Saturday, May 07, 2011

Study: 1/3 US students clueless about civics

Fewer than half of US eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics exam, and one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, according to test results released yesterday.

Three-quarters of high school seniors who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress were unable to identify the effect of foreign policy on other nations or name a power granted to Congress.

The results “confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education,’’ said Sandra Day O’Connor, a former Supreme Court justice who last year founded, a nonprofit group that teaches civics through Web-based games.

The Department of Education administered the tests to 27,000 fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade students last year.

Average fourth-grade scores on the test’s 300-point scale rose slightly since the exam was last administered, in 2006, to 157 from 154. Average eighth-grade scores were virtually unchanged at 151. Scores of high school seniors — who are either eligible to vote or about to be — dropped to 148 from 151.

“The results confirm an alarming and continuing trend that civics in America is in decline,’’ said Charles N. Quigley, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Civic Education.

One bright spot: Hispanic students, a growing proportion of the country’s population and student body, narrowed the gap between their scores and those of non-Hispanic white students. On average, Hispanic eighth-graders scored 137 and non-Hispanic whites 160. That 23-point gap was down from 29 in 2006.


British Government to crackdown on the 'Mickey Mouse' High School courses introduced by the Labour Party

Hundreds of worthless qualifications face the axe under a Government shake-up of vocational education. Ministers believe too many ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses are failing teenagers as they do not lead to higher education or stable jobs.

In a major crackdown, ministers are expected to implement the findings of a review which found that up to a third of the non-academic GCSE courses introduced under Labour were pointless. Many of these ‘soft’ courses will be banned from counting towards schools’ GCSE league table positions, while others will fail to be accredited in the first place.

The Government is set to urge regulator Ofqual to take a tougher stance and oversee a fall in the number of poor-quality, non-academic courses being accredited in schools and colleges. This will free more funding for work-based tuition, including apprenticeships.

The Government will announce plans to compile detailed guidance about which vocational qualifications will be allowed to count in school league tables. Many will no longer contribute towards the traditional five A* to C measure of GCSE performance – leading to their demise as schools start to shun them.

The overhaul comes amid an astonishing 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses under Labour. Numbers soared to 575,000 last year – from just 15,000 in 2005.

This helped fuel a damaging collapse in the number of children taking academic courses, and enabled schools to ‘play the system’ by pushing pupils on to ‘soft’ courses that helped boost league rankings.

An independent review in March found up to a third of the soft, non-academic courses introduced under Labour and taken by up to 400,000 16 to 19-year-olds were pointless. They fail to lead directly to a job or other, more advanced courses at college or university, the report said.

One, the level two Certificate in Personal Effectiveness, worth a GCSE, was taken by 10,843 pupils last year. A sample paper asks students to ‘find out what benefits you are entitled to if you are unemployed’. It also asks students to ‘show you can obtain information on a topic you are interested in’ using telephones, the internet, radio or TV and newspapers.

Another, among the most popular highlighted in the report included a Certificate in Preparation for Working Life, worth half a GCSE and taken by almost 30,000 young people last year. Material includes a compulsory section on ‘hazard identification at home, on the roads and at work’, such as ‘storage, falling/ladders and the use of energy’. Students are also taught about emotions people experience including ‘happiness, grief and envy’.

Professor Alison Wolfe of King’s College London, who led the review, said the ‘depth and breadth’ of vocational courses as well as assessment arrangements should be considered when deciding should continue to contribute to Key Stage Four league tables.

Ofqual should also be ‘strongly encouraged to expand and improve the ways in which it regulates awarding bodies and examines standards in vocational education’.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is expected to endorse Professor Wolfe’s findings. A Coalition source said: ‘Under Labour millions of children were pushed into dead end qualifications. ‘The Wolfe Review gives us a blueprint for learning from the most successful countries and putting Labour’s failure behind us.’


The good ol' generous taxpayer again

Incredible salaries of Australian university bosses

THE salary of University of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield soared to $1,069,999 this week after he won a staggering $80,000 payrise. The rise alone is more than the Australian average wage of $66,200 and ahead of salaries paid to lecturers and tutors. Several other Queensland vice-chancellors are edging closer to the million-dollar mark, according to reports tabled in Parliament.

Are they worth it? While acknowledging their high-powered, high-stress jobs, many will conclude the salaries are excessive.

There is no doubt that university boffins who make it to the top in Australia climb aboard the ultimate gravy train. Perks include free cars and expense accounts and trips to exotic locations for "research" and important seminars and meetings.

University leaders become the chief executives of vast "companies". Unlike real-world companies, however, universities are topped up each year with billions in federal funding.

Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, got a pay rise of $50,000, taking his salary to $759,999. Ian O'Connor, vice-chancellor of Griffith University, got a pay rise of $75,000, taking his salary to $714,999.

However, the academic world remains puzzled by the generous salaries paid to the heads of much smaller universities. The remuneration of Greg Hill, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunshine Coast, is believed to be on $489,999, with rises in the pipeline set to take his salary next year to $509,000. Hill succeeded vice-chancellor Paul Thomas, who left with a payout including superannuation of $859,999. Hill is also president of the university whose student numbers have jumped 15 per cent to 7276 since 2006.

In a note in the annual report Hill said: "Despite the rapid growth in student numbers the quality of learning and teaching has remained high. The university was the top-ranked public university in Queensland for teaching quality and graduate satisfaction in the most recent Good Universities Guide." He said the Australian Learning and Teaching Council awarded university staff six citations for excellence.

The remuneration of Scott Bowman, vice-chancellor of Central Queensland University, was listed as $479,999. The university has 12,733 full and part-time students. More than 8000 of them are international students. Sandra Harding, vice-chancellor of James Cook University, won a $60,000 pay rise, taking her salary to a high of $559,999. James Cook has 18,971 students.

