Saturday, September 09, 2006

Four Million Children Left Behind: Forced to attend failing schools in Los Angeles

This city is the main front in the pitched battle over the No Child Left Behind Act. Like many large urban school districts across the nation--though more brazenly--the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is resisting the law's core command: that no child be forced to attend a failing school. In LAUSD, there are over 300,000 children in schools the state has declared failing under NCLB's requirements for adequate yearly progress. Under the law, such children must be provided opportunities to transfer to better-performing schools within the district. To date, fewer than two out of every 1,000 eligible children have transferred--much lower even than the paltry 1% transfer figure nationwide. In neighboring Compton, whose schools are a disaster, the number of families transferring their children to better schools is a whopping zero.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings--whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda--will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action.

In L.A., the district has squelched school choice for children in failing schools by evading deadlines for notifying families of their transfer options; burying information in bureaucratese; and encouraging families to accept after-school supplemental services (often provided by the same district employees who fail to get the job done during the regular school day) rather than transfers. Still, the district insists that the reason for the low transfer numbers is that parents don't want their kids to leave failing schools.

That explanation rings false because, well, it is. The Polling Company surveyed Los Angeles and Compton parents whose children are eligible to transfer their children out of failing schools. Only 11% knew their school was rated as failing, and fewer than one-fifth of those parents (just nine out of 409 surveyed) recalled receiving notice to that effect from the districts--a key NCLB requirement. Once informed of their schools' status and their transfer rights, 82% expressed a desire to move their children to better schools.

The parents were twice as likely to prefer transfers to private schools than to other public schools, but as of yet private school choice is not an option under NCLB. That is a serious defect in the law, because the number of children eligible for transfers in inner-city school districts vastly exceeds the number of seats in better-performing public schools. "We don't have the space," LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer candidly acknowledged. "Think about it. We're 160,000 seats short. Where do you transfer to?"

In response, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and John Ensign and Reps. Buck McKeon and Sam Johnson have proposed adding private options under NCLB for children in chronically failing schools. But for now, the only hope for these kids is for Secretary Spellings to hold the districts' feet to the fire. Last month, Ms. Spellings threatened to withhold federal funds unless the California Department of Education produced a plan by Aug. 15 to facilitate transfers for children in failing schools. That deadline passed with no action.

Meanwhile, Ms. Spellings has granted scores of waivers from NCLB requirements to school districts across the nation. These allow certain districts with failing schools to offer supplemental services to children before offering transfers. This reverses the order Congress stipulated, providing for transfers first and supplemental services only for those children remaining. By bureaucratic fiat, Ms. Spellings has delayed for thousands of children the chance to escape poor schools--and the day of reckoning for districts who are failing their most basic responsibilities.

NCLB can survive the waiver carrots, but only if they are accompanied by a serious stick. Were Ms. Spellings to yank federal funding and make an example of LAUSD, it would be the shot heard round the education world. School districts across the nation finally would have to enlist all possible options--interdistrict transfers, charter schools, private schools--to aid children stuck in failing schools. And, if past experience holds true, those schools finally will have a spur for improvement as their students leave and take funds with them.

But for now, LAUSD is calling Ms. Spellings's rhetoric. The California media seems to agree: Not a single major newspaper has reported on the secretary's threat to withhold federal funds, which if taken seriously ought to constitute front-page news. NCLB is a flawed law in many respects. Still, it may represent the last true hope, at the national level, to ensure that our education system truly leaves no child behind. The establishment is chafing furiously under the tethers of accountability. If these slip away, it is unlikely that any politician will have the courage to buckle them back down again.

For better or worse, the law grants the secretary of education vast discretion in enforcement. But the law itself is clear in command: No child should be forced to endure a failing school for one minute, let alone 12 years. Under this administration's watch, four million children--by the states' own conservative measures--are in schools that have been failing for at least six consecutive years. Ms. Spellings has the power to make sure they are offered a brighter future.

Will she or won't she? Margaret Spellings's actions in the coming days will determine far more than the Bush administration's education legacy. They will determine whether our nation will make good at last on its sacred promise of educational opportunity.



Children in England will have to master their times tables by the age of 8, a year earlier than at present, under reforms of the way children are taught "the three Rs" in primary school. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, said that teachers would also be expected to return to a back-to-basics method of teaching children to read, known as phonics.

The measures, which aim to speed pupils' progress in maths and English, also feature more teaching of mental arithmetic, tighter restrictions on pupils' use of calculators and a new focus on maths as a tool for solving problems encountered in everyday life. There will also be renewed emphasis on improving children's listening and speaking skills. The measures have been produced in response to ministerial concerns that primary pupils' attainment in maths and English, having increased steadily since the introduction of the literacy hour in 1998 and a numeracy framework in 1999, have hit a plateau.

Since 1998 the proportion of children reaching the expected standard, Level 4, has risen from 63 to 79 per cent in English and from 62 to 76 per cent in maths. However, this still leaves more than 20 per cent of children trailing. And figures published two weeks ago showed that the Government had missed its key targets for maths and English results in primary schools. "More needs to be done to address the one in five 11-year-olds still not reaching the standard required of their age in literacy," Mr Johnson said.

There is also a strong feeling among ministers that, in maths, targets are not exacting enough and should be brought forward by a year, to enable children to tackle more complex calculations by the age of 8 rather than 10.

