Saturday, August 25, 2007

Insane Leftism in the schools again

These assholes must really hate kids. It shows the need for vouchers. The assholes would have lost a customer under a voucher system

A 13-year-old student who drew a picture of a gun on his homework at Payne Junior High School in Queen Creek was initially suspended for at least five days, but his father was able to slash it to three days.

The Mosteller family moved to Chandler from Colorado Springs only four weeks ago, but it's not the kind of greeting Paula Mosteller said she was expecting. Her 13-year-old son was suspended from school because he drew a picture of a gun on homework. "My son is a very good boy," Mosteller said. "He doesn't get into trouble. There was nothing on the paper that would signify that it was a threat of any form," she said.

The principal at Payne Junior High School kept the actual drawing. The picture was enough to get him suspended, initially, for five days. "He was just basically doodling and not thinking a lot about it," Mosteller said.

CBS 5 News tried to get more details from the Chandler Unified School District but were told, "Federal privacy law forbids the school or district from discussing student discipline."

"We're not advocates for guns," Mosteller said. "We don't have guns in our home. We don't promote the use of guns. My son was just basically doodling on a piece of paper," she said. After the father went to the school and talked to the principal, the suspension was trimmed to three days.

CBS 5 News investigated the rules students must follow while at school. There's nothing in a portion of the student handbook that addresses conduct to indicate the drawing of a weapon poses threat. There is a rule that says students should not engage in "Threatening an educational institution by interference with or disruption of the school."


A school where the U.S. constitution is unwelcome

The control freaks are afraid that the kids might learn something without a Leftist spin on it

Two Colorado school districts recently said it is wrong because the schools should not accept gifts from private citizens. [Well, who the Hell else is going to give them gifts?]

El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce bought thousands of pocket-sized Constitutions to give to students when they graduate from high school. Some schools accepted the gifts, but Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 and Lewis Palmer School District 38 rejected the offer. They worry that if they do accept some gifts it would set an inappropriate precedent and would open a Pandora's box of future problems.

Bruce, author of the state's controversial Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), said that there were no strings attached to the gift, although there is a sticker on the back of the pamphlets promoting the educational nonprofit organization that he founded. Bruce told the Colorado Springs Gazette that giving out copies of the Constitution is not the same as others giving out coupons for pizza. "Seniors are on the verge of voting for the first time," Bruce told the paper.

The pamphlet consists of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and quotes from the Founding Fathers. Dave Herrmann, board president of Fountain-Fort Carson District, said the document is readily available on the Internet and the schools already teach the Constitution.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Higher education corruption in California

The taxpayer-supported University of California is seeing off departing president Robert Dynes with a cushy severance package. Matier & Ross, the outstanding investigative reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle, lay out the shape of the going away present:

"...first he will be entitled to a full year's paid leave to brush up on his studies." [....]

"Now that he has to vacate the UC-provided president's mansion in Kensington, Dynes - like all senior administrators - is eligible for a low-interest home loan to help him relocate.... it's uncertain whether Dynes will take advantage of the benefit." [....]

"When Dynes chooses to retire completely from academic life, his pension will be based on a percentage of the average of his last highest-earning years. That would include his time as president.

"Upshot: Calculations show that if he were to stop working next June, he could either cash out for $1.6 million or get $145,524 a year in retirement pay."

All of this coming to a guy they say was "nudged out as UC's top dog after a string of embarrassing stories about the university's liberal pay and perk packages for top managers"

So the punishment for embarrassing the university by wretched excess in pay and perks appears to be more wretched excess for the miscreant! That is a form of twisted logic that can only exist within an organizational culture that regards itself as exempt from any accountability to others.

A similar contempt for taxpayers and tuition-payers is the way top UC managers try to have the best of both worlds: academia and corporations. When justifying their increasingly high salaries, university presidents and other top academic managers cite pay scales for executives of comparably-sized private companies.

But when it comes to the academic perks, little things like 400 grand for a full year's vacation, then the robes come out and it's perk, perk, perk your way to financial happiness. Like the outrageous bennies granted the late Denice Denton (a $30,000 backyard dog run for the Chancellor's mansion at the University of California Santa Cruz and a high paying job for her female companion among others), the incident once again betrays the get-it-while-you-can attitude that evidently permeates upper ranks of academia in places like the University of California. I am reminded of the scenes of Russian revolutionaries invading the homes of the aristocrats and grabbing whatever they could carry off of the lifestyle enjoyed by those they have hated and envied their entire lives.

If top management of big schools wants to play in the corporate major leagues when it comes to pay, then they should obey the league rules there, like personal accountability for performance metrics, strict accountability for their decisions, transparency in accounting and broad disclosure that goes beyond Sarbanes-Oxley, since they are nonprofits and some are organs of government.

There is a risk component to executive responsibility in corporations, and that is one justification for the high pay. If academics do not want to bear the risks, then they don't deserve comparability in pay.


British schools dodging core subjects

The proportion of pupils obtaining five good GCSEs in core subjects is in long-term decline, research suggests. As 600,000 pupils prepare to open their GCSE results tomorrow, a new analysis of the trends in results shows a widening gap between the pass rate for five good GCSEs in any subject and for pass rate when fundamental subjects such as maths and science are included. The proportion of students gaining five good (A*-C) GCSEs including English, maths, science and a language, has fallen from 61 per cent in 1996 to 44 per cent last year. Over the same period the overall pass rate for five good GCSEs in any subject has risen from 44 to 58 per cent. Tomorrow's results are expected to show another rise.

