national curriculum tests in English, mathematics and science are due to be taken. They could also be urged to send children to school late on test days to invalidate the results. Regulations state that results are invalid at schools where less than two thirds of pupils take the tests.

The union, which represents 85 per cent of primary heads, said that it would seek support for a boycott from other teachers' unions and governors. It would also consider a ballot of its 28,000 members on a refusal to supply the Government with test results from their schools for publication. Mr Brookes, in a dig at Tony Blair's policy of promoting parental control of schools, said that the campaign would be a true demonstration of parent power. As a head teacher in Nottinghamshire, he had once invalidated results for his primary school by hinting that parents who opposed the tests might want to send their children in late.

Relations between the union and Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, have soured rapidly since it withdrew last year from a national agreement on reforming the school workforce. The union accused the Government on Friday of snubbing heads by refusing to send a minister to address its conference for the first time since Labour came to power in 1997. The threat of a tests boycott would pitch Ms Kelly into a confrontation with heads when she is struggling to win support for the Government's Education and Inspections Bill, which is promising greater autonomy for schools.

Mr Brookes said that his union would use the power of persuasion initially to try to convince ministers to abolish the tests. "We don't want to get into further confrontation but I think we have been given permission from this conference to take action to stop them," he said.

It was too late to stop this year's tests, later this month, but the union was determined to ensure that they were the last ones. It would draw up an action plan to replace the tests with alternative forms of assessment, as had been done in Wales. "We will say to the Government that we have tried to consult with you and this has fallen on deaf ears, so we are now going to take matters into our own hands," Mr Brookes said. Delegates at the conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, angrily condemned the pressure placed on pupils and teachers by the need for their schools to perform well in the league tables of results. Gail Larkin, the head of Auriol Junior School, in Ewell, Surrey, who proposed the motion, said: "We gave national council the green light to fight for the abolition of league tables two years ago and yet the situation has not changed. It is time we really stood up to be counted. The publication of league tables in England must stop now."

Chris Howard, a member of the union's national executive, said that the Welsh Assembly had abolished tests and league tables without any decline in standards [How do trhey know??] . Northern Ireland and Scotland also produced no league tables of schools. "League tables are there to referee an educational marketplace and there is no other justification for them," he said. "It is absolutely vital that we campaign to get rid of the tables in England."

The Department for Education and Skills insisted that the continuation of tests and tables was a non-negotiable part of its school reforms. David Willetts, the Shadow Education Secretary, said that the Conservatives would not abolish league tables either. He drew rumbles of dissent as he told the conference: "We have to accept that we are working in a society where this information is something that parents expect."



Teachers should be protected against malicious allegations from pupils by enjoying anonymity during any investigations, David Willetts, the Shadow Education Secretary, said yesterday. Mr Willetts told the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, that too many allegations of abuse turned out to be untrue. School discipline was being undermined by false claims from pupils and the lives of individual teachers suffered tremendous harm. He said that the Conservatives would table an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill to give teachers the same protection as children while allegations of abuse are investigated. This would prevent them from being named in public unless they were charged with an offence. Guidance to schools, local authorities and police already suggested that anonymity should be maintained during inquiries but Mr Willetts said that this needed to be given statutory force.

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. My home page is here


Monday, May 01, 2006


Here is the indoctination of public school students - many of whom can hardly read and speak a complete sentence

Ten-year-old Kahlee Smith said she heard about Earth Day for the first time when fourth-graders from her school, Kerr Elementary, were invited to participate in Earth Fest 2006. But by lunchtime at Friday's event, Kahlee was on her way to learning all about recycling, environmentalism and nature. She was one of about 300 fourth-graders from a half-dozen Bossier Parish schools who gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bossier City to commemorate Earth Day, which was April 22. "I want to appreciate Earth Day," Kahlee said. "If we ruin (Earth), then where else would we live?" Jessica Lynn, another fourth-grader at Kerr, was also excited: "I get to meet new people and see what Earth Day is really about."

