Friday, September 02, 2011

Study Finds Day Care Rivaling College In Expenses

Jessica Rivera wants the best for her children. Being a working mom, she has had no choice but to pay for day care so that she could help her husband keep the house up and running.

“A thousand dollars a month for two children so that along with mortgage and everything it was hard.” It became so overwhelming that Rivera sought financial help. Her daughter America was accepted into a program called ChildCareGroup.

But millions of parents are feeling the pinch from child care. A new study released by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies found that in 36 states the average annual cost of child care was higher than a year’s tuition at a four year public college.

In Texas one year of public college averages $7,743. While one year of child care for a four-year-old is $6,600. But the cost of child care for an infant was greater than a year of college at $7,850.

Susan Hoff is a child care advocate for United Way. She says finding affordable quality child care is a huge problem, but adds educating babies and toddlers requires a significant investment just like higher learning does. “Those first four years of life are the greatest amount of brain development in young children… It’s important to our entire public.”

According to the study New York is the least affordable state for child care, while Louisiana is the most affordable. But that’s based on a two parent income. Its even more difficult for single parents. “A little bit more than half my income goes to paying day care,” says Maria Ruiz, who is raising her three-year-old son Sidney alone.

She just moved her son from one day care because they went up on the tuition, again. “It was hard trying to find something that would meet my budget and at the same time meet my needs for my son.”

And meeting their children’s needs is every parents concern– no matter the cost. “His education means a lot,” says Ruiz.


Only 4 Percent of NEA Dues Dollars Dedicated to Improve Teaching

It looks like the National Education Association is not putting its money where its mouth is.

In its mission statement, the nation’s largest teachers union asserts that “we will focus the energy and resources of our 3.2 million members on improving the quality of teaching, increasing student achievement and making schools safer, better places to learn.”

But a secret union document reveals that the NEA’s commitment to “improv(ing) teaching and learning” works out to a paltry $7.44 per member every year. This is according to a document obtained from an internal source of the Indiana State Teachers Association, one of the NEA’s state affiliates. All dollar amounts refer to the NEA’s 2010-11 budget, and are the most recent numbers available.

While the majority of a teacher’s dues dollars stay with the state union, $166 is sent to the NEA every year, which is the parent union. As already stated, the NEA only spent $7.44 of that amount on efforts to improve teaching and learning.

To put that into perspective, the NEA spent four times as much ($31.05 of the $166) on “legislative and ballot initiatives” and “partnerships and public relations.” The union spent $68.69 of the $166 on administrative support, governance, legal support, and leadership development and constituency support.

That explains why the NEA could afford to pay its top three leaders more than $1 million in salary in 2009, the most recent year those figures were available.

The NEA is clearly more concerned about taking care of its leadership team than it is about improving student learning.

The reason the NEA gives anything at all toward improving teaching and learning practices is so the union can claim to care about students. That piddly amount is only meant to give the union a thin veneer of respectability.

We’ve got a lot of great public school teachers. But it’s a shame that they are being represented by such a self-serving, hyperpartisan group of activists.


AD and BC ruled out of date for national curriculum

This is just going to force kids to learn two systems instead of one. Most reference works use BC and AD so will be incomprehensible to the kids unless they learn both systems

CHRISTIANS are outraged that the birth of Jesus Christ will no longer be cited when recording dates under the new national history curriculum.

High school students will not use the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) when referencing dates.

Although history dates won't change, with textbooks still using the birth of Christ as the change point, they will use the neutral terms BCE (Before Common Era), BP (Before Present) and CE (Common Era).

Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen said yesterday that removing BC and AD from the curriculum was an "intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history".

Do you agree with the changes? Vote in our poll below

"It is absurd because the coming of Christ remains the centre point of dating and because the phrase 'common era' is meaningless and misleading," he told The Daily Telegraph. It was akin to calling Christmas the festive season, he said.

A spokesman for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, responsible for developing the national curriculum from kindergarten to Year 12, said BCE and CE were to be introduced because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates.

