Saturday, March 05, 2011

VA: Old-fashioned courtesy penalized

There is an old legal principle that says the law does not concern itself with trivialities. And I suspect that it happens that way most of the time. Here it did not and the punishment could presumably be overturned in the courts on that ground

A local middle school student held open a door at school, reportedly because someone had their hands full. But after that, the student was suspended.

All schools in Southampton County have tight security at the front door, and students are told not to open the door for anyone. But Superintendent Charles Turner tells NewsChannel 3 that the rule was disobeyed when the student opened the door for the woman with her hands full.

The school system recently spent thousands of dollars upgrading door security at all of its schools. Once the construction was complete, administrators said that no students would be allowed to open the doors for anyone, with safety being the reason.

Any visitor who tries to get into the school during school hours is going to find out that all of the doors are locked. If they want to get in, they are required to press a button and someone inside the school will decide whether to let them in.

"We are very protective of our teenagers and it allows us to make sure that the people coming in to the door come into the office for help," Principal Allene Atkinson says, "Parents have been overwhelmingly supportive of this system because our whole objective is to ensure that our children are safe."

But some parents like Billy Haydu say they have mixed feelings about the student's suspension. While they understand that the student broke policy, they do believe the student is being unfairly punished for trying to do a good deed. Haydu says, "My personal opinion, I don't think that was fair. I would think they would talk to them, explain the situation, but I think suspending them was just a little bit harsh."


America's College Obsession

Andy Ferguson, one of America's most engaging and perspicacious journalists, has not -- as Andre Malraux said of Whittaker Chambers -- returned from the hell of college admissions with empty hands. In "Crazy U," his chronicle of his son's senior year of high school -- a year of college visiting, application, essay writing, open-house attending, interviewing, financial aid seeking, and waiting, waiting, waiting -- is by turns hilarious, shrewd, and revealing.

The "crazy" in the book's title refers to our national obsession with college -- a little piece of insanity to which Ferguson is more prone than most. Preoccupied by his son's prospects of being admitted to a good college, Ferguson devours advice books, college guides, and, in weak moments, websites like College Confidential, prompting this reflection about anonymous advice websites:

"I'd been bewildered by [too much information] before ... Before a business trip I'd go online to find a recommendation for a rodent-free hotel or a reliable restaurant. Half a dozen websites would be waiting to help ... From them I learned that the local big-chain hotel was in fact a good bargain, with pleasant service and an excellent location, and also a hellhole staffed by human ferrets, with overflowing toilets and untraceable smells that had ruined the honeymoon of vox-12popula and iwantmyrum, who were now exacting their revenge by abusing the hotel on every website they could find."

But along with the confusion and the profusion of contradictory advice he found on the Web and elsewhere about getting into college, Ferguson notes the dismaying effects of following the advice. He quotes an expensive "consultant" who advises "'Early on in high school your child should find a teacher they like and go that extra mile. They should ... cultivate that relationship ... be enthusiastic in class ... and spend time outside of class with the teacher, if that's possible.'" The aim, Ferguson summarizes, is to "release" at recommendation time "a gusher of praise."

In other words, Ferguson interprets, the process "turned them into Eddie Haskell . . . It guaranteed that teenagers would pursue life with a single ulterior motive . . . It coated their every undertaking in a thin lacquer of insincerity."

If the process encourages a certain amount of obsequiousness and even dishonesty in America's youth, it also elicits more than a dollop of deceit by the colleges themselves. Fixated on their US News & World Report rankings, colleges "fudge" numbers like the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, the graduation rate, and average class size. Wall Street Journal reporter Steve Stecklow compared the data schools submitted to US News with the data they submitted to bond rating agencies. "(I)f they lied to a rating agency, they might go to jail; if they lied to US News they might make the Top Twenty. Reviewing credit reports for more than one hundred schools, he caught one in four fudging the numbers."

The college admission rigmarole reflects in so many ways the cultural and political preferences of the liberals who run the vast majority of these institutions. A "sample" college essay Ferguson purchased online reflected the fashion:

"There was no question our hired hand thought he knew the magic words that would make an admissions committee coo: 'I would be proud to work collaboratively with diverse populations to solve problems ... my readiness for greater challenges in the diverse learning environment ... my enthusiasm for history, diplomacy and cultural diversity...'"

Just as gag-inducing is the spiraling cost of this four-year excursion into diversityland. The annual cost of a typical private college went from $3,663 in 1975 to $34,132 in 2009. (Many are above $50,000 now.) Ferguson analyzes it succinctly: "It's the same problem that afflicts health care (the other sector of the American economy that has seen skyrocketing costs in the past few decades), a large portion of the people consuming the services aren't paying for the service out of their own pocket. The costs are picked up by third parties." No one has the incentive to cut costs.

But even paring away the layers of folly that surround the quest for college does not, in the end, disillusion Ferguson. A year's research and experience has revealed that the application process is needlessly complicated and stressful, that college admission is marred by many injustices, that college itself is perhaps a "bubble" investment that has been way oversold, and that the costs are completely unrelated to the value of the product.

But when his son is accepted at the school of his choice, Ferguson and his wife rejoice. They've drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid. We all have. But after reading this hugely entertaining book, we at least see it more clearly.


Bad news for free schools in Britain

The Financial Times reports that the Department for Education is not going to meet its target date for relaxing school building regulations. This is bad news for the government’s ‘free schools’ agenda.

The idea behind free schools is a great one: expand the supply of good school places by encouraging private organizations to set up their own schools, which will then receive state funding on a per-pupil basis. This expansion in supply will allow British parents to exercise choice over where their children go to school. That choice will, in turn, bring competitive pressures to bear on the state education system: popular schools will be able to expand, bad schools will wither and die. Standards will be driven up across the board as a consequence.

But there’s a problem. For this to work, you need lots of new providers entering the market. And that’s not going to happen if you’ve got very strict building and planning regulations, which allow local authorities to obstruct the process.

The government always planned make it easier for schools to be set up in pre-existing buildings, like office blocks or empty shops. That’s what has happened in Sweden, where ‘free schools’ have been a huge success. It bodes ill that the government has fallen behind schedule, so let’s hope they can get things back on track quickly.

