Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teacher Who Sought to 'Demolish' Tea Party Placed on Leave From School

An Oregon teacher who announced his intention to "dismantle and demolish the Tea Party" has been placed on administrative leave until his school district finishes its investigation into whether his political activity crossed the line.

The state's Teacher Standards & Practices Commission is also conducting an investigation into Jason Levin, a media teacher at Conestoga Middle School in Beaverton.

"Jason is on paid administrative leave," Maureen Wheeler, the school district's spokeswoman, told She described the suspension as "standard practice during an internal investigation."

Levin has come under fire for saying he'd do anything short of throwing rocks to bring down the Tea Party. In the last two days, the Beaverton School District has received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from people across the country who said they were outraged at his behavior.

The school district is defending Levin's right to free speech, but it's investigating whether he used district computers to spread his political message or worked on his "Crash the Tea Party" Web site during school hours.

Levin has said he would seek to embarrass Tea Partiers by attending their rallies dressed as Adolf Hitler, carrying signs bearing racist, sexist and anti-gay epithets and acting as offensively as possible -- anything short of throwing punches.

A source within the district said parents at Conestoga did not initially appear upset at Levin's anti-Tea Party activism -- but that changed in recent days as controversial statements continued to emerge.

Now, the source said, parents have become outraged by the severity of his political activism, and many have told the school board members that it has no place in a public school system.

Parents supported teachers who wore Obama buttons during the 2008 presidential election, the source said. But they say Levin has crossed the line.

Levin's Web site has since been changed, and the calls to infiltrate the Tea Party have been removed. The home page now simply reads: "Want to Show your support for Jason Levin? BUY A TEA-SHIRT."

In a recent interview with Talking Points Memo, Levin said of his plans, "Our goal is that whenever a Tea Partier says 'Barack Obama was not born in America,' we're going be right there next to them saying, 'Yeah, in fact he wasn't born on Earth! He's an alien!'"

In a now deleted post on his "Crash the Tea Party" Web site, he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers -- among other personal identifying information -- about as many Tea Party supporters as possible at the numerous rallies that took place on Thursday, Tax Day.

"Some other thoughts are to ask people at the rally to sign a petition renouncing socialism. See just how much info you can get from these folks (name address, DOB, Social Security #). The more data we can mine from the Tea Partiers, the more mayhem we can cause with it!!!!" he wrote.

The state agency is investigating whether this is a hint at identity theft, and whether it is appropriate behavior for a public school teacher. It also will investigate charges that Levin used school computers during school hours to work on his Web site. Levin teaches 6th, 7th and 8th graders about computers and technology.

According to the school district laws regulating teacher conduct, which are posted online: "The Beavertown School District rules involving teacher use of the district's electronic system clearly state: The district's electronic communications system shall be used for educational purposes consistent with the district's mission, priorities and beliefs. Educational purposes do not include commercial use, use for personal financial gain or political advocacy."

The investigation will be assigned to a case agent who will compile a preliminary report that will be presented before the commission. The commission members will then decide whether to charge Levin with misconduct or dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence, said Melody Hanson, the director of professional practices.

More here

Must not tell the truth about a sink school

A New York principal told the mother of a teen that she could not guarantee her daughter's safety after the girl exposed the failing high school as blighted by violence, drugs and sex, the New York Post reported Thursday.

Sophomore Alisha Strawder was barred Monday from going to her classes at Paul Robeson High School, a day after the Post quoted her blasting the majority of the school's staffers and security guards as lazy and inept, her mom Kasyra Strawder said.

"You're telling me she can't get into the building because your staff members want to attack her because she told the truth?" a dumbfounded Strawder said she asked school officials.

Last week, Alisha slammed the school as a dump where kids have sex and smoke weed in the stairwells, and where fights and pregnancies are the norm. "The boys pressure you," she said. "A lot of girls will do anything and everything in the staircase ... " "If I could burn down this school and get away with it, I would."

But instead of tightening the reins on the out-of-control school, officials put the 15-year-old in an office when she showed up Monday and called her father to take her home, her mother said.

When the mother finally spoke with interim acting principal Simone Grey, she was allegedly told Alisha could come in only if she were put in isolation with a staffer -- and away from students and adults who might retaliate. "Everyone has taken this personally. We cannot ensure her safety," Strawder said Grey told her.

The distraught mom said she also received a phone call from a district official advising her that Alisha will be granted a safety transfer to attend school elsewhere.

Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said officials were investigating the mother's claims, but she disputed her account, saying Grey never said Alisha would not be protected. "She said the child is not barred from the school and the child is welcome," Feinberg said.


British schoolboy dislikes what the Labour Party has done to British education

Joel Weiner, 17, asked Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg whether it was not the case that school pupils were now "over-examined and undertaught", during the ITV leaders' debate.

Speaking before going into lessons, Joel said on Friday: "I would not vote for Labour, because of a series of failures over the last 13 years. "It is a tired government and there needs to be change – it has run out of ideas."

The teenager, from Kenton in north London, added: "All my school life has been under a Labour government – I'm a child of Blair." But constant testing of pupils – brought in under Tony Blair – meant teachers could not teach as they wanted, he argued.

"It is such a waste of an opportunity," he said. "It means, without a doubt, that teachers can't teach to their full potential. "I've got some very good teachers. I'm sure they've got much more to teach me, but they are restricted by the system."

For example, he said teachers felt pressurised to enter A-level pupils for January exams, as that meant they could retake in June if they performed poorly.

"The result is that we don't learn it properly the first time, because we have to cram," said the schoolboy, who is studying English, Politics and History. "I'd much rather learn it in depth and take the exam in June."

Joel, who attends the 2,000-pupil Jews' Free School in Kenton, a state-funded religious co-ed described by Ofsted as "outstanding", did not think any of the leaders fully answered his question. "They were wanting to give lines from their manifestos," he said.

He conceded Mr Clegg was "good at putting his point across" about reducing class sizes, but dismissed Mr Cameron's response as "disappointing" and said Mr Brown merely "managed to avoid the question".

Like many pundits, he thought Mr Cameron was "not entirely impressive". "Maybe if he were to give a bit more of a heartfelt response next time, then he would be able to galvanise the public," he advised. "He was trying to be slick but he didn't really do what he does best, which is talking from the heart."

Last October Joel confronted Nick Griffin on BBC One's Question Time over comments the British National Party has made in the past casting doubt on the Holocaust. Attacking the BNP's appropriation of Churchill as a symbol, he said: "Winston Churchill put everything on the line so that my ancestors wouldn’t get slaughtered in the concentration camps. "But here sits a man who says that that’s a myth, just like the flat world was a myth. How could you say that?"

Joel said two of his great-grandparents were believed killed at Auschwitz, while his grandmother and grandfather both escaped from Nazi Germany.

Questions have been raised about how come the schoolboy managed to appear on both programmes. Joel said he simply applied for each, firstly for Question Time, a year before Nick Griffin was invited on air; and secondly for the leaders' debate via ITV's website.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Should teachers have tenure?

