Saturday, February 26, 2011

British school "lotteries" hitting the middle class

Typical Leftist stupidity. They overlook what makes a school "good". The main factor is that the pupils are well-behaved and diligent children from middle-class homes. Break that up and the school will no longer be desirable -- to anybody

Schools in more than a third of council areas are selecting low-ability students or using lotteries in an attempt to break the middle-class hold on the most sought-after places.

The number of authorities where such admission policies are used has increased sharply as competition for the best schools has intensified, a survey by The Daily Telegraph has found.

The rise of lotteries and so-called "fair banding" – where test results are used to select a proportion of pupils with lower ability – could thwart affluent families who have bought homes within the catchment areas of successful schools. They have often paid a premium of tens of thousands of pounds to do so.

This is the fifth year since councils were given the power to use such admissions techniques. Fair banding has since been encouraged by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who has said that it could help make schools "truly comprehensive".

But opponents say the policies amount to social engineering and can result in children travelling miles every day after being turned down by a first choice local school.

Families also face a potential fall in house prices if an oversubscribed school decides to employ a random admissions policy.

The disclosure comes ahead of "admissions day" on Tuesday when the parents of almost 540,000 children in England will find out which secondary school their son or daughter will go to in September.

At least 60,000 children are expected to miss their preferred school, one in nine. In some areas, 40 per cent of children are being turned down by their preferred school.

The Telegraph surveyed 150 councils in England with responsibility for education. Of 110 that responded, 27 said that some schools in their area were using lotteries to assign places, while 21 said some were using "fair banding".

A number of councils included schools using both methods, with the result that 38 in total – more than one in three – had schools using at least one. A similar survey in 2009 suggested the figure was around one in four. The results suggest that, across all 150 councils, up to 180,000 pupils are applying in areas where their admission could effectively be decided "by a roll of the dice" or fair banding.

The measures are most common in urban areas, where competition for the best schools is particularly fierce, and at academy schools.

Local authorities and schools were given the power to use lotteries and fair banding in 2007. Local authorities decide whether ordinary comprehensives can employ the policies while academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools decide for themselves.

Brighton became the first council to allow random selection in 2008. Since then such procedures have become widespread. Mr Gove has previously explained his support, saying: "You can make sure that if your school is located in an area which may well be relatively privileged, by dint of house prices and background and so on, that you are spreading the load academically."

However, he is facing mounting opposition to their growing use. Jennie Varley, the vice-chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: "This is a form of social engineering. "It seems wrong to decide the fate of children on the roll of a dice. It means that children might end up with the wrong education which can have a damaging impact on their lives. "An academic high-flier would be bored to tears in a school which catered for special needs. “The Government should be focusing instead on improving the standards of all schools.”

Margaret Morrissey, of the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: “Middle-class families are being penalised because of political correctness. “There was nothing wrong with the previous system – local children should be allowed to go to local schools. Catchment areas have been hugely successful.”

In Westminster, London, 40 per cent of children have been turned down by their preferred school while in Sandwell, West Midlands, 27 per cent have missed out. Schools in both areas use fair banding to cope with demand. One of the most oversubscribed schools in the country is the William Hulme Grammar Academy in Manchester, which had 433 applicants for 120 places.

The school has adopted both fair banding and random selection. Peter Mulholland, its head teacher, said: “Fair banding ensures we have a completely comprehensive intake with children of all abilities and from all ethnic backgrounds. We reflect the full range of society. “We have an excellent and completely multicultural school. It is genuinely comprehensive.”

Mr Gove last night expressed his sympathy for parents whose children are being turned away from their preferred school. He declined to comment, however, on the use of lotteries and fair banding in deciding admissions. He said: “It’s heartbreaking for parents when they don’t get their children into the school they want.

“The fact is that after 13 years of Labour there simply aren’t enough good schools. That’s why we’re turning around failing schools and letting teachers set up new schools to give all parents, not just the rich, access to schools with strong discipline, great teaching and small class sizes.”


Education Revolution... Without the People?

Over the past few years, a mix of political, corporate and foundation interests has launched American education on a profound and largely unnoted revolution. Its victims are the democratic process, educational freedom, local control and parental authority.

The story dates back decades, but its current phase began in 2007. That year, the Gates and the Eli Broad foundations pledged $60 million to inject their education vision, including uniform “American standards,” into the 2008 campaigns. Then, in May 2008, the Gates Foundation awarded the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy a $2.2 million grant “to work with governors and other key stakeholders” to promote the adoption of standards. The following month, Hunt and the National Governors Association hosted a symposium to explore education strategies.

In December 2008, during the transition to the Obama administration, the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, Inc. (an entity founded by NGA, governed by six state governors and six corporate leaders, and funded by several mega-corporations and foundations) set out their education vision in “Benchmarking for Success,” funded by the Gates Foundation. It outlines five “reform” steps, including nationwide standards.

NGA wanted to implement its plan quickly -- and avoid the tedium of the democratic process. If given the chance, the people -- through their elected representatives -- might muck around with, or reject, NGA’s eventual product. (That’s what happened with the Constitution; the people demanded the addition of the Bill of Rights.) The 2009 stimulus bill provided NGA’s breakthrough. It increased the Education Department’s discretionary spending by 25,500 percent, giving it a fresh pot of money and a means to shape state and local curricula without congressional interference.

In March 2009, one month after passage of the stimulus bill, the Education Department announced a two-part “Race to the Top” “national competition” to distribute the money. It tied 14 percent of the proposal evaluation in the first round to commitment to ratifying (with an August 2010 target date) and implementing the standards. A state could not get money unless it signed onto the standards.

Meanwhile, NGA and CCSSO had formally launched their Common Core Standards Initiative to develop and implement national K-12 academic standards. They planned to “leverage states’ collective influence to ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula and assessments are aligned” with the standards. CCSSO President-elect Sue Gendron aptly described it as “transforming education for every child.”

The cash-starved states jumped for a share of the $4.35 billion. By June 2009, only Republican Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Rick Perry of Texas had refused to join the effort. Perry argued that it would be “foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.” He said it “smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools.”

In March 2010, NGA released the “first official public draft” of the standards, followed by a June release of the final product. The two first “winners” of R2T funds were announced that month. At that point, to meet the deadline for the second and larger round, states had only two months to commit to adopting the standards. Regarding New Jersey’s June 16 adoption, Rutgers professor Joseph Rosenstein remarked in Education Week, “Deciding so quickly … is irresponsible.”

In May 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell sided with Texas and Alaska and withdrew from R2T and the standards. He argued that Virginia’s “standards are much superior” and are “validated” (the federal standards have not been field-tested). Nonetheless, by the end of June 2010, 16 states had formally adopted the standards. By the Aug. 2, 2010, R2T application deadline, 31 states had adopted them. That number now stands at 42.