But there’s another big problem with the government’s free schools agenda, and that’s that they’ve decided to prevent providers from making a profit out of running the schools. But without profit-making chains entering the free schools market, it is unlikely that enough new schools will be established. The whole thing risks ending up a damp squib.

Overall, I have to question the government’s tactics. They’ve got good ideas and good intentions. But they are being too timid. Their opponents are going to make a huge fuss about anything they do to liberalize public services, so why bother attempting to placate them? Be radical and get it over with, I say. Otherwise, it’ll be 2015 before you know it, and you won’t have done half the things you set out to do.


Friday, March 04, 2011

Texas College Scholarship Targets Only White Male Students

Only white men with a 3.0 grade-point average can apply for a new scholarship being offered by a Texas nonprofit group, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Colby Bohannan, a Texas State University student, said he founded the Former Majority Association for Equality group after fighting in the Iraq war and returning home to find no college scholarships available for white males like himself -- only women and minorities.

"I felt excluded," Bohannon, a student at Texas State University, told the newspaper. "If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?"

Bohannon went on to say that he and his friends will begin handing out $500 scholarships this summer, arguing that white male students now make up a minority group in Texas.

School officials have so far not taken issue with the group's objective, saying the scholarship is no different from one offered to students from different ethnic groups.

"From the university's standpoint, we can't take issue with a scholarship offered to a certain group," Joanne Smith, Texas State University's vice president of student affairs, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.


10-hour school day on the way to boost grades in Britain (and Saturday mornings too!)

Children could go to school for ten hours a day and on Saturday mornings under a radical shake-up of secondary education. Education Minister Michael Gove wants school days to run from 7.30am to 5.30pm to improve pupils’ performance and enable them to study vocational courses alongside core academic subjects. He also wants sites to open on Saturdays and to increase terms by two weeks, to a total of 40 weeks a year.

It would mean youngsters gaining more than an extra year of teaching over a five-year period. Longer days in the state system would bring them in line with many private schools, giving disadvantaged youngsters more time in class to catch up with more privileged peers. They would also be popular with working parents who struggle to fit 3pm school finishing times in with their jobs.

Mr Gove said the measures – which would mirror exemplary Far Eastern schools such as in Singapore – would not be compulsory but strongly advised.

The teachers’ union criticised the plans, arguing that staff already have a punishing workload and that children need time to rest.

Mr Gove unveiled the plans yesterday alongside the findings of an independent review into vocational education. Led by Professor Alison Wolf, it found a third of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses are pointless or even harm career prospects. One, the certificate in Personal Effectiveness, taught pupils, among other things, how to claim benefits.

Mr Gove said youngsters aged 14 to 16 should focus on core subjects of his English Baccalaureate – English, maths, a science, a humanity and a foreign language. He said vocational courses should be taught alongside the core and occupy up to 20 per cent of the school timetable.

If schools can manage to get all their pupils up to scratch during a short school day then they should stick to it, he said. But if pupils are failing to pass maths and English GCSEs, as more than half do, they must lengthen the school day.

Mr Gove said it was up to individual schools to decide whether to adopt the measures, but added: ‘I personally believe that people should be learning for longer. ‘Lots of schools have found having an extended school day – sometimes weekend education, or longer terms – helps.’

Mr Gove said he would not prescribe the longer hours, but has ‘lifted the bureaucratic requirement on schools to give us notice about varying the school day’. ‘The opportunity is now there for schools to offer students more,’ he said.

Academies, ‘free’ schools and faith schools are able to vary their hours, provided they teach for a minimum of 190 days a year. Comprehensives must seek permission from their local authority.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of education union ATL, criticised the plans. She said: ‘Longer hours in school do not neatly equate into higher achievement by pupils. ‘The reasons why some fail to achieve as well as they could are complex and varied. Being born into a disadvantaged family is the most significant. ‘Young people need to spend time with families and friends and to organise their own activities, or rest.

‘Teachers in the English state schools already work an average of 50 hours a week – 18 of them teaching and the rest marking and preparing students’ work, in parents’ meetings, staff meetings, and training. They need a life outside school too.’

Professor Wolf’s review attacked as ‘immoral’ the pressures of school league tables which have caused a move away from a core curriculum. She said it was ‘absolutely scandalous’ that half of all 16-year-olds are leaving school without good GCSEs – a C grade or higher – in English and maths.


Gasp! Australian private schools spend more on their students than government schools do!

Did anyone expect otherwise? What do they think the parents pay for? A most unsurprising revelation. After the Latham debacle, the Labor party would be mad to use this as an excuse to attack private school funding -- but they are pretty mad. Witness their carbon tax and fibre broadband policies

The Coalition has warned the updated My School website will undermine government funding to independent schools while failing to help parents make better educational choices for their children.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the government had not made a convincing case for publishing independent schools' financial data. "The Coalition doesn't believe that information being made available will add anything to the educational outcomes of either government or non-government students," he told The Australian Online. "There can only be one reason to publish non-government financial data and that is to undermine government funding of non-government schools."

Schools Minister Peter Garrett launched My School 2.0 this morning at Telopea Park bilingual school in the Canberra suburb of Barton. He said the site was "game-changing" and would give parents "unparalleled data" on school finances.

Mr Garrett warned against parents removing their children from schools simply because of the updated data, instead saying they should read the website carefully and consult their school principals. "Have discussions as you feel are necessary with the school in question," he said. "Think carefully about what you read and what you get from the site and then make your own decisions."

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos warned that the My School 2.0 website showed an alarming resources gap between government and private schools. "The gap is being fuelled by a central government funding system which is blind to the real needs of students," he said.

The union boss told The Australian Online the new financial information pointed to a need for a greater investment in the nation's government schools. But he said the information on the website remained limited, as it failed to include millions of dollars held in trust by private schools. "Literally millions of dollars in surpluses and millions held in trust foundations, assets and investment portfolios by private schools will not be shown on the My School website."

