Saturday, June 23, 2007

2,300 schools face "No Child" overhaul

The scarlet letter in education these days is an "R." It stands for restructuring - the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law. Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law's consequences begin to hit home.

Schools fall into this category after smaller changes, such as offering tutoring, fall short. The effort is supposed to amount to a major makeover, and it has created a sense of urgency that in some schools verges on desperation. "This is life and death," says John Deasy, superintendent of schools in Prince George's County, Md., where several schools are coming face to face with the consequences of President Bush's signature education law. "This is very high-stakes work."

The schools bearing the label are often in poor urban areas, like Far Rockaway at the end of the subway line in the New York City borough of Queens. But they're also found in leafy suburbs, rural areas and resort towns.

Only schools that receive federal aid for low-income students - known as Title I - are subject to the law's consequences. But they can be brand-new facilities with luxuries like television studios. "It's not a Hollywood version of a school that's falling down or total chaos," says Kerri Briggs, acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary issues at the Education Department.

The 2002 education law, which is up for renewal in Congress, offers a broad menu of options for restructuring. They include firing principals and moving teachers, and calling in turnaround specialists. At Far Rockaway High School - or Far Rock, as locals say - restructuring has led to a new face in the principal's office and a new teaching force. The new principal, Denise Hallett, came from the district's headquarters about three years ago. She splashed colors like hot pink and sunny yellow on the walls of the grand but neglected century-old building. She painted the library floors tangerine orange and replaced the moldy books with new, grade-appropriate reading material [Action for the sake of action. Pure genius!].

She also replaced three-fourths of the staff. "The instruction wasn't happening," Hallett said, offering an explanation for poor test scores, high dropout rates and gang violence. "You've got to make changes in the teaching, so that you have wonderful things that are happening inside the classroom."

Schools in low-income communities have trouble attracting and keeping sought-after teachers. Working conditions are often thought to be poor, and teachers in failing schools face increased scrutiny. The federal law says schools in restructuring can replace teachers. Local union contracts can make that difficult, but some collective bargaining agreements are starting to permit it. Usually, the teachers transfer to another school or work as substitutes. Hallett says she's giving her brand-new teachers the support they need to thrive - and stay. She has a full-time professional development coach on staff and has promised more lesson planning time.

"When I first came in I had my family saying, 'You're going to Far Rockaway?'" recalls Ronalda McMillian, a new teacher. "But as I've come here, I've found I really like it. ... There's a reputation that precedes the school that is not actually present when you walk through these doors."

Felix Cruz walked purposefully through the halls one afternoon clutching balloons for a senior awards ceremony. The 17-year-old says he's proud to attend Far Rockaway. "People just think if it's in Rockaway, it's a bad school. It's a good school," Cruz said firmly. He is among the students taking architectural drawing courses. Hallett says despite the emphasis that No Child Left Behind places on math and reading - the subjects tested under the law - she tries to offer engaging classes that expose kids to careers and make school fun. The last round of test scores showed Far Rockaway students improved over the previous year in math but were still struggling to make gains in English.

The pressure for principals is real, since principals often are replaced when schools don't make gains quickly enough. Nevertheless, Hallett has a calm, upbeat demeanor - though expressing a flash of anger when talking about the academic years that precede high school. "You should know this: I have students who come into this building and they can't read," she said. "Schools have failed them. ... If I have a kid that can't read at grade level four, they're not going to pass a state examination."

The pressure to prepare kids for high school is clear at Long Branch Middle School, a school in restructuring in a working-class New Jersey shore town. The most obvious sign of the pressure is in a public hallway near the school's main entrance where graphs hang in full view of passing students and teachers. Each bears a teacher's name and shows a growth curve, indicating plainly whether students in a class are making progress on reading and math tests given throughout the year.

Superintendent Joseph Ferraina, a former teacher and principal at the school, acknowledges that such discomforting changes make teachers nervous. "It's difficult to change schools," he said. "What often happens is we talk about change, change, change, and we go back to what we felt comfortable with." Ferraina says the wall charts are helping force his school to rely on testing data throughout the year, not just on the No Child Left Behind spring tests. "There are people working with data every day now," he said. "They're sitting down with people and saying, 'You know what, your class seems to not be doing well in whole numbers. We need to add a lesson in whole numbers.'" The focus on tests worries some who say teachers are focusing too much on preparing kids for exams rather than spending time on important other instruction.

More here

Leftist Jews involved in proposed British academic boycott of Israel

Many of the key players in the escalating British campaign to boycott Israel are Jewish or Israeli, the Jewish Chronicle revealed in an investigation published Thursday. According to the investigation, the Jewish academics justify their stance as part of the struggle for Palestinian rights and ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. The report stated that a high proportion of the academics were deeply involved in UCU, the University and College Union, which last month sparked an international outcry by voting to facilitate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Anti-boycott figures suggest that the campaign has been fuelled by a well-organized mix of far-left activists and Islamic organizations, the JC reported. In reality, the main proponents are a loosely knit collection of academics and trade unionists linked to groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, and Bricup, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.

Israeli Haim Bresheeth, professor of media and culture at the University of East London, seconded the UCU motion, which called for consideration of the morality of ties with Israeli academia and for discussions on boycotting. Prof Bresheeth told the JC that a boycott was not an easy decision. "I am Jewish and an Israeli, and I don't wish harm on either side. But how long can this occupation go on?" Characterizing opposition to a boycott as insincere, he added, "What we are asking for is not violent. It is civil action against a military occupation."

According to the JC, Bricup has a large number of Jewish supporters, among them husband and wife Hilary and Steven Rose. Hilary, a professor of social policy at Bradford University, is Bricup's co-convenor alongside Prof Jonathan Rosenhead. Her husband, an Open University biology professor, is the organization's secretary. They have been active in the boycott movement since 2002. In an online article, Steven Rose wrote, "It really isn't good enough to attack the messenger as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message that Israel's conduct is unacceptable."


