Saturday, February 06, 2010

So Much for the Evidence

Vouchers and the absurd but unkillable Headstart program again. 45 years of failure and Headstart is still lavishly funded! It has become a Leftist icon -- a fitting Leftist icon: An icon of folly and failure

In a major education address last March, President Obama declared that his administration would "use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: it's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works." Unfortunately, the test that seems to guide the Obama administration's education priorities is not whether a policy works, but whether it serves a political constituency. Nothing illustrates this disregard for evidence better than the administration's treatment of two federally funded programs: the D.C. voucher program, which it is helping to kill, and Head Start, on which it has bestowed billions more dollars. If the administration actually made its funding decisions based on results, its positions would be just the opposite.

How do we know that the D.C. voucher program works? Take a look at the rigorously designed studies released by the Obama administration itself. Last April, the Department of Education put out its official evaluation of the voucher program. The evaluation, which used a gold-standard, random-assignment research design, found that after three years, D.C. students who won the lottery to attend a private school with a voucher significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery. The gap between voucher and control students was the equivalent of about five months of extra instruction in reading. Rather than embracing what manifestly worked, however, the administration stood by as Congress worked to phase out the D.C. voucher program. "Big picture, I don't see vouchers as being the answer," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the Washington Post. They're certainly not the answer that the pathologically anti-voucher teachers' unions wanted him to embrace.

Meanwhile, the administration fully supports the government-operated Head Start preschool program, despite excellent evidence that the program doesn't work. Obama has said that Head Start is "the first pillar of reforming our schools . . . [and] that's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I signed into law invests $5 billion in growing Early Head Start and Head Start." He might have added that this would come on top of the more than $100 billion that taxpayers have spent on Head Start since 1965. But the Department of Health and Human Services' official evaluation of Head Start, released last week, confirms what several earlier studies have found: kids get no lasting benefits from participating in the program. By the end of kindergarten and first grade, students who had been in Head Start are no further ahead academically or behaviorally than students who lost the lottery to enter the program.

The way the administration released the two reports also spoke volumes. The D.C. voucher study was released after a key congressional vote that declined to reauthorize the program--and the study came out on a Friday, without an official press release to draw attention to it. The Head Start findings, on the other hand, were not released on a Friday and came with a press release--but the release contained false claims from administration officials about the program's effectiveness. It quoted Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Carmen Nazario saying that "Head Start has been changing lives for the better since its inception" and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declaring that "research clearly shows that Head Start positively impacts the school readiness of low-income children"--even as the study showed that Head Start had done no such things. Again, the ideological priority to expand union-backed federal programs trumped an official eva! luation, conducted, as with the D.C. voucher study, using a gold-standard, random-assignment research design.

If the administration really wants to show that it's guided by evidence and not ideology, it might consider changing its policy positions when solid evidence contradicts them. Empirical evidence shows that D.C. vouchers work; that program should be expanded, not killed. The evidence also shows that Head Start is a long-running failure; that program should be wound down, not funded with new billions. Even diverting a few hundred million from Head Start into a reauthorized D.C. voucher program would go some way toward restoring the administration's credibility.


Pope says separate Catholic schools help combat sectarianism in Scotland

The old Protestant hatred of Catholics dies hard in Scotland. The Pope appears to think that keeping them apart is for the best. Scotland does have a substantial Catholic minority, mostly of Irish ancestry. Protestant “Orange Men” in Scotland still celebrate July 11 as a great patriotic holiday when “King Billy slew the Papish crew, at The Battle of Boyne Water.”

The Pope has launched an unprecedented defence of separate Catholic schooling in Scotland, claiming that the system helps to combat sectarianism and promote good community relations. His comments, which came in an address to Scotland’s bishops, will reignite the debate over Catholic schools. One former Scottish education minister last night took issue with the Pontiff, and said Catholic schools were the reason for the country’s deep-rooted problem of sectarianism.

Religious bigotry has long been recognised as a scar on Scottish society. In 1999, the composer James MacMillan gave a speech that described sectarianism as Scotland’s shame. His views were later repeated by Jack McConnell, then first minister, who hosted a summit in an attempt to form a national strategy on the issue.

In his speech, the Pope praised Scotland’s Catholic schools, and urged the country’s 11 Catholic bishops, in Rome on a five yearly ad limina visit, to protect Catholic education and promote it as a tool for tackling sectarianism. “You can be proud of the contribution made by Scotland’s Catholic schools in overcoming sectarianism and building good relations between communities,” he said. “Faith schools are a powerful force for social cohesion, and when the occasion arises, you do well to underline this point.”

The Pope courted further controversy by suggesting that Catholic teachers should place special emphasis on religious education in order to produce “articulate and well-informed” followers capable of taking part in the highest levels of Scottish public life. “A strong Catholic presence in the media, local and national politics, the judiciary, the professions and the universities can only serve to enrich Scotland’s national life, as people of faith bear witness to the truth, especially when that truth is called into question,” he said.

Opponents of separate Catholic schooling expressed dismay over the speech. Sam Galbraith, a former Scottish education minister and Labour MP, rejected the Pope’s argument that Catholic schools were helping to reduce sectarianism. “I don’t think Catholics get any skills different from anyone else,” he said. “My view of Catholic schools are that they are the basis of sectarianism in Scotland and as long as we continue to have them we will never get rid of the problem.”

In other remarks, the Pope called on the bishops to “grapple” with the challenges presented by “the increasing tide of secularism” in Scotland, including embryo experimentation and assisted suicide.

More here

Australia: The products of an "everyone wins" education are losers in the job market

EMPLOYERS are refusing to hire Generation Y workers because they lack a work ethic and spend too much time talking to friends in work hours. "Employers come to us about Gen Y, saying they're looking for a staff member but they don't want anyone in that 20s age bracket because they find they don't understand common courtesy in the workplace," Kristy-Lee Johnston, director of Footprint Recruitment told The Courier-Mail.

And the complaints don't only come from managers and bosses. Social researcher Mark McCrindle said: "They also come from other people in the team who are of another generation."

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland policy general manager Nick Behrens said the global financial crisis should act as a wake-up call. "The chamber is hoping Gen Y will learn from this, that they can no longer take for granted the good times and will no longer get away with the luxuries they have been given."


