Saturday, September 25, 2010

Honor denied to terrorist Ayers

When retiring University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Bill Ayers co-wrote a book in 1973, it was dedicated in part to Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin.

That came back to haunt Ayers on Thursday when the U. of I. board, now chaired by Kennedy's son, considered his request for emeritus status. It was denied in a unanimous vote.

Sirhan Sirhan was one of more than 150 "political prisoners" to whome the book "Prairie Fire" was dedicated. Sirhan is serving a prison sentence for assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968.

Before the vote, an emotional Chris Kennedy spoke out against granting the status to Ayers. "I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father," he said. "There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so."

Later, Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times he and the board have not seen any signs of remorse from Ayers in the nearly 40 years since the dedication. "There's no evidence in any of his interviews or conversations that he regrets any of those actions -- that's a better question for him," he told the Sun-Times.

Kennedy, who was 4 when his father was killed in 1968, said the board's decision did not hinge on his own personal feelings. "The decision was grounded in great university governance," he told the newspaper. "Obviously, there was a personal angle for me, but Ayers' actions were inconsistent with open dialogue and debate that should define any great university." Ayers should not expect any change in that position.

"He asked for this privilege," Kennedy said. "He's not going to get it from me or that board."

In his remarks to the board Thursday, Kennedy noted that emeritus status is a privilege and not automatic, and that Ayers had initiated the request. "Our discussion of this topic therefore does not represent an intervention into the scholarship of the university, nor is it a threat to academic freedom."

Emeritus status at the U. of I. is purely honorific and does not include perks granted by some other schools, such as office space, insurance benefits and free parking.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said no one could recall the last time a request for emeritus status had been denied. "It's highly unusual," he said.

Before he became a professor of education at UIC, Ayers was a co-founder of the radical anti-Vietnam War group the Weather Underground. The group participated in several bombings, and Ayers spent time on the run from the FBI. Federal charges against Ayers were dropped, and he joined the UIC faculty in 1987.

The dedication to Sirhan Sirhan appeared in the book Prairie Fire. Sirhan was one of more than 150 "political prisoners" to whom the book was dedicated.

Ayers went on to contribute to Chicago's school reform program and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that won $49.2 million to study public school reform. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Ayers' connections to Barack Obama became a lightning rod. Ayers has denied any close association with Obama.

Contacted by a reporter, Ayers declined to comment about the board's action, but when he announced his retirement in August, his former boss, Vicki Chou, dean of UIC's College of Education, told the Sun-Times, "He's done a spectacular job as a teacher here."

Kennedy told the board that he "is guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way. "My own history is not a secret. My life experiences inform my decision-making as a trustee of the university."


Nanny State Goes to College

The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed new rules for accrediting colleges and universities, including expanding the power of states to authorize higher education institutions, definitions of what constitutes a “credit hour,” and de facto price controls through measures to ensure graduates’ “gainful employment.” According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the new rules will mark a substantial shift in the accrediting process:
Current regulations do not define or describe the statutory requirement that an institution must be legally authorized in a state. Under the new rules, the institution’s authorization must be subject to adverse action by the state. [The DOE] notes that, while state authorization was in the past viewed as a “minimal” requirement, the Department now views state authorization as a “substantial requirement where the State is expected to take an active role” not only in approving institutions but also in monitoring and “responding appropriately” to public complaints about institutions.

The DOE has also proposed a new rule pertaining to the definition of a credit hour, which could include standardizing the definition of a credit hour by the federal government.

But Sylvia Manning, president of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (a regional accrediting agency for 19 states), argued that universities are better equipped to establish the metrics that demonstrate student learning than is the federal government, especially when it comes to non-traditional higher education—such as what the University of Phoenix offers.

“Alternative modes of delivery, most notably Internet-based distance delivery that permits a student to participate in classroom activities at any time from anywhere, make nonsense of the idea of seat-time,” says Ms. Manning. Federal overreach into the definition of a credit hour would end up increasing the amount of resources spent by universities in “demonstrating compliance with the regulation.”

Finally, the Administration has proposed a new “gainful employment” rule that would affect virtually all for-profit private higher education institutions. The new rule is based on a requirement in the Higher Education Act, which requires for-profit universities to provide “an eligible program of training to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” According to Inside Higher Ed, the new rule would create three tests for for-profit colleges to qualify for federal financial aid funding:
The debt-to-earnings ratio, the debt-to-discretionary income ratio, and the loan repayment rate. If a program does better than the department’s preferred standard on any one metric—8 percent debt-to-earnings, 20 percent debt-to-discretionary income, 45 percent repayment rate—then it is fully eligible for Title IV [funding].

Insider Higher Ed also notes that, according to Terry Hartle of the American Council of Education, the new gainful employment rule is “the most complicated regulatory package that the Department of Education has ever promulgated—this really is a brave new world.” The DOE will issue final rules by November 1, 2010, in order to have the new gainful employment regulations take effect by July 1, 2011.

Some U.S. Senators have voiced support for the gainful employment regulations, including Tom Harkin (D–IA), Dick Durbin (D–IL), and Al Franken (D–MN). But in a letter signed by numerous Representatives on the House Education and Labor Committee, Ranking Republican Member John Kline and others expressed concern that “the proposed regulation imposes arbitrary debt-to-income caps. The result will be virtually the same as federal price controls, rewarding low-cost institutions regardless of quality and limiting students’ access to higher-cost institutions.”

Whether it’s through new, powerful state accrediting authority, federal definitions of credit hours, or price controls imposed through gainful employment measures, the Obama Administration appears intent on limiting the growth of the for-profit college sector. But it’s not just the for-profit schools like Capella and DeVry Universities and technical colleges that could be affected.

In a July 30 letter sent to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former Senator Bill Armstrong, now President of Colorado Christian University, expressed concern that the proposed rules would “subject both public (government owned and operated) colleges and universities and private schools to ‘substantive’ regulation by state government.”

The regulations under consideration by the DOE would have the net result of encumbering student access to higher education and weighing providers down with compliance burdens. Many for-profits could even be forced to close their doors.

During these tough economic times, the last thing the Obama Administration should be doing is creating a bottleneck in the pipeline to employment by limiting access to higher education for working-class families.

Manning summarizes the matter well:
Voluntary accreditation has been in place in the United States for over a hundred years and has handled issues related to the evaluation of quality for most of that time. … What strikes us as curious is that the call for minimum thresholds in matters such as the credit hour and program length runs counter to the country’s expressed interest in increasing, significantly and rapidly, our nation’s attainment in higher education. To meet our national goals for educational attainment and a workforce for the 21st-century economy, higher education is asked—by policy makers, legislators, foundations, opinion leaders—to break out of old molds, seek efficiencies, open doors, reach new populations. Strict accreditation requirements based in 19th-century models don’t seem likely to get us there.


Why are so many British Liberals against school choice?

One of the many ‘storms in a teacup’ at the Liberal Democrat conference has been about school choice. Lib Dem members have successfully passed a motion against Michael Gove’s free schools and several lively fringe debates have been had on the subject. The question is why would any party that purports to be liberal reject the idea of giving parents and schools more freedom?

While we may speculate as to why this is, we should note the existing schools system is both unfair and needlessly bureaucratic. Currently, parents who are not wealthy enough to send their children to private schools, have no choice. The central planners at the LGA’s ‘match’ supply and demand for school places, somehow entrusting in Soviet style economic models which have been laughed out of existence elsewhere. House prices reflect the local schools quality, leading to ‘post code lotteries’ and making a mockery of any claims that the system is comprehensive (not that it should be).