He said even on the financial information available, private schools were spending more than double what government schools were spending per student on capital expenditure and 25 per cent more in recurrent funding.

Queensland Education Minister Cameron Dick urged parents to use the revamped My School website with caution, saying he was concerned about the potential for unfair comparisons, given the complexity of the information. “The data could be used unfairly in relation to some schools; some schools have different needs, some communities have different needs ... that's appropriate that they would be funded to a different level,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“Funding is affected by location, school programs, age and size of facilities, staffing, overall enrolment and the number of indigenous, international, non-English speaking students and students with disabilities.”

The Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations said it too was concerned with the publication of school finances. “Every school is unique and therefore not comparable,” state president Margaret Leary said in a statement. “The figures presented on the My School website are not a true and fair indicator.”


Thursday, March 03, 2011

How low can we go?

CA: Student calls police after math teacher rattles table

An eighth-grade math teacher at Atherton's Selby Lane School rattled a table to get his students' attention Tuesday afternoon, police said. He succeeded on that score. But the demonstration landed him on paid administrative leave.

Officers went to the campus at 2:26 p.m. to check on reports of a teacher causing a disturbance in a classroom and possibly throwing objects, said Sgt. Tim Lynch of the Atherton Police Department.

When officers arrived, however, they found a calm teacher with class in session and determined nothing had been thrown.

Lynch said it appears the teacher's table-rattling act startled a female student who left the class and called police from a cell phone. "My impression by talking to her was that she was disturbed by what the teacher was doing," Lynch said.

Most of the students in the class weren't bothered by the teacher's actions, Lynch said. Though the teacher "dramatically" made his point, "it wasn't a teacher out of control," he added.

Redwood City School District Deputy Superintendent John Baker said the teacher will remain on leave pending an investigation. He said he didn't know what specifically happened and would interview the teacher, the student and her parents in the coming days, as well as other students.

No complaints have been lodged against the teacher in the past, Baker said. The district put the teacher on leave because of the police response and the nature of the complaint, he said.


Why wasn't the student suspended for leaving class without permission? Or arrested for filing a false police report? This is like a child calling 911 for being punished

Keep taking English and maths in Britain till you get a good grade

Hundreds of thousands of students who fail to get good GCSE grades in English and maths are to be forced to carry on studying the subjects in the biggest shake-up of the curriculum for decades.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is appalled by official figures to be released today showing that the majority of teenagers fail to get C grades or above in both English and maths.

Sources say Mr Gove plans to accept the recommendations of an independent review which will mean that for about 300,000 pupils a year it will be compulsory to carry on studying the key subjects.

Under the rules, they will be forced to carry on doing so until they retake their exams and achieve a C grade or higher at GCSE level. Those who fail to get a good grade will have to keep on studying English and maths until they leave education at 18.

The review of vocational study, by leading academic Professor Alison Wolf of King’s College London, will today warn that 37 per cent of students achieve neither maths nor English GCSE at grades A* to C when they first take the exam. Of this group, only two per cent go on to achieve both by age 18. Some 12 per cent initially achieve an A* to C grade in their English GCSE, but not maths. About 17 per cent of them, or fewer than one in five, achieves a maths GCSE A* to C by the time they are 18. Seven per cent initially achieve a maths GCSE A* to C but not English. About a quarter – 24 per cent – of this group achieves English GCSE A* to C by 18.

Overall, the percentage of children achieving both maths and English GCSE grades A* to C rises from 44.8 per cent initially to 49 per cent at 18. But some 329,000 did not have maths and English A* to C when they first sat the exam. At age 18, 304,000 still did not.

The report will today blame the ‘shocking figures’ not on young people, but on ‘funding incentives which have deliberately steered institutions, and, therefore, their students, away from qualifications that might stretch young people and towards qualifications that can be passed easily’.

Mr Gove believes the previous government’s measures –aimed at helping boost schools’ league table rankings – encouraged hundreds of thousands of pupils to drop academic subjects in favour of easier options.

Students taking three or more A-levels will almost always have achieved at least a grade C in both maths and English, since this acts as an informal entry requirement for such courses. Conversely, most students on non-A-level, vocational courses will not.

There has been a 3,800 per cent increase in the number of children taking non-academic GCSE equivalents since Labour changed the rules in 2004. These gave non-academic qualifications – including computer skills, sports leadership and certificates of ‘personal effectiveness’ – parity with traditional subjects.

The move helped fuel a damaging collapse in the number of children taking academic courses. ‘No other developed country allows, let alone effectively encourages, its young people to neglect mathematics and their own language in this way,’ the report will add. ‘The UK is effectively unique in not requiring continued mathematics and own-language study for all young people engaged in 16 to 19 pre-tertiary education.’

To encourage schools to teach core subjects Mr Gove has already introduced an English baccalaureate A* to C in five core subjects including English and maths.

Professor Wolf will recommend that students who are under 19 and do not have GCSE A* to C in English and maths ‘should be required, as part of their programme, to pursue a course which either leads directly to these qualifications, or which provide significant progress’. Such requirements should be placed even on students who take up apprenticeships.

A Coalition source said: ‘We have inherited a disastrous system from Labour. Millions of children have been pushed into dead-end courses. ‘We want people to keep doing these GCSEs to get themselves up to a good grade. Of course there are children with special educational needs who may never achieve a C grade or above, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be continuing with these subjects.


Why Jews Are Losing The Battle For The Campus

The warnings have been there. In 2006, the US Commission on Civil Rights found that "many college campuses thoughout the US continue to experience incidents of anti-Semitism." Gary Tobin in his 2005 book "Uncivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education," concluded that "anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are systemic in higher education and can be found on campuses all over the United States." Across the country too many Jewish and pro-Israel students are patronized, mocked, intimidated and sometimes physically attacked, while anti-Israel professors poison the minds of America's future leaders. Yet Jewish leaders have by and large not responded effectively.