The decision to focus the teaching of reading on synthetic phonics, which involves teaching children individual letter sounds before blending the sounds to form whole words, comes after recommendations early this year from Jim Rose, the former director of inspection at Ofsted. The emphasis now will be on ensuring that children gain basic word-recognition skills by the age of 7, before focusing more fully on comprehension. Children should be able to write their name by the age of 5, compose simple sentences using capital letters and full stops by 6, and write compound sentences and use question marks and commas to separate items on a list by 7. By 8 they should be able to use adjectives, verbs and nouns for precision and impact, and use exclamation and speech marks. At 9 they should be able to use commas to mark clauses and use the possessive apostrophe.

In maths, the emphasis will be on the quick recall of times tables to enable children to move on to more complex mental arithmetic with confidence.

The measures, which will be distributed to schools next month, will be accompanied by an investment of 230 million pounds of professional support for primary head teachers and subject heads in schools. Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools spokesman, welcomed putting synthetic phonics at the heart of teaching reading in the early years of primary school. But Sarah Teather, for the Liberal Democrats, called the reforms too prescriptive.


Quantum leap for physics grads in Australia

Physics students will be in high demand "for the foreseeable future" because of an employee shortfall, according to a leader in the field. Australian Institute of Physics president David Jamieson said prospects were excellent for good graduates and starting salaries reflected this. "The rise of technology shows no sign of ending," said Professor Jamieson, director of the Microanalytical Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. "The number of very big science projects, including the Australian Synchrotron and the new nuclear reactor in Sydney, means that trend will keep on escalating."

Professor Jamieson said demand from universities, industry and government meant there was also a shortage of physics-qualified high school teachers. Starting salaries ranged from about $35,000 in teaching to about $60,000 in research. "But most people aren't in it for the money," he said. "Secondary teaching can be a very rewarding career that has a flexibility that you may not have in research."

Physics graduates commonly completed a BSc, followed by an honours year and a PhD, a process that took 7 1/2 years. s it worth it in the end? "Absolutely," Professor Jamieson said, citing "the excitement of looking at nature at its most fundamental". Physics specialisations came in "different flavours", including nanotechnology, physical chemistry, climate modelling, quantum physics, electromagnetism, thermal physics and astrophysics. "An important point is the diversity of fields where graduates end up," he said.

This year, demand for science professionals increased by 10,139, according to the Department of Education, Science and Training. The department predicts a total demand growth of 55,198 to 2013. AIP Victorian branch secretary Dan O'Keeffe said about 12per cent of Victorian 18-year-olds studied physics in 2005. Participation in the subject peaked in 1992 at about 16per cent, but had fallen steadily since then. In that year, about 22 per cent of male senior secondary students studied physics. Figures for NSW showed a similar profile.



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, September 08, 2006

Schools need competition now

This week's back-to-school ads offer amazing bargains on lightweight backpacks and nifty school supplies. All those businesses scramble to offer us good stuff at low prices. It's amazing what competition does for consumers. The power to say no to one business and yes to another is awesome.

Too bad we don't apply that idea to schools themselves. Education bureaucrats and teachers unions are against it. They insist they must dictate where kids go to school, what they study, and when. When I went on TV to say that it's a myth that a government monopoly can educate kids effectively, hundreds of union teachers demonstrated outside my office demanding that I apologize and "re-educate" myself by teaching for a week. (I'll show you the demonstration and what happened next this Friday night, when ABC updates my "Stupid in America" TV special.)

The teachers union didn't like my "government monopoly" comment, but even the late Albert Shanker, once president of the American Federation of Teachers, admitted that our schools are virtual monopolies of the state -- run pretty much like Cuban and North Korean schools. He said, "It's time to admit that the public education system operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody's role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve. It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."

When a government monopoly limits competition, we can't know what ideas would bloom if competition were allowed. Surveys show that most American parents are satisfied with their kids' public schools, but that's only because they don't know what their kids might have had! As Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek wrote, "[C]ompetition is valuable only because, and so far as, its results are unpredictable and on the whole different from those which anyone has, or could have, deliberately aimed at."

What Hayek means is that no mortal being can imagine what improvements a competitive market would bring. But I'll try anyway: I bet we'd see cheap and efficient Costco-like schools, virtual schools where you learn at home on your computer, sports schools, music schools, schools that go all year, schools with uniforms, schools that open early and keep kids later, and, who knows what?

Every economics textbook says monopolies are bad because they charge high prices for shoddy goods. But it's government that gives us monopolies. So why do we entrust something as important as our children's education to a government monopoly? The monopoly fails so many kids that more than a million parents now make big sacrifices to homeschool their kids. Two percent of school-aged kids are homeschooled now. If parents weren't taxed to pay for lousy government schools, more might teach their kids at home. Some parents choose to homeschool for religious reasons, but homeschooling has been increasing by 10 percent a year because so many parents are just fed up with the government's schools.

Homeschooled students blow past their public-school counterparts in terms of achievement. Brian Ray, who taught in both public and private schools before becoming president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says, "In study after study, children who learn at home consistently score 15-30 percentile points above the national averages," he says. Homeschooled kids also score almost 10 percent higher than the average American high school student on the ACT.

I don't know how these homeschooling parents do it. I couldn't do it. I'd get impatient and fight with my kids too much. But it works for lots of kids and parents. So do private schools. It's time to give parents more options. Instead of pouring more money into the failed government monopoly, let's free parents to control their own education money. Competition is a lot smarter than bureaucrats.


Modern education is anti-majority

We have an interesting situation in a nearby town. A male high school science teacher has begun the process of changing his gender. He informed school officials of his intention last Spring. He has not undergone any of the necessary operations yet. As part of the process, this teacher, who has been at the school for a number of years and is known by the students as a man, will begin dressing as a woman this September when school starts. The district said okay.

