Saturday, March 24, 2007


Below is their excuse for banning the talk on Islam by Dr Kuenzel. Immediately below that is a response exposing the lies in the "explanation"

As the responsible officer, I write in response to your message to the Vice-Chancellor.

Dr Kuentzel's proposed public lecture last Wednesday evening was cancelled neither for any reason of censorship nor because of pressure from any interest group. It was cancelled because the organisers did not give us enough notice to provide the normal level of portering, stewarding and security (around twenty people in total) for such an event.

It is simply not true that we somehow capitulated to threats or complaints. As a matter of fact, we received no threats, and only a handful of complaints - fewer indeed than for a talk delivered on our campus the previous evening by an Israeli diplomat. The talk by the Israeli diplomat went ahead; the difference was that the organisers (the University's Jewish Society) told us about that talk the week before and worked with us to make the necessary arrangements.

Assuming that we are given enough notice, and appropriate logistical information, I know of no reason why Dr Kuentzel should not deliver his lecture in Leeds at a future date.

For the record, and despite press reports to the contrary, the University did not in any way seek to prevent two other talks by Dr Kuentzel on (I believe) the same theme: as internal academic seminars, they did not require the same level of support as a large public meeting.

I would refer you to a statement on the University's website ( ).

Yours sincerely

Roger Gair

Comment by Dr. Matthias Kuentzel on the above:

First of all I have to emphasize that I never got a written or even verbal explanation by Mr. Gair or by the office of the University's vice-Chancellor as to why my talk on Islamic antisemitism had been canceled on the very day I arrived in Leeds. No one responsible for the cancellation ever apologized. The University of Leeds did not and does not treat me like an invited guest speaker, but like someone unwelcome who just makes mischief - quite an unpleasant experience.

Against this background, I was confronted with conflicting information with respect to the two seminars scheduled as follow-up events to my public talk. A press officer told me that only my public talk was cancelled. Faculty members of the German department told me that these seminars were cancelled as well. I finally gave these seminars at a location off the University grounds. Many faculty members and students of the University nevertheless participated. The statement by Roger Gair "The other two events [the seminars] are going ahead as planned" (see Times, March 16) was simply not true.

Roger Gair's statement of March 19 is as inconsistent as his press release of March 15.

1. His comparison of my talk with the talk of an Israeli diplomat is completedly misleading, since I am not a diplomat (with all the security requirements that such a status implies) but an academic.

2. He admits that the University in my case "received no threats, and only a handful of complaints". Why then has my "lecture been cancelled on safety grounds . to protect the safety of participants in the event" as his press release says? Why then did Mr. Gair demand that "around twenty people in total" or - in his press release four days earlier - "around 30 people in all" had to be in place just for security reasons?

3. His assertion that the organisers of my talk "did not give us enough notice" to provide for this amount of security staff is misleading, since my talk in Leeds had been scheduled four month earlier and the publicity for it had been out of weeks.

4. It was not my lecture which came to the University's "attention less then 36 hours before it was due to take place" - as his press release asserts - but rather some E-mails by Muslim students who asked the University only on March 13 to "provide a solution . by cancelling the lecture all together" and to "apologize to the Muslim Community as a whole, for suggesting such a topic."

That is why I cannot find the Secretary's claim that my public lecture "was cancelled neither for any reason of censorship nor because of pressure from any interest group" convincing. Instead, there are many indications that the University anticipated potential protests before they ever happened and thus practiced self-censorship.

More here

Australia: Federal Leftist leader warns far-Left on hatred of private schools

Kevin Rudd has broadened his campaign to move Labor to the political centre with an aggressive defence of his policy not to cut government funding to private schools, which he says is a fact of life. The Labor leader has used his own story - starting in public education and later moving to a private school and back again - to argue Labor must recognise that parents will move students between different types of schools according to needs and interests.

Mr Rudd and his education spokesman, Stephen Smith, promised this week that private schools would not lose money - a policy designed to bury Mark Latham's "hit list" of private schools in 2004 and Kim Beazley's freeze on funding of rich schools in 2001. The blunt message is one of a series of steps being taken by the Labor leader during the first half of the year to drag the party away from some of its historic left-wing pillars and create a less intimidating face for mainstream voters.

The next move will be on indigenous policy, with the ALP party conference in four weeks' time to debate a fundamental shift that will put economic development for Aboriginal people at its core. The same conference will be asked to junk opposition to the privatisation of Telstra - a critical part of delivering Mr Rudd's $4.7 billion broadband package - and to end the 25-year prohibition on new uranium mines.

The Left is set to come under further pressure over its opposition to Mr Rudd's move to scrap Labor's no-new-mines policy after Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie yesterday reversed his opposition to allow further uranium mining in his state. Mr Beattie relented after accepting advice that uranium mining would not threaten Queensland's coal industry. The move paves the way to open up $3.2 billion worth of uranium deposits. This leaves only the Labor states of Western Australia and NSW still opposed to new uranium mines.

Mr Rudd yesterday outlined his centrist credentials during a speech in support of Morris Iemma's bid to be re-elected as NSW Premier this weekend. "What we offer is a balance of fairness and flexibility," he said. "It's the Labor way. We know what it takes to grow businesses. We know what it takes to expand the economy. "We've been in this business for a long, long time. "But we are never prepared to sacrifice the interests of working families, as the Liberals seem to think is the only way ahead. "So the choices, friends, are stark. The choices are stark when it comes to the future provision of public services."

At a caucus meeting on Tuesday, several speakers responded to the education announcement by asking for a Labor focus on the public school sector. Former teacher and ACTU president Jenny George, and NSW colleagues Sharon Bird and Julia Irwin said Labor must be seen as a strong supporter of government schools. Mr Rudd is believed to have lectured the caucus, reminding MPs that Labor's endorsement of Robert Menzies's 1963 decision to give public funds to private and religious schools was made more than 30 years ago by Gough Whitlam.

Labor should forget about distinctions between the public and private sectors and instead talk in terms of equal opportunity. The party did not want two tiers of schools to develop, the leader argued. "He was almost spelling it out to them slowly and deliberately, 'Get used to it'," a Labor insider said.

The present ALP platform says Labor governments must give priority to the public sector, and that priority is seen as an important means to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Others at the meeting said they were worried that the coverage of education policy always ended up focused on private schools, presenting a false emphasis in voters' minds. However, the speakers did not directly attack the party policy announced by Mr Rudd and Mr Smith, which stipulates that private schools will not lose money. But sources said Mr Rudd regarded the demands from Labor members that he talk up the government schools as showing a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.

The education move has parallels with the decision to dump Labor's opposition to privatising Telstra. That change allowed the party on Wednesday to propose a $4.7billion rollout of advanced broadband services, paid for in part with money drawn from the Future Fund, which holds billions of dollars worth of Telstra shares.