NGA is becoming even more involved through the development of “a State Policymaker Guide to Implementation … planning the future governance structure of the standards and convening the publishing community to ensure that high-quality materials aligned with the standards are created.” The Gates Foundation is developing new courses “with content aligned to the common-core standards and [is] reinventing and realigning traditional courses like Algebra 1 and Geometry to the common core.” And it seems that the administration will request additional R2T funding. It seemingly also intends to tie Title I education funds -- a dramatically larger sum that few states can do without -- to agreement to national standards and tests.

This entire process was problematic.

First, there are the standards themselves. They cover fewer topics than what children are learning now. The Gates Foundation explains that “fewer” means “giving students enough academic preparation, without exceeding the math and literacy requirements that evidence demonstrates are necessary to enter two-year colleges.” And to keep the people in line, the NGA ruled that states “may choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.”

There are legal issues. The federal role in the standards initiative contravenes laws prohibiting the Department of Education from directing a state’s curriculum.

Furthermore, the underlying process showed great disrespect for the American people. The discretionary nature of R2T excluded the people’s representatives in Congress from a meaningful decision-making role. Likewise, the short time frame and huge R2T cash incentives were intended to exclude the states from meaningful decision making. The Founders considered a great defect of the Articles of Confederation to be, as stated by Alexander Hamilton, “that it never had a ratification by the People.” They did not make that mistake with the Constitution, and they would be disappointed that we have not learned the lesson.

And then there’s the NGA. It is not an official body of the states. Yet, it is acting like a legislative body and, on a transformative initiative, helped cut the American people out of the democratic process. Each governor is responsible for safeguarding that process. A good start on that would be to reform the NGA.


Abolish all federal education spending

Quote of the Day: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." -- Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

The Federal State has no constitutional authority for involvement in education. This alone should be sufficient reason to abolish the Department of Education and all federal education spending. But there are also two other powerful reasons . . .

* Federal education programs don't work. Instead, they actually cause harm.

* The Federal State is headed toward bankruptcy and needs to cut spending.

Statist schools don't work because they have no incentive to perform adequately. Unlike businesses in the Voluntary Sector of the economy, Statist schools can't be fired or replaced by the people they supposedly serve.

This is the nature of Statism. It constantly compels the masters (citizens) to serve the servants (politicians and bureaucrats). As a result . . . You're now spending more than twice as much for the Feds to meddle with education as taxpayers did in the 1970's, but student performance hasn't improved. Instead, costs have soared. For instance . . .

College tuition has increased at twice the rate of inflation. Federal grants and guaranteed loans that were supposed to make education more affordable, have actually increased costs by enabling colleges to raise their prices. The result is that students are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt when they graduate.

This is par for the course for Statist programs. Consider just two other examples of this phenomenon . . .

* Federal politicians create lots of schemes. Take Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These boondoggles were intended to make housing more affordable. The result was housing prices that skyrocketed, then burst, leaving millions of people poorer, and even bankrupt.

* Other federal schemes like Medicare and Medicaid were supposed to make sick-care more affordable too, but here again the costs have risen far faster than the rate of inflation.

The same thing has happened with education.

We can derive a principle from this . . . Every time the politicians promise they can make something cheaper by spending more, that "something" becomes more expensive, not less, and we have to carry more debt and pay more taxes on top of it.

This makes the comparison between the Coercive State and the Voluntary Sector very stark. The Voluntary Sector constantly does more with less, while the Coercive State constantly does less with more. The incentives dictate that it must be this way . . .

* The Coercive State rewards itself for failure -- the worse schools perform the more money the politicians spend on them. This gives Statist institutions an incentive for INcompetence.

* But businesses and institutions in the Voluntary Sector have to perform well, or consumers reject them. This gives the Voluntary Sector a powerful bias towards competence.

The conclusion we should draw from this is equally stark . . . The education of children is too important to be trusted to politicians and bureaucrats. We should abolish all federal involvement in schooling.

The Constitution got it right when it failed to authorize a federal role for education. Schools should be managed at the local level, NOT from the top down. Better yet, schools should work for parents, NOT for teachers unions and the local Statist school board. We need consumer centered education, just like we need consumer centered sick-care.

Abolishing all federal education spending would cost us nothing and gain us much. It would bring us in compliance with the Constitution, restore a certain amount of local control to education, and save us about $120 billion a year.


Friday, February 25, 2011

CO: 11-year-old arrested over “inappropriate” stick figure drawing

An 11-year-old Arvada boy was arrested and hauled away in handcuffs for drawing stick figures in school - something his therapist told him to do.

The boy’s parents say they understand what he did was inappropriate, but are outraged by the way Arvada Police handled the case. The parents do not want their real names used.

“Tim” is being treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and his therapist told him to draw pictures when got upset, rather than disrupt the class. So that’s what he did.

Last October, he drew stick figures of himself with a gun, pointed at four other stick figures with the words “teacher must die.” He felt calmer and was throwing the picture away when the teacher saw it and sent him to the principal’s office. The school was aware that the boy was in treatment, determined the drawing was not an actual threat, notified his parents and sent him back to class.

His mother, “Jane,” however, was shocked when Arvada Police showed up at their home later that night. She says she told her son to cooperate and tell the truth, but was horrified when they told her they were arresting him and then handcuffed him and hauled him away in a patrol car.

Tim’s mother says she begged police to let her drive her son to the police department and to let her stay with him through the booking process but they refused. Instead, they put him in a cell, took his mug shot and fingerprinted him. He thought he was going to jail and would never be able to go home again.

According to the police report, “Tim” explained he made the drawing to release anger and would never hurt teachers or anyone. At first, the school did not want to press charges, but changed their mind when police called them later that night.

A juvenile assessment report shows Tim has never been in legal trouble before and is at low risk to reoffend. Regardless, he is charged with a third degree misdemeanor, interfering with staff and students at an educational facility.

The system says it’s doing what’s in the best interest of the child. But Tim’s therapist says handcuffing an 11-year-old and putting him in a cell over something like this is “quite an overreaction” and does much more harm than good.

Tim is on probation and, if he completes that successfully, the criminal charges will be dropped. But his parents say its cost them thousands of dollars so far. And if they had known that their son’s cooperation would be used as evidence against him, they would have hired a lawyer at the beginning and exercised their right to remain silent.


Chaotic British State school

A draconian ‘super head’ has been sacked just two days into his new job after suspending seven pupils for minor offences. Craig Tunstall, who earns more than the Prime Minister and is one of Britain’s highest-paid head teachers, lasted less than 48 hours in his role as executive head of a failing primary school.

Within hours of joining, Mr Tunstall, who was thought to have been receiving a pay package of close to £200,000, had excluded seven pupils as young as five. Their offences included wearing the wrong coat in the playground, refusing to finish their school lunch and failing to stand in line. One of the suspended pupils was a five-year-old boy with special needs.