The district has now held workshops and meetings for parents and faculty, and will hold one for students the first day of school. So people will understand and accept what is happening.

Parents have the option of requesting that their children not be in this teacher's classroom. A few have. A number of parents have voiced support of the teacher and what he is doing. Those who are not comfortable with the situation have been silent for the most part. But a few who did speak up say they were afraid to say anything because they might be thought prejudiced or be subject to backlash. And they say they know a number of other people who don't like it, but haven't spoken up. But saying that a lot of people oppose it is not the same as those people coming forward. I have no way of telling how many people oppose it. A local columnist, though, did take an informal poll. 71 % of the respondents said the teacher should be fired.

Right, fire a tenured teacher? Obviously they don't know the power of the teacher's unions. (I am a teacher, by the way.) Generally the only way to oust a tenured teacher is if he or she commits a crime. And sometimes even that that is not enough. This does not qualify.

Still, the usual procedure in situations like this - as rare as they are - is for the teacher to transfer to a different school or district where he is not known by his original gender. For his own good and the good of the students. It's not clear why this teacher did not do that. Maybe he just felt more comfortable and supported at the school. Or maybe he is trying to make a statement.

I'm not concerned here with the morality of his decision to change genders. But I have been thinking about his decision to stay in the school and the decision of the district to offer all these workshops and meetings to engender acceptance. And then I remembered an appropriate G. K. Chesterton passage. From "The Outlawed Parent" in What's Wrong with the World:

"Modern education means handing down the customs of the minority, and rooting out the customs of the majority."

Ah. People who switch genders certainly qualify as a minority. And this sure seems like Modern Education at its most typical.



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, September 07, 2006


Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa soon will exercise more control over Los Angeles' deeply troubled school system as result of legislation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign. Similar initiatives in Boston, Chicago and New York City have resulted in some improvement in their school systems. But the real question on the table is why _ given that the future of children is at stake, and hence the future of our country _ do we settle for tepid reform when we need bold and innovative change to make a difference?

Yes, again I am talking about the need for competition in education and for school choice. Freedom, competition and choice are what have produced the world's most powerful economy. Yet the very factors that have made America great, and have distinguished us from the rest of the world, are prohibited from operating in the education marketplace, where we produce our future citizens and workforce. Sure, maybe giving the mayor more control and having more accountability will help in Los Angeles. But does anyone really believe that shifting around bureaucrats in a monopoly controlling 746,000 students and 80,000 employees is really going to make a big difference?

And, perhaps more to the point, will anyone claim this is the best possible answer? And, if not, what does it say about America today if we are allowing interests other than the welfare of children dictate how we manage education? The dropout rate among Latino students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is 60 percent. Among black students it's 57 percent. Average proficiency in English and math is under 30 percent. By the California Department of Education's own Academic Performance Index, 46 percent of elementary schools score 3 or below out of a possible 10, 72 percent of middle schools score 3 or below, and 66 percent of high schools score 3 or below.

As result of a complaint filed by my organization, CURE, along with the Alliance for School Choice, the California Department of Education is investigating compliance of the LAUSD with the school transfer provisions of No Child Left Behind. According to NCLB, students in failing schools must be notified and permitted to transfer to another school. We have found that 250,000, about 30 percent, of the students in the LA system are eligible for such transfers, yet notification is not being given and there have only been only slightly more than 500 transfers.

Given the disaster that is taking place, you would think that the priority in the state would be to consider every possible option to find an optimal solution to educating Los Angeles' children. But this is not the case at all. The measure to give the mayor more authority wound up being watered down as result of pressure from the unions. Plus, in the queue for the governor's signature, along with the bill to give the mayor more power, will be another bill passed by the California State legislature that prohibits teachers, textbooks, instructional materials and all school-sponsored activities from "reflecting adversely" on homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals.

This will certainly do wonders for low-income Latino and black students, who can't read, add, subtract and who have a 50 percent likelihood of not graduating. According to data just released by the Census Bureau, the gap in median income between the top 20 percent in the nation and the bottom 60 percent continues to increase. It's about double what it was 30 years ago. The rewards for education and the penalty for lack thereof are becoming increasingly pronounced. The hole into which Latino and black kids are falling in the Los Angeles school system, and other school systems in our nation's large cities, is one they're never going to be able to crawl out of.

During the last week we were reminded of the face of poverty in America that Hurricane Katrina brought to the nation's TV screens. There was a supposed outrage. But how can there be outrage that is not accompanied by bold measures? The path out of poverty is education. To tolerate incremental change of public education in America, knowing full well that large numbers of inner city kids will not be helped, does not shine flattering light on the moral state of the nation.

In the last week, along with the focus on Katrina, there were retrospectives on the 10th anniversary of welfare reform. Courageous and innovative reform of our welfare system in 1996 produced sweeping and historic change, moving millions from government dependence to work. The reform took place in the face of opposition of the guardians of the status quo. We must address our profound problems in education with similar resolve and boldness. Market based innovation and competition must be allowed to come into play, and we must let parents choose where to send their child to school. To not allow this to happen, to not even give it a chance, particularly in a nation that is supposed to be free, is a moral outrage.



Being myself a successful but uncredentialled former High School teacher, this surprised me not a bit. I would echo every conclusion and recommendation of the article below

In 2003, New York City fired several thousand uncertified teachers. The city was doing its best to comply with a state law, passed a few years earlier, that said only certified teachers could work in public schools. Professor Jonah Rockoff decided to take a look at the performance of these fired teachers. As it turned out, they weren't any less effective, on average, than the certified teachers who remained on staff.