That has been a hot topic in Florida this past week, because the Florida legislature passed a bill that would remove job protection from tenure for teachers, prohibit teachers from being paid more for holding advanced degrees, or for being paid more for number of years on the job, and require merit pay based on the performance of their students.

Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill today.

Despite the rhetoric on both sides of doing what’s best for Florida’s schools, there were some politics involved on both sides. Teachers’ unions lean strongly Democratic, and Florida’s Republican legislature was, at the very least, not concerned about passing legislation the teachers’ unions opposed. Democrats, of course, supported the union line on this and opposed the bill.

A host of Republican heavyweights in Florida came out in support of the bill, including former Governor Jeb Bush and two former Speakers of the Florida House of Representatives. There was a clear partisan divide on this bill: Republicans in favor; Democrats against.

The veto by Republican Governor Charlie Crist is interesting in the context of the upcoming election, as Governor Crist has decided not to run for a second term as governor, but to run for an open U.S. Senate seat instead. He is being challenged (on the Republican side) by former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio, who now leads Governor Crist in the polls.

It appears that Crist’s veto will cost him even more Republican support, making it more likely he will lose the Republican primary. Meanwhile, a poll indicates that if Crist did lose the primary and ran as an independent in November, he would win a three-way race.

Despite rumors that Crist might run as an independent, he has said he is a Republican and will be running as a Republican for the Senate. But his veto of this legislation with strong Republican support suggests he’s setting himself up to win a three-way race in November, should Rubio win the Republican primary.

Setting aside all the political maneuvering, it’s also worth considering whether it’s a good idea to pay teachers based on the performance of their students rather than on years on the job, with a pay premium to advanced degree holders, and whether job protection for tenured teachers is a good policy.


Now prosecute my accuser, says teacher at top British boys' school cleared of seducing 6th-former

A teacher accused of seducing a sixth-form boy while working at a leading public school was acquitted yesterday - and then demanded that he be prosecuted. Oxford graduate Hannah McIntyre, 25, said she never wanted to be in the company of another school pupil as long as she lived.

A jury took only an hour-and-a-quarter to clear her of having sex with the 16-year-old.

He had claimed the public school-educated classics teacher had 'passionately' kissed him for a dare after letting him and his friends into her flat and plying them with cider before taking him up to bed.

She was charged with unlawful sexual activity with a child while in a position of trust, an offence which carries up to five years in prison, and sacked from her job at £8,000-a-year Merchant Taylors' Boys' School, in Crosby, Merseyside.

But her trial this week heard that her accuser, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had previously been suspended for being rude to female teachers. The defence suggested he had made up the sexual liaison to ensure he was allowed to finish his A-levels so he could go to university.

The case will reinforce fears that teachers' careers are being ruined by bogus allegations by pupils.

After she was cleared yesterday, Miss McIntyre called for her teenage accuser - whose anonymity continues to be protected by law - to be prosecuted himself. 'Anger is not first among my thoughts right now,' she said. 'But he has, with no accountability, made an accusation and I would like to see him have to realise the effect he has had on me.'

Miss McIntyre, who had denied the charge, said she was 'ecstatic' at the verdict. 'I now need to go and have a large drink and sleep for a week,' she added.

After a celebratory kiss with her boyfriend, who gave his name only as Pete, she was asked about her future career. She said she had 'a few things in mind', and that she had found the legal process 'incredibly interesting'. But she added: 'Right now I don't think I would ever want to be in the company of another school pupil in my entire life.'

Miss McIntyre went to the leading Scottish public school Fettes College - which Tony Blair attended - before studying classics at Balliol College, Oxford. Without taking a teacher training course, she went straight to Merchant Taylors' - whose ex-pupils include former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Runcie and rugby World Cup winner Ben Kay - to teach Latin, Greek and classical civilisation.

But Miss McIntyre, who was described as 'painfully shy', soon found herself incapable of controlling the disruptive behaviour of some boys in her classes, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

The young teacher, who stands only 5ft tall, said they nicknamed her 'the Jock Dwarf' and would lock her in cupboards, put her mobile phone on top of lockers where she couldn't reach it and use it to send text messages without her knowledge.

On January 21, 2008, the 16-year-old - who sometimes 'sat in' on her classes - and two friends decided to call at Miss McIntyre's flat in the Waterloo district of Crosby for 'a laugh'. They found her drinking wine in her pyjamas.

The boys - all over 6ft - had been drinking. According to Miss McIntyre, they barged inside in an intimidating fashion, rummaging through her possessions and grabbing her pet lizard.

She told the court she agreed to accompany them to an off-licence and buy them bottles of cider in the hope that they would leave her alone, but they followed her back.

According to the teenagers, after a £20 'dare' that one of them should kiss her wasn't acted upon, one of the boys 'dared' Miss McIntyre to kiss his 16-year-old friend which he claimed she did, 'passionately'.

But she described their account as 'rubbish', saying he kissed her without warning, leaving her feeling 'repulsed' and so panicky that she had to go up to her bed, on a mezzanine level above the living area.

But he followed her simulating 'moans of ecstasy' to amuse his friends, she said. She began hyperventilating and played the game Tetris on her mobile phone to calm down. Eventually, she fell asleep, and when she awoke they had gone. She informed the school's head the next day that the boys had spent the evening at her flat, but both she and they denied anything improper had taken place.

It wasn't until almost a year later that the teenager - now a 19-year-old whose ambition of going to university has been fulfilled - told his mother they'd had sex, and Miss McIntyre was arrested.

The boy - who was a virgin at the time - said he got into bed beside her and that they had sex, but he admitted his recollection of how it had happened was 'far from clear'. Under cross-examination, he said he hadn't enjoyed the kiss as she had been 'chain-smoking', adding: 'I did not think she was all that attractive.'

She was sacked by the school after being charged, and although an appeal has been lodged she does not intend to return to teaching.

Miss McIntyre's mother Irene, herself a teacher in their home town of Falkirk, said after the verdict that malicious allegations were now a sad reality in the profession. 'It's become a more obvious hazard,' she said, adding that she was 'overwhelmed and delirious' at her daughter's acquittal.

Last month Teresa McKenzie, deputy headmistress of a school in Cheshire, appeared in court accused of seducing a 16-year-old boy and having sex with him at the British Library and in a hotel after sending him steamy love notes. But she was cleared after the boy was exposed as a serial liar with a history of making sexual advances to teachers and social workers.

In 2007 Andrew Riley, a PE teacher and head of sixth form, at a school in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, was left with his marriage and career in tatters despite being acquitted of having cocaine-fuelled sex with a promiscuous 17-year-old girl pupil.

In 2008 Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said consensual liaisons between teachers and pupils aged over 16 should be considered disciplinary matters, not criminal ones.


Australian Labor Party aiming to cut private school funding?

Private schools in Australia receive Federal grants to cover part of their costs. It's likely the Leftist Feds will freeze funds going to private schools while increasing funding elsewhere. Roughly one in three pupils in Australia is now privately educated at some stage so it would take a bold government to attack private education head on. The campaign by former Labor leader Mark Latham to do so was undoubtedly a major reason for his resounding election defeat

TONY Abbott has questioned the point of the education funding review flagged by Julia Gillard and claimed the government would cut funding for private schools if re-elected.

