Saturday, September 26, 2009

Do Charters 'Cream' the Best?

A new study finds breakthrough evidence against Leftist excuses

'Creaming" is the word critics of charter schools think ends the debate over education choice. The charge has long been that charters get better results by cherry-picking the best students from standard public schools. Caroline Hoxby, a Stanford economist, found a way to reliably examine this alleged bias, and the results are breakthrough news for charter advocates.

Her new study, "How New York City's Charter Schools Affect Achievement," shows that charter students, typically from more disadvantaged families in places like Harlem, perform almost as well as students in affluent suburbs like Scarsdale. Because there are more applicants than spaces, New York admits charter students with a lottery system. The study nullifies any self-selection bias by comparing students who attend charters only with those who applied for admission through the lottery, but did not get in. "Lottery-based studies," notes Ms. Hoxby, "are scientific and more reliable."

According to the study, the most comprehensive of its kind to date, New York charter applicants are more likely than the average New York family to be black, poor and living in homes with adults who possess fewer education credentials. But positive results already begin to emerge by the third grade: The average charter student is scoring 5.8 points higher than his lotteried-out peers in math and 5.3 points higher in English. In grades four through eight, the charter student jumps ahead by 5 more points each year in math and 3.6 points each year in English.

Charter students are also shrinking the learning gap between low-income minorities and more affluent whites. "On average," the report concludes, "a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the 'Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap' in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English."

The New York results are not unique. In a separate study, Ms. Hoxby found Chicago's charters performing even better than the Big Apple's. Using the same methodology, other researchers have seen similar results in Boston.

Charters are also a bargain for taxpayers. Nationwide on average, per-pupil spending is 61% that of surrounding public schools. New York charters spend less than district schools but more than the national average because, unlike district schools, they generally have no capital budget and must pay rent from operating expenses.

Little wonder President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are pressuring states to become more charter-friendly. Why the Administration can't connect the dots from the evidence to other effective school choice reforms, such as vouchers, can only be explained by union politics. Caroline Hoxby has performed a public service by finally making clear that "creaming" is a crock.


Paedophile fears are 'driving male teachers from British primary schools'

More than a quarter of state primary schools have no male teachers, partly because they have been deterred from working with young children for fear of being labelled paedophiles, an expert claims. The result is that thousands of boys are being taught solely by women and have no educational male role models. The trend is fuelling concerns that a generation of boys is growing up without an authoritative male figure in their lives.

Teaching remains a predominantly female profession, data published today by the General Teaching Council of England confirms. Only 123,827, or 25 per cent, of the 490,981 registered working teachers are men, with the majority in secondary schools and further education. Male teachers make up just 13 per cent of state primary teachers (25,491) and three per cent of state nursery school staff (43). Of 16,892 state primary schools in England, 4,550 have no male teachers - around 27 per cent.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the figures were concerning. 'It's a sad comment on society that more men aren't attracted into teaching in primary schools. In part, this is due to concerns in society about paedophilia. Men are receiving the signal that it's more appropriate for them to teach in secondary schools than primary schools.'

The 'feminisation' of the curriculum, which includes an emphasis on coursework rather than 'sudden death' exams, is already believed to be responsible for a widening gender gap at secondary level.

Professor Smithers said: 'There's a danger that boys could grow up thinking that education is sissy. 'When it comes to reading, they might be offered what appeals to the female teachers whereas male teachers often have different interests in reading. 'Similarly, in interpreting what's been read, there are distinct male and female points of view. Both these views need to be offered to boys.'

GTC chief executive Keith Bartley said: 'We should focus on attracting the best recruits to teaching, regardless of gender. 'If men do not believe that teaching is a worthwhile career option for them, or worse still, if their interest in teaching is viewed with suspicion, then children potentially miss out on a huge pool of talent.'

Only two men under the age of 25 work in state-run nurseries in England, according to the GTC register. One of them, 22-year-old Jamie Wilson, from Merseyside, insists that children need to be taught by male and female teachers. He said: 'I am firmly of the belief that gender should not be an issue when it comes to early years and primary teachers. Why should it matter? 'However, I have found that it has been an issue in my own experience. Even within my first week I encountered anxiety from a parent who was reluctant to leave their three-year-old in my care because I am a male in a female-dominated environment.'


Oxbridge: one student explodes the myths

Students have less than a month to get in their applications for Oxford and Cambridge . The fact that the two universities, generally seen as the "top" places to study in the UK, have a different application deadline from other universities, just adds to the aura around them.

Costas Pitas is studying History and French at Balliol College, Oxford. As someone from a grammar school, he says he didn't know what to expect when he applied, and is keen to help others to, as he says, "explode the myths". In fact, he says that Oxbridge should be "at the top of every working class child's UCAS form." Over to Costas....

"There are many misunderstandings surrounding Oxford and Cambridge. You don’t need to be a Lord, or the son or daughter of one, you don’t have to live in a gold-encrusted palace or have a double-barrelled name. In fact, in my view, Oxbridge should be at the top of every working class child’s UCAS form, and not at the bottom. It’s the best place to study if your worried about finances and fancy the shortest term times of any universities. If you’re predicted the necessary grades, or even just short, here are some myth-busting facts to prove why you shouldn’t think twice about applying.

Myth one: the fees are more expensive

FALSE: For most people Oxbridge is actually the best value-for-money choice you could make. On tuition fees, 99 per cent of courses across the country at every uni will charge £3,225 for this coming academic year. Oxford and Cambridge charge the same. When you consider that the pair continually top The Times Good University Guide, and are among the best-performing institutions in the world, it’s surely a bargain price for the best education money can buy.

Myth two: it’ll cost you more to study

FALSE: Oxford and Cambridge have the best libraries of any universities in the country. The Bodleian in Oxford, for example, is a copyright library which means that it has the right to every book published in the UK. With central libraries, faculty libraries and college libraries, Oxbridge has got to be the place where the need to buy your own reading materials is at its minimum. Plus, many of the colleges and faculties offer book-buying grants to students.

Myth three: it’ll cost more to live

FALSE: Research conducted by the National Union of Students shows that students in London will face living expenses of £8,375 per year, whilst those out of the capital save a cool £1,300 a year, down to £7,011. Furthermore, a combination of generous benefactors, rich alumni and a social guilty conscience means that Oxford and Cambridge offer the most generous financial support anywhere in the country. With a household income of up to £25,000, Cambridge will award a bursary of £3,250 per year, whilst Oxford will splash out the same each year plus a potential £875 in your first year to the poorest students. Any household income under £50,000 will entitle you to hundreds or thousands of pounds worth of non-repayable grant.

Myth four: all the students are snobby

FALSE: OK, of course you’ll find some people who believe God reports to them. However, that applies to all walks of life and my experience of Oxford has been entirely positive. Many people at my college come from schools such as Eton, which you might consider to be the crème de la crème of toff towers, but are anything but. In fact many worry that other students will have a whole truckload of preconceptions about them. Roughly 55 per cent of students at both universities come from state schools, so even if you consider snobby synonymous with independent schools that accusation doesn’t stand up either. My experience shows it to be untrue anyway. Ultimately, everyone’s in the same boat on day one of freshers’ week. It took me the week to find my friends, but the vast majority of people do fit in just fine.

Myth five: they’re all…boring

FALSE: There does seem to be a concern that Oxbridge types are, to quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ‘toast. No honey No jam just toast, dry toast’. (I wish I could convey the thick Greek accent in text). A small minority may prefer the lecture theatre to the dance floor but in general that is far from the truth. The parties are some of the most extravagant you’ll find anywhere in the world. College balls are renowned for their grandeur and almost every society, of which there are dozens, will throw in a free chocolate fountain here or free drinks there, as a matter of course. Not that I’ve done this with friends, but the sheer amount of corporate sponsorship, means you can pull up to some amazing events, feign interest in corporate law and enjoy a boat party or drinks event with no charge.