For the past two years, Rockoff has studied the relationship between certification and teacher effectiveness. With his research partners, Thomas Kane of Harvard University and Douglas Staiger of Dartmouth College, he compared how similar students taught by traditionally certified, uncertified and alternatively certified teachers fared on standardized exams from 1999 to 2005. Because of its size and diversity, New York provided the perfect laboratory. "The good thing about New York City is we have so many data points," Rockoff says. "We can tell whether a result is statistically significant or not, even if it's very small."

Almost every state allows its districts to hire alternatively certified teachers, who account for about one-third of all new teachers hired in the United States each year. Though the rules differ by state, alternatively certified teachers typically must have a bachelor's degree, pass state exams, complete special training and, once they begin teaching, enroll in a teaching master's degree program.

In New York, most alternatively certified teachers come from the Teaching Fellows program, which recruits professionals without any prior teaching experience, puts them through a teaching boot camp and sends them off to the classroom. The city also hires alternatively certified teachers through Teach for America, a nonprofit group that places teachers in school districts across the country, and international recruitment. Under the state's emergency provisions, New York is allowed to hire alternatively certified teachers to cope with its perpetual teacher shortage. The city hired more than 50,000 new teachers during the years covered by the study.

To measure the effectiveness of the city's teachers, Rockoff had to control for factors that might make one group of students perform better than another, such as the students' prior test scores. The study focused on grades four through eight, since all students in those grades must complete standardized city exams.

What they found challenged the conventional wisdom about teacher certification requirements. There were no major differences in performance among students taught by traditionally certified, alternatively certified or uncertified teachers. However, Rockoff found that there were wide disparities in effectiveness within each of the teacher groups.

"We're able to measure pretty accurately at the teacher level how students are performing," he says. "Having a highly effective teacher or having a mediocre teacher makes a large difference in student achievement." The difference between having a highly effective and a highly ineffective teacher is about one-quarter of a standard deviation, or about half of the achievement gap between students who are poor and those who are not.

The next step for Rockoff and his colleagues is predicting whether a teacher will be effective or not before the hiring decision is made. So far, researchers have had little success answering this question. For example, Rockoff examined teachers' college grade point averages and the selectivity of the undergraduate institution they had attended. He found little evidence that either is linked to classroom performance, though these are important factors for being accepted into programs like Teach for America.

Rockoff is now working on a follow-up project with incoming New York teachers that will focus on many nontraditional measures, such as personality types and cognitive ability, that may be linked to effectiveness. He will also test whether it is possible to predict effectiveness by studying videotapes of teacher interviews or by observing teachers give a short lesson to a real class. Currently, candidates for both the Teaching Fellows and Teach for America programs must prepare mock a lesson, but they don't actually deliver the lesson to children.

For now, Rockoff suggests that school administrators and policymakers reassess their thinking on teacher qualifications. "Rather than worry about whether a particular teacher has certification or which program they come from, just be worried about whether they're highly effective or not," he says. "That's what really going to make a big difference in student achievement for a district or a school."



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, September 06, 2006


Dear teachers and students, dear principals and counselors, as the new school year begins, let us reflect. Let us reflect on our reflections about reflecting. Let us reflect on the triumph of jargon and buzzwords in the education field. Let us reflect on how a common-sense concept gets glorified as if it were brilliant innovation. Let us reflect on how badly educators need their own equivalent of “Dilbert” or “The Office” to puncture certain overly inflated rhetorical and theoretical bubbles.

To back up for the uninitiated, “reflection” as both word and action may be the trendiest trend in all of education. Education students learn how to be reflective teachers in education school. Then, in their own classrooms, they ask their students to write reflections on what they have read. After class, the teachers do reflections on their own lessons. Principals, administrators, other staff members — all are increasingly urged or even required to engage in reflection.

And what, a lay person might well ask, does reflection mean? A reasonable definition would be “thinking about what you’re doing,” as David F. Labaree, a professor of education at Stanford University, puts it with welcome and all-too-rare clarity. It means pausing to take stock in a journal of how you felt about the short story you just read or figuring out why the lesson you just taught faltered halfway through.

Ah, but to express the notion of reflection so directly is to unclothe the emperor, to remove the wrappings of classicism, intellectual depth, even spirituality from it. The exponents of reflection like to trace its lineage to Descartes, Rousseau, Tolstoy and John Dewey. To which Lynn Fendler, an education professor at Michigan State University, has replied in an article in Educational Researcher magazine that these days the term reflection is “treacle” with a “confusing morass of meanings.”

As Professor Fendler points out, Dewey viewed “reflective thinking” in such classic works as “How We Think,” as a “triumph of reason and science over instinct and impulse.” Seventy years later, reflection has largely become the very thing Dewey wanted to rebel against — the consecration of emotion and feeling. By making every teacher and student the unchallenged arbiter of his or her own achievement, reflection dovetails neatly with progressive education’s preference for process over content and with the confessional, therapeutic strain of American culture.

“ ‘Reflection’ is a loosey-goosey term that sounds deep enough to be acceptable for the image that ed schools want to convey,” said Sandra Stotsky, an education consultant who formerly served as deputy education commissioner in Massachusetts. “It’s a substitute for real good, useful, hard words that used to be prevalent in talking about teacher’s work — critique, evaluation, analysis,” she said. “ ‘Evaluation’ sounds like there are actually some criteria involved. Whereas if you ‘reflect,’ it sounds psychologically deep and relativistic.”

Professor Labaree, author of “The Trouble With Ed Schools,” made a similar point: “Reflection has got this scientific side — let’s step back from automatic behavior and apply theory and facts to it — but it also captures this kind of romantic, naturalistic side of progressivism. That if you get in touch with who you really are, deep inside, you’ll become a more effective teacher. Those two things actually don’t go together.”

