Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fury as British judge frees paedophile teacher and says: Teaching staff are often attracted to children

A judge has let a paedophile teacher walk free after telling him she did not criticise him for being attracted to children. Supply teacher David Armstrong had admitted hoarding more than 4,500 indecent images of children.

But handing the 63-year-old pervert a suspended sentence, Judge Mary Jane Mowat said: ‘I don’t criticise you for being a teacher who’s attracted to children. ‘Many teachers are but they keep their urges under control both when it comes to children and when it comes to images of children.’

Her extraordinary comments – recorded by a local newspaper reporter – provoked fury from campaigners who labelled them ‘outrageous’. Senior teaching representatives expressed disbelief at the remarks and said they sent the wrong message to child sex offenders.

Peter Bradley, of the children’s charity Kidscape, said schools exist to provide a safe place for children to learn. ‘This teacher should not have been in the profession and it is outrageous for the judge to say many teachers are sexually attracted to children,’ he said. ‘The message needs to be clear – if you are sexually attracted to children then you don’t work with them.’

Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘Teachers are professionals whose interest is ensuring children and young people achieve their educational potential. ‘To suggest their interest in pupils could understandably be anything else is totally unacceptable.’

Armstrong was caught after a colleague reported him at the Little Heath School in Tilehurst, near Reading. A teaching assistant noticed files on his laptop computer had names such as ‘rape wife’, ‘nude model’ and ‘gay alligator’.

Armstrong was arrested and police found the appalling catalogue of indecent images and videos on two laptops and an external hard drive. Reading Crown Court heard more than 300 were in the two most serious categories and involved victims as young as two. Some of the images were not of real children but Japanese cartoons depicting youngsters in sexual scenes.

Armstrong’s solicitor said he had worked at many schools and had an ‘impeccable record’.

The supply teacher, of Devizes, Wiltshire, was given 12-month jail sentences, suspended for two years, for each of five charges of making indecent photographs of children. He was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, with a Sexual Prevention Order which bans him from owning a computer or device capable of connecting to the internet. He was also automatically banned from working with children.

The case is not the first time Judge Mowat has stirred controversy over sentences handed to sexual offenders. In 2008, she allowed a former headmaster to walk free from court after he said drugs he was taking for Parkinson’s disease made him a paedophile. Phillip Carmichael said the medication caused him to become ‘hypersexually active’ after he was caught with 8,000 images and videos on his computer.

The judge said the case was ‘wholly exceptional’ and gave him an absolute discharge.

Two years earlier, after paedophile Robert Prout was convicted of abusing a 12-year-old girl, the judge admitted she would normally give a suspended sentence but recent public criticism influenced her decision to jail him for ten months.


Court Says NAACP, Teachers Union Can’t Trap Kids in Failing Schools

New York City families and school choice advocates were handed a major victory late Thursday evening when a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that 22 failing public schools must close and 15 charter schools must be allowed to share space in public school buildings.

The ruling gives hope to many New York City families eager to see their children receive a quality education. The NAACP and the teacher unions so despise non-unionized charter schools that the groups were willing to see students remain trapped in ineffective schools for selfish political and financial reasons. Thursday’s ruling corrects that injustice.

Education Action Group believes that all parents should have the right to choose where their children attend school. Each child deserves access to an effective educational experience that will prepare them for life.

The state Supreme Court has previously ruled that the New York Constitution requires that students receive a “sound, basic education.” There is nothing that says that education must occur in a traditional government-run school.

That principle was indirectly affirmed again last night by the Manhattan Supreme Court judge’s ruling.

Since charter schools typically are not weighed down by burdensome union rules and regulations, they have much more autonomy and are free to be innovative. This allows an increased focus on student achievement and more opportunities for students.

Yesterday’s ruling gives New York City families good reason to view the upcoming school year with a renewed sense of hope.


NPR: America's Dropout Crisis

NPR can see the problem but not the solution: High discipline classes for slow learners

Of all the problems this country faces in education, one of the most complicated, heart-wrenching and urgent is the dropout crisis. Nearly 1 million teenagers stop going to school every year. The impact of that decision is lifelong. And the statistics are stark:

The unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is nearly twice that of the general population. Over a lifetime, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate and almost $1 million less than a college graduate.

Dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, become teenage parents, live in poverty and commit suicide.

Dropouts cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and billions more for dropouts who end up in prison.

NPR is looking at the dropout crisis through the stories of five people. Three dropped out of school years ago. They talk about why they left school, the forces in their lives that contributed to that decision and its impact in the years since.

There are also profiles of two teenagers who are at risk of dropping out and the adults who are working hard to keep them in school.

Monday, July 25

Almost half a million black teenagers drop out of school each year. Most will end up unemployed by their mid-30s. Six out of 10 black male dropouts will spend time in prison.

Patrick Lundvick, 19, quit school in ninth grade. He started running with a gang and selling drugs in his Chicago neighborhood.

Within a few years, he was in prison for theft. When he got out, he promised his mother he would change. He's now studying at a special charter school for dropouts and hopes to get his diploma and go to college. But he knows that having a criminal record has damaged his job prospects, and he admits that the lure of the streets is still strong.

Tuesday, July 26

The single biggest reason why girls drop out of school is pregnancy. And Latinas have the highest teen pregnancy rates of any racial or ethnic group; 41 percent of Latinas leave high school because they get pregnant. These young women often end up with few job skills, more pregnancies and dependency on unreliable and sometimes violent men.

Lauren Ortega, 20, is a mother of two who is struggling to finish her high school education. She is torn over whether to stay with the father of her children.

Tuesday, July 26

A fifth of the schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education as "dropout factories" (where no more than 50 percent of students graduate) are located in rural areas like Oconee County in South Carolina.

Nick Dunn, 16, hates school and is teetering on the edge of dropping out — just like his father and his four siblings did. But things have changed a lot since his father was young. Oconee County has watched its economy dry up and even adults are struggling to find work.

Wednesday July 27

Studies show that kids who miss a lot of school are at far higher risk of dropping out.

By the time he was 12, Danny Lamont Jones had already missed all of sixth grade and much of seventh. Now at 15, Danny is due to enter tenth grade next fall but isn't sure he'll go.

Officials in Baltimore are trying to intervene early with kids like Danny to try to keep them engaged with school and prevent them from ending up on an inevitable path toward dropping out.

Thursday, July 28

Sixty percent of the nation's high school dropouts are older than 40. Most of them left high school to start working, but few move beyond low paying, dead-end jobs. Only seven percent of dropouts 25 and older have ever made more than $40,000 a year. And in hard economic times, many find that not having a diploma puts them at the end of the employment line.

