Friday, March 07, 2008

Ending the Chaos in Education

By Dick McDonald

If you ever saw the "Blackboard Jungle" you know the problems teachers in inner-city schools have in teaching "dysfunctional" and disruptive students. Since that movie came out, things have gotten progressively worse. By eliminating spanking, allowing children the right to sue their parents and teachers, by advancing unworthy students to retain their self esteem, by lowering grading standards, by allowing students to use bad language and call their teachers names America has an educational nightmare on its hands - a chaos of massive proportions.

Last night I listened to a bright and articulate barrier-crashing teacher, Genevieve Peters, spell out a solution to this classroom management problem. It was so simple and so easy to understand and believe that the bright light descended from the sky and illuminated us all. She calls it "Peters Procedures" and its effectiveness has been proven in selected classes in the Southern California area. She has been asked and is presently directing her program at an entire school.

As in all great management strategies the responsibility for its success is pushed down to the lowest level in the organization - in this case the student. The procedures are guidelines of civility and cooperation necessary to establish a positive learning environment policed eventually by the students themselves. Inside the cocoon of easy to understand procedures, the classroom turns into a model of exemplary behavior. Students are not rewarded for good behavior - that is expected of them.

When the student gets the message that he or she is responsible for their own actions and accountable to other students under the procedures, the group dynamic kicks in and the character so missing in today's children begins to emerge - a character with the ability to think for themselves and operate successfully in society. It goes without saying that the time devoted to hard learning is substantially expanded by eliminating the chaos of today's classroom.

You must go to Ms Peter's website and ask your friends and associates to trumpet this program that could go along way to reducing crime and elevating the educational level of all American students.

Congress wants rich schools like UW to give students a break

Congress is inspecting the spending habits of wealthy universities across the country, and the University of Washington is on its watch list. The UW is one of 76 universities that reported endowments totaling more than $1 billion in 2007, a trend some members of Congress have labeled disturbing in the face of constant tuition increases. Now Washington, D.C., lawmakers are toying with the idea of requiring universities to spend 5 percent of the burgeoning endowments each year.

The UW has an endowment (money given to it for the purpose of investment) of more than $2 billion, bolstered by a long fundraising campaign, and has kept raising tuition. The cost of an undergraduate year at the UW last year would have paid for three years 20 years earlier. "Tuition has gone up, college presidents' salaries have gone up, and endowments continue to go up and up," Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, wrote in a recent letter to the colleges. "We need to start seeing tuition relief for families go up just as fast. It's fair to ask whether a college kid should have to wash dishes in the dining hall to pay his tuition when his college has a billion dollars in the bank."

Universities -- the UW included -- are fighting back against the assertion that they've become greedy. But if recent student-aid packages are any indication, they're not entirely resisting congressional demands. UW President Mark Emmert says Congress is reacting to the tens of billions of dollars stored away by Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, and he points out that most universities can't come near to matching those numbers. He says the system isn't broken and thinks government mandates aren't needed. "The notion that most universities are sitting on massive endowments and not spending them is just not true," he said in an interview last week. "This is just not an area where congressional action is needed."

Other university leaders around the country are in line with that way of thinking, saying a one-size-fits-all approach to endowment spending could hurt schools with smaller bank accounts. Last week, 136 colleges across the country with endowments of $500 million or more were scheduled to respond to a congressional request for detailed information on their endowment and financial aid spending. A Senate committee sought the information last month after the release of a national survey that said the number of institutions surpassing the $1 billion mark had nearly doubled since 2003, when there were 39.

Harvard topped the endowment-totals list for 2007 with $35 billion, followed by Yale with $23 billion and Stanford with $17 billion. Princeton and the University of Texas system have the fourth- and fifth-largest endowments, each with about $16 billion. When the UW makes an appearance on the list, it's at number 29 with about $2 billion reported at the end of 2007. Washington State University is listed at 116 with $651 million, and the University of Oregon comes in at 150 with $456 million.

The UW is in the last leg of an eight-year fundraising campaign, which passed the $2.5 billion mark last month. With just a few months remaining in the campaign, UW officials announced they would be emphasizing the need for student scholarships to potential donors. Most donors make endowments to a specific part of a university, and that money can't be invested in other areas, Emmert said. He estimated that 95 percent of contributions to the UW come with a specific use attached.

Even without a government mandate, universities with an endowment greater than $1 billion tend to spend 4 percent to 5 percent of those assets annually, according to a study conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The UW's payout is consistent with those figures.

But critics aren't letting the increasingly profitable universities off the hook so easily. Some who want universities to spend more generously say the concentration of wealth runs counter to colleges' legal status as nonprofits. "They are allowed to collect and invest money tax-free, and that should be done toward a public good," said Lynne Munson, an adjunct research fellow at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity who testified before Congress on endowments last fall. "Hoarding isn't a public good. If the Gates Foundation was allowed to do this, there would be a great deal of suspicion."

Washington, D.C.-based educational consultant Steven Goodman said university defenses are falling flat. He acknowledged that the UW's endowment is small compared with Harvard's or Yale's. But he added, "The growing movement toward encouraging universities to spend more of the endowment income is not about who is rich and who is poor. It's about are students maximally benefiting from the fundraising efforts that are taking place in their name?"

Whether or not Congress passes legislation mandating fixed endowment payouts, the attention they're giving student tuition has been widely credited for spurring some change already. Most recently, Stanford, following similar actions by Yale and Harvard, announced last month that families earning less than $100,000 will no longer pay tuition, and families earning less than $60,000 won't have to pay for room and board. That may make Stanford more affordable to middle-class families in Washington than their own state university.

The "high tuition, high financial aid" model isn't a new concept in Seattle. Shortly after Emmert assumed the UW presidency in 2004, he unsuccessfully championed a plan that would have doubled tuition over the space of a few years by using a sliding scale based on family income for rates. The cost of attending the UW (like many universities elsewhere in the country) has tripled during the past 20 years. In 1987, in-state tuition and fees for one year at the UW added up to $1,731. In 2007, the yearly cost was $6,385.

The university has increased student aid recently with a "Students First" matching fund connected to the $2.5 billion fundraising campaign. And over a year ago, the university announced tuition would be free for in-state students from families who are at or below 65 percent of the state's median income -- another example of the "high tuition, high financial aid" model. "It's sure working for us at the UW," said Emmert, noting that the UW ranks third among major universities with the highest percent of low-income students enrolled. But he acknowledged more needs to be done for middle-income students.