Peter Downes, the Lib Dem councillor who tabled the motion seems to be quite happy with this. He says, “"Academies and free schools are likely to be divisive, costly and unfair. They're in the statute book, on the shelf, and that's where they should stay."

Downes’ evidently relies on the state to magically provide better schools, arguing that the most dangerous element of free schools is "the idea that the principles of the marketplace can be applied to state-funded education". Downes is clearly rejecting the self-evident way forward in providing greater choice, a concept that was first laid down by Andrew Adonis and is now picked up by Gove and the Coalition.

Quite how schools are meant to improve without being subject to the market forces is between Downes and his comrades against the Coalition. No doubt they purport the answer lies in ‘great resources’ (read: more money) for schools.

Without some element of competition or rights to exit from a market (for parents to take their children elsewhere), Britain’s schools will remain in the sclerotic socialist system we have today. Successive ministers in both Labour and Conservative governments have clearly seen that this cannot continue, and have sought the obvious alternative in markets and freedom of choice. The only question is, when will the Lib Dem’s wake up and smell the coffee?


Friday, September 24, 2010

Sharia mentality in our square-brained schools

Someone who has voluntarily force-fitted one’s nominally round brain into the square box of government is called a bureaucrat. Bureaucrats who administer the misery of "public education" are known as educrats.

The greatest threat to the educrat is “gun.”

Ever since Columbine educrats have lived in trembling fear of the finger of blame: “you should have known; you should have anticipated; you should have seen the Warning Signs and Done Something!” Now everything is a Warning Sign: a toy gun is a gun, a crayon scribble of a gun is a gun, a finger is a gun, a chicken wing pointed by a child who says “bang” is a gun.

In defense of their comfortable, nominally educated, taxpayer-paid, union-protected, shielded-from-reality world the educrats of American public school warehousing have instituted their own form of Sharia Law. Children are the threat, “gun” is the menace, common sense is the enemy.

Today a seven-year-old Florida boy is half way through his two-year expulsion for accidentally bringing a toy gun to school, and the educrats won't let him return until he undergoes psychiatric evaluation.

Libertarians would call this child abuse, except he's better off being home schooled anyway. So what’s next for America’s public Sharia Law schools?

Thieves still get a hand chopped off occasionally in Taliban Land. Maybe an American child who points a finger at another child and says “bang” should have that digit detached.

Or how about stoning, still a popular pastime in Iran? Maybe every schoolyard in America should have a stoning pit, a depression in the ground encircled by smooth rounded rocks. A kid who brings a pretend pistol to school should be ceremonially stoned to death by all the other little P.S. students. That would teach them not to mess with an educrat.


Ante-natal classes for teen mothers in British schools?

Schools should run ante-natal classes for pregnant pupils, Government advisers said yesterday. The courses would reach out to gymslip mums too embarrassed to see their GP or local clinics, they claimed.

Pupils would be able to skip lessons for the sessions at their schools and sixth-form colleges. Critics lambasted the proposal, saying it would normalise teenage pregnancy and make it more common than ever. Britain already has the highest rates in Western Europe, with more than 41,000 babies born to women under the age of 18 every year. That figure is twice as high as in Germany, three times the level of France and six times that of the Netherlands.

But the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence is advising that schools in areas where teenage pregnancy is rife should hold classes to help young girls deal with labour and motherhood.

Nice cites concerns that pregnant girls are deterred from going to see their GP by the fear of being sneered at by the receptionist or patients in the waiting room.

Teenagers are said to be reluctant to attend locally-run ante-natal classes - held in community centres, clinics or hospitals - because they feel they are being judged by the midwives.

Experts at NICE say that schools in the U.S. have held antenatal classes for years and they have been highly successful in teaching young girls about the ordeal of labour and motherhood.

Rhona Hughes, who chaired the panel behind the guidelines, said: 'We did find examples in the literature of good practice where clinics were held in schools and young women were more likely to access care. 'Teenagers can feel embarrassed going to clinics where there are older women.' She added that the panel had interviewed many young girls who said they had bad experiences going to their GP or antenatal classes and felt they were being judged by the receptionist or midwife.

Although no British schools run antenatal classes, they have been held in classrooms in the U.S. since the early 1990s. Girls are told about labour, given advice on their diet and taught how to breast feed.

Dr Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE said it would not be appropriate for all schools to run the sessions, only those in authorities with high rates of teenage pregnancy. Areas that may be targeted by the scheme include Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, in south London, and Birmingham, Nottingham, Blackpool and Hartlepool.

But Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of the think-tank Civitas, said: 'There simply isn't time for antenatal classes to be held in secondary school. 'It is extremely important that teenage mums have all the opportunity they can and that nothing encroaches on their learning. 'Schools are simply not equipped to provide these services and there isn't room for them.

'We need to address the fact that they feel embarrassed to go to their GP or local antenatal classes - not start providing them at school. There is also the argument that providing antenatal classes at school normalises teenage pregnancy.'

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: 'Schools exist to assist and support parents in the education of their children, not to be the panacea for every social ill. 'The more schools are called on to shoulder the burden of problems created by a permissive society, the more they will lose their focus on imparting knowledge and teaching children to think in a rational and logical way.'

The Reverend Paul Dawson, of Reform, a conservative evangelical movement, said: 'If NICE are going to issue these guidelines they need to ensure that there is enough scope for teachers to educate pupils on other aspects of relationships. 'These include abstinence. Teachers should feel free to be able to teach pupils that at the other end of the scale many people do not have sex before marriage and that such a lifestyle can be very healthy.'


Three-year-olds being labelled bigots by British teachers as 250,000 children accused of racism

Teachers are being forced to report children as young as three to the authorities for using alleged ‘racist’ language, it was claimed last night. Munira Mirza, a senior advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson, said schools were being made to spy on nursery age youngsters by the Race Relations Act 2000.

More than a quarter of a million children have been accused of racism since it became law, she said. Writing in Prospect magazine, she said: ‘The more we seek to measure racism, the more it seems to grow.

‘Teachers are now required to report incidents of racist abuse among children as young as three to local authorities, resulting in a massive increase of cases and reinforcing the perception that we need an army of experts to manage race relations from cradle to grave. ‘Does this heightened awareness of racism help to stamp it out? Quite the opposite. It creates a climate of suspicion and anxiety.’

The Act compelled 43,000 public authorities, including schools and churches, ‘to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups’. Details of the incidents are logged on databases.

Teachers are allowed to report racism even if the alleged ‘victim’ was not offended or if the child does not understand what they were saying. Freedom of Information replies obtained by civil liberties group the Manifesto Club show that between 2002 and 2009, 280,000 incidents have been reported.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Black children in Britain don't fail due to racism, says black academic

Black children fail at school because they do not concentrate, not because they are the victims of ‘institutional racism’, a leading black academic claims today. Tony Sewell, the son of Caribbean migrants, attacks the view that black pupils are held back by teachers who see them as ‘miniature gangster rappers’.

The former teacher, who runs an educational charity for black children, instead blames poor parenting and the youngsters’ own lax attitude.

In a blistering article for the Left-of- centre magazine Prospect, Dr Sewell says that while it was once true that black pupils were held back by racism, ‘times have changed’. He writes: ‘What we now see in schools is children undermined by poor parenting, peer-group pressure and an inability to be responsible for their own behaviour.

‘They are not subjects of institutional racism. ‘They have failed their GCSEs because they did not do the homework, did not pay attention and were disrespectful to their teachers. ‘Instead of challenging our children, we have given them the discourse of the victim – a sense that the world is against them and they cannot succeed.’