Kenny Buchanan, 44, was 18 when he gave up on high school. He figured he could earn a living without a diploma, and for several years, he did. But then he got married and found it difficult to find work that could support a family. Before long, employers began refusing to even interview him because he didn't have a diploma.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Arkansas High school student alleges racial bias in valedictorian choice‏

With the Left constantly telling blacks that they are discriminated against, you can't blame the kid below for believing it. That a school might not want to promote a single mother as a role model, she has not considered

A black high school valedictorian says in a federal lawsuit that her school discriminated against her when they made her share the stage with a white "co-valedictorian" who had a lower grade point average.

School officials told Kymberly Wimberly, 18, that it was because the other student had more class credits, according to the lawsuit. School officials have said publicly that the valedictorians are chosen based on both grades and difficulty of course work.

Wimberly, who said she was the first black valedictorian in more than 20 years at the tiny high school, believes it was racial.
"I'm trying to prevent students under me from having to go through the same thing," Wimberly told Reuters. "I think it was racially motivated. Everyone knew I had the highest grade point."

Repeated attempts by Reuters on Wednesday to contact school officials and board members were unsuccessful.

A day after learning that she would be the valedictorian of the 2011 graduating class at McGehee Secondary School, she was told that she would have to share the honor with a white, female student. Both students gave valedictory speeches at the May 13th graduation.

Wimberly is seeking injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief from the McGehee School District, the board, the district's superintendent and the school's principal, both individually and in their official capacities. The lawsuit is asking for $75,000 in damages.

The superintendent is black. The principal is white. The lawsuit states the school board is primarily white. Last year, the public school had 340 students in grades nine through 12.

The lawsuit says the actions, "were part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating African-American students less favorably than Caucasian students." It also says the school district does not encourage black students to take honors or advanced placement classes.

"I hope this wakes up some of the mentalities of not just the whites but the blacks who are so oppressed because they think it is the only way it has to be," Wimberly said. Wimberly said she graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and took honors and advanced placement classes. She briefly left school during the fall semester of junior year after giving birth to her daughter, missing three weeks of class.

The lawsuit says that she returned in time to take her semester exams. She received a "B" in English that semester, but pulled her grade up to an "A" by spring.

The white student had a lower GPA but more credits. But Wimberly said credits only come into play when two students tie with the same GPA. "They told me I was the valedictorian on Tuesday," Wimberly said. "On Wednesday, they said I had to share and be a co-valedictorian."

Wimberly's mother, Molly Bratton, works at the school as a certified media specialist. On the day Wimberly was notified that she was valedictorian, Bratton went into the copy room and heard staff talking, the lawsuit says.

Some school personnel expressed concern that Wimberly's valedictorian status might cause a "big mess," the suit says. The next day, the co-valedictorian was announced.

Bratton tried to address the school board before graduation about her daughter's situation. She was denied and was told she filled out the wrong form for public comments. "You stand up, and you fight for what you believe in, my dad told me," Wimberly said. "This is your first battle, and we will stand by you, they said."

Wimberly has started college at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The mother of a one-and-a-half year old daughter, Amiah, Wimberly is majoring in biology and pre-medicine. She wants to earn doctorate and medical degrees.

McGehee is a town of about 5,000 people near the border of Mississippi and Arkansas in the middle of the impoverished Mississippi Delta.


SW Missouri district bans 2 books, including 'Slaughterhouse Five'

Two books have been banned from the libraries and curriculum at Republic High School after a parent complained that their content taught principles contrary to the Bible.

The district's school board voted Monday to remove Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Sarah Ockler's "Twenty Boy Summer," but to allow Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" to be used in the district's high school, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

Superintendent Vern Minor said the board based its decision on the whether the books were age-appropriate. "We very clearly stayed out of discussion about moral issues," Minor said. "Our discussions from the get-go were age-appropriateness."

Wesley Scroggins of Republic, who had challenged the books and lesson plans last year, said he was mostly pleased with the decision. "I congratulate them for doing what's right and removing the two books," said Scroggins. "It's unfortunate they chose to keep the other book."

It took a year to reach a decision because the complaint prompted the 4,500-student district to form a task force to develop book standards for all its schools, Minor said. The panel considered existing policies and public rating systems that already exist for music, TV and video games before adopting new standards in April. Those standards were applied to the three books, Minor said.

Several people read the books and provided feedback.

"It was really good for us to have this discussion," Minor said. "Most schools stay away from this and they get on this rampage, the whole book-banning thing, and that's not the issue here. We're looking at it from a curriculum point of view."

Minor said most people supported keeping "Speak," which is taught in English I and II courses, because although it had one short description of a rape, it had a strong message at the end.

But he said those who read "Twenty Boy Summer," available in the library, thought it sensationalized sexual promiscuity and included questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse. And he said "Slaughterhouse Five" contained crude language and adult themes that are more appropriate for college-age students.

Minor said students will be allowed to use those two books for extra class material if they have their parents' permission.


Don't write off British State schools just yet, Lord Jones

The education system is still potentially the best place to teach youngsters about the world of work

For decades, the entire thrust of Britain’s education policy has been to get as many children as possible into school – and to keep them there. Whether it was setting a target for half of the population to go to university, raising the school leaving age, or even bribing children to stay in school, the secret to success in life was simply “education, education, education”.

Yet there were always those who argued the opposite. Schools, claimed Sir Richard Branson, can stunt entrepreneurship – better for budding tycoons to leave at 15, as he did, and make their own way in the world. Lord Sugar, too, left school at 16. And now Lord Jones, the former trade minister and another early leaver, has said that children should be allowed out of school to work at age 14.

The basic idea here is that, while studious children should still pursue schooling, those who are less academically inclined – whether because they’re too brilliant, too disruptive, or just too bored – should join the workforce, or start vocational training, as soon as possible. “There are loads of kids in school today who at 14 are more mature,” said Lord Jones this week, “and so many of them are disruptive… This isn’t about saying 'School’s out, away you go, kids’, this is about going into a technical college, doing a couple of days a week on a vocational course and going into a business, or indeed a public sector employer, and getting the link in their mind, in their DNA, that if you get better skilled, you make more money.”

Lord Jones grew up in his parents’ corner shop, learning all about customer care at a young age. He claims that while modern employers – especially manufacturers – want to hire skilled British workers, they simply can’t find them, so have to resort to recruiting Poles or Indians instead.