How did the Jewish community, known for its rhetorical genius, lose a critically important political battle on American campuses? Here is a thumbnail sketch:

In 1990, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, explained on Jordanian TV how the Arab Lobby can and will match Jewish political and organizational success in America (the clip is here). Zogby and his allies recognized that the campus and the media, unlike Capitol Hill, are two battle grounds that Arabists could win by allying themselves with the American left. In both venues they already had beachheads and feet on the ground. The campus was in transition politically, influenced by '60s tenured radicals who had adopted the dogma of post-colonialism, and its Palestinian version, Professor Edward Said's "Orientalism."

Moreover, America was experiencing a significant increase in foreign born Muslim students as well as increased Muslim immigration (many from countries with a culture of vicious anti-Semitism). Zogby focused on forming alliances with Marxist professors, die-hard socialist activists, African- American student groups, gay-lesbian groups and, most importantly, Jewish progressives. He also realized that an emerging anti-Israel Left/Muslim axis on campus could be better organized and benefit from an inflow of Arab petro dollars into prestigious American universities. All this was happening while many Jewish leaders, intoxicated by the Oslo agreement, were abandoning Israel programming.

Today, we can see the brilliance of Zogby's strategy: Anti-Israel sentiment suffuses the campus atmosphere. In the classroom, radical professors express the the dominant narrative that the Palestinians are right and the Israelis are in the wrong. In its mild form, the Palestinians suffer needlessly at the hands of Israeli occupiers; in its more vicious version, Israel is a racist, genocidal apartheid nation. Outside the classroom, anti-Israel groups hold conferences, screen films and conduct theatrical demonstrations that portray Israel in the harshest of terms.

Israel's advocates are rudely interrupted, prevented from speaking; pro-Israel events are disrupted; Jewish students are intimidated verbally or even physically, and are excluded from pro-Palestinian events. Pathetic attempts by Jewish groups to initiate dialogue with Palestinian students are rejected. Any acknowledgement of Israelis' humanity is seen as a validation of Palestinian oppression. Our epoch's secular religion - political correctness and multiculturalism - judges people by who they are, not what they do. Israelis are by definition always guilty, while darker skinned, impoverished, indigenous Palestinians are eternally innocent.

Far more than their parents and their community suspect, Jewish students find it challenging and often unpleasant, if not actually frightening, to support Israel on many campuses today.

Through research and interviews with campus activists and students from around the country, we are developing a compilation of anti-Israel incidents and descriptions of hostile atmospheres on campuses.

Here are just four recently reported incidents:

Hampshire College, Amherst. Last semester a pro-Israel student was repeatedly verbally harassed by individuals covering their faces. The student was called "baby killer," "genocide lover," "apartheid supporter" and "racist." After receiving an email that read "Make the world a better place and die slow," she moved off the campus. She has now returned but is still afraid to disclose her identity.

Rutgers University. Last month, a group of pro-Israel students and Holocaust survivors were made to pay an entrance fee to an event that likened Palestinians to Holocaust victims. The event had been advertised as free and open to the public; Palestinian supporters were let in without charge.

Indiana University. Last November, five incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism were reported in one week, including rocks thrown at Chabad and Hillel; sacred Jewish texts placed in various bathrooms and urinated upon; and an information board about Jewish studies programs smashed with a stone.

Carlton University, Ottawa. Last April, a non-Jewish supporter of Israel and his Israeli roommate were attacked by an Arab-speaking mob who screamed anti-Semitic epithets. Nick Bergamini was punched in the head and chased by a man who swung a machete at his head, missing by inches.

Now ask yourself: What would have happened on campus, in the media or in the community if these incidents had been directed at African American, Hispanic or Muslim students?

We have the answer: In October 2009, a noose was found at the University of California-San Diego library. Students occupied the chancellor's office. The governor, the chancellor and student leaders condemned the incident. The school established a task force on minority faculty recruitment and a commission to address declining African-American enrollment, and vowed to find space for an African- American resource center.

All this - only to discover a few weeks later that the noose was planted by a minority student.

Jewish students and Jewish buildings attacked and intimidated are not a hoax, yet Jewish leaders sit on their hands. No one calls for sensitivity training for Muslim and leftist students about the use of blood libels and anti-Semitism. No one demands students be taught about proper behavior in a civil society or about principles of free speech and academic inquiry. More and more, the ugly aspects of the "Arab street" are coming to campus. With the commendable exception of the Zionist Organization of America - which won civil rights protection for California students under Title 6 - Jewish leaders have remained mostly silent. Without their protest, why should university administrations care?


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Letting the cream rise

For Princetonians, the senior thesis is a high hurdle before graduation. For Wendy Kopp, class of 1989, it became a career devoted to transforming primary and secondary education. What began as an idea for a teacher corps for hard-to-staff schools, urban and rural, became Teach for America. At first it was merely a leavening ingredient in education; it has become a template for transformation.

Back then, Kopp's generation was stigmatized by journalistic sociology as "the 'me' generation" composed of materialists eager to be recruited into careers of quick self-enrichment. She thought the problem was not her peers but the recruiters. So she became one.

This academic year, 16 percent of Princeton's seniors and 18 percent of Harvard's applied to join Teach for America, of which Kopp is CEO. TFA is the largest employer of recent graduates from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Eight percent of seniors at the University of Michigan (undergraduate enrollment: 26,830) applied last year for TFA's two-year commitments. More than 5 percent of graduating seniors at 130 colleges are applicants.

Kopp began by "meeting anyone who would meet with me," soliciting corporate executives for seed money. She believed something that bemused skeptics -- that students from elite schools would volunteer to have their first experience out of college teaching in difficult-to-staff schools in areas of urban and rural poverty.

"I knew college students would do it -- I had just been a college student." What was needed, she thought, was a high-status service organization with an aura of selectivity.

Raised in comfortable circumstances in Dallas, Kopp precociously understood not just the importance of education but the educational importance of where one is born. TFA's first recruiting was done by fliers shoved under dorm room doors. Her Yale recruiter had 170 messages on his answering machine in just three days. TFA's first cohort totaled 500 teachers. This year TFA will select 5,300 from 48,000 applicants, making it more selective than most colleges.

This school year, there are 8,000 TFA teachers. Of the 20,000 TFA alumni, two-thirds are still working full-time in education. Of those, only one in six says that even without TFA he or she might have gone into K-12 teaching.