The view that black children are being held back by racism was reinforced by the last Labour government. Labour leadership hopeful Diane Abbott has said that ‘black boys do not have to be too long out of disposable nappies for some teachers to see them as a miniature gangster rappers’.

Mr Sewell – director of the Generating Genius charity and a consultant at Reading University – says that Miss Abbott and researchers imply that white teachers have low expectations of black boys and this is partly why they underachieve.

He admits evidence proves that ‘African-Caribbean boys are still at the bottom of the league table for GCSEs’. They start school at roughly same level as other pupils, but then fall further and further behind their peers.

However, he also writes: ‘I believe black underachievement is due to the low expectations of school leaders, who do not want to be seen as racist and who position black boys as victims.’

In 2008, the Department for Education reported that only 27 per cent of black boys achieve five or more A*-C GCSE grades. African-Caribbean boys are also the group most likely to be excluded from school


MA: Schools missing mark on MCAS

More fail to meet federal standard

MCAS test scores released yesterday show that more Massachusetts schools than ever are failing to measure up to federal achievement standards, with 57 percent out of compliance.

The test scores were announced as officials attempted to focus attention on the unveiling of a program to recognize top-performing schools.

While elementary and middle school pupils at most grade levels showed impressive gains on the math portion of the test — having more students in the top two scoring categories, proficient and advanced — their results in English were mixed. On the high school exams, math scores were flat, and English scores declined slightly.

The uneven results put the state even further behind in meeting the federal benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires annual increases in state standardized test scores. By 2014, all students, including those with learning disabilities and limited fluency in English, must be proficient — possessing a command of grade-level material. It’s a goal many educators and state education officials have criticized as unattainable.

Across the state, 982 elementary, middle and high schools — representing 57 percent of Massachusetts schools — failed to meet the benchmarks, up from 929 last year, according to the preliminary data.

The state also announced that 123 school districts, including 32 independently-run public charter schools, failed to meet test score targets under No Child Left Behind, representing about a third of all districts statewide. Last year, 106 districts and charter schools were identified.

Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner for elementary and secondary education, called the growing number of schools out of compliance “inevitable.’’

“A lot of people are questioning these federal targets,’’ Chester said in an interview as he attempted to shore up public confidence in the state’s schools. “This doesn’t mean we are slipping backwards.’’

Under No Child Left Behind, schools and districts are judged on their progress with students overall, as well as on the performance of certain subgroups broken down by race/ethnicity, family-income level, learning disabilities, and other criteria. If a school or one of its subgroups fails to make necessary progress two years in a row, the state designates the school as needing improvement, requiring slight adjustments to programs.

If problems persist for four years, the school or district goes into “corrective action,’’ possibly prompting changes in school leadership and teaching philosophy. At five years, the school is labeled as in need of restructuring, which could lead to a state takeover. This year, 473, almost half of all schools receiving federal designations, were deemed in need of restructuring.

It takes two consecutive years of adequate improvement on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams to return to good standing — a feat 62 schools achieved this year.Continued...

The Obama administration intends to make changes to the No Child Left Behind Act, which has been up for reauthorization for more than a year, to develop a more nuanced way of judging performance. The administration wants to move away from the “proficiency’’ benchmark, set under former president George W. Bush, to one that assesses the readiness of students for college or the workplace, but it is unclear when such changes will be made.

With so many Massachusetts schools receiving federal designations, the state this year created a system, under a state law enacted this year, to provide assistance to those that need it the most. As part of that effort, the state identified 35 as underperforming.

Yesterday’s MCAS scores showed that some of Boston’s 12 underperforming schools made gains.

Trotter Elementary saw double-digit increases in overall performance in English, while the Agassiz, John F. Kennedy and Dever elementary schools had double-digit increases in overall math performance, school officials said.

However, the state suppressed scores for Blackstone Elementary School in the South End after Superintendent Carol R. Johnson asked the state last month to investigate the data, officials said.

In an interview yesterday, Johnson said the scores appeared to increase at a rate that was not consistent with other testing data for the school, raising questions about the authenticity of the MCAS scores. “We want to make sure as we develop a baseline for performance that we start with valid information,’’ Johnson said.

It is rare for the state not to release a school’s MCAS scores. Last year, the state suppressed scores for Robert M. Hughes Charter School in Springfield, and an investigation later revealed widespread cheating, prompting the state to shut down the school in June.

Johnson said she did not want to speculate about the reasons behind the spike in scores at Blackstone.

In general on the MCAS, Boston officials say, students often improved at faster rates on the math exam than the state and showed improvement in English.

Yesterday, Chester preferred to keep attention on the positive during a news conference in a classroom of eighth-graders at Eliot K-8 School in Boston’s North End. It was there that Chester announced 187 “Commendation Schools,’’ which includes the Eliot, under a new program to recognize schools making strides in boosting the academic achievement of their students and success in closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds.

Chester did not mention the growing number of schools out of compliance with federal standards until reporters questioned him about it after his presentation.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said Chester’s decision not to dwell on the number of schools missing federal testing targets shows how little credibility remains in that system.

“The fact that there are so many schools in sanction and testing data is being used as a weapon and not as a tool to improve student achievement is frustrating to a lot of people,’’ he said.

In a statement, Governor Deval Patrick said, “There are so many great success stories in schools across this Commonwealth because of the efforts of administrators, teachers, students, and parents who are united and committed to making every effort to ensure that every child that walks through the door receives a high-quality education.’’


Australia: How they Educate the Educators

By Peter W.

GK Chesterton said `Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.' That is not my favorite Chesterton quote. He also said `A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.' Both are apposite when thinking about contemporary government-run education.

Last year my wife completed a post graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education. The theme of every unit in this diploma was that the little blighters educate themselves. All you need to do, as an educational facilitator, is to provide them with a rich learning environment. In particular, you shouldn't think of teaching them anything, or of directing their learning in any way. This may harm their self-esteem, curiosity and creativity. Children will absorb the numeracy and literacy skills they need as they need them. Their learning should be self-directed.

Apart from being complete and utter bollocks, what struck me most about this course was how carefully structured it was. By the time you get to post-graduate level, you have a pretty good idea of how to study, and of the gaps in your knowledge. Of course, as Donald Rumsfeld remarked, there are also unknown unknowns - things you don't know you don't know, and this is where a good teacher comes in handy.

But in this course, every student had to read the same articles in the same order, and was expected to come to the same conclusion. Namely, that education works best when it is structured. The lecturer, being a humourless left wing git, saw no irony in this at all.

Post-graduates can be expected to take most of the responsibility for their learning. Kindergarten and primary children cannot. The whole world is unknown unknowns to them. They have no way of knowing what they need to learn, or how to go about learning it. Sadly, most primary teachers in Australian state schools, never having been educated themselves, cling to the romantic ideal of student directed learning.

The one area where this does not seem to apply is political/environmental issues. At KICE (Kangaroo Island Community Education), and at other government schools around the country, students are regularly subjected to emotionally laden, reason-free, questioning forbidden, programmes of indoctrination on matters environmental.

This week's subject is the ghastly consequences of palm oil farming. Empty headed and single-minded guest speakers are inflicted on the students, who are also obliged to watch heart-rending videos of forest clearing followed by pictures of sad looking orang utans and little elephants.

They are then encouraged to act globally and to take action by telling other people what to do. For example, students may wish to write to Australian companies which use palm oil, threatening not use their products unless they cease to do so. Or they may write to the Indonesian ambassador expressing their dismay at Indonesia's apparent disregard for the welfare of its endangered species.

The arrogance is astonishing. As is the complete lack of concern for the families whose livelihoods such actions will destroy.

Students then file home in a bored fashion, leaving a trail of litter, and perhaps bashing a few penguins to death along the way. Believe me, it happens.