Friday, February 05, 2010

Ohio High School Promotes Obama Agenda in Classroom

And still no apparent action against the propagandist. It was just a silly mistake, apparently. What would have happened if the material promoted Sarah Palin? Not hard to guess

An Ohio high school teacher's giving students job applications for a Democratic organization that included suggested radical reading material has raising concerns of indoctrination in the classroom. The government teacher at Perry High School in Massillon, Ohio, handed out forms recruiting students to intern for Organizing for America, a grassroots organization with direct ties to the Democratic National Committee and the successor organization for Obama for America. Included on the forms was a suggested reading list that included Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" and Organizing for America's mission to build on the "movement that elected President Obama by empowering students across the country to help us bring about our agenda of change."

No Republican equivalent was offered to the students, according to Perry schools' Superintendent John Richard. In an interview with on Wednesday, Richard acknowledged that distribution of the forms violated school policy and said they were never submitted to school administrators for approval, but the teacher remains on the job. "We don't take sides politically, nor should we, and we certainly would not support students being indoctrinated politically or religiously or anything along those lines," he said.

Richard said the social studies teacher, whom he did not name, had no intent of proselytizing his students and was "given the material by another person." Richard said he "addressed" the issue with the teacher, though he declined to say what disciplinary action, if any, had been taken. "The teacher should have looked through this material," Richard said.

Reaction to the forms, first posted on the conservative blog site, Atlas Shrugs, has sparked national outrage, particularly in the blogosphere. Some bloggers called it a "sick intrusion" and said it was nothing more than an attempt to indoctrinate students, while another, Elliott Cook, wrote: "This is all voluntary!!! No one is forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do."

One blogger claiming to be the parent of a girl in the class, wrote that students were given no option of signing up for a Republican internship. "The only handout was this one," blogger Gracenearing wrote. "My daughter even asked if there was anything else."

The school also has been bombarded with e-mails calling for Richard to be fired, along with Perry High School principal Don Gregoire. "I've been told to go apply in Cuba for a job," Richard said, adding that angry e-mailers have labeled him a communist.

In a Feb. 1, 2010, letter obtained by, Gregoire apologized to parents, saying the incident was "not acceptable." "We apologize that your son or daughter was given this information without approval," Gregoire wrote. "This error in following Board Policy has been addressed and has been clearly communicated to staff."


NYC: School creep's detention haul

Easy money for millionaire exile

A Queens teacher who collects a $100,000 salary for doing nothing spends time in a Department of Education "rubber room" working on his law practice and managing 12 real-estate properties worth an estimated $7.8 million, The Post found.

Alan Rosenfeld hasn't set foot in a classroom for nearly a decade since he was accused in 2001 of making lewd comments to junior-high girls and "staring at their butts," yet the department still pays him handsomely for sitting on his own butt seven hours a day. In 2001, six eighth-graders at IS 347 in Queens accused Rosenfeld, a typing teacher who filled in for an absent dean, of making comments like "You have a sexy body," asking one whether she had a boyfriend and making others feel uncomfortable with creepy leers.

Because the Department of Education could not produce all the students as witnesses, he was found guilty in only one case. A girl testified that Rosenfeld stopped at her locker, where she was standing with a friend, and "said I love him because I talk to him so much." A DOE hearing officer gave him a slap on the wrist -- a week off without pay -- for "conduct unbecoming a teacher." He was cleared to return to teaching.

Instead, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has kept the scruffy 64-year-old in a Brooklyn rubber room, deeming him too dangerous to be near kids, officials said.

The DOE can't fire him. "We have to abide by the union contract," spokeswoman Ann Forte said. So Rosenfeld simply collects his $100,049 salary -- top scale for teachers -- plus full health benefits and the promise of a fat pension, about $82,000 a year if he were to retire today. His pension will grow by $1,700 each year he remains. He could have retired at age 62, but he stays. He has also accumulated about 435 unused sick days -- and will get paid for half of them when he retires. With city teachers trying to negotiate a 4 percent pay hike, Rosenfeld stands to get the raise.

All this largesse comes as Mayor Bloomberg threatens to cut 2,500 teachers to help close a $4 billion budget gap. Meanwhile, the multimillionaire Rosenfeld lords over the rubber room, where he is the oldest and most veteran of 100 teachers. He reports promptly at 7:30 a.m. to the cavernous "reassignment center" on Chapel Street and spreads out at a table cluttered with used paper cups, plastic utensils, bags of food, news clippings and files.

He "smells like he hasn't taken a shower in months," an insider said.


'Bully' British deputy head teacher is fired after death of bulimia victim

Thus closing the barn door after the horse had escaped. Brilliant!

A deputy headmistress has been sacked over allegations that she bullied a colleague who died at school of bulimia. Moira Ogilvie, 39, was suspended from her job at a junior school after the death of fellow teacher Britt Pilton. The 29-year-old was found collapsed on a toilet floor last February and died despite attempts to resuscitate her. Miss Pilton had the eating disorder bulimia and had been prescribed anti- depressants. She died from health problems caused by her illness.

On the day of her death she was said to have been 'in a panic' over teaching notes that had gone missing from a photocopier. She believed the teacher who had been bullying her was responsible. The teacher accused of bullying Miss Pilton at High Greave Junior School, Rotherham, was not identified at the inquest into her death last June. But Kelly Parkin, a colleague and friend of Miss Pilton, told the hearing: 'The teacher involved would go round and bully a different teacher until they left and Britt felt she was the next one. 'Two or three other teachers left as a result of the bullying.'

The local education authority has since investigated and yesterday revealed that the teacher had been dismissed. A close friend of Miss Pilton confirmed Miss Ogilvie was the teacher sacked.

Miss Pilton's inquest heard her bulimia may have been made worse because of the levels of anxiety she experienced. A pathologist said she died of bulimia syndrome associated with lack of blood flow to the gut. Dr Len Harvey said: 'People with bulimia literally can just die for no apparent reason.'

Miss Pilton, from Woodlaithes, Rotherham, had complained to the National Union of Teachers about the bullying but the teacher she blamed found out and confronted her, a colleague told the inquest. She was engaged and had been planning to marry last summer. Those plans and her love of teaching meant she felt unable to leave her post, the hearing was told.

Her father Trevor, a retired deputy headmaster, said her stress at work was 'almost the sole topic of conversation'.

Teaching assistant Rachel Green told the hearing of Miss Pilton's panic over the missing notes: 'She was sure with events going on at the time that a certain person had taken them to spite her, to go and see the headteacher about the standard of her lessons.'

Rotherham Coroner Nicola Munday recorded a narrative verdict, saying Miss Pilton had faced 'additional pressures in her working environment which led to considerable levels of anxiety over a period of months'.

A spokesman for Rotherham Council said: 'This case has now been resolved and the teacher involved has been dismissed. 'The result of this case will now be passed on to the General Teaching Council to consider.' The GTC is the profession's official body and if it finds a teacher guilty of breaching standards they can be permanently struck off.