Myth six: they’re all right-wingers...or left-wingers

FALSE: Bizarrely, I’ve heard both stereotypes, which is probably the best proof that they’re wrong. Whether you’ve got a photo of Margaret Thatcher on your wall or in your furnace, Oxford is home to a wide range of political viewpoints. The major political parties have their own groups, the Oxford Union sustains debate, and gossip, uni-wide and the Student’s Union takes on welfare and pastoral issues. Each college’s students have their own committee and, in all, if you’re a lefty or a righty, there’s wide scope to get involved. Equally, if you decide that your free time is for fun and games and not more brain power, then you can easily avoid the whole lot of them!

With the most generous bursaries, the best value-for-money tuition fees and great parties, students shouldn’t be on the look out for largely unfounded stereotypes on why not to apply. Instead they should be fighting to print off the application form."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Corruption behind a firing at a British school

'Bully' named by fired dinner-lady is school governor’s son. The school initially tried to cover up the assault until the dinner lady spoke to the mother of the bullied girl. The school then fired the dinner lady for breaching some imagined code of Omerta

A governor at the school where a dinner lady was sacked for telling parents about alleged bullies is the mother of one of the four boys involved, The Times has learnt.

Angry parents are demanding the resignation of the headmistress and governors of Great Tey Primary School, Essex. Some are threatening to remove their children if Carol Hill, 60, is not reinstated. Mrs Hill, who was dismissed this week, has since been banned from a voluntary post in the Beaver Scouts and the local youth group because of the decision. The grandmother has spent thousands of pounds on legal fees and is preparing to take further action against the school.

The headmistress, Deborah Crabb, the governors and the local vicar, John Richardson, struck off the dinner lady for a breach of pupil confidentiality after she informed the parents of Chloe David, 7, that the girl had been tied up and whipped by a group of boys at playtime.

Parents questioned whether the decision was influenced by the fact that Kathryn Spicer, a parent governor who did not take part in the disciplinary hearings, is the mother of one of the four boys accused of tying Chloe’s wrists and ankles with a skipping rope.

Sarah Harris, 36, who has two children at the school, described the treatment of Mrs Hill as terrible and unfair. “Maybe this would have been dealt with differently had a governor’s child not been involved,” she told The Times. “You put your trust in these people not only to teach your children but to keep them safe and look after their pastoral care. I am worried and very concerned as to what else may have been covered up.”

Ms Spicer has been a governor at the school since 2006 and has two children there. She refused to comment yesterday. Mrs Crabb, 35, has been headmistress for three years. She was previously a reception teacher at the school, which has 60 pupils.

Sue Dyer, who has five children at the school, said that she no longer trusted the headmistress or the governors and called for Mrs Crabb to step down. Her husband, Ivan, said that parents had been concerned over the headmistress’s level of experience.

Mrs Hill is preparing a case against the school. Her lawyer was not permitted into the dismissal hearing on Monday but the school’s legal representatives and a human resources adviser from Essex County Council were present to advise the board.

Mrs Hill said that she was not able to comment until her appeal. Her husband, Ronald, 65, said: “She is a very strong person but this has got her down. She really loves her job.”


Kiddy "bang, bang" game deemed politically incorrect in sick England

Now the deranged headmistress is lying in her teeth about her actions

Excited by stories of the Second World War during school classes, Steven Cheek did what generations of young boys have done before him. Making an imaginary gun with his fingers, the nine-year-old pointed it at a classmate and said: 'We've got to shoot the German army.' Moments later he found himself in front of the deputy head, who accused him of racism because his 'victim' had been a Polish boy.

He was made to stand in front of the class and make an apology while his mother, Jane Hennessey, was called in by the head of Purford Green Junior School in Harlow, Essex. She was informed that a permanent record of her son's misconduct would be placed on file.

Miss Hennessey yesterday accused the school of overreacting. 'Steven has always wanted to join the Army when he grows up,' she said. 'That's his burning ambition and he loved learning about the war in class. 'In the week leading up to what happened, the school had been telling the children about the history of the war and he had come home every night talking about it.

'He's not a racist. He's only nine years old and he didn't single out the Polish boy, who is one of his good friends. This just happened to be who he was playing with. The deputy head shouted at Steven and said, "That's racism", which is ridiculous because Steven has a Polish aunt and they were on our side during the war. 'He didn't understand what he had done wrong. He was just playing a game like kids always do. He came home after being told off and said, "Mum, what's racism?" The school has overreacted and been very heavy-handed. They could have quietly told him off instead of turning it into a big issue.'

Miss Hennessey, 37, who lives in Harlow with Steven's father Darren Cheek, 39, an electrician, said her son got carried away during a class where the war was being discussed. He had never been in trouble before and had been bullied by other pupils since having to make the public apology.

'My main concern is that this will stay on his record and count against him when he goes to secondary school.' Miss Hennessey added: 'Other teachers have told me that they think he has been harshly treated. Everything was blown completely out of proportion. 'This young Polish child had only started at the school in September and I thought he and Steven got along well. 'He speaks perfect English. I don't think Steven even really knew or understood he was Polish and from another country. Children don't see differences between people like adults do.'

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education pressure group, accused the school of 'absurd political correctness'. He said: 'It's a shame that teachers these days all too often fail to crack down on real problems like bullying but overreact to a child with a healthy imagination. Boys will be boys and what the teacher should have done was ask Steven not to play in the classroom, instead of sending him to the deputy head who then humiliated him in front of his class.'

The school, which has around 175 boys and girls aged between four and 11 and was rated 'good' in its last Ofsted report, yesterday claimed Steven's class had been learning about space, not the war, when he was reprimanded and denied he had been accused of racism. Headmistress Viv Perri said: 'When a pupil uses inappropriate language or terms that could be offensive, we have a responsibility to explain to them why their behaviour is wrong. 'We want to give all our pupils the best possible start in life which can mean educating them about knowing right from wrong. 'The incident in question involved a short conversation with a pupil to explain the inappropriateness of his comments and then a meeting with the parent to explain the context.'


Arizona Pols expected to tighten school tuition tax credit rules

Arizona needs to adjust its private-school tuition tax-credit law to ensure better oversight and keep pace with other states that have enacted similar programs, some key lawmakers said Monday. Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa and chairman of the House Education Committee, said the Legislature will consider changes to the law when it convenes next year. "The budget will overshadow everything, but there will be legislation run on this," Crandall said after a meeting of a Democratic-led task force that is examining gaps in the law highlighted in a series of reports by The Arizona Republic. "My guess is there will be something that passes."

The program faces renewed scrutiny after reports that, in many ways, the 1997 law has fallen short of its original purpose: to help make a private education available to all children, not just those who can afford it.

The Republic has found that the school-tuition organizations that collect the tax-deductible donations have almost no oversight and that, last year, 10 of 53 had fallen short of spending at least 90 percent of their revenue on scholarships, as required by the law. Some of the organizations have encouraged a system of swapping donations, allowing even children of affluent families to effectively receive a publicly subsidized private education. The tax credit allows donors to give up to $1,000 for private tuition and cut their income-tax liability dollar for dollar.

Crandall and Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, agreed that any legislative changes would likely go beyond the tax-credit donations used to defray private-school costs and would affect a tax credit for those who help underwrite the cost of extracurricular activities at public schools.

At least two groups that advocate for school choice have joined the chorus calling for changes to the state's law. Last week, House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, formed a Republican-led special committee to weigh changes to the law, as well. Schapira stressed that his goal is to improve the tax credit, not end it.

Lawrence Mohrweis, an accounting professor at Northern Arizona University who also oversees a tuition organization in Flagstaff, said school-tuition organizations should register with the state and have annual audits or financial reviews, depending on how much money they handle. He also urged lawmakers to give the Department of Revenue some oversight authority. "I compare it to speed-limit signs," Mohrweis said. "What would happen if the state patrol could pull you over but never give you a fine or give you a ticket? . . . That's effectively what we have within STO organizations right now."