Michael Gove, the Tory education spokesman, who carried out the analysis, said the results suggested that schools were trying to maximise their league table position by moving away from core subjects, the very subjects that universities and employers were looking for most. Heads are accused of entering students for "easier" vocational courses - which can be worth more than four GCSEs each in the league tables. "These figures emphasise the importance of truly robust measurements of achievement. The decline in core subjects marks a worrying trend and underlines the need for teaching to focus on the neglected basics," Mr Gove said.

The Conservative analysis shows that, although the proportion of pupils getting five or more good GCSEs in any subject has increased by 13.6 percentage points in the past decade, the improvement when English and mathematics are taken into account is less than ten points. Figures including English, maths and science have improved by only 5.4 percentage points on the period. Figures including English, mathematics, science and a modern foreign language, have declined since 1996, by 1.5 points.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, rejected the Tory analysis as "cheap spin". As modern foreign languages were no longer compulsory at GCSE, it made no sense to include them in any new league table of results, he said. "Adding any optional GCSE in and then using this as evidence of failure simply undermines the real achievements of teachers, schools and pupils," he said. "The number of children achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths has risen substantially since 1997, and our new tough measures will show the proportion achieving grade C or above in a modern foreign language as well as science."

At the heart of the disagreement between the Government and the Opposition lies a fundamental disagreement over how best to measure school performance. Last year ministers took the bold step of introducing a new, deliberately tougher benchmark showing how schools were performing in the basics of literacy and numeracy. By this measure, only 45 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSE passes, including English and maths - considerably less than the 58 per cent of pupils achieving five good passes in any subject, the traditional measure. Later this year the Government will add science passes to its basic measure of success. The Tories, however, want an even greater emphasis on core, or traditional subjects.

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham, agreed that merely measuring how many pupils got five good GCSEs in any subject was no longer satisfactory, as this masked weaknesses in the basics. "You could take an NVQ in ICT [information and communication technology] and this would be worth the equivalent of four GCSEs," he said. But he questioned the Tory analysis: "It is stretching a point to include modern foreign languages, as these are not compulsory." Professor Smithers added, however, that he expected this year's maths results to be disappointing. Last year the pass rate in maths was lower than for all other main subjects, as more than 343,000 pupils (45.7 per cent) failed to gain even a C.


The need to study warfare

Try explaining to a college student that Tet was an American military victory. You'll provoke not a counterargument-let alone an assent-but a blank stare: Who or what was Tet? Doing interviews about the recent hit movie 300, I encountered similar bewilderment from listeners and hosts. Not only did most of them not know who the 300 were or what Thermopylae was; they seemed clueless about the Persian Wars altogether.

It's no surprise that civilian Americans tend to lack a basic understanding of military matters. Even when I was a graduate student, 30-some years ago, military history-understood broadly as the investigation of why one side wins and another loses a war, and encompassing reflections on magisterial or foolish generalship, technological stagnation or breakthrough, and the roles of discipline, bravery, national will, and culture in determining a conflict's outcome and its consequences-had already become unfashionable on campus. Today, universities are even less receptive to the subject.

This state of affairs is profoundly troubling, for democratic citizenship requires knowledge of war-and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever..........

Military history teaches us, contrary to popular belief these days, that wars aren't necessarily the most costly of human calamities. The first Gulf War took few lives in getting Saddam out of Kuwait; doing nothing in Rwanda allowed savage gangs and militias to murder hundreds of thousands with impunity. Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin killed far more off the battlefield than on it. The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic brought down more people than World War I did. And more Americans-over 3.2 million-lost their lives driving over the last 90 years than died in combat in this nation's 231-year history. Perhaps what bothers us about wars, though, isn't just their horrific lethality but also that people choose to wage them-which makes them seem avoidable, unlike a flu virus or a car wreck, and their tolls unduly grievous. Yet military history also reminds us that war sometimes has an eerie utility: as British strategist Basil H. Liddell Hart put it, "War is always a matter of doing evil in the hope that good may come of it." Wars-or threats of wars-put an end to chattel slavery, Nazism, fascism, Japanese militarism, and Soviet Communism.

Military history is as often the story of appeasement as of warmongering. The destructive military careers of Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler would all have ended early had any of their numerous enemies united when the odds favored them. Western air power stopped Slobodan Milosevi?'s reign of terror at little cost to NATO forces-but only after a near-decade of inaction and dialogue had made possible the slaughter of tens of thousands. Affluent Western societies have often proved reluctant to use force to prevent greater future violence. "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things," observed the British philosopher John Stuart Mill. "The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse."


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Multiculturalism's War on Education

Back to school nowadays means back to classrooms, lessons and textbooks permeated by multiculturalism and its championing of "diversity." Many parents and teachers regard multiculturalism as an indispensable educational supplement, a salutary influence that "enriches" the curriculum. But is it?

With the world's continents bridged by the Internet and global commerce, multiculturalism claims to offer a real value: a cosmopolitan, rather than provincial, understanding of the world beyond the student's immediate surroundings. But it is a peculiar kind of "broadening." Multiculturalists would rather have students admire the primitive patterns of Navajo blankets, say, than learn why Islam's medieval golden age of scientific progress was replaced by fervent piety and centuries of stagnation.