Virginia school's no-contact rule is touchy subject

Fairfax County middle school student Hal Beaulieu hopped up from his lunch table one day a few months ago, sat next to his girlfriend and slipped his arm around her shoulder. That landed him a trip to the school office. Among his crimes: hugging. All touching -- not only fighting or inappropriate touching -- is against the rules at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned. The rule has been conveyed to students this way: "NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!!!"

School officials say the rule helps keep crowded hallways and lunchrooms safe and orderly, and ensures that all students are comfortable. But Hal, 13, and his parents think the school's hands-off approach goes too far, and they are lobbying for a change. "I think hugging is a good thing," said Hal, a seventh-grader, a few days before the end of the school year. "I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't think it would be a big deal."

A Fairfax schools spokesman said there is no countywide ban like the one at Kilmer, but many middle schools and some elementary schools have similar "keep your hands to yourself" rules. Officials in Arlington, Loudoun and Prince George's counties said schools in those systems prohibit inappropriate touching and disruptive behavior but don't forbid all contact.

Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer's principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100. She said that students should have their personal space protected and that many lack the maturity to understand what is acceptable or welcome. "You get into shades of gray," Hernandez said. "The kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' " She has seen a poke escalate into a fight and a handshake that is a gang sign. Some students -- and these are friends -- play "bloody knuckles," which involves slamming their knuckles together as hard as they can. Counselors have heard from girls who are uncomfortable hugging boys but embarrassed to tell anyone. And in a culturally diverse school, officials say, families might have different views of what is appropriate.

It isn't as if hug police patrol the Kilmer hallways, Hernandez said. Usually an askance look from a teacher or a reminder to move along is enough to stop girls who are holding hands and giggling in a huddle or a boy who pats a buddy on the back. Students won't get busted if they high-five in class after answering a difficult math problem. Typically, she said, only repeat offenders or those breaking other rules are reprimanded. "You have to have an absolute rule with students, and wiggle room and good judgment on behalf of the staff," Hernandez said.

Hal's parents, Donna and Henri, say that they think Kilmer is a good school and that their son is thriving there. He earns A's and B's and, before this incident, hadn't gotten in any trouble. Still, they say they encourage hugging at home and have taught him to shake hands when he meets someone. They agree that teenagers need to have clear limits but don't want their son to get the message that physical contact is bad. "How do kids learn what's right and what's wrong?" Henri Beaulieu asked. "They are all smart kids, and they can draw lines. If they cross them, they can get in trouble. But I don't think it would happen too often." Beaulieu has written a letter to the county School Board asking it to review the rule.

Hal's troubles began one day in March when he got up from his assigned cafeteria table and went to a nearby table where his then-girlfriend was sitting. He admits he broke one rule -- getting up from his assigned table without permission -- and he accepts a reprimand for that. "The table thing, I'm guilty," he said. A school security officer spotted the hug and sent Hal to the office, where he was cited for two infractions. He was warned that a third misstep could lead to in-school suspension or detention. School officials said that the girl didn't complain and that they have no reason to believe the hug was unwelcome.

Hal said that he and his classmates understand when and how it is appropriate to hug or pat someone on the back in school and that most teenagers respect boundaries set by their peers. Today, his seventh-grade year ends as school lets out for the summer. Next fall, he hopes Kilmer officials reconsider the rule. "I think you should be able to shake hands, high-five and maybe a quick hug," he said. "Making out goes too far."



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 22, 2007

"Diversity" = racism

Post lifted from Dr Sanity. See the original for links

John Leo has an article "Let the Segregation Commence", in this month's City Journal that talks about the numerous commencement ceremonies that go on at UCLA, my alma mater. Apparently there is a special graduation to accommodate every possible identy group:

Some students are presumably eligible for four or five graduations. A gay student with a Native American father and a Filipino mother could attend the Asian, Filipino, and American Indian ceremonies, plus the mainstream graduation and the Lavender Graduation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.

That is just so special, I hardly know what to say. However, I will try to come up with something. The usual rationalization of of all this "diversity"--which as Leo notes is actually a form of racial, ethnic, and sexist segregation/discrimination--is that the smaller ceremonies have more meaning for the individuals than the larger one that everyone could attend.

Okay. I might buy into that argument except for the fact that they don't really believe that rationalization themselves. Do you know how I know that last statement to be true?

Just imagine the inarticulate rage; the unbelievable rancor and all the moral indignation that would ensue if Jews demanded their own special graduation ceremony under the auspices of the University? Or if there were a "Caucasian Male" society that held commencement exercises using UCLA facilities? Or say, an "Aryan" graduation?

When it comes out of the mouths of the leftoids, "celebrating diversity" becomes just another way to villify America and Western civilization. Leo goes on to explain what I also think is the real reason why this seemingly innocuous silliness is a cover-up for the PC neo-marxist trendy crowd on campus:

But the core reason for separatist graduations is the obvious one: on campus, assimilation is a hostile force, the domestic version of American imperialism. On many campuses, identity-group training begins with separate freshman orientation programs for nonwhites, who arrive earlier and are encouraged to bond before the first Caucasian freshmen arrive. Some schools have separate orientations for gays as well. Administrations tend to foster separatism by arguing that bias is everywhere, justifying double standards that favor identity groups.

Four years ago Ward Connerly, then a regent of the University of California, tried to pass a resolution to stop funding of ethnic graduations and gay freshman orientations. He changed his mind and asked to withdraw his proposal, but the regents wanted to vote on it and defeated it in committee 6-3.

No major objections to ethnic graduations have emerged since. As in so many areas of American life, the preposterous is now normal.

As for the smaller ceremonies giving student's more meaning (i.e., they feel more special), I am also fairly certain that racism, sexism,homophobia and ethnic bashing have more meaning for the people who engage in those activities, too.

What I think is happening here is that underneath that "do-gooder" PC sensitivity there lurks a profound racist, sexist, and homophobic core. The left has been very successful at camoflauging that core of intellectual and moral bankruptcy with the their gradiose, and so very well-meaning, rationalizations and psychological maneuvers.