Both strategies give Mr Rudd a way of developing a new centrist policy while pushing the Howard Government further to the Right. "We say there's a role for government," Mr Rudd said yesterday in reference to the funding approach for broadband. "They (the Coalition) say there is no role. The choice is as stark as that. "We come from a different set of ideas, which says public services are a normal part of the fabric of Australian life and we are the party which delivers it. They are the party which gets rid of them. That's the choice."

Labor insiders fear the decision to take money from the Future Fund has left Mr Rudd vulnerable to attacks by Peter Costello on the Opposition's economic credentials. But the Treasurer's assault in regards to raids on the Future Fund will be blunted by a new Treasury report revealing the ageing of the population is becoming far less menacing.

Ms George and Ms Bird did not comment yesterday on the caucus meeting, but Mrs Irwin said she was happy to hear Mr Rudd say he wanted to create a world-class education system for all. Labor's policy, which is to create a needs-based formula but also to continue indexation of grants for wealthy schools, has been welcomed by the Independent Schools Association and the Independent Education Union. The Australian Education Union, which represents government schools, believes there is still an imbalance in the present funding arrangements, under which public schools receive about 35 per cent of the federal funds while educating about 70 per cent of the students. Private schools receive little taxpayer support from state governments.


One Australian State Government faces up to illiteracy among older kids

READING and writing coaching will be offered to Years 6 and 7 after students fell below accepted standards. Education Minister Rod Welford said yesterday that Education Queensland would pay teachers $54 an hour, the supply teaching rate, to conduct the intensive coaching after school. "We will be alerting parents that their students have fallen below Year 5 benchmarks and that we can give them this assistance," Mr Welford said. "It is absolutely essential that they improve their skills before they reach secondary school or they will be unable to handle secondary subjects."

The most recently released National Report on Schooling in Australia showed that Queensland children are the nation's best readers in Year 3, but by Year 5 they descend to being almost the worst, second only to Northern Territory children. In Year 3, when Queensland children are younger than many of their southern counterparts, 97 per cent achieved the national reading benchmark. However, by Year 5 only 83 per cent of Queensland children reached the benchmark. The latest set of assessments is due out next week.

Mr Welford said international data showed that Queensland's best primary school readers and writers were on a par with children in Finland, which was the best performing nation in the world on literacy. "However, we have a very long tail of students who are not making the grade, a very wide gap between the most able and least able students," Mr Welford said.

The move was welcomed yesterday by Ken Rowe, research director of the Learning Processes research program at the Australian Council for Educational Research. "It's never too late," Dr Rowe said. He said experience in Melbourne had shown that an hour of weekly expert coaching could make a real difference to students' ability to read and therefore to learn all subjects. "It is the foundation," he said. However, Dr Rowe, who chaired the Federal Government's 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, said intervention should ideally start with some students as early as Year 3, as soon as problems were identified.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Any mention of Christianity is "pollution" in Oregon

No doubt mention of Islamic thinking would have been right and proper, though

During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood. That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the teacher Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution. "I think his performance was not just a little bit over the line," board member Jeff Smith said. "It was a severe contradiction of what we trust teachers to do in our classrooms."

Helphinstine, 27, said in a phone interview with The Bulletin newspaper of Bend that he included the supplemental material to teach students about bias in sources, and his only agenda was to teach critical thinking. "Critical thinking is vital to scientific inquiry," said Helphinstine, who has a master's degree in science from Oregon State. "My whole purpose was to give accurate information and to get them thinking." Helphinstine said he did not teach the idea that God created the world. "I never taught creationism," he said. "I know what it is, and I went out of my way not to teach it."

Parent John Rahm told the newspaper that he became concerned when his freshman daughter said she was confused by the supplemental material provided by Helphinstine. "He took passages that had all kinds of Biblical references," Rahm said. "It prevented her from learning what she needed to learn."

Board members met with Helphinstine privately for about 90 minutes before the meeting. The teacher did not stay for the public portion. "How many minds did he pollute?" Dan Harrison, the father of a student in Helphinstine's class, said at the meeting. "It's a thinly veiled attempt to hide his own agenda."


Who Should Pay for Security at Controversial University Events?

Post below lifted from The Volokhs

Last month, the UCLA Objectivist club, L.O.G.I.C., tried to put on a debate about immigration, between Carl Braun of the Minutemen and Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute. As it happens, L.O.G.I.C. and Brook are strongly pro-immigration; nonetheless, the event led to a post on IndyMedia aimed at organizing a protest that "shut . . . down" the debate, on the grounds that "[h]ate speech is not free speech." That in turn led to the event being canceled: According to UCLA,

The security arrangements that were made prior to the event with the support of LOGIC were deemed insufficient due to the significant threat posed against one of the speakers and the large amount of off-campus promotion for what was to be a student sponsored event for the UCLA Community. The costs to adequately secure the venue were estimated to be $10 - $12 thousand and it was highly unlikely at such short notice that our UCPD could provide the adequate security coverage.

UCLA's original position was that L.O.G.I.C. had to pay the $10-12,000 in security costs when the event was rescheduled. To its credit, UCLA has retreated considerably; Acting Chancellor Norm Abrams (a colleague of mine at the law school) wrote,

The university understands its obligation to bear the reasonable security costs relating to demonstrations that might result in response to controversial speech. It was not appropriate for campus representatives to suggest that the student group would be obligated to pay for additional security needed because of a protest that was anticipated. The students will not, in fact, be charged for additional security associated with anticipated demonstrators when the event is rescheduled and occurs.

Unfortunately, this apparently referred only to the police security costs (which I should note are the great majority of the costs). UCLA will still require the student group to pay for private security guards, chiefly to be present inside — to eject hecklers, to deter hecklers and hooligans, and to make other students feel safe. The guards cost about $20/hour per guard, and for a 1.5-hour debate they'd need to be present for about 3 hours. The required number of guards will turn on the protests' likely magnitude and nature of the protests, which in turn flow from the viewpoint of one of the debaters.

I couldn't get a good estimate of how many guards would likely be needed (that apparently won't be available until the school consults again with the club and with the UC Police Department), but if 20 were required, that would end up costing $1200 or so, not a small amount for a student group. The group would have to get outside funding for that, though it's possible that UCLA student government would defray some of that from funds available to student groups. (I'm told by the UCLA people that historically the government has offered anywhere from a very small amount to a bit above $1000 for events generally. In principle the student government must be viewpoint-neutral in its funding decisions, but I'm not sure how it is in practice, and in any event such a requirement is very hard to enforce in discretionary judgment such as student government funding decisions.) L.O.G.I.C. reports that they have rescheduled the debate for May 1, and that they will be able to fund the security guards; but they will bear a cost, and a cost that stems from the possibility that thugs will try to disrupt the event.