Some members of Congress don't think universities are doing enough, even going so far as to propose an annually updated "watch list" that would name schools where tuition costs outpaced their sector's average rate of increase. Jake Stillwell, a Central Washington University student and spokesman for the Washington Student Lobby, said he's suspicious of Congress' recent interest in university spending. Instead of mandating endowment payouts, he thinks the federal government should be expanding financial aid programs. "It's shifting the responsibility of lowering the cost of college away from the government and onto the individual schools. It's really Congress' responsibility to make college affordable."


Australia: Improving black education needs big rethink

JULIA Gillard's plan to fund 200 additional teachers with $100 million of support is a commendable response to the Northern Territory's crisis in indigenous education. But the Education Minister has been poorly advised. The proposed measures will not come close to delivering indigenous literacy and numeracy. It would be better to identify effective solutions now than have to make another apology in 20 years.

For the past two years, the NT's Department of Employment, Education and Training has reported years Three and Five literacy benchmark pass rates of about 90per cent for non-indigenous children. For indigenous children in Darwin and Alice Springs, the pass rate drops to 60 per cent. But for indigenous children in remote areas, the rate crashes to just 20 per cent. Even this pass rate is overstated: most of the children attending the 62 homeland learning centres have not even been tested for years Three and Five benchmarks.

Thirty years of welfare dependence with attendant alcoholism, drug abuse and violence in indigenous communities have played a role. Poor school attendance also has been blamed for poor results. But most indigenous parents are desperate for real education for their kids. NT school enrolments for 2008 appear to be higher than the 2006 census data (which admittedly probably undercounted the indigenous population) indicate.

The main reason for poor attendance is that many indigenous people are offered pretend education: the product of pseudo-curriculums and inadequate teaching. In the few schools where there are effective teachers who ignore the official curriculum for indigenous children, they attend school and pass the tests.

The separate curriculums followed by indigenous schools are a form of apartheid. When children of non-English-speaking immigrants enrol in Darwin schools, they follow the mainstream curriculum but take English as a second language programs. Indigenous parents in the Top End want their children taught the mainstream curriculum in English from kindergarten so they can get jobs and participate in society. They know that only literate communities can preserve traditional languages in the modern world. All commonwealth funding for education in the territory should depend on the condition that indigenous children are not intellectually segregated but taught the same curriculum as other children.

The absence of indigenous teachers in the NT is another indicator of educational failure. The NT's population is 28 per cent indigenous but, of 4572 registered teachers there, only 164 (3.6 per cent) identify as Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders. Of these, only 63 (1.4 per cent of the total) have completed the normal four-year course of education required to qualify as a teacher. Most of the other 101 indigenous teachers have been registered (together with another 600 non-indigenous teachers) without such qualifications. These 700 underqualified teachers are concentrated in the 62 learning centres and in the community education centres that act as substitutes for schools in predominantly indigenous communities. These teachers have not been assisted to upgrade their qualifications to present standards and there is no provision in the new commonwealth legislation for them to do so.

The bill allocates $18.4 million for the creation of 190 education department jobs for former Community Development Employment Program participants, a change long overdue. In contrast to teacher aides in mainstream schools, who help children in classes taught by qualified teachers, indigenous teacher aides in learning centres are often the only people in front of the class. Many of the CDEP teacher aides would not pass the Year Seven literacy test. What steps are being taken to assist these teacher aides to become literate and numerate?

The planned funding does not include housing for additional teachers outside Darwin. At present NT housing costs, this would require another $22.5 million in 2008 and $67.5million by 2011. Such funding - $90million in total - would almost double the planned commitment.

Because of past policies, more than 5000 of the nearly 8000 indigenous teenagers in the NT cannot pass the national literacy benchmarks. Nor could another 5000 men and women in their 20s. The accumulated backlog of insufficiently literate indigenous young people is 10,000. They represent the future of indigenous communities.

No part of the present education system can accommodate teenagers with Year One literacy. They cannot sit side by side with six-year-olds or in a class of teenagers from the mainstream education system. To bring these indigenous teenagers to the stage where they could access mainstream jobs and further education would require one or two years of sheltered accommodation in an English-speaking environment, intensive tutoring and part-time employment. The minimum cost would be $50,000 a year for each student. The real cost of remedying past failed policies would therefore be $500 million to $1 billion.

There is clearly a lack of any remedial action on this scale. Even partial solutions will require more funds than have been committed. Parents of students who do not pass benchmark tests are entitled to vouchers worth $700 a year to have their children tutored. This program assumes literate parents and access to qualified tutors. Parents in one remote indigenous community have therefore asked the federal Government if they can aggregate these vouchers and use them together with foundation funds to pay for a remedial teacher for their children. They have not even received the courtesy of a reply.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

U Michigan under pressure over antisemitism

Local representatives from Bnai Brith, American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and StandWithUs met with University President Mary Sue Coleman and University Provost Terry Sullivan, Tuesday, February 12. President Coleman and Provost Sullivan assured the assembled group that the Pluto Press contract and all distribution contracts are being reviewed under the new guidelines posted in January.

"The director of the Press has been charged with reviewing all the distribution contracts of the Press," said Coleman. "That review is to determine if the existing contracts meet the new guidelines." President Coleman said that a determination on Pluto Press was expected before the May 30th deadline for terminating or the contract.

Since 2004, the University of Michigan has been the sole distributor for London-based Pluto Press, which publishes some of the most anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American tracts available in the United States. More than a dozen of these books advocate for the destruction of the Jewish State, and any book dealing with Israel can be trusted to vilify Zionism. Neither UM Press nor Pluto Press offer any texts that present pro-Israel views. If left alone the contract will automatically renew for six months.

Our efforts exposing this arrangement have led to the UMP executive board creating guidelines for contractual distribution relationships with other publishers.

The guidelines now appear on the UM Press website, but there is no mention of the ongoing review process or the reasons for it. Pluto Press also remains listed as a distributed publisher, as does all the language used by Pluto Press to promote its books on its own site. The resulting image is that Pluto Press is in compliance with the new guidelines.

When pressed on this issue, President Coleman and Provost Sullivan stated that these concerns would be brought to the UM Press Board. Several days later, at the time of this writing, the misleading website endorsement of Pluto Press remains.

Throughout the meeting, President Coleman laid great stress on the necessity of this review process being allowed to play out. StandWithUs-Michigan accepts that President Coleman placing an emphasis on proper review procedure is important when dealing with long standing university contacts. We also understand her concerns over appearing heavy-handed regarding the policy of a faculty board that was empowered to do exactly the review requested in this case. We share her respect for free speech and academic freedom, and we thank her and Provost Sullivan for the efforts that have been made. We are pleased to hear that President Coleman will be travelling to Israel with several university presidents on a Project Interchange trip in June. These are all positive steps.