The school refused to comment and Miss Ogilvie was unavailable for comment. Miss Pilton's fiancé James French refused to comment, but confirmed Miss Ogilvie was the teacher involved.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mosque University

Dutch politician Geert Wilders is being tried in Amsterdam over some controversial remarks he made about terrorism and Islam. I’m glad I live in the United States of America, where such a trial would be prohibited by the First Amendment. I’m also glad I don’t teach at Temple University in Philadelphia, where students now have to pay an unconstitutional after-the-fact security fee levied by the university. This fee was for hosting none other than Geert Wilders.

The notion that it is permissible to charge a student group extra fees for security simply because a speaker's views are controversial (read: not approved of by university administrators) might be acceptable at the University of Havana or the University of Beijing. But it should never happen in America.

Geert Wilders came to Temple University on October 20, 2009. Wilders was invited in the wake of a controversy surrounding his film “Fitna” which was released in 2008. The film was controversial because it features passages of the Koran interspersed with scenes of violence on the part of Muslims. The movie was shown during the presentation at Temple. Extra security was provided and there was no disturbance.

On December 3, Temple University Purpose (TUP) – the group that hosted Wilders -was surprised with a bill from Temple for $800 for a "Security Officer." This came with the explanation that the charge was for the costs "to secure the room and building."

TUP Interim President Brittany Walsh pointed out that Temple had said – prior to the event - the university would pay any extra security costs. But, after repeated emails, she has received no substantive reply. This is odd because, as one can see from their mission statement, TUP is not a conservative group – the type most likely to be singled out for such treatment:

“The mission of Temple University Purpose is to advocate for justice and equality of oppressed and underrepresented populations. The Temple University Purpose welcomes the whole of the student body of Temple University’s Main campus schools. Demonstrated through advocacy, on behalf of vulnerable populations, towards the eradication of oppression, and guided by the NASW Code of Ethics, the Temple University Purpose honors diversity and is dedicated to social change, social justice, and social unity. The Temple University Purpose provides an open forum in which conventional and unconventional views are exchanged and challenged to enhance understanding of and appreciation for others’ strife, values, devotions, and passions. The voice of every member is most valued, shall always be heard, and genuinely considered, as it is the foundation of the Temple University Purpose. Through active participation in the community, it is possible to contribute to the development of not only one as an empathic human being but, also, to the growth of our immediate and surrounding society. The Temple University Purpose firmly believes in embracing and challenging scholarly discussion of most-critical issues and debates on present developments concerning the open field of social work and society in all parts of our country and world.”

Obviously, this group is being punished financially because it hosted a speaker likely to offend a particularly volatile segment of the population. As a consequence, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has written to the president of Temple. In that letter, FIRE cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), which says, "Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob."

Temple is a public university and is bound by the Supreme Court's decisions. If they are smart, they will go the way of four other public universities—the University of Colorado at Boulder; University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of California, Berkeley; and University of Arizona—and abandon such security fees before they get sued.

Two years ago, Temple's speech code was struck down by the Third Circuit. That lawsuit was handled by my friends at the Alliance Defense Fund. If the university does not begin to respect the First Amendment, additional humiliation and litigation are certain to follow.

My message to Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart is simple: You have been warned. Reverse your course of action or face the consequences. If you do not think I am serious, just ask former Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough.


What a degree's really worth in earnings

A COLLEGE education may not be worth as much as you think, the Wall Street Journal reported today. In recent years, the nonprofit College Board touted the difference in lifetime earnings of college grads over high-school graduates at $US800,000 ($899,000), a widely circulated figure. Other estimates topped $US1 million ($1.12 million). But now, as tuition continues to skyrocket and many seeking to change careers are heading back to school, some researchers are questioning the methodology behind the high projections.

Most researchers agree that college graduates, even in rough economies, generally fare better than individuals with only high-school diplomas. But just how much better is where the maths gets fuzzy. The problem stems from the common source of the estimates, a 2002 Census Bureau report titled "The Big Payoff." The report based estimates on average high school and college graduates' earnings then multiplied the difference by 40 years, a rough working life span, to get the result.

"The idea was not to produce a definitive 'This is what you'll earn' number, but to try and give some measure of the relative value of education attainments," says Eric Newburger, a lead researcher at the Census and the paper's co-author. "It's not a statement about the future, it's a statement about today."

Mark Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, a non profit research organisation based in Washington, calls it "a million-dollar misunderstanding." One problem he sees with the estimates: They don't take into account deductions from income taxes or breaks in employment. Nor do they factor in debt, particularly student debt loads, which have ballooned for both public and private colleges in recent years.

SOURCE (See more in the WSJ article linked at the source)

Failing government schools entrench the grip of the middle classes on top British universities

ELITE schools and the middle classes are tightening their grip on top universities, defying years of government attempts to curb their dominance, according to evidence presented to inquiries ordered by Lord Mandelson. The Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity favoured by Gordon Brown, has blamed “stark inequalities” in standards between comprehensives, grammar and independent schools for hindering change.

The trust finds that in 13 leading institutions, an elite of 200 schools won nearly 38% of places in 2007, a figure that had hardly changed since 2002. At Oxford and Cambridge they took 44.4% of places.

The evidence gathered by the trust, chaired by Sir Peter Lampl, the philanthropist, is likely to be used as ammunition by supporters of “positive discrimination” policies, when universities automatically favour candidates from poorly performing comprehensives.

“Universities, schools and the government have made considerable efforts to widen access to highly selective universities,” said Lampl. “But this evidence reveals the extent of the challenge we are facing.”

The study has been sent to Sir Martin Harris, former vice-chancellor of Manchester University, who has been ordered by Mandelson to draw up guidance for how universities should increase the numbers of students from state schools and poorer families. The trust recommends that they ought to create additional places reserved for these applicants. Harris’s inquiry, which will report in March, is expected to form part of the “aspiration” agenda backed by Gordon Brown and Mandelson for the election. It has led to fears that universities will be pushed into “rigging” admissions.

Critics argue it is justifiable to use talent-spotting schemes to favour individual pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds with strong ability. But they oppose “handicap systems” used by universities including Durham, which apply “modifiers” to help the applications of every pupil at a school with poor GCSE grades.

John Morgan, head teacher of Conyers comprehensive in Stockton-on-Tees and president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “I don’t think any of us are happy with the idea that if you go to a particular school you are given modified points or a lower offer. It has to be about the individual.”

The Sutton Trust study also analysed admissions to three groups of universities — Oxford and Cambridge, the Russell Group of 20 research universities and its own selection of 13 institutions — and found similar patterns in each. The report will also be submitted to a review of university funding chaired by Lord Browne, former head of BP, the oil firm.