So those are what seem to me to be the facts. Now to my thoughts on how the First Amendment and academic freedom principles play out here.

1. If the event took place in a traditional public forum, such as on a sidewalk or in a park, the government would not be allowed to charge organizers money (or require organizers to spend money) when the amount was based on the expected public reaction to the speech. That's the holding of Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), which struck down a permitting scheme that did turn on the likely security costs:

The fee assessed will depend on the administrator's measure of the amount of hostility likely to be created by the speech based on its content. Those wishing to express views unpopular with bottle throwers, for example, may have to pay more for their permit.

Although [the county] agrees that the cost of policing relates to content, it contends that the ordinance is content neutral because it is aimed only at a secondary effect — the cost of maintaining public order. It is clear, however, that, in this case, it cannot be said that the fee's justification "'ha[s] nothing to do with content.'"

The costs to which petitioner refers are those associated with the public's reaction to the speech. Listeners' reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.... This Court has held time and again: "Regulations which permit the Government to discriminate on the basis of the content of the message cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment."

2. Nonetheless, this event would not take place in a traditional public forum, which must remain open for untrammeled public speech. It is to take place in a university building that the university has opened up to student speech. Such a building is a "designated public forum," and while viewpoint-based restrictions are generally impermissible even in a designated public forum, content-based or speaker-based limitations on the forum (e.g., "we'll open this forum only for curriculum-related speech," "we'll open this forum only for student-run groups," or likely "we'll open this forum only for speech that doesn't involve profanity") are permissible.

Would fees or spending requirements based on the likely response to a group's viewpoints be viewpoint-based, and thus unconstitutional even in a designated public forum? Or would they just be content-based limitations on the forum and thus constitutional, since the university doesn't care at all about the debaters' viewpoints as such but only about the possible misconduct that the debaters may arouse among their enemies? I think the answer is that they would be viewpoint-based and therefore impermissible, but the viewpoint-based/viewpoint-neutral distinction is notoriously vague and underdefined in cases such as this one, so the answer is not clear.

3. But it seems to me that regardless of the First Amendment outcome, academic freedom principles should lead the university to pay all the security costs itself. It looks like L.O.G.I.C. will be able to pay for the private security; but many groups might not be able to, and even L.O.G.I.C. might not be able to pay if the expected counterprotest is large enough. Sometimes, the thugs' threatened disruption would get the event shut down, or at least moved off campus to a park.

So the question is: Should the university let the thugs drive debate on important and controversial issues off the university campus? I think the answer is that it should not.

I sympathize with the desire to save money that could be used for other academic purposes. I sympathize with the concern about violence (though I think it's to the university's credit that it will pay the great majority of the costs of deterring and containing the possible violence, rather than blocking the event or requiring student groups to pay for police protection).

Still, it seems to me most important that the university take a stand, even at some cost, in favor of protecting free speech and against those who are threatening to disrupt the speech. If the university doesn't do it, and the thugs win, that will just promote more thuggery in the future. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.

Recall also that, thanks to Chancellor Abrams' sound decision to provide police protection at UC expense, the debate now is over sums that are relatively modest for the university. But the sums are not modest for the groups involved, and may in fact lead to some events' being canceled. If $1000-2000 extra for the relatively rare event that requires a good deal of security is the price to be spent for defending free debate at the university against the goons, that seems to me a price the university should be willing to pay

Australia: Another Leftist speaks up for a return to educational standards

REVIEW of "Dumbing Down" by Kevin Donnelly. Review by much-published Leftist historian Ross Fitzgerald . He writes that Kevin Donnelly is a first-class polemicist hammering the postmodernists wrecking Australian schools

AS a liberal-humanist and member of the Left, I still find it disconcerting that so-called progressivists continue to oppose selective schools, unambiguous academic standards and the teaching in our schools of distinct disciplines such as history, geography, science, mathematics and English. This is because, for the working class, high-quality education represents the most effective avenue for social mobility and for ascending the ladder of economic and intellectual opportunity.

Kevin Donnelly is a first-class polemicist in the best sense of that word. In his regular contributions to The Australian, his provocative book Why Our Schools are Failing (2004) and now in Dumbing Down, he focuses attention on the pernicious effects of outcomes-based and politically correct curriculums and the impact of the so-called culture wars on our primary and secondary schools and, by implication, ouruniversities.

For the record, Donnelly and I were both on a committee appointed by then federal education minister Brendan Nelson to introduce the teaching of civics in our schools. Unlike Donnelly, I am a member of a committee reporting to Education Minister Julie Bishop, which oversees the teaching of values in our schools.

In Dumbing Down, Donnelly is particularly strong in dealing with the teaching of history and English. With regard to Australian history, it is difficult to disagree with his contention that many students leave school "with a fragmented and superficial understanding of the past".

He usefully reminds us what the distinguished conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey actually said in his now famous-notorious 1993 John Latham memorial lecture. Blainey argued that what he termed the black-armband view of Australian history "might well represent the swing of the pendulum from a position that had been too favourable, too self-congratulatory, to an opposite extreme that is even more unreal and decidedly jaundiced". Blainey in fact acknowledged that the stories, contributions and sufferings of women, indigenous Australians and of non-Anglo-Celtic migrants had too often been ignored. Hence he maintained that "it is wrong to ignore the sins of the past and that what is needed is a balance between celebrating our achievements and acknowledging our past mistakes".

Donnelly is also right on the money when he discusses the deleterious effects of English departments in Australian universities being recast as centres for cultural studies and of school children no longer required to be taught the basic rules of spelling, grammar and syntax. He rightly accepts that there is "a certain amount of truth in the argument that education can be used as an instrument to enforce control and to impose a one-sided view of the world". As Blainey acknowledged, the way Australian history was taught in our schools in the 1950s and '60s "undervalued indigenous history and uncritically promoted Australia's British heritage and the benefits of Empire". At the same time, it is important to stress that the rules of grammar and syntax, and of basic mathematics, remain the same "whether taught by a socialist or a capitalist".

In his 1869 article, On General Education, no less a person than Karl Marx argued that "Nothing (should) be introduced either in primary or higher schools that admitted of party and class interpretation. The rules of grammar, for instance, could not differ, whether explained by a religious Tory or a free thinker."

Sometimes Donnelly's stress on proper style and correct spelling, grammar and syntax comes back to bite him: too often in Dumbing Down he resorts to the worn-out phrase "of course" and once at least refers to "its principle conclusions".

Nevertheless, he usefully attacks the stupidity of entrenched notions of cultural relativism, which maintain that there is nothing inherently worthwhile about particular cultures and that all cultures are of equal worth. As he argues, this approach "ignores the fact that some cultural practices such as female circumcision, misogynism and sati (where wives throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres) are unacceptable in the West and that values such as tolerance, compassion, the rule of law and being committed to a free and open society are culturally specific."

