Saturday, November 13, 2010

More bright-eyed optimism that ignores IQ

And is hence doomed to fail. He fails to ask WHY middle class parents talk more. It's because they have higher IQs and the strongest correlate of IQ is verbal ability. It is their inherited higher IQ that causes middle class children to do better generally, not the side effect of hearing more talk

BRITAIN'S Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has come up with an initiative that might just break the self-perpetuating cycle of educational disadvantage.

A few weeks ago he announced that the government would be setting aside pound stg. 7 billion ($11.3bn) during the course of the current parliament for a program called the pupil premium. Most of it will be spent on free nursery-level education for Britain's poorest children.

The aim is to narrow in the early years the vocabulary gap between the disadvantaged young and everyone else. As Clegg put it: "Children from poor homes hear 616 words spoken an hour on average, compared to 2153 words an hour in richer homes. By the age of three, that amounts to a cumulative gap of 30 million words."

The breadth of vocabulary that middle-class infants are exposed to has long been recognised as a significant factor in preparing them for success at school.

It's not just the sheer number of words or being familiar with an abundance of synonyms. A lot of our history, cultural assumptions and sense of humour are embedded in the mother tongue and can be almost effortlessly assimilated. A broad vocabulary emboldens young minds to extrapolate from the known to new, unfamiliar words and get a sense of what they mean. As well, it introduces the mind to niceties of distinction: for example, the difference between being "pleased", "not displeased" and "not best pleased" (which, for the benefit of younger readers, is a way of saying "not pleased at all").

There is a growing consensus that the most effective way to improve educational outcomes is by concentrating money and attention on the nursery. Recent research into child development at the University of London by Leon Feinstein found that the size of a child's vocabulary at 22 months is a reliable indicator of subsequent performance at school.

Middle-class kids probably aren't any brighter on average than their poorer age-mates Utter rubbish. Herrnstein & Murray exploded that optimism long ago], but their infant minds have usually been more assiduously stimulated when it matters most, early on.

The Spectator's Toby Young is a doting father who, as a columnist, takes a great interest in educational reform. In a recent piece, "Baby talk can close the attainment gap", he reflects in the light of his experience on a campaign just launched in Britain by the National Literacy Trust called Talk to Your Baby.

"You'd be forgiven for thinking it was dreamt up by a Notting Hill yummy mummy . . . It sounds absolutely barmy, the parenting equivalent of talking to plants, but in fact there's plenty of evidence to suggest that talking to children under three has an almost magical effect on their cognitive development and transforms them into more intelligent adults."

Young cites a study by a group of Harvard economists who found that children who've had a good nursery education earn, on average, $20 a week more than their peers by the time they're 27. Apparently that holds true even allowing for all the other usual factors, including social and economic status and the quality of their subsequent schooling.

Coming at the question from the other end, he cites a book by two educationalists at the University of Durham. One of their main findings is that the attainment of middle-class children doesn't vary much according to what school they attend. Generally they tend to do well even in poorly performing schools [Because they have higher IQs]. In a nutshell, a language-rich preschool environment and a domestic setting to match it can inoculate kids against the damage that substandard schools do to their classmates.

Young offers some rather endearing anecdotal evidence. "When my daughter Sasha was around six months old I read her Pride and Prejudice. Sounds pretentious and it is, but that's one of the advantages middle-class children enjoy over working-class children: their parents are willing to risk appearing pretentious if they believe their behaviour will secure their offspring a competitive advantage. And it worked.

"I have a video of Sasha scoring 100 out of 100 in a flash card test before her first birthday. By contrast, I read all three of her brothers Peepo! and none of them started talking until they were two."

Although reading Jane Austen to babes in arms might be taking things a bit far, the first books my generation's parents read us were often quite demanding and designed to captivate the reader as much as the child. I'm thinking of Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, The Magic Pudding, the nonsense verse of Ogden Nash and Oscar Wilde's volume of fairy stories. Each of those books has hidden depths and unsettling interludes where things are not as they seem. Each might serve as an introduction to irony.

Young's other point about the role of parental pushiness in securing a competitive advantage for their children is an important one. I noticed it early on, growing up on the raffish outskirts of Bellevue Hill in Sydney.

A lot of the neighbouring blocks of flats were occupied by Jewish immigrants from central Europe and I played and went to primary school with their children. There was scarcely a boy among them who had not settled on a choice of profession, with a modicum of parental nudging, by the time he was six.

Although my parents were people of cultured tastes and ambitious for their only child, my mother's teenage career on John Dease's The Quiz Kids program had given her an aversion to precocious infants and she flatly refused to teach me to read before I went to school. Long before I was literate, most of my playmates could read a little English, speak Yiddish and perhaps another European language, and were beginning Hebrew lessons.

As well, willy-nilly, most learned a musical instrument. While some of them complained of a pressure-cooker existence - and left me feeling like a cheerful underachiever - they had a head start in life that most parents now can only dream about.

My last four columns and this week's have all concentrated on what constitutes a great education and why so few of the rising generation have access to one. I fear it has been rather bleak reading for the most part, which is why I'm ending on a positive note.

Very early intervention to break the cycle of educational disadvantage holds out far more hope - especially for Aboriginal infants and the children of what used to be called the lumpenproletariat - than the public system ever has. It ought to be high on the productivity agendas of both the main parties.


Closing the Doors to Opportunity

The Obama administration thinks it knows best how to run health care, the banks, and the auto industry, so why not post-secondary education? And the best way to do so in Obamaland is to limit choice, which is exactly what the Department of Education has proposed in new rules affecting student loans.

The ostensible reason for the new "gainful employment" regulations is to curtail predatory practices by fly-by-night, for-profit trade schools that promise lucrative careers but deliver shoddy training. But the way in which the administration is going about solving the problem will cause more harm than good.

In hearings last month, the department heard from both opponents and proponents of the new rules, which would limit access to federally guaranteed loans by institutions whose graduates would end up with higher debts relative to earnings, as calculated by the Department of Education. Under the plan, students would not be allowed to use federal student loans to attend programs whose cost the administration calculates will require more than 8 percent of their estimated future yearly income to repay. And the department would limit eligibility for students to use federal loans at for-profit schools if 65 percent of the former students at those schools had failed to repay the loans in what the government considered a timely manner.

It is the kind of micro-managing and social engineering that the administration favors when it comes to problem-solving in every arena. Whatever the issue, the Obama-ites believe they know better than everyone else what is good for people. In this instance, the group most affected will be non-traditional students, minorities, immigrants and older, returning students who are already in the workforce. And the administration's target is for-profit schools, which the Ivy League graduates in the West Wing clearly disdain.

Many non-traditional students choose for-profit schools to learn a trade rather than attending liberal arts or even community colleges. These schools form an important niche in our post-secondary education system, one, ironically, that has become more important as secondary education has virtually eliminated vocational training as part of its mission. In a world in which we pretend that every high school student is college material, many kids graduate with no academic future and too few skills to earn a living at a trade.

The Obama administration recognizes the problem -- but their solution is to invest in nonprofit community colleges while at the same time demonizing for-profit schools that may offer a better alternative for many students. For-profit schools allow students to choose programs that focus on concrete job skills that also fit their lifestyle, offering online or evening courses or those that don't require attendance over a traditional school year to complete.

Students themselves should be the best judge of whether these programs are worth the investment -- not the federal government. But instead of applying market principles to test success or failure, the Obama administration proposes to gauge the programs' value by how quickly students repay their loans to the government.

The effect will be that many students who need federal loans in order to enroll in programs that will boost their skills and employability will now be restricted in the choices available to them. If a student wants to learn how to repair automobiles -- which, with the proliferation of computer-based systems in most new cars, requires far higher skill levels than in the past -- they'll be out of luck unless their local community college offers the course and at a convenient time. The same holds true for acquiring software and networking skills, learning dental hygiene or medical technology, much less becoming a chef. Indeed, few community colleges offer the breadth and scope of training available in for-profit schools.

The administration should be making it easier, not more difficult, for Americans to receive the training they need and want. And they should let Americans decide for themselves which programs best serve their needs. Instead, they're closing doors to opportunity for those students most in need.


Scandal of the £2.3m golden goodbyes given to incompetent British teachers

Incompetent teachers have been handed more than £2.3million in 'golden goodbyes' over the last five years, new figures have shown. Many councils have paid tens of thousands of pounds to ensure poorly-performing teachers quit their jobs but few staff have been fired outright for incompetence, an investigation revealed.

Just 273 teachers have lost their jobs in England due to concerns about their performance since 2005, according to an analysis by the Times Educational Supplement. Only 14 have been struck off the teaching register - barred from working in classrooms - in nearly a decade.

The analysis also shows how the chance of a pupil facing a poor-performing teacher is a postcode lottery due to wide variations in practice across the country. In 72 local authorities - almost half the total - not a single teacher was fired for incompetence in the last five years.

The revelations come 15 years after the then Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead made his incendiary claim that 15,000 teachers were incompetent. Commenting on the new findings, Professor Woodhead, of Buckingham University, said: 'This is a tiny percentage of the total workforce. 'It confirms, moreover, what we all know: incompetence pays.

'Incompetent teachers damage children's learning and the reputation of the teaching profession. 'When are those responsible going to face up to the problem?'

The TES figures, obtained from 123 out of 152 English councils under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 3,253 teachers had been through school competency proceedings due to concerns about their performance in the past five years.

The process involves teachers being monitored closely as they seek to reach targets for improved performance and can result in dismissal.

While some areas put hundreds of teachers through competency procedures over the last five years, such as West Sussex, with 385, some areas, including Hampshire and Somerset, subjected just one to the disciplinary process. Across the country, 273 teachers were fired from their jobs or accepted severance pay and left. A further 550 resigned.