The little known term BP (Before Present) will be used when dealing with "very ancient history and archaeology, and allows for the teaching of more sophisticated understandings of representations of time".

In anticipation of the curriculum change, textbooks for student teachers such as Teaching And Learning In Aboriginal Education, by Neil Harrison, were already using the term BP.

Federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said: "Australia is what it is today because of the foundations of our nation in the Judeo-Christian heritage that we inherited from Western civilisation.

"Kowtowing to political correctness by the embarrassing removal of AD and BC in our national curriculum is of a piece with the fundamental flaw of trying to deny who we are as a people."

The curriculum was to have been introduced next year but has been delayed.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why I'm Getting my PhD From the 'University' of Manitoba

James Delingpole

Hey, everybody, I’ll have none of that disrespectful “Mr Delingpole” from you lot any more. From now on it’s Dr Delingpole, got that? Though I admit I haven’t actually picked up my PhD yet, I can speak with considerable confidence that it’s in the bag. That’s because I’m planning to get my doctorate from the “University” of Manitoba, Canada. And just check out this story about what an enlightened attitude this august seat of learning has to people with “disabilities.”

The University of Manitoba said it is reviewing its policy on how to accommodate students with disabilities despite winning a victory in court this week over a controversial decision to grant a PhD to a student who failed his courses due to “extreme exam anxiety.”

Gábor Lukács, a former child math prodigy who started university at age 12 and was a professor by age 24, sued the university over its decision to grant the student, identified only in court documents as A.Z., a PhD in math although he had twice failed his comprehensive exams and was missing a graduate course.

Thursday, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Deborah McCawley rejected Mr. Lukács request that the court intervene and rescind the degree, saying he didn’t have standing to take the case to court.

The university had defended its decision, saying it was legally required to accommodate a student’s disability, in this case, exam anxiety.

Mr. Lukács had argued that the university had damaged its credibility and was at risk of turning into a “diploma mill,” a claim the judge said was “unsubstantiated.”

My disability, in case you wondered, is that I’m allergic to countries which are colder than England, which have big, beaver-infested lakes in them and where they pronounce “about” “aboot”. When I explain this to the “University” of Manitoba authorities, I’m sure they’ll grant me the necessary compassionate exemption from doing any work.

Has anyone else noticed the Last Days of the Roman Empire flavour to this story? Here we are living in times so intellectually decadent, so agonisingly in thrall to the suicidal values of the Gramsciite left, that in a toss-up between a substandard, academic inadequate and a gifted professor genuinely committed to maintaining standards, the university choses to take the side of the inadequate.

The case, which dates back to 2009, has bitterly divided the school. Administrators suspended Mr. Lukács, now 29, for three months without pay last year after alleging that he had gone public with the student’s name and revealed private information about his disability.

Supporters of the professor launched an online petition, collecting nearly 200 names of students and academics from as far away as Israel. Another 86 mathematicians from around the world signed a letter of support. The university’s faculty association sided with Mr. Lukács, while the graduate students association applauded the school’s decision to suspend him.

Graduate students of the “University” of Manitoba, eh? What a bunch of intellectual heavyweights they must be.


Britain's "free" schools

Free schools will recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula

Next week sees the most innovative education experiment in memory, when 24 new free schools open their doors. Inspired by the charter school programme in the US and the free school movement in Sweden, they represent an important victory for parental rights over the power of the state. The schools, both primary and secondary, are non-selective, non-profit making, and independent within the state sector. They will be able to recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula. What they all have in common is that they have been brought into being by concerned parents who were prepared to fight for the kind of local schooling they want – and a Government that has had the good sense to allow it to happen.

The progress of the guinea-pig schools (there are hundreds more applications in the pipeline) will be watched with interest. Many are located in deprived areas where state schools are failing to deliver the excellence all parents have a right to expect. There will be variety in the kind of schooling on offer, but a uniformity of ambition. Free secondary schools expect all their students to achieve good GCSEs in English, maths, science and a foreign language. In the state sector, just a fifth of pupils manage that.