Both the Coalition Government under John Howard and the ALP under Kevin Rudd have rightly nominated education as a key issue leading up to this year's federal election. It behoves us all as citizens and parents to ask, for example, why it is that competition and academic excellence, a belief in our best students being rewarded and in the central importance of an intellectually rigorous academic curriculum are so often attacked by educationalists as "elitist and socially unjust".

To the contrary, an understanding of the basic building blocks of science, mathematics, history, geography and English is the surest launching pad for culturally and economically disadvantaged children, as is an education system whose standards are assured via competitive examinations, discipline-based curriculums and more formal methods of teaching.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dumbing-Down of America

Fifty years ago this October, Americans were jolted by the news that Moscow, one year after drowning the Hungarian Revolution in blood, had put an 80-pound satellite into Earth orbit. In December, the U.S. Navy tried to replicate the feat. Vanguard got four feet off the ground and exploded, incinerating its three-pound payload. America was humiliated. Khrushchev was Man of the Year. Some of us yet recall the Vanguard newsreels and the humiliating laughter.

Stunned, America went to work to improve education in math and science, and succeeded. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of high school seniors began to rise, reaching a high in 1964. However, test scores for high school students have been falling now for 40 years. In 1984, the Reagan administration issued "A Nation at Risk," documenting the deterioration of American public education.

More trillions of dollars were thrown at the problem. And if one judged by the asserted toughening up of courses and rising grades of seniors, it appeared we had made marvelous progress. On March 4, The Washington Times reported: "In 2005, 17 percent of graduates had completed a 'standard' curriculum, 41 percent completed a 'midlevel' curriculum, and 10 percent completed a 'rigorous' curriculum. Fifteen years earlier, the percentages were 9 percent (standard), 26 percent (midlevel) and 5 percent (rigorous). Grade point averages (GPA) increased, as well. The average overall GPA increased from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 (virtually a B level) in 2005.

However, it is all a giant fraud, exposed as such by the performances of high school seniors on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams known as the "nation's report card." An NAEP test of 12th-grade achievement was given to what The New York Times called a "representative sample of 21,000 high school seniors attending 900 public and private schools from January to March 2005." What did the tests reveal?

-- Since 1990, the share of students lacking even basic reading skills has risen by a third, from 20 percent to 27 percent.

-- Only 35 percent of high school seniors have reached a "proficient" level in reading, down from 40 percent.

-- Only 16 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic students had reached a proficient level in reading.

-- Among high school seniors, only 29 percent of whites, 10 percent of Hispanic students and 6 percent of black students were proficient in math.

This is only the half of it. Among the kids whose test scores on reading and math were not factored in were the 25 percent of white students and 50 percent of black and Hispanic kids who had dropped out by senior year. Factor the dropouts back in, and what the NAEP test suggests is that, of black kids starting in first grade, about one in eight will be able to read at the level of a high school senior after 12 years, and one in 33 will be able to do the math. Among Hispanic kids, one in 10 will be able to read at a high-school senior level, but only one in 20 will be able to do high-school math.

Yet, as columnist Steve Sailor writes on, the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind Act mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014." We're not going to make it. We're not even going to come close.

Why are so many Americans ignorant of the depths of failure of so many schools? As Sailor explains, it is due to government deceit. "Not surprisingly, practically ever single state cheats in order to meet the law" mandating a rising academic proficiency. "For example, Mississippi ... recently declared that 89 percent of its fourth-graders were at least 'proficient' in reading. "Unfortunately, however, on the federal government's impartial National Assessment of Education Progress test, only 18 percent of Mississippi students were 'proficient' or 'advanced.'"

Hence, a huge slice of the U.S. educational establishment is complicit in a monstrous fraud that, if you did it in business, would get you several years at the nearby minimum security facility. This is corruption. Teachers are handing out grades kids do not deserve. States are dumbing-down tests to make themselves look good. Voters are being deceived about how much kids are learning. There is no real moral distinction between what teachers and educators are doing on a vast scale and what professional athletes do on a smaller scale when they take steroids to enhance performance.

As The Washington Times noted, according to the Digest of Education Statistics, spending for public education, in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, rose from $6,256 a year per student before "A Nation at Risk" to $10,464 in the 2002-2003 school year. Taxpayers have thus raised their annual contribution to education by a full two-thirds in real dollars in a quarter century. More than generous.

Under George W. Bush, U.S. Department of Education funding has risen 92 percent in six years, from $35.5 billion in 2001 to $68 billion in 2007. Sinking test scores are what we have to show for it. Taxpayers are being lied to and swindled by the education industry, which has failed them, failed America and flunked its assignment -- and should be expelled for cheating.


Why governments should run schools -- NOT

A cautionary tale from the Australian State of NSW

PRINCIPALS have resorted to conducting a survey of up to 300 public schools to uncover a 10-year backlog of maintenance problems that the NSW Education Department has been fighting to hide. Public schools have been forced to put up with 10 years of stinking, blocked toilets and threadbare carpets and four years of termite infestation and raised asphalt in playgrounds, the survey by the Public Schools Principals Forum has found.

The State Government is refusing to release a document which reveals how school maintenance programs were suspended at a time it was pouring $1.6 billion into the Olympic Games. In a document called the Asset Maintenance Plan, written in 1998, the Education Department estimated the cost of repairs needed in schools around the state and rated them in order of priority. But nine years later the department still insists it is secret and has refused repeated freedom-of-information requests to release it, and rejected the Herald's request last week.

When asked whether money had been diverted from school maintenance and capital works to the Olympics, the Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, said it was a "popular theory". She admitted that repairs had been delayed to make way for other priorities within the state budget over the past 10 years. And she acknowledged that school maintenance was a problem with "a backlog we haven't managed to get on top of". "It has caught up, and we need to address it. That's why we have put in an extra $120 million over four years on top of our existing commitment," she said.

The department refused to release the Asset Maintenance Plan, 1998-2003, after The Sun-Herald lodged a freedom-of-information request for it in 1999. It claimed then, as it did last week after the Herald lodged another request, that the document was exempt because it had been prepared for submission to cabinet.

In 1999, Brian Chudleigh, then the chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, raised concerns about the poor physical state of public schools and questions about how much maintenance spending for schools had been put on hold to build Sydney's Olympic stadiums. Mr Chudleigh, who was principal of Robert Townson Primary School, said it was "the best-kept secret in town". "All principals were told back then was that there is no money for school repairs," he said. "We invested millions in the Olympics and perhaps that's why so much of the school infrastructure has been allowed to run down."

The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Jim McAlpine, said the public should know how much money earmarked for education had been spent on the Olympics.