By comparison, the University of Queensland has 44,000 full-time and part-time students including 10,465 international students. QUT has 40,563 enrolments, including 6000 from overseas and Griffith University said it has 43,000 students with 9007 from overseas.

A professor told me vice-chancellors of smaller universities had to be paid more to attract them to regional cities. Their pay had to compensate for a loss of prestige in accepting a job at a university of lower standing, he said.

Professor Bill Lovegrove, vice-chancellor at the University of Southern Queensland, accepted a more modest pay rise of $20,000, taking his salary to $509,999. USQ has 26,069 students, nearly 20,000 of them external or online students.

And salaries look set to soar as student numbers rise. Indeed, I was told some universities had already approved a fresh round of pay rises for their vice-chancellors for next year. The top 10 executives at the University of Queensland now earn in excess of $300,000 each. So do the top 10 at Griffith. The top seven executives at QUT earn $300,000 or better.

So why are vice-chancellors and executives paid like the CEOs of big companies?

No doubt universities have become big companies. International education is Australia's third-largest export industry, generating $18 billion in exports in 2009, the Australian Technology Network Universities reported. That amount is 50 per cent larger than tourism-related travel, and has grown by 94 per cent since 2004, according to Greenfield. Higher education generates about $9.3 billion or 57 per cent of this export income, he told the Canberra Press Club this week.

Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said recently that Melbourne's seven universities were the city's biggest employers and had been the largest contributor to state economic development during the past 25 years.

Greenfield said higher education's contribution to economic prosperity was rarely discussed, even though it was the largest service export industry in Australia. He said a total of 480,000 undergraduate places were being funded in 2011, which is 50,000 students more than in 2009. "Encouragingly offers to students from low socio-economic backgrounds have increased faster than for other groups."

The rise of an academic fat cat class comes at a time when Australia's 40,000 academics such as lecturers and tutors believe they are underpaid. It is estimated that an additional 40,000 academic staff will be needed in the next two decades to reduce student staff ratios from an average of 20:1 to 15:1. In addition, thousands of academics will be required to replace those who retire.

A dissenting professor told me there was no evidence academic workers were being underpaid. She pointed to an international comparison of academic salaries by Laura E. Rumbley and colleagues at Boston College's Centre for International Higher Education which found Australian wages for entry-level academic positions are the third highest in the world after Canada and the US.

They are more than three times those in India and more than five times those in China. Australian wages for senior academics are the fourth highest in the world.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Riot Police Called in to Restore Order at Tucson School Board Mtg.

Of course this gets a pass in the Leftist "progressive" media, but non-violent Tea Party rallies are demeaned and attacked

Rowdy protesters in Tucson have struck again. And this time, it involves riot police. Those protesters are hell-bent on keeping the district’s shocking, and concerning, Mexican-American studies program as-is. And while they’re causing a ruckus to prove it, there could be a lot more behind the story — mainly, who’s behind the protests.

At a Tucson Unified School District school board meeting on Tuesday — which was a make-up for one canceled after students chained themselves to board-room desks on April 26 — riot police were called in to restore order after program supporters become restless during the public input section of the meeting. Local station KGUN-TV describes the scene:
Nine On Your Side Reporter Ileana Diaz was inside at the time and says after the call to the audience the crowd motioned to the Board to continue hearing from the public. The microphones were turned off and Board Members called for Tucson Police to come inside the room.

Officers in full riot gear escorted Board Members to safety and took control of the room. Police asked people to be calm so the meeting could continue. After about 20 minutes the Board Members walked into the room and resumed with the meeting.

KOLD-TV adds:
The crowd turned uncivil at Tuesday night’s TUSD board meeting to discuss its ethnic studies program.

A call to the audience became an opportunity for audience members to confront the district board about its plans for the program. It grew raucous at times, with one man saying the board’s actions were “disgraceful,“ and that he hoped the board members would ”go to hell for it.” ....

The meeting has been called to order. Security officials are standing in rows, as people chant “No vote.”

KVOA-TV reports seven people were escorted out of the meeting for interrupting by reading prepared statements. There were also several arrests made, but no reports on exactly how many.

So what exactly has the protesters upset? The answer may surprise you. As we’ve previously reported, the district isn’t trying to ban the program outright. Instead, it wants to make a controversial history class — that calls for “death to the invaders” and was found to advocate overthrowing the U.S. government — an elective instead of allowing it to substitute for required history credits. That’s it. And the disturbing class would still be available to students.

But that’s not the rhetoric coming from the supporters. They’re trumpeting the message that the district is trying to eliminate the program altogether, a tactic used to stir up anger and action.

“Last week brave students from UNIDOS took over the Tucson Union School Board meeting and turned it into a pachanga,” a petition e-mail supporting the student action, and obtained by The Blaze, says. “They chained themselves to the seats to prevent the school board from voting to put ethnic studies on the chopping block. Their action worked.”

Outrage over the program isn’t split down liberal vs. conservative lines. As local citizen journalist Mike Shaw recently found out, some of the biggest advocates of removing the program and class are liberals and Democrats. He also found those who believe the student protest movement is being organized by a state university professor:

According to Shaw, the students are getting support from more than just one academic. While reviewing footage from the April 26 chain-in, he noticed something interesting. According to him, Ward Churchill (the controversial, one-time University of Colorado professor who was fired for his views on 9/11) was spotted supporting the protests:

So what became of the Tuesday meeting? Well, nothing. The board decided not to vote on the Mexican-American studies class pending the completion of community forums on the issue. Another vote has not been scheduled.

“It is clear there is a great deal of misperception and miscommunication about the reason for consideration of this item,” district President John Pedicone said in a statement. “This has resulted in heightened levels of frustration.”