The fate of the other teachers subjected to competency proceedings is unclear. Some improved their performance or retired, while others simply moved schools, including to the independent sector.

One manager at a school in Herefordshire, who saw four teachers through the competency process, said: 'Three of these obtained jobs at private independent schools - which would be better suited to their teaching methods - and one at a further education college.'

The figures also showed that 38 local authorities paid out a total of £2.33million in severance pay and compromise agreements to teachers put on competency procedures. The biggest spender emerged as Darlington, which paid out £196,400. Six other councils - Warrington, Suffolk, Cumbria, Cornwall, Manchester and Worcestershire - each paid out more than £100,000.

In contrast, some councils said they had a policy of not paying out to those accused of incompetence.

Ministers are understood to be drawing up plans to overhaul the system for dealing with poorly-performing teachers.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the system should be overhauled so incompetent teachers can be fired within eight weeks. 'I don't think there is a massive group of dire teachers out there, but there are people who should not be teaching and they should be dealt with as quickly as possible,' he said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, insisted the competency process was being abused. 'Heads are using it as a blunt instrument for inappropriate reasons,' she said. 'We get many reports that it's just an excuse for bullying.'

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: 'The vast majority of teachers in our schools are highly competent professionals who are committed to providing a good education for our children. 'But where teachers do not meet the standards expected, it is important that heads have the freedoms they need to tackle under-performance.'


Friday, November 12, 2010

Survey: One in 10 US children has ADHD

This is about the percentage of kids who have always been "naughty". They were once effectively socialized by corporal punishment instead of being drugged to the eyeballs with drugs that are illegal for adults. The news below is simply news about the breakdown of discipline

A government survey says 1 in 10 US children has ADHD, a sizable increase from a few years earlier that researchers think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior. It’s often treated with drugs, behavioral therapy, or both.

The new study found that about two-thirds of the children who have ADHD are on medication. The estimate comes from a survey released yesterday that found an increase in ADHD of about 22 percent from 2003 to the most recent survey, in 2007-08. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interviewed parents of children ages 4 through 17 in both studies.

In the latest survey, 9.5 percent said a doctor or health care provider had told them their child had ADHD.

Researchers calculate that about 5.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD, which suggests that about 1 million more children have the disorder than a few years earlier.

Scientists don’t have clear answers about why there was such a significant increase. The study’s lead author, Susanna Visser of the CDC, suggests greater awareness and stepped-up screening efforts are part of the explanation.

One specialist found it hard to believe that so many children might have ADHD. “It sounds a little high,’’ said Howard Abikoff, director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University’s Child Study Center.


Muslim students' female-only swim at GWU makes waves

Colleges strive to create welcoming, inclusive communities for students from every background. But a new effort at George Washington University has scores of critics and supporters abuzz with heated comments that continue to pour in on various blogs and news articles.

At the request of the university's Muslim Students' Association, George Washington began offering a once-weekly, female-only swim hour in March. But it only recently turned into an online debate over issues of religious and sexual discrimination and - though not always explicitly - racism, spurred by an article in the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

The Lerner Health and Wellness Center pool closes to men for one of the 20 hours it's open each week, with a tarp blocking the view through the glass door and a female lifeguard on duty. The university declined to comment for this article beyond a two-sentence statement that said its officials are reviewing the closure while they establish a formal recreational swim policy.

A few highlights from Internet comments on The Washington Post's and TBD's recent coverage of the swim hour: "Should a minuscule minority force the overwhelming majority [to] abide by their rules or should it be the other way around?" "Western society should not accommodate to Islam on this point; it is Islam that should change."

And in rebuttal: "Come on, folks. An hour a week - what's the big deal?" "It's not an unreasonable request. 'Women' is like half the population."

Many comments not quoted here could easily be considered racially offensive.

Despite the naysayers, Sisters' Splash, as it's called, is not the only special accommodation that a college has made for Muslim students. George Washington already has foot baths for pre-prayer rituals, and a handful of other institutions - including the University of Michigan-Dearborn and George Mason University - have them as well. In 2008, at the request of female Muslim students, Harvard University ran a one-semester pilot program that reserved six hours a week for female students only at one of its lesser-used gyms, though the program was discontinued after that semester. There's also Gamma Gamma Chi Sorority Inc., an Islamic-based sorority that has five regional chapters, though not all are active.

Shelley Mountjoy, a doctoral student at George Mason who briefly attended George Washington as an undergraduate, doesn't much care what goes on at private colleges. But she takes issue with the foot baths at George Mason and with other religious accommodations at public universities. She is afraid that policies like the female-only swim hour will have a domino effect and spread to other colleges. "I don't want my tuition dollars paying to accommodate somebody's religion," she said. "It's not the entire campus's religion. We don't all have to subscribe to Islamic law."

Because George Washington is a private university, there are no constitutional issues with the swim hour, said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Should a similar program start up at a public university, the presence of church-state issues would depend on the many facts of the situation, such as whether access is religion-specific, Khan said.

Mountjoy, who serves on the boards of Atheist Alliance International and the national Secular Student Alliance, is also the founder and president of the Secular Student Alliance chapter at George Mason. She said that although some criticism of the swim hour and other services might stem from a bias against Muslim people, she takes issue with any type of religious accommodation. "I actually think that it's in everybody's best interest to keep religion out of our public schools," she said. "I would react the same if this was a Christian-only swimming hour."

Students say the criticism is mostly coming from off-campus. Shaeera Tariq, a sophomore at George Washington and vice president of the Muslim Students' Association, helped initiate the swim hour. She said nobody really knew about it until the Hatchet article came out - and as it happens, she is a reporter at the paper and she pitched the article to her editor. "It definitely sparked a lot of debate amongst people, but it seems to me there is a definite positive sentiment on campus and people are in favor of it," she said. "We're not closing down the mall or something for an hour. We're just closing down a pool that wasn't used very often in the first place."

John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor and founding director of Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, said many of the negative reactions undoubtedly stem from an "Islamophobia."

"It's very clear that there's a good chance many of them have a real problem accepting Muslims or Islam, and we've got to deal with that. In a pluralistic society, that form of bigotry and racism - we've dealt with it before and we've got to deal with it now," Esposito said, referring to civil rights struggles. "It seems to me this is a perfectly understandable thing that we should be doing. All of these members of the community pay tuition and so faculty and administrators have to always be open to responding to and accommodating the needs of people."

Esposito cited numerous other ways institutions serve different groups: parking for people with disabilities, campus chapels for various religions, and excusing attendance for students celebrating religious holidays other than the traditionally recognized Christmas or Easter. "If there's a segment of the community that can benefit from an accommodation, you make it when you can," he said. "The fact is, they have rights and you have to accept it."

Zahin Hasan, president of the Muslim Students' Association, said the number of women - Muslim and non-Muslim - who attend the swim hour varies. But the point is that the college is serving more students, better. "What I can't understand is how utilizing an underused service, such as a gym pool, is a bad thing," Hasan said in an e-mail. "Very few people know about the pool, and even fewer use it. The benefits of Sisters' Splash far outweigh the few inconveniences it may present." But, he added, a "great majority" of George Washington students have shown support for the swim hour.

According to a 2005 Gallup report, gender inequality is one of American women's top concerns about "the Muslim or Islamic world." (Notably, many Muslim women perceive the promiscuity, pornography and public indecency portrayed in Hollywood images as mistreatment of women in the Western world, the report says.) It's an issue that is mentioned frequently in online comments about the swim hour. One person wrote, "If Muslim women are too modest to wear ordinary swimsuits when they swim, then maybe they should stop swimming and go see a psychiatrist. Teaching sexual repression is wrong; making women feel that they are bad and wicked merely for having female bodies is wrong." Another wrote, "If because of religious convictions they chose not to exercise that freedom, the rest of society should not validate it by accommodating it."

But the swim hour's proponents - and there seem to be many - point out that about half of the student population can participate. And accusations of racism are not difficult to come by. "We've seen a number of these kinds of programs around the country. I think it goes way beyond Muslim women; I think there are enough women who would be more comfortable swimming in a same-sex environment that it would be of interest to women of all faiths in America," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "There is a cottage industry of Muslim-bashers that look for any opportunity to marginalize American Muslims or to demonize Islam, and any denomination of Islam in our society is going to be targeted by these people."

There is more to the issue than religion, though. Erin E. Buzuvis, an associate professor of law at Western New England College and co-founder and contributor to The Title IX Blog, said it's unclear whether barring men from the pool constitutes a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law requiring gender equity in educational programs at federally funded schools and colleges. Men can still swim 95% of the time, so they're not completely excluded. And if the program's purpose is to accommodate a religious group, rather than women in general, that could work in the university's favor.

"The university might have a plausible defense that while this would technically be a form of gender discrimination, that they're doing it to accommodate a student's religion," Buzuvis said. "If that weren't an issue, I would say a female-only swim hour would be highly questionable under Title IX."


British tuition fee protests: lecturers back 'magnificent' student rioters

Pretty much as expected from the many far-Leftists -- often Trotskyites -- teaching at British universities

Lecturers at one of the country's leading universities were roundly condemned last night for praising students who rioted at Conservative Party headquarters. Academics at Goldsmiths, University of London, justified the violence by saying it had brought the tuition fees row "media attention across the world".

In a statement branded "irresponsible" by Downing Street, they said they wished to "congratulate staff and students on the magnificent anti-cuts demonstration". It was signed by John Wadsworth, the president of Goldsmiths lecturers' union, and its secretary Des Freedman, a lecturer in communications and cultural studies.

It also emerged that a lecturer from the University of Sussex who was among the protestors is a prominent member of the left-wing socialist group Revolution, which began planning "direct action" weeks ago. Luke Cooper, 26, an assistant tutor in international relations, described Government buildings as "legitimate targets for protest and occupation".