The end result is listless and resentful students, whose self-esteem really is damaged because they know very well that they are not achieving or learning anything worthwhile.

But teachers, in a frenzy of rose tinted delusion, return to the staff room to congratulate themselves on what a wonderful job they are doing, oblivious to the consistently appalling behaviour, and equally appalling academic results.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

California Schools: Monuments to Mediocrity

On Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) opened the most expensive school in American history: the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the 24-acre complex costs roughly $140,000 per student. Parts of the school were designed to replicate historic buildings on the grounds where the school was built, including the Cocoanut Grove nightclub. In the warped logic that justifies so many government decisions, somehow a nightclub seemed the perfect environment for a student to learn mathematics and history.

The shocking sticker price for the Los Angeles school grabbed headlines across the nation. But in Southern California, at least some teachers weren’t expressing outrage about such wasteful spending on buildings at the expense of students. Less than 48 hours after the opening of LAUSD’s extravagant school structure, members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union were outside the Los Angeles Times building, protesting the newspaper’s recent publication of a database which evaluated teacher performance in the school district.

According to the Times, the online database ranked 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers “by their effectiveness in improving students' scores on standardized math and English tests during a seven-year period.” The paper also explained that the “value-added method looks at previous student test performance and estimates how much a teacher added to or subtracted from a student's progress.” Teachers howled that this was unfair, since teachers are “more than test scores.”

The United Teachers Los Angeles pronounced it “the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teacher's effectiveness."

Since when is it flawed or irresponsible to demand accountability? When taxpayers pour billions into the public education system every year, doesn’t it make sense to determine whether that money is being spent effectively and efficiently?

One teacher even vented, "The Times has reneged on its mission of telling the truth." Really? It seems like the LA Times is finally living up to its journalistic responsibilities by offering the facts and letting readers decide. Another teacher claimed that some of her peers were “despondent over the rankings.” Is there any consideration of the feelings of students trapped in the classrooms of these “despondent” teachers—the students not being equipped with the skills necessary for a prosperous future?

The teachers shouldn’t be too worried about the Times’ exposé since their union is now defending their shameful ineptness at instructing students.Union protection of its bloated, inefficient bureaucracy has reached ghastly levels in the Golden State. The same unions that are protesting a newspaper reporting on the quality of their members are among the biggest political players in California. One of their key focuses this election year is Proposition 25.

Proposition 25, which will appear on the November ballot, would remove the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for passing a budget—and passing tax increases. Instead, a simple majority of the legislature, or the controlling political party, could pass whatever budget they want without any input from the minority party.

California’s budget is often passed long after its constitutional deadline. In just a few days, the legislature will set a new record for failing to pass a state budget on time. Proposition 25 backers claim that a simple majority vote would ensure the budget is passed on time. But in a legislature dominated by Democrats, Proposition 25 would give the controlling party carte blanche when it comes to feeding the unions and expanding bureaucracy—all at taxpayer expense.

Always eager to guard their more-than-fair-share of the government budget, teachers unions are among the biggest donors to the Yes on Proposition 25 campaign. The California Federation of Teachers donated $1.25 million, California Teachers Association donated $250,000, the California Faculty Association donated $100,000, and the California School Employees Association donated $450,000.

It’s common for teachers unions to throw around huge dollars in political campaigns just to safeguard their interests. But ridding the state constitution of the added taxpayer protections in a two-thirds budget vote would clear the way for unions to get whatever they want—including the kind of wasteful spending found in LAUSD. Keep in mind LAUSD is currently grappling with deficit of $640 million. The $578 million school could have covered almost the entire deficit. Although bond measures financed the school’s construction, such wasteful spending is not uncommon throughout the school system.

Big unions are the biggest hindrance to the education reforms so desperately needed. Bankrupt school districts and the union leeches can keep building their monuments to mediocrity. But eventually, their work product won’t have the education or skills necessary to keep financing such vapid opulence.


Useless degrees: One in three British call centre workers is a graduate

A third of call centre workers are graduates, say researchers. A survey of UK-based call centres showed that 35 per cent of their agents are now educated to degree level - up from 25 per cent last year.

Two in five call centre bosses reported seeing a surge in applications from graduates, particularly over the past 12 months.

The survey, by Hays Contact Centres in conjunction with the Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service initiative, found that many graduates intend to develop a long-term career in the industry.

The soaring numbers of graduates seeking work in call centres shows the impact of the recession on the graduate jobs market. Many firms are squeezing graduate training programmes while universities are turning out unprecedented numbers.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters, representing leading employers, suggests that nearly 70 graduates are chasing every vacancy.

Call centre starting salaries are usually £12,000 to £18,000. Some graduates can expect to move up to senior marketing or sales roles but others see it as a stop-gap.

Figures issued earlier this year by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that nearly 20,000 of last year's graduates - 10 per cent - were unemployed six months after leaving university - up from 8 per cent in 2008.


Australia: Preferential treatment for "alternative" school?

The government giving the preferential treatment is a Leftist one. You know: The "equality" preachers

Rose Park Primary School parents want the Education Minister to investigate if the department deliberately altered a report on a smaller learning facility on the premises that has divided the school community.

The Family Unit, established in 1980, is a Reception to Year 7 "school within a school" that has about 50 students, offering an alternative approach to education based on the Reggio Emilia method.

An independent report last year was supposed to address growing animosity between parents at both schools, the Education Department and principals.

Supporters say the unit provides more space and a better teacher-student ratio than the mainstream school, while its opponents say the unit receives preferential treatment, taking up the two largest teaching spaces, resulting in overcrowding in the rest of the school.

The original report, released under Freedom of Information laws, shows parts of the report - including tables showing the difference in classroom space per student and issues around school zoning - were removed from the versions given to parents. After an uproar from parents, the Ombudsman's office determined the department was required to release the original report.

Parent Terina Verrall said the department had been "dishonest" about withholding information in the report. "We didn't get an independent report, we got a DECS tampered report and we knew that right from the word go," she said. "The real report would have allowed for real discussion."

The issue escalated over the past two years, with the mainstream school's governing council members voting to have the unit moved to another school.

Following consultation with Parkside Primary School in June, that school's governing council formally rejected a bid to relocate the Family Unit to their site.

Education Minister Jay Weatherill admitted the situation "wasn't handled well".

Earlier this month, he announced the unit would remain at Rose Park Primary. However, contact between the two facilities would be minimised and they would be administered separately, with a long-term view to relocating the unit in the future. "I met all of the parent and school groups involved and my decision takes into account all of the concerns raised, including concerns about what was excluded from the report," he said. "I have made my decision and that decision stands."


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boston area school segregation called rife

The drumbeat of Leftist deception goes on. Look at the phrase below: "often isolating black and Latino students in low-performing schools". A more honest phrase would be "which are therefore low-performing schools". A school can only be as good as its students

Public schools in the Boston and Springfield metropolitan areas are among the most segregated in the country, often isolating black and Latino students in low-performing schools, according to a report released today by Northeastern University.

Of the 100 large metropolitan regions examined, the Springfield area ranked second (behind Los Angeles) for the most segregated schools for Latino students, while the Boston area ranked fourth (behind New York) in that same category, according to the study by faculty at the Institute on Urban Health Research at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Among the most segregated schools for black students, Springfield ranked ninth and Boston ranked 28th.

Nationwide, black students tend to be more highly segregated than their Latino peers, according to one of the report’s authors, although in the two Massachusetts regions studied, the degree of segregation is roughly the same for both groups.