While the reflection crowd may trace the movement’s roots to the Enlightenment, the bonanza really began much more recently. The credit (or blame) belongs to a professor and management consultant, Donald Schoen. In his 1983 book “The Reflective Practitioner” and the 1987 sequel “Educating the Reflective Practitioner,” Professor Schoen extolled what he called “reflection-in-action” or “knowledge-in-action” as a form of “teaching artistry.” Instead of studying the research on effective instruction and enacting those precepts in the classroom, Professor Schoen argued, teachers should be “thinking about what they’re doing” and “conducting an action experiment on the spot.” As for the students, he said, “They must plunge into the doing and try to educate themselves.”

When Professor Schoen died in 1997, his impact was being broadly felt, and it has only expanded since then. On one Internet search engine, for instance, the terms “reflection” and “teaching” turned up about 600 times in news articles and broadcasts in 1990 and nearly 4,600 times in 2005. When Professor Fendler of Michigan State surveyed the scholarly literature on reflection, 67 of the 84 works she cited had been published since 1990.

The 2006 conventions of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council of Teachers of English include such panels as “Reflections on and Implications of Research on Adolescents’ Explorations With Everyday Texts,” “Reflections on the Work Lives of Administrators,” “Utilizing Collaboration and Reflection to Develop the Compleat Composition Student” and “Promoting Self-Reflective and Effective Student Writers.”

The more lucid advocates of reflection make the case that it helps students face, understand and correct flaws in their writing. In the form of journals or notebooks, reflection also affords students the chance to respond to works they have read and, in the process, to feel some sense of capability as writers. The better education courses have aspiring teachers reflect while watching videos of themselves delivering lessons. But such concrete applications often feel lost amid the numbing invocations of reflection. Martin Kozloff, a professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and an expert on education jargon, groups “reflection” with such other examples of “fashionable folderol” as “developmentally appropriate practices,” “brain-based instruction,” “higher-order thinking” and “learning styles.”

Deborah Meier, one of the nation’s leading progressive educators, finds reflection’s vogue particularly interesting now, at a time that standardized tests are the dominant measure of academic success. It is a case of lingo as palliative. “Why is the word ‘empowerment’ in proliferation when we’re actually taking more power away from teachers?” she said. “Maybe we’re talking so much about reflection because we have no time to reflect at all.”


Australian university bypasses government exam results

IQ test comeback under another name

Victoria's biggest university is bypassing the VCE and moving to choose some students with aptitude tests. Monash University is running a pilot scheme where up to 500 students from underachieving schools can sit an aptitude test instead of using their ENTER score. Students usually receive a tertiary entrance ranking out of 100 at the end of their VCE and courses require a specific score for entry. But there are concerns ENTER scores do not reflect some students' potential to succeed at university, and students from poorly resourced schools are missing out.

The new exam will be available for undergraduate degrees at Monash's Berwick campus, which include business/commerce, communication and IT. It tests decision making, problem solving, argument analysis and data interpretation. Students from 62 "under represented" schools in the city's southeast, where less than 50 per cent of pupils received a tertiary offer, will be allowed to take the exam. Secondary colleges such as Berwick, Sandringham, Cranbourne, Doveton, Lilydale and Frankston are some of those eligible. Almost 130 students have applied and will sit the exam, known as uniTEST, on September 9. Successful students will be offered places in undergraduate courses before receiving ENTER scores.

Monash admissions manager Kai Jensen said the ENTER score was not always the best measure of future academic success. "We believe in the lower ENTER ranges, aptitude tests may be a better predictor of success at university," Dr Jensen said. He said some deserving students did not get university places because their schools could not compete with wealthier city schools. "There are large inner-city independent and Catholic schools that get a lion's share of the uni places," Dr Jensen said. "We believe that in outlying schools and schools in areas that don't have those resources, there are students that could still do well at university but may not be getting an ENTER score that reflects that."

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Parker said the university's aim of the trial was to admit the best students irrespective of means or circumstance. Dr Jensen said the test, developed by Cambridge Assessment in Britain and the Australian Council for Educational Research, had been used successfully at British universities. He said applicants still had to pass relevant VCE subjects to get in and students would be monitored for 12 months as part of the pilot study.

Education Minister Lynne Kosky's spokeswoman said the test was a good idea because it gave students a chance at university when there might be many reasons why their ENTER score was low.



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, September 05, 2006


At first, Michael Walton, starting at community college here, was sure that there was some mistake. Having done so well in high school in West Virginia that he graduated a year and a half early, how could he need remedial math? Eighteen and temperamental, Mickey, as everyone calls him, hounded the dean, insisting that she take another look at his placement exam. The dean stood firm. Mr. Walton's anger grew. He took the exam a second time. Same result. "I flipped out big time,'' Mr. Walton said. Because he had no trouble balancing his checkbook, he took himself for a math wiz. But he could barely remember the Pythagorean theorem and had trouble applying sine, cosine and tangent to figure out angles on the geometry questions.

Mr. Walton is not unusual. As the new school year begins, the nation's 1,200 community colleges are being deluged with hundreds of thousands of students unprepared for college-level work. Though higher education is now a near-universal aspiration, researchers suggest that close to half the students who enter college need remedial courses. The shortfalls persist despite high-profile efforts by public universities to crack down on ill-prepared students.