Insane British school

Fired for 'abuse', teacher who carried naughty boy of six in from playground

A respected deputy head was sacked after she helped carry a boy of six into school when he refused to leave the playground. Debbie Ellis, who had an unblemished 20-year career, was accused of ‘physical and emotional abuse’ after she and a teaching assistant lifted the boy by his armpits – even though his mother didn’t complain.

Mrs Ellis had taken action because a sex offender had recently been spotted at the school gates.

Yesterday her solicitor described her dismissal as ‘incomprehensible’ and vowed to clear her name.

Mrs Ellis, a policeman’s wife, had been in charge of Hafod-y-Wern primary school in Wrexham, North Wales for the day last June because the head was away. When the boy refused to come inside after playtime, staff phoned his mother, but she wasn’t able to come to the school straight away.

So Mrs Ellis and a teaching assistant went outside, lifted the boy under his armpits and carried him indoors. Mrs Ellis told the head on his return and school governors launched an investigation, which lasted nearly a year.

Police were informed at the time, but there were no grounds on which to prosecute. Now, however, Mrs Ellis has been sacked for ‘gross misconduct by physical and emotional abuse’. She is taking her case to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

Yesterday her solicitor, Tudor Williams, said Mrs Ellis felt ‘a deep sense of grievance’. ‘What’s happened is incomprehensible,’ he said. ‘For acting in the best interests of the child she gets the sack. It’s totally unfair and over the top. ‘She’s had a 20-year teaching career without a stain on her character, ten years at this school.’

Mr Williams said Mrs Ellis had been sacked despite CCTV footage of the incident showing she hadn’t used excessive force. ‘My client used the minimum of physical restraint to lift him up and carry him to the classroom,’ he said. ‘His mother came to the school and saw him, and made no complaint.’

Mrs Ellis was finally dismissed in February after a two-day disciplinary hearing at which she was represented by the National Union of Teachers. Another teacher at the school was sacked and two teaching assistants were disciplined, but yesterday the school’s governing body declined to give more details.

Mr Williams said: ‘It seems some governors have lost sight of the reality of the situation.’ The playground of the school, which is on a housing estate, is sometimes used as a short cut. Mr Williams said that two weeks earlier, a man had been spotted performing a sex act outside the school gates. ‘Any teacher would be concerned about a pupil being outside in the playground on his own,’ he added. ‘Anything could have happened.

‘Just imagine if he had been allowed to stay there and wandered off on to the main road, or a stranger came in and abused or abducted him. ‘All these things weighed on my client’s mind.’

An NUT spokesman said Mrs Ellis’s dismissal was ‘perverse’ given that she had been acting to keep a child safe.

Mrs Ellis is claiming unfair dismissal and breach of her human rights by allegedly not having a fair hearing.


Australia: Victorian schools allowed to bar non-believing teachers under law change

RELIGIOUS schools will be able to reject teachers belonging to different faiths under Baillieu Government changes to Victoria's equal opportunity laws. Christian schools will be able to ban single-parent teachers or others not fitting their beliefs. Jewish and Islamic schools will be able to hire only those teachers who uphold their values.

Islamic schools will also be able to make head scarfs compulsory for female students in changes that allow faith-based schools to uphold their religion through uniform and behaviour standards.

Strict equal opportunity laws banning discrimination against teachers were initiated by the Brumby government last year and were to take effect on August 1. But the overturning of the laws by the Coalition paves the way for religious organisations to employ only staff who share the beliefs of their communities.

The reforms will also strip Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commissioner of powers to investigate and enter workplaces. The commission was to be handed similar powers to the Office of Police Integrity under a Labor policy.

As part of the Coalition's "operation common sense", Attorney-General Robert Clark will force the commission to get VCAT permission before compelling a person or company to hand over documents, attend a hearing or give evidence about claims of persistent discrimination in workplaces.

Mr Clark said removal of employment restrictions for faith-based schools was a commonsense measure to retain a consistent approach, where the values of teachers match those of students, parents and volunteers. "The changes would apply the same rules to employment as to all other aspects of the organisation's activities - such as provision of services or engagement of contractors," he said.

If challenged on their grounds for rejecting a teacher, schools would have to persuade VCAT their reasons were in keeping with their wider religious beliefs. That would mean the more extreme the school community's beliefs were, the greater their range of exemptions could be.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said she was pleased the Government was amending the legislation so parents wanting a choice for their children's education were not disadvantaged. "We were concerned that the rights of independent schools to employ the most suitable staff would have been curtailed," she said.

"Choice in education is very important and we think it is common sense that religious schools ought to be able to choose staff they believe are the most appropriate for their school."


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Radical Teachers Push Marxist Agenda and Shift Culture Leftward

Far left teachers have young minds captured for 6 ½ hours a day and work subtly to fill them with Marxist and radical ideas. That’s what a New York City teacher explained [see the video here] at the recent socialist Left Forum, transcribed courtesy of the Washington Times:
“How do you act as a teacher…in a classroom? Kind of promote ideas of Marxism or kind of begin to (in-audible)? Ya’ know, I think part of it is, particularly at the high school level or at an elementary school level, you have to be careful, because your job…they want you to stick to fairly narrow things and that can be fairly frustrating about it. You can do it wherever you possibly can.”

You just need to be subtle about it. Can’t put up the Soviet flag. Can’t replace Washington’s picture with ole Karl. So how does one go about it?
“Part of it is just actually allowing for room for critical thought in the classroom and allowing for students to think for themselves to talk about issues wherever it’s possible to bring in history and you know…radical from the past… fight for that kind of thing. And I think there is space to do that. There is limitations that we have to do to try to provide that room in our classrooms. I think that radicals and socialists have a particular role to play in fighting for that type of education and bringing it whenever possible…”

And this scheme seems to be working beautifully.