Mr Chudleigh, once again the chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, which conducted the survey, said principals were insulted by the low priority the Government had given to basic repairs. Last week the Government pledged $158 million over four years on equipping each school with an interactive whiteboard. It will spend an extra $120 million over four years to tackle maintenance problems. "It is no good to put icing on the cake like whiteboards when we don't have the fundamentals in place," Mr Chudleigh said.

According to the survey of principals, Blaxland Primary School in the Blue Mountains has put up with leaking roofs since 2004 and Kempsey High School has been battling termites for close to four years. Newbridge Heights Primary School says its sewer has been blocked for up to 10 years. Muswellbrook Primary School has complained of leakinging demountables for seven years.

Mr Chudleigh said that at his own school a child had tripped over worn-out carpet and hit their head on a desk. Since the department subcontracted its maintenance about 10 years ago, carpets had become threadbare and painting infrequent. "Instead of replacing carpets, they began patching them with any colour they could get their hands on," he said. Ms Tebbutt said the extra maintenance funding brought the total for maintenance for 2006-07 to $214 million.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

UCLA bias

Southwestern Legal Foundation (SLF), a Los Angeles-based advocacy group dedicated to defending individual rights protected by the U.S. Constitution will file a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California and individual administrators - on behalf of UCLA lecturer Orna Kenan. SLF President, Patrick Manshardt, represents Kenan, in the matter. The basis for the action is that Kenan's constitutional right to free speech and to be free from political discrimination in public employment have been and are currently being violated by UCLA administrators. Orna Kenan, an Israeli-American, who was a lecturer in the History Department for six years at UCLA, was recently stripped of her duties as a lecturer because administrators viewed her as having a pro-Israeli bias.

UCLA's original process for determining Kenan's retention and tenure was tainted by the presence of biased administrators. The original process was conducted so badly, that the faculty's union demanded it be done over. But in the second process, UCLA kept the identity of the decision makers and the proceedings secret. "Ms. Kenan was being discriminated against by administrators who are well-known Palestinian sympathizers who refuse to tolerate an opposing point of view," Manshardt said.

Added Manshardt, "UCLA should be a place where academic freedom is strictly observed, not were dissent or politically correct views are squelched." Manshardt concluded, "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be left in the Middle East and should not spill over to the making of personnel decisions at a public university in this country."


Interest groups rewrite education study the day it appears

The report in Capitol Weekly last week that "Getting Down to Facts" -- the 1,700-page study-to-end-all-studies of California public education -- called for vast new spending was wrong. As a result, so was I in my cynical post last week about it being one more effort by the discredited education establishment to pretend that all we need to do to fix a broken status quo is fund it better.

Go here to see why I mean. The link is to a 69-page study of schools and funding released today that was my light lunch reading. The study says over and over again that there is no evidence that increased spending leads to better schools. Given its variance with conventional wisdom -- and the education policies seen around America for a quarter-century -- it's pretty astonishing.

But the interest groups say who cares what the report actually says -- let's pretend it says what we wanted it to say. Look at this joke of a press release:

A coalition of community-based and advocacy organizations -- California ACORN, Californians for Justice, PICO California, and Public Advocates -- responded today to the second day release of the cost study findings in the "Getting Down to Facts" studies on school governance and finance for California's K-12 education system.

"Students are demanding a better education. Our schools are overcrowded. I've been in a class with 58 people in it where they mixed up different English classes. And schools are still falling apart in our neighborhoods," said Naydalli Haro, a student at Cabrillo High School in Long Beach, and a leader in Californians for Justice, an organizational member of the coalition.

"We need experienced, qualified teachers, but we're not getting them. There is not enough money for counselors to prepare us to go to college. Teachers use their own money to pay for basic materials in our classrooms. This needs to change," she added.

"While exact figures are not definite, these studies make it clear that California needs to make a substantial new investment in public education -- in addition to system reform --to ensure all students meet expectations," said John Affeldt, who serves as Managing Attorney for Public Advocates, another organizational member of the coalition.

John, John, John, you're drawing your own reading comprehension skills into question. The studies in fact say that without huge changes in the system, it's pointless to spend more money. In other words, we should do huge reforms first, then consider adding more money -- if we can find areas where there is real evidence it will make a difference. I've given the governor loads of grief here (not that he cares), but he got this exactly right:

"Today's studies show that no amount of money will improve our schools without needed education reform. We need to focus on critical school reform before any discussion about more resources. And as I have always said, our schools need more accountability, teachers and administrators need more flexibility, and parents need more information about how their children are performing."

Amen, Arnold.


Hooray! South Australian kids deserting useless education

UNIVERSITY campuses in the country are struggling for students because of a booming regional economy enticing young people away from study and into full-time jobs. An unemployment rate as low as 3.8 per cent in some areas - well below the average for Adelaide - has left about a third of places at country campuses vacant this year.

The University of South Australia's director of regional engagement, Professor Len Pullin, said campuses at Mount Gambier and Whyalla both had a capacity of 85 but only had about 60 students enrolled. "We could take many more than that, there's no doubt about that," he said. It was "tough" getting university enrolments in regional areas, he said, because of the lure of well-paid jobs in growing regional industries and an emphasis on practical training. "Because there's a huge skill shortage, people can look at those instead of coming to uni where you're facing virtually three years of low income," Professor Pullin said.

Easy entry to equivalent courses in metropolitan areas was contributing to regional vacancies, and cut-off scores were not as high as they should be, he said. Courses in business, accounting, nursing and social work are offered at both Mount Gambier and Whyalla, with scores less than 60 required to get into nursing at both. The cut-off for the equivalent metropolitan course was 67.05 this year.

Whyalla mayor Jim Pollock said electricians, boilermakers, labourers and other "hands-on" jobs were in demand across the Upper Spencer Gulf. "I certainly do think it's a lot easier for young people to get jobs in the country areas with mining exploration happening in our region," he said. Limestone Coast Regional Development Board chief executive officer Grant King said many of the jobs in forestry and timber processing, growing industries in the South-East, required some training. "There are plenty of opportunities but it's not easy to come straight out of school to pick up some of the jobs that are in demand," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In defence of "Obsession"

By Wayne Kopping

I am the Director of the film "Obsession" and I am writing in response to the February 26, 2007 article entitled "Film's View of Islam Stirs Anger on Campuses".

First of all, the headline of the piece is terribly misleading - "Obsession" is not a film about Islam as a whole, but rather it discusses the hijacking of Islam by Radical Muslims who seek to foster terrorism against the West.

Second, it is erroneous to claim that "Obsession" will incite Islamophobia or create an anti-Islamic backlash. In "Obsession", we make a clear distinction between 'radical' and 'moderate' Muslims, and we repeatedly declare that the majority of Muslims are not radicals. To date, the film has already been seen by millions of people around the world, and there has not been even one reported incident of violent backlash as a result of 'Obsession'. On the contrary, the film has received acclaim and commendation from leaders, critics and military experts alike, who have found the film to be fair and accurate in its presentation [see here for quotes]. The film only seems to 'stir anger' from those fringe quarters who share the agenda of defending groups with radical tendencies.