Since the City University of New York, the largest urban public university, barred students who need remediation from attending its four-year colleges in 1999, others have followed with similar steps. California State set an ambitious goal to cut the proportion of unprepared freshmen to 10 percent by 2007, largely by testing them as high school juniors and having them make up for deficiencies in the 12th grade. Cal State appears nowhere close to its goal. In reading alone, nearly half the high school juniors appear unprepared for college-level work.

Aside from New York City's higher education system, at least 12 states explicitly bar state universities from providing remedial courses or take other steps like deferred admissions to steer students needing helping toward technical or community colleges. Some students who need to catch up attend two- and four-year institutions simultaneously. The efforts, educators say, have not cut back on the thousands of students who lack basic skills. Instead, the colleges have clustered those students in community colleges, where their chances of succeeding are low and where taxpayers pay a second time to bring them up to college level.

The phenomenon has educators struggling with fundamental questions about access to education, standards and equal opportunity. Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford professor who was a co-author of a report on the gap between aspirations and college attainment, said that 73 percent of students entering community colleges hoped to earn four-year degrees, but that only 22 percent had done so after six years. "You can get into school," Professor Kirst said. "That's not a problem. But you can't succeed.''

Nearly half the 14.7 million undergraduates at two- and four-year institutions never receive degrees. The deficiencies turn up not just in math, science and engineering, areas in which a growing chorus warns of difficulties in the face of global competition, but also in the basics of reading and writing. According to scores on the 2006 ACT college entrance exam, 21 percent of students applying to four-year institutions are ready for college-level work in all four areas tested, reading, writing, math and biology.

For many students, the outlook does not improve after college. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently found that three-quarters of community college graduates were not literate enough to handle everyday tasks like comparing viewpoints in newspaper editorials or calculating the cost of food items per ounce. The unyielding statistics showcase a deep disconnection between what high school teachers think that their students need to know and what professors, even at two-year colleges, expect them to know. At Cal State, the system admits only students with at least a B average in high school. Nevertheless, 37 percent of the incoming class last year needed remedial math, and 45 percent needed remedial English.

More here

Dubious quality of Australian professional childcare

These concerns could easily slide into mindless credentialism. Where is the importance of a kind heart mentioned?

Most childcare workers are trained in a system that lacks rigour and accountability, with no monitoring of the quality of the courses offered. At a time when the federal Government is pushing for a greater educational focus in childcare, early childhood expert Alison Elliott describes the industry as a shambles, with huge variations in the quality of care provided and the quality of carer. Dr Elliott, research director of the early childhood program at the Australian Council for Educational Research and a former early childhood professor, said the links between qualified staff and a good start in life for children were well-established.

Yet only 10 per cent of childcare staff had degree-level qualifications and 30 per cent had no qualification or formal training. Only NSW requires childcare centres to have an early childhood teacher on staff, in centres with more than 29 children, and Queensland requires all staff to have a qualification, which could be as little as a six-month vocational certificate.

Dr Elliott said carers in family daycare were unlikely to have a formal childcare qualification and a three- or four-year-old child in a centre or preschool could be in a group with an untrained person, a worker with a vocational certificate or a teacher. "Imagine if the same inequities existed for five-year-old children in the first year of school, some with qualified teachers and some without," Dr Elliott said. "Imagine in hospitals (where) some three- and four-year-old children have care from qualified medical staff, some don't. "There is a remarkable national silence on the appropriate education, professional preparation and credentials for key education and care staff in childcare, kindergarten and preschool. "Despite recognition of the importance of improving staff qualifications and competence, there is no agreement for a nationally consistent ... framework, no accreditation of early childhood preparation courses, no standards for professional practice and no registration for early childhood educators." In a paper presented recently to a workshop on childcare policy, Dr Elliott said the vocational training was guided by a national approach, but there was no consistency in the way the courses were delivered.

The courses - Certificate III, diplomas and advanced diplomas in children's services - are provided under the auspices of the Australian Qualifications Framework and contain only basic statements of what should be taught, lacking any real detail. The National Training Information Service provides the courses to registered training organisations. But Dr Elliott said no expertise was required to become a registered trainer and hundreds of organisations were registered around the country, with 50 in Queensland alone. Some students had passed the courses without speaking English.

"Gradually, strong, specialist early childhood courses are being eroded," Dr Elliott said. "If recent announcements about universal preschool education are to become a reality, early childhood teacher education capacity in universities will need rebuilding." Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop is pushing for a year of preschool for all children, and given the lack of stand-alone preschools in Australia, experts say most children will have that education in a childcare centre.



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, September 04, 2006

Parents shell out big bucks for private tutors

That the phenomenon is a comment on the inadequacies of regular schools is glided over below

When Casey Ravitz graduated in June from Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, she had spent 14 years in three private schools in New York City. For eight of those years, she had kept weekly appointments with $100-an-hour Manhattan tutors. "I had a lot of friends who were being tutored, too," says Miss Ravitz, 18, an investment banker's daughter who moved to Chicago last month to attend DePaul University. "My last tutor wouldn't let me get away with anything. She was the most helpful person I've ever met."

In New York, where tuition at some private schools will top $30,000 this fall, parents are spending thousands of dollars more on one-on-one instruction. Some teens need extra coaching -- which can cost more than $500 an hour -- to get through chemistry or Franz Kafka. Others seek help to nab the A's required for a seat at Harvard or Princeton universities, says Lisa Jacobson, 47, who started Inspirica Ltd. in 1983 in Manhattan and now employs more than 100 tutors.

About 75 percent of private high school graduates in New York have had some tutoring, says Sandy Bass, editor of Private School Insider, a New York newsletter published five times a year. Rising demand for homework help, which is distinct from prepping for the SAT college entrance exam, has led the city's tutoring companies to add teachers and services. Some also are jacking up prices. On Manhattan's Upper West Side, Allison Baer, 32, who has a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, charges $225 an hour for helping clients as young as 12 with writing skills. Ms. Baer had more business in this year's first half than in all of last year, she says, and will raise her fee by 20 percent next month.