The ambition here is a noble one. But it rests on false assumptions. It is true that many skilled workers here will likely be from Eastern Europe. But what does being “more skilled” mean? Restaurant owners will tell you that they employ Eastern Europeans because they know how to be professional: they turn up on time, look people in the eye, shake hands when necessary, listen attentively, take an interest, sit properly, stand properly, and take pride in their work. Restaurants don’t employ Poles because they are “skilled” waiters, or even experienced ones. The difference is that unlike their British rivals, most have stayed in school until the age of 18, where they have learnt the skills that are necessary for success in the workplace – whatever workplace that might be.

The qualities that Lord Jones and others are looking for are, ironically, the very ones that our schools used to be good at inculcating: how to be professional, how to wear a uniform with pride, how to meet deadlines that count, how to complete homework and do as one was asked. In short, they encouraged students to have a real sense of ownership of their lives.

What the advocates of vocational training are suggesting is, in effect, that the workplace should make up for the failings of the education system. In fact, this is already happening: McDonald’s offers 4,000 of its employees coaching towards Level 1 Literacy, the equivalent of a grade D-G at GCSE, because so many fail to reach the literacy levels expected of an 11 year-old.

In his interview, Lord Jones pointed to the fact that nearly half of our children fail to reach grade C in maths and English. Common sense would suggest that if these children aren’t capable of reaching the required standards, why waste everyone's time by keeping them in school?

This is the second false assumption: that these children are not gifted enough to get these GCSEs. It is a reasonable enough one to make – until you realise the extent of the chaos that exists in many classrooms, the low level of expectation fostered by the system (and resisted by most teachers), and the lack of proper leadership in some of our schools. There are some children who simply aren’t bright enough, and should be encouraged to attend colleges and get work experience: but they are a small minority.

On the homepage of his website, Lord Jones is quoted as saying: “In a fiercely competitive world, we should not compete on cost alone, but on our ingenuity.” Isn’t that what school is meant to be all about? Sure, it’s good to know who Churchill was and how to speak some French – but it’s better to lead the brain through a variety of complex subjects and train it to develop that very ingenuity.

As a child, Lord Jones won a scholarship to Bromsgrove, a public school. He played rugby and hockey for the school, and was even made head boy. A few days before he was due to graduate, he was expelled – with what would have been an excellent record – after streaking around the quadrangle to win a bet.

The irony here is that what taught the young Digby to take risks and go out on a limb was his traditional education. His school inspired him to push the boundaries; when he did so inappropriately, it made sure he paid the price. It is by keeping our standards high in school that children will learn how to succeed in the workplace later. Lord Jones and Sir Richard Branson (who attended Stowe) are the perfect examples.

Looking around at the state of our schools, it’s easy to understand why some people want to throw up their hands and turn to the workplace instead. But before we give up, it’s worth trying to fix the system first.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leftist stranglehold on teacher training under attack

A slew of organizations representing colleges and universities have lined up to oppose a recently introduced federal teacher- and principal-training bill, urging the the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee not to support the proposal.

The bill, introduced in late June, would authorize grants to states to begin teacher and principal "academies" run by nonprofits, with or without participation of higher education. The academies could offer either degrees or a certificate of completion roughly equivalent to a master's degree, and would not be subject to a state's teacher-preparation regulatory apparatus.

The idea is similar to changes in New York state's approach to teacher education.

In a letter to Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, and other groups argue that the bill would duplicate other federal programs such as the Teacher Quality Partnership grants, and lower academic standards for preparation.

The groups' major concern is the idea that a certificate would equal a master's degree, "while not obligating the academies to meet the same requirements as traditional higher education providers," the letter says. "This bill discourages states from leveling the playing field for all providers of educator preparation."

They contend the bill would "devalue the M.A. degree," and they object that such programs would be excused from credit-hour requirements and the hiring of academic faculty with advanced degrees.

The proposal is clearly a more threatening proposition for these groups than today's alternative routes, most of which require some coursework at teacher colleges or offer only a teaching certificate, not an M.A. or its equivalent.

One has to wonder if this kind of pushback was inevitable. We've seen a few training programs of late that have sought to distance themselves from higher education altogether, as was the case with New York City's Teacher U program, now the Relay School of Education.

There is a decided lack of solid evidence about what kinds of teacher preparation seem to be the most effective. This is a real concern for those inside traditional education programs: AACTE's president recently called on M.A. programs to improve their ability to show they're effective.

There's a subtext here that also seems worthy of mention. An ongoing debate continues to rage within the educator preparation field about whether schools of education should focus on practical training, clearly the focus of this federal bill; on the production of theorists and scholars, as the author of a recent EdWeek Commentary recently argued; or on some marriage of the two.


Some British High Schools reverting to old-style courses and exams

Schools are preparing to ditch GCSEs in favour of a more rigorous qualification similar to the O-level, figures suggest. One in 20 state schools, roughly 198, now teach international GCSEs instead of traditional exams – double the number from last year.

They are a mix of comprehensives, grammars and academies. In total 550 schools are teaching the qualification in at least one subject. Individual exam entries for IGCSEs increased by 106 per cent this summer.

The figures were released by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, one of the main awarding bodies offering the courses.

IGCSEs, like the O-level, are tested with a single exam at the end of the two-year course and involve little or no coursework, whereas GCSEs are taught in modules and rely heavily on coursework. Each year the number of GCSE students getting A*s has increased, leading to claims that the exam is too easy.

The IGCSE has long been taught in fee-paying schools where it is considered a better preparation for A-levels. But Labour banned the state sector from offering it in core subjects such as English, maths and science. However, Education Secretary Michael Gove decided to reverse that ban in June last year.


A confident secularist society would tolerate school religion

Can a half-hour chat about God really warp children's minds? Listening to Australia's increasingly irate secularists, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

They have upped the ante in their war against "special religious instruction" in public schools, depicting it as the modern-day equivalent of a Christian crusade arriving on horseback to convert young Aussies to a lifetime of Bible-bashing.

It's worth reminding ourselves that special religious instruction, where church volunteers teach children about religion, doesn't take place in all public primary schools. And in those schools where it does, it only takes up half an hour a week - far less time than the average kid spends pretending to kill people in video games or being preached to by SpongeBob SquarePants.

Even the most fervent nun or red-eyed pastor would struggle to indoctrinate children in such time-restricted weekly hook-ups.

That is the word most commonly used by secularists opposed to special religious instruction: indoctrination. They believe, as a Sunday Age report summed it up, that these lessons are "designed to convert, not educate".

The Commonwealth Ombudsman demanded this week that the federal government clarify when a chaplain crosses the line, from teaching kids about Christianity to trying to convert them to it.