Many on the Left abhor the notion that parents should be allowed to create the kind of schools they want for their children, rather than putting up with what the state sees fit to offer them. Their criticism has been rather undercut by the decision of Peter Hyman, Tony Blair’s former education adviser, to set up a free school next year in Newham, east London, with the simply stated aim of educating its pupils for the top universities and successful careers. It is salutary that he feels impelled to bypass the state system in order to do that.


Australian schools may need to take on underperforming students to ensure funding, report says

The usual Leftist push to reduce everybody to the lowest common denominator

HIGH-performing schools may be put under pressure to take on underperforming students as a condition of funding.

A report commissioned by the Australian Government Review of Funding for Schooling has made the suggestion, adding "we need to question the extent to which public funds should continue to subsidise those already well-resourced selective schools that are not providing 'value' add in terms of student performance".

The independent report - along with three others released by the panel yesterday - has been met with dismay by the private sector but praised by the Australian Education Union.

Comments released by the review panel yesterday state the reports "have made a case for fundamental change in the way we fund schooling at all levels of government".

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the reports would help the review panel develop its final recommendations, but he distanced the Government from what was in them.

"They do not represent the views of the panel and are not indicative of the Government's intentions," he said.

One report, written by the Allen Consulting Group, recommends school outcome information, including NAPLAN and My School financial data, be used to help decide base funding for all schools.

"Loading" would be provided to schools identified as needing additional resources "to assist students with specific needs to achieve specified outcomes".

Another report, written by a consortium led by The Nous Group, said higher-performing schools should be encouraged to "take on more under-performing students and demonstrate their quality through student performance over and above what would have been expected from past performance. This may mean restructuring some or all of the public subsidies so that they are retrospective and 'reward-based"'.

AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said the reports confirmed current funding contributed to a "deepening inequality in educational outcomes".

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said the review had failed to provide any analysis of its own, leaving private schools still nervous that their funding could be cut in real terms and that top-performing schools might suffer under the new funding model.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Use of police prosecution in US schools draw scrutiny

In a small courtroom north of Houston, a fourth-grader walked up to the bench with his mother. Too short to see the judge, he stood on a stool. He was dressed in a polo shirt and dark slacks on a sweltering summer morning.

“Guilty," the boy’s mother heard him say. He had been part of a scuffle on a school bus.

In another generation, he might have received only a scolding from the principal or a period of detention. But get-tough policies in US schools in the past two decades have brought many students into contact with police and courts - part of a trend that some specialists call the criminalization of student discipline.

Now, such practices are under scrutiny nationally. Federal officials want to limit punishments that push students from the classroom to courtroom, and a growing number of state and local leaders are raising similar concerns.

In Texas, the specter of harsh discipline has been especially clear. Here, police issue tickets: Class C misdemeanor citations for offensive language, class disruption, schoolyard fights. Thousands of students land in court, with fines of up to $500. Students with outstanding tickets may be arrested after age 17.

Texas also stands out for opening up millions of student records to a landmark study of discipline, released in July. The study shows that 6 in 10 students were suspended or expelled at least once from seventh grade on. After their first suspension, they were nearly three times as likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system the next year as students with no such disciplinary referrals.

Citing the Texas research, federal officials announced last month an initiative to break what many call the “school-to-prison pipeline." Suspensions, expulsions, and arrests are used too often to enforce school order, officials said.

“That is something that clearly has to stop," US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in Washington alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan. This month, Duncan recounted that in his old job as Chicago schools chief, he was stunned to learn that so many arrests occurred in schools. The first response to student misbehavior, he said, “can’t be to pick up the phone and call 911."

The federal focus comes amid other change. In Colorado, a legislative task force is examining discipline practices, including law enforcement referrals and school ticketing. Los Angeles, police recently agreed to cut back on ticketing tardy students en route to school.

Connecticut officials have begun screening cases after students wound up in court on violations such as having soda, running in the hall, and dressing improperly.