Many parents feel pushed into hiring tutors to offer their children the same advantages as peers, says Boston child psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, whose books include "CrazyBusy" and "The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness." Pressuring children to perform can quash their long-term interest in learning, he says. "It's madness," Dr. Hallowell says. "We are living in an age of incredible anxiety about children maintaining the lifestyle that their parents have achieved."

Ms. Bass says the boom in tutoring is powered in part by Wall Street bonuses, which have been at record levels in the past three years. Bankers at securities firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. cashed a record $21.5 billion in bonus checks last year, according to the New York state comptroller's office. Ms. Bass also credits fierce competition for spots in elite high schools and colleges as the baby boom generation's teenagers create their own demographic bulge. From 2000 to 2004, the number of children ages 10 to 19 in Manhattan jumped 18.7 percent to 128,817, according to U.S. Census data.

The city's 87 independent schools, meanwhile, had 42,320 students last year, 11 percent more than in 2000, the New York State Association of Independent Schools says. "Kids are taking harder courses and filling their schedules with things that help them stand out," Ms. Bass says. "The tutor comes in to help them."

When it comes to pressuring students to achieve in school, New York is the epicenter, says Lloyd Thacker, a former admissions officer at the University of Southern California and founder of the Education Conservancy, an advocacy group in Portland, Ore. "Tutoring is the symptom, and the fact there is so much of it says there is a sickness," he says. "If past trends hold up, it's likely to spread."

Miss Ravitz, an only child who grew up on the Upper East Side, was tutored as a 7-year-old at Trevor Day School on West 88th Street. By the time she graduated from Poly Prep, she had had three more tutors. One helped with essay writing; another, called in when Miss Ravitz was struggling in 10th-grade French, steered her to B+'s in the class, she says. "The tutors were able to help her to buckle down," says her mother, Debbie Dunn, 52. Her daughter's final Poly Prep report card, with two A-'s and one B-, hung on Mrs. Dunn's refrigerator as she helped her pack for college.

Many private schools have loaded their curricula with university-level courses that demand hours of homework from students every night. At Horace Mann School in the Bronx, for example, an honors physics class that covers mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism focuses on teaching students how to prepare scientific papers. At St. Ann's School in Brooklyn, one 12th-grade English class studies novels by Honore de Balzac, Feodor Dostoevski, Henry Fielding, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon and Virginia Woolf. "The pressure is real," says Edith Spiegel, whose daughter, now 20, was tutored while attending the Dalton School on the Upper East Side.

Individual instruction has ramped up all over the U.S. in the past five years, especially in California, Illinois and Texas, says Sandi Ayaz, executive director of the National Tutoring Association (NTA) in Lakeland, Fla. Her organization is based in a state where home-schooled students are spurring demand for tutors. NTA membership, which includes private tutors, companies and others involved in administering educational services, jumped 62 percent to 4,900 this year and has risen almost sixfold since 2001, Miss Ayaz says. In New York, the price and quantity of tutoring surpass other regions of the country, where services go for about $15 to $25 an hour, she says. "New York is on steroids, as usual."


Australia: Exclusive school expels cyber bullies

While government schools lag behind, of course

Five students at an exclusive Sydney boys' school have been suspended or expelled in the past month for cyber-bullying other students on the internet. Computer technicians were called in to track down the perpetrators. The King's School headmaster, Timothy Hawkes, said police and computer technicians could track down students who bullied their peers anonymously on the internet. "Those who continue to bully, intimidate or harass will be removed from the school," Dr Hawkes said. The internet and text messages were new weapons being used to denigrate victims, he said.

Dr Hawkes also said Internet chat rooms were a particular problem because a victim could be bullied by a whole group. "The school has taken a hard line ... because bullying at schools can spread like cancer."

State Opposition education spokesman Brad Hazzard said principals should have the option of suspending students who bullied others on the internet. "If the problem is damaging to students, then suspension should be an alternative available to principals."

In a newsletter to parents last week, The King's School deputy headmaster, Peter Rainey, said King's students had used cyberspace to harass and bully fellow students. "The school has had quite an occurrence of cyber-bullying this term," he said. "Many students from all schools indulge themselves with unfortunate, unsavoury and inappropriate comments in cyberspace."

Federation of Parents and Citizens Association spokeswoman Sharon Roni-Canty said cyber-bullying was on the rise. "It's happening in all schools," Ms Roni-Canty said. "It's treated as chit-chat outside school hours, but it can be as distressing as face-to-face bullying."

The Department of Education added emailing and SMS to its anti-bullying policy last year, but does not keep figures on the number of students suspended for bullying. "Principals can place students on suspension for up to four days for transmitting abuse electronically by email or SMS text messages," a spokesperson said. "If the short suspension does not end the misbehaviour or if the nature of the behaviour is very serious, the principal can suspend a student for up to 20 days."



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, September 03, 2006

SAT Records Biggest Score Dip in 31 Years

The possibility that well-trained older teachers are dropping out and being replaced by dummies isn't mentioned

The first national results from the revamped SAT show the biggest annual drop in reading scores in 31 years and a significant edge for female students over males on the new writing section of the test, the College Board reported yesterday. The report on SAT scores for the high school Class of 2006 illuminated how the introduction of the writing section -- including a much-dreaded essay question -- and revisions to the mathematics and reading sections have changed an assessment tool still used for admissions by most colleges and universities.