His manner was so authoritarian that staff and children alike said he created a ‘climate of fear’. And he provoked outrage by demanding that all the pupils walked with their hands behind their backs. Council bosses, who had parachuted Mr Tunstall into Oval Primary in Croydon after ousting the previous head, were forced to take immediate action to remove him following a barrage of complaints.

The school was put into special measures last month after a disastrous Ofsted report. Its local council, Croydon, on the recommendation of the Department for Education, arranged for it to be taken over by a body that runs two well performing schools in South London. Mr Tunstall, as executive head of the federation, was brought in to turn Oval Primary around. It is believed the appointment would have boosted his annual pay package to close to £200,000.

In a manoeuvre that shocked the school, he arrived on Thursday, February 17, the morning after the former head teacher, Ruth Johnston, quit. But his tenure was shortlived. The council sacked him before the end of the day on Friday.

One of the children suspended by Mr Tunstall was Callum Simms. The five-year-old, who has special needs, was reprimanded for not lining up quickly enough when asked to by one of his teachers.

His outraged mother, Nikki Simms, said: ‘When I heard from other parents that a number of other kids had been excluded, I did worry for Callum because he has behavioural problems. ‘But he didn’t have a fight or cause a lot of trouble. ‘He’s just a little boy with learning difficulties who didn’t line up in the playground. ‘That he was excluded for something so stupid is unbelievable.’

Another distraught mother, Sarah Ellacott, said her daughter Rachael, seven, came home from school saying pupils had been told to walk with their hands behind their backs as if ‘in prison’. Mrs Ellacott, 27, said: ‘Children were going to school afraid to do anything in case they got suspended. That’s not the way to make children behave.’

Mr Tunstall, who has no children of his own, recently split from his wife Carol, 37, who works for an animal sanctuary.

Until recently he lived in a £500,000 semi-detached red-brick three bedroom house in a residential area in Bromley, Kent – a far cry from the deprived area of Croydon where Oval Primary is located. Mr Tunstall remains the executive head of the Gypsy Hill Federation, which runs two successful primary schools in Lambeth, South London – Kingswood Primary and Elmwood Primary. They have both received outstanding Ofsted reports.

It is Government policy to link failing schools with successful schools in the area. Croydon council leader Mike Fisher yesterday admitted the appointment was a mistake. He said: ‘We apologise for any sort of upset we have caused the parents and that the organisation brought in turned out to be the wrong one – we made a mistake.’

A council spokesman said: ‘We have a strong record of setting up partnerships with schools and have done so successfully in the past. ‘On this occasion it became clear the arrangement would not work and the authority took swift action to resolve it.’

Mr Tunstall, speaking through a friend, refused to comment.

The council is set to announce the appointment of a new head teacher on Monday who is believed to be from a local academy.

Mr Tunstall was revealed to be the eighth highest-paid head in London, earning a salary of £137,991, and a total package of £151,835, last year. The Prime Minister is paid £142,500. Primary school head teachers typically earn around £55,000.

Education Secretary Michael Gove plans to cap head teachers’ pay. It is currently being reviewed by the School Teachers Review Body, which will report in March.


Now FOOTBALLS are "unsafe" in British school playgrounds!

For decades, the nation's playgrounds have echoed with the thud of a firmly-struck football. But children living in the streets where England football star Steven Gerrard grew up are being denied that innocent, wholesome pleasure - and it's all in the name of health and safety.

Pupils at a primary school in Huyton, near Liverpool, have been banned from bringing modern synthetic or leather footballs into the playground and told to use balls made of sponge instead.

Teachers say the heavy balls are unsuitable for an enclosed space where young children may be playing, saying it risks injury.

However amid fears over Britain's childhood obesity epidemic, as well as worries over where our next generation of sporting champions is going to come from, critics last night slammed the edict as an absurd over-reaction.

The rule was spelt out in this month's newsletter sent out by Malvern Primary School in Huyton, a deprived area with Britain's second worst obesity record.

The district has nevertheless long been regarded as a hotbed of footballing talent, having produced the likes of Liverpool captain Gerrard in addition to former Everton hero Peter Reid - now manager of Plymouth Argyle - and notorious Newcastle United player Joey Barton.

It informed parents: 'Please can we request that only sponge balls are brought into school. This is to ensure the safety of all our pupils when on the playground.'

But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, said: 'Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn? 'It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball. 'Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.'

Critics say it is just the latest obstacle created by political correctness to stand in the way of the exercise and life skills children can gain from taking part in sport.

Last summer a primary school in Devon banned playground football altogether, saying pupils were copying the cheating and fouling displayed at the World Cup.

Shortly afterwards, brothers Henry and Alex Worthington, 12 and 11, were threatened with antisocial behaviour orders by three police officers while having a kickabout in the cul-de-sac where they live in Timperley, Greater Manchester.

Mr Fry added: 'We do have a litigation culture, but you can't tell me Steven Gerrard did not play football in the playground - I bet he even fell over a few times.'

And Adrian Voce, director of Play England, which advises schools on safe, fun pastimes, pointed out that last year's review on health and safety by Lord Young recommended a common sense approach to managing risk in children's play-times. 'Research tells us that children need to play adventurously and test themselves, yet many children don't get the opportunity to do so in our risk-adverse society,' he said. 'Children must be allowed to encounter some risks for themselves as a natural part of their play and growing up.'

Knowsley, Huyton's local district, has among the country's worst GCSE results, and in 2004 was ranked behind only Hull in a league table of Britain's fattest towns.

Malvern Primary School yesterday insisted the football crackdown was not new, saying the reminder had been issued after a parent complained that a child was nearly hurt.

It pointed out that its cramped playground was shared by pupils of all ages but stressed it was supportive of sport and backed the importance of physical exercise.

In a statement it added: 'Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks, especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11.'


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Only 39 Percent of Wisconsin Public-School Eighth Graders Proficient in Math, Says Department of Education

Only 39 percent of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools are proficient or better in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 31 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 8 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 61 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 40 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 21 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

The test also showed that the mathematics test scores of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders have remained almost flat since 1996 while inflation adjusted per-pupil spending has significantly increased.

In 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public-school eighth graders scored an average of 283 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics test. In 2009, they scored an average of 288 out of 500. In other words, the average mathematics test score for Wisconsin eighth graders increased by 5 points out of 500—or one percentage point—from 1996 to 2009.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s per pupil spending on public school students increased from $6,517 in 1996 to $10,791 in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $6,517 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1996 dollars equaled $8,942 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1996 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $1,849—or 20.7 percent--in real terms while adding only one percentage point to their average eighth grader’s math score.
The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.

Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are not doing a good job teaching children to be proficient in math. The average American eighth-grade public school student scored 282 out of 500 on the NAEP mathematics test in 2009, with only 25 percent earning a “proficient” rating and only 7 percent earning an “advanced rating.” The other 68 percent of American eighth grader were rated less than proficient in math.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress explains its student rating system as follows: “Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.”