A survey from late last year commissioned by the Bill of Rights Institute revealed that nearly half of U.S. adults thought a popular Marx saying —”from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” — originated from one of the founding documents.

Karl Marx in the same sentence as America’s founding documents. Let that marinate for a minute.

Their efforts are paying off and they’re moving America’s culture leftward. That doesn’t bode well for our roots of liberty and self-governance.


Nearly Half Of Detroiters Can’t Read

Africans in an African city

According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are "functionally illiterate.” The alarming new statistics were released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund on Wednesday.
WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund’s Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.

“Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said.

“I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” Tyler-Ruiz said.

Some of the Detroit suburbs also have high numbers of functionally illiterate: 34 percent in Pontiac and 24 percent in Southfield.

“For other major urban areas, we are a little bit on the high side… We compare, slightly higher, to Washington D.C.’s urban population, in certain ZIP codes in Washington D.C. and in Cleveland,” she said.

Tyler-Ruiz said only 10 percent of those who can’t read have gotten any help to resolve it. The report will be used to provide better training for local workers.


Private universities 'need tougher regulations', says British charity

Private universities are a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain so the Leftist education establishment looks at them askance. Even the ancient universities at Oxford and Cambridge are government-funded and regulated. Hence the sheer silliness of the report below

Tougher regulations are needed to keep rising numbers of private universities in order, according to research. New sanctions should be introduced amid fears that some institutions offering degree-level courses may be “of questionable legitimacy or very poor quality”, said the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank.

The warning comes just weeks after the Coalition signalled a major expansion of private providers. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said students attending an independent university would be eligible for £6,000 a year in Government-backed loans from 2012 – double the current limit.

The move is being seen as an attempt to introduce more competition into higher education and reward private universities that are more likely to offer cut-price courses.

But in today’s report, HEPI called for a “clear definition of a reputable private provider and an agreed designation of acceptability”. “Only those institutions with this recognition should be entitled to benefit,” it said, adding that existing regulations intending to regulate private universities were complex and "scattered” within various different statutes.

Currently, five private organisations have degree awarding powers, with most offering specialist professional courses. Only one – Buckingham University – offers a wide range of degrees. At least 670 other private providers currently provide other further and higher education courses and numbers are likely to grow in coming years.

But the HEPI study – Private Providers in UK Higher Education – said evidence from the United States suggested that private providers were more likely to have high drop-out rates and offer low quality courses. [That would be news to Harvard and Yale!] "A key concern, as in the USA, is the existence of some private institutions of questionable legitimacy or very poor quality," said the study.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “We urgently need tougher regulation of for-profit companies if we are to protect quality and standards in our higher education system. As events in America have shown the for-profit model is fraught with danger for students and taxpayers alike and it is essential that our government rethinks its decision to embrace it.

“As today’s report shows, in its study of for-profits in America, publicly-funded education delivered by established providers offers a better quality of education.”


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

For-profit education rule heads for final U.S. review

The Leftist hatred of profit is particularly strong in education

The U.S. Education Department has sent the final version of a controversial rule aimed at reining in low-quality trade schools and colleges to the White House budget office for review, an agency spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The for-profit education lobby and the Obama administration have been in a pitched battle over rules designed to curb student loan abuses.

The "gainful employment" regulation is the last of many rules introduced by the Education Department to be finalized. The goal of this and other rules is to make for-profit schools such as Apollo Group's University of Phoenix more accountable for the billions of dollars of taxpayer money used to fund student loans.

In its original form, the rule would make a school program ineligible to accept students paying with federal loans if fewer than 35 percent of former students are paying them back after three years. An exception would be made for programs where students are able to pay back loans, but fail to do so.

The Education Department spokeswoman said she did not know when the final version of the rule would be announced. It had been expected early this year. Rules are often weakened between the announcement of the first draft and implementation of the final version.

The White House budget office reviews proposed regulations to ensure they meet regulatory principles and policies. When an initial draft of the gainful employment rule was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget on October 15, the review took about 10 days.

The Education Department has already finalized rules banning the practice of basing recruiters' pay on how many students they enroll and requiring disclosure of graduation rates and job placement rates to new students.

For-profit colleges have been lobbying heavily over the last few months to get the gainful employment rule scrapped or weakened. Losing access to federal loans could put some schools out of business. Some have already tightened their enrollment standards in a move to reduce loan defaults and increase graduation rates.

Apollo Group, the biggest company in the sector, said it saw a 45 percent drop in new enrollments in the quarter ended on February 28. With enrollments down, Apollo, Career Education Corp and Washington Post's education unit Kaplan Higher Education have all cut jobs.

The Standard & Poor's education index was up 0.3 percent in afternoon trading on Tuesday, while the broad S&P 500 stock index fell 0.6 percent.


Degistered New Zealand teacher unrepentant over nude Penthouse photographs

The penalty seems excessive and out of place in today's society

A FORMER New Zealand teacher has been deregistered for posing nude - but she has no regrets, 3 News reported today.

Rachel Whitwell, 29, was photographed draped over a school desk for the pornographic magazine Penthouse's Australia and New Zealand editions in January 2010.

Following a number of complaints and an investigation by the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC), the Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal found the former elementary school teacher's actions had brought the profession into disrepute and reflected poorly on her fitness as a teacher, Radio New Zealand reported.

In her defense, Whitwell argued she was not working as a teacher when she posed for the photographs and had not acted illegally, reported. "I simply modeled for some photographs in my role as a model, not as a teacher," she said in submissions to the NZTC. "Even if I was teaching I do not believe that ... the NZTC has any right to impose Victorian moral opinions on my life outside the classroom."

Whitwell also said the New Zealand Bill of Rights meant she had a right to freedom of expression.