The Goldwater Institute for years has suggested changes to the tax credit. Matthew Ladner, vice president for research at the free-market, non-profit think tank, supports auditing responsibilities and empowering the Revenue Department. But he also favors a personal-use tax credit that would allow all parents to deduct at least some of the cost of educating their child regardless of whether the child attends public or private school. At the same time, he would change the current tax-credit law to also help only students from low-income families. Arizona has a corporate-tax credit that must go to the poor, but the credit available to individuals is not limited. "Fundamentally, the program needs some kind of sheriff," Ladner said. "There are different public or private models that could help accomplish that goal."

The School Choice Working Group, which represents more than a half-dozen groups, plans to work with the special committee on legislation that would create need-based criteria for scholarships and would offer reports on how prevalent such scholarships are, said Sydney Hay, a spokeswoman for the group.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Crazy ideas in NYC

Failing kids are going to have to go to school on Saturday? If the first 5 days of the week do no good, how is another half-day going to help? And how are you going to get such kids to school on Saturday? Nobody has much of a clue in NYC. All sides are ignoring the elephant in the room: discipline failures

During an education policy speech at Pace University Tuesday night, City Comptroller Bill Thompson claimed the city's schools are going in the wrong direction. "My friends, it's time for change. The current administration has had eight years to get the job done on education," Thompson said.

The Democratic Mayoral candidate once again took on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's signature issue, and this time offered a plan on what he would do differently. Thompson is calling for universal pre-K, as well as a longer school year for failing students. "Some students may require more time and assistance on certain tasks," Thompson said. "The school week and school year should be extended for these students, including Saturday school."

Chris Cerf, an education advisor for the Bloomberg campaign, listened to the speech and quickly dismissed some of the proposals. "I didn't hear anything in that speech that suggested, that would lead anyone to believe that what were very vague and hopeful promises that would actually be executed," Cerf said.

Team Bloomberg said a longer school day could cost tens of billions of dollars. The Thompson campaign didn't have an estimate, but one supporter said the expense would be worth it. "It may cost hundreds of million dollars. Let's assume it costs a billion dollars. The fact is, Bill Thompson has expressed this has his priority," said City Councilman Robert Jackson.

Education has become one of the most contentious issues in the race. Even before Thompson's speech, the mayor raised questions about the Democrat's time as head of the old board of education.

"The issue for voters really is clear. If you think the schools are better today than they were under my opponent's leadership then you should vote for me," said Bloomberg. "And if you think that they were better when he ran the Board of Education then you should vote for him. And I wonder whether he'd be willing to say the same thing. Don't know."

Thompson ducked the mayor's criticism by saying the race should be about a variety of issues. But it's clear education is going to be at the center of campaign.


The Leftist war on British education continues apace

Sacked for exposing the bullies: Dinner lady fired for telling parents girl had been whipped. If you can't prevent violent behaviour, cover it up is the British response

A school dinner lady who told the parents of a seven-year-old girl that she had been viciously bullied in the playground has been sacked. Scott and Claire David were simply informed in a letter home that their daughter Chloe had been 'hurt' in an incident with a skipping rope. In fact, she had been tied to a fence, whipped by four boys, had to be dragged to safety and suffered burns to her wrists.

But the attempted cover-up was exposed when Carol Hill - the dinner lady who saved her from further injury - bumped into Mr and Mrs David and told them what really happened. Mrs Hill, 60, was suspended after the incident in June and yesterday it emerged that she has been fired by a disciplinary tribunal for breaching pupil confidentiality at Great Tey Primary School, near Colchester, Essex.

The decision has been condemned by the girl's family, who were prevented from giving evidence on Mrs Hill's behalf. Other parents at the school are considering withdrawing their children in protest.

Friends say that Mrs Hill, from Great Tey, who has worked at the school for almost eight years, is 'shocked and very disappointed' but is planning to appeal. One said: 'She thinks she's been treated really shabbily but she insists that if she saw a child being bullied again she would definitely step in like she did.' Her husband, Ron, said: 'She's not been eating and has been really down. I can't describe how cross I am. I can't believe it's got this far. She's done nothing wrong.'

Mrs Hill has previously told how another pupil alerted her to the bullying incident. She found Chloe bound up and terrified. She said: 'She had eight knots around her wrists and had been whipped across the legs with a skipping rope. I took her back into the school, along with four boys who had been seen with her. Two admitted it.'

Mr and Mrs David say Chloe, who had rope burns to her wrists and whip marks on her legs, was sent home with an accident notification letter. They could not find out what exactly had happened as she was in shock and refused to talk about it. Later that evening, Mrs Hill was helping at a Beaver Scouts meeting and went over to Mrs David to say she was sorry about what happened. Speaking in July, she said: 'As I was talking to her it became clear she did not know the whole story. I had to tell her because she then realised there was more to it.'

Mr and Mrs David have since withdrawn Chloe and their five-year-old son, Cameron, from the school. They say that if Mrs Hill had not told them, they would never have been alerted to what had really happened. They later demanded to see the school's accident book which stated that Chloe had been tied up.

Mr David, 33, a steel worker, said last night: 'I'm disgusted and shocked that Mrs Hill has been sacked and I'm disgusted that the school has been able to cover everything up. 'It was her job to make sure that children's welfare was being looked after. That's what she did but she's now being punished for doing her job properly. 'We back Mrs Hill totally. She did not realise we did not know all the facts. We should have done - we should have been called into the school.' He added: 'Chloe seems to be doing OK now. She seems to have bounced back better than us. We're still trying to cope with what happened.'

Many parents are backing the dinner lady and want her to be reinstated. Sue Dyer and her husband Ivan, 50, a horticultural engineer, have five children at Great Tey Primary School. Mrs Dyer said: 'The way Carol's been treated is totally unjust. I would put total trust in her ability to look after my children. 'Carol is 100 per cent for children, she is a very popular figure in the village and the school. 'The children think Carol's coming back - they keep asking, when is Mrs Hall back?'

Mrs Dyer said that if the headteacher had informed Chloe's parents about the full extent of the bullying in the first instance, the trouble would have been avoided. Margaret Morrissey, of family campaign group Parents Outloud, said: 'I'm absolutely sure she was just trying to act in the best interests of the child. 'I doubt if there's anyone who knew what had happened who wouldn't want to sympathise. I'm sure that parents will be very upset to hear that she's lost her job over it.'

Headmistress Debbie Crabb has insisted that Chloe's parents were told of the incident according to school 'accident and first aid procedures'. But she said the procedures would be reviewed. She said yesterday: 'We can confirm that subject to any appeal Mrs Hill will not be returning to work at Great Tey Primary School.'


British universities to end 'irrelevant' research

This is reasonable as long as basic science is not affected

The days of university researchers developing formulas for the perfect cheese sandwich or signing up for David Beckham studies may be numbered after the government’s higher education funding body announced plans to tighten its criteria for research grants. Academics will be required to demonstrate that their research is relevant to society in order to be allocated public funds and the biggest grants will go to projects likely to influence the economy or public policy. Critics say the plan, due to come into force in 2012, will sacrifice academic freedoms to market forces.

The plans are due to be announced today by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It will allocate £1.76bn a year in government funds for academic research under the Research Excellence Framework. From 2012, university departments must submit their work to be rated by a panel of academics. Marks will be awarded, 25 per cent for the impact the research will have and 15 per cent for the department’s research strategy, staff and student development and its engagement with the wider world.

The Hefce said the system would pay out for research in the arts and humanities as well as science and technology.

But Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, told The Guardian: “Academic research should never be at the behest of market forces. “History has taught us that some of the biggest breakthroughs have come from speculative research and it is wrong to try and measure projects purely on their economic potential.”