Overall, metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest dominated the rankings for the most segregated schools — the repercussions of segregated housing patterns and centuries-old practices of school districts run mostly by individual cities and towns, rather than by counties, the authors said.

That fragmented approach to public education has great consequences for black and Latino students, who often end up at schools with low achievement, less parental involvement, high rates of absenteeism, and low rates of graduation, according to the report. [They don't "end up" in such schools. Low achievement, less parental involvement, high rates of absenteeism, and low rates of graduation are what the students and their parents do, not what the school does]

In Massachusetts, for instance, all 35 schools the state has declared as underperforming are in urban centers with high black and Latino enrollment and high levels of poverty, while none of the schools are in the largely white suburban or rural towns.

“Many people [in the Northeast and Midwest] have the expectation they can buy into a good school district, entitling them to almost a private level of schooling,’’ said Nancy McArdle, a coauthor of the report, in a telephone interview. “It’s antithetical to the idea of public schools.’’

The report, which will be posted on, is being released amid a push by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s worst schools and to open more schools using innovative programs to close a stubborn achievement gap between students of different races, ethnicities, and income levels.

Much of that effort has focused on work between the nation’s cities and their respective state education agencies. But the report’s authors add another potential and often overlooked partner to that mix: suburban schools, and the resources they could offer.

Among the report’s recommendations: allow students in failing schools to transfer to higher-performing schools outside their communities; create a student-assignment system that encompasses multiple school districts; supplement existing school systems with regional schools that mix urban and suburban students; or expand voluntary desegregation programs such as Metco, which enables roughly 3,500 students in Boston and Springfield to attend suburban schools.Continued...

The authors also call on state and local leaders to build more affordable housing in the suburbs and reinvest in depressed city neighborhoods to create more demographically diverse communities.

Many of those ideas have the support of some prominent Massachusetts civil rights groups, which have been pushing Boston school officials for several months to consider these approaches as they look to overhaul the way they assign students to schools.

Laura Rotolo, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was disappointing that the Boston and Springfield areas ranked so poorly in the study, decades after the cities desegregated their schools and after various pushes by the state to build more affordable housing in the suburbs. “It just shows the work we need to do,’’ Rotolo said. “The schools are extremely segregated, and we have to do something to change that.’’

School districts across the nation have been confused about the extent to which they can use race as a factor in assigning students to schools. That’s because the US Supreme Court three years ago invalidated voluntary desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. The ruling suggested race could not be the basis for assigning students to schools, but civil rights activists have said race can still be one of several factors.

Boston schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson declined to comment on the report’s recommendations because she had not seen a copy of the report.

More broadly, though, Johnson said that creating more affordable housing is critical, as is continuing to improve urban schools. She noted that high-performing schools in the city, such as Boston Latin, have attracted suburban families to the city. “We certainly want to create integrated communities where students can learn to work with students from different backgrounds,’’ Johnson said.

A spokeswoman for Springfield schools also declined to comment on the report’s recommendations, but said the district is working aggressively to overhaul its schools.

The Northeastern report examined the distribution of students of different races, ethnicities, and income levels in elementary schools across large metropolitan areas, as defined by the federal government.

Areas were then judged on a scale from zero to 100, with the lowest number representing what the report called “no segregation’’ and the highest, “total segregation.’’ Anything above 60 was considered high.

The values represent the share of students of a particular demographic that would have to move to another school to achieve full integration, mirroring the demographic makeup of that metropolitan region.

Metro Boston, under the federal formula, encompasses much of Eastern Massachusetts and two counties in New Hampshire, creating a landscape where student enrollment is 67.4 percent white, 14.5 percent Latino, 9 percent black, and 6.8 percent Asian.

The Boston area scored 70 for Latino students and for black students. The Springfield area scored 73 for Latino students and 75 for black students.

McArdle said using metropolitan regions instead of individual school districts in the study provided “a better indication of the housing market people choose to live in.’’ “The city of Boston doesn’t function in isolation of itself,’’ said McArdle, who coauthored the report with Northeastern faculty Theresa Osypuk and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.

The report doesn’t offer specific examples of schools in a region to show the divergent demographic mixes. But according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the contrasts are stark.

For instance, at the John F. Kennedy School in Jamaica Plain, which the state declared underperforming this year, 80 percent of the students are Latino.

By contrast, General John Nixon Elementary School in Sudbury, where fifth-graders had the highest English MCAS scores last spring, 88 percent of students are white, according to enrollment data the districts reported to the state last fall.

Even within Boston, demographics can vary widely. Latino students account for 82 percent of enrollment at the William Blackstone School in the South End, while in South Boston, one neighborhood away, whites account for 62 percent of enrollment at the Oliver Hazard Perry School.

“Every parent wants the best for their children,’’ McArdle said. “It is very shortsighted to continue to isolate ourselves into specific communities and focus only on our own community and not look more broadly.’’


American education’s diminishing returns

American spending on public education, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled over the last three decades. What did taxpayers get for their money? The average math and reading scores of American 17-year-olds have not improved since the early 1970s according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend assessment.

Twice the money. Zero progress.

Yet students in other countries have been improving their test scores. The Program for International Student Assessment 2006 measured the math and science literacy of 15-year-olds in 29 countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The results? American students placed in the bottom quarter in math and in the bottom third in science.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "We are lagging the rest of the world, and we are lagging it in pretty substantial ways."

The current public education system is not preparing Americans to succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy. In the U.S., this will lead to growing unemployment rates, a decline in Gross Domestic Product, unsustainable levels of national debt, and reduced military capability.

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the single biggest threat to national security is the national debt. The estimated $600 billion in interest on the national debt in 2012 that American taxpayers will have to pay is "one year's worth of defense budget," Mullin said. He predicted that the defense budget will eventually be cut to facilitate the "wave of debt."

In addition to endangering the U.S.'s economic and national security, low educational attainment also imposes societal and personal costs. Societal costs include higher unemployment, higher crime, lower income tax revenues, and higher social welfare payments. Personal costs include lower lifetime earnings and life expectancy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, estimated lifetime earnings are about $1.2 million for high school graduates and $2.1 million for college graduates. Also, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that life expectancy increases when educational attainment increases.

Those who argue that the solution is more money for public schools have had three decades to test their theory. Increased spending has not led to improvement. American test scores have remained flat since the early 1970s even though per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, went from $4,489 in 1970-1971 to $10,041 in 2006-2007--an increase of 124 percent.

American per-pupil spending in 2006 was 41 percent higher than the OECD average of $7,283, and yet American students still placed in the bottom quarter in math and in the bottom third in science among OECD countries.

Clearly, increasing spending further is unlikely to improve test scores. "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" is how Einstein defined "insanity." So now that we know what doesn't work, what should we do?

Television reporter John Stossel argued in his ABC News special report "Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids" that the U.S. public education system is a government monopoly, and monopolies usually fail their customers. Stossel concluded that competition and choice can improve education just as it improves everything else.

Without the pressure to compete, monopolies have little incentive to serve customers better. When the U.S. Postal Service was a monopoly, it couldn't deliver packages overnight. But when it had to compete with FedEx and others, then suddenly it could deliver overnight. Competition spurs competitors to innovate and perform better.

Because attempts to achieve substantial reform within the current U.S. public education system have failed for decades, it's time to end the monopoly and develop alternative, competitive systems that give parents the freedom to choose the schools their kids attend regardless of where they live and how much money they make.

School choice empowers parents to remove their kids from failing schools and place them in successful schools. And it gradually forces public schools to improve or risk losing students to better schools.

Embracing policies that give families the freedom to choose the schools their kids attend would not require more money from taxpayers. Instead, it would require the improvement of resource allocation. For example, resources could be more effectively allocated by allowing parents to use their kids' share of public education funding to choose the best schools for their kids.