In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.


Antidote to Government-Run Education

Charter schools are facing increasing fierce attacks by organized labor – because they work. Most of them are publicly funded and are not bound by inch-thick union contracts that stipulate what teachers don’t have to do and which hoops administrators have to jump through in order to hold their employees accountable.

Some charter schools don’t produce the desired results. But because of the agreement between the school and their state, if they aren’t up to snuff, they can be shut down. If only the same could be said of traditional public systems in Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles.

Indianapolis Public Schools is a dismal mess. Leaders there do whatever they can to keep the ship afloat, regardless of the harm it brings to the children of the city. Parents are desperate for choices – and they found one in the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School.

Tindley Accelerated School was started by education visionaries who bought an old grocery store, put up some walls, hired quality teachers and began educating kids. Today, those kids are out-performing their peers in the very same neighborhood, dispelling many myths.

The success of Tindley Accelerated School is showing that anyone can learn when the culture is right. Fancy buildings and heavy spending are not requirements for impressive academic results.

In the pitched battle over education reform that is going on in Indiana right now, the state is expanding reforms that are working, much to the dismay of the Indiana State Teachers Association. But union leaders have vowed to do whatever they can to hamper reform, even if it means sentencing kids to failing schools.

Who will win? It’s a deadly serious question, because nothing less than the future of Indiana (and of the entire United States) is at stake.


The Detroit meltdown continues

A black city generates little revenue and a lot of welfare claims -- so not much money for schools

State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district's books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

This week, Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager, said he is meeting with Detroit city officials and will set up a meeting with Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency to discuss consolidation opportunities in areas such as finance, public safety, transportation and other areas.

Bobb also is preparing a list of recommended school closures and Friday said layoff discussions are under way and would be announced closer to April, when notices would be issued. "We are moving forward with the plan," he said "Right now my focus is on my transition plan and the DEP (deficit elimination plan)."

Bobb's last day with DPS is June 30. After that, the state plans to install another financial manager who must continue to implement Bobb's plan, according to a Feb. 8 letter from Mike Flanagan, the state superintendent of public instruction.

In the letter, Flanagan said the Michigan Department of Education gave preliminary approval to Bobb's plan to bring the 74,000-student district out of its financial emergency. As a condition of approval, Flanagan said Bobb cannot declare the district in bankruptcy during the remainder of his contract.

Bobb, appointed emergency financial manager in March 2009, filed his deficit elimination plan with the state in January, saying it would wipe out the district's $327 million deficit by 2014. On Feb. 9, he told state lawmakers the plan is the only way DPS "can cut its way out" of its legacy deficit.

At the same time, Bobb said he doesn't believe the proposal is viable because it would drive more students away, exacerbating the district's financial emergency. But on Friday, Bobb confirmed he is working to implement the plan that will shrink the district to 72 schools for a projected 58,570 students in 2014.

"I believe the district can work its way out of these challenges," Bobb said. "It will take some time. I am firm believer we have to continue to make the deep cuts, and they are going to be painful. In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat."

Bobb said he continues to work on an alternative plan — one similar to a General Motors-style restructuring — but has yet to release details or announce a sponsor for such a bill. "Whatever comes out of the transition plan and whatever my new thinking is will be a part of that," he said.

Earlier this month, Bobb told members of a joint House and Senate education committee he needed legislation to assure the district's continued access to loans to stave off insolvency. The district needs $219 million by March, and its bond insurer, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., wants the state to guarantee DPS won't file for bankruptcy. Bobb told lawmakers the district has no such intentions.

Bobb has said school closures, bigger classes and other measures would be needed if he cannot get help from lawmakers to restructure finances in the state's largest school district. DPS considered but declined to file for bankruptcy in 2009 Experts say DPS has an uphill battle for financial stability. Revenue is down dramatically, enrollment losses average 8,000 students a year and pension and health care costs weigh on the district.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feds and Unions: Foes to Educational Reform

"The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." Do you believe that?

Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on 14 state Senate Democrats, who had fled the state instead of voting on a deficit-cutting anti-teachers-union bill, to return and do their jobs. Senate Republicans hold a 19-14 majority there but can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present.

Does that sound like democracy at work to you? Do you think it?s just a coincidence that the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are the largest campaign contributors in the nation -- $55 million in just the past two years, more than the Teamsters, the National Rifle Association or any other organization -- and that 90 percent of those contributions fund only Democratic candidates?

As I began to point out last week, the U.S. public education system is flailing now more than ever, and teachers unions are aiding and abetting its demise. Some teachers unions may indeed be fighting for some of our teachers, but they are failing our students by protecting adults at the expense of the reformation of a crippled and dying system.

I became even further aware of that in a big way when I recently watched the movie "Waiting for ?Superman,?" a deeply personal look into the state of U.S. public education and how it is effecting our children. It is a movie my wife, Gena, and I encourage every American to watch. (It just came out on DVD and Blu-ray.)

"Waiting for ?Superman?" demonstrates how:

--Teachers unions are crippling the education of our children.

--Tenure and its guaranteed jobs are perpetuating educational dysfunction.

--Existing bureaucracies in education, from the U.S. Department of Education to state school boards, are doing more harm than good.

--Many public schools have become "dropout factories" (schools with high dropout rates).

--Many public school districts are engaged in "lemon dances" (sending their worst teachers to other schools and then in turn accepting failing teachers themselves).

--Many public school districts have "rubber rooms," places where teachers placed on disciplinary leave are waiting for hearings that could take three to four years to be heard. These teachers waste their time playing cards and other games while getting paid full salaries and benefits -- to the wasted sum of $100 million a year of taxpayer money.

Think about this: If a teacher knows he can?t be fired, why should he work or care? What other profession, besides college professor, has that kind of contractual agreement? None.

Don't misunderstand me; I fully know and believe that the majority of public-school teachers and principals are dedicated and highly qualified. I know some. But I also know that more often than not, even their hands are being tied by bureaucratic red tape, federal and state regulations, and teachers unions? special interests, agendas and contracts. By and large, teachers are good, but government regulation and teachers unions are a menace and impediment to real public education reform.

The fact is, as "Waiting for ?Superman?" also documents, the federal government has gone from spending $4,300 per student in 1971 to more than $9,000 today (and that?s adjusted for inflation and costs of living). In our spending double, one would think we?re getting double the results, but most of our public schools are worse off now than they were in 1971.

From coast to coast, reading and math scores have flat-lined since then. In Connecticut, only 35 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math. In Alabama, that number is only 18 percent, and in California, it?s only 24 percent.

And when the nation?s eighth-graders were tested in reading proficiency, most states scored between 20 and 35 percent of grade level, with the absolute lowest scores in reading being in the nation?s capital, Washington, D.C., where only 12 percent of eighth-graders are proficient.