TFA has become a flourishing reproach to departments and schools of education. It pours talent into the educational system -- 80 percent of its teachers are in traditional public schools -- talent that flows around the barriers of the credentialing process. Hence TFA works against the homogenization that discourages innovation and prevents the cream from rising.

Kopp, whose new book ("A Chance to Make History") recounts her post-Princeton education, has learned, among much else, this: Of the 15 million children growing up in poverty, 50 percent will not graduate from high school, and the half that do will have eighth-grade skill levels compared to those from higher-income families and neighborhoods.

Until recently -- until, among other things, TFA -- it seemed that we simply did not know how to teach children handicapped by poverty and its accompaniments -- family disintegration and destructive community cultures. Now we know exactly what to do.

In government, the axiom is: Personnel is policy. In education, Kopp believes, "people are everything" -- good ones are (in military parlance) "force multipliers." Creating "islands of excellence" depends entirely on finding "transformational leaders deeply committed to changing the trajectories" of children's lives.

We do not, she insists, have to fix society or even families in order to fix education. It works the other way around. The movie "Waiting for Superman" dramatizes what TFA has demonstrated -- that low-income parents leap at educational opportunities that can break the cycle of poverty. Teaching successfully in challenging schools is, Kopp says, "totally an act of leadership" by people passionately invested in the project.

Speaking of leadership, someone in Congress should invest some on TFA's behalf. Government funding -- federal, state, local -- is just 30 percent of TFA's budget. Last year's federal allocation, $21 million, would be a rounding error in the General Motors bailout. And Kopp says every federal dollar leverages six non-federal dollars. All that money might, however, be lost because even when Washington does something right, it does it wrong.

It has obtusely defined "earmark" to include "any named program," so TFA has been declared an earmark and sentenced to death. If Congress cannot understand how nonsensical this is, it should be sent back to school for remedial instruction from some of TFA's exemplary young people.


10 Commandments Removal From VA Schools Causes Student Unrest

Some students in Giles County, VA are upset after the local school board voted twice in as many months to remove framed copies of the 10 Commandments from its schools. A group of teens from one local high school says the move is causing dissension, with some students even coming close to physical blows over the issue. WVVA reports:
The Giles County School Board voted Tuesday to removed framed copies of the Ten Commandments from its schools — for the second time in as many months. Now some students are speaking out against the decision.

Some students have posted the Ten Commandments on their lockers. One group from Narrows and Giles have ordered t-shirts to express their opinions on the issue.

The commandments were first removed in December, 2010 after a complaint.

At one point, the board reversed its initial removal decision. But that changed after the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue the Giles County School Board on behalf of residents who wanted the Commandments removed after they were re-posted.

That group issued the following statement to WVVA:
Along with the ACLU of Virginia, we are monitoring the situation to ensure that the school board does not attempt to skirt the law and put the Ten Commandments back into Giles County Schools. Any such attempts to violate the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent would constitute a losing legal battle for the school board.

The Blaze contacted the American Center for Law and Justice, which many times represents defendants in religious cases such as this, but did not immediately receive a response. The local superintendent refused media requests from WVVA.


Australia: Degree target aims too high

Who sets these arbitrary and absurd targets anyway? And based on what reasoning, if any?

THE government's target for 40 per cent of young Australians to be graduates by 2025 is not realistic, according to a leading demographer, Bob Birrell.

One scenario would require the number of domestic students completing degrees to rise 82 per cent between 2009 and 2025, Dr Birrell and colleagues say in a new paper in the journal People and Place. "Neither Australia's higher education sector nor the government departments that administer it appear to understand that their target will require such an enormous increase," they say.

But a spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the government was confident its demand-driven system would deliver the university places needed to meet the target.

Dr Birrell said more realistic targets, funding and campus building should be aimed at poorly serviced regional and outer suburban areas.

The target for 25 to 34-year-olds was seen as ambitious when floated by the Bradley review in 2008 and adopted in modified form the following year by the government.

But as statistics revealed dramatic growth in young degree holders between 2006 and 2009, some commentators said the 2025 target looked easy. "The government's 40 per cent target could be reached naturally, well before 2025, allowing for enrolment pipelines, and without accounting for the contribution of degree qualified immigrants," the Group of Eight universities said in 2010.

The Birrell paper says the Go8 and others have misread the 2006-09 growth spurt. Domestic graduates and migrants with professional qualifications together account for just half this growth, according to modelling done by Dr Birrell and his colleagues. Their modelling takes into account the number of graduates who enter and leave the 25 to 34 age group as time passes.

Migrant professionals tend to be older and leave the age group more quickly than domestic graduates, meaning that on present trends their net contribution to the target would be nil before 2025.

The Birrell analysis suggests "that the recent rapid rise in the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with degrees is not a precursor to an easy pathway to achievement of the 40 per cent target, as asserted by the Go8". The paper concludes that overseas students who have graduated or arrived with undergraduate degrees are the most likely reason for the remaining half of the growth seen in 2006-09.

The survey that revealed the 2006-09 growth covers people who were residents in Australia for at least 12 months, meaning it would also pick up overseas students on temporary visas such as the graduate skills visa.

The authors say the growth represented by overseas students "is about to come to an end given that the government has largely removed the carrot of permanent residence as an inducement to study in Australia".

Between 2006 and 2009 the share of 25 to 34-year-olds with at least an undergraduate degree rose from 29.2 per cent to 34.6 per cent but another 410,000 graduates were needed to meet the 2025 target.

Even a 35 per cent increase in immigration would deliver only an extra 124,000 graduates over the period, the authors say. Relying on local students would require an 82 per cent increase from 98,732 domestic graduations in 2009 to 179,600 in 2025.

Senator Evans's spokesman said updated 2010 estimates suggested the demand-driven system would deliver an extra 195,000 domestic undergraduate places between 2010 and 2013.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Protests in Idaho

Many high school students throughout eastern Idaho weren't in class Monday morning, but instead, were outside protesting.