Let me quote from an earlier essay I wrote on the subject of this intellectual and moral bankruptcy:

What we have witnessed over the 30- 45 years since the Left ascended to dominate political thought in the mid 20th century, is its rapid and unprecedented decline into wholesale intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The noble values and ideals they once stood for have been abandoned; and almost as if a surreal cosmic joke was being played on them, they have-without even noticing!-- embraced the exact opposite of what they once stood for.

Where once they stood for freedom; they now enable dictatorships and apologize for tyrants. Where once they sought to bring justice to the world; they now defend horrific acts of mass murder and enslavement. Where once they rightly demanded equal opportunity, they have embraced all kinds of racial quotas and discriminatory practices and demand equality of outcome. Where once they sought to empower the weak; they are now instrumental in maintaining and expanding their victimhood.

After all, how can you be a "champion of the oppressed" unless you maintain and nurture an oppressed class that will always require your services to help them?

Teacher training to curb school violence

Wotta lotta ineffectual and irresponsible waffle! The offenders should be prosecuted, jailed and the outcomes publicized

The Education Department has launched a training package for teachers to help them deal with escalating violence in Western Australian schools. State schools have reported 45 incidents of parents or caregivers threatening staff members since July last year. Six involved physical violence.

The package will include strategies on preventing and managing violence in schools and offer information about restraining orders and legal advice.

The Education Minister Mark McGowan says abuse of teachers is not acceptable. "Teachers have been assaulted and teachers have been abused and parents have misbehaved and these sorts of things aren't good enough," he said. "I would encourage parents also to have a look at themselves and accept it when a school tells them their child may not be behaving the best and have a look at ways of improving their child's behaviour rather than blaming the 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"

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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 21, 2007

Liberal groupthink causes conservatives to self-censor

The ideal academic environment on a college campus is one that encourages vigorous debate and builds reasoning skills, all while the student is learning in his or her area of study. Unfortunately, universities too often fall short in the first two categories.

For at least six years now, the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine has made a habit of inviting inflammatory speakers on campus. One speaker declared, "We will bury you in the sand," while implying death to either a nation (Israel) or a group of people (Jews). While another said, "You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew," when explaining why he believes Jews have a social pathology that makes it impossible for them to live in peace with anyone else.

Such comments elicited not a peep from a university faculty presumably too concerned with tolerance to criticize speech that crossed the line from commentary to hate. What might make the professionals at UCI reluctant to speak up against hate speech? Imagine the uproar if former klansman David Duke showed up at UCI and said, "You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew" or if Duke referred to African Americans when saying, "We will bury you?"

A study of almost 1,300 academics from more than 700 colleges and universities by Gary A. Tobin, Ph.D., and Aryeh K. Weinberg show an American faculty that is overwhelmingly liberal in the key areas of the humanities and the social sciences — two fields with tremendous influence, as all students, even science and business students, have to take some liberal arts courses to graduate. Further, professors from the humanities and the social sciences are those whose area of expertise is politics and social commentary.

Tobin and Weinberg's 2006 survey, "Political Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty," showed that 58% of humanities faculty believe that U.S. policies in the Middle East have created the problems we face in the region. Similarly, 56% of humanities professors see the U.S. and Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, while only 41% name China, Russia, and Iran combined.

Further, social science faculty voted for John Kerry over President Bush in 2004 by more than a four-to-one ratio while five times as many humanities professors preferred Kerry over Bush. This has led to liberal groupthink, causing the few conservative professors to engage in self-censorship as a survival mechanism.

For these reasons, condemning hate speech by Muslim Student Union speakers may be too much to expect from a faculty who likely sees Middle Eastern Arabs as victims of the West. Rather, a modest step would be to prohibit the student union and any other group from banning the audio or video recording of events so that all campus speech can be heard and commented on freely. Knowing that their words may come back to haunt them may even make a few hate speakers think twice before spewing.


Zero tolerance runs amok

A long overdue outburst of common-sense. Where zero tolerance is needed is of REAL misbehaviour and indiscipline

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers last week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.

It's all part of "zero tolerance" rules, which typically mandate severe punishments for weapon and drug offenses, regardless of the circumstances. Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and they are seeking to loosen the restrictions. "A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets," said Rhode Island state Sen. Daniel Issa, a former school board member who worries that no-tolerance rules are applied blindly and too rigidly.

Mr. Issa sponsored a bill requiring school districts to decide punishments for alcohol, drug and non-firearm weapon violations on a case-by-case basis after weighing the circumstances. It passed the Senate and House and is now headed for the governor's desk.

Some have long been aware of the problems of zero tolerance. For the last decade, Mississippi has allowed local school districts to reduce previously mandatory one-year expulsions for violence, weapons and drug offenses. More recently, Texas lawmakers have also moved to tone down their state's zero-tolerance rules. Utah altered its zero-tolerance policy on drugs so asthmatic students could carry inhalers. The American Bar Association has recommended ending zero-tolerance policies, while the American Psychological Association wants the most draconian codes changed.

"It may be a bit of self-correction that you're beginning to see where the pendulum is coming back," said Kathy Christie, vice president of a research clearinghouse for Education Commission of the States in Denver. A decade ago, more than three-quarters of public schools surveyed reported adopting some version of a no-tolerance policy, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

"Zero tolerance" became a popular political buzzword during the waning days of the Reagan administration's "War On Drugs," and the rules spread rapidly after a series of high-profile school shootings, according to a report issued last year by the American Psychological Association. A 1997 survey of more than 1,200 public schools by the U.S. Department of Education found that 79 percent had zero-tolerance policies against violence, 88 percent for drugs, 91 percent for weapons and 94 percent for firearms.

There are some signs that policies could be changing. Texas decided in 2005 that schools can consider students' intent and other mitigating factors before punishing them for any offenses other than those involving firearms, and Texas state Rep. Rob Eissler said he wants the weighing of those factors to be mandatory.

More here


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

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

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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 20, 2007

Merit pay at last?

For years, the unionized teaching profession opposed few ideas more vehemently than merit pay, but those objections appear to be eroding as school districts in dozens of states experiment with plans that compensate teachers partly based on classroom performance.