I discussed last week how we all can fight to improve U.S. public education. But if our local schools aren?t imparting a quality education or reforming fast enough to do so for our children, then we must seek educational alternatives. The minds, hearts and future of our children and nation are on the line.

But choice is something the feds and teachers unions are not exactly thrilled about offering. In fact, President Barack Obama's appointed secretary of education, Arne Duncan, explained in an NPR interview, "I'm a big believer in choice and competition, but I think we can do that within the public-school framework."

Our children deserve the best education we can give them. We can?t be satisfied by failed government-run schools that don?t provide the level of education we want. But there are alternatives, and I would encourage you to look into them. Charter, parochial and private schools and home-school co-ops are a few. Gena and I are very committed to home-schooling our 9-year-old twins.

'Superman' is not going to rise up in the ranks of the federal government or teachers unions. He or she is going to rise up from within our homes.

In this respect, "Superman" Christopher Reeve had it right: "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."


What Madison Revealed: Teachers as Rent Seekers

"Rent" is a technical term in economics but it is explained below

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." -- John Maynard Keynes

The particular defunct economist who most dominates the minds of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party is Keynes himself. But events in Wisconsin and a few other states are bringing other economists -- some still very much alive -- to the fore.

In Wisconsin and other states facing severe budget crises, we are witnessing the clash of special interests versus the public interest. Though the term "special interests" is usually deployed as an epithet by Democrats and is meant to refer to oil companies, "the rich," or other undesirables, in fact, as economist James M. Buchanan and other "public choice" theorists explain, a special interest is any community that attempts to gain a particular advantage from government.

Buchanan taught that government officials -- office holders and bureaucrats alike -- respond to incentives and pursue their self-interest just as other economic actors do. So do "rent seekers." The classic example offered is that of protectionism. An industry -- say, the sugar growers -- lobbies the government to impose tariffs on imported sugar in order to keep prices high (they are the rent seekers). A tariff will benefit each and every sugar grower substantially. So it is in the sugar growers' interest to form a trade association, to make campaign contributions, and to pay close attention to the way office holders vote on the question.

The broad public, by contrast, is potentially disadvantaged by a tariff on imported sugar because prices for candy, soda, and other products that contain sugar will rise. But the incremental added cost, per consumer, is very small. It is therefore extremely difficult to organize the public to oppose sugar quotas, or a host of other measures. Thus does government spending ratchet ever upward.

Public employees in many states are classic rent seekers, but they do sugar growers and the like one better. Through collective bargaining, unions negotiate with elected officials for wages and benefits. (SET ITAL) They then get the state to collect union dues for them by withholding the dues from public employees' checks. (END ITAL) With the accumulated cash, the union then makes campaign contributions to the favored public officials. Neat.

As labor historian Fred Siegel told John Fund of the Wall Street Journal: "Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits."

This system has worked well for public employees across the nation. Until 2010, New Jersey teachers contributed nothing to their lavish health care packages. Permitted to retire after 25 years of service, teachers receive pensions of 70 percent or more of their top salary (among the highest in the country) as well as health care for life. Yet the NJ Education Association howled when Gov. Chris Christie asked them, in light of the state's dire financial straits, to accept a one-year wage freeze and to contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries to the cost of their health plans.

Wisconsin teachers, too, have negotiated cushy deals for themselves. As Gov. Scott Walker has pointed out, private employees contribute an average of 29 percent of the cost of health benefits. Wisconsin union members contribute only about 6 percent. With the state budget in the red, something had to be done.

The bargains between governments and unions (or other special interests) require one thing above all to be successful -- an inattentive electorate. Just as the sugar growers would be eager to keep people in the dark about quotas or subsidies, so unions want the public to be kept ignorant of the overly generous compensation packages that are negotiated at the taxpayers' expense.

That's why the massive, tub-thumping, sign-waving, hippie sit-in staged by teachers and their allies in Madison over the last week makes no sense. (By the way, did you notice the demise of "civility" in politics? Where are the denunciations of the pictures of Walker as Hitler and Mubarak? The signs calling him a "Midwest Mussolini"?) The protests, with their attendant disdain for the school kids (so many teachers fraudulently called in sick that schools in Milwaukee, Madison, and Janesville had to close), serve as a huge neon sign alerting the sleeping electorate to what has been happening to their tax dollars.

The rent seekers stand exposed. Nothing that Walker and the Republican legislature had in mind is as damaging to the teachers union as that spotlight.


British pupils from poorest backgrounds stand one in 100 chance of top university

This wail will go on to the end of time. Smart people tend to get rich and also tend to pass on their brains to their kids. So, on average, the children of the rich will always be smarter and have higher educational achievement

Pupils from the poorest backgrounds stand just a one in a hundred chance of going to one of the country’s top universities. Their peers are seven times more likely to attend a university such as Oxford or Cambridge, figures released to MPs show.

The trend will be seized on by Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, who wants institutions to make it easier for students from poorer backgrounds to gain entry. Last week he accused elite colleges of "social segregation" and told them to do more to bring in students from low-income families.

From next year, all universities will be allowed to charge annual fees of up to £6,000. Those who want to charge more, up to £9,000, will have to sign agreements with the Government promising to admit more children from poorer homes.

Universities will submit their own proposals on how to widen access, but will be monitored by the Director of Fair Access, an independent regulator. And the Government can specify how much of a university's additional tuition income should be invested in access projects. Those who fail to comply could be fined up to £500,000 or have their right to charge more than £6,000 a year revoked.

In 2007/08 just one per cent of pupils who had been on free school meals were at one of the Russell Group universities, which include Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, Manchester and the London School of Economics. Only 15 per cent of them went to any university at all. In contrast, some seven per cent of pupils not on free meals were at a top university and a third were at any.

The figures were obtained by Charlotte Leslie, the Tory MP for Bristol North West and a member of the Education Select Committee. She said: “These statistics show the shocking reality beneath the last government's complacency about the welfare of our poorest pupils.

“In far too many cases, our schools system is failing our most disadvantaged children. “No child should be denied the chance to go to a top university purely because of their background, but tragically this is what is happening to our children today.”

However, other Tories are concerned about the access proposals.

A Commons motion published last week and signed by 25 Tory MPs said they "would view with concern any attempt to put political pressure on universities to discriminate between applicants on the basis of their school, family income, background or any other factor unrelated to their academic merit". "Any such policy would be to the detriment of standards in universities and highly unlikely to lead to any improvement in standards in schools," they said.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Columbia University students heckle disabled war hero

They are so indoctrinated that even basic courtesy and common decency fails them

This man fought for his country, got wounded in war, and how do Columbia University students treat him? Like he's the scum of the earth. Remember when the president of Iran spoke on campus? Ahmadinejab was treated with respect, even after saying that there are no homosexuals in Iraq the heckling he got was tame in comparison with what these Columbia bastards did the war hero in the picture above.