There is a ban on proselytising in schools, but the Ombudsman says it isn't clear what counts as proselytising. For example, what if a chaplain says to a schoolchild "God loves you" - is that attempted conversion?

I say calm down. Secularists' panic reveals what really lies behind their disdain for these harmless half-hour lessons: a lack of faith in their own creed, in their own ability to win over the next generation to the grounded, rational, Enlightened outlook.

The notion that children can easily be indoctrinated seriously underestimates their robustness. Even before they have reached intellectual maturity, kids have a healthy inner demon telling them not to believe everything they're told.

I attended convent schools in London from the ages of three to 18. The Dominican sisters charged with turning me from a grubby-knee'd son of Irish immigrants into something approximating a civilised man gave us far more than weekly half-hour doses of religious instruction.

But were we "indoctrinated", turned into Catholic drones? Were we hell. A friend and I beheaded a statue of St Vincent de Paul. The school Bibles were awash with the most obscene and blasphemous graffiti, including the scrawling of bodily appendages on to pictures of Christ and the insertion of speech bubbles above disciples' heads saying things like "I AM GAY".

As to the warnings against masturbation when we got to secondary school, we responded to those by writing on the walls of the boys' toilet: "Masturbation is evil/Evil is a sin/Sins are forgiven/So get stuck in."

In my experience, those subjected to more than their fair share of religious instruction during their school years now tend to be, if anything, more healthily sceptical than what we might call "normal people". Everyone I went to school with is now either an atheist (like me) or an agnostic. Perhaps years of being religiously instructed boosted our BS-detection skills. Certainly no one I know from my school days went on to embrace any other religions or New Age nonsense or end-of-days environmentalism.

"The world is coming to an end and we will all be judged for our carbon-use, you say? Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before."

A far more confident secular society, one that trusted in its rationalist public institutions, would have no problem whatsoever with occasional church-run classes. It would be able to cope with having Christians briefly converse with children, secure in the knowledge that there is a better secular alternative out there which will one day surely win the loyalty of the majority of these children.

Today, however, in our downbeat, misanthropic times, when man is more likely to be branded a polluter and a problem than a rational being capable of profound thought, humanists are on the backfoot. And they find it easier to have a pop at the religious, to mock and harry faith-based institutions, than they do to get their own humanist house in order.

In essence, when secularists call on state bodies to expel church volunteers from public schools, they are admitting defeat in the battle of ideas. Lacking the moral cojones to lay out their secularist views and to stand by them through thick and thin, they instead run to the authorities and plead with them to rap the knuckles of those alleged Christian bully boys invading their classrooms.

It is unbecoming of the great tradition of secularism for its adherents to behave like overgrown school snitches.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The NEA has learned nothing

Education is the least of their concerns

A national scandal hit the news when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal released a 413-page report describing how hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals had been cheating during the past 10 years on standardized tests in order to falsely report that their schools were doing a good job and the kids were improving.

A total of 178 teachers and principals (38 were principals), 82 of whom have already confessed, had fraudulently raised test scores so their schools would meet test targets set by the district and thereby qualify for federal funds.

The truth came out after a 10-month inquiry by 60 investigators conducting 2,100 interviews. The investigation showed that principals and teachers in 56 schools had been cheating since 2001 by various methods, such as erasing wrong answers on tests and inserting correct answers.

The high scores of Atlanta schoolchildren had enabled Superintendent Beverly L. Hall to collect $600,000 in performance bonuses over 10 years to supplement her $400,000 annual salary. Two national organizations honored her with the title of "superintendent of the year."

According to the report, Hall and her top staff "created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation," concealed by "a conspiracy of silence and deniability," that allowed "cheating -- at all levels -- to go unchecked for years." Those who dared to report concerns about cheating "were held in contempt and punished," sometimes by termination.

Hall's message was to get the scores up by any means necessary, so teachers and principals were afraid of falling under her rhetorical lash and being sanctioned for failing to achieve "required results." Her own words were: "No exceptions and no excuses."

Somehow, the Atlanta scandal didn't make it onto the agenda of the annual convention of the National Education Association (NEA), held in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend. The representatives of the 3.2 million NEA members were too busy passing their usual long list of anti-parent, pro-homosexual, pro-feminist and left-wing resolutions.

The NEA adopted Standing Rule Amendment 1 to order all future NEA materials to replace references to K-12 with Pre-K-12. That's a clear message that the NEA sees its future in lining up more union members by expanding the role of public schools to get 3- and 4-year-old children.

Resolution B-1 repeats the demand the NEA has made for several years for "early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age 8," in addition to "compulsory attendance" in kindergarten. This resolution also insists that Pre-K programs have "diversity-based curricula" and "bias-free screening devices."

It must have been difficult for the Resolutions Committee to add any new pro-homosexual resolutions to the 20 passed last year, but it did. The NEA voted to "publish Articles to celebrate the contributions of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) teachers and GLBT friends of education."

Feminist resolutions passed by the NEA include endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion, family planning clinics in public schools, hiring on the basis of "comparable worth" instead of "market value" and the use of so-called non-sexist language.

The NEA adopted Resolution B-16 to urge Hispanics to be involved in "lobbying efforts for federal programs." Among those political goals, of course, is support of "passage of the Dream Act that provides a pathway for undocumented college students to obtain a Green Card and eventual citizenship," endorsed in New Business Item 11.

Among the other political resolutions adopted by the NEA Convention were endorsements of single-payer (government) health care, reparations for descendants of slaves, statehood for the District of Columbia, compliance with unratified United Nations treaties, opposition to English as our official language, opposition to a moment of silence in schools and strict regulation of guns. NEA Resolution H-1 urges members "to become politically involved" in the NEA's political action committees, and we all know that means electing Democratic candidates.

The NEA did pass a few resolutions about education, but none about doing a better job of teaching children to read. The NEA supports public school courses in multiculturalism, global education, environmental education, bilingual education, AIDS education and self-esteem, but opposes voucher plans, tuition tax credits, parental-option plans and homeschooling.

The most exciting event during the NEA Convention was the presentation of the Friend of Education Award to the "Wisconsin 14," the state legislators who fled their state rather than vote for legislation that would slightly modify collective bargaining rights for state employees. The legislators hid out in Illinois for three weeks.

Going on record as the first union to endorse Barack Obama for a second term, NEA delegates voted overwhelmingly to support him in the 2012 presidential election, a year earlier than the NEA usually makes its endorsements. No surprise there.


Children 'should be allowed to leave school at 14', says British business leader

Children should be allowed to leave school at 14 and start work to boost Britain’s economy, the former head of the Confederation of British Industry has said.