In response to Tom Luna's new Education Reform plan, and two of three bills passing the Senate on Thursday, high school students against the plan participated in a student walk-out.

Julia Donaldson, Senior at Highland High School: "We are protesting his plan and we are proposing that Luna publicly debate the American Falls counter plan which gives a lot more freedom to the schools as far as the technology bill goes."

If Luna's "Students Come First" proposal passes the Legislature, online education will be mandatory in the state, and laptops will given to every high school student. An online class would also be required.

Arizona Knight, Sophomore at Highland High School: "We need more one-on-one time. Not computers. Not technology, no. We need teachers."

Julia Donaldson, Senior at Highland High School: "His 'Pay for Performance' plan, which bases 50% of its evaluation on test scores, which is totally unfair, you know, you have the difference in socio-economic status's of the schools, teachers are going to start teaching us how to memorize instead of how to think."

In Boise, students walked a few blocks to the State Capitol, and several other Treasure Valley high schools participated.

Allison Westfall, Nampa School District Spokesperson: "We don't condone this during school hours. We do appreciate that students are passionate about this issue and want to express their opinion, but the appropriate form is to do that outside of the school day, or to contact their law makers."

Aliianna Kelemete, Highland High School, Pocatello: "We want to support our teachers the best way we can and we're out here and we know the consequences, but I think it's all for a good cause."

The bills that have passed the Senate last week will be discussed in the House Education Committee on Tuesday. In the meantime, emotions run high for those that oppose the bill, and those, like Governor Butch Otter, who support it.

Julia Donaldson, Senior at Highland High School: "It's just not good overall for the education of our students. And I'm a senior, but I care about my siblings future and the future of my teachers and friends."

The final bill, which funds the plan and has the technology elements was sent back to the Senate Education Committee for a reworking. That should be discussed this week as well.


An end to free higher education in Scotland?

Principals warn that universities in Scotland will be left with a £200m funding gap after tuition fees are raised in England

Scottish university principals have again called for an end to free higher education after a report warned of a £200m funding gap following the introduction of higher fees in England.

Universities Scotland, the umbrella body for higher education institutions, said the case for a "fair and modest" payment by Scottish graduates was now unanswerable if current levels of teaching and student numbers were to be maintained.

Its stance has increased pressure on the next Scottish government to scrap a longstanding tradition of free university education for domestic students, in the face of moves to allow English universities to charge between £6,000 and £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

But its conclusions were immediately challenged by the Scottish government, Universities Scotland's partner on the expert group that produced the report on funding, and by the National Union of Students Scotland.

Each side selected figures from the report that suited its policies. The universities used one of the highest figures based on the impact of inflation, while Scottish ministers chose figures that suited their current policy of funding universities entirely from general taxation.

The dispute – which has led to another rift on funding between the universities and Alex Salmond's nationalist government – follows weeks of speculation that Scottish universities faced a funding shortfall of up to £500m.

The country's leading colleges are now facing strikes, laying off staff and closing departments. Glasgow is planning to shut its modern languages and anthropology departments, while staff at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are to take industrial action.

Salmond will campaign in this May's elections for the Scottish parliament by insisting that the shortfall is actually much smaller, and can be met by the taxpayer without fees or graduate taxes.

His officials believe Universities Scotland has been highly selective with the report's findings, by using a figure that included inflation and by ignoring the Scottish government's plans to charge English students up to £6,500 a year to study in Scotland.

If those fees were included and the baseline figure did not include inflation, the gap was actually £93m. And that, sources said, did not include another £35m in expected efficiency savings. Ministers are expected to promise this gap will be met by the government.

NUS Scotland accused Universities Scotland of "scaremongering" and misrepresenting the true scale of the funding gap in a deliberate attempt to bounce voters into accepting tuition fees.

The NUS will now be putting Labour, currently narrow favourites to win May's election, under pressure to pledge it would not charge students. Labour has said it believes some form of charge is now highly likely and refused to rule out a graduate tax or contribution.


Universities 'told to discriminate against independent school pupils'

Universities should not be asked to “repair the problems of 18 years of upbringing and education” by skewing admissions in favour of poor-performing pupils, according to a leading headmaster.

Making lower grade offers to students from state schools is like forcing an engineer to improve the design of an aircraft “after the plane has already crashed”, it is claimed.

In a speech on Monday, Philip Cottam, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, says the number of children from deprived backgrounds failing to fulfil their potential is a “blot” on society.

But forcing admissions tutors to repair these problems by discriminating against privately-educated teenagers will fail to address key weaknesses in the education system, he claims.

Speaking at the society’s annual conference, he will criticise the decline of the state grammar school system which provided a decent academic education for pupils from the poorest families.

He will also attack the “culture of entitlement” at the heart of modern schooling “in which competition is seen as negative and all are expected to win prizes”.

The comments come just weeks after ministers insisted universities should hit targets to admit students from state schools and deprived backgrounds in return for charging more than £6,000 a year in tuition fees.

Institutions failing to do enough could be stripped of the power to levy fees as high as £9,000 under Coalition plans.

But Mr Cottam, head of fee-paying Halliford School in Shepperton, Middlesex, says more attention should be focused on repairing Britain’s broken education system than skewing university admissions.

“There is an argument to be made that our national failure to do the best by the 50 per cent or so of pupils who do not get five GCSEs at C or better, including mathematics and English, is in many ways more serious and more damaging than the under-representation of some in our selective universities,” he says.

Addressing headmasters, he adds: “Trying to force universities to repair, let alone make up for, the problems of 18 years of upbringing and education is certainly not the answer.

“It is approaching the issue from the wrong end and is like asking an aeronautical engineer to improve the design of an aircraft after the plane has already crashed.”

Private schools currently educate around seven per cent of children but privately-educated students make up more than four-in-10 of those attending Oxford and Cambridge.

But addressing headmasters at the society’s conference in Telford, Mr Cottam will say that "discriminating against independent school pupils using a mechanistic template" is unfair to the hundreds of thousands of young people in private education.