I think it's time for Americans to boycott Columbia university, no more federal funding for that evil institution. If they want to hate America, let them do it on their own dime, these so-called "non-profit" universities get millions of dollars in federal aid and for what? Tuition is extremely pricey, the teachers are for the most part Marxists, and their so-called "Journalism" school is nothing more than progressive indoctrination 24/7.

The Blaze reports:
"Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town-hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus.

“Racist!” some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran.

Maschek, 28, had bravely stepped up to the mike Tuesday at the meeting to issue an impassioned challenge to fellow students on their perceptions of the military.

“It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting,” said Maschek. “There are bad men out there plotting to kill you.”

Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds.

Maschek, who is studying economics, miraculously survived the insurgent attack in Kirkuk. In the hail of gunfire, he broke both legs and suffered wounds to his abdomen, arm and chest."


Your Unsolicited Letter of Recommendation

Mike Adams

You may be wondering why I'm writing you a short e-mail with a letter of recommendation attached to the bottom. After all, you have not requested such a letter. Nonetheless, I occasionally like to send letters of recommendation to students who have not requested them. The reason I do this is to let them know how they are doing and what kind of impression they are making on at least one of their professors. You are one of my advisees, and it is likely that in the future a prospective employer will specifically ask for a recommendation letter from me. If such a request were to be made of me today, this is what the letter would look like.
To Whom It May Concern:

Stanley Galbraith is one of my advisees. He has informed me that you are considering hiring him for a full-time position. He has also informed me that you require a letter from his academic adviser. I am pleased to provide such a letter.

Stanley is the rare student who takes a substantial portion of what he learns in the classroom and applies it to his everyday life. His professors are overwhelmingly liberal, and he seems to listen to them and apply their ideas on a regular basis. Let me provide a few examples.

* In addition to advising Stanley, I taught him once in an upper-level night class. The class was full when he tried to sign up, but I made extra room for him because he had missed his advising appointments and therefore needed to get into several classes lest his financial aid be canceled. I also agreed to serve as his new adviser after he upset his previous adviser by failing to keep advising appointments. She berated him, and that upset him.

I took him on because I thought he could learn from the experience of being advised by the only Republican in the department. Dealing with his liberal victim mindset has been a challenge, to say the least. To date, he has never kept one of his advising appointments. That is why he never gets the classes he desires. In short, Stanley seems to believe that rules are mandatory in reference to others and discretionary in reference to Stanley.

* Stanley had a tendency to come to class listening to an iPod, which he did not turn off once the lecture began. He just kept his earplugs in and swayed to the music while I lectured on light topics such as first-degree murder and aggravated rape (I teach criminology, by the way). The syllabus clearly stated that he was not to do this (and allowed me to deduct a point from his final average for every transgression). I also reminded him of this by sending numerous e-mails. But since he did not read the syllabus and did not check his e-mail, he never figured out that he was risking failing the class until it was too late.

In short, Stanley’s disregard for rules is exacerbated by his lack of common sense and his propensity to live in the moment without regard for the long-term consequences of his conduct.

* Stanley seemed to get confused in many of my lectures. I know this because once he took off his earplugs and started to listen to the lecture, he often made strange faces. When I saw these pained expressions, I always stopped and politely asked Stanley what was wrong. He then announced that he was “lost.” I just suggested that he should bring a pen and notebook to class, rather than his iPod. That usually made him even angrier.

In short, Stanley seems to be more interested in broadcasting his problems to others than he is in pursuing common-sense solutions. He clings to his status as a victim because he has Attention Deficit Disorder – a pathological need to draw attention to himself, which, seemingly, can never be satisfied.

Stanley will probably be graduating this semester. But it has been a close call. He began his final semester on five waiting lists (to get into the last five classes he needs to graduate). This happened because he missed his final advising appointment and all the required courses were filled up by the time he came by my office. He had to personally track down all of these professors and beg to get into their classes.

For two weeks, he called my office constantly (and consumed more of my time than all of my other advisees combined). I advised him patiently throughout the ordeal but, to date, I have received no thanks for doing so. In short, Stanley sees government officials as servants obligated to insulate him from the consequences of his own actions. At no point does he consider the possibility that the system would break down if everyone behaved the way that he does.

There is a chance that someday Stanley will grow up and stop living in accordance with the worldview espoused by his sociology professors. But I pity his first employer. If you hire Stanley, you can expect him to be late, inattentive, confused, angry, and in constant need of supervision.

Aside from these concerns, I have no other reservations.

Stan, I know you might never read this e-mail because you rarely check your university e-mail account. So my words will probably never benefit you personally. That is why I have published your letter of recommendation on the internet. When others read it, they can benefit from your ill-considered decision to incorporate liberal ideas into a liberal lifestyle. Some day you might grow out of this and become a responsible and productive citizen. If that ever happens, and if you do eventually read this e-mail, I ask only one thing: Please share the attached letter with someone who needs it.


'Surprising' number of British students studying overseas

Fees at Australian universities are complex and hard to work out but seem to average out at around 5,000 British pounds per annum for Australian students. Overseas students are charged a lot more, however

Britain sends a higher percentage of students to foreign universities than many other countries which could be considered its peers, it has been claimed.

At the Westminster Education Forum on higher education in London last week, Vincenzo Raimo, director of Nottingham University's international office, said that research suggested there were currently around 22,000 British students on degree courses abroad; approximately 1.7 per cent of Britain's entire student population.

By comparison, he said, in China and India - well-known for having a large number of their students educated abroad - these figures were only 1.4 per cent and one per cent respectively.

British students abroad are spread fairly evenly around the world, but he said there were particularly high numbers in the US (around 8,500), France (around 2,600) and in Germany (around 2,200).

“In discussing international education, we often focus too highly on students coming into the UK, and ignore the fact that there’s a lot of outward mobility,” Mr Raimo told Telegraph Expat. “Of course, in terms of sheer numbers there are far more Indian or Chinese students studying abroad. But in terms of percentages, we have a surprising number of students looking to experience higher education in a different country."

The figures discussed by Mr Raimo applied only to students enrolled in full degree courses abroad, not students spending a term or year abroad as part of their degree.

Like many education specialists, Mr Raimo believes that the controversial lifting of the cap on tuition fees in Britain from £3,225 to £9,000 is likely to encourage more students to study abroad. “I think the number would have risen anyway as students became more aware of the advantages of studying in a different country, but without a doubt, financial considerations will increasingly influence students' decisions," he said.

Lee Miller, general manager of Study Overseas UK, which helps British students find placements in Australian, American and Canadian universities, said that he had already seen a significant rise in the number of enquiries about studying abroad since the announcement of the fees increase in December.

He added however that many students were looking at universities which were not necessarily cheaper, but which offered what students saw as an improved lifestyle and better quality education than that available in Britain for a similar cost.