David Sweeney, Hefce’s director for research, said: “The Research Excellence Framework will recognise and reward excellent research and sharing new knowledge to the benefit of the economy and society, and will ensure effective allocation of public funds. “It will encourage the productive interchange of research staff and ideas between academia and business, government and other sectors.”

Under the previous funding allocation system, universities were able to take on star academics at the last minute to boost their research performance.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lazy, illiterate teachers, cynical heads who have given up, and pupils who treat them with contempt. A horrifying portrait of the British schools failing young boys

It's the most disturbing social issue of our age - why Britain is plagued by a generation of violent, barely literate young men living outside the normal bounds of society. For nine months, a leading investigative journalist has been examining their world for the Mail. Here, in the third part of our exclusive serialisation of her findings, she takes on our failing schools.

When Darren was 14, he became one of the bad boys. Barely able to read and write and unable to keep up in the classroom, he started truanting with nine other pupils who also felt school had nothing to offer but humiliation. Trashing bus shelters and stealing anything for kicks soon progressed to stealing in earnest when they discovered a fence in their small town in the Midlands. They'd have the wheels off a BMW and £100 in their pockets within the space of an hour. Then they moved into drugs, selling cocaine and ecstasy to the queues outside nightclubs.

Weren't they afraid of getting caught? Oh no, getting arrested was 'part of the game', said Darren, now 21. Half the time, the police would let them go; otherwise they'd usually get away with a £50 fine in the youth courts. Once, he remembered: 'Four or five of us were arrested three times in two weeks. In fact, Darren found himself at his local police station so often that he used to say breezily to the charging sergeant: 'No worries. I'll take myself down to the cells. I know which cell to go to.' The charging sergeant would shout after him: 'Don't forget to shut the door!'

Darren, however, doesn't have much to laugh about now: he may have given up crime, but he lives on benefits and can't get a job - despite being obviously bright. The wrong turning he took at 14, when he abandoned school, has probably wrecked his life. Even so, he's done better than his nine mates who arrived with him from primary school all barely able to read and write. Two of them are dead - one committed suicide in prison and the other smashed a stolen car into a bus shelter at 80mph. Two are serving long prison sentences - one for stabbing someone in the neck. The fifth is a 'very bad' alcoholic. Three now control the drug scene in the town. And Darren's closest friend, a gifted football player, is homeless, hooked on crack and weighing just 7st.

Why do so many boys from poor backgrounds go so catastrophically off the rails in their mid-teens? The trend in education and sociology circles is to point the finger at parents, violent DVDs or deprivation. What they never mention is school.

The link between illiteracy and delinquency is beyond doubt: when 14-year-old boys such as Darren and his friends can no longer keep up in class, they misbehave and often drop out.

Despite the Government's Literacy Hour and a massive increase in spending on schools, a third of all 14-year-olds have a reading age of 11 or below. One in five has a reading age of nine. This is an extraordinarily high level of failure. After all, learning to read is a routine business managed by countries a lot poorer than ours. Cuba, Estonia, Poland and Barbados, for example, all boast higher literacy rates than ours, despite spending far less on education. We wouldn't accept it if one in three everyday hospital operations ended in failure - so why do we accept it in our schools?

The age of 14 is when children are most likely to play truant, disrupt classes or face exclusion from school. And those most likely to do so are the black Caribbean and white working-class boys, who are, in turn, more likely to join gangs and terrorise their neighbourhoods.

To find out why this is happening, I spent nine months talking to black and white working-class teenagers from low-income families, as well as youth-club leaders, teachers, school inspectors and charities. The more I found out, the clearer it became that poor schools lie behind most of the statistics on crime, social disorder and drug abuse.

Educationalists argue that schools cannot compensate for the failings of society. But this is exactly what schools should be doing. School is our one opportunity at social engineering. It is our one chance of transforming the future of boys with chaotic home lives. Yet all over the country, schools are failing them - for reasons that could so easily be put right.

Certainly, for the majority of the boys I interviewed, school was part of the problem and not the solution. Most, such as Darren and his friends, hadn't been taught to read and write properly at primary school and were at best semi-literate. For such boys, their lives are all but finished before they have really begun. The effect on society is devastating, too: feral gangs roam our streets and many people are scared to leave their homes. How has this been allowed to happen?

At one comprehensive I visited, I was surprised to find the headmaster in a jubilant mood. Not because his pupils were doing particularly well - but because he'd just discovered a GCSE English exam that didn't require them to read a single poem or book. 'You have to be ahead of the game,' he told me. As far as he was concerned, he was perfectly justified in 'ducking and diving' between exam boards in a quest to increase the number of pupils scraping by with a pass (grade C) - and so fulfil that all important Government target. Many were barely able to read and write when they arrived at his comprehensive - despite passing SATs tests after much coaching - and their chances of ever learning were already ebbing away.

Why? Because this same headmaster has given up on them, claiming he lacks the funding or the staff to help them catch up. Breathtakingly cynical? Certainly, but his attitude isn't uncommon in schools across the country. Heads are judged on how many good A-C grades their pupils get at GCSE, not on how many disadvantaged boys they turn around. Better that the bad boys drop out than drag down a school's results.

One problem is the sheer numbers who arrive from primary school without the ability to read and write properly. Time after time, as I visited comprehensives across the country, I was told that there was no chance of giving the new intake the extra lessons they needed. Even at one predominately white suburban secondary school, the man in charge of teaching literacy skills told me 40 per cent of the first-years were 'at least' two years behind in reading or spelling or both. He'd worked out he had five minutes a week for every pupil who needed help.

A science teacher in an inner-London school told me: 'I am so used to teaching 14-year-olds who have a reading age of seven that I don't even think of it as strange anymore. It's become the norm rather than the exception.' Last year, almost 250,000 children - 40 per cent - started GCSE studies without having achieved the level of reading, writing and maths needed to cope with the course.

So what's the solution? Four years ago, the Government announced that schools would be switching to the most successful method of teaching children how to read - synthetic phonics - in which children are taught letter sounds and blending skills. But it didn't quite work out that way. Instead of introducing this tried-and-tested method, which has had spectacular results with boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, a new phonics-based method was devised, which is not as effective. And, still, some teachers are not even using that. They prefer pupils to try to pick up the meaning of words from looking at pictures. Or, as a school inspector remarked: 'The child is put in a corner, surrounded by books and assumed to be able to read by osmosis.'

For Jake, 14, who was in the top maths and science sets for his first two years at an East Anglian secondary school, this has been a disaster. In the end, he told me: 'The lack of reading and writing kills you in every subject. Even in maths, you need to be able to read the question.' His school never addressed the problem.

Like phonics, the concept of sitting pupils in rows of desks facing the teacher is widely considered too didactic. Now, most primary schoolchildren sit at tables scattered about the classroom, as I saw for myself when I sat in on one class for a week in the East End of London. On my table, the three children giggled, kicked each other and chatted. Their attention lay on what was immediately in front of them: themselves. Somewhere on the periphery of our vision, the teacher walked about, struggling to keep order. Somewhere else, behind our heads, hung a white board with work upon it, gleefully ignored by my table.

When I blamed the children's poor discipline and concentration on the layout, the teacher looked at me with horror. 'The pupils are working together, directing their own learning,' she said emphatically.

The educational establishment emphasises what ought to work; it doesn't investigate or accept the evidence of what actually works. As one science teacher in the East End told me: 'I'm instructed to put into place initiatives for which there's no educational evidence whatsoever.' Another complained: 'Education is an evangelical movement - evidence has nothing to do with it.'

Children are now expected, for example, to be 'independent learners' in charge of their own education. ('Why do teachers keep asking me what I want to learn? How am I supposed to know?' one boy asked me in exasperation.)

This approach has a disastrous effect on the academic achievement of boys from poor backgrounds. Yet faced with a pupil who's incapable of directing his own learning, teachers and psychologists question what's wrong with the child, not what's wrong with the teaching.