AZ: A strange way to teach English

State education officials will no longer force schools to retrain or reassign English-immersion teachers because they speak with an accent. In an agreement with two federal agencies, the Arizona Department of Education will stop trying to single out teachers who they believe do not have a good command of the English language - a practice that resulted in complaints the state was illegally discriminating against teachers because they are Hispanic or are not native-English speakers.

But Andrew LeFevre, spokesman for the state agency, said that does not mean schools are free to hire whomever they want. Instead, LeFevre said, the settlement with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education simply takes the state education agency out of the mix. LeFevre said it will now be up to local school districts to certify their instructors for these classes are, in fact, fluent.

State School Superintendent John Huppenthal agreed to the settlement even though, LeFevre said, Huppenthal doesn't believe anything done was improper. Nor does state Attorney General Tom Horne, who was state schools chief when the investigation began more than a year ago.

The problem, according to the federal attorneys, is that evaluations of teachers were often "subjective." For example, the federal agencies said, state officials noted one teacher pronounced "the" as "da." Different teachers pronounced "another" as "anudder" and "lives here" came out as "leeves here."

Based on that, schools were required to create plans to correct the problems. Otherwise qualified teachers were removed from classes. The federal attorneys said the state policy forced schools to take action even where school officials did not have concerns about the teachers' English fluency.

LeFevre said that federal law still requires teachers be fluent - it just removes the state from having to make the determination.
Ignacio Ruiz, director of language acquisition for Tucson Unified School District, said his schools have not had any problems with the state, but he applauded the change.

Ruiz said the district recognizes the importance of teachers using proper grammar and that students understand what is being taught. But he said having an accent does not impair learning.

"There are many teachers with accents in many classrooms across the state," Ruiz said. "I know from my personal experience as a principal that students can do well in that setting."


British pupils return to tough subjects

The number of children studying tough subjects at school is to double following a Government crackdown on “soft” GCSEs, The Daily Telegraph has learned. Just days before the new academic year, it emerged that pupils are flocking back to traditional academic disciplines that are seen as vital to the workplace and further study.

Research shows that almost 50 per cent of children starting GCSEs for the first time this autumn will take separate courses in maths, English, the sciences, a foreign language and either history or geography. This compares with less than a quarter of pupils who took GCSE exams last summer.

The rise move follows the introduction of the controversial English Baccalaureate – a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils who achieve good grades in five traditional subject areas.

It represents the first evidence that the reforms are having a major effect on the subjects studied by children in the last two years of secondary education. This follows repeated claims by the Coalition that education standards were “dumbed down” under Labour.

In the last 13 years, growing numbers of pupils have ditched tough subjects in favour of less rigorous alternatives such as media studies, photography and dance to boost school league table rankings.

It has had a significant effect on the study of key disciplines at college and university and led to a critical shortage of graduates with skills in science, technology, engineering, maths and foreign languages, which are seen as vital to the economy.

But research commissioned by the Department for Education suggests that changes made by the Government are having a dramatic effect on schools in England.

The study – based on a survey of almost 700 state secondary schools – shows rises in the number of pupils preparing to take a combination of GCSEs that leads to the so-called “EBacc”. Some 47 per cent of teenagers entering Year 10 this term – the traditional start of GCSEs – will study EBacc subjects, it was revealed. These pupils are expected to sit exams in 2013. It represents a dramatic rise compared with the 22 per of pupils who took exams in these subjects in 2010 – the last available data.

The number of pupils choosing to study languages is set to rise by more than a fifth compared with 2010, while entries for history and geography are up by at least a quarter this year.

The proportion of pupils opting to take all three sciences – biology, chemistry and physics – will almost double, according to the study by the National Centre for Social Research.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said: “Subjects such as physics, chemistry, history, geography, French and German give students the opportunity to succeed in every field. “The numbers studying a proper range of rigorous subjects has been in decline. Now, thanks to our English Bacc, that has changed.