The Australian reported this morning that the Education Minister told the Sydney Institute she would launch a review into education funding at the end of the month. She also guaranteed schools would maintain their funding until 2012 and said there was no suggestion that non-government schools would lose funding.

But Mr Abbott has today questioned the purpose of the review if it simply recommended more money for schools. “What's the point of having an inquiry if it's just more money for everyone?” Mr Abbott asked on the Today program on the Nine network. “Where's the fiscal responsibility in that?”

Mr Abbott pointed to the Rudd government's broken promise not to means test the private health insurance rebate before the 2007 election as evidence it would seek to strip funding from private schools. “You just can't trust these people,” he said.

“They don't like private education. They will, after the election, if they're re-elected as sure as night follows day, they will try to cut private schools funding.”

But Ms Gillard said she was prepared to go to fight the next election on the issue of trust on school funding. “I'm happy to fight the next election on the issue of trust,” she said. “School funding, we have almost doubled the amount of money going into schools.”

In a speech to the Sydney Institute last night Ms Gillard said her plan was to use information gathered through the My School website to ensure all schools were adequately funded. There is widespread criticism the existing model favours elite schools over public schools.

“We have given a funding maintenance guarantee. I gave it last night. This is not about taking money of schools,” Ms Gillard said this morning. “The school funding review that I opened up last night is about all schools. We currently have a system where we don't look across at all schools and say `how are they being funded?' I want to do that, I want to get it right for every child and every school.”

The government has promised to review schools funding before 2013 when the current Howard government model expires.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gay Day of Silence a Waste of Tax Dollars, Critics Say

Thousands of public schools nationwide will allow students affiliated with a gay and lesbian advocacy group to sponsor an anti-bullying "Day of Silence" on Friday, a demonstration some socially conservative family organizations say is a disruptive waste of taxpayer dollars and a reason to keep kids out of school.

GLSEN — the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network — is organizing the 15th annual Day of Silence for April 16, encouraging students to remain mute during classes to call attention to verbal and physical abuse of gay students.

GLSEN says students at more than 5,000 middle and high schools are expected to participate, and over 30,000 people have joined a Facebook group promoting the effort. Many sport T-shirts or hand out literature promoting alliances between gay and straight students.

But family advocacy groups warn that GLSEN is using the day to try to indoctrinate kids and force a pro-gay agenda into schools — something they want kept out of class entirely.

"I think that we shouldn't be exploiting public education for this," said Laurie Higgins, director of school advocacy for the Illinois Family Institute. "There are better ways to use taxpayer money. We send our kids there to learn the subject matter, not ... to be unwillingly exposed to political protest during instructional time."

Critics say the anti-bullying message could have been spread after hours and off-campus, but GLSEN's choice of venue shows the group's intent for the schools.

"Obviously this is intended to make an impact on the educational environment — otherwise they wouldn't be doing it at school," said Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Institute. "The only impact it could possibly have would be to interfere with class."

Higgins and Fischer are calling on parents to withdraw their children from classes that participate in the Day of Silence, a move Higgins compared to "civil disobedience" after years of being ignored by school officials.

"This is definitely a last-resort option," she told, "but school administrators have not listened to parents and teachers. Teachers who object to this are afraid to say anything, afraid of personal and professional repercussions."

But GLSEN says feedback from schools has been positive and that teachers are still in command of their classrooms, no matter how many students choose to take part.

GLSEN distributes materials online outlining what students may do during class to support the Day of Silence, and it urges them to contact teachers and administrators before Friday to avoid running afoul of speech laws.

Lunch period is one thing, but during actual classes students "do not have the right to refuse to speak — instructional time is instructional time," said Eliza Byard, GLSEN's executive director. Supreme Court decisions have denied free speech to students inside classrooms — and that precludes any right to silence.

Byard said the Day of Silence has resonated with so many students over the years because it is a peaceful and non-disruptive way for them to make a difference.

The day began as the creation of a college student at the University of Virginia and has spread to thousands of institutions since 1996. GLSEN, which took over organizing the event in 2001, provides organizing instructions to students — even teaching how to create press conferences promoting the Day of Silence.

But GLSEN says urgent action is still needed to address the dangers gay and lesbian students face on a daily basis. A survey conducted by the group in 2007 found that 86 percent of homosexual students reported being harassed at school, and that more than 60 percent felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

"The national picture still doesn't look good and the national numbers still remain unacceptably high," Byard told

Byard, who expects this year to be "one of the biggest Day of Silence celebrations yet," said the event is far less disruptive than the backlash against it.

"Participants in Day of Silence go to school, go to class and answer when called upon," she said. "For a family to decide to take their child out of class, it would disrupt that child's learning and that would be a shame."

The boycott of classes is a new tactic being urged by conservative groups to hit school officials where they think it will hurt the most: in the wallet.

"Most schools get reimbursed on the basis of average daily attendance. In other words, they don't get taxpayer dollars for teaching students anything — they get taxpayer dollars for having fannies in the seats," said Fischer, of the American Family Association. "So if you have fewer fannies in the seats that's less dollars for school administrators and that's an incentive for them to do the right thing here."

The family groups also worry that GLSEN's reach into the classroom will continue after the Day of Silence is over. While Higgins agrees that bullying is a problem, she said it would "open a can of worms" to give the group free rein and allow public schools — and public funds — to "transform the moral beliefs of other people's children," she said.

"No decent people want any children to be bullied ... and I think they exploit that sentiment," she said.


"Anti elitist" British school system in fact entrenches elitism

The hated "Grammar" schools at least selected on ability alone. Not so the present system

Top comprehensives are more “socially exclusive” than grammar schools as parents play the system to make sure children get a place, according to research. The most affluent families still have “wriggle room” to get sons and daughters into leading schools, despite the introduction of beefed up admissions rules by Labour, it was claimed.

Academics called for the most popular schools to allocate places by lottery to give all children an equal chance of gaining a place, irrespective of their background.

The recommendations – in a study commissioned by the Sutton Trust charity – come just weeks after almost 100,000 children were rejected from their first choice school.

Some one-in-six 11-year-olds failed to get into the state secondary of their choice for September amid intense competition for the most sought-after places.

Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chairman, said a wave of new schools being proposed by the Conservatives should all adopt random “ballots” to stop them being dominated by children from middle-class families.

“Deployed alongside other select criteria, ballots are the fairest way of deciding school places in over-subscribed schools,” he said. “There has to be some way of choosing which pupils are admitted and ballots offer the same chances to all children irrespective of their background.”

In the latest study, academics from Buckingham University analysed the proportion of deprived pupils at each school – and compared numbers to the social make-up of the local community.

Prof Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson found that the most popular comprehensives, which are not supposed to select pupils, were "more socially exclusive" than England's remaining academically selective grammar schools.