Leaf through a school textbook and you'll find that there is a definite pattern behind multiculturalism's reshaping of the curriculum. What multiculturalists seek is not the goal they advertise, but something else entirely. Consider, for instance, the teaching of history.

One text acclaims the inhabitants of West Africa in pre-Columbian times for having prosperous economies and for establishing a university in Timbuktu; but it ignores their brutal trade in slaves and the proliferation of far more consequential institutions of learning in Paris, Oxford and elsewhere in Europe. Some books routinely lionize the architecture of the Aztecs, but purposely overlook or underplay the fact that they practiced human sacrifices. A few textbooks seek to portray Islam as peaceful in part by presenting the concept of "jihad" ("sacred war") to mean an internal struggle to surmount temptation and evil, while playing down Islam's actual wars of religious conquest.

What these textbooks reveal is a concerted effort to portray the most backward, impoverished and murderous cultures as advanced, prosperous and life-enhancing. Multiculturalism's goal is not to teach about other cultures, but to promote--by means of distortions and half-truths--the notion that non-Western cultures are as good as, if not better than, Western culture. Far from "broadening" the curriculum, what multiculturalism seeks is to diminish the value of Western culture in the minds of students. But, given all the facts, the objective superiority of Western culture is apparent, so multiculturalists must artificially elevate other cultures and depreciate the West.

If students were to learn the truth of the hardscrabble life of primitive farming in, say, India, they would recognize that subsistence living is far inferior to life on any mechanized farm in Kansas, which demands so little manpower, yet yields so much. An informed, rational student would not swallow the "politically correct" conclusions he is fed by multiculturalism. If he were given the actual facts, he could recognize that where men are politically free, as in the West, they can prosper economically; that science and technology are superior to superstition; that man's life is far longer, happier and safer in the West today than in any other culture in history.

The ideals, achievements and history of Western culture in general--and of America in particular--are therefore purposely given short-shrift by multiculturalism. That the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age were born and flourished in Western nations; that the preponderance of Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to people in the West--such facts, if they are noted, are passed over with little elaboration.

The "history" that students do learn is rewritten to fit multiculturalism's agenda. Consider the birth of the United States. Some texts would have children believe the baseless claim that America's Founders modeled the Constitution on a confederation of Indian tribes. This is part of a wider drive to portray the United States as a product of the "convergence" of three traditions--native Indian, African and European. But the American republic, with an elected government limited by individual rights, was born not of stone-age peoples, but primarily of the European Enlightenment. It is a product of the ideas of thinkers like John Locke, a British philosopher, and his intellectual heirs in colonial America, such as Thomas Jefferson.

It is a gross misconception to view multiculturalism as an effort to enrich education. By reshaping the curriculum, the purveyors of "diversity" in the classroom calculatedly seek to prevent students from grasping the objective value to human life of Western culture--a culture whose magnificent achievements have brought man from mud huts to moon landings. Multiculturalism is no boon to education, but an agent of anti-Western ideology.


Australia: Still some life in mathematics

The University of Wollongong has defied the sector-wide trend of cutting back mathematics and has more professors and honours students in the field than ever. Departing deputy vice-chancellor for research, Margaret Sheil, said a combination of "opportunity and strategic planning" had given the university eight full professors and 21 honours students. The eight includes three professors recruited in the past year and a half. One of them, Iain Raeburn, bought a whole maths team with him from rival the University of Newcastle.

Professor Sheil, who started as Australian Research Council chief executive officer last week, said the school of mathematics and applied statistics' beefing up had been driven partly by a need to be prepared for the RQF and by a sponsorship from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a popular graduate destination. "We are looking to build maths more generally; it's going to come back," Professor Sheil said.

A report released last month painted a bleak picture for the discipline across the nation. The National Tertiary Education Union found that at least seven universities had cut maths staff in the past 18 months. Melbourne, La Trobe, Macquarie, Flinders, RMIT, James Cook had all cut staff. The University of New England had made two maths and stats staff redundant but they won their jobs back on appeal.

At a time when enrolments in maths have fallen by 34 per cent (from 1989 to 2005, according to the Australian Councils of Deans of Science) Wollongong has three times as many honours students as normal. "That's because of a combination of our reputation and the fact that we've got a really dynamic group in maths," Professor Sheil said. The university had a history of strength in the discipline, mainly because local industry needed good graduates, and a more recent association with the ABS had kept that strength.

Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute executive officer Jan Thomas said it was good that Wollongong was expanding but other universities needed to do more.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Promise for West Virginia's future

In a Daily Mail column last week, economist Matt Ryan reported that the state now ranks 29th in the nation of young adults in or entering college. That is up from 49th place in 2000. Wow. What could have possibly propelled the state to move up so quickly? Two words: Promise scholarships. The state now picks up the tab for tuition for any student who graduates from high school with at least a B average and scores high enough on the entrance exams. The program is simple. It selects the students who are most likely to finish college and gives them free tuition in college.

This is so unlike the state’s Higher Education grants, which give money to students not based on the likelihood of their success in college, but rather on their income. The grants are a welfare program. The grants are far less successful than Promise has proved to be. Higher Education grants have been around for decades. They failed to move us out of 49th place. But Promise scholarships began in 2002, and already we’re No. 29 in percentage of kids in college.