She was deregistered as a teacher and ordered to pay costs.

Whitwell said she gave up teaching a year and a half ago to pursue a modeling career and, while she had no regrets about posing nude, she wanted to appeal the decision.


Australian Federal Government offers families cash if teens stay at school

MORE than 143,000 Queensland families will receive extra cash from the Federal Government over five years if their teenage children stay in school. About 650,000 families nationwide will get up to $4200 extra each year under a Labor election commitment to increase the number of 16 to 19-years who complete schooling.

New government modelling suggests tens of thousands of low-income families will also receive extra rent assistance up to $3600 a year and family tax benefit B payments in next week's federal Budget.

Treasurer Wayne Swan pledged the Budget would target welfare payments to low and middle-income families while creating incentives for students to say in school. "We fully understand how much bringing up teenagers can stretch family budgets, especially for families on modest incomes," Mr Swan said. "This extra help with cost of living pressures will help ensure that all teenagers are either learning or earning, so that we can build the best-educated and skilled workforce in the world."

The move reflects findings from former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry's tax review that the current drop in family tax payments once a child turns 16 creates a disincentive for older teenagers to complete school. Extra payments will only be made if students are in full time study or vocational training.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to make education and training the centrepiece of next week's Budget as the Treasury warns skills shortages threaten the economy. Ms Gillard yesterday pledged to spend an extra $200 million on school education for students with disabilities. The funds will cover speech and occupational therapy, audiovisual technology, teacher aides, health professionals and specialised curriculums.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans flagged further skills funding in the Budget ahead of a major overhaul of vocational education.

A report by Skills Australia yesterday laid out a $12 billion plan to boost the number of Australians in training up to certificate III level.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tucson‘s ’Mexican-American Studies’ Curriculum‏

Earlier today we brought you the story of how students chained themselves together at a local Tucson school board chamber to protest administrators who wanted to change the Mexican-American studies curriculum. Currently, a class that teaches history from a Mexican-American perspective is allowed to substitute for the required U.S. history class. But the school superintendent also wants to reevaluate the entire program (and possibly get rid of the class),* in part because it advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Below are excerpts from the controversial curriculum, which (among other things) calls for abolishing Thanksgiving for a National Day of Atonement and includes the headline “Death to the Invader!”

But first, we‘ve also uncovered the superintendent’s findings, which he presented after he reviewed the curriculum. According to him, the Mexican-American Studies Program was found to include all of the below elements that are banned by state law:
Here are the words taken directly from the superintendent’s findings:

So what is so egregious about this program? We’ll let the documents (which were distributed as handouts) speak for themselves (courtesy of Tucsonans United for Sound Districts):

You can see more excerpts, including those from the class “Social Justice, Resistance, and Latino Literature,” here.

Included in the superintendent’s findings was a startling testimonial from a former Hispanic teacher in the district:

Considering the excerpts, it’s not hard to understand how that happened.


Christie Brings Message of Change to Harvard Education School

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has called his state’s teachers’ union “a bunch of political thugs,” took his message of change to Harvard University’s school for educators today.

“There are now smoldering around the country the embers of revolution” in public schools, Christie said in a speech at the Ivy League institution’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The need for revolutionary change is as appropriate as anything in public life today.”

The first-term Republican, whose proposals to change government pension and benefit plans sparked a surge in teacher retirements last year, spoke to a packed audience that included those in a 270-seat auditorium and three satellite rooms around the campus across the Charles River from Boston. Christie, 48, has said 2011 will be “the year of education reform” as he pushes to change tenure, link teacher pay to performance and make it easier to fire educators deemed ineffective.

“We have an education system that is set up for the ease, comfort and security of those who operate it,” the governor said. This week, New Jersey voters approved 80 percent of school budgets. A year ago, they rejected a record 59 percent after Christie urged them to do so in districts where teachers rejected wage freezes.

New Jersey spends $17,620 per pupil annually, more than any other U.S. state, yet more than 100,000 students are trapped in failing schools, Christie has said. “Money is not the answer to that problem,” Christie said in his remarks. “New Jersey is the laboratory that proves that.”

While New Jersey has 150,000 teachers, just 17 have been removed for incompetence in the past decade, he has said, blaming tenure rules. The New Jersey Education Association, the union representing 200,000 current and retired school employees, spent $6.6 million on broadcast advertising last year, the most of any lobbying group in the state, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission in Trenton. Many ads attacked Christie.

Christie likened leaders of the teachers’ union to “political thugs” in an ABC News interview this month with Diane Sawyer.

“The reason I’m engaged in this fight with the teachers’ unions is because it is the only fight worth having,” Christie said to applause. He said that he has tried to focus his attacks on a system that protects poor-performing teachers and favors the system instead of the students.

Teacher retirements surged 95 percent last year, the largest increase of any government group, according to state Treasury Department data.

“I’m in no way condoning every aspect of Christie’s agenda, but he’s at least putting himself out there and I respect that,” student David Donaldson, who invited the New Jersey governor to speak, said in a telephone interview. When Christie entered the room, he was met with a standing ovation.

Donaldson, 26, is head of the Education Policy and Management Student Association speaker series at Harvard, the oldest and richest U.S. university. Other speakers this year include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

The typical speaker event attracts about 125 people, Donaldson said. More than 400 were expected at Christie’s speech, he said.

“Christie is among the most prominent governors when it comes to education issues,” said Michael Rodman, a spokesman for the graduate school. “Certainly he’s controversial but we welcome controversy and we think his ideas should be discussed and debated.”

Christie urged his audience, many of whom may become leaders of schools, to be “disruptors.” He said they should disrupt “fat, rich and entitled unions” because that’s what’s needed to fix U.S. public schools.