Fifty people who were arrested during Wednesday's riot on Millbank, near the Houses of Parliament, were released on police bail yesterday as officers began the lengthy process of identifying offenders from CCTV and television news footage.

David Cameron called for the "full force of the law" to be brought to bear on hooligans who left 41 police officers injured and smashed up three floors of the building that houses the Tory Party office. Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, called for an attempted murder charge to be brought against a protestor who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of the building, injuring two officers who he said could have been killed.

But the lecturers from Goldsmiths made no reference to the injuries suffered by police and some students as they gave the protest a glowing report. "Yesterday was a really good natured but equally angry demonstration against the damage that the coalition is doing to higher education," their statement said. "Yes, that got out of hand, but yes, it also got media attention across the world."

The National Union of Students and the academics' body the University and College Union, who organised the 52,000-strong march through London, described the violence at Millbank as "deplorable" and "despicable".

But the Goldsmiths lecturers dismissed the criticism, saying: "We wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ. "The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased."

David Davies, a Conservative MP who is also a special constable, described the statement as "absolutely disgraceful". He said: "Anyone with views like that should not be in a position to educate young people. There needs to be a full investigation."

James Haywood, communication and campaigns officer for Goldsmiths students' union, was one of five of the college's students arrested at the scene after occupying the roof. He said: "I have no regrets. The occupation of Tory HQ was completely justified."

David Graeber, an anthropology lecturer at Goldsmiths who was among the protestors, said he was "very proud" of the students, adding: "They are going to represent us as thugs but really they are the thugs and we are representing civilisation."

Mr Cooper denied being one of the ringleaders of the attack on Millbank, but said: "We want to send a really strong message to this Government that we are not going to let higher education be brutalised. "There are a number of different Government buildings in that part of London and all of them would have been legitimate targets for protest and occupation. There was a lot of anger. There has always been the plan action after the NUS demo."

Nick Herbert, the minister for policing, told Parliament the Met would "learn lessons" from its failure to station enough officers along the route of the march, which enabled rioters to storm Tory HQ virtually unopposed.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why are America's institutions of higher learning so fearful of debate?

John Stossel

This week, I held a bake sale -- a racist bake sale. I stood in midtown Manhattan shouting, "Cupcakes for sale." My price list read:

Asians -- $1.50

Whites -- $1.00

Blacks/Latinos -- 50 cents

People stared. One yelled, "What is funny to you about people who are less privileged?" A black woman said, angrily, "It's very offensive, very demeaning!" One black man accused me of poisoning the cupcakes.

I understand why people got angry. What I did was hurtful to some. My bake sale mimicked what some conservative college students did at Bucknell University. The students wanted to satirize their school's affirmative action policy, which makes it easier for blacks and Hispanics to get admitted.

I think affirmative action is racism -- and therefore wrong. If a private school like Bucknell wants to have such policies to increase diversity, fine. But government-imposed affirmative action is offensive. Equality before the law means government should treat citizens equally.

But it doesn't. Our racist government says that any school receiving federal tax dollars, even if only in the form of federal aid to students, must comply with affirmative action rules, and some states have enacted their own policies.

Advocates of affirmative action argue it is needed because of historic discrimination. Maybe that was true in 1970, but it's no longer true. Affirmative action is now part of the minority special privilege machine, an indispensable component of which is perpetual victimhood.

All the Bucknell students wanted was a campus discussion about that. Why not? A university is supposed to be a place for open discussion, but some topics are apparently off-limits.

About an hour after the students began their "affirmative action" sale, the associate dean of students shut it down. He said it was because the prices charged were different from those listed on the permissions application. An offer to change the prices was rejected. Then the club's application to hold another sale was rejected. Ironically, the associate dean said it would violate the schools non-discrimination policy! He would authorize a debate on affirmative action, but nothing else.

How ridiculous! Fortunately, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has come to the students' defense. "Using this absurd logic, Bucknell would have to require its College Democrats to say nothing political on campus unless they give equal time to Republican candidates at their events, or its Catholic Campus Ministry to remain silent about abortion unless it holds a debate and invites pro-choice activists to speak," FIRE's Adam Kissel said. "While students are free to host debates, they must not be required to provide a platform for their ideological opponents. Rather, those opponents must be free to spread their own messages and host their own events."

Right. My affirmative action cupcake "event" led to some interesting discussions. One young woman began by criticizing me, "It's absolutely wrong." But after I raised the parallel with college admissions, she said: "No race of people is worth more than another. Or less." But do you believe in affirmative action in colleges? I asked. "I used to," she replied.

Those are the kind discussions students should have.

Affirmative action wasn't the only issue that brought conservative Bucknell students grief. When they tried to protest President Obama's $787 billion "stimulus" spending last year by handing out fake dollar bills, the school stopped them for violating rules against soliciting!

According to FIRE, Bucknell's solicitation policy covers only sales and fundraising, which the students were not engaged in, but the school rejected the students' appeal, saying permission was needed to distribute "anything, from Bibles to other matter." Absurd! The Bucknell administration tells me it stopped the anti-stimulus protest because the students had not registered to use that busy campus space. FIRE disputes that.

"Distributing protest literature is an American free-speech tradition that dates to before the founding of the United States," Kissel said. "Why is Bucknell so afraid of students handing out 'Bibles (or) other matter' that might provide challenging perspectives? Colleges are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, but Bucknell is betraying this ideal."

It is, indeed. Why are America's institutions of higher learning so fearful?


MA: Boston rethinking small-school experiment

They're just flailing in the dark in Bosdton. They won't admit that their educational theories are all wrong

Boston schools underwent a radical experiment in the past decade: Four large neighborhood high schools were shuttered and replaced with more than a dozen smaller ones.

The thinking was that smaller schools could deliver a better education. A few years into the effort, funded with millions of dollars from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mayor Thomas M. Menino proudly declared it to be “a model for the rest of the country.’’

But now the approach, championed by former superintendent Thomas W. Payzant, appears to have fallen out of favor with the city’s current school chief, Carol R. Johnson. She sees the small schools as a costly venture in an era of declining city revenue, and believes many have yielded lackluster results.

Last month, Johnson proposed shutting down the three high schools at the Hyde Park complex, citing low performance. The recommendation has rekindled a debate over what school size best fosters learning in an urban environment.

The Hyde Park closings follow her 2008 decision to place a small high school at the former South Boston High on academic probation and merge two small high schools in Dorchester.

Backers of small schools say Johnson is giving up too soon and is basing decisions on incomplete data. The Boston experience contrasts sharply with New York City, where school leaders this fall trumpeted a new report declaring the success of their small-school conversions.

Theories abound as to why Boston’s school system has not achieved similar results as New York’s, from poor initial execution to subsequent years of budget cutting.

Meanwhile, defenders of Boston’s small high schools dispute Johnson’s characterization of academic failure and high operating expenses. Johnson, in presenting her Hyde Park closure plan, has not released any data that compare the performance and spending levels of each city high school.

“I don’t think it’s even debatable at this point that urban school systems need small-high school options,’’ said Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, a public-private partnership between the business community and education establishments that focuses on workforce development. “If we put a returning dropout student in a large high school, they are gone. If we put them in a small school that addresses their circumstances, they stay.’’

Irvin Scott, the School Department’s chief academic officer who oversees high schools, said the small-school conversions have had varying degrees of success and Johnson is committed to small high schools. He defended Johnson’s recommendation to shutter Hyde Park, arguing that the complex does not have at least one academic-standout school like the other three high school complexes.

“The small schools have had a huge impact on climate — more personalization, fewer fights among students — but some have not necessarily realized the academic achievement gains that people hoped for,’’ Scott said.Continued...

Throughout the past decade, urban districts across the country replaced large failing schools with smaller theme-based academies, hoping to strengthen relationships between students and teachers.

In Boston, each of the 12 small schools carved out of the former South Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park, and West Roxbury high schools serves about 300 or 400 students. Each is built around a different theme, such as public service, the sciences, or communications.

The city still operates several large comprehensive high schools, such as Brighton and East Boston, where enrollment exceeds 1,000 students. It also operates several other small high schools at stand-alone sites.

The last major study on the city’s conversion of large high schools into smaller ones was completed in June 2008 by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. in New Jersey, which was commissioned by the Boston Plan for Excellence, an education nonprofit. The report found lackluster MCAS scores at the small schools, but improvements in attendance, fewer suspensions, and better academic performance.

Some small-high school supporters question the study’s conclusion because the authors had only two years worth of MCAS data available for the seven small high schools at the Hyde Park and West Roxbury campuses, which opened in fall 2005.

“What is really kind of heartbreaking to me is the district has to close schools and is doing it without an updated data analysis,’’ said Lili Allen, program director at Jobs for the Future, a Boston organization that works on education issues and oversaw about $25 million in grants from the Gates Foundation, much of which went toward Boston’s small-school effort.

A Globe review of graduation rates and MCAS pass rates on the 10th-grade English and math exams found mixed results among the big and small high schools. A review of per-student spending found that small high schools were not the most costly to run.

The recent New York study, which examined more than 100 small high schools and 20,000 students, is gaining attention among supporters of small schools here. The study, conducted by the independent research group MDRC and believed to be the largest ever, found that New York’s small high schools had notably higher graduation rates than its other high schools.

Gordon Berlin, president of MDRC, said that because his organization’s study focused only on New York he could not draw conclusions about Boston’s experience. But he said there was a lack of data nationwide to assess the overall impact of replacing large high schools with smaller entities.

The Gates Foundation has stopped funding small-school efforts like those in Boston, finding it more effective to target spending on such projects as teacher training and national academic standards.

“Have small schools wildly changed the equation? We would say it’s somewhat mixed, and our funding strategy reflects that,’’ said Christopher Williams, a Gates Foundation spokesman, who nevertheless noted the foundation was pleased with New York’s results.