“More young people are now following the courses which the best colleges and top employers value.”

The Coalition announced that the EBacc would be introduced in late 2010. To achieve it, pupils must gain C grades in maths, English, at least two sciences, a foreign language and one humanities subject – either history or geography. The new measure will be added to school league tables.

According to the National Centre for Social Research study, 52 per cent of schools surveyed said the EBacc had an effect on the type of subjects offered in the curriculum, while almost nine-in-10 said they provided information to pupils and parents about the EBacc.

But the reform has been strongly criticised by teaching unions and Labour, who claim it represents an elitist view of education and punishes children who want to pursue more practical courses.

It is also claimed it will narrow the curriculum and led to huge drops in those taking subjects such as music, art and religious studies, which are not featured in the EBacc.

But a Coalition source said: “Labour and union leaders live in a fantasy world where media studies is valued as much as further maths.

“Between them, over a decade they pushed millions of children into courses that held them back. By bringing honesty to the league tables we are already seeing a return to the subjects that universities and employers value most and this will strengthen education and our economy.”


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Government schools as an engine of conformity

Green and Leftist notions are openly preached and normative there and questioning is frowned upon. And the heights of culture are now barely mentioned. Over 50 years ago in a small Australian country grade-school, I learnt about Homer and read the poetry of Wordsworth and Byron. Does that happen in any American grade-school today?

Shantanu Sinha contends that “America must break the machine of industrial-era education.” Reiterating what has become a truism, that “public education in America is failing,” Sinha notes the inflexible framework of government schools, “treating students like cogs in a factory.”

The specific complaints outlined by Sinha are hardly to be disputed, and they seldom are. Still, America’s schools remain unresponsive and ailing in the face of the widespread understanding that the problem lies at the very foundation of our system. The problem is not teachers themselves, but the cage they and the education system generally are trapped within.

That cage is forged and locked by the state, designed to promote obedience, and repellent to anything like real education. If students are victims of the rigor mortis that the state has set into American education, then so too are the teachers.

For the state, the family and community, as other, competing sources of values and worldviews, are necessarily dangerous, challenging its role as the ultimate authority on ethical questions central to human life. The family unit further rivals state power in its natural function as an unforced and unplanned safety net, one that inevitably engenders independence from the state-corporate economy and institutions.

In the United States, the Progressive Era’s new notion of citizenship, which underpinned the establishment of (for example) the modern government school system, was quite overtly aimed at undermining the family. Immigrant traditions, particularly as embodied in Catholic schools, were regarded as a threat to the civic culture of the desired homogeneous America, at the center of which would be the total state.

The goal of ensuring schooling for the poor or those incapable of paying was never at the forefront of the movement for state-owned and -operated schools. Instead it was a xenophobic animus against the customs of working-class newcomers and a desire to aggrandize the federal government that motivated the “public school” phenomenon.

We shouldn’t shrink at the specter invoked by the ruling class, that, in the absence of government schools, the needy would go without education, unable to afford tuition. This is, of course, a claim only true in an economic environment like the one we drudge under today, in which the overall cost of living is ratcheted up by an oligopoly market — and in which contemporary “private schools” are made artificially expensive.

Today, the vast majority of Americans are burdened under the strain of taxes and rents to rich elites that are created by barriers to entry and the systematic destruction of self-sufficiency. Absent these government-constructed hurdles to mutually beneficial exchange and cooperation, the necessity of the state in providing education evaporates.

Unless we believe that the state has a magical ability to create valuable resources from nothing — and it seems many do — we shouldn’t give credence to the myth that only coercion is capable of providing education for everyone. True free markets made up of everything from charity, to trade, to complex systems of mutual aid are quite equipped, if allowed, to furnish education — the kind society is asking for rather than the kind foisted on America’s children today.


Without history, we have only ignorance

The failure of British schools to teach history has helped create a wider crisis of identity

History is the most inescapable of subjects: we inherit it, we make it, and we are fated to become part of it. In our education system, however, its study is increasingly neglected: indeed, in a large number of British schools, the end of history is already a reality.