Disruptive pupils would be better off abandoning mainstream education and “earning a few bob” to encourage growth, Lord Jones of Birmingham believes.

The former Labour Trade Minister said British businesses are struggling through a lack of skilled young people, meaning employers are forced to hire workers from overseas.

Allowing youngsters to embark on vocational training and get jobs at 14 would fill the skills gap while stimulating economic growth through increased spending, Lord Jones said.

However teaching leaders warned that the idea would lead to millions of young people becoming “trapped” in low-paid jobs, having dropped out of academic studies without basic levels of literacy and numeracy.

The suggestion comes as official GDP figures show Britain’s economy stagnated between April and June with growth down to 0.2 per cent from the 0.5 per cent expansion seen in the previous quarter.

Lord Jones, who was himself expelled from public school for streaking, said: “We’ve got to appreciate that the world’s changed and there are loads of kids in school today who at 14 are more mature, and so many of them are disruptive. “They are disruptive to themselves, disruptive to the class, and they’re disruptive to the teacher.

“This isn’t about saying ‘school’s out, away you go kids’, this is about going into a technical college, doing a couple of days a week on a vocational course and going into a business or indeed a public sector employer, and getting the link in their mind, in their DNA, that if you get better skilled, you make more money. “Then, of course, if they make a few bob, they spend it and what do you do when you spend money? You create jobs.”

The former CBI director general claimed that with more skilled young people and a weak pound, Britain could re-establish itself as a manufacturing centre and rebalance the economy away from the banks and public sector.

Lord Jones, who is now business ambassador for UK Trade & Investment, added: “The unemployed, especially the young unemployed, have got to get a skill, because there aren’t jobs in Britain if you haven’t got a skill.

“I act for a lot of manufacturers who say the biggest inhibitor to succeeding in Britain in the 21st century is ‘I haven’t got enough skilled people and I don’t want them from Poland or India, I want them from Britain’.

“Why is it that so many young people say ‘I won’t go into this, I’d rather be on the dole because I’ll make more money than being in work’? Then the jobs go to people from other countries who are prepared to work harder for less.

“I want a situation where business and other employers, colleges and schools link together so that younger people, instead of being disruptive actually can make themselves a few more bob, and add to the wealth of the country.”

Head teachers claim the scheme would drive down education standards, leaving millions of young people ill-equipped for the challenges of a changing economy.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This would be an extraordinary retrograde step. “If we allowed people to leave school at 14, we would be letting loose a cohort of people in the workplace who are simply unprepared.

“Research shows that early specialism is dangerous, especially at a time when we simply do not know what sort of workforce we will need in 20 or 30 years time and young people are going to have to work longer than any previous generation.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “There aren’t enough jobs for 16-year-olds, let alone 14-year-olds.

“Allowing children to leave school at that age, without good levels of literacy and numeracy, would trap them in low-paid jobs for the rest of their lives.”


Australia: Libraries no longer a place for reading??

You need peace and quiet to concentrate on reading -- but some "innovative" a**hole thinks otherwise

Think libraries should be quiet sanctuaries of solitude and study? Then plans for the State Library of NSW will come as a surprise.

As architect Paulo Macchia rests against an open staircase and explains his plans for the renovation of the State Library of NSW, two young women studying in the reading room below look up from their laptops with annoyed expressions.

They don't actually say "Quiet please!" but that's what they are thinking. After all, most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that silence is sacred inside a library. If words are necessary, use them sparingly and only whispered.

So they might be surprised to hear what Macchia, from the NSW government Architect's Office, is describing. Over the next few months, workmen will transform the State Library for the first time since it was opened by the Queen on May 4, 1988, as a Bicentennial-year extension to the historic Mitchell Library.

The $4.2 million, two-stage renovation, which begins on Monday, will create, according to the NSW Arts Minister, George Souris, "a contemporary 21st-century cultural destination for NSW residents and visitors".

In real terms, that means more computer screens, better Wi-Fi access, more desk space, designated, bookable study rooms, more newspapers and general-interest magazines to browse, a larger cafe, a more prominent bookshop and improved access to the two public meeting spaces, the Metcalfe auditorium and the McDonald's room. Plus, far better use of natural light.

All laudable. But the renovation's biggest aim is to fundamentally change the library's public image, to show that a place of learning can also be a fun palace.

They're even building zones where library users are encouraged to talk to each other.

"As you look into the library now from Macquarie Street, you see an empty foyer," the acting state librarian, Noelle Nelson, says. "Then, as you look down, you see people working away, very studiously. That will change.

"There will be a buzz in the foyer, with the cafe and the bookshop much more to the forefront. People will be able to see the library as an accessible space and picture themselves in it.

"They'll feel encouraged to come in, sit on the casual lounges, read the newspapers, hook up their laptop, pick up the Wi-Fi, meet friends for a coffee …"

The makeover is a recognition that libraries have changed in the age of the worldwide web. It's an international phenomenon, Nelson says. "New technologies mean we have even more opportunities to make our collections and expertise available. Libraries are becoming centres of lifelong learning, cultural destinations, welcoming social spaces."

The first stage has to be completed before the end of September, in time for the annual HSC crush. It concentrates on the two lower floors of reference reading rooms. Stage two, beginning early next year, focuses on the ground-floor foyer area.

Market research, Nelson says, showed the library's interior layout and facilities were outdated. "Our clients' needs have changed since 1988. The current layout had passed its use-by date. We were overcrowded during peak periods, like the HSC. We didn't have enough computers. People were having to share desks."

After long consultation with the librarians, Macchia's redesign has ditched the conventional long library tables in favour of smaller and less formal desk configurations. Gone are the traditionally towering book shelves, to be replaced by lower, less visually intimidating cabinets.

Nelson says no books will be harmed, though more will be kept in storage in the library's massive subterranean stacks, available on request: "These days, people can go online with their requests so the books are available for them by the time they get to the library."

More dramatically, soundproof glass walls will divide the reference floors into a number of separate "rooms" with different requirements - and varying levels of acceptable noise. Essentially, the deeper you descend into the library, the more traditionally studious the surroundings will be.

"Study has changed," Nelson says. Today's students often like to work together in informal groups around their computers, exchanging information. The new layout allows them to do that while creating an inner sanctum where people who prefer to work in silence can do so undisturbed.

So, deep down, there will still be a cone of silence? A kind of "hush area"? "We're trying to get away from words like shush and hush," Nelson says. "They give the wrong image. We're creating zones so clients have a choice, positioning themselves according to their need to do so … And they may change spaces throughout the course of the day as they meet a friend for coffee, check their emails or go and see one of our exhibitions."