During the previous decade, Payzant, determined to fix Boston’s ailing high schools, pushed aggressively in opening the smaller schools, according to some people involved in the conversions. He opened each school largely by dividing up the current staff and students in the buildings. He also started the schools with all grade levels instead of phasing in the grades, in what became known as the “big bang theory.’’

By contrast, New York hired new teachers, enrolled new students, and gradually added grades over the course of a few years. That enabled New York to create a new academic culture from day one, the opposite of Boston’s strategy.

“It was like building a boat while you are sailing it, but we figured it out, said Linda Lipkin, founding director of curriculum, assessment, and placement at Social Justice Academy, one of three schools that replaced the old Hyde Park High.

The other two are the Community Academy of Science and Health and The Engineering School.

Johnson’s recommendation on Oct. 6 to shutter the Hyde Park building stunned the three schools, which were expecting to consolidate back into a single school.

Amid protests by students, staff, and parents, Johnson decided to keep the Community Academy of Science and Health open. She plans to relocate the school, however.

On one recent afternoon, students and staff members from the two schools still slated for closure gathered around several tables in the library, where garbage bags covered bookcases because the school has no librarian. They defended their test scores and spoke of years of budget cutting.

At The Engineering School, where a third of the approximately 330 students have severe special needs, teachers said splitting those students apart next year could be traumatic for them. “It’s very hard for our students,’’ said Trudy Brennan, a special education teacher. “They are asking questions every day.’’

Although the clocks and public address system don’t work and many computers are broken, the building itself appeared to be in good condition. Sun poured through tall windows in the hallways, which were well kept.

“They are pushing us to the wayside,’’ said Nathanael Kelly, 17, an Engineering School senior. “Our school has made significant strides. The potential in our school is not being fully realized.’’


UK: Violence at Tory HQ overshadows student fees protest

I obviously don't agree with the violence but the Liberal-infuenced plans are an abomination. Saddling students with debt for 30 years in simply unconsciencable. There would have been no rally without such oppressive plans. One can only hope for a major rethink

There have been violent scenes as tens of thousands of people protested against plans to treble tuition fees and cut university funding in England. Demonstrators stormed a building in Westminster housing the Conservative Party headquarters, smashed windows and got on to the roof. Outside, a crowd of thousands surged as placards and banners were set on fire and missiles were thrown.

Student leaders condemned the violence as "despicable". They say about 50,000 people took part in a march through Westminster earlier.

This siege of Millbank Tower was a violent break-away from what had been a noisy but good-natured march.

As demonstrators crowded around the building, some masked and hooded, the mood began to turn ugly. Missiles began flying towards the large plate glass windows, with only a thin line of police, with metal truncheons raised, guarding the building's entrance. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, they were slowly but relentlessly hemmed against the front of the building.

As protesters surged, a succession of windows were smashed and then demonstrators flooded into the building entrance. Security guards scattered and the handful of police inside were completely overrun. A few yards away, in surreal calm, guests carried on eating in the adjacent Pizza Express.

Inside the building, demonstrators wearing police hats danced on tables. A protester ripped a security camera from the ceiling and danced in triumph, slogans were spray-painted on walls.

The level of anger and the swiftness of the violence seemed to have caught everyone by surprise. According to Scotland Yard, 14 people have been injured, including seven police officers. No-one was seriously hurt.

The vast majority of demonstrators had been peaceful, a statement said, but "a small minority" had damaged property. At one point, a fire extinguisher was reported to have been thrown from the roof.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "I am appalled that a small minority have today shamefully abused their right to protest. "This is intolerable and all those involved will be pursued and they will face the full force of the law. "The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has assured me that there will be a vigorous post-incident investigation."

One of the protesters who got on to the roof was Manchester student Emily Parks. "It shows how angry people are," she told BBC News. "Why is our education being cut? Why are tuition fees going up here when in other parts people have free education? People have felt the need to take matters into their own hands."

President of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter: "This was not part of our plan"

Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi was inside the building while the protest was taking place. She said police had responded "in the circumstances that they felt best. "This was clearly a protest where people had a legitimate right to protest on issues that they felt very strongly, and it is a shame that a small minority of those protesters ruined it for the rest of them."

Demonstrators were also cleared from outside the Liberal Democrat headquarters, where a car window has been smashed.

Elsewhere, the massive rally had passed off peacefully. Hundreds of coachloads of students and lecturers had travelled to London from across England for the demonstration in Whitehall, with 2,000 students also travelling from Wales.

The NUS is threatening to try to unseat Liberal Democrat MPs who go back on pre-election pledges they made to oppose any rise in tuition fees.

Higher education funding is being cut by 40% - with teaching grants being all but wiped out except for science and maths. The government expects the costs of teaching other courses to be funded by tuition fees. It proposes that tuition fees should rise from 2012.

The plan is for a lower cap at £6,000, with universities able to charge up to £9,000 - triple the current cap - in "exceptional circumstances". Ministers insist their plans offer a "fair deal for students".

Earlier on Wednesday, at Question Time in the Commons, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had a fiery exchange with Labour's Harriet Harman over fees. He was accused of hypocrisy, because the Liberal Democrats opposed tuition fees in the election run-up. But he said Labour had made U-turns itself over fees, which it brought in in 1997, and said the party had no clear alternative policy.

Ms Harman said Nick Clegg was "going along with a Tory plan - to shove the cost of higher education on to students and their families".

Twice, Mr Clegg sidestepped her request that he specify the size of the cut to university teaching grants - a figure she said was 80%.

Universities Minister David Willetts said the new system would be fairer than the present one, offering more help to the poorest students.

Students would not have to pay anything "up-front" and as graduates, would only have to pay back their tuition fee loans once they were earning £21,000 or more.

Among the crowds at the rally in London were about 400 students from Oxford. Oxford University Student Union President David Barclay said: "This is the day a generation of politicians learn that though they might forget their promises, students won't.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

British Liberal Party implements money-grabbing student loan scheme

Crippling 30-year graduate debt trap will see parents still paying instalments as their children go to university. That should be an effective bar to a university education for all but the rich, who don't need loans. A strange outcome for a party that is allegedly on the side of the poor.

I entered the workforce with an advanced degree and no debt. My son will enter the workforce with an advanced degree and no debt. How sad that few British university students can look forward to that -- JR

Graduates on modest incomes face an effective tax rate of 45 per cent and crippling debts for most of their working lives, a Money Mail investigation has discovered. Radical reforms to the level of tuition fees and the way loans are repaid will leave many in debt until their mid-50s - by which time they'll be wrestling with putting their own children through university.

Tuition fees are set to rise to as much as £9,000 a year while living costs can be up to £8,210 a year, according to the NatWest Student Living Survey. That's £17,210 a year or £51,630 over three years. The maximum government loan is likely to be £43,500.

Debts to the government will be reclaimed by deducting 9 per cent from any salary above a £21,000 threshold, but interest will be added to the debt. This will range from the retail prices index (RPI) to RPI plus 3 percentage points, with higher earners paying the most.

For those on modest and middle incomes, the amount of interest is likely to be greater than the amount they repay, meaning the debt will balloon through their life until, after 30 years, it is written off by the government.

We asked data analyst Moneyfacts to look at two scenarios that could encompass millions of graduates in essential occupations such as teaching and nursing. In the first case, we assumed someone started work owing £43,500 earning £21,000 a year and receiving a 3 per cent pay rise each year. After 30 years, they would have paid £33,217, but, because of the interest, they would still owe £73,659, which would be written off.

If their pay rose by a more generous 5 per cent a year, they would repay £64,239, but still owe £26,406. And these calculations assume 2 per cent RPI; today it's 4.6 per cent.

To make life tougher, any graduate earning more than £21,000 a year would be losing 45p in every £1 they earned above this threshold. This is made up of basic-rate income tax at 20 per cent, National Insurance contributions of 12 per cent, having 9 per cent stripped to pay for their student loan, and another 4 per cent taken by their employer as a pension contribution.

Research for Money Mail by the Chartered Institute of Taxation shows a graduate earning £22,000 will lose a total of £6,029 - 27 per cent of their total pay. It would reduce their take-home pay to £1,330 a month.

Someone earning £26,000 will have £7,829 deducted - equal to 30 per cent of their takehome pay. For those on £30,000, their take-home pay is reduced by £9,629 or 32 per cent.

'We risk creating a generation of students who will never be able to pay their way out of debt,' says Chris Tapp, of debt charity Credit Action. 'They are going to be lumbered with a lifetime of borrowing. The danger of student loans rising is that other more expensive credit may get put to one side.

'This is just the start of a cycle of problems. Parents may be so worried about funding their child's education that they borrow to help them out.'

Students graduating from 2017 will face the full brunt of the Coalition's reforms to tax, pensions and student funding. From next April, National Insurance rises from 11 per cent to 12 per cent. Then a new national pension scheme will strip further money from their income.

From October 2012, anyone aged 21 or over who is employed for more than three months and who earns more than £7,475 will have 0.8 per cent of their income taken as a pension contribution. This will increase to 4 per cent by 2017.

Their situation will be exacerbated by cuts to student loans for better- off graduates, which will force them to borrow more from banks.

James Daley, editor of Which? Money, says: 'If you are going to be saddled with huge debts, you need to be financially equipped to deal with that and most graduates are not. Otherwise they are going to start off poor and end up poor.'


Teacher who lost her voice trying to make herself heard in a noisy British classroom wins £150,000 payout

A teacher has been awarded £150,000 after she lost her voice trying to make herself heard in the classroom. Joyce Walters damaged her vocal cords straining to raise her volume above the clamour coming from a nearby playground. As a result she was forced to quit her job as an English teacher.