The 164 most exclusive comprehensives took only 9.2 per cent of pupils from poor backgrounds, even though around 20 per cent of children living in their surrounding area were “income deprived”. By comparison, some 13.5 per cent of children from 164 grammar schools were from poor homes.

The study suggested that grammars – which select pupils on the basis of the 11-plus entrance exam – were more transparent as they identified pupils “with talent, irrespective of their backgrounds”.

Comprehensives, which normally admit children by distance to the school gates, give parents more chance to play the system by moving "close to the desired school”.

Faith-based comprehensives, which select on the basis of religious observance, can also be more easily manipulated by parents who “can take pains to demonstrate they are active members of a particular faith”, the study suggested.

Labour has attempted to close loopholes by repeatedly updating its admissions rules. But the report – Worlds Apart: Social Variation Among Schools – said there was “still wriggle room for schools that want to ensure a favourable intake to enable them to show up well in league tables”.

“Our view is that the principal means [of admission] should be by ballot,” it said. “It would be fair and lead to a more equitable education system. “It could be used in conjunction with other criteria, for example ability, faith or location.”


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Education Race to Top hits bottom

You've probably been in an argument and, not very confident about your point, resorted to rhetorically blitzing your opponent by just insisting you were irrefutably right. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been employing a similar tactic with the "Race to the Top," a competition pitting states against each other in a grab for $4 billion in "stimulus" dough. Duncan has been flatly declaring RTTT a triumph.

"The Race to the Top has been an extraordinary success," Duncan trumpeted in last week's announcement that Tennessee and Delaware had won the Race's first round. "This historic program has been a catalyst for education reform across this country."

Examining the first-round winners reveals why Duncan is going right to declaring victory.

The first thing one notices is that RTTT isn't about bold change. Indeed, as Duncan conceded when he announced the victors, what put Delaware and Tennessee in the winners' circle wasn't embracing cutting-edge reforms, but getting all districts and teachers' unions to endorse their applications.

"Perhaps most importantly, every one of the districts in Delaware and Tennessee is committed to implementing the reforms in Race to the Top, and they have the support of the state leaders as well as their unions," Duncan said.

Now, if you want a revolution you don't bolster the regime in power. But that's exactly what demanding union buy-in does. After all, it's teachers' unions that have most effectively fought real accountability because it is largely their members who would be held to account.

Maybe, though, Delaware and Tennessee have risen above union self-interest and come up with real reforms that unions also love.

On the other hand: maybe not.

Consider Delaware's teacher-assessment proposal. Currently, student achievement is included in teacher evaluations, but the achievement measures are about as useful as a scale that ignores any unwanted pounds. A teacher starts the year by setting her own student-achievement goals, and she can use numerous assessments — including her own tests and writing assignments — to measure success.

So what does Delaware's RTTT application say the state will do about this nonsensical system? "After consulting with stakeholders, including the teachers' union, the Delaware Secretary of Education will define a rigorous and comparable measure of student growth to be used in educator evaluations starting in the 2011-2012 school year."

Promises, promises.

How about Tennessee? It made a big deal in its application about lifting its charter-school cap and "having one of the oldest and most robust databases for tracking 'student growth.'"

Those things sound nice, but they hardly mean real change is a-comin'. The pro-charter Center for Education Reform has graded Tennessee's charter law a D, but not primarily because of its cap. No, it's because Tennessee charters have very little autonomy and can only be located in a few districts — super-restrictions that make caps largely irrelevant.

On teacher quality, Tennessee offers the same IOU as Delaware. Sure, Tennessee has a great data system, but it won't apply the data until the 2011-2012 school year, and then only after a "teacher evaluation advisory committee" has recommended how to do it.

Ultimately, RTTT is all promises, no production. States must say how they would improve lots of things, but they actually have to do very little. It is decades of public schooling — from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind — in a nutshell.

Stagnant scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tell the tale. In 1973, the average mathematics score for 17-year-olds — our schools' "final products" — was 304 (out of 500). By 2008 it was just 306. In 1971, the reading average was 285. Twenty-seven years later, it had skyrocketed to…286.

The good news is that many states appear to be souring on RTTT, though not because they object to a contest that rewards mere promises. No, it's that the first-round outcome has shown it impossible to know what's ultimately needed to win.

As Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who says his state will not apply for RTTT Round 2, explained after it appeared establishment buy-in was more important than reform: "It was like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater with a Soviet judge from the 1980s."

That might be overstating things a bit. But it is a far more reasonable assessment than just declaring Race to the Top "an extraordinary success."


The Truth About Diversity

by Mike Adams

In the past, I have been critical of radical leftist university president Rosemary DePaolo. I’ve directed specific criticism towards her for valuing diversity over competence. Thankfully, she has finally seen the light. In a letter written to the entire UNC-Wilmington community on Wednesday, April 8, 2010, she admitted that much of what I’ve said about diversity (for at least seven years' worth of columns!) is true. I am taking the time today to thank Rosemary for her honesty and humility. For those who are interested, I have reprinted her entire letter below:
Dear Colleagues,

While the core mission of UNCW focuses on academics and providing the most powerful learning experience for our students, athletics also plays an important part in the lives not only of our students but of the entire, broad university community, as well. I know that the search for a new head coach for men’s basketball is on the minds of many people, and I would like to take this opportunity to provide you a brief update.

Since the end of the basketball season, the search committee has been identifying and reviewing potential candidates. We believed we had a firm commitment, but yesterday we learned that was not the case. To be certain, searches are complicated and complex processes, especially where contracts are involved. You might recall in the early 1990s that head basketball coach Bobby Cremins left Georgia Tech where he was extremely successful to go to the University of South Carolina. Three days later, he returned to Georgia Tech after indicating that he had a change of heart. Similarly, Greg Marshall, head coach at Winthrop, was recruited to go to the College of Charleston. He even held a press conference to announce that move, only to return the next day as coach at Winthrop. Ironically, the person who replaced him at College of Charleston was Bobby Cremins.

Why am I telling you this? We all may know of numerous other situations where an individual was recruited by multiple institutions, only to take the one with the best financial package or change decisions for personal reasons. I am providing these examples to remind all of us that, despite rumors and speculation to the contrary, people routinely change their minds during negotiations for a variety of reasons. As disappointing as that may be at times, I have been in this business long enough to know that such situations are common; I also know that in the end, we will be successful.

I am working closely with our athletic director Kelly Mehrtens and our search committee to continue the process of identifying the right coach. I am forced to do so because it has become apparent that Kelly Mehrtens is over her head in this position. That is because her selection for this position was not made on the basis of qualifications. She was selected on the basis of her status as a black female.

Some have made much of the argument that Kelly Mehrtens is incompetent. As evidence, they have cited the following: 1) Her decision to fire our last basketball coach during homecoming week. 2) Her decision to give the last coach a two-year contract extension after only one year of coaching his predecessor’s recruits. 3) Waiting six weeks to form a committee to look for a new coach. 4) The drastic reduction in donations to support the athletic department, etc, etc, etc.