Between 2002 and 2007 the proportion of independent school pupils admitted by the top 13 universities, for example, rose from 32% to 33%, while those from the poorest socio-economic groups stayed at 16%. The figures contrast with a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England that found big rises in university attendance by poorer groups. However, this looked at higher education as a whole and did not analyse research institutions separately.

The trust attributes the dominance of independent and grammar schools not to social elitism by universities but to their better performance at A-levels and their teaching of more academic subjects, such as science and languages.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said the trust’s figures were “a little out of date and do not reflect the fact that efforts by Russell Group universities to widen access and improve results in schools are making inroads into the stubborn problems of educational disadvantage”.

Tim Hands, master of Magdalen College school, Oxford, who chairs the joint universities’ committee of two independent school groups — the HMC and the Girls’ Schools Association — said: “With funding cuts and the emphasis on strategic subjects such as science and engineering, of which we are the key providers, this situation will only become more pronounced. “What is required is honest attention to problems in our education system which have been government-induced, not ineffectual social engineering.”


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

NYC education standards hit a new low

A NEW YORK teacher turned his classroom into a boxing arena for two feuding students, telling the boys to settle their beef with their fists. Their stunned classmates watched the bizarre spectacle, the New York Post reported today.

To make sure no one found out his teaching technique, the instructor, Joseph Gullotta, 29, allegedly supplied the kids with excuses for the nurse to explain away any injuries.

In one corner was a 10-year-old. His opponent was a year younger. Before beginning the match at the impromptu fight club at PS 65 in Ozone Park, Queens, Gullotta instructed a girl to close the classroom door. He ordered the rest of his pupils to make way for the battle, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said yesterday.

During the bout the older boy's head rammed into the younger one's mouth. The younger boy suffered a cut lip, the older one, a bruised head.

Teacher's aide Abraham Fox, 43, was in the classroom during the clash, but did nothing to break it up, Brown said.

It was alleged that the 9-year-old was eventually allowed by Gullotta to visit the nurse after supplying him with a cover story for his injuries. He was to tell the nurse that he dropped a pencil and bashed heads with his classmate as they both bent down to pick it up. The nurse sent him back to get his adversary. The teacher escorted the 10-year-old to the nurse's office and allegedly told him to repeat the made-up story. The incident was discovered only after one of the boys' parents heard the child talking about it.

Gullotta and Fox were charged with two counts each of acting in a manner injurious to a child under 17 and could face up to a year in jail if convicted.


Is it still worth going to university in Britain?

I think this question is simplistic in any country. For some career paths university is beneficial or even essential, but for most career paths it is superfluous -- as many a burger-flipping or taxi-driving humanities graduate will tell you. Credentialism has become a metastatic growth -- JR

It's a tough time for graduates, as we report in the paper today. But it's also a tough time for undergraduates, post-graduates and aspiring students too. There's so much demand for places, fewer jobs, (one survey suggested that a quarter of vacancies for this September will be filled by last year's graduates) and huge pressures on the universities themselves to cut costs (not to mention those student debts).

All this doom and gloom made it the perfect time to focus the next School Gate debate on universities, and to ask a very big question - is is still worth going to university? Here recent graduate Sarah Beard, gives her thoughts:
"I graduated in 2009 without a job. Was going to university a complete waste of time for me? I don’t think so.

Despite ‘graduate unemployment reaching 7.9 per cent, a level not seen since 1996’ and ‘the prediction that student debt will soon average £23,000, I’m pleased I went. My four University years were (so far) the best of my life. I was able to taste real independence for the first time, mix with people I would never normally meet, be educated on a subject of great personal interest and experience the most amazing social life. On top of that, I came away with a 2:1 degree and many lifelong friends.

That's not to say that graduating into a recession is easy. In fact, I explained my situation last year on School Gate and received a torrent of abuse. Much of this centred around claims my University experience had been a waste of time but only because I had chosen to study Business & Tourism at the University of Lincoln. A sample comment was ‘what do you expect when you go to a mediocre university like University of Lincoln and your degree is what most employers would regard as "Mickey Mouse-esque?’

As a graduate, I have taken part in the Shell Step Programme, which gave me a valuable 8-week placement, and I’ve been accepted onto an MA course. It might come as no surprise then, that I think university is a superb investment and is one that’s available to any student, regardless of whether they choose to attend a Russell Group University or an emerging one. This is rightly, a view that still appears to be upheld as there is ‘unprecedented demand for higher education, which has seen applications to some universities rise by 35 per cent’

Tom Mursell, founder of would, however, disagree with me because he believes "Degrees are already not worth what they used to be, so by 2020 they'll be worth even less’ and that university simply sees teenagers ‘saddling themselves with thousands of pounds of debt’. Tom has since handed his company over to Craig Spencer in order to become an apprentice of Dragons Den millionaire, Shaf Rasul.

Vice-Chancellor David Greenaway, from the University of Nottingham, rejects such views, as he believes that ‘the benefits of higher education to individuals and to society are significant and persistent. Graduates benefit from a wage premium, which lasts for their entire working lives; and there are important links between investment in education and economic growth. If we want more wealth creation and poverty alleviation, we need more growth’

“Non-economic benefits are no less important. Having better educated, more tolerant, more socially responsible citizens deliver great returns for society as well as for individuals."


Australia: "My School" brawl exposes teachers' culture of mediocrity

"My School" is a new Australian Federal government website that enables parents to compare results from different schools. I myself received what I regard as an excellent education at a country State school. I still remember much of the German "Lieder" and Latin grammar I learnt there around 50 years ago. I even remember enough basic physics to know what a crock global warming is. And I sent my son to a State school for part of his education. So I have no great objection to State schools as such. But it is when discipline is abandoned and the curriculum is dumbed down to politically correct pap that an alternative is needed -- and it is often sorely needed these days-- JR

In the mid 1990s the teachers credit union Satisfac came up with a kindly and seemingly innocent idea to celebrate the excellent work of its teacher members. The credit union, which historically had served teachers but like many other institutions now has a wide customer base, decided that to recognise the role of the teaching profession in its own development it would establish an annual awards event called The Best Teacher Awards.

But when the awards were initially proposed the reaction from the teachers union was one of outrage and dismay. Satisfac was told in no uncertain terms to shelve the idea, with the union arguing it was the height of impertinence for a credit union – or anyone else for that matter – to declare that some teachers were better than others.

This quaint Marxist view of the world has been on full display this past week as teachers unions around the country descend into apoplexy over the Rudd Government’s apparently wicked policy of letting parents know how their kids’ school compares to other like schools.