The 50-year-old says she now struggles to speak on the phone and suffers a sore throat and hoarseness when she raises her voice in noisy bars.

Mrs Walters, who taught for 12 years, won a total of £156,000 in out-of-court settlements from her council after claiming she could never teach again. It is one of the largest payouts of its kind and an example of the growing compensation culture among injured and sacked teachers, which costs the taxpayer more than £20 million a year. Last year another teacher was awarded £173,595 for dislocating an ankle during playground duty. In comparison, an injured war veteran could expect a maximum of £34,100 for a similar injury.

Education campaigners say the rise is the result of councils opting to settle out-of-court, rather than challenging claims. Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This is a frightening trend that should be tackled head-on. ‘Local authorities need to get a grip. There are too many instances were they surrender too easily to claims that may seem frivolous.’

Mother-of-two Mrs Walters, from Ickenham in Middlesex, taught English to foreign students at nearby Harlington Adult Education Centre, housed at Harlington Community School, between September 2005 and July 2006. She gave lessons in a classroom next to a roofed courtyard where 11- 18-year-olds played during lunchtimes and breaks.

After a doctor diagnosed non-cancerous vocal cord nodules, she missed the 2006/2007 academic year. Despite repeated pleas, she was assigned the same classroom when she returned the following September and had to quit three months later.

Mrs Walters, who is married to a former policeman, took Hillingdon Council, which runs the school, to an employment tribunal and was awarded an £11,000 out-of-court settlement in October 2009. She also filed a personal injury claim against the council, which won her an out-of-court settlement of £145,000 last July.

Mrs Walters, who had months of speech therapy following her voice loss, yesterday defended her payout, saying her injuries had a devastating effect on her life. ‘Teaching was my calling, I adored the classroom and miss it so much, but the problems with my voice make it impossible for me to ever go back,’ she said. ‘I have to think twice about day-to-day things, like speaking on the phone.’

Joanne Jefferies, a specialist in workplace injuries at law firm Irwin Mitchell who represented Mrs Walters, added: ‘Despite attempts to raise her concerns with her employer, she was ignored and it has resulted in this terrible, life-altering injury. ‘To make matters worse, she is still awaiting assurances that something has been done to prevent others suffering.

Yesterday, Jean Palmer of Hillingdon Council said: ‘After almost three years, the council felt that it was in the best interests of Mrs Walters, the council and taxpayers to settle the claims.’


Great shortage of male teachers in Australia

CHILDREN face going through school without ever having a male teacher because of falling numbers of men in primary schools. Male teacher numbers in Government primary schools have dropped below 20 per cent for the first time in a decade as classrooms become female-dominated.

Catholic primary schools across the state have even lower proportions of men, with only about 15 per cent of teachers from kindergarten to Year 6 being male.

Teacher of eight years Scott Carroll said there was a stigma attached to men who worked with children: "Primary teaching is traditionally associated with females - perceptions need to change."

Principal of Mary MacKillop Primary School at Penrith South, Anne Corrigan, said men brought different perspectives to a school. "I like guys in my school, role models are important," Ms Corrigan said.

Data released by the NSW Government shows classrooms in public primary schools have lost 609 male teachers since 2000. The decline showed an election commitment by state Labor seven years ago to "work to increase the number of male teachers, especially in primary schools" had failed. With just 4695 men in the public primary system, there are children who have never been taught by a man.

Parents have said that, because of the high level of single-parent families in many areas, it is important young children are taught by male as well as female teachers. Many principals agree, telling The Daily Telegraph it is critical that more men work in primary schools.

NSW education chiefs argue that gender is not the most important factor in seeking suitable applicants. A Government spokeswoman said: "There is no definitive research that students, learn better from a particular gender - it is the quality of the teacher."

Low social status, poor wages and fear of being labelled a paedophile were identified as factors in men shunning primary teaching.

The Australian Catholic University said the presence or absence of male teachers had "major implications for the culture of schools".

The NSW Government offers up to 300 teaching scholarships each year using "male teacher role models".


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Failure to educate: The Boston school system is churning out illiterate students whose only skills are to pass predictable standard tests

I DID not attend a graduation ceremony in 25 years as a Boston public high school teacher. This was my silent protest against a skillfully choreographed mockery of an authentic education — a charade by adults who, knowingly or unwittingly, played games with other people’s children.

I knew that most of my students who walked across the stage, amidst the cheers, whistles, camera flashes, and shout-outs from parents, family, and friends, were not functionally literate. They were unable to perform the minimum skills necessary to negotiate society: reading the local newspapers, filling out a job application, or following basic written instructions; even fewer had achieved empowering literacy enabling them to closely read, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate text.

However, they were all college bound — the ultimate goal of our school’s vision statement — clutching knapsacks stuffed with our symbols of academic success: multiple college acceptances, a high school diploma; an official transcript indicating they had passed the MCAS test and had met all graduation requirements; several glowing letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors; and one compelling personal statement, their college essay.

They walked across the stage into a world that was unaware of the truth that scorched my soul — the truth that became clear the first day I entered West Roxbury High School in 1979 (my first assignment as a provisional 12th grade English teacher): the young men and women I was responsible for coaching the last leg of their academic journey could not write a complete sentence, a cohesive paragraph, or a well-developed essay on a given topic. I remember my pain and anger at this revelation and my struggle to reconcile the reality before me with my own high school experience, which had enabled me to negotiate the world of words — oral and written — independently, with relative ease and confidence.

For the ensuing 30-plus years, I witnessed how the system churned out academically unprepared students who lacked the skills needed to negotiate the rigors of serious scholarship, or those skills necessary to move in and up the corporate world.

We instituted tests and assessments, such as the MCAS, that required little exercise in critical thinking, for which most of the students were carefully coached to “pass.’’ Teachers, instructors, and administrators made the test the curriculum, taught to the test, drilled for the test, coached for the test, taught strategies to take the test, and gave generous rewards (pizza parties) for passing the test. Students practiced, studied for, and passed the test — but remained illiterate.

I also bear witness to my students’ ability to acquire a passing grade for mediocre work. A’s and B’s were given simply for passing in assignments (quality not a factor), for behaving well in class, for regular attendance, for completing homework assignments that were given a check mark but never read.

In addition, I have been a victim of the subtle and overt pressure exerted by students, parents, administrators, guidance counselors, coaches, and colleagues to give undeserving students passing grades, especially at graduation time, when the “walk across the stage’’ frenzy is at its peak.

When all else failed, there were strategies for churning out seemingly academically prepared students. These were the ways around the official requirements: loopholes such as MCAS waivers; returning or deftly transferring students to Special Needs Programs — a practice usually initiated by concerned parents who wanted to avoid meeting the regular education requirements or to gain access to “testing accommodations’’; and, Credit Recovery, the computer program that enabled the stragglers, those who were left behind, to catch up to the frontrunners in the Race to the Stage. Students were allowed to take Credit Recovery as a substitute for the course they failed, and by passing with a C, recover their credits.

Nevertheless, this past June, in the final year of my teaching career, I chose to attend my first graduation at the urgings of my students — the ones whose desire to learn, to become better readers and writers, and whose unrelenting hard work earned them a spot on the graduation list — and the admonition of a close friend who warned that my refusal to attend was an act of selfishness, of not thinking about my students who deserved the honor and respect signified by my presence.

At the ceremony I chose to be happy, in spite of the gnawing realization that nothing had changed in 32 years. We had continued playing games with other people’s children.


Out-of-control government schools in Britain

To my everlasting shame, I left a teaching job because I was scared of a child. Although he was only 13, Ralph was a well-built boy who was known for taking an irrational dislike to new teachers. Unfortunately, he displayed a greater antagonism towards me than to any of the other five supply teachers at his West Yorkshire school.

Retreating to the back of the class during lessons, he’d proclaim my failings to the other pupils — ‘Mr Carroll stinks of s***’; ‘Sir’s a virgin’; ‘Don’t listen to him. He’s only a supply teacher — he don’t know nothing.’

If I told him to be quiet, he spoke louder; if I ignored him, he laughed. I wished I could send him out, but the head had made it clear that once the pupils were in a classroom, we had to do our best to keep them there.

So I was left with no choice but to endure Ralph’s taunts as I struggled to stop the other pupils chatting and play-fighting. Until, one day, he walked out of the class during a lesson, closely followed by one of his mates. I found them both sitting in the ­corridor outside. As I approached, Ralph jumped to his feet. A vein throbbed in his temple. ‘I’m gonna break your f***ing jaw, you posh c***!’ he shouted, drawing his arm back to swing at me with a clenched fist.

I reacted on pure instinct, immediately raising my arms up to chest height with my palms facing outward. Submissive. Accommodating. ‘All right, all right, I’m going,’ I said, backing into the classroom, hands still in the same position.

As I sat down on the edge of a table, I realised I was shaking. Outside, I could hear Ralph still ranting about smashing my face.

Not many things intimidate me. I’ve been a teacher for four years — and I’ve been threatened and sworn at more times than I can count. But at that moment, for the first time, I believed a pupil could, and would, carry out his threat.

Just a few months earlier, I’d been living in Somerset, forging a successful career as an English teacher in a good state secondary school. I was 27, and I’d already started my slow climb up the hierarchy. Apart from a constant deluge of paperwork and implausible government targets, I enjoyed my work — yet I was uncomfortably aware that some teachers were less fortunate.

One former colleague had been ‘held hostage’ in front of his class by two boys from Year 11 — what used to be the fifth form — brandishing a very real-looking fake gun. Another had a door slammed shut in her face so violently that the glass window shattered over her. And I’d been shocked to discover that almost half of all England’s newly qualified teachers are now leaving the profession within five years.