But these criticisms miss the truth about diversity, which I have highlighted in bold letters so all of you can understand: An institution’s commitment to diversity is inversely related to its commitment to competence. Those who are calling for the firing of Kelly Mehrtens miss this fundamental point.

Put simply, if Kelly Mehrtens was hired by considering race (and gender) over competence then it makes no sense to fire her – in effect, saying her incompetence is suddenly more important than her race. After all, she is still black. And there is no evidence that she plans to change her gender.

I know it hurts to lose basketball games. And I know it hurts to see an entire athletic program in shambles. But diversity feels good. And it reminds us we are all really good people at heart.

For those not Swift enough to understand, you have just read a social satire on affirmative action and diversity. Rosemary DePaolo has never told the truth about diversity, nor taken much of an interest in the truth on any given issue. Despite her incompetence, she remains as UNC-Wilmington chancellor because she is a woman. And Kelly Mehrtens remains as her athletic director because she is black.


University corruption

A former Brown University student alleges in a lawsuit unsealed Monday that he was removed from campus more than three years ago after being falsely accused of rape by the daughter of a major donor and fundraiser for the Ivy League school.

William McCormick III and his parents say university administrators gave him a one-way ticket home to Wisconsin after he was accused of rape in the fall of 2006. McCormick alleges the school never told the police about the rape allegations and accepted them as true without doing an investigation.

The lawsuit says the father of the accusing student is a Brown alumnus who has "donated and raised very substantial sums of money," was in regular contact about the allegations with school administrators and contacted university president Ruth Simmons directly.

Brown, which has asked for the case to be dismissed, said in a statement late Monday that university administrators acted appropriately but declined to comment further, citing student confidentiality.

The university's lawyer, Steven Richard, told a judge Monday that the lawsuit didn't show any wrongdoing and that it merely made vague and unsubstantiated claims against various administrators.

"My difficulty is responding to the broad net cast on everyone," Richard said.

A university administrator told McCormick his removal from campus was to be on an interim basis, according to a letter submitted in court. But McCormick wound up withdrawing from Brown later that fall under an agreement with the accuser's family he says he was coerced into signing.

The lawsuit names 15 people affiliated with Brown, including Simmons, as well as the female student and her father. It was filed last fall, just before the three year-statute of limitations for bringing such claims was to have expired. A federal judge unsealed it Monday.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, and is not naming the father to avoid identifying the woman here. The woman maintains that she was raped and that the sexual assault allegations are true, said her lawyer Joseph Cavanagh.

The lawsuit says McCormick, a nationally ranked wrestler in high school who obtained a scholarship to go to Brown, was accused of rape in September 2006 by a fellow freshman who lived in his dorm.

The student initially accused him of stalking and harassing her, at which point a no-contact order was issued against McCormick by the university, lawyers say.

The following week, the student _ encouraged and pressured by friends, according to the lawsuit _ reported that she had been raped by McCormick to the resident adviser, who urged her to repeat her allegations to deans at the school.

Administrators told McCormick he was being accused of sexual misconduct but never gave him a written copy of the allegations or a chance to defend himself, according to the lawsuit, which says he was also ordered to leave campus, driven to the airport and put on a flight back to Wisconsin.

The lawsuit says no sexual contact occurred and no charges were ever filed.

U.S. District Judge William Smith heard arguments Monday on whether to dismiss the lawsuit, but did not immediately rule.

He told J. Scott Kilpatrick, a lawyer for the McCormick family, that the complaint was a "mess" and that some of its claims so far appear unsubstantiated. He said the lawsuit was not detailed enough in specifying what each staff member and administrator is alleged to have done wrong.

But he also said he was troubled the university never alerted the police about a rape allegation it considered credible. "The thought that with all the people involved in this matter at different levels, a determination is made to not tell law enforcement, even the Brown Police Department _ I'm having trouble getting that," Smith said.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

American academic crooks get away with it

More evidence of the decay of academic standards. The Left destroy anything they touch

The paper trail of plagiarism turned up in a university faculty member's Ph.D. dissertation, then in a job application and, eventually, in a proposal for taxpayer-funded research sent to the National Science Foundation.

Yet like several other researchers caught stealing information on government-funded foundation projects or proposals, the faculty member managed to avoid the embarrassment of public exposure.

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) office of inspector general, which closed the case last year, is withholding the researcher's name from public scrutiny, citing privacy interests.

In another recent case, a researcher plagiarized in at least three funding proposals and, once caught, claimed as an excuse the fact that "his non-native command of English made paraphrasing difficult," case records show. His name, too, remains private.

Unlike the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), another federal agency that investigates scientific misconduct, the NSF inspector general withholds many of the identities of the researchers it catches engaging in misconduct, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The policy reflects a stark but little-known difference in the scientific community and in the federal government on the question of whether, and when, to name names in the wake of misconduct investigations.

"My position is that these are public agencies and public funding is involved, so there should be disclosure," said Mark S. Frankel, director of the Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He said researchers found to have committed misconduct could do so again if the misdeeds go unnoticed by future employers. In their new jobs, these same researchers someday could be placed in positions of trust, such as supervising the work of graduate students, he said.

But others say the disparity between the two agencies' policies might be a reflection of the sorts of cases they typically investigate. The NSF inspector general often uncovers plagiarism, while many of the ORI integrity cases involve fabrication or falsification of data, analysts say.

"It may have to do with the types of findings," said Debra Parrish, a lawyer who has published scholarly articles on research misconduct. "Most NSF findings are premised on plagiarism. … [P]erhaps plagiarism, although not desirable, is not as worthy of public hanging."

More here

How Eton inspired British Conservatives' 'national service' plan

A plan with good precedents

David Cameron spoke of his own community service at Eton College as he launched plans for a National Citizenship Service for young people. The Tory leader told how he volunteered to visit elderly and vulnerable people, as well as joining the school’s cadet force.

Community service has long been seen as a key element of life at independent schools – particularly boarding schools – as a life-enhancing supplement to the rigours of academic study.

At Eton, the school’s social service programme forms part of the extra-curricular timetable for most sixth-formers. Each boy at the £29,000-a-year school in Windsor is expected to take part in voluntary activities up to twice a week.

This includes reading and playing sport with children at state primary schools, visiting the elderly at home, helping at day centres, working in charity shops and taking food and clothing to homeless people in Slough. Some boys have also tended to the grave of a soldier from Eton Wick killed during the Second World War.

Other independent schools expect pupils to take part in similar programmes – usually for one afternoon every week.

At Wellington College, Berkshire, community service projects - a 150-year-old school tradition - include volunteering at a local centre for the mentally handicapped, tutoring students at local schools and reading to the elderly. Students also traditionally volunteer with the National Trust and the college’s own estate team.

The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is also a hugely prominent part of life in independent schools. There are currently around 200 cadet force units in the private sector, compared with just 50 in state schools.

Asked at a news conference whether he had done voluntary service, Mr Cameron said: "Yes, I did. At the school I went to there was a choice: you could either join the cadet force or you could do social services.