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

California's college system in decline, study finds

California's higher education system is in decline, with fewer students able to afford college, falling college participation rates and dwindling state support, according to a study released Wednesday.

The report suggests that the state, once celebrated nationally for its three-tiered system of public colleges, has lost status as a leader in such areas as affordability, preparation of high school graduates, college-going rates and investment in higher education. The analysis was by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento.

"This report demonstrates the consequences of resting on reputations and policies of yesteryear," the study concludes. "California is nowhere near the leader on the measures of higher education performance that the nation's governors and educational leaders have been tracking for over a decade. We are average, at best, and trending downward."

Among the findings:

* California ranks last among states in funding per college student from state appropriations and tuition and fees.

* Tuition and fee increases exceed the national average rate of increase.

* The college-going rate of high school graduates rose from 53% to 58% between 2003 and 2007 but dropped back to 53% in 2009.

* California ranks 41st in the number of bachelor's degrees awarded for every 100 high school graduates six years after graduation.

Called "Consequences of Neglect," the study concludes that the state has failed to develop policies or a vision that will allow it to compete nationally and internationally in producing an educated population.

Most alarming, it finds a trend of each working-age generation becoming less educated than the preceding, with potentially devastating consequences.

"We need to recognize that there are public benefits to higher education," said coauthor Colleen Moore, a research specialist at the Institute. 'If we don't, the effects will be fewer high-tech companies wanting to come to California, lower incomes and lower tax revenues. Those things dramatically affect society as a whole."


Bill Ayers Decries On-Going Education Reforms in Socialist Magazine

Sometimes you just know you’re right – like when you find yourself on the opposite side of a debate with an admitted domestic terrorist. In the July-August 2011 edition of “Monthly Review,” Bill Ayers, along with his brother Rick, wrote the introduction to a series of articles on public education.
“Education at the beginning of the twenty-first century is in crisis and contestation. The economic instability of capitalism…has had the effect of further compromising a capitalist educational system already beset with problems.

“The hijacking of school reform by neoliberal corporate planners, private foundations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, U.S. government strategists, and conservative-oriented education elites has led to an intensified attack on teachers, teachers’ unions, teacher education, schools, and the kids themselves.”

How dare taxpayers who lack the brain power of a domestic terrorist have the audacity to propose improvements to public education! Instead, let’s leave it up to the unions that have dominated education policy for five disastrous decades to solve the problems. Pure genius!

This exemplifies the contempt many educational elites have for us bumpkins. They think we should just send them our children and cross our fingers that they learn how to read, compute basic math and become assets to society.

If we question how schools are spending our money, then clearly we hate children.

But for people like Ayers, education problems have nothing to do with steadily falling test scores and rising dropout rates. It always comes back to bringing down capitalism and free markets. They believe all education options should be “public,” regardless of how ineffective or wasteful they are. He doesn’t want the private sector to have anything to do with education, even if it could lend a great deal of help.

This is a stubborn ideological position that damns reality and practicality. Bill Ayers and his pals are not the least bit interested in education. They are just boiling over to defend organized labor and attack free enterprise in any forum they can.


British Headmaster resigns after being suspended for 'manhandling' 8-year-old - despite pupil's family saying he did nothing wrong

A dedicated head accused of manhandling a disruptive pupil has been forced to resign, despite a parents’ protest and the staunch support of the mother and father of the ‘victim’.

James Gallogly, 45, was suspended from his £60,000 post at a primary school after it was alleged he pinned the autistic boy against a wall. However, the parents of Ryan Johns have given Mr Gallogly their full support and admitted their eight-year-old son is difficult to control.

Mr Gallogly was accused by a fellow teacher of using unnecessary force to control the pupil. But he was backed with a petition signed by 100 parents, who pleaded with governors to reinstate him for the good of the school and pupils.

When the governors refused, around 20 children were removed from the 160-pupil school by their angry parents. Now, after a seven-month investigation into Mr Gallogly’s ‘discipline methods’, he has resigned.

Last night Ryan’s parents, Adele Johns and David Deakin, condemned education chiefs for carrying out a ‘vindictive’ witch-hunt against a well-respected head. ‘This situation is a disgrace and the treatment of Mr Gallogly is appalling,’ said Miss Johns, 28.

Mr Deakin, 45, a carer, said: ‘We know Ryan is difficult. We were called in to school to be told Ryan was involved in the allegations against Mr Gallogly, but the communication we’ve had since has been terrible. ‘We don’t even know when this alleged incident is supposed to have taken place.’

Since Mr Gallogly’s suspension last December, five acting head teachers have been put in charge of the school at different times.

Miss Johns said her son’s education had suffered and his behaviour had deteriorated. Since the incident, he has been excluded for spitting and biting a teacher and throwing a chair at a member of staff.

The couple wrote a letter in support of Mr Gallogly and demanded his reinstatement at St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School in Wilmslow, Cheshire. They helped organise the petition and have withdrawn their other children, Emily, ten, and Afton, seven, from the school in protest.

‘The treatment of Mr Gallogly has been diabolical,’ said Cath Massey, another parent. ‘The governors of St Benedict’s need to be brought to task over this sorry episode.’

Parent Jack Fletcher added: ‘Mr Gallogly is a well-respected head teacher who has worked hard to bring the school up to the standard it is today. He spent numerous extra hours looking after the poorer and socially deprived children and always had time to speak to parents.’

After 12 years at the school, Mr Gallogly will officially finish at the end of August. Three other teachers are also set to leave the school. Mr Gallogly, who serves on the finance board of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, declined to comment at his home in Hazel Grove, Stockport.

But Cheshire East Council said he had been suspended after ‘other issues around his discipline methods’ came to light. A spokesman said: ‘Issues have been raised and they have been investigated properly, according to agreed procedures, with the full involvement of the school governors, who are the head teacher’s employers, and the Diocese of Shrewsbury. ‘Pupil turnover is slightly higher than normal, but it cannot be assumed that children leaving is as a result of the head teacher.’


Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair means fair; evidence must count for something

Under feminist influence, the Feds are trying their damndest to convict young male students of sexual "harassment". A wise young male would ignore coeds and date girls from elsewhere. A bitchy coed could ruin your life

As a former Education Department lawyer, I applaud Harvey Silverglate's criticism of the Education Department for undermining due process on campus ("Yes Means Yes—Except on Campus," op-ed, July 15). Its demand that schools use the lowest standard of proof in sexual harassment cases flouts court rulings protecting schools from liability for harassment unless they are "deliberately indifferent" to it (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education). Using a higher standard of proof, like "clear and convincing evidence" of guilt, is not "indifference" to harassment. Clear and convincing evidence is often required by collective bargaining agreements.