Promise works because it is a merit program. Higher Education grants fail because they are an entitlement. The minimum grade point average is 2.0 for the latter. Students who are that lacking in either skill or interest in school have no business being in college. Let them work for a few years. Then they will either be motivated for college, or not. The state should concentrate its aid on its many deserving high school graduates. Every year, the politicians try to rip Promise off in the name of “saving” money.

May I remind people that the Promise program was used as an excuse to legalize video slot machines on every corner? You want to save money? Cut legislative pay. The one lever the politicians use to “save” money is by “raising the standards” on Promise scholarships. It is a game. Every year, politicians raise the minimum score required on the entrance exams. And this year, students defied them by meeting the higher standard.

Daily Mail reporter Jessica Karmasek reported in June that even after the bar was raised, more students in Kanawha and Putnam counties qualified for Promise scholarships. The numbers in Kanawha County rose from 372 in 2006 to 412 in 2007. Likewise, Putnam County’s numbers rose from 152 in 2006 to 164 in 2007. As Nelson Muntz says on “The Simpsons” show: “Ha, ha.”

I live for the day when each and every high school senior in West Virginia qualifies for a Promise scholarship. From what little I have observed, the Promise scholarships help high schools by giving kids an incentive to study hard and to stay out of trouble. My kids are beyond their Promise scholarship years. But I will defend this program because it shows for the first time that West Virginia is serious about education.

To be sure, funding for education has always been there. West Virginia is second only to Vermont in percentage of taxable income that goes to the public schools. Being 49th in income and beating the national average in spending per student is quite an achievement. That is the result of good lobbying by teachers unions. Don’t get me wrong. Teachers are the people who educate the kids. But you have to motivate those kids. You have to reward them. I cannot promise that this program will help turn the state’s economy around. But it cannot hurt.

One final thought: A Mormon is suing to get an exemption so he can take a year or two off for missionary work. Well, he certainly is free to do so, but when he comes back home, he should forget about that Promise scholarship. I hope the courts politely and firmly remind him that it is his choice. The Promise scholarship is for one year at a time. If a person misses a year, he is out. The Promise program is a reward, not an entitlement. That is the secret to its success. Now to see if all those extra kids in college do the state any good.


Another charter success

Not much can compare to the excitement of the first day of school, as evidenced by the smiles at the University of Texas Elementary School last week. Save maybe finding out that your campus has been rated exemplary by the state. "It is our Rose Bowl," said Ramona Trevino, principal of UT Elementary, a four-year-old, university-run charter school that this month earned the highest rating under the state's accountability system for the first time.

The school, which primarily serves a low-income, mostly minority population, is the only campus in East Austin to achieve the rating under the current requirements, which are largely based on performance on state achievement tests. School officials credit several factors in their success, including the latest research on effective teaching, small class sizes and motivated parents. It's a feat that only 8.6 percent of 7,385 campuses rated statewide achieved; it's particularly surprising given the school's large at-risk enrollment.

More than 90 percent of UT Elementary third- and fourth-grade students who took the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in the spring passed each subject to earn the rating. Furthermore, more than 90 percent of students in all ethnic and economic groups passed in all subjects. In the Austin school district, seven schools earned an exemplary rating, but all are west of Interstate 35 and have significantly fewer economically disadvantaged students. "I feel very confident that my girls are getting a good education here," said Pedro Reyes Jr., father of Yulissa and Jessenia, both of whom are UT Elementary students. "They're raising little Longhorns. It's kind of cool. It's a special school, and we're very proud of it."

The campus uses a "three-tier" model for helping struggling students, based on research from the UT Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, in which teachers use intervention strategies typically reserved for special education students in regular classroom settings. As a result, 20 percent to 30 percent of UT Elementary students receive additional in-class instruction, and 5 percent to 10 percent get after-school tutoring and attend summer school. The interventions, Trevino said, are combined with other social and emotional practices, like motivational school-wide assemblies every morning and "peace tables," where students can meet to sort out their differences. Nurses and psychologists often team up to deal with problems from home. "Creating a culture of caring is very important to what we do," Treviño said. And that includes making students and their families feel part of the UT family: All students wear burnt orange-and-white uniforms.

Teachers said they have more freedom to add research-based teaching techniques to their curricula than they would in public schools. And small class sizes — there are 40 students per grade and 20 per class — allow teachers and administrators to have close relationships with parents.

Another key to the school's success is parental involvement. Parents have made a choice to have their children attend, Treviño said, so she can have higher expectations for them as well. "I expect 100 percent participation in the science fair, and I actually get it," she said. "The idea truly is for these kids to feel like they are on track for college. . . . It's that whole 'We're UT' thing."

Choice is just part of what makes it difficult to compare the performance of charter schools with that of public schools. Families have to go through the extra step of applying to charter schools, so there is often a higher level of engagement from the beginning. On the flip side, many charters specialize in serving at-risk students, which can be reflected in their test scores.

Although students reap the benefits of university-based research, the University of Texas has made it a point not to throw large amounts of money into the charter campus; it has a $1.6 million operating budget, of which $1.3 million is state money, said Marilyn Kameen, senior associate dean at UT's College of Education. The elementary campus is simply a collection of portable buildings with no real gymnasium. Enrollment is limited to five East Austin ZIP codes, and acceptance is based on a lottery. "The intent was always to create a real school with real kids who have all the issues that kids in urban settings have," Kameen said.