There is, of course, strong resistance to school choice from the defenders of the status quo in education whose livelihoods are threatened by alternatives that focus on the best interest of kids instead of adults. The preservation of self-interests is to be expected, but how is it affecting the nation?

America has barely been treading water in terms of domestic and international test scores for three decades despite the fact that spending on public education, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled.

Where will we be three decades from now?


Religion and education in Australia

By Jennifer Buckingham

Religious schools have been a major feature of the educational landscape in Australia since British settlement. The first schools in colonial New South Wales were Anglican schools. Despite fluctuating levels of political support and public funding, Catholic schools have survived in large numbers for close to 200 years.

At last count, 1.1 million children (out of a total school population of 3.4 million) were enrolled in non-government schools in Australia. More than 90% of these students were in religious schools.

Over the last two decades, enrolments in non-government schools continued to rise steadily. But more remarkable than the overall growth has been the diversification of religious schools in this period. While the traditional Christian religions remain dominant, their rate of growth has been outpaced by Islamic schools and schools associated with new Christian denominations.

Inevitably, this change in the nature of the non-government school sector has caused disquiet. Some people are worried about the potential negative effects of religious schools on children, such as lower standards of education and religious indoctrination. Others are concerned about the potential negative effects on society, such as social fragmentation and intolerance.

These are all important concerns, but there is little evidence that religious schools are the cause of any of the educational or social ills attributed to them.

Indeed, it is equally plausible to argue that religious schools are an essential part of a free, democratic and pluralist society. A public school system is necessarily secular and therefore cannot make everyone happy. Religious schools can act as an ‘escape valve.’ In the United States, for example, there have been dozens of conflicts between families and public schools over religious principles and that have ended up in court. The resolutions have invariably been unsatisfactory for all parties. In Australia, by contrast, most parents with a religious preference that cannot be accommodated in public schools have the option of choosing a religious school.

All schools should be expected to implement a high quality curriculum and engender in their students a commitment to the values that underpin a harmonious society. At present, there is no reason to believe that religious schools are falling short of these aims.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 17 September. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Students booted for giving teachers Krispy Kremes

Legal team explains principal wants 'Christian' acts halted

A New Mexico school principal who has demanded that a team of students cease their "Christian" acts has suspended three after they gave fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts with Bible verses to their teachers, according to a complaint from a legal team.

"Some teachers are worried about their students giving them bullets, and this school suspends students over a Bible verse," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "These students are living their Christian beliefs by showing kindness," he continued. "It is outrageous that the Roswell school officials are mean to these students solely because they are hostile to their Christian faith."

A WND request to the Roswell school district for comment did not generate a response. But according to Liberty Counsel, the action came from Principal Ruben Bolanos, who also was reported to have said he wanted the students to cease their "Christian" acts. "I don't like Christians. All they do is smile at you and then stab you in the back," the legal team's announcement reported the principal said.

The retaliation followed the outreach by the some 25 students who are members of a group called Relentless in Roswell. Liberty Counsel said the students wanted to express their appreciation for their teachers by giving them doughnuts that are not even routinely available in Roswell.

"Since the closest Krispy Kreme shop was in Texas, some of the group drove almost six hours round trip, stayed overnight, got up at 3:00 a.m., filled their car's back seat with fresh doughnuts and got back to school on time to deliver the doughnuts," Liberty Counsel explained.

"When the doughnuts were handed out, a Scripture verse was included," the explanation continued. "One student was immediately sent home and two others were forced to spend a Saturday morning sitting alone in the classroom for four hours as a punishment."

Pastor Troy Smothermon, of the Church on the Move, said, "Our motives were not rebellious. If they were, we would have just bought a box of doughnuts down the street. The whole purpose was to encourage those in the school. We are challenging the constitutionality, but our motive here was to love. Faith without works is dead. We want them to know that we love them and that Christ loves them."

The reaction to the doughnuts is not the first situation that has developed between the school and its students, Liberty Counsel said. There already is a lawsuit pending over the issue of freedom of religion after students distributed abstinence wristbands and plastic models of babies at 12 weeks gestation – to bring attention to the unborn, Liberty Counsel said.

The legal team said in the past, the same student organization has handed out sandwiches, hot chocolate and candy canes to members of the student body and faculty. They also have helped staff with the trash and fellow students with lunch trays, LC said. "They also distributed rocks with affirming words like 'U are wonderful' painted on one side and 'Psalm 139' on the other," the organization's report said.

Liberty Counsel said when the plastic babies were handed out school officials said, "It's time to shut this down. Some people are getting offended."

Yet it was that same morning, Liberty Counsel reported, that one student who had decided to commit suicide over a decision to abort got a model baby with the Scripture "You are fearfully and wonderfully made," and cried and prayed with the students and her life was saved, the report said.


More on the Sociopath Professors

“We are terrorizing ourselves.” So says Fawaz Gerges, professor at the London School of Economics. To him, someone who esteems himself capable of seeing beyond what ordinary mortals see by virtue of the powerful method of “deconstruction,” Americans’ fear of al Qaeda is based on the same kind of fear that motivated us in the 1950s. The “American imagination” has been “reshaped” since 9/11, claims the professor.

On CNN, talking to Fareed Zakaria, on the day after the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the professor concluded, “The terrorism of al Qaeda which no longer exists as . . . it used to be since the 1990s now has replaced the red scare.”

Thus do academics build on the historical lies about the “Red Scare.” See, there is no threat from al Qaeda or any Islamic terrorists, just as there was no threat from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

These are the lies that are told to students, who then grow up to, not surprisingly, question the threat of Islamic terrorism, some going so far as to become “9/11 truthers,” attributing the attack to the U.S. government.

I saw such lessons being dispensed in 2009 among hundreds of AP history teachers who, after a long day of grading exams, listened to a lecture by Professor Betty Dessants of Shippensburg University. Dessants was one of several historians brought in as part of the evening’s activities. She spoke on the Cold War. Her contribution to the historical research on this period was the theory that the ranch houses that became popular were built as a kind of defense mechanism against this largely imaginary threat.

The history teachers in the audience, for the most part, just nodded along. When I asked Professor Dessants how many people had died at the hands of communists she said she didn’t know.

This is the Howard Zinn school of history, a history of often unsubstantiated ephemera in the service of a grand theory—in Zinn’s case that the U.S. is rotten to the core because it is built on the murderous greed of capitalism. Thus the late history professor’s analysis of the Cold War from his bestseller, A People’s History of the United States:

“When, right after [World War II], the American public, war-weary, seemed to favor demobilization and disarmament, the Truman administration . . . worked to create an atmosphere of crisis and cold war. . . . The Truman administration . . . presented the Soviet Union as not just a rival but an immediate threat.

“In a series of moves abroad and at home, it established a climate of fear—a hysteria about Communism—which would steeply escalate the military budget and stimulate the economy with war-related orders.”

The bestseller status of this piece of propaganda results from the fact that many high school and college students are forced to use it as a textbook, albeit often as a “supplementary” text, as one former AP high school teacher told me.

But the denial of over 100 million deaths by communist regimes is a deliberate rewriting of history that has implications today. The people writing such histories ignore, deny, or minimize deaths of very real people.

Yet, like Zinn, they claim to speak for the “people.” But Zinn, who claimed that, among others, the Yugoslavian “people” welcomed communist rule certainly did not speak for my “people,” the Yugoslavs (specifically Slovenians) buried in unmarked pits for the crime of defending their homeland from communist invasion.