To that end, it is with regret that our film finds itself the victim of slanderous attacks from the Muslim Student's Association (MSA), et al, who have succeeded in shutting down at least two screenings of the film on college campuses. Additionally, there have been other reports of intimidation by the MSA, in their quest to stop further screenings of the film.

We denounce the actions of the MSA in the strongest terms. Rather than furthering vital conversation around the issue of Radical Islamic terrorism and helping to bridge the gap between communities, the MSA is stifling valuable dialogue. Our aim is, and has always been, to work together with those moderate Muslims who recognize the threat of Radical Islam -- which is why we were so surprised by the hostility of the MSA, (who purport to be a moderate Muslim group). Moderate Muslims around the world are often the first victims of the Radical Islamist ideology. It is for this reason that we had hoped that the MSA would stand as partners with "Obsession" and declare themselves against the Radicals and the terrorists.

And finally, we take exception to the fact that Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is quoted in the article as saying that the film was propaganda and "a way to transfer the Middle East conflict to the campus, to promote hostility." The article fails to note that Rabbi Seidler-Felder has the reputation of being an outspoken 'leftist ' who, earlier this year, admitted to assaulting a pro-Israeli journalist at a rally in 2003. The failure of mentioning Rabbi Seidler-Felder's background provides a false impression since it implies that the Rabbi speaks for the Jewish community at large, which he certainly does not.

It is our hope that people will continue to view the film, so that we can nurture an open dialogue and continue on the path of education and understanding.


Britain: Horsy schools are winners

It's the morning break at Danesfield Church of England school, where the staff are engaged in a rather delicate discussion: which one of them is going to clean up the pile of freshly deposited horse manure on the playground?

Danesfield serves the Somerset town of Williton, in the middle of horsey country. Not red coat and 4x4 Mercedes horsey country but the sort of place where down-at-heel boxes - some apparently held together by bailer twine - are towed by elderly Land Rovers that wheeze up hills. The Quantocks are on one side, Exmoor and the Brendans are on the other.

No surprise then that some of the pupils here pack jodhpurs and hard hats into their kit bags. What might surprise you is that Danesfield is a state middle school where 25% of the pupils have special needs.

It's one of a growing number of state schools that are taking an interest in riding, once seen as a rather upper crust occupation. The organisers of the schools championships at Hickstead in West Sussex say that nearly half the entries now come from state schools, competing alongside the likes of Millfield, also in Somerset, and Cheltenham Ladies' college. At Danesfield they are particularly proud of their record as the only state school to win a local jumping competition, organised by Wellington school.

Riding is not only a test of athleticism and skill, but it teaches discipline: the horse is in the care of the rider. It can't be thrown into a box like a cricket bat at the end of a poor innings: it needs feeding, brushing, and mucking out. Saddles and the rest of the tack need to be polished.

And all this discipline has had a marked effect on the special needs pupils of Danesfield. "What it's really good for is the children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," says special needs co-ordinator Sian Moore. "Some of them come from very deprived backgrounds; they can be very aggressive. But learning to respect an animal, learning that an animal has feelings is very good for them."

The school offers lunchtime riding lessons at a nearby stables, weekly lessons at the Conquest centre in Taunton, which specialises in teaching riders with learning difficulties.

For some, the prospect of riding lessons is much more attractive than maths, English and history. Parent Lorna Webber used to have difficulty getting her son Jake, 12, out of bed for school on a Monday. He has Asperger's syndrome and found it difficult to concentrate on his work. Now he not only looks forward to riding on a Friday, but his new enthusiasm has had a knock-on effect with his other work. "He's taken to it really well," says Lorna. "He wakes up on Monday morning and says, `It's horse riding on Friday'. "It's really helped him with his other work because now he has something to look forward to at the end of the week. His concentration is better; he can get his head down and focus."

The headmaster at Danesfield, Ian Bradbury, has been so struck by the impact of riding at his school that he's considering expanding. "I'm thinking of putting in our own stables," he says.

Even with a couple of stables, the school riding team will be a long way behind their independent rivals as far as facilities are concerned. Millfield, famed for its sport, is planning its own specialist polo unit to go with its polo field. It is also laying out its own cross country course. Millfield is just one of a number of schools that provides livery - accommodation for pupils who want to bring their own horses.

Stonar, an independent girls' school near Bath, has stabling for 60 horses and offers riding scholarships. "Many girls choose to keep their own horses at school," says the prospectus. "An ambitious young horsewoman can combine her studies with equestrian training, whether or not she has her own horse. Our most talented often go on to compete at national and international levels." A team from Stonar won the national schools jumping championships last year at Hickstead.

But it's not just the sport and the glory, it's not just the discipline, it's not even the boost it can give to pupils who are struggling with their academic work. There are hidden fringe benefits of riding lessons. As one Danesfield teacher told me: "We had a very promising rider here, who went on to work with horses. Thanks to that, she's now living with a millionaire."


Australian Left backs private schools

A big backdown from hate-filled class-warfare rhetoric of the recent past

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd today promised not to cut government funding for private schools. His announcement reaffirms a decision by his predecessor Kim Beazley last year to dump a hit list of elite schools. Mr Rudd said a Labor government would support the rights of parents to choose which school to send their children.

"We will do that by funding all schools, whether they are government, non-government, religious or secular, based on need and fairness," Mr Rudd and Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith said. "A Rudd Labor government will be concerned about the quality of education rather than engaging in a government versus non-government schools debate. That is behind us," they said.

In 2004, then-leader Mark Latham unveiled a list of 67 elite private schools to lose government funding if he was elected. "Previous attitudes by federal Labor to a so-called hit list in non-government schools was wrong," Mr Rudd and Mr Smith said today. Labor's objective was to raise standards in all schools, they said. "We are about supporting schools rather than taking money away from them."



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Monday, March 19, 2007


That's the effect of this policy:

It's called Black English Vernacular - or more commonly - Ebonics. In a newsletter to staff, Rochester City School District officials say it is OK for students and teachers to speak Ebonics in class. The newsletter, Diversity Dialogue, suggests teachers use BEV to communicate with students. It says teachers can:

* "Switch into BEV in specific situations or informal discussion."
* "Translate common phrases in Standard English into BEV."
* "Read and retell stories in both BEV and Standard English."

"We need to embrace the diversity they bring into our schools," said the district's Chief of Diversity and Leadership, Michele Hancock. Hancock and Tyra Webb-Johnson, Director of Coaching and Leadership, wrote the newsletter. They are both former elementary school principals. "We want (teachers) to have a better understanding of what BEV is so they can incorporate it into their teaching. That way, they're not alienating the students who are speaking the vernacular and degrading them," Webb-Johnson said.