The problem that remains is that anti-Semitism is still being treated differently, and as less serious than other forms of racism. It is inconceivable that if Black community leaders had learned that UM Press was distributing Ku Klux Klan material and brought it to the attention of the University administration that they would be then asked to endure a year's worth of bureaucratic procedure. We would see similar alacrity regarding concerns from the Muslim community, the Hispanic, or any other minority. But what constitutes hate of Jews and Judaism is still open to debate by non-Jews, and at the University of Michigan Press that misinformation and hate is still being actively promoted on a University website.

The series of anti-Israel events that took place this week at the University of Michigan, while reprehensible, were largely ill-attended and likely effected few students. That is the good news. But what is also revealed by the events this week is the real pattern emerging at the University of Michigan - the total absence of responsible, informed debate about Israel and Zionism.

The anti-Israel group sponsoring this event had the support of Arab and Muslim groups, and anti-war groups, and of course Amnesty International. But these unscholarly, overtly political events also held the endorsement of several university departments, including the Program of American Culture and the Screen Arts and Culture Department.

The same group also brought radical anti-Israel Pluto Press author Joel Kovel to Michigan last semester, and has now invited "Israel Lobby" writers John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt to Michigan in March.

Seen in the light of UM Press's four-year exclusive distribution of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic texts, the four years of protests of a local community synagogue, and all of these actions greeted with the complete silence of the administration, it is quite clear that University of Michigan is becoming known among those who hate Israel as a safe haven for efforts to legitimize anti-Israel activist scholarship and anti-Semitic fervor.

If the University adheres to the new guidelines, it should end its distribution agreement with Pluto Press, but the University has not yet declared it intends to do so. We are pleased that the review process goes forward. But right now UM Press continues distributing the offensive, non-scholarly anti-Israel, anti-Zionist invectives. It is becoming clear that the University, and President Mary Sue Coleman, need to publicly condemn anti-Semitism in any form and clarify that the University will not condone or endorse hatred for Jews and Judaism masked as criticism of Israeli policies.

StandWithUs-Michigan is working closely with the local chapters of leading community organizations, namely Bnai Brith International, Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Community Relations Council to build a broad coalition within the Jewish community, and to reach out to non-Jewish organizations on this issue.

StandWithUs-Michigan is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to restoring responsible, informed discussion about Israel and Zionism, and we will continue to work for the termination of the irresponsible UMP-Pluto Press contract that undermines the very hope for responsible and informed discussion.


Australian school test results to go public

Federal education chief ignores school fears and opts for openness. Both creditable and surprising in a dedicated Leftist. Background to the story here

The Federal Government will publish the results of new national literacy and numeracy tests for Years 3, 5. 7 and 9 students, despite strong opposition from Queensland educators, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said on Friday. The Government's focus was on achieving higher standards, greater accountability and better results for the whole school system, he said. At least one million students from more than 9000 schools around the country will sit the literacy and numeracy tests from May 13 to 15.

Parents from state and independent schools, many principals and Queensland Education Minister Rod Welferd have voiced fears about publishing the test results, claiming they could damage schools and their communities. They believe that if the wrong type of test is developed and the results publicised, it would waste taxpayer money and hurt the image of many hard-working schools.

Mr Welford wants the tests to be a diagnostic tool that helps uncover problem areas for students, rather than establishing a benchmark that creates a "leagues table" for schools.

Ms Gillard's spokesman said stakeholder concerns were taken into consideration in the development of the test, and the matter would be discussed further at the next meeting of the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. "By comparing the performance of schools, it would be possible to ensure resources were placed where they would be required most," the spokesman said.

Mr Welford said he had asked Ms Gillard if a regular meeting of state education ministers could be organised before the May tests to discuss the process, but that appeared unlikely to happen. If the test was designed to just set a benchmark, it would only grab a picture of one day in the 13-year schooling life of a student, Mr Welford said. "The idea that we would be creating a leagues table is a folly and a waste of time. It's a scandalous waste of public funding," he said.

The Queensland Joint Parent Committee, which represents parents from state schools, the Catholic and independent sector, and parents of children at isolated schools, has written to Mr Welford opposing any publication of results.

The article above is by Paul Weston and appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March 2, 2008.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


An unaffiliated task force made up of Jewish residents of Irvine conducted 80 hours of interviews with students, faculty and residents and determined that anti-Semitic acts are "real and well documented" on campus, according to an article in the local Daily Pilot.

"Jewish students have been harassed. Hate speech has been unrelenting," the report alleges. The report takes faculty to task for "political correctness" that prevents them from speaking out against anti-Israel events and speakers sponsored by the school's very active Muslim Student Union.

The report comes two months after the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights completed its own report, which states the university does not discriminate against Jewish students.

Chacellor Michael Drake declined to participate in the task force's investigation, the Pilot reports. Pilot reporters did not speak to anyone from the Muslim Student Union.

The task force was created by the Hillel Foundation of Orange County in February 2007 to investigate anti-Semitism at the university following a series of clashes between Jewish and Muslim student groups. Hillel dropped the investigation last summer, but the task force continued working on its own.

The task force report supports the Muslim Student Union's right to free speech, but demands that the university take stronger action against "hateful" speech, and speech calling for the destruction of Israel. It also takes Jewish groups, including the federation, the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel to task for not supporting Jewish students more vigorously.

Jeffrey Rips, executive director of Hillel at UC Irvine, told JTA that Jewish life on campus is thriving. He says there are nearly 1,000 Jewish students, a strong Jewish fraternity and sorority life, and between 50 and 120 students each Friday night at Hillel's Shabbat meals.


National dumbing down has followed government control of education

By Vin Suprynowicz

Men such as Washington, Franklin and Jefferson went to school for only a few years, yet somehow without benefit of instruction by any credentialed graduates of our fine modern teacher colleges managed to outmaneuver and defeat the greatest army and power in the world, build and run a new nation and lay out entire new cities with little more than their rudimentary mastery of geometry, trigonometry, French, Latin, philosophy, world history, and so forth.

Today, on the other hand, it takes 12 years to bring our high school scholars to a level of learning far beyond that achieved by those pathetic yokels of yesteryear, a point from which they're ready to open up bold new frontiers in biochemistry, electrical engineering and so on. In recent days, several of those scholars -- on whose schooling the taxpayers have lavished $8,707 per year (construction included) for at least nine years -- have written in to respond to the wave of incidents in which Clark County schoolkids have lately been shooting each other on the way home from school. The letters arrived via e-mail in groups of 20 or so, in waves lasting about half an hour, during late weekday mornings or early afternoons. Almost certainly, these young folk were urged to write their letters as part of a classroom project. They appear here precisely as received.
"The article I read in the Review Journal is called SECOND TEEN CHARGED IN FATAL SHOOTING, and the article has deeply demented me.