The hallmark of a sociopath is the ability to lie, and to, indeed, make one doubt reality. He will attribute justified fears to irrationality. “It’s all in your head,” he will say.

The sociopath likes to target the emotionally vulnerable and naïve. That’s why so many of the liars about history can be found in schools.

Many of today’s students are too young to remember 9/11. Their school lessons are full of injunctions against “intolerance” and “xenophobia”—fears that kept al Qaeda-inspired Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan on as an Army psychiatrist, in spite of evidence that he had the murderous intentions which he did carry out. Another guest on CNN on 9/12, former White House Homeland Security Advisor Richard Falkenrath, accused Florida pastor Terry Jones of “intolerance and xenophobia.” Former CIA official Bob Baer, worried that the “popular view” of “us against the Islamic world” is “verging on racism.” The language of the academy has entered our governmental institutions. Neither one of these men corrected Gerges’s claims about the “red scare.”

After claiming that 90 percent of al Qaeda members have been wiped out, Gerges came back to his grand theory: “Yet, when I come back to the state of mind, how do you deconstruct a state of mind that basically we, as Americans, we constantly believe we are under imminent threat?”

After saying “We are terrorizing ourselves,” Gerges indeed did reveal his own complicity in the strategy of the jihadists: “The strategy has been to embroil the United States in a greater clash, a big front with the Muslim world, to create a clash of civilization.” Indeed, Professor.


Money is not what schools need

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: "Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone ... ."

Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years? Give me a break!

Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That's a fraction of 1 percent in each case.

Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year's allocation. But that's not what bureaucrats mean.

"They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year's spending," Coulson writes. "What they're doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having."

So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. "Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars)," Coulson says.

Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions.

It was on the basis of this fear and ignorance that President Obama got Congress to pass a "stimulus" bill this summer that included $10 billion for school districts. The money is needed desperately to save teachers from layoffs, the bill's advocates said. We must do it for the children!

When you look at the facts, the scam is clear. "Over the past 40 years," Coulson writes, "public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment. There are 9 percent more students today, but nearly twice as many public school employees."

But isn't it just common sense that schools would be better if they had more money? As a wise man said, it's not what we don't know that gets us into trouble; it's what we know that isn't so.

Consider the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, Calif. It was once a failing school, but now it's one of the best in California. Ben Chavis turned it around without any additional money. His book, "Crazy Like a Fox," tells how.

Chavis' experience exposes the school establishment's lies for what they are. Nearly all of Chavis' students are considered economically disadvantaged (98 percent qualify for free lunches), yet they have the fourth-highest test scores of any school in the state.

"In Oakland this year, on the AP (advanced placement) exam, we had 100 percent of all the blacks and Mexicans in the city of Oakland who passed AP calculus," Chavis said. "There are four high schools, and we're the only ones who had anyone pass AP calc."

Yet Chavis accomplishes this without the "certified" teachers so revered by the educational establishment. His classes are as big as, and sometimes bigger than, public school classes, but only a quarter of his teachers are certified by the state.

Money, he insists, is not the answer. "My buildings are shacks compared to their schools, but my schools are clean, and we'll kick all their asses."

He scoffs at the establishment's solutions to the education problem, such as teacher evaluations.

"I don't do no teacher evaluations. All I do is go into a class, and if the kids ain't working, your ass is fired. (Most principals) sit for hours and say, 'Is he meeting this goal, is he meeting' -- I just go to class, and if the kids are not working ..."

It's time we threw out the "experts" and exposed the schools to real competition by people with common sense.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Qualifications chief attacks 'diseased' British exams system

The article below blames the British system of competing exam providers for a race to the bottom but ignores the pressure from the former Labor government to maximize pass rates at all costs. If government had stressed quality rather than quantity, the boards would have competed in that arena

Schoolchildren are being short-changed by a “corrupt” examinations system, according to a former Government advisor. The creation of multiple exam boards is fuelling unhealthy competition between providers as they effectively make their tests easier to win business from schools, it was claimed.

Mick Waters, a former official at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, suggested that it was in examiners' interests to help pupils pass to make a profit. The claims are made in a new book – Reinventing Schools, Reforming Teaching – which charts how the education system has been undermined by political and commercial pressures.

Mr Waters, who quit as the QCA’s director of curriculum last year, told researchers: “The system is diseased, almost corrupt. We've got a set of exam bodies who are in a market place.... I've seen people from awarding bodies talk to head teachers implying that their examinations are easier. “Not only that, they provide the text book to help you through it.”

Currently, Britain has multiple examination boards that sell course syllabuses and exam papers to individual schools. Head teachers can choose which syllabuses to follow in qualifications such as A-levels and GCSEs. In many cases, examiners write text books linked to the test syllabus and provide pointers to help teachers maximise pupils’ results.

Although they are vetted by Ofqual, the exams regulator, critics claim that unhealthy competition between boards distorts the education system, with schools opting for tests that produce the highest grades. In the book, Mr Waters accused chief examiners of “insider trading”.

John Bangs, visiting professor at London University’s Institute of Education, and one of the book’s authors, said examiners wrote the “textbooks, as well as the questions, and Ofqual does not have the nerve to regulate them”. “It's a great problem,” he said. “This is a major finding.” He called for the creation of a single examination board. [He would]

Prof Maurice Galton, from Cambridge University, who co-authored the book, said: “If I'm at a board and I've got less people getting As than another board, I'm going to bump my As up because otherwise the schools will look at it and think 'I'll use this board, it's easier to get any A'.”


Australia's absurd new school buildings. A "revolution" all right: A great leap backwards

The Leftist Federal program that produced these absurdities was called "Building the Education Revolution" but the $600,000 school tuckshops are 'unusable'. A big price for a tiny building. You could build two family homes for the same price

SMALL canteens constructed under the federal government's Building the Education Revolution program encourage the provision of pre-packed heat-and-serve food. Critics of the canteens, which are about 24 square metres and cost up to $600,000, say they lack the space needed to prepare fresh food.

The Healthy Kids Association general manager, Jo Gardner, described the buildings as unsuitable for producing healthy food on a mass scale. "The standards being implemented by the state Department of Education and Training in new and refurbished canteens are grossly inadequate," she said.

"They do not meet opportunities for schools to efficiently and effectively deliver fresh food - they have inadequate bench space; they don't have wash-up sinks that are of a commercial nature. The push is very heat-and-serve."

The department has agreed to extend the new canteen being built at Tottenham Central School near Dubbo after parents complained it was unusable.

"The biggest problem with the design is that the preparation space is minimal," the school's Parents and Citizens' Association president, Rick Bennett, said. "The bench space is OK if you are serving pre-packed food like pies and sausage rolls where there is no preparation. But as soon as you need to prepare something like a salad box you're in trouble because of the lack of space."

He also said the lack of serving space meant children would spend most of their lunch hour in the queue rather than running around. "The kids only have a small amount of time for their lunch," he said. "You want as many people serving in the canteens as possible so the kids don't spend their entire lunch break standing in a line waiting to be served. By the time they have eaten, there is no time for them to run around and play."

An Education Department spokesman said the canteens were in line with the department's schools facilities standards.

But Louise Appel, secretary of the Parents and Citizens' Association at Orange Grove Public School, which received the same canteen, said the design was flawed. "They told us that this was the standard design and I would say, 'But read my lips - there is no bench space,' " Ms Appel said. "What sort of standard design for a canteen has no food preparation space?"

The canteen at Orange Grove, in Sydney's inner-west, has also undergone alterations to create more bench space.