Here in Minneapolis, for instance, the teachers’ union is cooperating with Minnesota’s Republican governor on a plan in which teachers in some schools work with mentors to improve their instruction and get bonuses for raising student achievement. John Roper-Batker, a science teacher here, said his first reaction was dismay when he heard his school was considering participating in the plan in 2004. “I wanted to get involved just to make sure it wouldn’t happen,” he said. But after learning more, Mr. Roper-Batker said, “I became a salesman for it.” He and his colleagues have voted in favor of the plan twice by large margins.

Minnesota’s $86 million teacher professionalization and merit pay initiative has spread to dozens of the state’s school districts, and it got a lift this month when teachers voted overwhelmingly to expand it in Minneapolis. A major reason it is prospering, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in an interview, is that union leaders helped develop and sell it to teachers. “As a Republican governor, I could say, ‘Thou shalt do this,’ and the unions would say, ‘Thou shalt go jump in the lake,’ ” Mr. Pawlenty said. “But here they partnered with us.”

Scores of similar but mostly smaller teacher-pay experiments are under way nationwide, and union locals are cooperating with some of them, said Allan Odden, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies teacher compensation. A consensus is building across the political spectrum that rewarding teachers with bonuses or raises for improving student achievement, working in lower income schools or teaching subjects that are hard to staff can energize veteran teachers and attract bright rookies to the profession. “It’s looking like there’s a critical mass,” Professor Odden said. The movement to experiment with teacher pay, he added, “is still not ubiquitous, but it’s developing momentum.”

Some plans still run into strong opposition from teachers and their unions, as in Texas and Florida this year, where skeptical teachers rejected proposals from school districts. An incentive-pay proposal by Chancellor Joel I. Klein of the New York City public schools has stalled, with city officials and the teachers’ union blaming each other. Minnesota’s experience shows, however, that an incentive plan created with union input can draw teacher support.

Merit pay, or compensating teachers for classroom performance rather than their years on the job and coursework completed, found some support in the 1980s among policy makers and school administrators, who saw it as a way to encourage good teachers to work harder and to weed out the bad ones. But teachers saw it as a gimmick used by principals to reward cronies based on favoritism.

How thoroughly unions will embrace merit pay remains unclear, said Chester E. Finn Jr., an education scholar who served in the Reagan administration. In some cities where unions have agreed to participate in merit pay programs, they have consented only after reshaping the programs so thoroughly that student achievement is one of many factors by which teachers are judged, reducing the programs’ effectiveness, Mr. Finn said. The rewards teachers receive for outstanding performance range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more in a few districts.

The Department of Education is encouraging schools and districts to try merit pay. [Last week it awarded 18 new federal grants, building on 16 others distributed last November. That makes a total of $80 million that the Bush administration has given to schools and districts in 19 states that have incentive pay plans.] Private groups are also involved; the Milken Family Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., for instance, which helped create the Minnesota program, has channeled money and expertise into similar plans that include incentive pay at 130 schools in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

The positions of the two national teachers’ unions diverge on merit pay. The National Education Association, the larger of the two, has adopted a resolution that labels merit pay, or any other pay system based on an evaluation of teachers’ performance, as “inappropriate.”

The American Federation of Teachers says it opposes plans that allow administrators alone to decide which teachers get extra money or that pay individual teachers based solely on how students perform on standardized test scores, which they consider unreliable. But it encourages efforts to raise teaching quality and has endorsed arrangements that reward teams of teachers whose students show outstanding achievement growth.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers in New York, said the union was willing to talk further with the city about “schoolwide bonuses for sustained growth in student achievement.”

More here

Australia: Trust your bureaucracy to set intelligent education priorities

Universities are producing thousands of useless graduates in sociology and English literature (etc.) but useful disciplines are being cut back

MINING-RELATED departments in universities are shrinking at the time of the nation's biggest resources boom, with 10 geoscience schools closing or downsizing over the past 10 years and only 30 metallurgists graduating a year. Mining companies are forced to hire graduates trained in similar disciplines, such as chemical engineering and materials science, and train them on the job to meet the shortfall in professions such as metallurgy.

A skills summit organised by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia in Canberra today will highlight the severe shortages of qualified professionals in geoscience, metallurgy and mining engineering. APESMA chief executive John Vines said public debate over the skills shortage to date had focused on the trades, and the intention of the summit was to highlight the shortage of skilled professionals in the engineering, science and technology sectors. In a discussion paper, APESMA calls for a tax incentive scheme, similar to the one promoting research and development, offering employers a 150 per cent tax rebate for spending more than 2 per cent of labour costs on training development. Mr Vines said the Australian average was 1.3 per cent of a company's payroll, while 4 per cent was considered world-best practice.

In its position paper for the summit, the Australasian Institute of Metals and Metallurgy calls on the federal Government to increase its university funding for mining degrees as part of a strategy to remedy the "dire state of minerals education". It wants the federal Government to increase funding for minerals courses by about $4000 per student, to bring it into the highest cluster of university funding, along with agriculture. Universities receive $13,411 from the Government for every student in science and engineering courses, which are expensive to deliver, compared with $17,870 for agriculture students.

The institute, representing more than 8000 professionals in geoscience, minerals processing and mining engineering, also calls on the Government to commit to a set of national principles for higher education, along the lines of the National Research Priorities, to ensure that "disciplines of national importance" are maintained.

Geosciences professor at Monash University Ray Cas described geosciences as a "nationally endangered species" and AIMM chief executive Don Larkin said at least eight minerals departments had closed since 2000. Mr Larkin said the federal Government had given a commitment to fund disciplines of national importance but, because of the Government's philosophy to move to a user-pays and market-driven tertiary education system, that was not happening.

A survey of almost 2000 members conducted last month by AIMM, and due for release on Friday, found that about two-thirds said the professional skills shortage had left them short-staffed. More than half said the shortage meant more people were working in senior roles outside their experience. And more than 60 per cent believed their employer was paying more for less-experienced personnel, with salaries rising about 18 per cent since 2005. A paper by Professor Cas says at least 10 geoscience departments have "either been closed down or downsized to the point of being ineffectual" over the past 10 years.