The unspoken backdrop to the unions’ long-standing hostility to any form of comparative rankings is, obviously, industrial self-interest. The danger which a website such as MySchool presents to the union is that parents might start asking hard questions if they see that their school is performing well down the list of comparable schools. For the first time, this website provides the public with data that is so rich that it’s possible to discern a drop-off in certain years or certain subjects.

There could be several reasons for a decline in performance. It could be a funding shortfall, which can be sheeted home to the relevant state government or education department. It could be explained by a change in the profile of the students in a certain year. It could also be that one of the teachers is no good.

It’s this last point which the teaching unions object to the most. They have taken the all for one, one for all philosophy to such a ludicrous extent that they have made the profession less enticing for passionate people who might consider a career as an educator, if not for the fact that you will forever be held back in terms of both workload and remuneration by the non-performance of the minority of disengaged or dud teachers.

If the unions were intellectually honest, this website would be welcomed as a long-overdue vindication of the excellence of most public schools. As the proud graduate of a public school, I’ve taken a perverse delight in monitoring the non-performance of some of the toffiest schools in the land, seeing nuggetty little public schools kicking the stuffing out of joints that charge several thousand dollars a term with an unchallenged promise of a better level of learning.

My School has shown that many parents are effectively being fleeced by this empty promise. They might get one of those nice triangular stickers for the back of the Range Rover, and young Angus might end up rubbing shoulders with a future front rower for the Wallabies, but if it’s reading and writing you’re after, you might do better to skip down the road to the local public school.

My School is not without flaws – we spent a couple of hours on it the other night, our child’s school, in Sydney, was compared to a school in Ballina, which at 739km away is a heck of a commute. But the fixation on such glitches – which are inevitable and can be easily recognised by the average user anyway on a website of this size – is an obvious ploy by the teaching unions to undermine the credibility of the entire venture in a fruitless bid to shame the government into its withdrawal.

There’s one criticism levelled against the site which carries much more weight and which the Federal Government must take very seriously. Opposition education spokesman Chris Pyne is absolutely right when he says there is little point identifying systematic problems with the performance of a minority of teachers, without also giving principals the industrial power to act against them. And to anyone who would say this is a teacher bashing exercise, it is not. It’s the polar opposite of one.

In the new age of transparency created by My School, it is logical and right to shift next to a discussion of performance pay. And it should have less to do with punishing the minority of bad teachers than giving greater reward and opportunity to the enormous pool of dedicated and brilliant teachers.

Thinking back to my school days I can only remember a couple of teachers who were so bad that they should have been frogmarched off the school grounds. They really should have been. There was one guy who seemed to be motivated by nothing other than a pathological dislike of young people. He would habitually tell kids at this largely working class school that they were so dim that they would be better off leaving immediately and going for an apprenticeship popping rivets at the nearby Mitsubishi factory.

And then there were teachers such as Anna Polias, an English teacher who would habitually write 10 or even 15 A4 pages of comments on your essays, stay back after school to organise extra-curricular stuff such as cycling days, bookshop visits into the city, where she would take us out to coffee, talk about politics and travel and our futures. People such as Ms Polias represent the majority of teachers in the public system. She should have been paid half as much again as what she was earning; the fellow I mentioned before had no right to be in a schoolyard at all.

I suspect there are a lot of hard-working teachers who privately believe that things should change but are afraid to say so for being marginalised by the union crowd.

The most appropriate memento from my school days for illustrating this entrenched hostility towards assessment and ranking is the absurd trophy I “won” while playing Aussie Rules for the Under 13s. In keeping with the post-70s educational zeitgeist, it had been decreed that it was unfair to simply have a best and fairest and that, just like at the Easter Show, every player should win a prize. The humiliating gong I won read “Most Attentive at Training” but should really have been inscribed “Most Incompetent Back Pocket” or “Pea-hearted pretender who avoids the hard ball”. Rather than getting a pat on the head as a reward for my uselessness, the coach should have taken me aside and explained politely that I was to Aussie Rules what Gary Ablett was to romantic poetry, and pointed me in the direction of the library.

Pretending that everybody is doing quite well at almost everything is no way to prepare them for later life. And teaching is the one profession where the unions believe that this same bankrupt philosophy should apply to working adults.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

St. Louis U’s Inverted Values

by David Horowitz

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week I was in Washington, where I visited with three U.S. Senators and three Congressmen, including the whips of both houses. I was meeting Eric Cantor for the first time, but all the others had appeared at events I had hosted or provided blurbs for my political books. Jon Kyl, the Minority Whip in the Senate invited me to a lunch to address the Republican Senate leadership lunch on my next trip to Washington. I mention this because while I was waiting for my return flight in Dulles airport I received a call from my office informing me that a speech I had been invited to give at St. Louis University two weeks later would be cancelled because of conditions that had been set by university administrators that could not be met.

In particular, the administrator in charge, Dean Scott Smith, had told the student whose group had invited me that “Horowitz would never be allowed to speak on a platform alone at Saint Louis University. He could be invited only if there was another speaker on the program to oppose his point of view.” Moreover, the dean continued, while my speaking fee had to be paid by the College Republicans who had invited me, my designated opponent would have his fees and expenses paid by the university. The clear message was that the St. Louis University would not allow its own funds to be tainted by such an unwelcome speaker.

This was the second attempt by the students to invite me, and the second time Dean Smith had thrown a roadblock on their invitation. In October, he had said I could not speak unattended because I would “insinuate that all Muslims are fascists,” something I have never done. In fact, there are videos of my speeches all over the web in which I say just the opposite.

It should be said that while administrators apply these restrictions to critics of radical Islam, no such rules are invoked for Holocaust deniers or supporters of communist genocides. Both Norman Finkelstein and Angela Davis have been invited as standalone speakers at St. Louis University, without anti-communists and defenders of Israel on stage to refute them.

I decided to call Smith’s bluff and suggested that I debate Cary Nelson, the well-to-the left president of the American Association of University Professors, on the subject of academic freedom. I called Cary and he agreed. Smith didn’t like this because he was aware that Nelson had responded to his attempt to bar me from speaking by saying that St. Louis University was a “university in name only.” So Smith asked the student host Dan Laub why the subject had changed from Islamo-fascism to academic freedom. Why indeed!

But again I decided to test his mettle and told Dan that the subject we would debate would be Academic Freedom and Islamo-Fascism. Curve ball. Smith came back with a new caveat. There would have to be a third speaker to mind Cary and me and put our discussion in the framework of “Catholic Values.” Some joke. What Catholic Values did the communist Angela Davis or the atheist Norman Finkelstein express when they spoke alone?