Ebonics was debated nationally in 1996 when the Oakland, California school district proposed using it in the curriculum. Ebonics is defined as a speech pattern used by some African-Americans that does not follow standard grammar.

"No matter how you speak, you do need to learn the standard form so you can embrace the larger audience of people," Hancock said. "But you can hold on to the richness of your family environment and not feel that is beneath any standard of living." Hancock says many people, including her own son, who graduated from college, know how to "code switch" between Standard English and Ebonics. She said students must learn to be proficient in Standard English. "Many African-Americans are bi-dialectic in their speech patterns. I think it's critical teachers understand those speech patterns so they can effectively, visually show children how they are speaking, but not to denigrate it, but to celebrate it," Hancock said.

13WHAM News showed the newsletter to several black leaders in the community. "Anybody who suggests that these kids will lose their identity because they cannot be, should not be encouraged to speak Ebonics is wrong," said school board member Van White, who is pushing to create an African-American studies department in the district. "We are not African-Americans because of how we speak, but who we are as a people."

"I understand there's a need for teachers and students to meet on some common plane, but I'm not sure expressing that as Ebonics as that plane is a way to go," said City Councilman Adam McFadden. "It's acceptable in hip hop culture, but I don't think anyone would suggest the way forward for students already coming to school with severe educational deficiencies is to maintain a deficient language pattern," said former Mayor William Johnson. Johnson and then-Police Chief Bob Duffy fired a white police officer for writing a memo called "Ghetto Lingo," which claimed to translate English phrases into African-American vernacular.

Hancock and Webb-Johnson say many white teachers come to them for help communicating with students. The BEV suggestion is not a mandate, they said. "It doesn't hurt the kids. What we're saying to the children is we value what you bring. You have value," said Hancock. "What if one of your teachers started speaking Ebonics to you tomorrow? I would think they were crazy!" said Jada Scott, an 8th grader.

"I just think that's outrageous. Ebonics, that's something that kids speak out in the street with their friends, it's not something to be encouraged in the classroom," said Maxine Humphrey, a high school senior. "I think it's not a good idea," said senior Candice Scott. "If we learn to speak Ebonics and we get into the real world, I don't think it's going to be of any help to us." "I don't think it's a very good idea. I think it's more important for the kids to reach up to the school standards, instead of the school coming down to the kid's level," said parent Melynda Scott.



Middle-class pupils face losing out on university places if their parents have degrees and professional jobs, after changes to the admissions system. For the first time, applicants will be asked to reveal whether their parents also went to university, as part of moves to attract more working-class students into higher education. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said yesterday that it had also decided that information on the occupation and ethnicity of applicants' parents should also be made available to admissions officers. Previously this had been held back until after places were offered. Ucas said that the decision was specifically designed to "support the continuing efforts of universities and colleges to widen participation". Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, confirmed yesterday that the Government was backing the changes.

Critics said that the move smacked of social engineering and that it could be used to discriminate against middle-class students. The new questions, which will appear on Ucas forms from next year, will also ask students if they have ever been in local authority care.

Pat Langham, president of the Girls' Schools Association, said that she had grave concerns over the changes. "Why collect this information at all? If they are going to use it to discriminate against those who they feel are privileged - ie, those whose parents went to university - then what would be the point in anyone ever trying to improve themselves? "I was the first person in my family to go to university. My father was a policeman and my mother a dinner lady. But I'm a headmistress with a degree; were I to have children applying for university under these rules, would they be discriminated against because I have worked hard?"

Research shows that being the first member of a family to go to university is the hardest barrier to break. The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock proudly proclaimed in 1987 that he was "the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to get to university."

Ms Langham also suggested that the new questions would encourage applicants to bend the truth. "If your parents were property developers, applicants could mark them down as a `builders'; if they were managing directors you could describe them as `clerks'. Who is going to establish the veracity of these forms?"

Jonathan Shepherd, generalsecretary of the Independent Schools Council, called the changes "nonsense". He said: "What next? Are they going to go back two or three generations or start collecting people's DNA?"

Oxford University said that it had no intention of using the information, adding that it would hold it back from college admissions officers until after offers had been made and acted upon. Mike Nicholson, director of admissions at Oxford, said: "We haven't any evidence to suggest that this type of information has any valid relevance to the decisions we have to make. It would be far more useful to know whether a candidate predicted to get good grades goes to a school where few pupils expect to do well." But Drummond Bone, president of the vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, said it would allow institutions to understand more about how the applicant got to where they are.

The Government has set aspirational targets for universities designed to get more students from state schools and working-class groups. Some funding is contingent on this. But ministers have been frustrated by lack of progress.Between 2002-03 and 2004-05 the proportion of entrants from state schools fell from 87.2 per cent to 86.7 per cent. Over the same period the proportion of students from lower social classes fell from 28.4 per cent to 28.2 per cent.

Although Ucas says that the new questions are optional, opponents believe that those who refused to answer may also be discriminated against. Boris Johnson, the Shadow Higher Education Minister, said that students should have a right to withhold the new information without fear of prejudice.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

CALIFORNIA: Deep flaws found in school system

Study says allocation of funds and teacher quality are key problems among many

A yearlong, $3 million evaluation of California public schools by more than 30 education experts reveals a "deeply flawed" system that misdirects school money, emphasizes paperwork over progress, and fails to send the best teachers into the neediest schools. "Getting Down to Facts" -- a collection of 22 studies -- begins with the sobering reminder that despite years of academic reform, California students of all ethnicities still score among the worst in the nation on tests of basic reading and math.

A year ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bipartisan group of state educators and lawmakers asked the researchers to find out what was wrong with the public school system. All agreed that once the report came out, they would together try to fix the problems. On Wednesday, the Republican governor joined Assembly Speaker Fabian N£¤ez, D-Los Angeles, and state schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell in presenting Part 1 of the two-part research package and vowed to pass laws that will fix the systemic problems -- but next year. "We'll definitely make next year the year of education reform," Schwarzenegger said, noting that this year he is busy dealing with prisons, health care and campaign finance.

Yet, it may take the full year just to understand what the thick study contains, much less determine what new laws will make sense, and identify funding sources for any additional money recommended in Part 2 of the study, to be released today. The "findings may make many of us uncomfortable," said O'Connell, because they are intended to upend financial and employment practices that have been in place for 30 years. Among the many revelations offered up about the 6.3 million-student system are these key points:

-- California's education data systems are so bad that it's impossible for schools to share information about what's working and what isn't, such as how many students are dropping out.

-- The state imposes too many one-size-fits-all rules -- "regulationitis," says the report -- ensuring that principals and other administrators spend more time filling out paperwork than overseeing instruction.

-- California has no coherent way of identifying and keeping quality teachers, or removing ineffective ones.