What was it really like to teach in a school at the bottom of the league tables, I wondered? Before settling down in a decent job, I decided to find out for myself. I set myself the limit of a year: in that time, I’d travel to areas all over England to find work as a supply teacher. A week after making this decision, I handed in a letter of resignation to my headteacher.

My first job was at a technology ­college which had only just avoided closure after a series of visits from Ofsted education inspectors.

Before entering my new classroom, I peeked through a small window in the door. Students were sprawled across the tables, leaning from the open ­windows and throwing missiles at each other. I took a deep breath and walked in. ‘Morning, Year 10,’ I hollered over the din. ‘Time to sit down, please.’

Chairs were flung about, snatches of insults occasionally broke free of the hubbub, and no one appeared to have heard me. By the time I managed to get them all seated, seven minutes of the lesson had been wasted. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘My name is Mr ­Carroll. Today, we’re going to be working on...."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a heavily made-up girl lean over and snatch something from an adjoining desk. Her neighbour immediately exploded. ‘For f***’s sake, Michaela!’ she yelled. ‘Give it back, you bitch!’

More yelling, more chairs overturned as they fought over the stolen object. I tried to make the girls return to their seats, but they knew as well as I did that I couldn’t force them to obey me.

‘Look,’ I said. ‘We need to... ‘No one’s listening to you,’ one lad told me politely.

So I decided to assign them a task: Write a letter to your headteacher, persuading him to get rid of school uniform. The best approach, I thought, would be to urge the pupils on individually. I started with the front row. ‘Right, girls,’ I said. ‘What I need you to do is....'

‘I’m doing it!’ erupted one of them, Tracey. ‘God! Just f*** off, will you?’ ‘I can’t have you talking to me like that,’ I said calmly. ‘Please go and stand outside, and I’ll be out in a minute to discuss this with you.’ She clapped her hands, hoorayed, rushed out of the door — and vanished.

Soon after that, a fight erupted between two 16-year-olds outside the room, and the entire class rushed out to chant encouragement. Another five minutes were wasted.

Once they were all back inside, a dark-haired lad suddenly leapt across his table and began stabbing another boy in the back of the hand with a straightened paperclip, drawing blood.

Five minutes before the end of the lesson, the class unanimously decided to pack up and walk out, despite my protestations. Total teaching: zero.

At lunchtime, the other teachers and I twice had to surround groups of fighting children in the playground to stop an explosion of violence.

Our only weapons were words. The kids were aware that if we so much as laid a hand on them, we could be reported for assault.

I then moved to a secondary school in Birmingham where I witnessed a pupil throwing a water bomb that exploded on a table. He scarpered, but I managed to catch his companion in crime — a thickly built 16-year-old called Ben. When I confronted him, he thrust his face inches from mine. ‘Who the f*** are you talking to?’ he spat out. We held each other’s stares. A crowd grew around us, avid to see the stand-off between the new teacher and the school bully.

After a few tense moments, Ben gave a mocking chuckle and walked off. As I removed my jacket, I noticed two large sweat stains on my shirt.

The lessons at this school weren’t lessons at all: instead, I spent most of the time removing tables and chairs from the hands of teenagers and placing them back on the floor. Usually, I ‘taught’ from the door rather than the whiteboard — if I didn’t bar the way, the kids simply got up and left.

Assaults were common. One boy strode out of the classroom only to return a minute later with a long plank of wood with which he intended to ‘batter’ a girl. Fortunately, he was physically restrained by another pupil.

There were many evenings when I felt shell-shocked, not so much at the quantity of bad behaviour, which has probably always existed in the worst-performing schools. No, what struck me forcibly as I travelled from one chaotic school to another is that it’s the nature of the bad behaviour which is driving teachers away.

They’re up against behaviour that’s become personal, aggressive and vicious, dealing with outbursts that can’t be glossed over or laughed about later in the staff-room. Yet, at the same time, fewer pupils than ever are being excluded from school. Why? Because the Labour government brought in tough financial penalties for schools that use this much-needed last resort.

Chucking money at failing schools, I soon realised, made very little ­difference. One school near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, for example, was brand new, with state-of-the-art equipment and resources — yet a large percentage of its students were persistently vile to the staff and cruel to each other.

There was one boy who spent an entire computer studies lesson doing a porn search on a school computer until he found one ­picture that had escaped the school’s filter: a close-up of a large pair of breasts. Hitting the full-screen key, he shouted over to a quiet girl, ‘Hey! Bet you wish you had these, ya flat bitch!’

I lost count of the number of times a teenager shouted — no, screamed — in my face.

For me, though, the lowest point of the year was my confrontation with Ralph, the 13-year-old bully who threatened to break my jaw.

I’d had no choice but to back away when he faced me down, but the head’s response was to set up a meeting with Ralph and me. When the boy was asked why he’d threatened me, he said: ‘Because he’s a f***ing div. I hate him.’

He reluctantly promised he’d never threaten an adult again, but he refused to apologise. There was no punishment. As he walked out the door, he called over his shoulder: ‘Posh c***.’

Later that day, I resigned, telling the head that I couldn’t work in an environment where this kind of thing was allowed to happen. The head told me he understood, and offered to write me a reference...


BritGov goes to war with the teaching unions: Will allow heads to decide salary levels

Ministers are heading for a showdown with teachers over their pay deal and plans to rank schools by staff qualifications and sickness rates. The Coalition could break up national deals on teachers’ pay, allowing heads to dictate salary levels and severely weakening the power of the unions.

The plans emerged yesterday in a five-year blueprint issued by Education Secretary Michael Gove’s department. Parents will be given a wealth of extra information on school performance, including the standards of education attained by teaching staff and how often they go off sick.

New-look school league tables will tell parents what proportion of staff have only basic qualifications and how many have education degrees, masters or doctorates.

Levels of pay at each school will also be laid bare, but the information on pay and qualifications is likely to be set out in a range of bands so it cannot be pinpointed to individual teachers.

The initiatives will infuriate teaching unions who guard national pay bargaining rights closely and are staunchly opposed to league tables. They say regular negotiations to fix a nationwide level of pay for teachers are essential, but yesterday’s blueprint says head teachers should be handed ‘flexibility’.

The Coalition will ‘develop proposals on pay and conditions’ beginning next spring, with a predicted implementation date of September 2012. Reforms are expected to include a plan to abandon fixed pay scales to allow heads to pay premiums for the best teachers or those in neglected subjects such as science and maths.

In a further move, parents will be given extra information about how their children are doing at school, including new ‘readiness to progress’ measures at five and 11. For five-year-olds, this measure is expected to be linked to their achievements against the so-called ‘nappy curriculum’, which has come under fire for requiring formal learning too soon.

The Coalition has said the framework will be reformed by September 2012 to make it ‘less bureaucratic’.

The assessment for 11-year-olds will show parents whether or not their children have basic command of the three Rs.

Further developments include a new ‘school choice’ measure allowing parents to gauge the extent of choice in their area.

Parents would also be able to find out what proportion of children at prospective schools are entitled to free school meals and have special educational needs.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: ‘These proposals demonstrate the deep-rooted contempt this Coalition Government has for teachers. ‘The negative attitudes which are clearly underpinning this proposal will leave a nasty taste in the mouth of a hard-working and dedicated profession.’ She added: ‘To focus on sickness absence in this way merely gives the green light to employers to harass and pressurise sick teachers back into work or force them out of the profession.’

Leading businesses yesterday accused schools of creating a generation ‘who struggle to read, write or do basic maths’. Executives from supermarkets and the food industry warned that school leavers had such a poor grasp of the three Rs that they cannot be trusted with basic elements of business. A poll found that 85 per cent of food industry executives said teenagers who came to them for employment lacked basic numeracy.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Why rejection is good for you

This is of course completely contrary to the "no child must fail" gospel of most Leftist educators. I certainly had a lot of my academic journal articles rejected during my research career but I would simply revise them if I could see something reasonable in the referee comments and either way just send the articles on to another journal. In the end about 90% of them did get into print. I gather that many academics are so demoralized by a rejection that they never resubmit their writings. Very foolish -- JR

Last week, Anna Wintour, editor of U.S. Vogue, made a startling ­admission. Talking to a group of young, aspiring ­fashion writers at a ­conference in New York, the most powerful woman in the magazine world revealed she was once sacked by Harper’s Bazaar.

What’s more, she said it was one of the best things that had ever happened to her. ‘I worked for American Harper’s Bazaar .... they fired me. I recommend that you all get fired, it’s a great learning experience,’ she said.

It was a surprising confession from the notoriously frosty editor — and a heart­ening piece of career advice to hear at a time when many people are losing their jobs. The quote was picked up on websites and papers around the world, with people adding their own examples of famous ­people who had done well despite, or often because of, early rejection.

J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter after being sacked as a secretary for ­‘day­dreaming’. She then got rejected by not one, not two, but 12 publishers before the chairman of Bloomsbury brought home the Potter manuscript for his ­daughter Alice to read.

Madonna started her musical career after being sacked from Dunkin’ Donuts for squirting sauce at customers. Her first band, The Breakfast Club, was dropped by their record label, so she decided to go solo. The rest, as they say, is history.

Almost every record label in the country turned down The Beatles; Walt Disney was fired because he lacked imagination — the list goes on.

It seems that sometimes being rejected is the best thing that can happen to you in life, a phenomenon that is being dubbed the Power of No. ‘Rejection can concentrate the mind wonderfully,’ says psychotherapist Phillip Hodson, from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. ‘It shows you that the world can’t be taken for granted and that you have to fight for what you want. ‘It can make you more determined to prove your abilities, it sharpens your ­competitiveness and gives you an ­incentive to prove people wrong.’

And not only does rejection help you learn a lesson and quicken your resolve, it’s a sign that you are living life to the full and pushing ­yourself, according to a new game taking the U.S. by storm.