"Being a community-spirited sort of person I decided to do both. "I was in the cadet force and I also did visits to elderly, vulnerable people in Windsor, visiting them in their homes and doing their shopping and things like that, which I hugely enjoyed."


Australia: How to hijack a child’s education

Teachers abhor evaluation of their work

The union inspired threat by state school teachers to boycott next month’s literacy and numeracy tests for Queensland children ought to be seen for what it is, wildcat industrial action aimed at sabotaging a policy for which the Rudd Government gained a mandate at the last election.

Queensland Teacher Union president Steve Ryan’s performance on radio this morning justifying this boycott was an example of the sophistry and arrogance that afflicts union officials who believe schools are there for the benefit of teachers rather than for students and their parents.

According to Ryan, the NAPLAN tests “only’’ measure literacy and numeracy, not the whole child. Good to see that the union sees the ability to read, write and count is such a minor part of a child’s school education.

And while this boycott might seem a lot like industrial action to the rest of us, it is nothing of the sort, according to Ryan. It is a “moratorium’’ on supervising the tests.

This action is all about the union’s distaste for a nationally consistent measure of school performance. It has precious little to do with the welfare of Queensland children. It’s unlikely that the union will be able to get away with such nonsense for long, but it would help put a quick end to this ridiculousness if the Bligh Government gained some backbone and opposed this union’s constant efforts to hijack a policy that has the legitimate political endorsement of the Australian electorate.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Behind the NJ school problems: Bloat

Gov. Chris Christie is trying to solve New Jersey's chronic budget problems by cutting spending, including state aid to local schools. But the state's powerful teacher unions and many school boards are balking -- claiming that this will either drive up local property taxes or result in devastating cuts to school services.

In fact, there's plenty of fat to cut. For proof, just take a close look at the recent hiring and spending patterns of Jersey's school districts: Both hiring and spending have risen far faster than can be justified by the mild growth in enrollment. Thus, most should have plenty of room to cut spending without major impact.

Given the state's chronic budget woes, the schools' hiring spree defies logic. Since 2001, just as budget problems began in earnest, public-school enrollment in Jersey has risen by less than 3 percent, or slightly more than 36,000 students. But total school hiring (full-time employees and equivalents) has jumped by 14 percent, or nearly 28,000 employees, according to federal Census statistics.

That's right: Jersey's schools have added three-quarters of an employee for every new student -- during a period of deep fiscal pain for the state. Most of the new hires were teachers -- which is more than one new instructional worker for every two new students.

The hiring spree, along with rich benefit increases, has fueled payrolls. Wage costs alone have increased 43 percent since 2001 -- well ahead of the inflation rate plus enrollment growth.

But the real budget-buster has been health and pension costs. Between 2001 and 2006 (the latest year data are available), total benefit costs rose by a whopping 115 percent, adding several billion dollars to school costs.

After this runup, outlays are now a whopping $16,000 per student, nearly 60 percent above the national average. Jersey already was a leader in this spending category back in 2001; the spending spree has widened the gap, at great taxpayer cost.

Jersey now has the highest combined state and local tax burden in the country -- yet has been in an almost perpetual budget crisis since 2001.

But the tax hikes didn't solve the budget crisis. The key reason: As the above data suggest, the spending hasn't slowed.

If anything, the numbers suggest that Christie's approach, which is to finally start weaning local schools off continual increases in state aid, is the only way to bring spending in line.


British school inspection shambles

Emphasis on bureaucratic trivia rather than looking at how the school is doing in facing its challenges

Three schools judged to be "inadequate" by Ofsted were later told that they were actually "outstanding", in a move which has raised concerns over the quality of inspections.

A total of nine schools inspected by Ofsted last term were initially given wrong judgements, it can be revealed. In three of the cases cases, schools told by inspectors that they faced a "notice to improve" – the category just above a failed inspection – were reassessed and then given the very best official rating.

Critics said the U-turns cast serious doubt on the accuracy and fairness of Ofsted's new inspection regime, introduce at the start of this academic year. The regime has already been accused by the state and independent sectors of focusing on the wrong things.

Head teachers said they were appalled that schools could be misjudged to such a degree and that primaries and secondaries were facing ruin on the basis of "arbitrary" rulings. A poor inspection report can sound the death knell for a school, as rolls dwindle and staff leave.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "How can you possibly have a judgement of inadequate and in the next breath, rate the school as outstanding? "It totally undermines the validity of the inspection and raises serious questions about the quality of inspections. "There is mounting pressure for a review of this system and this revelation adds to it."

Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Whether the judgement of inspectors is at fault or schools are being initially failed on trivial matters, both are very serious flaws. "This calls in to question the whole Ofsted regime."

Every time a school is judged "inadequate" during an inspection, the finding is subjected to a "moderation process" in which Ofsted reviews the reasons for the provisional rating. Among six schools inspected last term and initially rated "inadequate", three - one primary and two secondaries, all in the south of England - had their rating raised after moderation to the top category of "outstanding". Another had its rating improved to "good", while two became "satisfactory".

Three further schools which were facing "special measures", the category that schools are put in to when they fail their inspection, had that rating scrapped and were instead found after moderation to be merely "inadequate".

Head teachers said many more schools may have been given the wrong judgement but the mistakes would never be remedied because only initial verdicts of "inadequate" or "special measures" were put through the moderation process.

From September to December last year, Ofsted received 110 complaints relating to the 2,140 inspections carried out, but no ratings were changed as a result of the complaints. Ofsted refused to name the nine schools whose judgements had been overturned at moderation.

It said: "Schools may be moderated out of a provisional category. Moderation is a routine, rigorous and robust process. It is an integral part of our work to ensure consistency and high quality in our inspections and demonstrates that Ofsted is fair and transparent in its work."

As The Sunday Telegraph has revealed, schools in the state and independent sectors have fallen foul of stringent new rules on child safety and the early years curriculum which came in to force in September.

Transgressions which have resulted in schools being marked down during inspections have included failing to supervise a car park that did not belong to the school, and not giving child protection training to cooks. Other schools have been marked down over the wording of their school policies or how they store information.

Ofsted claimed that no school would fail an inspection for minor breaches, but the widely-differing judgements applied to some schools after the moderation process support claims that inspectors' judgements are overzealous or suspect.

Earlier this month, more than 80 MPs told Parliament they were "seriously concerned" about reports of Ofsted making "arbitrary" judgments leading to schools being marked down. Miles Coverdale Primary, in Shepherd's Bush, west London, was initially given a "notice to improve" after inspectors who carried out a two-day visit in January said it was "inadequate".

Tara Baig, the head teacher, was stunned – three years earlier Ofsted had rated the school as "good with outstanding features". Staff and governors became convinced they had been subjected to a flawed inspection process.

The school was marked down for failing to recycle its food waste, for not linking with a "leafy, suburban white" school to promote "community cohesion", even for the content of some pupils' packed lunches. A faulty electrical gate was deemed a risk to children's safety, even though the school was waiting for local authority contractors to fix it and it was kept locked at all times.