"I personally think that the the young shooters of this crime should get jail time, but I don't think they should get any more than a couple of months to pay for the crime they committed. Im pretty positive that the teens in this crime understand what they did was wrong even if it was attentionally or an accident.

"I personally believe that they only reason the kids actually shot the weapon was to scare their peers, but ended up bieng fatal. My response to this article isnt because I believe that the young teens arent wrong for what they did, but no kid diserves to go through everything that Ezekiel Williams, and Gerald Q. Davison are going through. Their just kids, and I also believe that if the places were switched, and the boy who died was black, and the teens were white that their wouldn't be this much contraversy going on.

"I'm not a racist or anything like that but if that was the case than they probly wouldn't even be in a real jail right about now."

End of first letter.
"This letter is in respnse to the Leter Erine Mathews," begins our second lad, obviously stealing a few valuable minutes away from mastering physics, calculus and quantum theory, the better to work on his "ability to communicate effectively."

"I myself attend Palo Verde and am a freshman.At my attendnce here i have seen very little racism at this school. If the Situation was reversed i do not belive that there would be a much differnt outcome. I belive it was more gang related. From what i hear around the school is that his cousin Zeak is what made him do it. Zeak and the kid wereing througing up gang signs. Then later in the day the shooter was gonna be abducted into the gang that his cousin Ziek is in. So for him to be allowed they said he had to shoot this kid and if he didnt they would kill him. So he did as he was told. That is why i feel it has nothing to do with raceism but more gang related."

A third young technologist presumably takes time away from mastering the manufacture of gallium arsenide chips in chemistry lab to write:
"I am a Palo Verde Freshmen and this shooting is really affecting us all in a lot of different ways. Expically the football team. ..."

One of the young ladies asks,
"Where are the parents? In todays invorment kids don't have that special bond with their parents because all these students worry about is being with their friends going to get high and what pary they should hit up next. ... Parents obviosly are not watching who there child is hanging out with. ..."

Another young lady offers:
"There has been even more shooting since the insadent. I really cannot believe that teenagers have not 'woken up' and realized that this is life. Ending a life over drama, etc. is absolutely rediculas. ..."

Although it's the spelling and punctuation that first leap off the page, it's also worth noting the striking lack of sophistication, development, and rebuttal here in both idea and argument.

Today's notion that 15-year-olds must of necessity be overgrown infants with ethical notions about as sophisticated as the nearest video game is a dangerous myth manufactured by the purposeful extension of infanthood through imposed intellectual entropy and isolation from the real world in the government schooling institution, the better to convince us these incompetent dweebs need three more years of being locked up and carefully herded around -- at $8,000 per year per butt in seat.

The current schooling institution is not preparing a quick-witted generation with the well-rounded education and critical thinking skills necessary to adapt quickly to a fast-changing 21st century -- as the letters above hint, though giving these kids a real test closed-book in history, literature or algebra would probably be even more sobering -- but rather for the kind of automaton-like behavior that was judged necessary for the subservient "worker class" in the 19th century.

Which is one very large reason so many of our science and medical grad students now come from overseas, why such a curiously large number of our successful entrepreneurs these days turn out to be escapees ("drop-outs") from the propaganda camps, why our currency and our economy are now collapsing before our eyes.


Credit Crisis May Make College Loans More Costly

Many college students across the nation will begin to see higher costs for loans this spring, while others will be turned away by banks altogether as the credit crisis roiling the U.S. economy spreads into yet another sector, student lenders and Wall Street firms say. Students seeking federally guaranteed loans, which are popular because they offer fixed, below-market rates, could be required to pay higher fees to borrow money, according to university finance directors and lenders.

An even greater burden may fall on those taking out private loans, which have become increasingly common as students look for new sources to finance the soaring costs of college. These loans often have variable rates, and they are projected to jump this year. And at community and for-profit colleges, some students may be denied private loans entirely because the financial industry considers them riskier investments than their peers at other educational institutions.

"It's a little bit of a crunch. The money will be there; it's just going to be more expensive," said Yvonne Hubbard, director of student financial services at the University of Virginia. "The federally guaranteed loan program is always going to be available . . . but the good deals are harder to find. On the private side, loans are getting more and more expensive."

Many lenders are scaling back their activities because of turmoil in the credit markets, initially caused by the subprime-mortgage meltdown last year, and cuts in federal subsidies, firms said. Others have moved out of the business. Last week, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, one of the nation's largest student loan organizations, announced that it will temporarily stop making federally guaranteed loans this month. The College Loan Corp., the nation's eighth-largest student lender, also is leaving the federal loan program. At least a dozen firms have stopped issuing private loans, citing problems in the debt markets. Sallie Mae, the largest student loan provider in the country, said it is tightening credit requirements for borrowers and pulling out of offering loans to students attending some for-profit career schools and community colleges.

The growing exodus has some college administrators worried. Georgetown University, for one, has devised an emergency plan to become a direct lender, like hundreds of other colleges and universities, in case more firms close shop. Other colleges are calling lenders to see whether they'll be in business next school year.

Members of Congress last week asked for assurances from the Bush administration that the federal program providing loan money directly to colleges will be able to handle increased demand. They also asked the Department of Education to gear up its "lender of last resort" program, which provides a safety net should many student loan firms fail.

If firms decide to stop lending late in the summer, "there will be a lot of people scrambling to find another lender in the fall," said Guy Gibbs, interim director of financial aid at Northern Virginia Community College, the largest higher education institution in the region, with 40,000 students. The student loan troubles are being felt unevenly. Those attending institutions with high graduation rates and low default rates among their alumni may still be able to get low-cost private loans. Students at lower-ranked schools with higher defaults among graduates are likely to get hit with stiffer fees and rates.

More here

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mocking Asians is OK on American campuses

Imagine for a minute if student leaders at elite college campuses devoted themselves to mocking black people or Jewish people or gay people. I’m not talking about drunk students posting pictures of their offensive parties on Facebook, but student newspaper editors – thought of as being both smart and progressive – giving space over for the sole purpose of making fun of people because of their background. It’s hard to imagine. And yet recently this phenomenon of racial caricatures as “satire” has emerged with Asian Americans as the object of the jokes.

Why Asian Americans? After all, Asian American college students tend to make headlines as super students, attending prestigious private and public colleges at rates way above their state demographics (hence they are “over-represented") and as excelling academically above and beyond any other racial group, whites included. This “model minority” image is not new and has been around since at least the late 1960s, with Asian Americans often embraced as symbols of the merits of hard work and individual effort, all undertaken without complaint or political agitation. So ... shouldn’t that mean that Asian Americans would be seen as well integrated — academic and otherwise — with white students? .....