The College Board said the average score on the test's critical reading section was down five points and the average math section score was down two points, for a joint score of 1021, the lowest since 2002. The reading decline was the largest since a nine-point drop in 1975 on what was then known as the verbal section.

Average scores for public and private school students in Maryland, Virginia and the District also declined. Maryland had the largest drop, eight points in reading and six in math. As a possible factor, state officials cited a large jump in test participation among Baltimore students who had not completed a rigorous high school curriculum. Officials noted that SAT scores are nearly always higher in more affluent areas, and that participation rates can affect scores.

On the new writing section, the average score nationwide was 497, for a new total average of 1518 out of a possible 2400 points. That benchmark will help students, guidance counselors and college admissions officers nationwide gauge results for a test that previously had a perfect score of 1600 -- 800 for verbal and 800 for math. The average writing score for females was 502, 11 points ahead of males, at 491. Female students generally do worse on math tests but better on writing tests, and the new section helped reduce the usual male lead on the overall average SAT score from 42 points to 26.

College Board officials blamed the national drop in scores on a parallel decline in the number of students taking the test more than once. Repeat test-taking, they said, can boost scores as much as 30 points combined for reading and math. Officials also said they were concerned that students are taking fewer composition and grammar courses. They noted that reading scores have stagnated during the past 30 years. But they rejected the view of many students, counselors and test-prep teachers that lower scores were the result of fatigue from the longer test. At 3 hours and 45 minutes, the SAT can last more than four hours with breaks. "I am not suggesting that students aren't tired after the test," Wayne Camara, College Board vice president for research and analysis, said at a news conference in Washington, "but our data show conclusively that student performance does not trail off at the end of the test."

Anita Kinney, a Catholic University freshman who was one of nearly 1.5 million high school seniors who took the new SAT, said it was ridiculous to discount exhaustion. "The test is four hours long. Enough said," she said. "The members of the College Board obviously have not sat down and taken the new SAT." David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said many counselors are lobbying for more breaks in the test, or for administering the SAT in smaller chunks over two days. The College Board, a nonprofit based in New York that sponsors the SAT and other tests, said it is studying those requests.

More here


Isn't the real question why college students were sleeping at noon on a Monday?

"At about noon on Oct. 11, 1999, plaintiff was asleep on the bed when his pager went off," the court ruling reads. "The pager was on the 'desk, or dresser area, below the bed.' Plaintiff did not hear the pager at first, but his roommate, who also had been sleeping, woke up and yelled to plaintiff to 'turn ... off' the pager." Startled, the plaintiff - a 21-year-old senior at Stockton State College in New Jersey - fell off the bed and dislocated his shoulder.

He went to the student healthcare center, wore a sling for a few weeks and started sleeping up against the wall. And he sued the bed company for not warning him about the dangers of falling out of a loft bed 6 feet off the ground.

A New Jersey state appeals court recently threw out the $179,001 jury verdict that the student won. A "reasonably prudent person" wouldn't see a need to "warn users of beds sold for use by college students about the obvious and generally known risks," such as falling off, said the three-judge appellate panel. The judges no doubt could see college students guffawing at such warnings as "don't stick your head in a bucket full of water," "don't surf down dorm hallways on roller chairs" and "don't wear plastic dry-cleaning bags as face masks" - and then ignoring those ... along with the truly helpful ones.


Australia: Reasons for low teacher quality

The teaching profession has been shoved into the spotlight by a disturbing new study that finds the quality of teachers has plummeted in the past 20 years. It also has reignited debate on the mounting pressures teachers face. The Australian Nation University study released this week found that in 1983 teachers were in the top 26 per cent of high school graduates in terms of literacy and numeracy. By 2003, they were only in the top 39 per cent. Even more alarmingly, the number of very high achievers had halved, while the ranks of poor performers had doubled.

Both federal Education Minister Julie Bishop and her Opposition counterpart Jenny Macklin are looking at performance-based pay incentives as a means of halting the decline. During a visit to Brisbane this week, Ms Bishop said that teachers in better-off schools would not benefit at the expense of those in "tough" schools. She said a suitable formula for measuring teacher performance could be found despite the vastly different challenges faced by teachers in a variety of different schools.

Unions and parents' groups are sceptical, however. "Mention that (performance bonuses) to a teacher working with a class of special education students and they'd laugh in your face," Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said.

The ANU study concluded that falling wages relative to other professions was a key factor behind falling standards. "Compared with non-teachers with a degree, average teacher pay fell by more than 10 per cent during the period 1983 to 2003," it said. But the ANU researchers conceded that attracting the best school leavers was about more than money.

Serving and retired teachers contacted by The Courier-Mail listed student discipline, fears of false sexual harassment claims, workloads and lack of resources as reasons for the difficulty in enticing quality recruits.

Surprisingly, the No.1 complaint was a perceived drop in their status. None of them agreed to speak on the record for fear of upsetting Education Queensland or private employers, but their claims and other evidence suggested verbal abuse and assault by students was a major concern. In the four terms to mid-2004, for example, an average of four students a day were expelled from state schools for breaches of discipline and school rules.

Staffing levels continued to play on their minds despite recent recruitment drives. Despite all those woes, tertiary cut-off scores showed "good" courses still managed to attract quality graduates. Griffith University has managed to buck the trend to lowering entry scores for teaching places, which it puts down to a reputation for quality training. Dean of education Claire Wyatt-Smith said the market voted with its feet. "While the course content is heavily informed by education research, it has a strong practical component," Professor Wyatt-Smith said. "Students spend a day a week in classrooms early in their training."



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