Bossier City, Bossier Parish and Keep Bossier Beautiful organized the second annual event. About a dozen organizations set up booths with information and demonstrations. Gail Kopp, the Bossier City employee who coordinated Earth Fest, said the event started because Elm Grove Middle School asked last year if the city had planned anything for Earth Day. Officials hadn't, but they liked the idea. They invited fourth-graders, because lessons on the environment are included in the state's Comprehensive Curriculum for that grade, Kopp said.

Teri Glasz, who teaches at Central Park Elementary, said she was as excited as her students were about the field trip. Like many teachers, she said she doesn't always have the time or the materials to do as many hands-on science activities as she would like. "It makes a big difference" when students make or do something, instead of reading about it in a book, Glasz said.

Students came in two shifts. They watched a performance of a traditional Native American dance, learned about recycling and looked at the difference between city water before and after it's treated.

Oscar Rodriguez, a senior water treatment operator for the city's water plant, said even most adults don't understand what happens to water before it comes out of the faucet. He hoped students would talk to their families about what they learned, as well as relate the lesson back to what they have learned in class. "There's chemistry involved in this, there's science involved," Rodriguez said. "They can actually see on the other end: I do need my math and I do need my science."

Eventually, Kopp said officials would like to expand Earth Fest to a weekendlong spring festival at the North Bossier Park.



But note how extraordinarily brief the report is!

Authorities responded to a fight Friday afternoon at a high school in Santa Clarita. The fight at Hart High School was sparked by racial tensions, authorities said. The fights occurred at about noon and school officials said that they called deputies to keep the fights from spreading. Students were sent home for the day. Authorities said four students were detained for questioning. Students said the confrontations stemmed from a fight Thursday. No injuries were reported. Deputies carried guns that shoot pepper balls, but the weapons were never fired.


AZ: English-learner plan rejected: "A judge on Wednesday rejected the Legislature's plan to improve instruction for students struggling to learn English, saying it did not include enough new money and would have violated federal law in several ways. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins drew a defiant response from Republican legislative leaders that signaled more protracted political standoffs and courtroom battles before schools receive anything. 'I don't believe this judge is an activist; I just think he's wrong,' said Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. 'He has misconstrued the actual facts of the bill.' Collins' ruling was intended to send state lawmakers immediately back to the drawing board to satisfy a 6-year-old court order to help 154,000 mostly Latino schoolchildren who are falling behind and in danger of dropping out."


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. My home page is here


Sunday, April 30, 2006


Article by Tina Blue, who teaches English at a large Midwestern university. It sounds like I would be failing 100% of my students if I were teaching there

I have been teaching freshman and sophomore English at a state university since 1972. For part of that time (18 years), I also ran a home day care center; and, I also worked as a substitute teacher in the local elementary schools for a year while continuing to teach at the university.

One of the reasons I closed my day care center in 1999 was that the children who attended were so unsocialized that it became not just difficult but often unpleasant to deal with them for many hours each day. I quit working as a substitute after just one year for a similar reason. The students in the grade schools were so unsocialized that it was difficult to maintain enough control to get through the lessons that I was supposed to teach.

In addition to being poorly behaved and difficult to control, most of the children had also learned that no one was ever supposed to criticize them or to say anything to them other than how wonderful and special they were. Their self-esteem had been bolstered not by their having acquired any knowledge, not by learning to manage their own impulses or to develop any skills or accomplish anything, but rather by indiscriminate praise and a total absence of constructive criticism or honest evaluation of their performance at any task.

During those last few years of daycare, and during that one year as a substitute teacher, I often thought to myself (with more than a little dread) that these children were in the pipeline and we would be getting them in our college classes soon.

I met in my office yesterday with a student who has been coming for conferences a twice a week for the past two and a half weeks. He didn't start coming in for help with his writing until then, just three and a half weeks before the end of the semester. But he wants a good grade (i.e., better than a C, and preferably an A), and he finally realized that it just wasn't happening for him, so now he is coming to see me.