“It sometimes feels as though our critics believe that the academic success of our pupils has either been handed to them on a plate, or drilled into them, and does not reflect any real ability or potential, let alone hard, determined work by the individuals themselves,” he says.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Cottam says the modern education system has become too focused on “entitlement” and a culture in which “all are expected to win prizes”. This fails to promote true competition between young people or push pupils towards academic excellence, he says.

“An education system that emphasises entitlement at the expense of effort and commitment, and that tries to make everyone feel wonderful all of the time, will not develop the strength of character that we all need, in order to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life,” he says.

Mr Cottam also criticises the decline of academically-selective grammar schools. Only 164 remain in England and Labour introduced legislation in the late 90s banning the opening of any more. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat front benches also oppose the expansion of academic selection.

“The grammar school system, for all its many faults, was a real engine of social mobility, and nothing since has been as effective,” he says. “As every estate agent knows, the selection by ability of the grammar school system has been partly replaced by selection by mortgage.

“I am not suggesting that we should necessarily return to the grammar school system but that we should take note of its successes, see how we can learn from them and replicate them where we can, within the different circumstances that now exist.”

The modern education system, he says, is increasingly expected to “provide the answer to all the social ills of society, with the result that it is in danger of resembling a branch of psychotherapy”.

Christie wants vouchers for NJ

Gov. Chris Christie signed a proclamation today recognizing Trenton civil rights crusader Edith Savage Jennings as part of a Black History Month event.

Christie used the occasion honoring Savage Jennings to speak about his education reform platform, which calls for creating a voucher program for students in the poorest districts and eliminating teacher tenure.

Christie told the crowd of mostly African-American activists, lawmakers and students, that just like fighting for voting rights was politically unpopular, pushing for his education overhaul is also unpopular. Christie said both efforts are the right thing for society and political fallout shouldn't be a factor.

"The hard stuff is standing up to the interests who don't want this progress because they like the way things are right now," Christie said. "The one thing I do know about Dr. King is he did not care about that, he cared about putting forward a vision that he believed was based in the rights that God gave each human being he put on this Earth."


Britain's schools lottery

The appalling disparity between the best and worst state schools has never been worse

Tomorrow is "admissions day" in the English school system, when the parents of nearly 540,000 children will find out whether their son or daughter has been given a place at their preferred secondary school. For around 60,000 children, the answer will be no. But the disappointment will not be evenly distributed: in some areas, 40 per cent of children will be turned away. There are many parts of England where the local comprehensive is so bad that parents will move house to avoid it. To get round this tactic, low-ability pupils are shoehorned into good schools or the local council resorts to lotteries.

It is impossible to design a state system in which all pupils go to the school of their parents' choice. But the appalling disparity between the best and worst state schools has never been worse – and it is especially difficult to tackle because bad teachers and bad schools are protected by their allies in the teaching unions and local government.

As we report today, Philip Cottam, chairman of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, believes that privately educated children are the victims of university admissions systems skewed in favour of badly performing state pupils.

He is right – but, as he points out, children in run-of-the-mill comprehensives are also victims, as are their frustrated parents. The truth is that people who want their children to have a rigorous education have never enjoyed the liberation from statist mediocrity that they have experienced in other walks of life.

The Thatcher government left millions of children at the mercy of educationalists who despise competition. That situation persists, as many parents will discover tomorrow. Put simply, there are not enough good schools; the obstacles to creating them must be cleared away as soon as possible.


Teaching assistant driven to 'hell and back' after racist abuse and violence at hands of teenage PUPILS in Britain

A teaching assistant claims he 'felt like jumping in front of a bus' after being punched, racially abused, attacked with a compass and forced to call police when a student threatened to rape his wife and children. Khalid Akram says he even received a death threat from a teenage pupil at the school where he worked in Burnley, Lancashire, but nothing was done despite him filing dozens of complaints to bosses.

He claims he was left with post-traumatic stress disorder following the Rose School's failure to deal with the abuse, and is now set to go to tribunal alleging unfair dismissal.

He told The People: 'I've been to hell and back over this. 'I've been degraded and treated worse than an animal but no one was there to help me. 'From Day One I was kicked punched, spat at and called things like P*** b****** and Bin Laden.'

As part of his case, CCTV images will be used, including scenes in which:

* a 13-year-old boy is held back by other staff after he headbutts a teacher who is trying to stop him attack Khalid. The teenager then lets fly a high kick and spits at the shocked teaching assistant. A fortnight later, Khalid claims he said he was going to 'get you and your family'.

He says he was also injured when a pupil struck him with a pair of compasses; the headteacher, Nicola Jennings, refused to allow him time off to go to hospital for a tetanus jab after his arm was left bleeding.

In another incident, in April 2009, a pupil said he was 'going to rape your P*** wife and kids' and kicked him on the wrist. The head refused to call police, but he felt he should 'for my own safety', according to the paper.

The following month, he says he was headbutted, while in June he 'felt like jumping in front of a bus' after yet more abuse. Later that month, he filled in several racist incident forms, including for being spat at and after one pupil said he was 'going to die'. And he claims even a colleague - who he says subsequently apologised - talked of going to the 'P*** shop'.

The 34-year-old kept a diary of the abuse he claims to have suffered at the Burnley school, which has 40 places for students aged 11-16 with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties.

He started there in January 2009, as it was closer to his home than his previous job, but was sacked in the July for alleged dishonesty and falsifying his CV, according to the newspaper.

The tribunal is set for September.

Lancashire county Council declined to comment because 'the matter is subject to the legal process'. A school source told The People that many staff received abuse at the school, which is a special school for those with behavioural difficulties.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Live free or die … but you can’t vote

The Dartmouth College Republicans and the Dartmouth College Democrats have teamed up to fight a New Hampshire bill that seeks to disenfranchise students who attend college outside of their hometown. The bill, sponsored by Gregory Sorg (R-Grafton) specifically prohibits students attending "institutions of higher learning" from acquiring domicile for voting purposes in their college community unless they lived there prior to matriculating.

The new speaker of the House, William O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon) made public comments supporting the bill. He explained that he does not think the constitution allows for anyone to have "instantaneous" residence in the state or a particular community. He continued, "That's what kids do. They don't have life experience and they just vote their feelings. And they've taken away the town's ability to govern themselves. It's not fair."