The closures include the geoscience department at the University of NSW, once the biggest in Australia; previously significant departments in the universities of La Trobe, RMIT, Bendigo and Deakin in Victoria; Flinders and South Australia in Adelaide; New England and the University of Technology, Sydney, in NSW; as well as smaller, regional schools. Other departments have been amalgamated into other disciplines such as geography and environmental sciences, leading to a rationalisation and decrease in staff at universities including Sydney, Wollongong, Western Australia, Melbourne and Ballarat.

But student enrolments are growing in second and third years. Professor Cas says Monash University has a record number of students, and now the largest in Australia, despite the number of first-year students not growing beyond about 200. The number of graduates at Queensland University is also growing. A 2005 agreement between international mining company Xstrata, which has a number of operations in Australia, and UQ is designed to lift the number of metallurgy graduates at the institution from five in 2004 to 20 next year.

Australian Council of Deans of Science chairman John Rice said it would take 10 years to rebuild the infrastructure, expertise and resources of these departments, with a skills shortage in the industry also translating into a shortage of people able to teach in universities. Professor Rice said the shift by government to funding universities based on student numbers made the low-enrolment schools unviable, but said the removal of the cap on full-fee paying places in the last federal budget left room for industry to step in and pay for mining courses.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 19, 2007

Bloomberg's `disinterested' school agenda

The mayor's reorganisation of New York schools - and his attack on 'special interests' - reveals a lot about how politics is conducted today.

In a recent spat over city schools, New York mayor Mike Bloomberg referred to the city's major teaching union as `exactly the NRA' - a reference to the arch-conservative National Rifle Association. While this kind of tough talk is not uncommon in the gritty world of New York's urban politics, the comment was of more than passing significance. What could the nominally Republican Bloomberg find in common between a liberal union and a right-wing lobby group? The comparison reveals much about Bloomberg's vision for the New York school system, but also about political debate in an era when our leaders understand themselves as managers.

Bloomberg's campaign to reorganise city schools is now in its fifth year. A mammoth undertaking given the size of the system (1.1million students, 1,200 schools, 83,000 teachers), Bloomberg's drive was initially popular and is widely credited with the record breaking 20 per cent margin of victory in his 2005 re-election. Resistance from a number of interested groups has been building, however, and has even managed to obstruct some of the mayor's more ambitious proposals.

But the criticism has been constrained by posing the battle over the city's schools in an outdated language of left and right. Opponents attack Bloomberg for being pro-corporate, anti-teacher or anti-principal (head teacher), but critics have not recognised that the central tenet of Bloomberg's education crusade, and perhaps his politics more widely, is not the defence of a particular set of interests, but an attack on the very idea of interest itself. The mayor prefers that individuals do not speak through collectives and groups that represent specific interests or ideals. Instead, Bloomberg's ideal world is one in which everyone expresses their interest in an entirely individualised way `directly' to him.

One way in which this vision is articulated is through the language of accountability, a buzzword that runs through every initiative of the Bloomberg administration. (1) Collective interests are seen as barriers to the goal of accountability. So, for instance, Bloomberg assumed complete control over city schools in 2002, abolishing the erstwhile Board of Education, the bureaucracy which had previously run the system. According to the logic of the reform, this has made Bloomberg directly responsible for the success or failure of city education. Meanwhile, the focus on accountability has led to the search for ways to measure school performance. This has included implementing a city-wide curriculum, decentralising spending decisions to individual principals and introducing a `report-card' on school performance to be sent to parents.

A recent proposal to change the school funding procedure seeks to further this project. Currently, teaching staff are allotted to schools on the basis of student numbers, and money is then allocated on the basis of a number of measures - poverty in the school's neighbourhoods, a city-wide average of the teachers' wages, the number of non-native English speakers etc. Bloomberg, aided and abetted by his loyal schools chancellor, Joel Klein, has proposed a new scheme whereby school funding would be allocated purely on the basis of student numbers.

By equalising funding for each student, Bloomberg furthers his agenda of accountability in two ways. First, it seems to level the playing field, allowing for a more direct comparison between different schools. As the Department of Education puts it: `Schools with comparable students will know they have comparable resources. Not getting a fair share will no longer be an excuse for poor performance.' (2) Second, it would move the school system closer to the mayor's market ideal, whereby students, who would take their funding with them should they decide to change schools, would act as consumers within a market place. In this ideal model, they would gravitate toward stronger schools, rewarding their superior education and encouraging those schools' losing students to improve.

Not that the mayor got his way on this issue. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), a union that represents 74,000 New York City teachers and is therefore a major player in education policy, has opposed the plans. They claim, amongst other things, that these changes will make it harder for senior teachers, who command higher salaries, to be hired. In a victory of sorts for the UFT, the mayor referred the plan to a `task force', which includes UFT representatives, for further consideration. But in the sniping that preceded the deal Bloomberg made a number of interesting statements offering some insight into the thinking that drives his reforms.

Most notable was the bad tempered exchange in which Bloomberg described the UFT as `exactly the NRA' (3). In the political demonology of American liberals, comparing an opponent to the NRA is the equivalent of labelling a rival as `fascist' in an internet debate. Bloomberg's rhetorical gambit reminds us just how far he is from the mainstream of American conservatism. It marked him out as a true coastal liberal, giving the lie to his opportunistic adoption of the Republican Party label in the 2001 election.

More revealing still was Bloomberg's characterisation of the NRA, and his justification for using it as an epithet for the UFT: `You always do have the problem of a very small group of people who are single-issue focused having a disproportionate percentage of power.' For Bloomberg, the NRA, and by extension the UFT, represent exactly the kind of interest-driven politics he defines himself against. In opposition to the UFT he repeatedly condemned `special interests' while claiming that he and his altruistic allies were `standing up for our children's interest, all our children's interests' (4).