Australia's best teachers to be financially rewarded with bonus payments

The country's best teachers will be offered bonus pay under a budget plan announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"The forthcoming budget will deliver on our promise to invest in rewarding great teachers around the country," Ms Gillard told reporters at a Canberra primary school this morning.

"We will design a system where teachers who are performing well can get additional pay and additional reward to recognise that great performance."

The bonus pay will cost the commonwealth $425 million over the next four years and a total of $1.3 billion to 2018, the government says.

The first bonuses will be based on the 2013 school year and be paid in early 2014.

Bonuses will range from $5400 to $8100, depending on the teacher's experience.

Ms Gillard says an estimated 25,000 teachers, or around one in 10, will receive incentives under the scheme.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Americans Discern Correctly Public Schools are Poor “Investment”

We continue to hear the rhetoric from teachers unions and others in the education establishment that we need to “invest” more in America’s public schools.

Want smarter, better-prepared kids, the teacher unions ask? Give us more money! (And get the “rich” to pay for it.) That’s been the nation’s approach to public education for, oh, the last 50 years.

But after decades of increased education spending, it’s time to ask the obvious question: What kind of return are American taxpayers getting for all this “investment”? The answer: not much.

According to a new survey by Rasmussen Reports, a whopping 72% of taxpayers say they “are not getting a good return on what they spend on public education, and just one-in-three voters think spending more will make a difference.”

Americans are correctly discerning that simply spending more money will not improve educational outcomes.

Sure, throwing more dollars at education helps shore up the teacher unions’ Cadillac health insurance and pension plans. The money also helps cover automatic step raises for teachers. The problem is, none of those things help children read better or compute a calculus equation. Not one iota.

Think of it this way: If you owned stock in a company that was producing a lousy, inferior product that the public was unhappy with, would you buy more stock in that company?

If you’re a savvy investor, you’d demand new leadership that has a clear plan for producing a better product before you gave them a single dollar more. Why shouldn’t the same principle apply to public schools?

For years, the teachers union and their surrogates in elective office could get away with guilting Americans into spending more on public education. It was for the children, after all!

It was a cozy setup. More education dollars meant more union dues and more union political contributions for Democrats (and the occasional incompetent Republican who bought into the teacher union propaganda). Everyone benefitted. Except the students.

This Rasmussen poll indicates that Americans are catching onto this racket.

If the nation’s public schools were producing college-ready, workforce-ready graduates, there is little doubt that Americans would be willing to spend even more money on public education.

But our education system is graduating many students who are lacking in basic skills. The number of college freshmen who have to take remedial English and math classes just to get up to academic speed is an indictment of the entire system. “Kids Aren’t Cars” told the story of a graduate who couldn’t read his own diploma.

If leaders of the education establishment want more of our money, they must show a commitment to quality. That means holding teachers accountable (merit pay, ending tenure) and providing students with greater choices in education (charter schools, online learning). Do those things, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, and then we’ll talk about more spending.

Until that happens, 72% of Americans understand that more school spending is simply throwing good money after bad.


British education boss makes it 'faster and simpler' to sack bad teachers

Incompetent teachers who use ‘notorious dodges’ to keep their jobs will be ejected from the classroom under radical new plans, Michael Gove announced yesterday. Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference the Education Secretary said he would make it ‘faster and simpler’ for heads to sack bad teachers.

And he pledged to curb the underhand tactics used by bad teachers to cling on to their jobs. The two main ‘notorious dodges’ were stated as getting signed off sick and launching legal action against heads for bullying and intimidation.

The ruses can extend the time it takes to sack bad staff by years. Mr Gove wants this to reduced to a few months. Mr Gove’s new measures to cull incompetent teachers are set to be announced within weeks.

Addressing delegates at the Brighton conference, he said: ‘There are some underperforming teachers and it’s your responsibility to pick up the pieces. ‘Some are not pulling their weight or performing how they should in the class room.

‘I will be outlining new measures to manage out of the profession those people who should not be teaching.’ Speaking after the conference he added: ‘We will make it faster and simpler and we will deal with some of the most notorious dodges used by poor teachers.’

The measures are the latest in a string of reforms to boost teaching standards. They include raising the bar on qualifications needed to enter the profession and a review of standards against which teachers can be judged.

Mr Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, said elaborate ruses used by teachers to avoid the sack resulted in heads spending too much time managing bad staff. He added: ‘Where there is one underperforming teacher, there are too many.’ Mr Gove spoke after NAHT delegates overwhelming voted – with 99.6% in favour - for the first time in their history 100–year history, to ballot for strike action over pensions. The delegates represent the leaders of 28,000 primary and secondary schools in England.

Millions of children will be shut out of schools when the action takes place in the autumn term. And the walkouts are set to form part of a wave of strikes starting in action by the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in June.

The planned action puts teachers on a collision course with the Government over changes to public sector pensions. Amendments proposed by Lord Hutton call for final salary schemes to be replaced by average salary, a later retirement age of 68 and increased contributions for diminished returns.

Mr Gove, seeking to appease teachers, said they were in a unique position within the public sector and would not have to accept all changes. He said they had made an ‘unwritten compact’ with Government to work for low pay on the condition they receive generous pensions. And he pledged to negotiate and work with teachers to get a fair deal.

Delegates also voted for a boycott over Sats tests for 600,000 primary school pupils in 2012 if the Government review of exams does not lead to the scrapping of the tests.

In a scathing attack on Mr Gove, Mr Hobby said increasing mountains of Government targets and league tables are ruining children’s education and turning youngsters into ‘statistical fodder’.


Schools that cheat in Australia too

NEXT month the latest round of National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy tests will occur. Some students will not be attending. This is because schools have recommended the parents keep their children at home. The reason is these children are deemed a potential hindrance to overall school test scores.