“Students seem to think that if you're going to spend £9,000 a year to study in an average British city, you might as well spend the same amount and go somewhere like Perth, where there's a great beachside lifestye and really good facilities, especially for sport, " he said. "Students also say they are attracted to the different content of foreign degrees, where they get more of a chance to take modules in a range of subjects."

Mr Raimo added in the current economic climate, studying abroad was also likely to improve students' chances in the job market. “Britain's mass education system makes it difficult for students with degrees to differentiate themselves in a marketplace. If they've studied abroad, however, they look much more independent, and have learnt important new skills, like languages."

There is however one significant disadvantage of studying overseas: whatever it might cost in the long run, British students abroad are unlikely to get a loan from the Student Loans Company. It offers loans only to students based in Britain, or those doing up to a year's placement in a university abroad.

None the less, many schools have already started to encourage their pupils to look beyond the traditional destinations for British students. Last month, one of Britain's best-performing state schools, Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, said it had appointed a student counsellor tasked solely with helping students apply for better-value universities overseas.


Monday, February 21, 2011

IL: Home school bill tabled; fight continues

An Illinois bill that would have required home schooling families to register with the state Board of Education has been tabled -- but activists tell the fight is far from over. Curt Mercadante, chairman of the Illinois Homeschool PAC, said he remains extremely concerned that the idea will reappear in some form. The bill was tabled by Illinois state Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat, on Thursday following intense opposition.

"Nothing is ever dead in Springfield," Mercadante told "The goal is not to stop Senate Bill 136. The goal is to stop mandatory home schooling registration from ever being considered -- and to protect home schooling rights overall."

Mercadante said roughly 4,000 people flooded the Illinois capital building in Springfield on Tuesday for an initial hearing for the bill. Among other proposals, Mercadante said the possibility of mandatory home visits by state officials to home schooling families was considered.

"The effort of home schooling registration by the state is a government 'solution' for a problem that doesn't exist," he said. "Study after study shows that home-schoolers consistently outperform the rest of the country in basic skill sets."

Maloney, the bill's sponsor, said he will hold meetings during the first week of March to discuss his next move. If any new legislation pertaining to home schooling registration were to be introduced at a later date, it would be "under a different vehicle," he said. "It depends on the outcome of these discussions," he told on Friday.

Maloney and other registration advocates have said they're concerned some home-schooled children are not getting proper education.

Meanwhile, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HLDA), a Virginian legal advocacy group, applauded the tabling of the bill, declaring the development a victory. "This victory is for sharing among all of you who braved the cold and the long lines and came to Springfield, and the many others who made phone calls but could not attend personally," read a statement by Scott Woodruff, the group's senior counsel. "What you sacrificed in time, trouble and finance, has, I hope, been abundantly recompensed. Your prayers have been answered!"

According to state laws and HLDA officials, states vary widely in their requirements pertaining to home-schooled children. In states like Illinois, Texas, Michigan and Oklahoma, there are no current requirements for parents to initiate contact with state officials.
Other states such as Pennsylvania, New York and North Dakota have relatively high regulations, including requiring parents to submit test scores or allow home visits by state officials. No states, however, have a specific penalty for not registering home-schooled students with state officials.

Despite Thursday's apparent victory for home schooling advocates, Mercandante, who educates his two young children from his home in Morris, Ill., said he will continue the fight. "We are going to keep it up," he said. "They have opened a can of worms on this. We're continuing to work to get assurances from Maloney and the rest of the legislators that not only is SB 136 dead, but the entire issue of home schooling registration is also dead."


Christian Group Claims University Levied ‘Unconstitutional’ Fines on Pro-Life Students

This past week, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal group, sent a letter to administration officials at the University of Michigan contesting what it called “unconstitutional fees” assessed to a pro-life student group on campus.

An event held by U of M’s Students for Life chapter last fall hosted Dr. Alveda King, the pro-life niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event drew moderate protests from some students on campus and campus officials insisted the pro-life group have campus safety officers on-hand even though Students for Life believed such security was unnecessary.

Dr. King spoke to a crowd of about 250 students about why she’s changed her opinion on abortion over the years and about her role as a civil rights activist. Following the event, the university billed Students for Life more than $800 for the security personnel despite the group’s objections.

The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter Monday to university officials claiming such a charge is unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the government may not charge speakers for the security costs driven by listeners’ response to that speech,” the letter states.

Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, the letter continues, “‘Speech cannot be financially burdened, anymore than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’ This mandate is based on the principle that ‘the government may not regulate speech based on its substantive content or the message it conveys.’ Thus, when the University charges a speaker for the security presence necessary to control a potentially hostile audience, it runs afoul of this constitutional command, because ‘listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.’”

“Pro-life student groups should not be singled out to pay fees that others do not have to pay. The type of fee assessed to Students for Life has been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional,” ADF Senior Counsel David French said. “A very basic and clear constitutional principle is that the government cannot place this sort of price tag on free speech simply because that speech might offend somebody.”

The Alliance Defense Fund is requesting that the university relieve the student group of the security costs immediately and clarify university policies to better reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, commented on the disputed charges. “The University of Michigan has placed a massive financial burden on the University of Michigan Students for Life group just because the decided to bring a national pro-life Leader to campus,” Hawkins told “school has no right to charge the students for security they mandated they have.”

“No other group on campus has had the administration step in and force them to have security at an event. If the school felt it was that important to have security for Dr. King, against the opinion of the SFL campus group, then they should pay for it, not the students,” she concluded. “It is unfair to place these sorts of undo burdens on SFL groups simply because they express an opinion unpopular with their administration.”


British schools told to go easy on disruptive gypsy children or face action under the Equality Act

Too bad about the other children who have their education ruined

Schools have been told they have to make special allowances for misbehaving pupils from gypsy and traveller families. Teachers have been warned they could be taken to task under the Equality Act if they discipline or exclude such children from schools.

Cash-strapped schools are even told they should launch an ‘outreach’ programme with a dedicated member of staff to ‘build trust’ with traveller families.

Under Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance, teachers are told to be sympathetic to traveller parents because they struggle with ‘confidence’ issues and are put off attending school meetings to discuss their children’s behaviour.

A guidance note said: ‘In cases where parents co-operate with the headteacher and are shown to be committed to assisting the pupil to manage their behaviour, it is less likely that the pupil will face exclusion. ‘This procedure may indirectly discriminate against the gypsy and traveller pupil whose parents may be less likely to come to the school to speak with the headteacher.’

Tory MP Priti Patel criticised the special treatment. She said: ‘I have concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission dictating to headteachers how to run their schools and burdening them with more bureaucracy. ‘There are times when schools do need to exclude pupils to protect the rights of others to learn and headteachers should not be put off making these decisions by the patronising diktats of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.’