This union bashing does not represent a conventional right-wing attack on labour. Bloomberg is not anti-teacher; he regularly refers to teachers as his `partners' in education reform. He has also raised their salaries throughout his administration. He has, however, sought an unconventional relationship with teachers, a direct one that sidesteps their independent articulation of interests through the union.

This is clearest in the Bloomberg administration's treatment of school principals (who Bloomberg often refers to as middle-managers). Principals are invited to regular lunches with Joel Klein while the former head of their union, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, reports that she had to beg to get a meeting with Bloomberg. (5) The administration has also set up the `Leadership Academy' to train future principals rather than letting them rise up through the ranks as happened in the past. This measure was understood as allowing the administration a greater influence over the direction of schools. At the same time, it obstructs the organic process whereby veteran teachers develop autonomous leadership that might exercise influence over the direction of school policy. The idea is to substitute bureaucratic management of teacher development for the more conventional standard of seniority.

A similarly managerial approach is apparent in the calls for parental involvement in schools. In a Department of Education (DOE) booklet, parents' `rights and responsibilities' are outlined in detail on the basis that the DOE recognises `parents are the primary educators of their children' (6). And there have been repeated attempts to canvass the opinion of parents, most recently in an enormous survey launched last month. (7) Moreover, parents are courted as watchdogs of the administration, monitoring the progress of their children's schools. Of the plan to issue an annual school report to parents, Bloomberg said: `Personally, I can't think of a better way to hold a principal's feet to the fire than arming mom and dad with the facts about how well or poorly their children's school is performing.' (8)

But the administration's attitude to parental involvement appears, at first glance, to be contradictory. While endlessly encouraging and soliciting parent input, they have dismantled the Community School Boards that once provided a public forum for discussion of education. And when challenged by parents, the administration has been defensive; parent groups who oppose change are lumped in with the UFT as `special interests'. The attitude of the administration is that their apparent `disinterest' - the fact that they claim to have nothing personal at stake in the disputes - is the reason that we should follow their lead on reform. Their supposed position of pure altruism is seen as substantiating their claim to political power and as a way of discrediting their opponents.

Bloomberg does want parental involvement but as guarantors of accountability, not as active citizens. He views parents and students as isolated consumers, their choices providing the ultimate measure of school success. But this market model does not indicate that Bloomberg represents a firmly pro-market position. As noted above, he is no draconian cost cutter. Just as he raised teachers' salaries, the overall education budget has increased substantially under his watch.

It is more that the kind of individual choices that make up the market system are, by default, the methods by which the Bloomberg administration believes it can assess the school system. Lacking any broader agenda for education, the only measure available to the administration is the aggregation of the individual choices that students and their parents make. In fact, Bloomberg's attitude seems to be that there shouldn't be a particular agenda for education. The market mechanisms of adding up consumer preferences, and measuring success or failure through report cards and test scores, is a substitute for the more difficult discussion of what education is all about.

This leads back to the attack on interests. For the Bloomberg administration, any intervening force that disrupts the operation of their market model is corrupting. If individual choice is the ultimate arbiter, we distrust those organisations that might seek to impose their vision on those choices. Margaret Thatcher famously said `there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.' But she did not entirely believe this; rather she was using the market model as a political weapon against those interests with which she disagreed. (9) Lacking her political agenda, Bloomberg attacks all interests in the name of his own, anti-political (or managerial) vision of education. But the perverse consequence of this is that he establishes himself as ultimate arbiter of individual views, the supreme aggregator of all those choices. In the name of `disinterest' he dictates to those who have an actual stake in the system.


Geography revival in Australian schools?

FIRST it was history, then English - now the Federal Government has geography firmly in its sights. Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop yesterday announced a $45,000 study into the teaching of geography in Australian schools in a bid to ensure the subject is included in the curriculum. The inquiry will look at what is being taught in states, including Queensland, where geography and history have been subsumed into Studies of Society and the Environment in most schools.

The federal inquiry follows lobbying by geography teachers and academics, who yesterday welcomed the move. Ms Bishop said it would investigate the decline in the quality of geography tuition in schools. "The Institute of Australian Geographers and the Australian Geography Teachers Association have raised concerns with me that too little geography is being taught in schools, and that in some cases, environmental and political studies are masquerading as geography," she said.

Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford welcomed the inquiry and said most of the concern centred on how well students were being prepared up to Year 10 to take on the subject at senior level.

Australian Geography Teachers Association President Nick Hutchinson said geography professionals had lobbied hard for the inquiry after geography barely rated a mention when the national curriculum was being mooted. "I think we were really afraid that geography was going to disappear," Mr Hutchinson said. The inquiry will examine the time devoted to geography and determine minimum course requirements and should be completed by August.

Mr Welford, meanwhile, announced yesterday that teaching graduates unable to find jobs would be paid by the State Government to retrain in a bid to tackle the chronic shortage in special education. The Government was offering 35 scholarships worth $4000 each, he said. The scholarships will fund graduate certificate courses in semester two this year and will target primary graduates with good results.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 18, 2007

The Diversity Scam

"Diversity," in the academic context, is usually a euphemism for affirmative action, itself a euphemism for discrimination --variously racial, ethnic, gender or sexual preference based-- in favor of groups viewed as disadvantaged. In the employment context, a diversity hire is someone hired in part because he is black, or she is female, or .. .

What I find particularly irritating about this usage is that those who adopt it are typically opponents of actual diversity. In the academic context, what matter are ideas. Two professors with different gender or skin color but the same views provide less relevant diversity than two professors of the same gender or skin color but sharply opposed views.

Supporters of "diversity" try to obscure this by arguing that a different racial or gender background leads to a different viewpoint. There may be cases where this is true, although it is hard to see its relevance to most academic fields. But in such cases, favoring prospective hires whose work shows a different and original viewpoint is surely more sensible than favoring members of minorities in the hope that they will turn out to provide a different viewpoint.