A recent improvement in attendance figures was not taken in to account and the verdict on teaching was only "satisfactory" despite a "good" rating for three-quarters of the lessons observed.

Evidence of an upward trend in results generally across all ages, including a massive jump in maths results for 11 year olds from 49 per cent to 90 per cent, was given much less weight than a dip in writing results, which the school had identified and was addressing.

Days after the school lodged a complaint with Ofsted, it was told that the moderation process had removed the notice to improve and raised the outcome to "satisfactory". But Mrs Baig still refuses to accept the rating and said the reputation of the school had been undermined by an "unjust" process. "The staff here work relentlessly and are highly committed. For them to be told that they were on the bottom rung was an absolute outrage," she said. "We are a good school and we have the evidence to prove it."

Inspectors visited St Thomas More Catholic Primary, in Coventry, after it was forced to move buildings because of structural defects discovered at the school. Rather than praise the school for coping in extreme circumstances over which it had no control, inspectors graded it as "satisfactory", in part because of shortcomings with the emergency accommodation.

Although some pupils were moved into the old junior school building, others were taught in six temporary classrooms which inspectors said lacked space, led to overcrowding and offered limited accessibility to outside areas.

Mary Wilson, the head teacher, said: "I expected officers to come here pleased with what we've been able to achieve considering what we were faced with. We are still in an emergency situation and I felt the report was unfair." Although Ofsted amended the wording of the published report after the school complained, the grading remained the same.


Australian teachers' union wants censorship of school information

THE Australian Education Union is preparing its position against next month's National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests.

There is a distinct possibility of a national boycott. Such a move will be a direct challenge to Education Minister Julia Gillard's resolve. She must hold the line on NAPLAN and the availability of data on the MySchool website.

At the centre of the mooted boycott of the NAPLAN tests, scheduled to roll out across the country from May 11 to 13, is one pressing issue. This is how data collected by the government can be used in league tables. Next Wednesday in Hobart, the Tasmanian branch of the AEU will ask members for a decision on the boycott. It is expected to pass. This will give momentum to the national AEU push for a boycott.

Already, the industrial journals of the AEU are using combative language. In last month's issue of Public Education Voice, the official journal of the AEU's ACT branch, the following call to arms summarises the union position:

"As our union has been called upon in the past, we are once more called upon to stand proudly for the principles of our profession against the political expediency and indeed stupidity of our political representatives . . ."

But besides the battle cry of the AEU, Gillard is coming under increasing pressure to change the MySchool website. Last month, talks were undertaken between the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, which developed the MySchool website, and the AEU to see how they could placate teachers threatening to boycott.

As a measure of the AEU angst towards the accountability of school performance the MySchool website enables, Jo Earp, editor of Australian Teacher Magazine, had this to say in an editorial headed "Rank smell of unwanted website" in the March edition: "It is hard to gauge how Gillard would deal with a teacher boycott of NAPLAN testing, as she remains tight-lipped on the legal options open to her, but it seems highly unlikely that the stalemate will be broken."

At the centre of the AEU opposition to the My School website is the issue of alleged misuse of the data and league tables. According to AEU Victorian president Mary Bluett, "All that's being sought is a protection of the data and that it not be, in our view, misused to generate unfair league tables."

This position presents what amounts to a direct attack on the availability of information to parents and the media. Data protection must be resisted. It is a form of censorship that denies parents data they should be able to access.

It is, however, seemingly acceptable to make school comparison information available to the AEU but not elsewhere. Why else would AEU Tasmanian president Leanne Wright say last month of the NAPLAN results, "To a point they can be useful for teachers because they give an overall indication of how things are going"?

Being useful to teachers does not include being useful to parents, it seems.

It is not just the AEU that is against providing the specifics to parents. Responding to the MySchool website, Viewpoint, the March newsletter of the Victorian Independent Education Union, asked that "reporting of students' average scores be replaced with a graphical representation of relative performance or an alternative proxy such as percentage achievement above minimum benchmarks". This is nothing more than data protection by stealth.

But beyond the persistent claims by the AEU and its federal president Angelo Gavrielatos that the MySchool website data is "invalid", it is curious that parents are overwhelmingly in favour of not less data being available but more.

In a survey before the launch of the website, more than 90 per cent of polled parents believed they had a right to know how their school compared with others.

Still, calls for legally binding conditions pertaining to use of the MySchool data are reason for concern. While it is arguable that organisations should be prevented from collating the MySchool data and selling it to parents, as one organisation did on the website's launch, the media should not be prevented from making information available in whatever form it chooses.

To restrict this is tantamount to a union, at best an unrepresentative body in community terms, choosing what the public should and should not be able to access.

What the AEU persists in doing is trafficking in false information, generating an unreasonable fear about whether league tables will show some schools to be better than others and that sinking schools will be exposed.

If this logic is taken further, it is acceptable for poorly performing schools to continue to fail their students as long as people do not know. This is data protection.

What Gillard must resist, on all counts, are calls for legislation restricting the free availability of comprehensive data generated from the NAPLAN test results and posted on the MySchool website. She must also hold the line against the kind of criticism made by Waleed Aly in the April edition of The Monthly.

In a comment piece on the new national curriculum, Aly, not known as an educationalist but as a lecturer in politics at Monash University, takes aim at Gillard's "meat and potatoes curriculum", which he says is distinguished by "common sense" and "practicality" that amounts to "a very conservative revolution indeed. [John] Howard with a smile."

It may be conservative to measure children, tell parents how their schools are going in comparison with others and offer a curriculum that gives children the kinds of content that it is utilitarian rather than ideological.

But it is the kind of conservatism we need. This is why the Education Minister must stare down her opponents, protect the school performance principles that parents broadly share and provide accessible data on schools for all.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Teachers between a rock and a hard place in NJ

When the Hackettstown School District presented its $28.5 million 2010-11 budget April 1, the document lacked 18 full-time positions -- seven of them classroom teachers -- who are working this year.

The district is hardly alone in making staff cuts to cope with aid cuts and rising costs. However, Superintendent Robert Gratz told the audience that at least the teaching positions could be restored, if the teachers agreed to a wage freeze advocated by Gov. Chris Christie.

The district teachers union was unable to provide an answer that night, and representatives could not be reached for an update on their discussions this week. "They missed a great opportunity," Gratz said, acknowledging a concession also could help convince voters to approve the budget April 20.

The prospect of a wage freeze has New Jersey educators in a difficult position. Unions that consent could save teachers' jobs. The alternative is to resist the pressure from the governor and lose not only colleagues, but possibly standing in public opinion, experts say.

Since taking office in January, Christie has come out strongly against teachers unions, particularly the largest: the New Jersey Education Association. In his budget address last month, when he proposed reduced total aid to schools by $819 million, he referred to an "arrogant" teachers union that used "intimidation tactics, political bullying and smears" to maintain its "empire."

Before that, he reduced the current year's school aid by $415 million, forcing districts to tap surpluses. Late last month, he offered to restore some state aid to districts where teachers took a wage freeze.

"Certainly the governor is trying to run a public opinion campaign" against teachers, NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said.