The school regulator, Ofsted, has proved remarkably toothless - indeed, two of its own inspectors are so disillusioned that they risked their jobs to talk to me. Instead of concentrating on the basics, they said, they have to check that schools are complying with the latest educational ideology and Government initiative. Both inspectors have been shocked by the low standard of writing, even in good schools - which one of them blamed squarely on poor marking (never to be done in red ink). Many teachers, they noted, had stopped correcting children's grammar, spelling and speech at all, for fear of discouraging them. But when one of the inspectors complained about a school's marking policy to her boss at Ofsted, he replied: 'I don't have a problem with that.'

In any case, the inspector continued, teachers at some of the schools she visits are poor at spelling and grammar themselves. Examining the work of one form, she found the teacher had made numerous spelling mistakes and marked one essay with the comment: 'You need more stuff.'

The Government, as we constantly hear, is on a mission to improve our schools. How? Well, this year, the emphasis is on promoting healthy eating and 'community cohesion'. Indeed, every single school I visited had material on these two topics prominently displayed on their noticeboards. What a pity that some of their pupils were unable to read it.

One of the inspectors told me: 'I spend more time looking in children's lunchboxes than testing their literacy.' Someone, she said despairingly, needs to make children sit down, work hard and learn to concentrate.

Schools are also failing boys from deprived backgrounds in less obvious ways. Recent research has produced compelling evidence that self-discipline is more than twice as important as IQ when it comes to doing well in exams. Even more surprisingly, self-motivation has a bigger impact than even reading ability on future earnings.

Application and self-discipline, of course, are not dictated by intelligence, class or privilege. So the failure of schools to teach them is condemning boys from poor backgrounds to a lifetime of wasted opportunities. They have been crippled as surely as if someone had hacked off a limb.

I met many men in their 20s and 30s who had never experienced the repetition and effort needed for schoolwork. 'No one ever made me sit down and learn,' said one. 'I never caught the habit.' This meant they'd never learnt self- discipline or how to concentrate. Consequently, they don't know how to turn a burst of enthusiasm into the day-to- day effort required for success.

Bright boys from chaotic backgrounds are almost totally dependent on their teachers for that first step to a different life. Yet, shockingly, some teachers saw their educational and social status not as a cause of inspiration to their pupils, but of shame. 'My main focus is not to offend my pupils,' said one. 'I don't want to push my middle-class values on them.' So when a bright pupil told this teacher he'd probably end up stacking supermarket shelves, she didn't urge him to think about an alternative career. Instead, she told me: 'I pointed out to him the many positive aspects of the supermarket job - meeting people and so forth.'

Another teacher told me firmly it wasn't 'his place' to encourage a bright pupil to move from his area or live in anything but a council house. With such an appalling lack of encouragement, it's little wonder that so many 16 to 18-year- old youths - about one in ten - are neither in education, jobs or training, and have little aspiration to succeed.

Were they at school today, the chances of David Lloyd George, the nephew of a cobbler, and Aneurin Bevan, a poor miner's son, rising to become Prime Minister or a Cabinet minister are almost nil. Like so many of the bright young men I interviewed, they'd probably end up in prison or on the dole.

A decent education broadens horizons; it should also provide authority, moral leadership and - through sport - an appropriate outlet for aggression. Then it has the power to transform lives, even the most unlikely.

Take Jason, whose earliest memory is learning how to roll a spliff. His father is a drug dealer, and his home in the North of England is a hangout for addicts - among them schizophrenics, who regularly drop round to exchange their medication for drugs. Against a home background that also included violence and incest, Jason found school a welcome contrast. He joined everything on offer, including the choir and the Boy Scouts - and he was lucky enough to have good teachers. 'I didn't miss a single day,' said Jason. And now? He's training to be a teacher himself.


Mass: School officials, education boss disagree on bills

As usual, teacher representatives don't like charter schools

The state's top education official clashed with public school leaders on Thursday over Gov. Deval L. Patrick's bills to expand charter schools and improve the worst performing schools. During a crowded hearing by the Committee on Education, S. Paul Reville, the state's secretary of education, said the bills are aimed at closing a wide achievement gap in public schools between white students and minorities and between poor and wealthier students. "No student should be forced to languish in a dungeon of a failing school," Reville told committee members. "By creating and expanding successful charter schools and by fostering the rapid turnaround of underperforming schools through these bills, our students won't have to."

One of Patrick's bills calls for lifting a state cap on charter schools in only those school districts that are among the lowest 10 percent of MCAS scores on a statewide basis, including Holyoke, Springfield and Chicopee. The Patrick administration released an analysis showing Holyoke was the worst performing school district in the state last year on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams, Springfield was the second worst and Chicopee the 13th worst.

Springfield currently has four charter schools, while Chicopee and Holyoke each have one. The governor's bill would allow for several additional charter schools in Springfield, at least one more in Holyoke and probably a couple more in Chicopee.

Patrick's second bill would establish new types of innovative public schools operated by school districts. Teachers, parents, universities, museums and nonprofit groups could be partners in the proposed new schools. Leaders of these schools would receive a lot of flexibility and autonomy in areas such as curriculum, schedule and exemptions from teacher contracts. The bill would clear the administration to appoint a receiver to operate chronically low-performing schools. Reville said this would apply to about 30 schools in the state.

Anne T. Wass, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said Patrick's bill to establish new types of public schools would allow for changes in teacher contracts without negotiating between a school committee and a union. "Keep teachers involved in improving our schools by giving them and their union a voice," Wass said.

Paul S. Dakin, superintendent of schools in Revere and a member of the executive committee of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, criticized Patrick's bill to expand charter schools. Compared to the school districts from which students are drawn, charter schools do not have equal percentages of students who speak a main language other than English or special education students, particularly those with severe needs, Dakin said. "Yet, we are here today at a time of unprecedented budget crisis talking about the possibility of raising the cap and funding more unproven and costly charters," he said.

Charter schools are financed with tax dollars but operate independently of school districts. Teachers are not unionized in the state's 61 charter schools, except for one in Boston. School districts must pay charter schools for each student. The charter schools partially reimburse the districts for each student over three years. Supporters said charter schools are more free to innovate. They often have longer school days and longer school years.

Last year, Reville said, 70 percent of students in next year's high school graduating class with a main language other than English failed the MCAS test. Last year, he added, 70 percent of black students and 60 percent of Hispanic students graduated from high school in four years compared to 90 percent of white students.

About 100 students and parents from the Boston Preparatory Charter School attended the hearing wearing blue T-shirts with a quote from President Barack Obama that charter caps need to be eliminated. "Charter schools give the kids so much more discipline and they stay focused," said Theresa A. Bowman, parent of a 12-year-old boy at the Boston charter school.

Richard C. Lord, president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a statewide association of employers, said charter schools are a vital part of public education especially in cities. Lord said both of Patrick's bills are needed for Massachusetts to win a maximum share of $4.5 billion in federal "Race to the Top" money under the federal stimulus law. He said the additional federal money would allow the state to move ahead with plans to improve public school teachers, turn around troubled schools and boost technology.

Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education who appeared with Patrick to introduce his charter bill in July, has said that states could be at a "competitive disadvantage" for the federal stimulus dollars if they cap the growth of charter schools.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An education success story -- the old-fashioned way

Tales of Dr. Ben Chavis have been drifting out of the Bay Area for a while now. However, there have been few high-profile media stories, and the educational apparatus in this country is no doubt doing its best to squelch reports of his accomplishments.

So it’s a good thing that Chavis has written a book, Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal’s Triumph in the Inner City, which provides a first-person account of one of the country’s greatest educational success stories. It’s true that Chavis is a controversial figure — the book provides ample evidence of that. He’s profane, boasts of humiliating his students when they “act a fool,” and isn’t afraid to tell a teacher or a parent who he feels is out of line where to stick it. He’s beyond politically incorrect and talks about race with a frankness that would make Chris Rock blush.