In fact, at least in my observation, the people and departments most inclined to favor "diversity" in the conventional sense are among those least likely to want to hire professors whose viewpoints differ from the consensus. What they want are people of the desired gender or skin color who agree with them. My standard thought experiment to demonstrate this is to imagine that, at some late stage in the search process, it is discovered that a prospective hire regarded as a strong candidate is a supporter, an intelligent supporter, of South African apartheid. Does the probability of hiring him go up or down as a result? I can predict, with little data but some decades of experience of the academy, that in any elite university and almost any department it goes sharply down. Yet that is a viewpoint to which almost no faculty member or student has been, or expects to be, exposed. Someone who actually believes in intellectual diversity should thus regard the additional fact as a plus, not a minus.

When I offer this thought experiment, a common response is that there are no intelligent supporters of apartheid, hence the additional information shows something wrong with the prospective hire. I take that response as evidence in favor of my thesis. Almost nobody who makes it has had the opportunity to argue apartheid with a serious, sophisticated supporter--indeed, I suspect many of them have never met anyone who would admit to supporting it at all. Yet we know that millions of white South Africans did support it for quite a long period; it is a considerable stretch to claim that none of them could have been intelligent and thoughtful. And, in my thought experiment, the supporter of apartheid has already demonstrated sufficient ability to make him a strong candidate before his unfortunate political beliefs are discovered. The confident belief that no reasonable person could support a position that many otherwise reasonable people did support is strong evidence of the failure to be exposed to a sufficiently diverse range of views.

Academic hiring is not the only example of hostility to diversity by people who claim to favor it. Consider the issues of home schooling and education vouchers. It's pretty clear, I think, to anyone involved in the controversy, that one of the main objections to both is that they foster diversity.

The objection is not, of course, put in those terms. It is rather that both make it possible for parents with the wrong views--in particular fundamentalist Christians--to indoctrinate their children with those views. The clear implication is that it is desirable to make sure that all children get exposed to, perhaps even indoctrinated with, the current consensus views--the ones that they will be taught in the public schools.

If one believes that fundamentalists are wrong and the current consensus correct, it's reasonable enough to want all children exposed to the latter. But even given that belief, it is a position directly opposed to diversity--a desire to lessen diversity by stamping out, so far as possible, those particular dissenting views. And in at least some discussions, the hostility to diversity is explicit; the argument is precisely that it is desirable to have a society whose members share a common set of beliefs. That is, I think, a defensible position, but it is bizarre to have it expressed by people who purport to consider intellectual diversity a desirable objective


NAACP shoots the messenger

Earnest Johnson, president of the Louisiana NAACP, and other community leaders and residents convened at Lake Chapel CME Church on Thursday to strategize a "three prong attack" against the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, also know as BESE. The meeting was centered around a protest march, "The March on BESE," set to take place on June 30 at the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge.

Protesters will rally against the "illegal and unconstitutional" use of the LEAP and GEE exams to determine grade promotion and graduation in the state of Louisiana.

"We will march in order to bring attention to the massive failures of students in the Louisiana public school system," said Johnson. Johnson feels strongly that the high failure rates among Louisiana students are largely due to the standardized exams that are not required by the laws of this state.

LEAP and GEE exams were originally approved by the state Legislature a assessment tools to monitor student performance. It is estimated that at least 16,000 students in the state of Louisiana have failed the state's standardized tests, and have not been promoted to the next grade or graduated from high school.


School discipline revival in Western Australia?

SCHOOL bullies and other disruptive students will be removed from schools and taught in behaviour centres, away from their victims. Education Minister Mark McGowan announced the controversial pilot program yesterday. Three centres for teenagers are expected to be set up in Fremantle-Peel, the City of Canning and Kalgoorlie by October as part of the trial, which will be extended to other areas if successful. Five behaviour centres for primary school students are planned for 2008.

Mr McGowan said yesterday it was unfair for well-behaved students to put up with disruptive and violent classmates. It was also unfair to keep troublemakers in learning environments where they were unhappy. Mr McGowan said many disruptive students had underlying mental-health or emotional problems, learning difficulties or dysfunctional home lives, for which they needed help. "They need specialist help that is not always available in schools so that they can return to a mainstream school, training, employment or a combination of these options,'' Mr McGowan said. "The behaviour centres will offer intensive literacy and numeracy support, a specialised curriculum focusing on problem solving, coping strategies and regulation of behaviour, and individualised school transition plans.''

Yesterday's announcement follows a commitment by Mr McGowan earlier this year to improve the image of public schools. He said he was educated in public schools and believed in them. ``While (troublemakers) make up less than 1 per cent of the total student population, their impact is great,'' he said. ``There is no point expecting teachers to struggle on handling these students because everyone suffers. ``About 25 students are excluded from WA public schools every year, almost all of them secondary students. ``The pressure on teachers, other students and families is intolerable. ``Some kids have a very tough life and they will show behaviour that reflects that. ``I am not targeting them, but I am trying to find an environment that suits them while at the same time making the rest of the school better.''



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

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

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 INTERNATIONAL 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, June 17, 2007

Teacher fights on in flap over anti-Islam speaker

The former Enloe High School history teacher who invited a Christian evangelist to speak to his students is not taking his reprimand quietly. Social studies teacher Robert Escamilla said the Wake County school system squelched free speech and academic freedom -- and he is finding a growing group of supporters.

In the days since he was reassigned to Mary E. Phillips High School, 100 of his former students have signed a petition to have him reinstated at Enloe. The chairwoman of the social studies department at Enloe wrote a forceful letter to the school board calling him a "sacrificial lamb." A Web site ( is being built and bank account has been set up to help with his legal bills.

Escamilla maintains he did nothing wrong when he invited Kamil Solomon, an Egyptian-born Christian who lives in Raleigh, to speak to 300 or so Enloe students about his persecution at the hands of the Egyptian government. On the contrary, Escamilla said, he thought the visit by the evangelist was an educational exercise that exposed his students to different opinions and challenged them to form their own views.

The question is this, he said: "Are we going to be open to a variety of different perspectives versus are we going to limit and censor and shut down the educational experience and environment to keep out people with certain views?"

Escamilla, who readily avows his own Christian faith, acknowledges that Solomon was not neutral toward Muslims. But he insists that his guest did not denigrate Islam or attempt to convert students to Christianity during the visit.