The state-level union is not guiding local unions to a decision, he said, because it must be done on a case-by-case basis. However, there will be "massive cuts" around the state no matter what direction they go.


Leftists want to "protect" unpaid internships out of existence

Thus closing off a valuable opportunity for otherwise useless graduates to learn something practical

As the recession rolls on and workers continue to scramble for employment, there's one group of people who haven't seen any diminishment of their employment prospects: those who are willing to work for free. Unpaid internships are booming. At Stanford, employers listed 643 of them on the college's job board this year.

That's more than triple the number they posted two years ago. Experts estimate that somewhere between one-fourth and one-half of all internships are now unpaid. This isn't a trivial number when you consider that internships are increasingly becoming a crucial resume-builder, even for college graduates: A national 2006 study showed that 84 percent of college students at four-year institutions had completed at least one internship before graduation.

In an increasingly competitive job market, internships have become crucial for graduating students or people looking to change careers. In some professions (especially the arts and the world of nonprofits), the unpaid internship is nothing new. But as unpaid internships mushroom in the for-profit world of business, government officials need to step in and ensure that interns aren't being exploited.

Some of these unpaid internships violate federal workplace laws: They displace regular employees, fail to pay interns who should be paid, and don't provide "educational benefits" for those who are legally allowed to work for free.

To put it bluntly: For some employers, the internship has become about taking advantage of free labor rather than a mutually beneficial exchange of work and training for employers and students.

Federal officials are concerned, and they're starting to pay attention. Nancy Leppink, who's the acting director of the Department of Labor's wage and hour division, has said that there aren't many circumstances where for-profit employers can refuse to pay interns.

And yet, as any college student can attest, there's no shortage of for-profit employers who are seeking to hire free interns. Part of the problem is that the six federal legal criteria for unpaid internships were written in a different era (1947), for a time when most internships were more like apprenticeships for production and manufacturing jobs that have vanished.

The criteria need to be updated. And Congress needs to step in, too, with new legislation - unpaid interns should be eligible for the same workplace protections against harassment and discrimination that regular employees enjoy.

Informally, the Department of Labor has already started to update the criteria. It's offered opinion letters about unpaid internships that offer college credit, for example - such internships must provide "educational experiences unobtainable in a classroom setting" and there must be a burden on the employer in terms of training and supervision. But opinion letters are only designed to represent a single specific case. What would be best for both students and employers would be a specific set of standards that apply to all for-profit employers.

Unpaid interns also need protection against workplace harassment and discrimination. There have been court cases where such suits were dismissed since, under current law, only employees receive such protection. That's unfair, and Congress needs to write and pass legislation to set it right.

The Labor Department is right to focus its attention on this issue: In tough times, for-profit companies shouldn't be taking advantage of the loose rules around internships to get people to work for free. There are wide societal implications for the rampant growth of unpaid internships - for one thing, they disadvantage lower-income students, who can't afford to work for free. So at the very least, employers need to follow the current laws that do exist around unpaid interns (e.g. train them and don't use them to displace regular employees). And both the Labor Department and Congress need to fix the laws so that they reflect the contemporary issues these interns are facing.


1930s books revived in the hope of teaching pupils traditional British history

Not much hope of government schools using them

History books first published in the 1930s have been revived in a bid to tackle schoolchildren's ignorance of Britain's past. Acccording to the publishers, the 1930s books are needed to address a 'crisis' in the teaching of the traditional narrative of British history

The series, called A History of Britain, was first published in 1937 and was widely used in schools for decades. It has now been updated and relaunched for a modern audience amid growing concerns that schools are failing to give children a good grasp of history.

It comes as a group of leading history experts called for reform to the school curriculum so secondary schoolchildren are taught a single chronological history course, stretching from the Norman conquest to the 20th century.

Currently, pupils study topics such as the Nazis, Soviet Russia, slavery or the Victorians, often taught in isolation and repeated in different years.

According to the publishers, the 1930s books are needed to address a "crisis" in the teaching of the traditional narrative of British history. "For more than half a century most intelligent youngsters in Britain have grown up to live in the half-darkness of historical ignorance," said Tom Stacey, chairman of Stacey International.

"I have seen this ignorance creeping up on three generations. I count their loss as incalculable deprivation. There has been a parallel discarding of the fabric of biblical history and the Christian narrative."

He said that traditional history had "all but vanished" in schools, replaced by a diet of "projects on slavery, Victorian slums, the labour movement or, again and again, the Second World War".

The 1930s series was written by E H Carter, who was chief inspector of schools, and R A F Mears, a history teacher. Subsequent volumes covered British history up to the 1950s. The updated books are edited by David Evans, an historian and former head of history at Eton College. The first two books to be re-released cover the Tudors and the Stuarts. Eight more will follow, beginning with the Roman invasion.

The last two books, From Churchill to Thatcher; 1951 – 1990, and Into the 21st Century, are new but will be in the same style as the original series.

Concerns that schools are failing to instil a good understanding of the timeline of British history have been raised by a long list of commentators, including academics David Starkey and Niall Ferguson, Andrew Marr, the BBC presenter and author of A History of Modern Britain, and the Prince of Wales.

"There can be no justification for the excessive focus on the history of the Third Reich," said Professor Ferguson, "What we urgently need is a campaign for real history in schools."

A group of experts, lead by Sean Lang, a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, have just published a report, Better History, calling for a single chronological history course for 11 to 16 year olds. It should be compulsory and have historical knowledge at its heart, the group say.

Mr Lang said: "The current situation whereby students study one set of topics in the early years of secondary school and then embark on a quite separate set of topics in later years has gone unquestioned for too long. "The building up of an extensive body of historical knowledge should be a central aim of the history curriculum."

Fears about current history teaching are backed by a damning Ofsted report which found that although the National Curriculum demands that children develop a "chronological framework", in practice pupils' knowledge was "often very patchy and specific" and that children were "unable to sufficiently link discrete historical events to answer big questions".

The Conservatives have pledged to give children a "clear sense of how British history developed", if the party wins the general election, and the Anglia Ruskin group hopes to influence a Tory rewrite of the National Curriculum.

The group, which includes Martin Roberts, a member of the academic steering committee of Prince Charles's Teaching Institute, and Nicolas Kinlock, a former school head of history, author and former deputy of the Historical Association, will hold a seminar in the summer to sort out details of the new proposed course of study.

Alan Hodkinson, principal lecturer in educational research at Liverpool John Moores University, whose three year study showed that even young children can grasp chronology, said: "Historical time is vital to the study of history. "Without a comprehensive grasp of such, children will fail to understand how to sequence events, periods and people chronologically.

"My research suggests that rather than being de-emphasised, dates appear vital to historical study and should be employed consistently. "It is time that the people responsible for the curriculum stopped underestimating what our children are capable of."

A report published last year by the Historical Association found that thousands of pupils get only two years of teaching in the subject at secondary level, instead of three.

Official figures show that fewer than a third of students sat GCSE history in 2008, raising concerns that the subject is becoming the preserve of independent and grammar schools.