It is not that these children are necessarily those allowed to be excused under the protocols for NAPLAN. Children who have a significant disability that renders them incapable of being tested under NAPLAN specifications, or children from a non-English speaking background who arrived in Australia less than one year before the tests, do not have to sit them.

Even while these conditions are clear, some students will be absent for no reason other than the tests are likely to cause "stress". This at least was one of the scenarios exposed in The Australian on April 11 concerning Queensland's Miami State High School.

The school has encouraged about a dozen parents to keep their children at home. Such school-sanctioned wagging is to enable supposedly low-performing students not to influence the NAPLAN results as quantified on the My School website.

Queensland has an unenviable track record where fudging NAPLAN results is concerned. Last year, there were 23 allegations of cheating on NAPLAN levelled against state schools and five against non-state schools. While the details were not released at the request of state Education Minister Geoff Wilson, "unethical" behaviour of some Queensland schools is a euphemism for non-attendance.

Cold comfort though it may be, Queensland does not lead the nation on schools asking children to stay home at NAPLAN time. Victoria has the lowest NAPLAN participation rates in the country.

In the Year 3 writing test 94 per cent of students in Victoria sat the tests in 2008 compared with 91 per cent last year. This represents a drop of 2000 students. For Year 9 numeracy, 1934 fewer sat the test last year than in 2008.

It's a reality that prompted state Liberal Education Minister Martin Dixon to say of the Education Department's assiduousness under Labor: "If it had been rigorous, we wouldn't have seen falling participation rates."

Having children who do not fit the exclusion conditions stay away and not sit the tests is simply cheating and an unsubtle attempt to skew the tests results published on My School. This was never the idea of the tests.

NAPLAN is part of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's commitment to the "transformative" nature of education. There is a good reason for NAPLAN to be a test for all. Without a full cohort of participants, the national data is rubbery.

Australia's performance on international education skill assessments is declining. The OECD's 2009 Program for International Student Assessment for 15 year olds showed Australia had declined 13 points in reading since 2000 and had slipped 10 points since 2006 in mathematics.

But according to Australian Education Union's national president, Angelo Gavrielatos, teacher unions are to be congratulated on their obdurate anti-NAPLAN stance. Gavrielatos paid tribute to unions stymieing the tests in the AEU's national conference in January, lauding those foot soldiers who "put their careers on the line and faced threats of disciplinary action or dismissal over the union's campaign against NAPLAN testing, the misuse of data and school league tables".

I am supervising NAPLAN tests next month. The reality is that NAPLAN has begun to take on its own momentum. It has morphed into something it was never intended to be. The tests were to be a moment in time, a core sample of basic skills, not a prepared examination.

Underperforming schools were to get an increase in support to assist in bringing the results up to speed. The intention was about identifying weakness and high performance and increasing achievement overall.

But the preparation for NAPLAN tests has increased significantly. As this newspaper pointed out on April 13, Gillard, when she was education minister, foresaw the dangers. She asked the Education Department to "consider limits on practice time".

This, it can be argued, is another kind of cheating. If you prepare children for NAPLAN, teach to the test in other words, you are cooking results.

I have seen practice papers. The curious thing about them is the suggested answers to the questions provide detailed annotations for the teacher, including basic grammar and spelling explanations. That says a lot about the quality of the teachers. It seems they are assumed to know nothing and understand less.

In principle NAPLAN is an imperative educational reform. In practice it's been hijacked by nervous schools wanting a better result on My School and unions not wanting to have bad teaching exposed. Strange bedfellows indeed.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Corruption in the US Education Dept over "For profit" colleges?

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General has launched a probe into possible influence by short-sellers on the Education Department's recent rulemaking process, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The investigation may proceed for some time, and there is no guarantee the OIG will make any specific findings.

The Education Department has come under fire from a number of sources since it began issuing a package of new rules last summer that will affect for-profit college operators such as Apollo Group Inc. (APOL), ITT Educational Services Inc. (ESI) and Corinthian Colleges Inc. (COCO). The Education Department released 13 of 14 rules in October but has yet to release the most controversial, which would tie graduates' student-loan repayment rates to programs' access to federal financial aid. As student-loan default rates rise, that rule is intended to ensure programs are educating their students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.

In November, Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) sent a letter asking the OIG to look into possible ties between the department and investors who were selling short the stock of various for-profit education companies. Correspondence between the parties, which include FrontPoint Partners's Steve Eisman, had been released by the department after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group known as CREW, filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Meanwhile, Sen. Michael Enzi (R., Wyo.) on Thursday sent a letter to Education Department Secretary Arne Duncan asking the department to release "all Department of Education written correspondence, email or otherwise, regarding the development of the proposed gainful-employment regulation," including documents from the Office of the Secretary related to the allegations. Enzi is ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Burr is also a member.

Additionally, lobbying groups supporting the for-profit colleges have alleged the Education Department leaked early copies of the rules to outside organizations and people with financial interests in the industry.

The so-called "gainful-employment" rule has seen strong opposition from lobbyists and a number of members of Congress, as many schools fear they may face program closures if they lose access to the funds. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to de-fund the gainful-employment rule, but the measure was later dropped from the final budget bill.

The Education Department said earlier this month it was "very close" to issuing the final rule, which will be "much more thoughtful" than an early draft. The department has said it sought input from a number of parties, including the schools that could be affected by the rules.

FrontPoint Partners's Eisman, the hedge-fund portfolio manager famous for his bearish bet on the mortgage industry, likened for-profit schools to subprime mortgages at an investor conference in May. He sent a copy of that presentation to the Education Department, according to documents released by CREW, and repeated many of the criticisms in front of a Senate committee hearing in June.