The Education Department wrongly demands that colleges not allow students to cross-examine their accusers. That will lead to erroneous findings of guilt. Cross-examination is needed to test whether conduct legally qualifies as sexual harassment, like whether it actually interfered with the complainant's studies and made her environment "subjectively hostile." In harassment lawsuits, cross-examination is deemed essential, and weak cases have been dismissed based on what plaintiffs admit on cross-examination.


UC shows why the Government is out of Money

Recently the University of California has provided a microcosm of what is wrong with the government budget. The University system is cutting back programs and tuition is going up to pay for the budgetary shortfalls. Of course, that is not all there is to the story. Not all programs are being cut. The diversity programs are thriving.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time "vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion." This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

The University of California San Diego is cutting its master's degree programs in computer and electrical engineering, showing that according to the leadership of that university it is not engineering that will lead to a productive and prosperous future but it is diversity training that is what students need most to succeed after graduation. Meanwhile prize faculty are being bid away to other schools, such as three professors from the biology department who were offered a 40% raise to teach elsewhere.

Already it is apparent that college education is the most recent bubble to start to go down in an economy composed almost entirely of bubbles. Due to unemployment and underemployment as well as due to the ever accelerating increase in costs, the lifetime earning differential of a college education is falling below the cost of that education. In general college education is becoming a bad investment.

This one example from the University of California San Diego combines many of the problems with government today. Diversity programs are emphasized at the expense of science programs in an education that costs more and delivers less. The political is emphasized at the expense of the economic to deliver high cost solutions that fail to solve anything and due to their cost interfere with actual efforts to solve society’s problems.


Surge in middle class dinner ladies expected in Britain

Another reflection of the deperate struggle many British parents have to get their kids into a decent school

Top schools could see a surge in middle class dinner ladies as parents exploit new admissions policy loophole, a government adviser has warned.

Planned changes to admissions policy which will see children of school staff moved to the front of the queue could be exploited by sharp-elbowed parents desperate to win places at oversubscribed schools, it was claimed.

Chris Waterman, who helped draft the current admissions policy, said parents would go to "any length" to get their children into their first-choice school and would target any loophole in the new rules.

But parents already in part-time employment at schools said having their children at the school where they work was a fair reward for hard-working mothers.

Huma Imam, who works as a lunchtime supervisor and teaching assistant at Brookland Junior School, Hertfordshire, where her daughter Hibah is a pupil, said: "I think it is a good idea, for me it is easier. "Of course it is a bad thing if people leave their job as soon as their child is in the school...I work very hard but I like doing it. "I have worked here for four years and I love working with the children. After my daughter goes to secondary school I am going to stay here because I like the school and it has given me so much."

Under the draft admissions rules, which were announced by the government in May, schools wishing to offer priority to the children of staff must define clearly which employees are eligible and exactly how their children will benefit. Heads are free to decide which of their staff qualify, with no fixed rules on how long the members of staff must have been employed by the school.

Mr Waterman, a former chief executive of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said this meant parents employed by the school could quit as soon as their child had been awarded a place. He told the Times Educational Supplement: "Unless schools very tightly define what staff qualify then it could be any job for any period. "If a non-working parent wants to get a place for their child in an oversubscribed school they might only need to work part-time as dinner lady for a few weeks."

Parents have already shown themselves willing to pay heavily inflated house prices to fall within the catchment areas of popular schools, and council staff have reportedly been offered bribes to manipulate waiting lists.

The current system prevents schools from prioritising the children of staff unless the school has a "demonstrable skill shortage". Ministers believe this is making it too hard for some schools to recruit high-quality staff, but in a new report on the draft rules Mr Waterman said the new measures were unlikely to solve the problem.

He wrote that it was unlikely a needy school struggling to attract staff would be oversubscribed, or that any parent would want their child to attend the school.

The broader range of admissions policies caused by the increasing number of academies is making it harder for parents to navigate the system and the new rules will "set back fair access to schools by at least 30 years", he added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "We make no apologies for making it easier for schools to recruit and retain teachers and other staff. It is down to schools whether they use this power – and which staff to include if they do."


Sunday, July 24, 2011

TX: Education panel OKs science materials

Questions about one publisher's materials punted to education chief

A newfound sense of compromise between the two factions of the State Board of Education allowed both sides to walk away on Friday satisfied with the adoption of new science materials for Texas public schools.

The handling of the theory of evolution in high school biology was, once again, the point of contention between the conservative bloc and a more moderate group on the Republican-dominated board.

Two years ago, the board made national headlines with its heated debate about how evolution should be covered in Texas textbooks and classrooms. The result was a call for new textbooks to explore all sides of the evidence underlying evolutionary theory, which critics said opened the door for concepts such as intelligent design and creationism.

None of the high school biology submissions up for board consideration this week included those ideas.

The one offering that did touch on intelligent design failed to make the list recommended by Education Commissioner Robert Scott, and board members showed no willingness to add it.

Last year's election might have had something to do with that. With four new members, the balance of power on the 15-member board shifted just enough toward the center so that the conservative bloc could no longer push through its policies unimpeded.

Friday's compromise came after the board appeared ready to split over claims of errors in how evolution was addressed in a submission from publisher Holt McDougal .

A board-appointed reviewer had identified the concerns, but the publisher maintained that the points at issue were not wrong.

All eight points in dispute involve evolutionary theory, such as comparisons of hominoid skulls and fossil evidence.

The error claims "seem entirely dedicated to undermining the presentation of evolution. Many of the claims derive from overtly creationist literature and arguments," wrote five other reviewers of the biology materials — four teachers and a professor — in a letter to the board.

It was up to the board to referee the dispute, and the mood turned testy. "I smell a rat," board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, said during the back-and-forth over the issue. In the end, the board members chose to turn the issue over to the education commissioner. "My goal would be to try to find some common ground," Scott said.

Then the board unanimously approved the online science materials that will supplement existing textbooks, contingent on Scott's decision on the disputed submission.

Board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said there were enough votes to back the publisher's position. But the compromise will produce the same result in a less contentious manner. "We acknowledged that with our limited time and our limited experience with this issue, we needed help," Ratliff said.

Board member Gail Lowe, a widely respected member of the conservative bloc and, until recently, the board's chairwoman, endorsed the compromise. She said it was the best way to be consistent and fair to all the publishers.

Jonathan Saenz, a lawyer with the conservative Liberty Institute , applauded the board for addressing the issues that had concerned him.