As the plans for a UT charter school were being laid out in 2002, Austin school district officials offered to work with UT as an alternative to the charter, but UT declined. At the time, school vouchers were a hot topic in the state Legislature, and Charles Miller, a friend of President Bush's and a charter proponent, chaired the UT Board of Regents. Before voting to create the school, he quoted the Austin district as saying, "We can do it better." "It has not adversely affected us or any of the schools in that area," Austin school district spokesman Andy Welch said.

Struggling charters in Texas outnumber those that are doing well. This year, 16 percent of 317 charter campuses rated statewide were rated unacceptable, compared with 4 percent of Texas public schools. In Travis County, their performance has been mixed. In addition to UT Elementary, the NYOS charter school, which serves preschoolers through third-graders, was rated exemplary this year, but six other charter schools were rated unacceptable.

Critics argue that charter schools, which are funded with public tax dollars, should not be supported to the detriment of the traditional system. "The last thing we want to do is talk about expanding the system before we fix the mess we've already got," said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that supports public schools.

Amid the debate, UT Elementary parents are so satisfied with how their school is performing that many are trying to get a middle school created. Officials at UT say that a charter middle school is not part of their plans, but several other ambitious plans are in the works. This year, UT Elementary will begin a $19 million capital campaign to build a permanent facility at its location on East Sixth Street. The school also plans to launch a pilot program to strengthen teacher preparation.

There's also talk of testing some new research in physical education and publishing a teacher training manual that can be used by other schools. Trevino said she plans to reach out more to the Austin school district. "I know we can do more," she said.


Illiterate British school leavers are a business ‘nightmare’: "Employers have claimed that they face a “nightmare” scenario as they try to deal with teenagers who are unable to read or write properly. Many school-leavers were more technologically literate than their bosses, but more than half of employers were unhappy with the basic literacy and numeracy skills of 16-year-olds, according to a survey by the CBI. Many businesses said that they were training employees in skills that should have been learnt in the classroom. “Basic literacy and numeracy problems are a nightmare for business and for individuals, so we have to get these essentials right,” Richard Lambert, the CBI’s director-general, said."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some teachers say yes to pay tied to scores

While the words "merit pay" drew hisses and boos at a recent teachers' union convention, educators are endorsing contracts that pay bonuses for boosting students' test scores. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers oppose linking a teacher's paycheck to how well their students do on tests. But that is not stopping Rob Weil, the AFT's deputy director of educational issues, from helping local unions hammer out contracts that include new merit-pay plans. "We don't have a message on a board that says, 'Hey, thinking about this?'" he said. But he said the AFT feels obliged to assist chapters that have decided to go this route.

Teachers usually are paid according to a century-old career ladder that rewards seniority and levels of education. The system was designed to ensure fair compensation for women and minorities. The average starting salary today is about $31,000.

"They don't make enough money, especially the good ones -- especially the great ones," said Louis Malfaro, the teachers' union president in Austin, Texas, where nine schools are part of a pilot program to overhaul how teachers are paid. Malfaro said Austin's approach is modeled partly on Denver's, which links salaries to students' test scores and other measures. Malfaro says the Austin effort will expand slowly and be evaluated methodically to avoid the kinds of mistakes made elsewhere. "Our approach has been a slow, deliberate and steady one," Malfaro said. "This is a highway with wrecked cars all over it."

Florida recently had to retool a merit-pay plan after a large number of districts opted out, citing teacher concerns. A plan in Houston came under criticism because it was put in place over teachers' objections. Vanderbilt University education professor Jim Guthrie said the involvement of teachers is essential. "I just put myself in their shoes. All of a sudden you are going to change all the rules and you're not going to talk to me?" said Guthrie, who is assisting districts that got federal grants to implement merit pay.

Weil, the AFT official, said teacher compensation has to be bargained locally. He also said the new plans should make good professional development available to increase the chances that teachers will raise students' achievement.

Union opposition to merit pay stems partly from failed efforts of the 1980s. In those cases, principals generally were given the power to decide who would get the additional dollars. "They often had no basis of any objective measure of performance," said Susan Moore Johnson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "So what sometimes happened is there would be different awards made to different individuals and they would become public, and people would be appalled at the individuals who were given the awards or not given the awards."

More here

Fascist school system in Quebec

A community of a dozen Mennonite families in Quebec is ready to leave the province rather than succumb to provincial government demands that would require their children to be taught evolution and homosexuality. While the government sees its actions as nothing more than enforcing technical regulations, many view the case as intolerance of Christian faith.

The community runs a small Mennonite school out of a church in Roxton Falls where eleven children in elementary grades were expected to commence studies this Fall. Subjects include reading, writing, math, science, geography, social sciences, music and French. However, they are not schooled in evolution and homosexuality (sex education) as demanded by the official provincial curriculum.

Quebec Education Ministry Spokesman Francois Lefebvre told that the province has two requirements for approval of private schools. "That the teachers are certified and that the provincial curriculum which is mandatory in all Quebec schools is followed," he said.

Ronald Goossen, a spokesman for the families, told the community rejects both demands. With regard to certified teachers, he said, "we have pulled our students out of public schools and by asking us to have certified teachers they are asking us to send our teachers to public school. So basically they're asking something of us that we don't feel we can do." Regarding the curriculum, Goosen said, "Some of the things - the theory of evolution would be a problem, the attitudes portrayed, the lifestyles we don't ascribe to, making it look that single motherhood is fine, that alternate lifestyles are fine - gay 'marriage', we'd be very much against that."