Last year, a total of 159 secondary schools did not put a single pupil forward for history GCSE. In state comprehensives, the number of pupils taking the subject has fallen to 29.9 per cent; in private schools, it has dipped to 47.7 per cent. The only sector where numbers are rising is state grammars, where it is taken by 54.8 per cent.

What the statistics suggest is that the least well-off pupils are also fated to be the most ignorant both of their personal cultural history, and that of the country in which they live. This is, in part, because history is perceived as a “hard” subject. Eager to shine in the league tables, schools with an academically problematic intake shepherd pupils towards “softer” subjects, in which higher marks can more easily be guaranteed. I cannot think of a more depressing illustration of the gulf between “performance” and education.

The pitiful irony is that it is children from poorer, and often more dysfunctional backgrounds that have the greatest need – and thirst – for history. For history, whether of family or nation, is the story of identity, the construction of which is the most primitive, deep-seated urge there is. If you cannot articulate where you came from or what you believe in, and are given few intellectual or emotional tools with which to do so, you are fated to become the most unstable, combustible human material of all.

For an example, one need only look to the recent riots, and that memorable moment in Hackney when a furious 45-year-old grandmother and jazz singer, Pauline Pearce, confronted young rioters against a background of blazing cars. “Get real, black people,” she admonished them, “We’re not all gathering together and fighting for a cause, we’re running down Foot Locker and stealing shoes.”

The difference between Miss Pearce and the rioters – beyond their immediate activities – was that she had a strong conception of history from which she drew evident pride. She spoke of “black people” fighting for a “cause”, words undoubtedly informed by her consciousness of the US civil rights movement and the teachings of Martin Luther King.

In her eyes, the rioters were not simply demeaning themselves as individuals, but shaming a political history that demanded greater dignity. The frenzied youths around her, in contrast, were purely creatures of the moment, and the moment demanded that they seize a pair of looted trainers.

That scene points to a bigger argument: in poorer black communities in both the US and Britain, the hope-filled language of civil rights, rooted in communal experience and holding out the promise of a better future, has too often been displaced in popular culture by the glorification of gangs, drugs, sex and easy money, with little philosophy beyond the buzz of the now. The destructive results of this abandonment of history apply equally to the white working class.

What surprised me, when I became a parent for the first time, is the open craving of small children for family stories. They frequently revisit them, asking for repetitions and expansions, gathering the information in a way that suggests it is almost as necessary to their growth as food.

Now imagine that your own history is something from which you can derive only pain: a story of neglect from the adults around you, of violence, crime or addiction. How then do you describe or construct your identity? For those who are given a strong understanding of national, local, or political history, it can – if taught with imagination – provide an alternative blueprint not only for behaviour, but also pride.

We cannot elude history, but we ignore it at our peril. Cicero argued that “to remain ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child”. If history in schools seems impenetrable, it’s because we’re not teaching it properly – but let’s not deny its lessons to those who need them most.


Call for charter schools in Australia

The Australian Federal government gives large subsidies to private schools so private schooling is made more affordable that way. But charters would up the ante for sink schools

A NSW Liberal MP has contradicted government policy by calling for the creation of fully publicly funded independent "charter" schools in NSW.

Matt Kean, the Member for Hornsby, said some "radical options" needed to be considered in the federal government's review of schools funding.

A Sydney businessman, David Gonski, who is heading the review, will release tomorrow the findings of four research studies his committee has commissioned.

Mr Kean said NSW should follow the lead of the new Coalition government in Western Australia which oversees more than 100 independent public schools.

He told NSW Parliament that as a Liberal, he did not believe "the radical reforms we need in our education system can come from a centralised system run out of Sydney or Canberra". "Personally, I would like to see a debate about charter schools occur in NSW," he said.

"Charter schools are state-funded community schools, accessible to all for no additional compulsory contribution and run by local boards, while meeting minimum standards set down by the state. In other words, while the state continues the funding, the governance and running of the school remains in community hands."