Better yet, this weekend Dean Smith and the Catholics at St. Louis University hosted a three day conference put on by the Muslim Student Association, a well-established front for the Muslim Brotherhood. The conference dealt with religious themes such as why requiring two women to be a witness or letting them inherit only half of what a man does or requiring them to submit to their husbands represents “the perfection of our religion.”


A brilliant British pupil -- by State school standards

I often mention posts from other blogs, as there is so much out there worth reading. But I recently read one which I wanted to share in more detail. It is a brilliant read - and extremely thought provoking.

Miss Snuffleupagus is a black teacher in London who's never scared to speak her mind. She writes a fantastic, honest, blog, To Miss With Love , about teaching in the inner-city. She's a talented writer and it really is worth reading what she says - often about the frustrations of pupils who don't care about learning and don't take it seriously.

A few months ago, I mentioned one of her posts because it tied in so beautifully with another piece I had just posted. The topic was Oxbridge, and whether colleges were now discriminating against private school applicants. Just a few days after posting on this, I read an article by Miss Snuffleupagus where she said, as a state school teacher, that the universities must be discriminating - otherwise all the places would go to the privately educated....

It's ironic that this topic has now reared its head again, in a beautifully written, heartfelt post, entitled the best they've ever seen. Here Miss Snuffleupagus and the head of her school are in shock. A pupil she calls Brilliant didn't get into Oxford. "Brilliant is one of the brightest girls I have ever known," she writes. "She is also kind, determined, responsible and utterly superb in every possible way. We thought for sure she’d get in. If she doesn’t get in, then who does?" The school has been told that the Oxford college took six pupils and that Brilliant was number seven. Miss S thinks it's "unlucky."

"My Head winces at my statement," she writes. "‘Well, no, I just wish I could be like the old boys and ring up someone and say Hello, this is Mr Contacts here, I’m just wondering ahem, about you know, well, I understand there isn’t a place for her at your college, but might we not find her a place at another college?’

I draw my eyebrows together demonstrating disagreement.

‘Well that’s what they say in the books about how it’s done!’ My Head shouts.

‘Yes, but that was ages ago… I don’t think that now…’

My Head laughs. ‘You know they said that her essays were the BEST essays that they have ever seen from a state school student before!... The BEST! What does that mean? She’s the best but we won’t have her?’

I nod, thinking lots of things, and not saying any of them.

My Head shakes his head. ‘Well, I won’t go into it, we all know there are issues with Oxbridge taking state students and well, I won’t waste time talking about it.’"

Why didn't Brilliant get in? Was it because of her school? Was it because she actually wasn't good enough? Or wasn't she prepared properly for the interview. We all know that Oxbridge is incredibly over-subscribed. Not everyone can get in. Everyone who applies is extremely clever and the interviews do really matter - private schools make sure their pupils are extremely well prepared. But one phrase haunts Miss S. She writes:

‘From a state school applicant’… the words reverberate around my head as I walk down the hall. If Brilliant is the best that we can produce and all that means in the grand scheme of things is that her essays are only good by state school standards, then what on earth are they doing in private schools?

What must they be teaching in private schools? What are they able to do with their kids that we cannot do? I guess they aren’t chasing loads of bad behaviour. I guess they’re actually able to teach for an entire lesson. I guess they plan their lessons according to what would make for good learning, as opposed to what will keep them in their seats. I guess they can teach their children whatever they want and are not bound by the national curriculum and influenced by the madness that all lessons must be ‘fun’. I guess they simply live in a different world."

The state school/private school divide continues and we shouldn't expect universities to pick up the pieces. I am not at all convinced that the top universities discriminate against state school pupils. I think they want to teach the best overall and will make their decision to reflect that. But I feel sorry for Brilliant and the school.


Australia: Incompetent teachers must be given the boot

More power for principals to hire and fire would help

THE suggestion that poor children will not do well at school is both offensive and misguided. Anyone who knows much about education and teaching understands this simple fact: quality educational outcomes are directly related to quality teaching. It is the sleeper in the My School website.

Research has persistently shown better teachers mean better results. Do you think I am overstating the case? Well, consider this. According to the findings of the benchmark 2005 Department of Education, Science and Training's national inquiry into the teaching of literacy: "Highly effective teachers and their professional learning do make a difference in the classroom. It is not so much what students bring with them from their backgrounds, but what they experience on a day-to-day basis in interaction with teachers and other students that matters. Teaching quality has strong effects on children's experiences of schooling, including their attitudes, behaviours and achievement outcomes.

"Thus there is need for a major focus on teacher quality, and building capacity in teachers towards quality, evidence-based teaching practices that are demonstrably effective in maximising the developmental and learning needs of all children."

Even so, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chairman Barry McGaw, in The Weekend Australian, trotted out the tired and irresponsible argument that governments need to do more to "reduce the impact of demography on school results".

The demographic argument has been used by state governments for years to justify low school achievement. No matter that before the My School website indicated performance nationwide, the Australian Council for Education Research could demonstrate that it was not a question of where you lived but who taught you that affected educational outcomes.

If this was not the case, why then are the Teach for Australia flying squads of super university graduates targeting underperforming schools? While the Teach for Australia idea is significantly flawed in terms of adequate classroom preparation of teachers, it has identified that good teachers make a difference. McGaw cites evidence that, on the basis of comparable OECD data, in Australia "poorer schools and schools in poorer communities struggle to a greater extent". However, the answer is not physical resources or postcodes but who is in front of the class. I am a secondary teacher. I came from a poor family, lived in a working-class area and was superbly taught in Victorian state schools. My father was a storeman and bought me a desk, on hire purchase, so I could do my schoolwork. There were many children just like me. I owe my tertiary education to gifted teachers.

Why does the Australian Education Union cover for incompetence? What the AEU fails to address with any kind of serious intent is working co-operatively with governments to get rid of poor teachers. Education Minister Julia Gillard is savvy on the question of quality assurance in the classroom. This is why she can say: "A poor child can get fantastic results." How? Teacher quality must improve.

National primary and secondary principals associations have recognised that there is a direct correlation between a principal's ability to select staff and school results. Leonie Trimper, president of the Australian Primary Principals' Association, pithily noted last December: "Name any company that sits back for Centrelink to ring and say, `Here's your 10 staff.' "

In Victoria, taking a leaf out of Queensland's approach, there are $50,000 golden goodbyes on the table for poor teachers.