Rejection Therapy was created by Jason Comely to overcome the social anxiety that kept him from having the relationships and success he craved. He challenged himself to spend a year trying to be rejected by someone every single day and as part of the game smiled at strangers, asked women out on dates and arranged work meetings — things he would have been too scared to do before.

After a year, Jason concluded it was harder to be rejected than he expected and that if he hadn’t played the game he would have missed out on countless opportunities to meet new people and expand his life. His therapy card game has become the latest self-help hit in the U.S., encouraging people to open themselves up to possible rejection.

The cards suggest things such as requesting a discount when you buy something, asking for a pay rise or approaching someone to ask if you can join their table in a restaurant. Your day is not successful unless ­someone has rejected you, either by not smiling back or by saying ‘No’.

In her new book Switched On, Sahar Hashemi, the woman who started ­the Coffee Republic chain, agrees with Jason’s philosophy. She argues being rejected is just part and parcel of life and that we have to stop fearing it in order to live up to our potential.

‘I’ve written about notching up the “Nos”, which is the idea that in life you need to expect rejection,’ she says. ‘When we tried to start up Coffee Republic, we were turned down by 19 bank managers. I was told we were a nation of tea drinkers and no one was going to want to spend more than 60p for a cup of coffee or use silly names such as skinny lattes.

‘It was demoralising and there were times I wanted to jump out of the window, but I became more determined. I was brought up to believe that persistence was the key to success and that nothing worth having comes easily.

‘I also received nine rejections from book publishers before I got a deal. The trick is to see rejection as not a big thing, to get used to it, to expect it. It’s vital to ­realise it is par for the course. It simply ­represents one person’s opinion.’

So if rejection is just part of life and can do us good, why does it hurt so much? ‘Rejection can hurt more than the event itself ever justifies, because it brings back all past rejections and makes us feel ­abandoned and ­useless,’ says Phillip Hodson.

‘So when your boss says you’re superfluous to requirements, what you hear is: “You’re useless and nobody will ever want you.” But while rejection at work can hurt, nothing can compare to the physical pain of personal rejection. How can being dumped or ignored at a party be good for us?

Psychotherapist and relationship expert Christine Webber, author of Too Young To Get Old, says: ‘Being rejected on a ­personal level is one of the worst pains people can go through. ‘We all want to be loved and when ­someone withdraws that love you can feel bereft; it is like a bereavement and you go into shock. ‘As hard as it is to believe at the time, you do get over it — and often are stronger for it. A lot of people triumph after a break-up and go on to be much happier.’

What’s more, being rejected is often not as bad as you think and it takes away the fear of future rejection. And no matter how much it hurts, rejection is better than the alternative, which is to try to live ­without putting yourself out there.

‘Fear of rejection is often a person’s number one anxiety, so much so that some people try to guarantee it won’t ever ­happen to them,’ adds Christine. ‘People might try to avoid relationships or professional challenges entirely. This is a solution of a kind, but does tend to lead to an isolated life. Interactions in life are what most people live for.’

‘Rejection can be a sign that there are lessons to be learnt,’ says Phillip. ‘You have to ask why you are being rejected and look honestly at how you can make yourself more attractive to other people. ‘If you’re talking to people at parties about the pain in your leg, you’re going to get rejected.’

Likewise, if you keep getting turned down for jobs, ask yourself if there’s something better you could be doing in your ­interviews, such as the way you dress — but then ask the bigger question of whether you are going for the right kind of job. If the answer is still yes, then keep persevering. If not, try something new.

Before starting her business, Sahar Hashemi was a lawyer who was constantly turned down for jobs. ‘I lost count of how many ­interviews I went to for a job as an in-house lawyer. I kept getting turned down and couldn’t understand why. Now I ­realise it was because I was wholly unsuited to the job,’ she laughs.

And if she had got one of those law jobs, she could well be in a nine-to-five career instead of having built a company with a turnover of £30 million a year. ‘The worst thing you can do is to be too scared to put your head above the parapet and go for what you want,’ she says. ‘That is more depressing than any rejection could ever be.’


Academic progress stagnant despite more teacher hires

Another example of more expenditure not working. It is more realistic education policies that are needed -- e.g. more phonics, more discipline

Nearly 1,000 full-time teaching positions were added at Iowa's public schools during a five-year period when improving students' academic skills was heavily emphasized. Yet students' academic achievement saw little growth during that time, according to data from state reading and math tests and national exams such as the ACT. In addition, enrollment in Iowa's public schools fell by 9,108 students.

State data for the five-year period show increased percentages of students from poor families or with limited English-speaking skills.

Iowa education officials largely attribute the increase in the number of teachers to efforts to bolster student achievement and meet federal mandates. In addition, the state provided more than $60 million to districts for preschool, although the exact number of teachers hired is unknown.

The additional teaching positions have kept students' academic performance from slipping, Iowa educators say. "Those students need more support, so they can get caught up to and perform as well as their peers," said Kevin Fangman, interim director of the Iowa Department of Education. "At the same time, our achievement overall in the past five years has gone up. It hasn't gone up a lot, but it has gone up. And that is a positive for us as a state."

The Des Moines Register analysis looked at changes in the number of full-time and part-time teaching positions in Iowa's public school districts between the 2004-05 school year and 2009-10. Specifically, the analysis found:

• Iowa added 982 full-time teaching positions, bringing the statewide total to 34,643. Statewide, the number of full-time teachers increased 2.9 percent. At the same time, 414 part-time teaching positions were eliminated.

• Four of Iowa's fastest-growing districts - Ankeny, Johnston, Southeast Polk and Waukee - added a combined 451 full-time teaching positions to address an enrollment increase of almost 5,900 students. That amounts to one new teacher for every 13 new students.

• Five of Iowa's eight largest urban districts - Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Sioux City and Waterloo - added a combined 256 full-time teachers. Those districts, whose total enrollments fell by 2,811 students, hired one full-time teacher for every 11 students they lost.

• Davenport was the only urban district in Iowa to cut full-time teaching positions while losing students.

• Dubuque and Iowa City, the state's other two largest districts, gained a combined 1,232 students, a 6 percent increase. In response, the districts added 194 full-time teaching positions.

• As enrollments fell in Iowa's small, rural districts, cuts in teaching positions were minimal. For example, the Seymour school district lost 104 students, or 31 percent of its enrollment, and cut three of 29 full-time teaching positions. However, those districts have less wiggle room to make reductions because they have to meet state requirements on course offerings and teacher certification.

As the number of teaching positions increased in Iowa, student achievement stayed stagnant. A quarter of Iowa's 1,427 public schools last school year fell short of federal student achievement goals on reading and math tests. In addition, a record 356 schools landed on the state's "in need of assistance" list.

The percentage of fourth-graders at grade level in state math and reading tests declined almost 1 percentage point between 2004-05 and 2009-10, while 11th-graders lost the same amount of ground in math. About 80 percent of fourth- and 11th-grade students performed at grade level. Eleventh-graders saw a slight improvement in reading, with the percentage at grade level increasing nearly 3 points to 79 percent.

Eighth-graders made gains of about 2 percentage points in reading and math. Nearly 74 percent performed at grade level in reading in 2009-10; 76 percent were at trade level in math. In addition, 30 percent of Iowa high school students who took the ACT met the benchmark scores to show they were prepared to pass college classes. The average composite score for the Class of 2010 was 22.2, down from 22.4 the previous year.

High school graduation rates were also stagnant with nearly 87.2 percent of the class of 2009 graduating; 88.8 percent from the class of 2008 graduated. "(Schools) haven't seen the kinds of improvements we had all hoped for," said Marguerite Roza, senior economic and data adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Australia: Thou shall not teach humanism -- says Victorian Labor party government

EDUCATION Minister Bronwyn Pike has ducked a potential backlash from the powerful Christian lobby by rejecting a proposal to allow humanism to be taught in primary schools during time allocated for religious education.

The Humanist Society of Victoria, which wants to teach an ethics-based curriculum, is planning a legal challenge, saying that the current system indirectly discriminates against non-religious children, causing "hurt, humiliation and pain and suffering" to them when they opt out of religious education classes.

Children in two-thirds of Victorian state primary schools are taught Christian scripture by volunteers, even though the Education Act says state schools must be secular and "not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect".

Parents must sign forms if they want their children to be excluded from "special religious instruction" classes, 96 per cent of which teach Christianity, with the remaining 4 per cent covered by the Jewish, Buddhist and Baha'i faiths.

Children who do not attend these sessions are not allowed to be taught anything their classmates might miss out on during this time, so they are often put in another room where they read or play on computers.

The Education Act has a special exemption from its secular roots to allow religious education.

But Ms Pike skewered an attempt last year by the Humanist Society of Victoria to have its "humanist applied ethics" curriculum approved for teaching during the religion period. The course, designed to be taught from prep to year 6, covered subjects such as the art of living, the environment, philosophy, science and world citizenship.

Ms Pike declared that humanism's "world-view philosophy [sic] cannot be defined as a religion", and that the Humanist Society was "not registered as a religious organisation" and therefore could not "provide instruction in government schools". There is, however, no official registration of religions in Australia.

The man responsible for accrediting non-Christian religious teachers, RMIT professor Desmond Cahill, head of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, said, "We'd consider humanism as a religion since it has an ethical standpoint."

Ms Pike refused to answer The Sunday Age's questions about whether she had been targeted by the Christian lobby.

The Greens candidate in Ms Pike's threatened seat of Melbourne, Brian Walters, told The Sunday Age governments should not use their power to "privilege or promote any one religion or non-religion in our schools" and said children should not be segregated on the basis of faith.

The Humanist Society of Victoria has obtained legal advice that children who are excluded from scripture classes are being indirectly discriminated against.