A representative from the Education Department referred questions to the OIG. An OIG representative said it's the agency's policy to neither confirm nor deny investigative activity. The OIG investigation was first reported Thursday in the Daily Caller, also citing sources.


British teachers are well-paid but many do not deliver value for money

Katharine Birbalsingh

How much do you think a teacher earns? The more I talk to people, the more I realise that the public think teachers are really poor.

It has come as quite a surprise for them to learn that hundreds of head teachers earn more than £100,000 per year, which is partly why the NASUWT teaching union was yesterday calling for more transparency in their salaries.

Once upon a time, of course, teachers did earn a pittance. But the recent Labour government changed all that. While it was in power, spending on education doubled; it now costs more than £80 billion a year to educate (rather badly) our lovely children. An ordinary London teacher, if good, can become an advanced skills teacher and earn well over £50,000 a year. A head of department or head of year doesn't even have to be good, and they'll be paid between £40,000 and £50,000. Assistant and deputy heads earn between £50,000 and £75,000, and heads can make just over £100,000.

For those teachers outside the capital, pay is slightly lower and for those in primary a little lower still, but no one is complaining. In my entire career as a teacher, I never heard a colleague complain about their pay.

I was always baffled when people would say that my motivation in speaking out about the education system was to sell my book. The £10,000 or so that I will eventually earn from it cannot compare with what I have lost in salary after being forced to leave my job. The fact is that most teachers are far richer than most writers.

And that, in my opinion, is a good thing: teaching is among the most important of our professions. It's a shame the public, on the whole, doesn't feel the same way. Would anyone question a surgeon being paid well? No. And that's because we have respect for doctors. Teachers, however, get a far harsher deal.

But even I'm struck by the quantity – and quality – of executive heads who are earning far more than £100,000 per year. One primary school head is reported to be earning some £276,000. Now, while this may be the exception, there is a disturbing lack of transparency about how and why they earn so much. This is mainly because they are drawing several different salaries for doing a variety of jobs – often rather badly because, frankly, no one can be in many schools and many training institutions and many conferences, all at the same time, while maintaining high standards at them all.

There are a handful of heads and executive heads who are worth every penny. They are extraordinarily talented, run outstanding schools, and do what most ordinary teachers can only dream about. But there are others, and I include deputies and assistants, who aren't even worth that ordinary teacher's salary.

And it is from these examples that public dissatisfaction with the profession festers. If our schools were churning out well-read, numerate, polite and charming young men and women, the public might not be quite so put out to learn that teachers are being so handsomely paid.

But half of our country's children do not manage to get five GCSEs with English and Maths; 84 per cent of them do not manage to get five C grades (not As but Cs) in academic subjects such as Maths, English, Science, History or Geography and a foreign or ancient language. Should we really be rewarding their schools for inadequately educating them?

If the statistics are to be believed, then the vast majority of head teachers do not deserve their salaries. I would go even further and argue that a number do not deserve to be in a post at all.

But when the Education Select Committee at the Commons asked me what should be done about senior teams who do not do their jobs properly and I answered: "Well… we should fire them…", the MPs from all three parties twisted uncomfortably in their seats.

One could barely stutter a response. Others hung their heads to hide their embarrassment at how inappropriate my answer was. I caused such a scandal that my words ended up in several newspapers. "Katharine Birbalsingh says teachers should be fired!"

And I still don't understand what the problem is. If you don't do your job properly, and your organisation is failing because of your poor leadership, isn't it obvious that you should be fired?

Senior teachers should not be paid less. Their jobs are the most important, most challenging and most exhilarating on the planet. Our future as a nation depends on them.

Why on earth would we want to reduce the status and appeal of such positions by decreasing their salaries? It is already hard enough to find good head teachers. The point is that senior teachers should do their jobs well and be held to account. We should give them incentives to ensure our children and schools are top class.

The public are right to be outraged and question teachers' pay – because they aren't getting value for their money.


That evil "rote learning" is needed in Australian primary schools

There is no other way to learn your times tables and they in turn are a major source of numeracy

Jennifer Buckingham

In around two weeks, each school student in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia will sit the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. The four tests over three days begin with language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and writing, followed by reading and numeracy.

My eldest child, who is in Year 3, will take the tests for the first time this year. My daughter’s school takes these tests very seriously. They have been preparing students for a good proportion of the first term.

Although my own area of interest is reading, I am more familiar with the numeracy test, simply because numeracy is where my daughter is weaker. To my mind, the tests are a fair representation of my daughter’s mathematical prowess at this time. Just by doing practice tests together, I have been able to see the gaps in her skills and knowledge.

Two things have become apparent. First, my daughter’s performance in the test will be impeded because she does not know the times tables well. I share responsibility for this because I was already aware of it. We made a few half-hearted attempts to work on this at home, but it was tedious for both of us and I did not persevere.

However, it has become glaringly obvious that knowing single digit multiples is critical. And I mean really knowing them, not just knowing the concept of multiplication and that if you spend enough time drawing circles with dots in them, you can eventually work out the answer.

I cannot say whether this is true for many schools, but I have seen little evidence of memorisation in my daughter’s maths instruction, and there is no other way to permanently instil this knowledge and provide automatic recall. Language and social studies are not the only areas of schooling that have been adversely affected by constructivism.

Second, the numeracy is a test of mathematical literacy, not mathematical aptitude. All the questions are problem-based. This example from the 2010 Year 3 numeracy test paper shows that it is almost impossible to do well if you are not competent in reading and comprehending written language.

These biscuits are sold in packets of 10. Shelley wants to give one biscuit to each of her 27 classmates. What is the least number of packets that Shelley needs? (©ACARA 2010)

Fortunately, my daughter is literate and able to understand this question, so the test will assess her ability to solve the problem using mathematics. Other children will not be in the same situation.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 April. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.