Mr Kean's proposal echoes that of the chief executive officer of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, who has also called on the NSW government and the Gonski inquiry to consider adopting the charter school model. The Herald understands the model is being considered by the federal review.

Mr Kean said the school principal and not the Department of Education should choose new teachers to avoid "arbitrary quotas or requirements set by head office".

The Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, ruled out the proposal yesterday, saying the state government "is not going down the route of charter schools".

A newly released NSW Department of Education paper called "Raising achievement for all: complex challenges", refers to a Stanford University study of 2403 charter schools which found 37 per cent performed significantly worse than public schools in improving maths performance. It also found 46 per cent of charter schools performed no better or worse than public schools.

Christian Schools Australia and the Anglican School Corporation are lobbying for a fairer share of funding for their schools which receive relatively less funding than many similar Catholic schools.

Catholic schools have asked the Gonski inquiry to increase recurrent funding to help them close the gap between the average income level of Catholic schools and government schools "to ensure Catholic schools remain affordable and accessible to families in all regions and all socio-economic circumstances".

School Vouchers in Indiana

(South Bend, Indiana) The Indiana school voucher program, signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels in May, is popular.
Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars. In at least one district, public school principals have pleaded with parents not to move their children.
Sounds almost like a prison break.

[Add.] From here we learn that about 70 percent of students using vouchers choose Catholic schools. I suspect this fact really puckers the progressives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

NJ: Princeton bars freshmen from Greek system

The idea that you can stop students from getting drunk is a laugh. And most universities encourage student clubs of various sorts -- as long as they are not Christian, of course. Universities always have been and always will be an important social experience

Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman is banning freshmen from joining fraternities and sororities as of the 2012-2013 year, after an internal report said the groups encourage exclusivity and alcohol abuse.

Members of sororities and fraternities will also be forbidden from any form of “rush,’’ or recruitment, of freshman students, the Princeton, N.J.-based school said in a statement on its website. Upperclassmen won’t be stopped from joining the groups, said Cass Cliatt, a university spokeswoman.

While about 15 percent of Princeton undergraduates participate in sororities and fraternities, the organizations are not recognized by the university, do not have residential houses, and have been prohibited during much of the school’s history.

The report on campus social life produced last year by a 13-member panel of students, faculty, and staff said that the groups lead students to narrow, rather than expand, their set of friendships.

But Jake Nebel, a Princeton junior who is master of the school’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter, argued that fraternities and sororities, often called Greek societies because they are named for Greek letters, do not limit students’ contact with others, and in fact help them expand their relationships.

“Developing close friendships is both difficult and important during freshman year, and Greek societies serve that purpose for the large number of students who are interested in them,’’ he said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Supporters of the societies suggested a compromise that would allow freshmen to join the groups in their second semester of school, Nebel said.


Next lot of British High School exam results will 'mark end of Labour Party's grade inflation'

GCSE results out today will signal the end to decades of relentless ‘grade inflation’ as rigour is returned to the education system, experts believe. Teenagers receiving their results will pass close to a quarter of their exams at grades A or A* – three times the number of those receiving As two decades ago – before the A* was introduced.

But although the grades will be the best in the exam’s history, they will show only a minor improvement compared with previous years. And assessment experts believe pass rates and rates of top grades will eventually plateau in 2012 before falling in 2013.

The ‘significant slowdown’ – after 23 years of rampant increases – marks the end of Labour’s ‘we shall all have prizes’ culture, and has been attributed to measures designed to end the dumbing-down of exams.

In the past year, the culture of endless re-sits has been axed, easy-to-plagiarise course work slashed and exam boards made to penalise pupils for poor spelling and grammar. Under Labour, pupils could score an A* in

More pupils this year have sat tougher subjects following the Coalition’s attempt to remove a ‘perverse incentive’ for schools to teach pupils soft, easy-to-pass subjects.