How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others

When college presidents and academic administrators pay their usual obeisance to "diversity" you know they are talking first and foremost about race. More specifically, they are talking about blacks. A diverse college campus is understood as one that has a student body that -- at a minimum -- is 5 to 7 percent black (i.e., equivalent to roughly half the proportion of blacks in the general population). A college or university that is only one, two, or three percent black would not be considered "diverse" by college administrators regardless of how demographically diverse its student body might be in other ways.

The blacks in question need not be African Americans -- indeed at many of the most competitive colleges today, including many Ivy League schools, an estimated 40-50 percent of those categorized as black are Afro-Caribbean or African immigrants, or the children of such immigrants.

As a secondary meaning "diversity" can also encompass Hispanics, who together with blacks are often subsumed by college administrators and admissions officers under the single race category "underrepresented minorities." Most colleges and universities seeking "diversity" seek a similar proportion of Hispanics in their student body as blacks (since blacks and Hispanics are about equal in number in the general population), though meeting the black diversity goal usually has a much higher priority than meeting the Hispanic one.

Asians, unlike blacks and Hispanics, receive no boost in admissions. Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as the quota-like mentality that leads college administrators to conclude they may have "too many" Asians. Despite the much lower number of Asians in the general high-school population, high-achieving Asian students -- those, for instance, with SAT scores in the high 700s -- are much more numerous than comparably high-achieving blacks and Hispanics, often by a factor of ten or more.

Thinking as they do in racial balancing and racial quota terms, college admissions officers at the most competitive institutions almost always set the bar for admitting Asians far above that for Hispanics and even farther above that for admitting blacks.

"Diversity" came to be so closely associated with race in the wake of the Supreme Court's Bakke decision in 1978. In his decisive opinion, Justice Lewis Powell rejected arguments for racial preferences based on generalized "societal discrimination," social justice, or the contemporary needs of American society as insufficiently weighty to overrule the color-blind imperative of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. That imperative, however, could be overruled, Powell said, by a university's legitimate concern for the educational benefits of a demographically diverse student body.

Virtually all competitive colleges after Bakke continued with their racial preference policies ("affirmative action"), though after Powell's decision they had to cloak their true meaning and purpose behind a misleading or dishonest rhetoric of "diversity."

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a critic of racial preferences, accurately explains the situation: "The raison d'etre for race-specific affirmative action programs," Dershowitz writes, "has simply never been diversity for the sake of education. The checkered history of 'diversity' demonstrates that it was designed largely as a cover to achieve other legally, morally, and politically controversial goals. In recent years, it has been invoked -- especially in the professional schools -- as a clever post facto justification for increasing the number of minority group students in the student body."

While almost all college administrators and college admissions officers at the most elite institutions think in racial balancing and racial quota-like terms when they assemble their student body, they almost always deny this publically in a blizzard of rhetoric about a more far-flung "diversity." Indeed, there is probably no other area where college administrators are more likely to lie or conceal the truth of what they are doing than in the area of admissions and race.

Most elite universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to the numbers of born-again Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and small-town areas, people who have served in the U.S. military, those who have grown up on farms or ranches, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, lower-middle-class Catholics, working class "white ethnics," social and political conservatives, wheelchair users, married students, married students with children, or older students first starting out in college after raising children or spending several years in the workforce.

Students in these categories are often very rare at the more competitive colleges, especially the Ivy League. While these kinds of people would surely add to the diverse viewpoints and life-experiences represented on college campuses, in practice "diversity" on campus is largely a code word for the presence of a substantial proportion of those in the "underrepresented" racial minority groups.

The Diversity Colleges Want

A new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford is a real eye-opener in revealing just what sorts of students highly competitive colleges want -- or don't want -- on their campuses and how they structure their admissions policies to get the kind of "diversity" they seek. The Espenshade/Radford study draws from a new data set, the National Study of College Experience (NSCE), which was gathered from eight highly competitive public and private colleges and universities (entering freshmen SAT scores: 1360). Data was collected on over 245,000 applicants from three separate application years, and over 9,000 enrolled students filled out extensive questionnaires.

Because of confidentiality agreements Espenshade and Radford could not name the institutions but they assure us that their statistical profile shows they fit nicely within the top 50 colleges and universities listed in the U.S. News & World Report ratings.

Consistent with other studies, though in much greater detail, Espenshade and Radford show the substantial admissions boost, particularly at the private colleges in their study, which Hispanic students get over whites, and the enormous advantage over whites given to blacks.

They also show how Asians must do substantially better than whites in order to reap the same probabilities of acceptance to these same highly competitive private colleges. On an "other things equal basis," where adjustments are made for a variety of background factors, being Hispanic conferred an admissions boost over being white (for those who applied in 1997) equivalent to 130 SAT points (out of 1600), while being black rather than white conferred a 310 SAT point advantage. Asians, however, suffered an admissions penalty compared to whites equivalent to 140 SAT points.

The box students checked off on the racial question on their application was thus shown to have an extraordinary effect on a student's chances of gaining admission to the highly competitive private schools in the NSCE database. To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.

Here the Espenshade/Radford results are consistent with other studies, including those of William Bowen and Derek Bok in their book The Shape of the River, though they go beyond this influential study in showing both the substantial Hispanic admissions advantage and the huge admissions penalty suffered by Asian applicants. Although all highly competitive colleges and universities will deny that they have racial quotas -- either minimum quotas or ceiling quotas -- the huge boosts they give to the lower-achieving black and Hispanic applicants, and the admissions penalties they extract from their higher-achieving Asian applicants, clearly suggest otherwise.

Espenshade and Radford also take up very thoroughly the question of "class based preferences" and what they find clearly shows a general disregard for improving the admission chances of poor and otherwise disadvantaged whites.

Other studies, including a 2005 analysis of nineteen highly selective public and private universities by William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil, and Eugene Tobin, in their 2003 book, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, found very little if any advantage in the admissions process accorded to whites from economically or educationally disadvantaged families compared to whites from wealthier or better educated homes.

Espenshade and Radford cite this study and summarize it as follows: "These researchers find that, for non-minority [i.e., white] applicants with the same SAT scores, there is no perceptible difference in admission chances between applicants from families in the bottom income quartile, applicants who would be the first in their families to attend college, and all other (non-minority) applicants from families at higher levels of socioeconomic status. When controls are added for other student and institutional characteristics, these authors find that, on an other-things-equal basis, [white] applicants from low-SES backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, get essentially no break in the admissions process; they fare neither better nor worse than other [white] applicants."

Distressing as many might consider this to be -- since the same institutions that give no special consideration to poor white applicants boast about their commitment to "diversity" and give enormous admissions breaks to blacks, even to those from relatively affluent homes -- Espenshade and Radford in their survey found the actual situation to be much more troubling.

At the private institutions in their study, whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers.

When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability). Having money in the family greatly improved a white applicant's admissions chances, lack of money greatly reduced it. The opposite class trend was seen among non-whites, where the poorer the applicant the greater the probability of acceptance when all other factors are taken into account. Class-based affirmative action does exist within the three non-white ethno-racial groupings, but among the whites the groups advanced are those with money.

When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.

Some of the private colleges Espenshade and Radford describe would do well to come clean with their act and admit the truth: "Poor Whites Need Not Apply!"

Besides the bias against lower-class whites, the private colleges in the Espenshade/Radford study seem to display what might be called an urban/Blue State bias against rural and Red State occupations and values. This is most clearly shown in a little remarked statistic in the study's treatment of the admissions advantage of participation in various high school extra-curricular activities. In the competitive private schools surveyed participation in many types of extra-curricular activities -- including community service activities, performing arts activities, and "cultural diversity" activities -- conferred a substantial improvement in an applicant's chances of admission.

But what Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call "career-oriented activities" was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis.

The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."