-- The state hands out education dollars "irrationally," then largely prohibits principals from deciding how best to spend them.

"Solely directing more money into the current system will not dramatically improve student achievement and will meet neither expectations nor needs," according to the report, led by Stanford economist Susanna Loeb and paid for by private foundations. Though it gives no specific solutions, the study highlights such troubling realities as the "complex and irrational" system by which the state finances school districts. The result is that two school districts with a lot in common -- say, many English learners -- often get different amounts of money from the state. That seemingly arbitrary approach stems from arcane rules dating from the 1970s, the study says.

Assembly Education Committee Chairman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, said he intends to propose laws to correct such systemic quirks. The study also faults California's "multitude of teacher policies" for undermining the state's own efforts to get a qualified teacher into every classroom. For one thing, the study (relying on existing research) found that even though "teacher quality matters a lot," the state seems unable to answer the basic question of what a good teacher is. Simply choosing people who have more years of schooling, higher test scores, or better certification is a poor way to predict who will be an effective teacher, the study says.

Children whose teachers have five years of experience generally score higher than children whose teachers have only been on the job for a year or two, the study adds. But it also found that children do just as well with five-year teachers as they do with those that have 10 or 15 years of experience. Nor does scoring well on verbal or general knowledge tests indicate who will be an effective teacher. "Many lower-scoring teachers are much more effective than their higher-scoring colleagues," the study found.

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, all but rolled her eyes at that news. "We've been saying for years that teaching is an art," she said, adding that the best way to see if teachers have potential is to watch them teach for about two years.

More controversial is the report's emphasis on principals' frustration with state regulations that make it hard to fire ineffective teachers. Although Nunez said Wednesday that Democrats are willing to work with that issue, his colleague Mullin indicated otherwise. Mullin is a former San Mateo County teacher of the year. "If that becomes the focus, you'll get into a pitched battle," he said.

Meanwhile, the school system suffers from "regulationitis," meaning that principals are buried under paperwork. As a result, district employees often "focus more on following the letter of the law rather than achieving district (academic) goals," said the report.


Britain: Gifted grade school children to be offered extra activities

A poor substitute for accelerated progession. The kids concerned will still be bored stiff in class

The most gifted 10 per cent of primary school children are to be offered extra classes under plans to track the brightest 400,000 through school and into university. Under the scheme, to be announced by Tony Blair on Monday, children as young as 4 will qualify for summer schools at universities, as well as online tuition, Saturday morning classes and joint activities with bright children from other schools. The scheme will extend the reach of the National Gifted and Talented Youth Agency, which is aimed at 150,000 pupils in state secondary schools. It was set up in 2002 after concerns that middle-class parents were abandoning the state sector for private schools because mixed-ability teaching failed to challenge the brightest pupils.

The initiative coincides with the release of figures from the Independent Schools Council suggesting that the growth in admissions to private schools is being driven by the primary sector. Pupil numbers in state primaries have fallen by almost 300,000, to 4.1 million, since 1997, and prep school numbers have increased by more than 14,000, to 159,000.

Downing Street emphasised, however, that the scheme aimed to ensure that more bright children were identified early on. A source said: "This is about helping each child to reach their full potential. That means identifying and developing the talents of children from an early age, and at the same time giving extra support to children who are struggling."

Under the scheme, each school will be required to appoint a teacher to select the 10 per cent most gifted and talented children. Assessments will be based on teacher assessments and the results of national Key Stage 1 tests that children sit at the age of 7. The term "gifted" is taken generally to apply to children of high intelligence, while "talented" refers to those with outstanding ability in a specific area, such as art, music or sport.

Bethan Marshall, a lecturer in education at King's College London, said: "Some children who are not labelled gifted and talented might feel like failures if they are not selected, particularly if they come from a competitive home. Children who are selected may feel it is an expectation that they have to live up to."

Peter Congdon, an educational psychologist and director of the Gifted Children's Information Centre, said that research had shown that teachers had insufficient training properly to identify gifted and talented pupils. "Teachers tend to choose children who produce good work on paper and who behave themselves. What are known as `gifted disabled' children, who may be very intelligent, but also dyslexic, may be missed, as may the ones who are very bright, but who are misfits," he said.

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham, said: "If it is intended to buy off the middle classes it won't work because what they want is a good all-round education," he said. Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and the driving force behind the National Talent Register, the existing table of the 5 per cent of pupils with the best scores for maths and English, has not been consulted over the plan to extend the programme to primary children. Sir Cyril cautioned against diverting attention and funding from the gifted and talented programme for secondary schools and said that neither scheme would work unless those running it knew exactly what they were aiming to achieve. The announcement will coincide with the release of the names of the ten local authorities that are to pilot a scheme to measure pupil progress


Australia: Poor teacher training recognized

State Education Minister Rod Welford has called a meeting of the heads of university teacher training departments to plan an overhaul of teacher training in Queensland. The meeting follows the release of a joint survey by the principals of state, Catholic and independent schools showing that teaching graduates wanted courses overhauled to give them the skills to teach and manage students. Almost a quarter of beginning teachers plan to leave the profession within five years because of the pressures they face.

Mr Welford met with 70 principals in the Cairns area yesterday, and said they were deeply concerned about the levels of practical training given to students. "It's far too little," he said. Some students undertaking four-year degree courses spent less time prac teaching than those undertaking 12-month postgraduate teaching courses, which had struck a better balance.

Mr Welford said as well as discussing the report, the meeting with the deans of education was essential as new national guidelines for teacher training were being drawn up and the Queensland College of Teachers was reviewing teacher training in Queensland. Mr Welford said the report had shown that Queensland schools and principals were the best in Australia at inducting new teachers into schools. "They deserve a big tick for this," he said.

The Minister's view was supported by first and second year teachers at St Rita's College Clayfield, Monya Duplessis, 23, Anna Sayers, 36, John Mundell, 29. The three beginning teachers said they were being mentored and supported by their department heads and were guided in how to handle issues such as parent-teacher interviews. Even with strong support, however, they find their 7.30am to 5pm days a challenge. "You have to be constantly on the ball and there is very little down time," Mr Mundell, a University of Queensland graduate said. He spent 26 weeks of his 18 month Bachelor of Education degree prac teaching and found the experience invaluable.

Ms Duplessis, a QUT graduate, said her lecturers prepared her well for the challenges of prac teaching in schools at Shailer Park and Woodridge. "If you are equipped with the skills and if you are prepared it is not too much of a problem."

Ms Sayers, a former marketing and business executive who completed her teacher training part-time at the Australian Catholic University said life would be much harder for teachers in smaller rural and remote schools with fewer resources. Principal Sister Elvera was concerned by the report's revelation that 27 per cent of beginning teachers are asked to teach subjects in which they are not trained. "I think it would be very very difficult and the students would soon be aware of the fact," she said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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

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