The Texas Freedom Network , a frequent board critic, also heralded the vote. "Today we saw Texas kids and sound science finally win a vote on the State Board of Education. Now our public schools can focus on teaching their students fact-based science that will prepare them for college and a 21st-century economy," said Kathy Miller, president of the group, which monitors the religious right.

The online materials will be used with existing textbooks and reflect the curriculum standards approved in 2009.

The board pursued this unprecedented option because a budget crunch precluded the state from buying new textbooks at a cost of $347 million. The supplemental material has a $60 million price tag.

Furthermore, the materials are essential to prepare students for end-of-course exams, which will count toward graduation for incoming ninth-graders this year.


More states defying federal gov't on education law

At least three states are vowing to ignore the latest requirements under the No Child Left Behind law in an act of defiance against the federal government that demonstrates their growing frustration over an education program they say sets unrealistic benchmarks for schools.

The law sets a goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014, but states were allowed to establish how much schools must improve each year. Many states saved the biggest leaps for the final years, anticipating the law would be changed.

But it hasn't, and states like Idaho, Montana and South Dakota are fed up. They are preparing to reject the latest requirements for determining school progress under the 9-year-old law — even if the move toward noncompliance may put them at risk of losing some federal funding.

Idaho will no longer raise the benchmarks that public schools have to meet under No Child Left Behind, nor will it punish the schools that do not meet these higher testing goals, said Tom Luna, the state's superintendent of public schools.

The federal requirements are unrealistic for schools to meet while they wait for the government to enact new education standards, he said. "We've waited as long as we can," Luna said.

Montana and South Dakota are also rejecting the latest No Child Left Behind targets, while Kentucky is seeking a waiver that would allow the state to use a different method to measure whether students are making adequate progress under the program.

And more states could follow in seeking relief from the federal requirements.

Federal officials recently warned Montana to get in line with the No Child Left Behind requirements by Aug. 15 or the federal government could withhold funds under an education program. The state receives more than $44 million in federal funding for that program, though it is unclear just how much of that money is at risk. In Idaho, that program is worth more than $54 million, and in South Dakota, about $43.7 million.

As high-profile cheating investigations in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., call attention to statewide standardized testing, experts say many districts are feeling pressured to meet the standards to avoid penalties under the law.

The No Child Left Behind law was passed in 2001 and signed by then-President George W. Bush. It has been widely panned by critics who say it brands schools as failures even as they make progress, discourages high academic standards and encourages educators to teach to the test as opposed to providing practical classroom learning to students.

There's bipartisan support for an overhaul, but Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about what sort of reforms should go into the law and how long writing a new bill should take. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has urged the U.S. House to finish before the next school year starts this fall, but the Republican chairman of the House education committee has said his panel plans to work through the fall.

Montana Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau said the state decided to freeze the federal requirements so schools will not be inaccurately labeled as failing — and suffer the scorn that comes along with the classification.

"Everyone knows it's broken. And the biggest broken piece of No Child Left Behind are these arbitrary bars," Juneau said. "It's one thing we could do to assist schools and not getting labeled as failing or be denigrated in the press when they are absolutely doing a better (job)."

Schools are required to meet 41 benchmarks for student achievement under the law and a school's annual yearly progress is calculated based on test participation, academic achievement, graduation rates and other statistics.

But every few years, the percentage of students who must pass state tests increases.

Of the 821 public school schools in Montana, 255 are not making adequate yearly progress under the current benchmarks. If the state makes the next jump under No Child Left Behind, a whopping 383 schools — nearly half — wouldn't be up to snuff under the federal law.

Juneau said she is optimistic her state will reach a compromise with the federal government on conforming to the law while also helping schools.

In Florida, where just 10 percent of all elementary, middle and high schools met adequate yearly progress goals under No Child Left Behind law in 2011, Interim Education Commissioner John L. Winn said he couldn't say whether his state might seek a reprieve.

Winn is going to let the new education commissioner, who starts in August, decide what action to take, he said. "He's got to live with that decision," Winn said. "I think I'm going to defer it to him."

Duncan is frustrated with he has called a "slow motion train wreck" for U.S. schools, warning that many could be labeled as failing under the law if it isn't reformed. His solution? Grant waivers to the law in exchange for states embracing the department's ideas on education reform.

Those reforms would be similar to those encouraged in the $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition, which include performance pay for teachers and growth in charter schools, Duncan has said.

But that plan sparked questions from the chairman of the House education committee, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who wrote Duncan in late June and asked the secretary to explain how the department has the authority to grant waivers "in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress."

In his response earlier this month, Duncan said he had the legal authority to grant waivers to the statutory requirements of the law if that's best for students.

At the same time, many states are looking to create new accountability systems that can replace the rules of No Child Left Behind. Last month, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced 41 states would work together to implement improved systems to hold schools accountable.

"There is a great dissatisfaction with current accountability system that exist in the U.S.," said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based council. "It's not a matter of relief from accountability. It's redesigning it so we have a much more positive environment."


Third of British adults have no qualifications in worst education blackspots

A study found that one in nine adults had no formal qualifications, and it reported wide differences in educational achievements throughout the country. In some areas, a third of 16 to 64 year-olds are without qualifications, while in others the proportion is as low as two per cent.

The University and College Union, which conducted the analysis, warned that Britain was divided into “the haves and the have-nots”.

The study is based on Office for National Statistics figures showing the proportions of adults of working age (16 to 64) with no qualifications in 2010. It was found that 11.3 per cent of adults did not have any qualifications. In England, this figure is 11.1 per cent, in Wales 13.3 per cent and in Scotland 12.3 per cent.

The union analysed the qualification rates for the 632 parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales. It found that in constituencies such as Glasgow North East and Birmingham Hodge Hill more than a third of adults of working age had no qualifications (35.3 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively).

At the other end of the scale, just 1.9 per cent of adults in Brent North lacked any qualifications, while in Romsey and Southampton North the figure is 2.3 per cent.

The union said that further analysis of 21 cities and their surrounding areas highlighted examples of “haves and have-nots” living side by side. People living in the constituency of Newcastle upon Tyne Central are nearly twice as likely to have no qualifications (17 per cent) as those in nearby Newcastle upon Tyne North (9.7 per cent).

The union said that people in areas with the lowest levels of qualifications were likely to suffer most from government policies it claimed would restrict access to education. These include plans to raise university tuition fees and scrap the education maintenance allowance.

Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, said: “We have two Britains divided between the educational haves and have-nots. “Education is central to our country’s future, yet in some places thousands of people still have no qualifications. “There is a real danger that children growing up in certain areas will have their ambition blunted and never realise their full potential.”