She added: ‘The Commission’s recommendation on travellers only serves to reinforce stereotypes as well as showing that political correctness and the human rights agenda are being skewered further against common sense.’

Katharine Birbalsingh – who was fired as a deputy head after laying bare problems in the state school system – said: ‘The idea that certain groups should be protected from exclusion is nonsense. ‘How insulting is this guidance for gypsy and traveller children? It basically suggests that they will go on to be problem pupils.’

A spokesman for the Commission said the advice protected all children from discrimination. She added: ‘The requirements in Equality Act 2010 for schools to treat all pupils fairly are consistent with other legal obligations relating to exclusions.’


Sunday, February 20, 2011

U.S. House Votes to Slash Current-Year Education Funding

The U.S. Department of Education's current-year budget would be slashed by more than $5 billion under a bill approved early this morning by the U.S. House of Representatives on an almost strictly party line vote of 235-189.

That sets up a showdown as the legislation heads to the Democratically controlled Senate, where lawmakers are expected to reject the cuts. President Barack Obama has also threatened to veto the bill should it reach his desk with such deep cuts. The Education Department and other agencies are operating under a temporary funding resolution that expires March 4, and advocates already are bracing for the prospect of a government shutdown.

The House approved an amendment that would restore a cut to special education funding of $557.7 million, while instead slashing School Improvement Grants by $336.6 million and Teacher Quality State Grants by $500 million.

The lawmakers also approved language prohibiting the Education Department from enforcing new regulations that would affect for-profit colleges, a controversial issue in the higher education world. And they passed an amendment that would bar the department from enforcing special restrictions on how Texas can use funds under the education-jobs bill passed last year.

"We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed, " said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. "While these choices were difficult to make, we strived to spread the sacrifice fairly, weeding out waste and excess, with a razor-sharp focus on making the most out of every tax dollar."

But Democrats have blasted the bill.

"From crib to college, students will be at a disadvantage if the House proposal is enacted," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversee the Senate panel responsible for education funding, said earlier this week as the House debated the bill. "There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to make investments in education."

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also criticized the bill, saying today that, "with cuts to Head Start, our most vulnerable students and to job training, the Republicans are showing their true colors."


Koob and Zort: the non-words in the new British reading test for six year olds

This sounds like an attempt to discredit phonics -- at the expense of struggling children

A new reading test for six year olds has been criticised after it emerged it is to include a number of made up words such as "koob" and "zort". The ten minute test, in which children will read out up to 40 words to a teacher, will include a series of real and made-up words. Nonsense words including zort, koob, dar, grint, pronk, gax and ploob are expected to feature in the test, which will be piloted in June before being rolled out in June 2012.

The idea has drawn criticism from literary and phonetics experts, however, who say the approach will confuse those beginning to read.

The UK Literacy Association described the plan was "bonkers" as the purpose of reading was to understand meaning.

The government said non-words were being included to check pupils' ability to decode words using phonics – the reading system by where words are sounded out using letter sounds. Non-words were being included to check that children were not just regurgitating memorised words, a spokesman for the Department for Education said.

But critics claim the test may mean that children who cannot read may still do well, while those who can read may be stumped.

President of the UK Literacy Association David Reedy said the inclusion of non-words would be counter productive since most six year olds expect to make sense of what they read. "The test is trying to control all the different variables so that things like meaning don't get in the way. "We think that seems a bit bonkers when the whole purpose of reading is to understand words," he said.

He added that the test itself was sending out the message that all words are decodable using phonics when they are not because the English language is not phonically regular like German or Finnish, he said. "There are many words with which you have to use a 'look and say' approach. This is the case with many common words such as 'the' and 'once'," he said.

"Children should be using a number of sources of information to be able to work out what a word is. There is the context, the sentence itself and whether they have that word in their spoken lexicon."

The Government announced plans for the reading tests in November last year stating that failure to master reading within the first few years of school can seriously undermine children's long term development. The tests will also asked children to identify simple words such as "cat", "dog", "mum" and "dad".

The plans have also drawn criticism from family literacy expert Professor Greg Brooks from Sheffield University and a member of an EU expert group on literacy.

Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, he said: "It is a vast waste of money. Even though I'm an advocate for synthetic phonics, I completely disagree with this test. It will inevitably cause teaching to the test, deflecting attention away from more valuable areas of the curriculum.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "We are clear that synthetic phonics will not be compulsory in schools but we do believe more schools should teach synthetic phonics because it is shown to have a major and long-lasting effect on children's reading and spelling.

"We are supported in that view by high-quality academic evidence from across the world – from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US – which points to synthetic phonics being the most effective method for teaching literacy for all children, especially those aged five to seven.

"Too many children leave primary school unable to read and write properly – we are determined to raise standards and the new phonics-based reading check for six-year-olds will ensure that children who need extra help are given it before it is too late, and then can enjoy a lifetime's love of reading."


Australian teachers reveal why they walked

PROBLEM students should face harsher penalties, including Saturday-morning detention and fines for their parents, say WA teachers who have walked away from the classroom.

A disproportionate number of public school teachers are also blaming increased workloads and stress for their decision to quit, new reports show.

The exit surveys of 260 teachers and other staff who resigned from the Education Department in the past year are outlined in two reports, which were released to The Sunday Times under Freedom of Information laws this week.

It is the first time such exit surveys have been publicly released and they give a rare insight into the challenges facing our state's 35,000 public school teachers and staff.

One teacher recommended "harsher penalties for disruptive students", including more frequent suspensions and exclusions for "lesser disruptive behaviour" to stem violent behaviour. The teacher also called for after-school and Saturday morning detentions.

Another said: "Start making parents accountable for the actions of their children. Financial penalties for disruptive students."

A third teacher said: "I feel this may be a sign of the times, but the students seem to have more control than the teachers. "I have been assaulted by a student in the past and due to inexperience I did not pursue it. The school at the time seemed to brush it under the carpet and the student went unpunished.

"It seems suspension or expulsion would look bad on their school record. Behaviour like that is a major concern for all teachers. Crowd control is used instead of teaching in some schools."The surveys, conducted by the Education Department between October 2009 and July 2010, reveal:

* About a third (87 people) of those who completed the survey said they would not consider returning to work for the Education Department in the future.

* More than one in 10 teachers and staff (30 people) identified family reasons as the main reason for leaving.

* Almost 8 per cent (20 people) of teachers and staff were retiring, while a further 8 per cent (20 people) quit to "pursue other interests".

* Eighteen people (7 per cent) said they walked away from teaching for a work-life balance.

* Ten people (almost 4 per cent) blamed their decision to quit on harassment, discrimination or workplace bullying.

* The number of teachers and staff who blamed workload and workplace pressure for their decision to quit was more than three times the benchmark average.

* The number of teachers and staff who cited work-life balance as their reason for leaving was up to seven times the benchmark average.