Or at least he was coming to see me. I doubt he will be in my office again this semester. Five minutes into our conference yesterday he snatched the draft of his paper out of my hand, stuffed it into his backpack, and stomped out of my office in disgust. He sent me an email last night saying that the reason he cut our conference short in such a rude way was that no matter how hard he tries I keep criticizing his writing.

I have to admit I have contributed to grade inflation, not willingly, but because of overwhelming pressure from all sides. I don't hand out As and Bs like candy, the way so many teachers do these days, but I do tend to pull my punches at the lower end of the grade scale. I don't give as many Ds and Fs as I used to. In fact, I often put a C- on a paper that would have earned a D from me twenty years ago. Giving a student less than a C- on any sort of writing that is not absolutely illiterate has become virtually impossible, no matter what the flaws in the writing are -- especially since even our best college students now make errors of the sort that would have earned a grade school student an F at one time.

This boy actually got a D+ on his first paper. Let me be honest here: twenty years ago I would have given that paper an F, without any hesitation at all, and I believe that most or all of my colleagues would have done the same. But even putting a D+ on it was difficult in the current atmosphere, and he was obviously upset by having gotten such a grade. (Not upset enough to come in for a conference, of course.)

His second paper was equally weak, but this time he had taken advantage of the opportunity I offer students to turn in a draft before the paper is due, in order to get feedback on it before turning it in for a grade. After seeing the corrections and comments on the draft, he finally decided to come in to see me for help.

During our first few conferences, I went over each sentence to explain in more detail his grammar and usage errors and his stylistic missteps. I also showed him where paragraphs were not developed or where coherence was not maintained within a paragraph or between paragraphs. You know, all the things we are supposed to be teaching students in a composition and literature class. Each time he came in, he would bring another draft of the paper, and each draft would show some improvement over the preceding draft. In other words, our conferences were helping. He was improving his writing.

By improvement I mean that he was writing papers that would get grades within the C range. Remember, his papers were originally bad enough that they would have gotten Fs 20 years ago, and his first paper had gotten a D+ even now, with grade inflation in full effect. But he wasn't happy to hear that he was working in the C range now. He doesn't want a C in the course.

Unfortunately, he also doesn't think he deserves Cs on his papers. He believes he deserves As, and since he has never gotten below an A in any English course or on any English paper, including those he wrote for English 101 and English 102 here at the university where I teach, it seems obvious to him that he is in fact an "A writer," and I am just an unreasonable, hypercritical harpy.

I know why this young man has always gotten As in his English classes. He is very cute and very charming -- that is, as long as you don't cross him. Cross him and he gets pretty nasty.

I have another attractive, charming student in the same class who is also getting Ds on papers, though he has now begun to come in for conferences, and we are making very good progress with his writing. It is late in the semester, so I don't know if he will manage to get better than a C in the course. Frankly, I doubt it, though there are still two essays and the final to write, so it is not outside the realm of possibility that he could pull through with a very low B, especially since I do give credit for obvious improvement, and I do count later work a bit more heavily than early work.

But this boy also tells me that he got an A in English 102 and a B in English 101. His writing did not suddenly become terrible between English 102 and English 210 (my class). It always was terrible. But he was still getting mostly As in English courses, with the occasional B.

How can we teach these kids if they believe, first of all, that we have no right to criticize them, and second of all, that they really deserve all those As they have been getting despite their decidedly substandard work?

And then there is the expectation that we are never supposed to even say anything slightly negative to them about their work (e.g., "I'm sorry, but this paper has too many grammar and usage errors to deserve an above average grade"), but they feel they have the right to treat us rudely, snatching their papers from our hands, stomping out of our offices in a rage, if they are not delighted with the grades we give them or the fact that we actually require them to do their work.

Think about his complaint, "You criticize my writing no mater how hard I try."

How else am I supposed to show him what is wrong with a paper or what isn't working, so that he will be able to fix it or improve it in his next draft? Of course I criticize his work when it is not good enough. That's what teachers do.



Of the five candidates running to succeed Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, all but one have chosen to send their children to private schools. Nothing wrong with that -- millions of parents would move their kids out of public schools tomorrow if they thought they could afford something better. For millions more, government schooling isn't an option in the first place: They would no sooner let the state decide what their children should learn than they would let it to decide whom they should marry.