Chavis gets away with a lot because he’s undeniably one of the country’s finest educators. In 2000, he took over the American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) in Oakland, an inner-city charter school composed almost exclusively of low-income minority students. By the time he stepped down in 2007, he had turned it into the fifth-highest-rated middle school in the state — out of 1,300. (Of the four that rank higher, none has an underprivileged student body.) And Chavis’s curriculum and educational approaches are being spread with notable success to other middle and high schools in Oakland.

What the educational establishment really hates about Chavis is that he has achieved this success by exploding nearly every liberal myth about education. His approach to education is strictly old-school, and based on proven, effective methods. The only thing innovative about what he’s doing is that he’s doing it in the face of decades of “progressive” education. A few core tenets of his educational philosophy are:

Requiring near-perfect attendance.

Maximizing the amount of class time and number of school days. (Summer school is required, and teachers are expected to assign a minimum of two hours of homework each day.)

Heavily weighting the curriculum toward language arts and math. (Chavis’s schools spend twice as much time on those subjects as most other California schools.)

Liberally handing out disciplinary actions such as detention, and otherwise ensuring that order is maintained.

Setting and enforcing standards — e.g., every eighth-grader must pass Algebra I. (In many California high schools, it’s possible to graduate with just “General Math.”)

Making a big public point of not setting lower standards for minority students. (Too many educational institutions indulge in the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” as President Bush memorably put it.)

None of this is, or should be, particularly controversial. Chavis’s one major departure is his insistence on keeping students in one self-contained classroom where one teacher teaches all the subjects and stays with the same group of students as they move from one grade to the next. Chavis maintains that this both increases educational accountability and introduces a level of stability important for underprivileged kids.

Otherwise, Chavis’s emphasis on hard work and high standards is simply the foundation of any good education. “What we’re doing is so easy,” Chavis told the L.A. Times last year. The trouble comes from the educational establishment, which is deeply in thrall to people Chavis calls “squawkers, multicultural specialists, [and] self-esteem experts” that this commonsense approach seems downright revolutionary.

Chavis doesn’t just dismiss the current obsession with self-esteem and multiculturalism, he despises it. The American Indian Public Charter School was on the verge of closure when Chavis inherited it. Its administration was incompetent, and its curriculum was a joke. Because Oakland has a significant American Indian population, thanks to government relocation programs from decades past, somebody in the Oakland Unified School District got sold on the idea of a junior high teaching kids Native American crafts such as basket weaving and bead making. Not to mention that the school went in for pseudo–Native American traditions such as passing a branch of burning sage around while everybody sat in a circle and adults told the kids about their problems. Chavis refers to the principal who preceded him as “Chief Bad Example.”

When Chavis dismisses diversity-heavy education, he doesn’t do so lightly. He is a Lumbee Indian born to an uneducated mother and raised in a sharecroppers’ shack in rural North Carolina. He’s certainly proud of his heritage, but where most modern educators insist that improving self-esteem is necessary to facilitate learning, Chavis insists they have it backwards. “Many Indian elders who live on a Navajo reservation know a lot about their culture. Does that qualify them to get into Harvard or Stanford?” he writes. Chavis once bought into the educational dogma he now wholly rejects; he writes that his eyes were opened when he was pressured by his dissertation committee to make the conclusion of his dissertation more politically correct: “That was a major turning point for me. . . . I started to question the sacred cows of education: parent involvement, volunteer work, more money for schools, culture, self-esteem, bilingual ed and minority holidays.”

Chavis’s educational insights have made him as effective an educator as he is unpopular with his peers: “Most public-school educators don’t see eye to eye with me. . . . I have no problem badmouthing educators who cheat minority students with their pity, community circles, bead making, general math for twelfth-graders, bilingual education for twelve years, sheltered English immersion, and low expectations. Can you think of a better way to screw over minorities in education and dumb us down?”

As a result of his frustration over the low standards set for minority students, Chavis embraces standardized tests. “We do not believe standardized tests discriminate against students because of their color,” writes Chavis in a document called “Common Sense & Useful Learning at AIPCS.” “Could it be many of them have not been adequately prepared to take those tests?” Where public-school teachers everywhere whine about “teaching to the test,” Chavis has dedicated his book to George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy for passing the No Child Left Behind Act. He repeatedly praises the legislation for mandating standards and making schools publicly accountable to them.

Chavis tells the truth with the bark off. Here he is on school funding: “Taxpayers have been conned for years . . . into thinking the problem with schools is they need more funding. This is the biggest lie in public education in this country. . . . The financial incentive in America is to be a failing school.” On hiring teachers: “If you want to do a child a favor, hire a great teacher to educate him. The whole political agenda of ‘We need more Indians, we need more black teachers’ is racist, ridiculous, and often provides inept educators with a way of getting on the payroll. Just because someone’s Indian doesn’t mean he’s a better role model for an Indian child than someone who’s not Indian.”

Throughout the book, Chavis emphasizes preparing his students for the world of free-market capitalism. In fact, number seven of the American Indian Model Students’ Ten Commandments reads: “Thou shalt beware of quacks who believe in communism. Thou hast the quickest route to freedom through free market capitalism and private property ownership. Hast thou ever heard of illegal immigrants risking their lives to enter Cuba?”

Dr. Chavis certainly has a knack for getting people’s attention. But despite his best efforts, the left-wing educational establishment doesn’t want to hear what he has to say. The educational system in this country is designed to chew up and spit out people who expose its failings. Remember Jaime Escalante, the teacher who had amazing success teaching calculus to barrio kids in Los Angeles? Edward James Olmos portrayed him in the film Stand and Deliver, and America got all warm and fuzzy over how he helped those kids. Well, Hollywood didn’t bother making the sequel, where Escalante was systematically targeted by teachers’ unions and drummed out of a job for working long hours and generally making other teachers look bad.

If Chavis is to have any measurable impact on the educational debate in America, he’s going to have to go over the heads of professional educators. Thrust this book into the hands of all the parents you know and implore them to read it. It’s hard to imagine a clearer call for pulling American education out of a haze of multiculturalism and fuzzy math, and getting back to the basics of the three Rs and hard work. Chavis is passionate, articulate, and entertaining. He’s also right.


British universities to axe places for UK students and take more foreign students

Remarkably perverse

LEADING universities are drawing up plans to slash thousands of places for British undergraduates and replace them with foreign students paying far higher fees to cope with an expected cut in government funding of 20%-25%. They argue that reducing admissions is preferable to making deep cuts to staff numbers and harming the quality of teaching, for which universities have recently faced fierce criticism.

The plans have been disclosed by Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor of Leeds and the new chairman of the Russell Group of elite universities, in an interview in The Sunday Times today. “It is very, very worrying,” Arthur says. “The general view round the table is it is better to cut places than to cut [funding per student].” Arthur, who fears cuts of 20%-25% in government spending on higher education after the election, believes the number of people going to university has peaked and says the government’s target of 50% of school-leavers taking degrees is unlikely to be reached. Last week, even Gordon Brown, the prime minister, admitted for the first time that cuts in public spending would be necessary.

Arthur argues for a rise in tuition fees to at least £5,000 to make it financially worthwhile to take on British undergraduates. The current level is £3,225, but those from outside the European Union pay at least three times this amount. Imperial College London says it loses £2,500 a year on every British undergraduate.

One recently retired vice-chancellor described educating UK students as “the charity end of the business”, adding: “We do want to educate them and we have to but in financial terms they are nothing but a drain.”

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “If cuts happened on any scale, it is likely that significant numbers of the most prestigious universities would take fewer cut-price British students and more of the overseas students.” Some already plan growth in overseas numbers, partly to earn money. They include University College London (UCL), Leeds, Lancaster and Newcastle. UCL plans to cut 600 British and EU students by 2012, 6% of the total, and replace them with overseas undergraduates and with postgraduates.