While the AEU can recite the mantra that the My School website - as federal president Angelo Gavrielatos did on ABC radio on the morning of the launch - is "inaccurate, incomplete and invalid", the question every parent in the country should be asking is: Does my school have quality teachers? If not, why not?

Those who link demographics with student performance are simply not facing reality. Poor children deserve quality education. If they do not get it, then look to the teachers.


Monday, February 01, 2010

So your freedom-loving kid is going to college, part 2

Taking the anxiety out of picking a congenial school

In Part I last week I offered a few suggestions on finding a congenial school for a freedom-loving college-bound child. The focus there was on “fit” and the importance of teaching. This week, I elaborate on both and offer some other suggestions.

It is simply impossible, short of attending Hillsdale or Grove City College or some religious colleges, to avoid the fact that the vast majority of college faculty members will have a worldview different from yours and your child’s. The classroom will inevitably reflect their views, just as my classes are colored by my views. The concern about potential “indoctrination,” however, should arise only if agreement with the teacher’s views determines the evaluation of the student’s work. In my experience such behavior is more the exception than the rule. The majority of left-leaning faculty, especially where teaching is valued, are not after students who agree with them but rather students who show a capacity for critical thinking, can express their views cogently in writing and in speech, and support them with evidence.

To gauge this, explore how focused the school is on helping their students acquire skills in writing, speaking, critical thinking, and research. Are these goals featured prominently in the college’s promotional materials? Are there clear places in the curriculum where those skills are taught? And notice that “taught” is not the same thing as “assigned.” Teachers who assign papers and speeches might assume students already have adequate skills. Actually teaching them how to become better writers, speakers, and researchers is much harder (and more necessary) work. Also ask if the institution commits resources to helping faculty engage in such instruction.

Where faculty members are publicly committed to teaching communication skills, their evaluation is far more likely to be on the process by which students create their work and the skills they demonstrate in doing so, rather than on the particular content.

Fairness Is Possible

Another useful strategy is to have your child ask other students if they feel they are graded on the basis of their ideological views. It’s perfectly possible for a faculty member to have strong views yet grade student papers purely on how effectively they argue for their own views. This tends to happen when the teaching of writing and speaking is a priority, but it’s always worth seeing what the students themselves say.

It is worth investigating whether other students and/or faculty members share your child’s political interests. The presence of libertarian or conservative student groups can provide not only fellow students to share ideas and concerns with, but also a potential source of extra-curricular learning. Such groups often invite guest speakers or organize book discussions. Various freedom-oriented organizations are funding student groups on an increasing number of campuses, including smaller ones.

Finding libertarian-leaning faculty can be important as well, even if the student has no interest in the faculty member’s specialty. Often those teachers serve as formal or informal advisers for student groups and can be important advocates for students if they find themselves being treated unfairly for what appear to be ideological reasons. How well that faculty member has been treated by the institution can also be a guide to the college’s openness to diverse opinions.

Beware the Victim Mentality

Finally, a word of caution: It is important not to fall into the victim mentality. I have seen too many cases where conservative students complain about “ideological discrimination” when the real problem is that they are not offering arguments and evidence that are sophisticated enough for the college classroom. Even if you think, as I do, that left-leaning faculty sometimes let left-leaning students get away with lazy arguments, be above reproach. The more that freedom lovers whine about being victims, the less seriously will our ideas be taken.

So to students I say: Find the college that is best for you academically and socially, and make sure it has a commitment to teaching generally and to instructing students in communication skills and critical thinking specifically. If it does, see if there are other freedom-minded students and faculty on campus and get a sense of the institutional tolerance for diverse ideas. Then read my earlier column “The Low Road and the High Ground” and follow its suggestions on knowing both sides of major issues inside and out, arguing your views clearly and with evidence, and doing it all with a smile.

Conservative and libertarian students can have a very good experience in most colleges in the United States if they take their work seriously and respect those with whom they disagree.


Britain pays hefty bribes to keep its dysfunctional public schools staffed

THE salaries of the best-paid state school headteachers have risen to almost £200,000, overtaking the pay packet of the headmaster of Eton College, according to new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The data show that two principals at academies, Labour’s semi-independent state comprehensives, were paid between £190,000 and £199,999 in 2008/09. Tony Little of Eton, is paid £180,000—£189,999 and is believed to be the highest-paid private-sector head.

The data show the emergence of an elite of at least 11 academy principals, condemned by critics as “fat cats” paid more than £150,000. This was an increase from six the previous year. A third of academies have yet to submit accounts.

In addition, seven heads working for local authority-controlled schools were paid in excess of this figure in 2008, the latest year for which figures were available.

The salaries may even understate the total packages received, because many heads receive generous bonuses and add-on payments for running spin-off businesses based on school premises. Some also charge consultancy fees for advising other schools on how to improve results.

Vernon Coaker, the schools minister, said: “Being the head of a school is a very challenging, but also very rewarding role. We know that the best heads deliver leadership which raises aspirations for all pupils and makes everyone feel part of a team. The difference good leadership can make is beyond measure; it can make or break a school. “That’s why it’s right salaries are competitive and we allow schools further flexibility to reward the best candidates meaning schools that are underperforming or have challenging circumstances can actually recruit and retain the best heads.”

Academies, which are often among the toughest inner-city schools to run, are not subject to the same salary restrictions that apply to mainstream state schools and they pay high figures to attract the best candidates.

Alasdair Smith, national secretary of the Anti-Academies Alliance, said: “In addition to millions squandered on consultancies, we now have unaccountable, fat-cat headteachers shamelessly enriching themselves at public expense. “It is yet more evidence that the academies programme is not fit for purpose and it is a pointer to what will happen if the next government extend the market in education.”

According to a study received last week, the average secondary school head earns £74,000. Although the maximum salary possible is in theory £109,658 for inner London and £102,734 elsewhere, pay is in practice raised far higher by bonuses and other deals.

State school teachers were once seen as under-paid, but have seen salaries soar under Labour. This helped plug shortages in key areas of teaching, but has led to a series of rows over “excessive” pay packets for heads.

Sir Alan Davies, former headmaster of Copland, a comprehensive in Brent, west London, is being investigated by Scotland Yard over a series of generous payments. In a single year, he was allegedly paid more than £400,000 in a single year after clinching a series of lucrative deals including a contract to work as “project manager” on a development at his own school. His extra payments are said to have totalled £600,000 over five years in addition to his six-figure salary. Davies resigned amid claims of financial mismanagement by the governors.

Greg Martin, head at Durand primary school in Stockwell, south London, more than doubled his £70,000 salary by charging fees for managing the school’s health spa and other facilities.


Australia: Catholic schools teach Catholicism! How shocking!