As many Asian American studies scholars have pointed out, Asian Americans are depicted as model minorities but they are also portrayed as foreigners, disloyal to America, and suspicious. Despite generations of citizenship in the United States (after years of denial of naturalization rights for Asian immigrants), Asian Americans are still seen as foreign and un-American, often as the “enemy” during economic and military crises, as during the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, during the 1980s economic recession and competition with Japan’s automotive industry that lay the backdrop to the beating and death of Vincent Chin, and currently with post-September 11 depictions of South Asians and Muslims as terrorists. Dual images of Asian Americans as model minorities, people to be praised and emulated and embraced, and foreign threats, people to be watched, monitored, and distrusted, have long been a part of U.S. history.

Recently, Asian American college students have emerged in the media in this foreigner/ invading guise — as the butt of “satirical” jokes published by college student papers. Whether or not these articles are “satires” or offensive representations is not my point. My focus is on the powerful and racialized imagery evoked — the jokes that continue to depict Asian Americans as foreign, un-American, inscrutable, non-English speakers— basically as anything but a regular college student on a university campus. And my focus is on the fact that often times not many people are laughing at these satires.

For instance, in October of 2006, Jed Levine published a “modest proposal for an immodest proposition” for the UCLA Daily Bruin. Speaking as a white male, he identified as an “underrepresented minority” and pointed to Asian Americans as the real problem who took away admissions slots from Black and Latino students and proposed a solution to the “Asian invasion” as funneling “young Maos and Kim Jongs” into a new UC campus “UC Merced Pandas.”

In January 2007, the Daily Princetonian published its annual “joke issue” that included a satire of “Lian Ji", a twist on Jian Li, the Chinese American student at Yale, who filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department for Civil Rights claiming his rejection from Princeton was due to his ethnicity. The joke article, from “Lian’s” point of view was written in broken English, complaining that Princeton did not accept “I the super smart Asian,” and touting the stereotypical nerdy Asian American credentials of winning record science fair awards, memorizing endless digits of pi, and playing multiple orchestral instruments simultaneously for the New Jersey youth orchestra. Ultimately, “Lian” accepts his fate at Yale saying, “I mean, I love Yale. Lots of bulldogs here for me to eat.”

Most recently, Inside Higher Ed reported on yet another satire in the University of Colorado at Boulder paper, The Campus Press, which resulted in controversy and a statement by the chancellor. In the satire, Max Karson, noticed the tensions that Asian American students exhibited towards whites. While pointing out the racial tensions on both sides, Karson deduces that Asians just hate whites, and it was “time for war.” Such efforts included steps to find all Asian Americans on campus (easily identifiable by areas of campus they frequent and by their ability to do a calculus problem in their heads), forcing them to eat bad sushi with forks; and a test for them to display emotions beyond a normal deadpan (read: inscrutable) face. At the end, Asian homes will be redecorated “American” style, replacing rice cookers with George Forman Grills and the like.

My point here is not to argue over what is satire, freedom of the press, artistic license, or the “right way” to read pieces such as these. Rather, my observation lies in the continued pattern of Asian American students being a) the butt of such jokes, basically the punchline; b) that the jokes are heavily laden with racial stereotypes; and c) that these such essays reveal volumes about racial relationships, tensions, and perceptions of Asian American students as all being, in some way, the same — foreigners, math and science nerds, and all around different from the regular average college student.

What does this recent rash of Asian Americans-as-satire articles tell us? Ultimately, that despite an image of Asian Americans as model minorities, super achieving students who thrive on college campuses, race continues to matter for Asian American students. Many Asian American students reject and challenge these depictions and stereotypes and seek campus policies that acknowledge and support their experiences. It tells us that higher education administrators need to look beyond Asian American model minority-ness and begin to reconsider a conception of “minority” student experiences beyond easily measured assessments of grade point average and SAT score, to recognize instances of racial alienation and marginalization embodied in these satires. It speaks to uncovering the experiences of Asian American students who want academic courses that reflect their histories and literature, to meeting their counseling service needs, to providing spaces of support through cultural centers and minority student services. It is to challenge the silencing and de-minoritization of Asian American students.

Many educational scholars demonstrate that campus climate measures go beyond statistical representation. These satirical articles reveal that something else is happening on campus regarding how Asian American students are perceived and represented and even reveals something in the sheer license felt to put forth such racialized representations of Asian American students at all. As campus parties where white students dress up like stereotypical African American or Latino caricatures seem to be in “vogue” these days, the preferred venue for Asian American figures seems to be in these campus pieces.

I end this essay aware that I am exposing myself to the response: “Asian Americans have it relatively made in higher education. What are you complaining about?” I have heard this response from students and administrators from all racial backgrounds. To those who would argue that other minority needs are more pressing and urgent, my appeal is to widen our working definitions and perceptions of “minority” students, to allow spaces for Asian Americans to enter and to work in coalition against such racialized hurtful images that affect all people of color.

To those who don’t see Asian Americans as dealing with race at all, my response is to complain, to challenge the presumptions and expectations that I, an Asian American woman, should be the model minority who works hard and doesn’t complain. And I raise the question of these satires, what they mean, and how they can inform a better understanding of the experiences and needs of Asian American college students — no longer as “objects” of satire but subjects of their own lives.

Britain: Political interference is damaging children's education

This was the Government that promised its priority would be education, education, education. Instead, as a slew of extraordinary reports are making clear, it will be remembered by schools as the Government that could not leave well alone. The biggest inquiry into primary education for 40 years concluded yesterday that Labour's tight, centralised control of England's primary schools has had a devastating impact on children's education. Micromanagement, meddling and a succession of ministerial edicts have killed the spontaneity in the nation's classrooms. Teachers have been stripped of their powers of discretion. And the net result of a decade of new Labour "reform" has almost certainly been a decline in the quality of education that the young receive. It would have been better, concludes the Cambridge University-based Primary Review - an ongoing inquiry into primary education in England - if the Government had done nothing at all.

The four reports published today follow 18 earlier reports that have painted a devastating picture of government interference in primary schools and laid bare ministers' obsession with testing and desire to dictate the minutiae of classroom practice. They say government influence in the classroom has increased since 1997 to such an extent that English primary schools are now subject to a "state theory of learning" in which teachers are not only told what to teach but how they should teach it. The quality of primary education has declined in the past 20 years because of the "narrowing of the curriculum and the intensity of test preparation", the research warned. The result is that educational standards may actually have fallen in recent years as teachers become experts in coaching children for tests.