Lancaster plans to freeze UK numbers and increase its overseas contingent by half by 2015. Currently, nearly 900 of its 8,800 undergraduates and almost 1,400 of its 3,100 postgraduates are from outside the EU. Newcastle this year increased recruitment of overseas students by 26% to shore up its finances. Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Reading and Sheffield are among those cutting hundreds of jobs. Sheffield is shedding more than 300. Exeter is cutting spending by 5% this year, as are Imperial and Warwick. King’s College London is reducing spending by 10% even before the scale of government cuts is known and has announced the closure of its engineering department.

Institutions now disagree on what to do next. Many former polytechnics and other new universities believe it must be a priority to increase the numbers of people taking degrees especially during a recession, even if the amount available to teach each one falls as a result.

Traditional universities in the Russell Group and 1994 Group want to preserve what they spend on teaching each student. They have been stung by criticism that the quality on which they trade to attract foreign students is declining. Concerns have been highlighted by student revolts at universities such as Bristol and Manchester and by a scathing Commons report.

While most vice-chancellors have denied there are any problems with the quality of teaching, David Lammy, the universities minister, warned them this month: “Even if you aren’t complacent about quality, you sometimes appear to be. I think you have to recognise that and deal with it.”

Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter and president of Universities UK, which represents campus executive heads, said: “There comes a point when if you cut [funding per student] it will damage quality.”

Some are worried cuts could devastate institutions. The last time funding fell steeply was in the early 1980s, with a 15% overall reduction. Salford university lost more than 40% of funding.


Monday, September 21, 2009

High School Students Ignorant of U.S. History

According to a study of public high school students in Oklahoma, only a miniscule segment of the student population demonstrated sufficient knowledge to pass a citizenship test. A national company, Strategic Vision, performed the study.
Students were given 10 questions drawn from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services item bank. Candidates for U.S. citizenship are required to answer six questions correctly in order to become citizens. According to the USCIS, the first-try passing rate is 92 percent.

Oklahoma’s high school students didn’t fare so well. Despite the fact that most of them have lived in America all their lives, and despite the fact that these students have had thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on their schooling, only 2.8 percent of them passed the citizenship test. That is not a misprint.

For example, only 28 percent of the students were able to identify the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Only 26 percent knew that the Constitution’s first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights.

Only 29 percent knew that the president is in charge of the executive branch.

Only 23 percent knew that George Washington was the first president.
I suggest that the entire blame for the dismal performance is owned by a failed public educational system. Kids graduate, or drop out, without reading, writing and math skills while demonstrating cult-like proficiency in diversity and environmentalism.

Thousands of British pupils receiving police escorts home in anti-social behaviour crackdown

What an appalling sign of social breakdown. Leftist leniency on crime bears fruit

Thousands of pupils are to have police escorts home because of a surge in youth crime. Patrols by community support officers will provide 'visible reassurance' to pupils and the public, according to Whitehall officials. The patrols started in high-risk areas four years ago and are in place in all major cities and 12 London boroughs.

To date, 65 local authorities in England have carried out 15,292 patrols covering 1,632 primary and secondary schools, according to figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Some 64,017 pupils have been spoken to by officers, the figures show, and 2,497 have been referred to other services, including drug and alcohol services, or activities in their area. As about 5,000 schools already have a dedicated police officer linked to them, it means many children are effectively being policed from the start of the school day, until evening.

It is believed that police have been focusing their efforts on areas where there have been reports of violence or anti-social behaviour caused by rival gangs meeting up after school. In Wood Green, North London, extra police and support officers are on duty for three hours protecting pupils at the end of lessons. Officers based in secondaries escort children on to buses or walking home from lessons.

Ian Kibblewhite, of the Metropolitan Police, said: 'The idea of a visible presence is to keep a lid on things. 'We don't want to arrest anybody - if that happens we've failed. 'This is preventative work to stop us having to respond to trouble.'

The DCSF said it would support patrols in any area that it is deemed necessary, but added they did not expect them to be used around every school. But Will McMahon, of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London, warned: 'More behaviour will be criminalised.'

Government grants of up to £765,000 per district are on offer to fund the patrols.


Australia: Negligent government school: 8yo left behind on excursion -- many miles from home

SHE packed her violin, making sure it fitted snugly in its case after she finished her performance and waited for her classmates, teachers and bus to take her home. But the eight-year-old Warwick Central State School pupil sat alone crying on a Toowoomba park bench for a bus which had already left without her. “I was there by myself for about an hour,” the Year 4 pupil said yesterday.

Her mum Belinda Evans was “absolutely disgusted” when she learnt of the ordeal. “You drop your kids off to school and you think they'll be safe,” Mrs Evans said. “You don't think they'd be left behind - sobbing on a bench in Toowoomba - 40 minutes from home.”

The little girl was spotted by another Warwick Central mum who attended the Today's Youth in Music Education event on Thursday. “She recognised the Central uniform my daughter was wearing, saw her crying and alone and knew the bus had already left,” Mrs Evans said.

The Good Samaritan called Central to inform the school a little girl had been left behind and, while grateful for the woman's help, the forgotten pupil's father Brian was ropable. “The bus didn't come back (for her); a stranger drove my daughter home,” Mr Evans said. “I keep thinking 'what if?' What if that lady didn't find her?” Mrs Evans added. “When I got her back, I didn't want to let her go; let go of my baby. “Anyone could have got her, that's what scares me the most.”

The Evans' said the worst part about their daughter's ordeal was that the school was not transparent in their actions or in dealing with the situation. “They (Warwick Central SS) did not contact us (after the incident),” Mr Evans said. “There were 18 kids on the trip. They should've done a roll call or head count; don't they have procedures?”

Angry, the couple went to principal Trish Maskell for answers when their daughter was safely returned about 4pm. Unhappy with the response, Mr Evans contacted Education Queensland. According to the Evans', it will be a while before their daughter goes on another school excursion. “She has been transferred to another Warwick school next term and the first thing I asked them was if they've ever left a child behind,” Mr Evans said.

A Department of Education Queensland spokesperson yesterday confirmed they were investigating the incident at Central. “(The department) is treating the matter extremely seriously and considers it unacceptable that a student could be left behind,” the spokesperson said. “A large number of schools from across the region also took part (in the event); the department has offered its support and apologised to the student and her parents. “The Acting Executive Director Schools has been in contact with the family again (yesterday) to provide further support and an explanation of what happened. “(Warwick Central State School) is reviewing its processes around excursions and student rolls.”


Australia: One country-school classroom to cost $850,000

More "stimulus money" waste

A 9m by 6m classroom will cost a small country school $850,000 under the federal school building program, even though for only $100,000 more, the local council built a library 10 times the size.

Jerilderie Public School applied to refurbish and extend its administration block under the Building the Education Revolution, which, after approval from the NSW Education Department, added a new stand-alone classroom.

But Parents and Citizens Association president Craig Knight said the project managers appointed by the department, Laing O'Rourke, had informed the school in southern NSW last week that the $850,000 grant would now be enough to build only one classroom.

Mr Knight said the school rejected the offer of a single classroom, saying the administration block, which would include a staff room, one classroom and school offices, was the priority. He said it was unbelievable that one small building could swallow most of the school's grant.

"There are local non-government schools around the district who are getting multiple classrooms, toilet blocks, kitchenettes and covered outdoor areas for their $850,000," he said.

Mr Knight said the local council built and fitted out a library, which opened in March, that covers about 500sqm, including landscaping, toilets and kitchen for $915,000. "Our admin building only has a kitchenette, not even the plumbing associated with toilets," he said.

Answering a question on the issue in parliament yesterday from the local member, Liberal MP for Farrer, Sussan Ley, Education Minister Julia Gillard said she would look into the matter.

"I would issue these words of caution: when matters have been raised by the opposition in the past, we have frequently found that things asserted as facts are nowhere near facts," she said. "We have also frequently found, when we have tried to follow matters up with members of the opposition, or at least some of them, that they are more interested in making a political point than they are in getting matters resolved for their local schools."