After visiting the Mennonites in November, the Ministry of Education told the school that their teaching was not up to standard and threatened them with legal action. Parents were informed that their children must be enrolled in government-approved schools by the fall.

Given other incidents in the province, Goossen was concerned that if they don't comply, children might be taken from their families by social workers. In 2002, social workers in Aylmer removed seven children from a Mennonite family because the family used spanking as a form of discipline.

This move is an enactment of the Ministry of Education's decision last year to shut down schools that don't teach the full government-approved curriculum. The Ministry threatened to shut down private Evangelical schools that didn't want to teach evolution and sex-education.

The Mayor of Roxton Falls, Jean-Marie Laplante, said that the majority of non-Mennonites in his town support the school. Laplante has complained to the education department and Education Minister Michelle Courchesne to save the school from being shut down. "We want to keep these people here - they're part of our community," the Mayor told the National Post. "They're good neighbours. They integrated into the community, they work hard, they have farms, they work in businesses in the region." The prospect of losing the families, said the Mayor, "hurts economically, but it also hurts because everybody loves these people and we're saying, 'Why? Why is this happening?' " (Contact the Mayor here: )

Goosen told that the families are serious about moving and will be gone in a couple of weeks when school commences. He noted that most have already rented housing in Ontario. Should the government reconsider and allow them the freedom to educate their children within the boundaries of their faith, the community would gladly stay he said.

Lefebvre told that the school had not yet applied for permission to run privately. However, Goosen responded that the ministry of education had all the required information and his application was not 'officially' submitted only due to a technicality related to the online submission process. Moreover, said Goosen, "we have been informed that our application would be rejected since they require certified teachers and adherence to the curriculum."

Lefebvre at first seemed conciliatory. He claimed that the regulations "do not exclude giving other courses or teachings related to their religious convictions, but at this moment it is outside of the official program of education." asked whether a compromise could be reached, whether it would be possible to eliminate from the school's curriculum the offensive parts which deal with evolution and homosexuality. Lefebvre replied, "It's difficult to say because the educational program insists that students acquire competence in the whole program therefore how could you eliminate one part of the program and still have a general competence?" He referred to religious schools in Quebec, emphasizing that they also have to "respect the program of education (curriculum) of Quebec."

Goosen told that the Mennonite community has its own curriculum which is accepted in seven other Canadian provinces. "Our own curriculum system has served us well and produced good results," he said.

The option of home schooling is permitted, Lefebvre stated in answer to another question, as long as the progress of the children is reported as satisfactory to the local education ministry. He told that homeschoolers in the province must be receiving an equivalent education as those in public schools, which means the provincial curriculum must be followed. That curriculum, with its pro-gay sex education and its teaching of evolution, remains unacceptable to many.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Are you more conservative than a 2nd-grader?

It’s not in the interest of the government’s education system to teach kids to question laws and challenge authority – you know, the way the Founding Fathers did. What’s in the government’s interest is blind obedience and unquestioning submission. You know, like the way everyone dutifully parades through those airport checkpoints without raising a stink. Baa-aaaa!

So even if you don’t home-school your children, it’s important for conservatives to teach their children what it means to really be an American citizen in this regard because, as the Founders recognized, freedom and liberty aren’t a natural state of existence for human beings. Humans have an inherent desire for someone else to take care of them. You know, like Social Security.

Which brings me to the home-school lesson my 2nd-grader, Kristen, was hit with this week titled, “Rules and Laws.” It turned out to be a rather interesting and eye-opening experience which I highly recommend to all conservatives with children of any age - ESPECIALLY if they’re attending a public school: “Pretend you are a leader who is in charge of deciding the laws for your country. Create five new laws that the people of your country will have to obey.”

As you can imagine, Kristen was in seventh heaven at the notion of running her own country and coming up with rules everyone else had to obey. After all, there’s a little dictator in every kid yearning to get out, right? Anyway, here are the five laws the new queen came up with for Kristenistan, along with my side commentary:

1.) “Black people and white people should have the right to sit wherever they want.”

As you might have guessed, the lesson the day before was about the civil rights movement, so this really wasn’t too much of a surprise and is, of course, an admirable sentiment to be expressed by a 7-year-old. But here comes the conservative teachable moment; an opportunity to convey the quintessential American notion of property rights, as well as the law of unintended consequences as it pertains to creating new laws.

“OK, Kristen. Let’s say you use your allowance to buy a front-row ticket to see Dora the Explorer in concert. Does someone else, black or white, have the right to sit in your seat that you paid for? And do they have the right to sit in your seat at our dinner table?”


Correct. Lesson learned. Onward…

2.) “All campsites should have campfires.”

This comes from the fact that we are leaving today for our two-week summer camping trip at Lake Tahoe, scene of a rather large forest fire earlier in the season. As such, the governor has decreed that campfires be banned for the duration of the summer. How, Kristen wondered, are we supposed to toast marshmallows and s’mores, let alone read ghost stories by the campfire if we’re not allowed to have a campfire? Good question.

This presented an opportunity to teach about the dangers of government passing laws which punish a majority of responsible people for the actions of an irresponsible few, as well as the tendency of government to make rules, not because they are particularly effective, but because they make people think the government is doing something constructive. You know, like creating the TSA.