The latest report follows yet more government announcements that have called on schools to squeeze even more into their curriculum. Schools will now be expected to provide five hours of cultural activities a week as well as five hours of sport, including after-school clubs. Yet the lesson emerging from the Primary Review is that schools need less, not more, interference.

The reports conclude that government control of primary classrooms began in 1988 under the Conservatives with the introduction of the national curriculum but has strongly increased since Labour came into power in 1997. One study, by Dominic Wyse, from Cambridge University, and Elaine McCreery and Harry Torrance at Manchester Metropolitan University, concluded: "Government control of the curriculum and its assessment strongly increased during the period from 1988 to 2007, especially after 1997. "The evidence on the impact of the various initiatives on standards of pupil attainment is at best equivocal and at worst negative. While test scores have risen since the mid-1990s, that has been achieved at the expense of children's entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time to test preparation."

The quality of interaction between pupils and teachers has been particularly "negatively influenced" by Labour's national strategies, introduced from 1998 onwards, which tell teachers exactly how to teach literacy and numeracy in primary schools, the study found. Teachers are no longer thinking on their feet, adapting lessons to particular needs. Instead, the school day is choreographed from Whitehall.

The introduction of high-stakes testing - which sees primary schools ranked in national league tables according to the performance of their 11-year-old pupils in English, maths and science tests - has also led to a narrowing of the curriculum as schools focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other subjects. Even primary science - which had been one of the success stories of the post-1988 national curriculum - has been in "marginal decline" since 1997 because of the excessive focus on literacy and numeracy.

The focus on the tests in English, maths and science taken by pupils aged 7 and 11 is "driving teaching in exactly the opposite direction to that which research indicates will improve learning". Instead of using a variety of teaching methods such as working with small groups of pupils, primary school lessons now constitute little more than whole class sessions where children are drilled for the tests.

Results for the national SATs (standard assessment tests), taken by 1.2 million primary pupils every summer, improved rapidly between 1995 and 2000 but then "largely levelled off". That was probably because "teachers were initially unprepared for national testing, learnt very quickly how to coach for the tests, hence results improved, but any benefit to be squeezed from the system by such coaching has long since been exhausted", the study found.

A second study for the Primary Review by Maria Balarin and Hugh Lauder, from Bath University, reinforced the depressing findings. "Since the arrival of New Labour, central control in key areas of educational action has been strengthened," it concluded. "The Government has strengthened its hand through what may be called the "state theory of learning"." This reflected a belief by the Government that a combination of "the repeated high stakes testing of pupils", a national curriculum and "mandated" teaching methods in English and maths would raise standards.

Clearly, the approach hasn't worked, and the calls for a total rethink of government education policy are now coming thick and fast. David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children's spokesman, said yesterday: "The Government's attempts to micromanage schools are clearly deeply damaging. Ministers must stop their constant meddling in the curriculum and cease dictating to schools how they should educate our children."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The latest Primary Review reports demonstrate the damaging effects of high stakes testing, inspection and historic underfunding on primary schools. "An absence of trust in teachers is fuelled by not one, but two ferocious accountability systems. I urge the Government now to review its whole method of evaluating schools."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families dismissed the research as "recycled, partial or out of date". "We do not accept these claims," she said. "We are currently engaged in a review of the primary curriculum, as set out in the Children's Plan, which will build on a decade of success in raising standards - success that has been validated on numerous occasions by independent experts. The Government does not accept our children are over-tested."

The national curriculum was introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1988. It was intended to ensure that certain important topics were studied by all pupils. However, it quickly grew to fill the entire teaching time of state schools. National curriculum tests were also introduced to hold schools accountable for pupils' progress. But these tests did not come to dominate the work of schools until after Labour came to power in 1997. Labour set challenging targets for improving results, particularly in English and maths, and introduced literacy and numeracy strategies in 1998. In 2006 ministers announced schools would be required to teach reading using government-approved methods.


A tribute to modern British education

More than a quarter of adults in Britain struggle to add up prices in their heads when shopping and a fifth do not know that 8 is the square root of 64, according to a survey of the nation’s mental arithmetic skills. Research by KPMG, the accountancy firm, indicates that 47 per cent of adults wish they had learnt more maths at school. Women are much less confident - or possibly more honest – than men: 34 per cent say they have trouble working out sums in their heads, against 18 per cent of men. More than half of mothers (51 per cent) struggle to help their children with their maths homework, against 39 per cent of fathers. One in five adults aged 25 to 34 feel that greater ability in maths would have helped them to go further in their careers.

The YouGov survey of 2,006 adults aged 18-plus found that difficulties with maths spread across social classes and ages, though to differing degrees. Three per cent of adults in the ABC1 social classes and 4 per cent of those in the C2DE classes struggle with mental arithmetic in shops most of the time. However, only 25 per cent of the top social groups feel uncomfortable in shops some or most of the time, against one third of the lower social groups (32 per cent). Those aged 55 and over are the most confident (77 per cent) [Products of a time when education was much less lax], against 64 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds, who are the least confident.

Adults in Scotland are the most confident, with 77 per cent claiming to be confident or very confident at mental arithmetic, against 69 per cent in London, the least confident region. The survey included an on-the-spot question: what is the square root of 64? One in five (21 per cent) either did not know or got the answer wrong. Responses ranged from 2 right up to 4,096.

The survey was commissioned by the Every Child Counts campaign, launched by the Government and charities last year to help to overcome innumeracy in children. Pupils aged 7 who have the greatest difficulties in mathematics will get extra one-to-one help from specialist teachers for 12 weeks. The scheme aims to reach 30,000 a year in 2010-11, when it goes national.

John Griffith-Jones, chairman of the Every Child a Chance charity, said the secret to combating adult innumeracy was to lay solid mathematical foundations among the young. He said: “Adult innumeracy is one of the greatest scourges facing the country. The survey shows how essential it is that the business community gets involved in tackling the problem. Through the Every Child Counts programme we aim to find a long-term solution, spearheading resources of specially trained teachers to help the seven-year-olds who have the greatest difficulties.”


Monday, March 03, 2008

Homeschooling under attack in Nebraska

When school is in session for the Conrad kids, the living room of their northwest Omaha home is often their classroom. Natalie and Chris Conrad's three oldest children learn about the Crusades during a home-schooling lesson taught by Natalie. The kids, from left, are Ashley, Brooke and Bradley.Lessons last as long as needed to complete the day's tasks. Mother Natalie Conrad is the teacher to her three school-age children.