Ms Gillard then read to parliament an email from a rural principal, Tony Shaw of Glen Park Primary School in Victoria, lamenting the "unprecedented" attack by the opposition to "discredit" the BER, which he said "calls into question the high-quality education provided in rural schools in a condescending and arrogant manner".

In a letter addressed to Ms Gillard from another school and tabled in the Senate last night, Abbotsford Public School council questioned the cost of a BER proposal to demolish four of the school's classrooms and replace them with four new classrooms at a cost of $2.5m.

The letter said the school community had unsuccessfully sought cost breakdowns and was "bewildered why (the NSW Education Department) employs such practices and products that are quadruple the cost of what could be obtained in the free market".

The department was unavailable for comment last night.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

House backs bill to overhaul student loan program

That good ol' generous U.S. taxpayer again. How can the government give more to students and save money at the same time? It's cuckoo talk. And does anybody believe that a Federal bureaucracy will be more efficient than a private bank?

The House voted Thursday in favor of the biggest overhaul of college aid programs since their creation in the 1960s — a bill to oust private lenders from the student loan business and put the government in charge. The vote was 253-171 in favor of a bill that fulfills nearly all of President Obama's campaign promises for higher education: The measure ends subsidies for private lenders, boosts Pell Grants for needy students and creates a grant program to improve community colleges, among other things. "These are reforms that have been talked about for years, but they're always blocked by special interests and their lobbyists," Obama said Thursday during a rally at the University of Maryland.

"Well, because you voted for change in November, we're going to bring change in the House of Representatives today," the president said. Ending loan subsidies and turning control over to the government would save taxpayers an estimated $87 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Lawmakers would use that money to help make college more affordable, increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $1,400 to $6,900 over the next decade.

"The choice before us is clear. We can either keep sending these subsidies to banks or we can start sending them directly to students," said the bill's sponsor, California Democratic Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Yet the money also would be spent on things that don't help pay for college, such as construction at K-12 schools and new preschool programs.

And while the measure would increase Pell Grants, it would do nothing to curb college costs, which rise much faster than Pell Grants do. In addition, the CBO says that when administrative costs and market conditions are considered, the savings from switching to direct government lending could be much lower, $47 billion instead of $87 billion.

Republicans warned that instead of saving the government money, as Democrats promise, the bill could wind up costing the government more money. "Unfortunately, the numbers just don't add up," said Minnesota Rep. John Kline, senior Republican on the Education Committee.

Lawmakers split largely along party lines on the bill, with only six Republicans in favor and three Democrats against. The measure goes next to the Senate, where its fate is a little less certain.

Obama didn't get his way on one thing: The president proposed earlier this year to take Pell Grants out of lawmakers' hands entirely, making the program an entitlement like Social Security and Medicare, which would have cost an estimated $117 billion — more than lawmakers have to spend. Under the measure, Pell Grants would rise slightly more than inflation over the next decade, increasing on average about 2.6% yearly, according to the bill's sponsors. However, the grants would still depend on annual spending bills and could rise less than promised, as has happened in the past.

Lawmakers met Obama halfway on the labyrinthine college aid form; Obama proposed to eliminate it altogether when he ran for president, but the bill would keep the form and shorten it.

As consumers, college students probably wouldn't notice much difference in their loans, which they would get through their schools. However, officials at several colleges worry they may not be able to make the switch to direct government loans in time for next year, and Education Department officials said this week they do not intend to extend the deadline.

More schools administer federal loans through the subsidized loan program than from the government's direct loan program. Private lenders made $56 billion in government-backed loans to more than 6 million students last year, compared with $14 billion in direct loans from the government.

Republicans argued it is wrong to put the government in near-total control of student lending. Many also worry about job losses in their districts. Private lenders employ more than 30,000 people whose jobs depend on the subsidized loan program, and the industry says many would be laid off. Sallie Mae, the biggest student lender, has about 8,500 employees in the program and probably would lay off about 30% of those workers. It still will have contracts to service federal loans. Its employees have held a series of town hall meetings and petition drives to involve local leaders in Pennsylvania, Florida, Delaware, New York and Indiana.

Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon said lenders still could make all the loans they want. "What will not happen anymore is making those student loans with taxpayer subsidies," he said.


Professor Fired, Escorted from Campus by Police over Mysterious ‘Sexual Harassment’ Charge Two Days after Complaining about Defects in Policy

The abuse of campus sexual harassment policies to punish dissenting professors has hit a new low at East Georgia College (EGC) in Swainsboro. Professor Thomas Thibeault made the mistake of pointing out—at a sexual harassment training seminar—that the school's sexual harassment policy contained no protection for the falsely accused. Two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault was fired by the college president for sexual harassment without notice, without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing. Thibeault turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

"If you were to write a novel about the abuse of sexual harassment regulations to get rid of a dissenter, you couldn't do better than the real-life story of Thomas Thibeault," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "Anyone with a modicum of respect for freedom of speech or simple fairness should be aghast at this blatant abuse of power by East Georgia College."

Thibeault's ordeal started shortly after August 5, 2009 when, during a faculty training session regarding the college's sexual harassment policy, he presented a scenario regarding a different professor and asked, "what provision is there in the Sexual Harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case, ridiculous?" Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision to protect the accused, so Thibeault responded that "the policy itself is flawed."

Two days later, Thibeault was summoned to EGC President John Bryant Black's office. According to Thibeault's written account of the meeting, which was sent to Black and which Black has not disputed, Thibeault met with Black and Smith. Black told Thibeault that he "was a divisive force in the college at a time when the college needed unity" and that Thibeault must resign by 11:30 a.m. or be fired and have his "long history of sexual harassment ... made public." This unsubstantiated allegation took Thibeault by surprise. Black added that Thibeault would be escorted off campus by Police Chief Drew Durden and that Black had notified the local police that he was prepared to have Thibeault arrested for trespassing if he returned to campus. At no point was Thibeault presented with the charges against him or given any chance to present a defense. Refusing to resign, Thibeault understood that he was fired.

Most likely realizing that he had fired Thibeault without any of the due process mandated by Georgia's Board of Regents, Black then began attempting to justify Thibeault's firing after the fact. On August 11, Black wrote Thibeault to say that since Thibeault had failed to resign by the deadline, "EGC has begun dismissal proceedings. ... [A] faculty committee has been appointed to conduct an informal inquiry." He then paradoxically wrote, "Their charge is to advise me whether or not dismissal proceedings shall be undertaken." Meanwhile, Thibeault still had not been provided with any charges, he was still banned from campus, and he still appeared to be fired-with the "dismissal proceedings" occurring after the fact.

Then, on August 25, Black wrote Thibeault again, claiming for the first time that Thibeault had actually been suspended, not fired: "the committee's finding was that there is sufficient evidence to support your suspension." Black added that Thibeault was about to be terminated for sexual harassment, that the charges finally would be sent upon request, and that Thibeault finally could request a hearing. Thibeault requested the charges on August 28 but has received no response. His lawyer also has inquired for weeks with no response.

"How can a public college professor in the United States be fired and kicked off campus by the president and police but, more than a month later, still have no idea why?" asked Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program. "Do Georgia's taxpayers know this is how their colleges are treating their professors?"

FIRE outlined many of these shocking violations of due process and freedom of speech in a letter to University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. on August 27, with copies to Black and Smith. None of them has responded. Neither Black nor Smith has even bothered to comment on the discrepancies between Thibeault's account and Black's erratic letters.

"It is hard to imagine a worse failure of due process in this case," Kissel said. "Nobody knows what the actual allegations are because they are being kept secret, even from Thibeault himself. In the stunning absence of any charges, evidence, or hearings, it is clear that EGC has punished Professor Thibeault for speaking out against a flawed harassment policy."