The fact is, I explained, more forest fires are started by lightning strikes than campfires built by responsible campers in a campground. By banning campfires in campgrounds, the government really didn’t do anything to make forest fires less likely. Lightning will still strike, and irresponsible people not camping in a campground just ignore the law anyway. Only the innocent, law-abiding people are being harmed by this new rule. You know, like gun control laws.

3.) “Everybody should throw their trash out.”

A fine sentiment. Who could argue with that, right? Yet still another teachable moment. “What,” I asked, “will you do to people who are caught littering?”

“I’ll put them in jail and torture them!” (Ah, it’s good ta be da Queen!) “How long will you keep them in jail?” “Three years.”

“For littering? Isn’t that a bit harsh? Who will take care of their children and feed them while they’re in jail for three years? So, do you think maybe jail isn’t the best punishment for doing something that doesn’t really hurt other people?” You know, like putting dying cancer patients behind bars for smoking pot.

4.) “Everybody should have the right to go to at least one ball.”

This comes from a combination of Cinderella and the fact that Kristen went to an inaugural ball for Nevada’s new governor earlier this year (the same one who banned campfires!). ‘Tis only natural to decree that everyone in Kristenistan have the opportunity to experience such an exciting event. I have no problem with this one, providing that the opportunity to go to a ball doesn’t become an entitlement, a lesson better driven home after #5…

5.) “Every child should have a computer.”

Yikes! How Al Gore-ish. You see, folks, this is how liberalism gets its start. Kristen has a computer because her Dad worked hard to earn enough money to buy her one. But her friend up the street doesn’t have a computer because her Dad can’t afford it. And in the mind of a 7-year-old, that’s not fair. So how does a 7-year-old fix this “injustice”? By passing a law mandating that every kid gets a computer.

“OK, Kristen, fine. Now…who’s going to pay for the computers?” “Uh, all of the people in Kristenistan will pitch in.” You know, like taxes. “But what if I don’t want to give my money to buy someone else’s kid a computer? What if I want to spend my money on something for MY kids? Will I have to chip in, or can I choose not to?”

I think you can guess where this one went from there. The point here is that liberal tendencies are natural and begin at an early age. And the public schools won’t do anything to discourage them. In fact, just the opposite.

So if you want your kids to learn that laws can have unintended consequences, that property rights are crucial rights (tell THAT to the Supreme Court!), that the innocent shouldn’t be punished with the guilty, that punishment should fit the crime, that the government just doing “something” isn’t really doing anything if all it does is make people feel better, that life isn’t always fair, and that “good” ideas cost money which many people might not think is worth chipping in for…you better teach them these lessons yourself. If only members of Congress were smarter than 2nd-graders.


Educating The Nonexistent

The Washington, DC school system received about $4 million in Federal money over a decade to pay for the education of the children of migrant workers. Which is all well and good except for one thing: they didn't have any children of migrant workers enrolled in their schools. The grant money was intended for the children of seasonal workers in agriculture or fishing, two industries that Washington, DC is not exactly noted for. Worst of all, it appears to have been done deliberately based on false claims filed by officials.

The school system received $3.85 million between 1994 and 2004 for children whose families had seasonal employment in agriculture and fishing. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the grants on an annual basis based on information submitted by D.C. education officials.

Federal education officials did not give information yesterday on how many children were claimed by D.C. officials to have been served under the grants. The receipt of money for migrant students was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, said city attorneys have looked into the issue "and believe that the D.C. public schools drew down these funds in error." The office is working on a resolution with federal attorneys from the Justice Department, Merz said. Local jurisdictions can face fines for the misuse of funds under the federal False Claims Act.

This went on for a decade. It seems unlikely that it was a one-off oopsie on the part of officials. Whatever arrangement Washington officials make for repayment of the money should also include some punishment for whoever kept filing the false claims. Given that it is part of the educational bureaucracy involved, that seems unlikely. Unless the Examiner keeps the heat on.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Evidence of Liberal Bias in Our Schools

Post excerpted from Flopping Aces.

Now is it any wonder the youth in this country are so totally lacking in common sense?  Look at the top academia donations given so far for the 2008 election:

A little graph I put together:

And these are the yahoos teaching our youth.  Long ago teachers would not wear their politics on their sleeves, instead they did the job they were hired to do.  Teach!  Without bias.  Not anymore:

Conservative groups cite professors’ growing activism as evidence that education and politics have become muddled. “There’s been a transformation of universities over 30 or 40 years, where what was once an institutional ethic that you leave your politics at home, that your students should never know your personal opinions on controversial topics, has been eroded to the point where it is rarely used,” said Peter Wood, director of the conservative National Association of Scholars.

Click that link and head down to the writers summarization of their findings:

The simplest explanation for the college community's resounding opposition to President Bush, however, may be that professors understand the importance of participating in the political process, are well-versed on issues and—perhaps more so than the general population

Yup, it's all because they are so much smarter than the rest of us.

Stop the NYC Madrassa

When Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser resigned as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy on August 10, her action culminated a remarkable grassroots campaign in which concerned citizens successfully criticized the New York City establishment. But the fight goes on. The next step is to get the academy itself canceled.

The five-month effort to get Almontaser removed began in March with analyses, including one by this writer, pointing out the inherent political and religious problems in an Arabic-language school. By June, a concerned group of New York City residents joined with specialists - among them my colleague, R. John Matthies - to create the Stop the Madrassa Coalition. with the goal of preventing an avowed Islamist from heading a taxpayer-funded school.