Natalie and Chris Conrad's family is part of the 6,000-student home-school network across Nebraska. And the family is a small part of a debate in the Nebraska Legislature pitting personal choices and religious freedoms against state government's educational responsibilities. State Sen. DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln has proposed a bill to recast Nebraska's generally loose regulations over home-school students. Her bill would require home-school students to take state-mandated tests or have their schoolwork assessed by an outside evaluator. If students' progress falls short academically, they would be sent to public or private schools.

Nebraska's home-school system developed amid controversy in the 1980s. Since then, families have been able to opt out of public and private schools with little oversight from state government. Schimek said the system leaves the state without a way to check into potential problems. "Our responsibility is to see that the children of the state do have access to an education," she said. "That's a constitutional responsibility."

Chris Conrad said he and his wife were called by their Christian faith to take personal responsibility for educating their children. He said the bill would take away a responsibility best kept with parents. "It's the parents' responsibility to educate the child, not the state's," Conrad said.

Nebraska's home-school families have mobilized against Legislative Bill 1141, which will have a public hearing Tuesday before the Education Committee. For all the debate spawned by the bill, it stands little chance of becoming law. By Tuesday, the Legislature will be halfway into its short session. The bill also lacks the priority tag that gives bills the best chance of being debated by the full Legislature. If it does pass, Gov. Dave Heineman has said he will veto the measure. "The bill presents a heavy-handed, state government regulatory approach to this issue which, in my view, is not warranted," Heineman said in a statement. "It dramatically infringes on Nebraska parents' choices regarding the education of their children."

In 1984, the Legislature created Nebraska's home-school laws to settle the controversy over a church school in Louisville that operated without state-certified teachers. Parents originally were allowed a religious exemption from sending their children to public or private schools. The exemption was expanded to allow any parents to opt out if they felt that was the best thing for their child's education. Today, home-school students account for about 2 percent of school-age children statewide.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, Nebraska is among the 24 states with low or no home-school regulations. Iowa's regulations are considered moderate because the state requires testing, such as Schimek is proposing, unless a licensed teacher runs the home school.

Some studies have noted that home-school students score higher than their public school peers nationally. Home-school students, for instance, have consistently outperformed the national average on the ACT college entrance exam: 22.5 compared with 20.9 in 2005. For Nebraska's Class of 2005, 103 home-school students who took the ACT scored a 22.9 on average, compared with the state average of 21.8.

Local supporters say that they believe students are doing well and that they see it in their own homes. "To me, this seems to be a solution in search of a problem," said Ken Dick, president of the Home Educators Network, a faith-based organization working with home schools in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. "And there is no problem."

Schimek said she believes that some home schools are doing a good job. Although her husband is a lobbyist for the state teachers union, Schimek said that did not influence her decision to introduce the bill. She said her concern comes from the stories she hears about students who are kept out of public or private schools but receive little to no schooling.

That concern reveals a conflict between Nebraska's policies and its practices regarding home-school oversight. Current regulations allow state officials to visit home schools, impose testing and withdraw a family's exemption if the children aren't meeting the basic academic requirements. But Russ Inbody, an administrator with the Nebraska Department of Education, said officials are operating under an opinion from the Nebraska Attorney General's Office that the state can't deny a family's right to opt out of state regulations. Inbody said he was not aware that the department had ever employed the oversight provisions. If someone suspects a problem, he recommended contacting another state agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.

Education Commissioner Doug Christensen declined to take sides on the bill. He said the state should support parents' choices. But he also said he understands the need for public accountability in all education, including home schools. "Can you say it's working very well? Not really. Can you say it's working horribly? Not really," he said. "We just don't know."

Home-school supporters say Nebraska's current rules and truancy laws are sufficient to address any problem situations. If Nebraska implements a testing system, families will lose the ability to teach what they choose as they adapt to what's being tested, said Colleen McNamara, president of the Catholic Homeschool Association of Omaha. Deb Badeer, a legislative liaison for the Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association, said the issue goes beyond home schooling, amounting to a threat to families' religious freedom and parental rights. "They have no need to be intrusive, if you will, into the family's privacy," Badeer said.

The Conrads now have taught 11-year-old Brooke, 9-year-old Ashley and 5-year-old Bradley at home. Andrew, who is 3, will be next. Chris Conrad said his two oldest children have taken annual standardized tests, at the family's choice and cost. Conrad said Brooke and Ashley's results were "at or way above" grade level. Friday, Brooke proved her language skills against public and private school competition. She won the Douglas County Spelling Bee over seven competitors and will advance to the Midwest Regional Spelling Bee. "We've taken on this huge responsibility," Conrad said. "We take it seriously."


Literature downgraded again in Britain

Brecht and Moliere may have taken their last bow for A-level students. Set texts by classic European authors are to be axed from modern language A-levels offered by English exam boards. Voltaire, Pushkin and Mann are among dozens of established authors who have fallen victim to a shift towards studying the contemporary culture of countries. From September pupils will no longer have the option to study set texts; instead, they will write a short essay on a literary subject of their choosing.

The dumping of the pantheon of foreign literary greats - together with a wider down-grading of literature - has driven some of Britain's leading academic schools, including Eton and Winchester, to abandon foreign language A-levels. It has also sparked accusations that the education authorities are "amputating" Britain from its European cultural heritage. "Where literature is remotely present [in the new A-levels], there are no prescribed texts and its position is optional and marginal," said Josep-Lluis Gonzalez, head of modern languages at Eton, in Berkshire. Eton is one of 16 schools that have dropped modern languages A-levels in favour of a new, more traditional exam, the PreU. "Language teaching has a double nature - oral fluency and sophistication. The sophistication is now being dumbed down," said Gonzalez.

Keith Pusey, director of studies at Winchester, said: "We think the literature basis of these subjects is absolutely crucial. It teaches you to think when you read a piece of great literature. It gives you historical and social context - it gives you so much."

The removal of literary set texts has added to concerns over the devaluing of languages after a decision last month to remove oral exams from GCSEs. It followed a review by Lord Dearing, the government education adviser, who said the test was "too stressful and too short".

Frederic Raphael, author of The Glittering Prizes, a novel that followed the fortunes of a group of 1950s Cambridge graduates, called the removal of the set texts "grotesque". He said: "We are cutting off our own limbs. It is not amputating the foreigners and detaching their fingers from our precious boat; it is chopping off whole areas of what is basically our culture. The lack of nerve on the part of the whole establishment of teaching is just grotesque."