Why send your kid to a Catholic school if that's a problem? I sent my son to a Catholic school despite my Protestant background and he enjoyed his religion lessons greatly -- and got high marks in them. Should I have expected anything else?

CATHOLIC schools are forcing Year 12 students to sit a TEE religion subject that will count towards their university entrance score. Outraged parents are taking their children out of Catholic schools because they believe the now mandatory Religion and Life subject will create an unfair workload on students. Students already studying courses like physics and chemistry will have an extra three-hour exam to cram for. And non-religious students will be forced to rigorously study Catholic values if they wish to get into university.

The Sunday Times understands that the idea to make all Catholic school students sit a religion exam came from Archbishop Barry Hickey. Catholic Education Office of WA director Ron Dullard conceded the decision had upset some parents. "Initially, there was some concern," he said. "I don't think the parents totally understood the implications that it actually does count towards their (child's) TEE and university entrance - and the fact that, irrespective of whether they were doing the exam, they still had to devote that amount of time as part of the policy of their Catholic education obligation to religion anyway."

One southern suburbs parent told The Sunday Times they had pulled their son out of a Catholic school. "My son didn't want the added pressure of juggling his religion exam studies with subjects like physics and chemistry," she said.

Mr Dullard said the mandatory religion exams should be a benefit for students. "It should give them an advantage, particularly if they've been doing RE (religious education) for 12 years in a Catholic school," he said. "I think the students will be better prepared for RE than any other of the new courses of study."

The subject Religion and Life was designed to be non-denominational by the Curriculum Council so that students from every school could study it. Curriculum Council chief executive David Wood said Catholic students would answer questions from the perspective of their faith. "The course is set up so that kids can draw on their knowledge and experiences in whatever faith they're in to respond to the questions," Mr Wood said.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

U.S. Teachers' union fails mathematics

Political scientist Jay Greene bravely decided to read the new NEA paper that is billed as showing that “Teachers Take ‘Pay Cut’ as Inflation Outpaces Salaries. Average teachers’ salaries declined over the past decade.”

But a funny thing happened when he reviewed the study: it didn’t support the NEA’s own claim. Here’s Jay: "The only problem is that this is not what the data in the NEA report actually show. In Table C-14 “Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 1998-99 to 2008-09 (Constant $)” we see that salaries increased by 3.4% nationwide over the last decade after adjusting for inflation…. I can’t find a single table or figure in the report that would justify the headline and claims in the press release. But when the Ministry of Truth speaks, who are you supposed to believe — them or your lying eyes?"

Of course the real reason that public school labor costs have risen so much in the past 40 years is not that salaries have skyrocketed, but that employment has. We now have 70% more staff per student than we did in 1970, and students’ scores are not a whit better for it at the end of high school.

Would the NEA be happy if we gave every teacher a raise but returned to the staff/student ratio of 1970? I doubt it. It would drastically cut the union’s dues revenues.

In any event, the union’s impact through collective bargaining, as I wrote in the Cato Journal recently, appears to be negligible. Where they make a difference is in effective lobbying to preserve the existing government education monopoly. The monopoly is great for public school employee unions, but lousy for kids, parents, and taxpayers.


British teacher fired for offering to pray for sick girl gets job back

Only after the intervention of a national newspaper, though

A Christian teacher who was sacked after she offered to pray for a sick child has won her job back. The case of Olive Jones was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday just before Christmas. After a case review council bosses now say she can return as supply maths teacher.

At the time Mrs Jones, 54, said she had been a victim of religious persecution, having been told her behaviour was akin to bullying. Last night she said she was ‘delighted’, adding: ‘I am hugely relieved. I feel I’ve been vindicated. 'But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without The Mail on Sunday.’

Mrs Jones was dismissed within hours of discussing her religious beliefs and offering to pray for the sick girl during a home visit. The family lodged a formal complaint, saying they were nonbelievers and the girl had been ‘traumatised’ by Mrs Jones’s attempts to impose her beliefs. As she worked only about 12 hours a week without a formal contract, Mrs Jones’s job with North Somerset Tuition Service in Nailsea, near Bristol, could be ended with immediate effect.

However, Mrs Jones said she had been unaware that the family were unhappy with her attempt to comfort them. It emerged during the case review that the mother had made a previous complaint when Mrs Jones had spoken of her belief in miracles. However, Mrs Jones was not told about the criticism. On a later visit, she talked about Heaven and asked if she could pray for the child, but did not do so after she learnt the family were not believers. She thought she had left the family on good terms.

‘My bosses assumed I knew about the complaint,’ she said. ‘But had I known I would never have offered to pray.’ North Somerset Council agreed it could be appropriate for a teacher to share his or her faith, but a spokesman added: ‘A careful judgment has to be made. We have now offered Olive further work.’

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which advised Mrs Jones, said she was ‘delighted’.


Australian parents act on new school information

PARENTS rocked by the My School website have already begun pulling their children out of poorly performing schools. At the same time, principals from Sydney schools that rate highly on the Federal Government website have received dozens of calls from parents wanting to transfer their children, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The unprecedented interest in the website, launched last Thursday, is set to cause further fallout this week as more parents try to make last-minute changes to enrolments at the beginning of the first full week of school.

Public School Principals Forum chairperson Cheryl McBride said parents were already removing their children from schools that recorded poor numeracy and literacy results. "There are certainly anecdotal reports coming through from principals," she said. "On Friday morning, I heard of some parents of children at a western Sydney school who were extremely upset and were threatening to withdraw their children."

Ms McBride said principals were particularly concerned about how parents of pre-schoolers would react. She was worried parents whose children were due to begin school next year would be turned off their local school if its results lagged.

Under current Department of Education guidelines, all public schools must accept enrolments from students who live in the local catchment area, regardless of the existing number of pupils. Parents can enrol their children at public schools in other areas only if the school has vacancies. They are accepted at the principal's discretion.

Some highly ranked schools, such as Cheltenham Girls High, at Beecroft, and Killara High, on the lower north shore, already have more than 1200 students enrolled this year.

St Francis of Assisi Regional Primary School, at Paddington, posted one of the highest average scores in literacy and numeracy across junior schools in the State. Principal Louise Minogue said a handful of parents called her on Friday to discuss future enrolments. "Someone I spoke to, their child doesn't even begin school for a couple of years but they were worried whether the child would get in. "It's amazing how many people have gone to the website."

Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW president Di Giblin said she had heard of parents already transferring their children out of the worst schools. Ms Giblin said she advised parents against taking such drastic action, but conceded "a small percentage" would move suburbs to nab a place at a coveted school.