The coalition, made up of some 150 people, energetically did research, attended events, peppered public officials - notably Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein - with letters, collared journalists, and spoke on radio shows and national television. The odds seemed impossibly long, especially as the city government and most of the city's press clearly supported the KGIA's opening and Ms. Almontaser as principal, while denouncing their critics.

Unrelenting efforts by the coalition eventually led to the development in early August that caused Almontaser to resign. One of its leaders, Pamela Hall, photographed T-shirts bearing the words "Intifada NYC," which were sold by an organization, Arab Women Active in Art and Media, that shares office space in Brooklyn with the Saba Association of American Yemenis. Ms. Almontaser, it turns out, is both a board member and the spokeswoman for the Saba Association.

The T-shirts' call for a Palestinian Arab-style uprising in the five boroughs, admittedly, had only the most tenuous connection to Ms. Almontaser. She could have maintained her months-old silence, which was serving her well. But the KGIA principal also has a long history of speaking out about politics, and apparently she could not resist the opportunity to defend the shirts, telling the New York Post that the word intifada "basically means `shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic. I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of [violence] in New York City. I think it's pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society ... and shaking off oppression."

This gratuitous apology for suicide terrorism undid Ms. Almontaser's months of silence and years of work, prompting scathing editorials and denunciations by politicians. Perhaps most devastating was a harsh letter from the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who previously had supported Ms. Almontaser. Ms. Almontaser submitted an angry resignation letter just four days after the publication of her statement apologizing for intifada.

"I remain committed to the success of Khalil Gibran International Academy," Mr. Klein insisted after Ms. Almontaser's resignation. Fine, but KGIA's prospects for opening on September 4 remain clouded. Count its problems: The school has only an interim, non-Arabic-speaking principal; it has only five teachers; and it is 25% undersubscribed by students. In addition, it faces the outspoken opposition of politicians such as Assemblyman Dov Hikind and is wildly unpopular; and an unscientific America Online poll of 180,000 subscribers found that more than four-fifths of the public is unsympathetic to the school.

Ms. Almontaser's departure, however welcome, does not change the rest of the school's personnel, much less address the more basic problems implicit in an Arabic-language school - the tendency to Islamist and Arabist content and proselytizing. To reiterate my initial assessment in March, the KGIA is in principle a great idea, as America needs more Arabic speakers. In practice, however, Arabic-language instruction needs special scrutiny.

The city, in other words, could take steps to make the KGIA acceptable by dispensing with the existing set of goals, fundamentally rethinking its mission, appointing a new advisory board, hiring new staff, and imposing the necessary educational and political controls. Unfortunately, statements by the mayor and the schools chancellor suggest that such steps are emphatically not under way. Until and unless the city leadership changes its approach to the KGIA, I shall continue to call for the school not to open until it is properly restructured and supervised.


The British charade continues

Getting top marks in A-level examinations could become harder after the introduction of a new A* and an A** grade, exam chiefs suggested yesterday, after record results showed that more than a quarter of all A-level entries were awarded an A. The pass rate rose for the 25th year in succession, with nearly three in ten candidates achieving three A grades, traditionally enough to secure them a place at a top university. The results meant that a record 316,549 pupils were able to confirm their university places on results day, up from 294,567 last year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said.

Ministers and teaching unions congratulated students on their results, attributing the rises to improved teaching and learning and a greater awareness of the importance of mastering exam techniques. Examination boards insisted that the A level remained the gold standard examination and denied that the number of A grades achieved, which accounted for 25.3 per cent of all marks, was a result of grade inflation. [And all those wishy-washy subjects they do these days have nothing to do with it, of course] There was no escaping the fact, however, that rising grades have made it more difficult for many bright pupils to get into their university of choice. Whereas once a B grade was regarded as a respectable score, it spelled failure for the academic plans of some pupils yesterday.

Most exam boards do accept that the introduction of a new A* grade for the 2010 exams would help universities and employers to identify the very brightest students from among those qualifying for an A. The A* will be awarded to students who achieve 90 per cent in their exams.

Mike Cresswell, director general of AQA, England's biggest exam board, went further. He accepted that a new A** could eventually be required as more pupils get the new top A* grade. "The A* is an eminently sensible response to what is essentially a problem of success," he said. "More and more students are doing better and getting grade A. You can see why a small number of universities at the moment have a problem differentiating between the very, very, very best and the very best. "Were one to find oneself in a situation at some point in the future where things had improved to such an extent that there was now a similar difficulty with an A*, the sensible thing to do would be to repeat the medicine.

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham, described the idea of a possible A** as "just plain daft", saying it would amount to an admission of failure. "For the A* to work it must be based on tougher questions which will sort out those with real understanding of the subject," he said.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said he thought it would be an extraordinary achievement for any student to get three A*s and said the need for an extra top grade at A level was "a long way away". He pointed out that, from this year, universities will be given the percentage mark of all pupils in every A level module to help them to distinguish between those who have scraped through with an A and those who had passed with flying colours.

Michael Gove, the Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said that he agreed that it was important to allow the new A* to bed down before thinking of reforming A levels again. The results for the 310,000 students sitting 806,000 A levels were released yesterday by the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing the exam boards. The pass rate was 96.6 per cent. Girls continued to score better grades than boys in every major subject apart from further maths and foreign languages, although boys did manage to narrow the gap overall by 0.3 per cent.