Earlier this month, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the only Republican in the governor's race, explained in an interview why she and her husband picked a private school for their son and daughter. "I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values," she said -- talk about values, that is, "in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting."

It's hard to see anything objectionable in Healey's words, but they triggered a broadside from Attorney General Thomas Reilly, a Democrat and the only gubernatorial candidate whose children all attended public schools. Healey is "completely out of touch with the lives of regular people," he snapped. "Somehow the perception is that the kids in public schools are not learning the values that they should be learning. . . . Public schools reinforced the values of our home. . . . It was a wonderful experience." Those quotes appeared in The Boston Globe on April 17. Now consider a story that appeared three days later.

On April 20, in a story headlined "Parents rip school over gay storybook," the Globe reported on the latest controversy in Lexington, where school officials committed to normalizing same-sex marriage have clashed with residents who don't want homosexual themes introduced in class without advance parental notice. Last year, a Lexington father named David Parker complained to officials at the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School about the "diversity" curriculum in his son's kindergarten class, which included pictures of families headed by gay and lesbian couples. When he refused to leave the school grounds without being assured that he would be alerted before similar lessons were taught in the future, Parker was arrested for trespassing.

The latest incident, also at the Estabrook School, was triggered when a second-grade teacher presented to her class a storybook celebration of homosexual romance and marriage.

There is nothing subtle about "King & King," the book that Heather Kramer read to her young students. It tells the story of Prince Bertie, whose mother the queen nags him to get married ("When I was your age, I'd been married twice already," she says), and parades before him a bevy of princesses to choose from. But Bertie, who says he's "never cared much for princesses," rejects them all. Then "Princess Madeleine and her brother, Prince Lee," show up, and Bertie falls in love at first sight -- with the brother. Soon, the princes are married. "The wedding was very special," reads the text. "The queen even shed a tear or two." Bertie and Lee are elevated from princes to kings, and the last page shows them exchanging a passionate kiss.

Dismayed by such blatant propagandizing, the parents of one student made an appointment to discuss their concerns with school officials. "This is a highly charged social issue," Robin and Robert Wirthlin told them. "Why are you introducing it in second grade?" Kramer said she had selected the book in order to teach a unit on weddings. When the Wirthlins checked the Lexington Public Library, they found 59 children's titles dealing with weddings, but "King & King" wasn't among them. The library's search engine listed it instead under "Homosexuality -- Juvenile fiction."

Massachusetts law requires schools to notify parents before "human sexuality issues" are taught in class and gives parents the right to exempt a child from that portion of the curriculum. But the Wirthlins' request to be given a heads-up before something as contentious and sensitive as same-sex marriage comes up in their child's class again was rejected out of hand. "We couldn't run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed," Lexington's superintendent of schools, Paul Ash, told the Globe. "Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal."

Reviewing "King & King" for the web site Lesbian Life, Kathy Belge -- who describes herself as a longtime lesbian activist and the director of a queer youth program -- writes that it is "sure to capture a child's imagination" and praises it in particular for its nonjudgmental embrace of homosexuality: "The same-sex attraction is normalized. There's no proselytizing, no big lesson. It just is."

But homosexuality and gay marriage are not like arithmetic or geography; they cannot be separated from questions of morality, justice, and decency. No matter how a school chooses to deal with sexual issues, it promotes certain values -- values that some parents will fervently welcome and that others will just as fervently reject. And what is true of human sexuality is true of other issues that touch on deeply felt religious, political, or ideological values.

When it comes to the education of children, there is always an agenda -- and those who don't share that agenda may find themselves belittled, marginalized, or ignored. Perhaps it was true, as Thomas Reilly says, that the public schools his children attended "reinforced the values of our home." But as the Parkers and Wirthlins in Lexington can testify, other families have a very different experience. When Kerry Healey says she wants her children "to be in an environment where they can talk about values . . . in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting," many public-school parents will understand exactly what she means.

(From Jeff Jacoby)


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. My home page is here