The school system sees it differently. In a sharply worded release last month, Wake County Schools Superintendent Del Burns said Solomon's primary message was to convey his anti-Muslim and pro-Christian views. Burns has apologized to Muslims for Solomon's visit. And he issued new guidelines that require guest speakers to sign forms saying they will not denigrate any culture, race, gender, national origin or religion....



Three current articles below that may herald a return to the more realistic practices of the past

Bring back the cane, says Federal Minister

FEDERAL Health Minister Tony Abbott has suggested a return to corporal punishment to ensure discipline returns to schools. The comments came after Mr Abbott watched footage of a vicious attack on a Melbourne schoolgirl. The grainy vision from a mobile phone showed a teenage girl repeatedly kicked in the head and body by two other teenagers.

Mr Abbott was alarmed by the footage and said it showed that current methods of discipline in schools were not working. "I mean, we've taken corporal punishment out of the schools because we think that's brutal and yet our playgrounds seem to be becoming more brutal than ever," the minister told the Nine Network today. "Maybe a little bit more discipline in the schools would prevent some of the ugliness that we've just seen."

Mr Abbott said it was a different situation in his day. "When I was a kid at school, if you got up to mischief you were punished, not severely, but never-the-less you were punished." Victoria Police have cautioned two teenage girls over the assault [Big of them! How much evidence do they need to lay an assault charge?] which took place last year in Melbourne's western suburbs


Violent pupils out of control

TASMANIAN teachers want separate schools for violent children who attack them and other students. Every week the Australian Education Union hears about a teacher who has been hit, punched, stood over or threatened. AEU state manager Chris Lane said teachers' only option was to suspend violent children, who returned to the classroom just as out of control. "They come back after two weeks and just do it again," he said.

AEU welfare officer Barbara Elliot said in one classroom kids had "rioted" and broken legs off chairs to beat each other. She said teachers needed separate education facilities for children to learn how to control their anger. Teachers could work with violent students individually or in small groups in a calm and safe environment where there was nothing to throw. "You would make such a difference," Mrs Elliot said. "A child might only need two or three weeks and they could return to the classroom. You would save so much money because teachers would not be off work on stress leave and the jails would not be so full."

Mrs Elliot said suspending a violent child was like temporarily turning off a machine that had cut off a hand. "You turn it back on in a couple of weeks and nothing has changed," she said. "It is still dangerous."

Mrs Elliot and Education Minister David Bartlett rejected calls from Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott to bring back corporal punishment. Mr Bartlett said he "absolutely" rejected a return to the cane but said teachers needed better support to discipline students. He said he was discussing options with the AEU to protect teachers, including strengthening the law. "We need to provide clarity for our teachers to ensure ... they are strengthened by law and protected by the system to ensure they're not the ones that end up in the firing line," he said.

Mrs Elliot said corporal punishment would only teach students that violence was OK. "The state school system is not overrun with violent children," she said. "But there are violent children and we need a sensible way to deal with them when they can't remain in the classroom. "Teachers have a right to a safe workplace." She said after assaults, teachers found it hard to return to the classroom. "Some sit in their car and cry at the end of the day, others get home and break down," she said.


Professor to take state's schools back to basics

In a further move away from its disastrous foray into outcomes-based education, the West Australian Government has appointed the head of the respected NSW curriculum authority to advise it on newcourses for kindergarten to Year 10. The chairman of the NSW Board of Studies, Gordon Stanley, will head a national advisory panel appointed by the West Australian Government to review proposed content for the reintroduction of school syllabuses. [I know Gordon Stanley, a very conscientious man. I doubt that he would like the label but he is as conservative as you can get in his circles without being marginalized. And the NSW High School curriculum is undoubtedly the nation's most traditional]

The West Australian approach to school curriculums, detailing what students should be able to do rather than the knowledge they should be taught, has been widely criticised for dumbing down school subjects. In the discredited courses, Year 12 English students were asked to study the Big Brother TV show and Mr Men children's books, and music students were not required to read music or play an instrument. By contrast, the NSW syllabuses are renowned for their rigour, and often cited as the gold standard, not only by NSW education ministers, in the debate over a national curriculum.

Professor Stanley's involvement will be viewed as an acknowledgement of the superior quality of the NSW school syllabuses, which West Australian Education Minister Mark McGowan has previously cited as the model for the state. Mr McGowan yesterday said the new syllabuses would dictate that all primary school students spend half their school day studying maths and English.

But the minister said it was too simplistic to interpret the changes as the death of outcomes-based education. "We will never move away from the idea of focusing on student-centred learning; that is, what does the student learn from this?" Mr McGowan said. "But the idea that we don't need a syllabus, and teachers just use their imaginations and experience - particularly for those who have no experience - is just flawed."

The new syllabuses will also allow teachers to use traditional marking methods such as grades or percentages, but they can choose to use the controversial "levels", associated with the outcomes-based education method. Mr McGowan said he was correcting an error by former Liberal education minister Colin Barnett, who in 1998 "scrapped the syllabus from kindergarten to Year 10 and introduced a curriculum framework that did not contain specific course content". He said that while he had full confidence in the state's Curriculum Council, which oversaw the implementation of the ill-fated OBE courses, it made sense to appoint a national panel of experts for the overhaul.

Joining Professor Stanley on the board are foundation chair of mathematics education at Melbourne University Kaye Stacey; associate professor of early childhood at the University of South Australia Susan Hill; associate professor in history at the University of NSW Bruce Scates; and director of the Wesley Research Institute Julie Campbell.

Mr McGowan became Education Minister late last year in an attempt by the Carpenter Government to quell widespread revolt against the state's version of outcomes-based education and the hasty introduction of new courses in Years 11 and 12. His predecessor, Ljiljanna Ravlich, also faced questions over allegations that her department had mishandled claims of sexual misconduct by teachers.

Professor Stanley has been president of the NSW Board of Studies since 1998 and oversaw the introduction of a restructured Higher School Certificate in 2000-01.



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 INTERNATIONAL 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.