Religious education arguably breaches equal opportunity law, the advice says, and causes "hurt, humiliation and pain and suffering" to children who opt out as they are "isolated from the rest of the class … with little to do". It suggests aggrieved parents take action in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and possibly VCAT.

Humanist Society of Victoria president Stephen Stuart said the society was collecting testimony from parents in an attempt to mount a "convincing class action with hundreds of names".


Sunday, November 07, 2010

British schools regulator praises Islamic schools which oppose Western lifestyle

And they're not backing down

Ofsted and the Charity Commission are today accused of "whitewashing" hardline Islamic schools which are helping to radicalise a new generation of young British Muslims. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established that the education watchdog has published positive reports praising Muslim schools for their contribution to community cohesion — even in the case of a school which openly states that Muslims “oppose the lifestyle of the West”.

The Ofsted inspector responsible for many of the reports, Michele Messaoudi, has been accused of having links to radical Islamist organisations. This newspaper can reveal that another recent Ofsted inspector, Akram Khan-Cheema, is the chief executive of a radical Muslim educational foundation, IBERR.

Its website describes Islamic schools as “one of the most important factors which protect Muslim children from the onslaught of Euro-centrism, homosexuality, racism, and secular traditions”.

Ofsted has also passed the inspection of dozens of Muslim schools to a new private “faith schools watchdog”, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which is co-controlled by Islamic schools’ own lobbying and trade body, the Association of Muslim Schools. The Bridge Schools Inspectorate allows Muslim head teachers to inspect each other’s schools.

Among the schools directly inspected by Ofsted was the Madani Girls’ School, a private Islamic school in London’s East End. Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said it made pupils “aware of their future role as proactive young British Muslim women” and left them “well-prepared for life in a multicultural society”.

However, the Madani Girls’ School’s own website openly states: “If we oppose the lifestyle of the West, then it does not seem sensible that the teachers and the system which represents that lifestyle should educate our children.” It says that under western education “our children will distance themselves from Islam until there is nothing left but their beautiful names”.

Last month, this newspaper revealed how girls at the school were being forced to wear the Islamic veil, a fact that was not mentioned in its 2008 Ofsted report. The Madani School declined to comment last night.

Ofsted also inspected the Tawhid Boys’ School in Hackney, north London. Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said the curriculum was “good … broad and balanced in Key Stages 2 and 3”. However, the school’s prospectus says that the curriculum is kept strictly “within the bounds of Sharia [Islamic law].” Its art syllabus bans pupils from drawing human beings, animals and objects that Islam deems “unlawful”. The school did not return calls.

Mrs Messaoudi also wrote the Ofsted report cited by Ed Balls, the then schools secretary, as “clearing” schools run by supporters of the racist, extremist sect Hizb ut Tahrir. The schools, the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation establishments in Haringey, north London, and Slough, Berks, received more than £113,000 of public funding and became the subject of national controversy after being exposed in The Sunday Telegraph.

One of the Foundation’s trustees, Farah Ahmed, who is also headmistress of the Slough school, wrote a chapter in a Hizb ut Tahrir pamphlet attacking the National Curriculum for its “systematic indoctrination” of Muslim children “to build model British citizens”. She criticised “attempts to integrate Muslim children” into British society as an effort “to produce new generations that reject Islam”.

She described English as “one of the most damaging subjects” a school can teach and attacked fairy tales, saying that these “reflect secular and immoral beliefs that contradict the viewpoint of Islam”. She also attacked the “obvious dangers” of Shakespeare, including “Romeo and Juliet, which advocates disobeying parents and premarital relations”. Mrs Messaoudi’s Ofsted report on the Haringey school said it was “satisfactory.”

However, an earlier Ofsted report by a different inspector, only seven months before, had described the school as “inadequate” and had said “more could be done to promote cultural tolerance and harmony”.

The Charity Commission also investigated the school after The Sunday Telegraph articles. It ruled that there were no concerns over the public funding, saying that since the main Hizb ut Tahrir trustee, Yusra Hamilton, had resigned, it was “not necessary for the commission to examine further the impact of her being a trustee”.

However, Mrs Hamilton only resigned after being exposed in this newspaper, and was a trustee of the schools at the time the public money was paid. She continues to work with children as a volunteer at the Haringey school.

Mrs Ahmed has confirmed that she was a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, and refused to deny that she still shared its views.

“This report is deeply intellectually dishonest,” said Hannah Stuart, of the Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank, which has closely investigated Hizb ut Tahrir. “You can clearly see that they knew exactly what went on, yet bent over backwards to cover their own backs.”

The Charity Commission said last night that it had found “no evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology was being taught at or brought into the school”.

Mrs Messaoudi has written a book published by the Islamic Foundation, Britain’s foremost centre of Islamist intellectual thought.

According to the website of the hardline Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” (GPU) conference, both she and Mr Khan-Cheema were judges for its education awards held last week. GPU is organised by the Islam Channel, a digital TV station which hosts a number of fundamentalist and extremist presenters. A number of extremists spoke at the GPU event, though moderates also appeared, and items glorifying terrorism were on open sale there. Mrs Messaoudi was also listed as a judge for the 2008 GPU awards.

Mrs Messaoudi declined to comment last night. However, Ofsted, speaking on behalf of Mrs Messaoudi and Mr Khan-Cheema, said they were both “experienced professionals and we have no reason to doubt their ability in conducting inspections”.

It said Mrs Messaoudi’s clearing of the Shakhsiyah school was in a report “specifically designed as a follow-up to ensure that the school had undertaken the improvements required as a result of our first inspection”.

Nord Anglia Education, which employed Mr Khan-Cheema on contract to Ofsted, declined to comment.

Sources said Mrs Messaoudi had criticised some Muslim schools for Ofsted and her judgments of the Madani School were not wholly uncritical. Ofsted said its inspections generally were “thorough, rigorous and methodical”.

Many Muslim schools, however, are not inspected by Ofsted at all. Within the past two years, the watchdog has passed the scrutiny of many private “faith” schools to the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, a joint venture between the Christian Schools’ Trust and the Association of Muslim Schools.

Unlike “mainline” Ofsted inspections, which are carried out entirely by professional inspectors, BSI inspections of Muslim schools are often done by a team of three which always includes one head teacher of another Muslim school.

The BSI report into Bury Park Educational Institute, a mixed but gender-segregated Muslim secondary in Luton, claims that “the quality of education is good” even though the report itself admits that girls at the school get less teaching than boys.

“Some aspects of National Curriculum subjects are in a few respects currently less for the girls than for the boys,” it says, and there is not yet “full, equal access to National Curriculum subjects” between girls and boys.

Girls, says the report, are sometimes denied the opportunity for PE, “which they say they miss”. There is no suggestion that Bury Park teaches separatist views or opposition to British society.

One of the BSI inspectors who wrote the report into Bury Park, Ibrahim Hewitt, is chairman of the controversial charity Interpal, which is banned in the United States having been accused of supporting the terrorist group Hamas.

Interpal insists that it does not support Hamas and the Charity Commission has cleared Interpal. Mr Hewitt is also a headmaster of a Muslim school in Leicester and a senior member of the ruling “shura”, or executive committee, of the Association of Muslim Schools.

Mohammed Mukadam, a spokesman for BSI and also chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said: “All our inspections are led by former HMIs [professional inspectors]. "The conflict of interest argument would be valid if our head teachers were leading the inspections, but there is no conflict of interest. Our schools tell us that BSI inspections are much more rigorous than Ofsted’s.”

On behalf of the AMS, he admitted: “There are some schools which are actively opposed to certain British values. But a new generation of schools is coming in with a better understanding of the British context.”

Ms Stuart, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “A whole generation is being brought up to at the very least suspect, and perhaps even despise, the society they will have to live in. This is deeply worrying for the future of community cohesion. “By whitewashing these schools, Ofsted and the Charity Commission are being negligent in their responsibility to protect children in their formative years.”


Students at a US university are being offered a course in the pop singer Lady Gaga‏

Mathieu Deflem, a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina, is adding a course title "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame".

The synopsis for the course reads: "The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga".

Prof Deflem, 48, who has met the singer, real name Stefani Germanotta, on a number of occasions, said: "We're going to look at Lady Gaga as a social event. Other people say that Gaga's the new Madonna. I see it more like there's people who have this very individual thing. Frank Zappa had it. Prince had it. Miles Davis had it. Jimi Hendrix had it. And Lady Gaga has it."


Australia: Single-sex classes gain momentum as schools opt to segregate

EDUCATION experts say the trend of single-sex classrooms for young students is gaining momentum and works, but the State Government has left the matter up to principals as the debate heats up in primary schools.

Parents at Milton State School are rallying against a proposal to segregate students into gender-specific classes next year – a program that has been on trial in other state schools for some time.

But the State Government keeps no centralised data as to how many schools across the state are trialling the program, nor its success in those schools.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg yesterday called on the Government to monitor the scheme more closely and move away from such an "ad hoc" approach.

Education Queensland defended the dearth of centralised data, saying decisions about same-sex classes were best made at a local level.

Single-sex classes are being run at Miami State School on the Gold Coast, Earnshaw State College at Banyo and Victoria Point State School. In all of these schools, parents have the option to keep children in mixed-gender classes.

Victoria Point State School has had single-sex classes for about 10 years. Its principal, Lex Bowden, said same-sex classes consistently achieved better academically. "We also get (fewer) problems with behaviour," he said.

Griffith University education expert Alan Edwards said single-sex classrooms had gained in popularity recently across Australia and the US. "The theory about boys and girls learning differently has gained momentum," he said. He said feedback, generally, was positive.

Miami State School has also had boys-only classes for three years. Next year, principal Anthony Green is considering adding a 4/5 boys-only class.