The A-level system removed the obligation to study literature in the 1980s. But it still allows schools the option to concentrate heavily on literary works. Under the syllabus offered by Edexcel, one of the three exam boards in England, pupils can study two works in depth, chosen from prescribed lists of texts. In French, they include Voltaire's Candide and Les Mains Sales, a play by Jean-Paul Sartre. Under the new syllabus, students are expected to write an essay of 240-270 words on a research-based topic of their choosing, which does not have to be literary. There are few other opportunities for literature.

St Albans High School for Girls in Hertfordshire has decided to continue offering A-levels. But teachers are so worried about the lack of literature in the new courses - and the effect this could have on pupils' future performance at university - that they are offering extra literary classes alongside A-levels. "The lack of set texts is one of the most serious concerns," said Helen Everett, the school's head of modern languages. "Unfortunately, it seems the way of the world is that not enough people are studying languages so they [the authorities] think `let's make them easier'."

A source at one of the three English boards - AQA, Edexcel and OCR - said the decision to ditch set texts had been made to "ease the burden of assessment". None of the boards commented officially beyond saying it had designed the syllabuses within the framework set by the government's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The authority said literature had not been compulsory since the 1980s, adding: "For every new A-level language specification there is an opportunity to study some literature, as is the case at present." It said there was nothing to stop English schools opting for language A-levels offered by exam boards in Northern Ireland and Wales, which have retained lists of set texts.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Connecticut Teacher Arrested for Gun Comment

(Plainfield, Connecticut) A 51-year-old veteran teacher at Plainfield High School, Duane Emmi, was arrested for commenting to some members of the school staff that he had a gun at home. That's it -- a comment. Sheesh!

Emmi was charged with breach of the peace and placed on administrative leave by the school, although he reportedly made no threats.

According to Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway:
Emmi is not allowed on school property and cannot attend any school functions on or off school grounds, Conway said. In a letter to school board members, Conway stated Emmi must receive a psychiatric evaluation and clearance before returning to the classroom.

Police said Emmi comments (sic) Tuesday were general. He said other members of the staff did not respect him and he had a gun at his residence. Emmi did not threaten any students or faculty members, police said.
Presumably, Emmi will go through psychological re-programming and then be considered for reinstatement. The school system will, of course, have to develop some confidence in Emmi's ability to safely own a gun in his home and not threaten anyone, even though it appears that is exactly what he has been doing.

Boy, it's a good thing he didn't comment on the gallons of explosive liquid he carries in his car. Think of the trouble that would have caused.
British selective schools misrepresented by official propaganda

Grammar schools languish at the foot of new-style league tables published today, prompting accusations that ministers are creating "propaganda" against selective education. Four academically selective schools were ranked among the bottom 100 in England using a new system of measurement that takes account of pupils' social class, ethnicity and gender. Despite gaining near-perfect results, some schools have been penalised for being dominated by middle-class pupils who are predicted to get good grades

The National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA) accused the Government of using the figures to justify attacks on selective education. Grammar schools continue to dominate league tables based on raw results. But in the new "contextual value added" list (CVA), schools are ranked by the progress made between 11 and 14 and they are judged less harshly if they have many pupils who live in deprived areas. Other mitigating factors include the ethnicity of pupils and even the ratio of boys to girls.

Gravesend Grammar School, Slough Grammar School, Dartford Grammar School for Girls and Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone were among the bottom 100 in the rankings. A further five were among the worst 400.

A spokesman for the NGSA said the tables were "pure propaganda to undermine good performance". He said: "This is just part of a continued and concerted effort to undermine the good work that grammar schools actually do. To continue to try to find ways to denigrate the good work of 164 grammar schools, educating around 160,000 pupils, is a complete travesty."

This is the first year that the new ranking formula has been used. Last year a similar, value-added table, which judged the progress between 11 and 14 without taking account of poverty, put grammars among the top in the country.

Chris Walls, the head teacher of Mablethorpe Tennyson High, in Lincolnshire, the most improved school in the country, criticised the "wretched" grammar school system, saying it condemned the majority of pupils to an inferior education. His school has a higher than average number of children from poor backgrounds as well as those with special needs. Lincolnshire has 15 grammar schools educating roughly a third of the brightest schoolchildren.

In 2004, just over a third of the pupils at Mablethorpe Tennyson hit the national targets in English, maths and science at the age of 14. This year, almost two-thirds of pupils did so in literacy and science and three-quarters in maths. Mr Walls said: "Some schools like Tennyson haven't been doing well because of the continued existence of these wretched grammar schools. You are always going to have 10 or 15 schools in Lincolnshire which look like they are failing because they have a disproportionately high number of less bright pupils. To get rid of these failing schools you need to get rid of academic selection."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families pointed out that some grammars also appear among the top schools using the new measurement. A spokesman said: "Surely mainstream schools have more cause for complaint because they don't get to pick their pupils and therefore struggle to keep up with grammars in all other tables."


Exodus from Australia's government schools

Note: The figures below cover primary and secondary schools combined. The flight to private schools is much greater at the High School level

The exodus from Australia's battling state schools has grown, with more parents sending their children to Catholic and independent schools. Official figures released yesterday showed 66.4% of the nation's 3.4 million full-time students were at government schools last year, falling from 66.8% a year earlier and 70% in 1997. In Victoria, which has the second highest proportion of students in non-government schools after the ACT, just over 35% of students, or 297,970, now go to non-government schools, compared to 262,948 a decade ago.

While the proportion of Australian students attending government schools fell, the state school student population rose 1.7% to 2,268,377 in the decade. But their growth was dwarfed by the performance of non-government schools, where enrolments rose almost 22%.

The figures are given in the Schools Australia report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The snapshot of the education system also showed that while there was a jump in teacher numbers over the past decade, much of the growth was in non-government schools, where the number of full-time teachers grew by almost 38% from 1997, compared with 10.5% in government schools. In Victoria, the number of teachers in non-government schools grew 33.1% in the decade to 2007, while the government school teacher population increased by just 14%....

The figures released yesterday reignited debate about the cause and effect of the drift to non-government schools as the Federal Government stood by the contentious funding model inherited from the former government. The funding formula, known as the SES model, measures a school's need according to the socioeconomic status of families who attend....

Nationally, retention rates of full-time students from year 7/8 to year 12 rose slightly, from 71.8% in 1997 to 74.3% last year. Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said there was still a long way to go to get the retention rates to 85% by 2015 and 90% by 2020 - targets nominated by the Labor Government.

The annual Schools Australia report also showed [that] A greater proportion of teachers were female, with a 3.5% increase since 1997. Last year 68.7% were female compared to 65% a decade ago.

State opposition education minister Martin Dixon said what was of most concern was the numerical drop of students in Victorian state schools, from just over 536,000 in 2006 to 535,800 last year. "People are voting with their feet and going to what they think are better schools."