Thus, for example, a student who moves from Manchester (or another state) to Durham to attend the University of New Hampshire will not have the option of voting as a resident of Durham, regardless of the student's intentions about where he or she might live in the future. The student's only option would be to return to Manchester (or the home state) to vote, or to vote there by absentee ballot.

The student could live (and work) in the community, pay local taxes, support local businesses, and become involved in any number of ways, but never be allowed a voice in community concerns. To ban college students (who usually live in their college communities for four years or more) from voting is simply ridiculous.

This is not the first time student voters have come under attack. The issue, however, was resolved by the federal courts more than 30 years ago. In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld without comment a Texas district court holding that students must receive the same presumption of residency as other citizens. In other words, it is unconstitutional to deny someone the right to vote based solely on his or her status as a student.

What's more, as early as 1972, the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire ruled that a student (or anyone) can claim residency for voting purposes even if he or she intends to leave in the future. In that case, after a student at Dartmouth College told elections officials he intended to leave Hanover when he finished school, they denied his voter registration because New Hampshire's traditional test for residency required an intention to stay in the community permanently or indefinitely.

Recognizing that, "[i]n this day of widespread planning for change of scene and occupation," the state could not justify a permanent residency requirement, the U.S. District Court held New Hampshire's test unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

So why, in 2011, would New Hampshire legislators find it pressing to restrict the voting rights of students, ignoring established constitutional principles in the process? Well, for one, it's a partisan thing. House Speaker William O'Brien recently remarked to residents that college students are "basically doing what I did when I was a kid and foolish, and voting as a liberal."

Fortunately, it doesn't take an ideological rival to see the injustice in this approach; as Dartmouth College Republicans President recently noted, "Whether every college student is liberal or every college student is conservative, every vote gets to count, and you can't change that."

College students can be as much a part of the community in which they live as any other resident. In addition, they bring business to the community, pay taxes, and are subject to its rules and regulations. Students may or may not have ideas about where they would like to live after graduating from college, but if they currently consider their college town their home, students have a right to have their voice heard along with every other resident.


Goggles banned at school swimming lessons in Britain

Children have been banned from wearing goggles during school swimming lessons for fears they could hurt themselves. Pen-pushers have slapped the ban on the swimming aids amid "fears" a pair could "snap" onto a child's face too hard, injuring them.

Parents branded the ruling by Oxfordshire County Council's healthy and safety brigade as "nutty" and "extreme."

However, bureaucrats defended its no-goggle policy claiming that it reflected national guidance provided by sports bodies. Children will now need a medical reason for them to be allowed to wear the protective eye wear in the pool during school lessons.

Teenage swimmer Danni McFadden, aged 13 years, said: "It hurts my eyes if we swim without them and I go in the water." Her mother Carmel Ryan added: "I remember being a child and I thought it was great swimming underwater. "It makes swimming more fun. "The professional swimmers wear goggles. "It's a bit nutty. "If they think someone is messing around with them, they should correct it. They do protect the eyes."

Zilah Grant, aged 24 years, of Wantage, Oxon., takes her son Khian, three, swimming regularly as it helps him with his disabilities. "I do not think it is very wise of them to do it. "Goggles bring the fun into swimming as you can see each other under water."

Last year Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to tear up health and safety regulations which "have become a music hall joke."

Oxfordshire is not alone in banning goggles. Last year, Leicestershire County Council advised schools of the "dangerous" eyewear which it said could snap back in childrenâ s faces, or make them bump into one another due to reduced peripheral vision. Hertfordshire County Council has done the same.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council refused to divulge the specific reason why goggles had been banned from its swimming pools. "This local authority, like others throughout the UK, reflects to schools the national guidance provided by various governing sport bodies on this issue," he said.

"These organisations include The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), the Swimming Teachers Association (STA), the Association for Physical Education and the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management."

The ASA said it did not have a strict policy on goggle use, but offered guidance to pool operators and parents.

The STA said children should be encouraged to not wear goggles in swimming lessons, but recognised they may be necessary for medical or other reasons. It added that goggles should meet British standards and fit correctly.


Australia: "The skull" is still a bonehead -- repeating the failed Latham hostility to private schools

The genius himself

Mark Latham's attack on private schools is generally regarded as a major factor in his 2004 election wipeout. Around 40% of schoolkids in the swing State of Queensland go to private High Schools so that's a big demographic to piss off. The Green/Left Peter Garrett was a huge liability as an environment minister. Looks like he is still as thick as a brick and doomed for more follies in education

THE Federal Government is set to launch a new war with private schools this week as pressure intensifies on the country's richest education establishments to reveal their assets. Education Minister Peter Garrett told The Sunday Mail that he wanted to force public and private schools to reveal their true wealth, including assets, reserves and profits.

The launch of the revamped My School website on Friday will reveal financial information including income through private fees for the first time, but not assets.

The website will also show that wealthy private schools are spending 50 per cent more to educate each student than the average spend on a child at a public school. But some high-performing, low-fee Catholic and independent schools are spending a similar amount per student to comparable public schools, when private and taxpayer-funding is combined.

The launch of the site was delayed after private schools complained some of the complex data used to arrive at a per student spend was misleading. The average government school recurrent cost for a high school student is about $12,000.

"This is all about fair dinkum transparency," Mr Garrett said. "This is all about giving people information that they deserve to have. "And it's about providing that information in a way that allows them to make valid and reasonable comparisons."

Mr Garrett will take his proposal to extend the financial disclosure requirements of My School to include assets to the next meeting of state education ministers in April this year. Some private schools securing millions of dollars in taxpayer funding have retained earnings or assets of $100 million or more. But there is no current requirement for many schools to disclose their assets, profits or financial information.

For the first time, the new version of the My School website will provide information on funding from fees and donations to public and private schools. But Mr Garrett stressed it was "not about ranking".

My School 2 will also reveal for the first time which schools are showing improvements in literacy results for children in their care and which schools are falling behind.