Previously, a BTEC in ICT was considered equivalent to four GCSEs for the purpose of league table performance. The end of grade inflation at GCSE mirrors the halt in A-level inflation seen last week. Although overall A-level pass rates improved very slightly, the proportion of top grades awarded stagnated.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the results herald the end of ‘grade inflation’. He added: ‘A chief factor could be the attitudes of examiners who saw it as their duty, under Labour, to help the Government achieve its targets by awarding top grades to more teens. But now the Coalition is in power the focus has shifted from targets to rigour.

‘The Government has also introduced measures to make exams more tough, such as ending the culture of re-sits.’

Some 750,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving GCSE grades today. Overall almost 70 per cent will have an A* to C, 23 per cent an A* or A, and close to 8 per cent an A*.

The results will also show the gender gap is closing, largely due to the scrapping of course work. Girls tend to work ‘harder and more consistently’ than boys, Prof Smithers said, and therefore score higher in course work, now replaced by ongoing assessment by teachers.

For years Labour had been accused of dumbing-down GCSEs. When the A* was first awarded in 1994, just 2.9 per cent of pupils achieved it compared with 8 per cent now. In 1994, 12.9 per cent scored an A or A*, compared with 23 per cent now.

General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers Russell Hobby, said: ‘Grade inflation was a symptom of extremely high stakes. Everyone has been involved in gaming the system, from politicians to exam boards, to teachers to pupils. But when this is done a lot is sacrificed.’

A Government source said: ‘We’re restoring rigour to GCSEs by getting rid of modules and reintroducing marks for spelling and grammar that Labour disgracefully removed.’


First-Grader Faces In-School Suspension for Growing Hair Long to Donate to Cancer Victims

I suspect this kid is being used by an attention-seeking mother. Dress codes are helpful to discipline

A 6-year-old boy was placed into in-school suspension during his first week of elementary school in San Antonio, Texas, for violating the school dress code, reports.

The school claims the boy's long hair and diamond earring do not meet school requirements. According to the district's parent-student handbook, boys cannot wear earrings and hair must be kept neat, clean and well-groomed.

The boy's mother, Kandi Shand, says Gareth was growing his hair out so he could donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to cancer victims. "He'll be sitting in the principal's office every day," Shand told Kens5.

Gareth's earring is a small diamond, which he has worn for five years with no problems. The family recently moved from South Carolina to Texas.

Gareth says his classmates tease him about his earring. "I like diamonds," he told Kens5. Shand vows to fight the Blanco Independent School District to allow her son to wear his diamond earring, reports.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why intrinsic motivation works

Amusing to see a libertarian group below arguing for what has long been a Leftist ideal of education -- "non-directive" education. They specifically compare their ideas to those of the radical "Summerhill" school of A.S. Neill. If you want to spend money sending your kid to a school that has a two-thirds dropout rate from their final High School exams, that's fine, I guess.

What the authors below seem not to have loaded is that "non-directive" ideas are now very influential in mainstream schools. In British education they seem to be dominant. The result of course is to turn out kids who know little and have little self-discipline -- Kids who are very poorly prepared for the world of work -- the British disaster, in short. In Britain it is only the graduates from Britain's many very traditional "independent" schools who keep the country running.

In my own days teaching High School, I taught at both a traditional private (Catholic) school and a "progressive" ("non-directive") school so I know the difference well. In the traditional school ALL the kids did well in their final examinations, some exceptionally so. And the school had quite a working class catchment area.

In the "progressive" school the parents were generally wealthy. About half the kids studied nothing, learnt nothing and failed their final High School exams -- thus leaving school with no qualifications -- which well mirrored what they had learnt.

The other half however did quite well because they came from homes where educational achievement was expected. In other words the parents had to provide the motivation that the school did not.

In summary: For a certain bourgeois minority, "progressive" education can work. For mass education it is a disaster. The article below talks theory. I'm talking results -- JR

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to engage in an activity for its own sake. More particularly, this desire comes from inside an individual. Because it adheres to intrinsic motivation as the basis for developing a healthy learning experience, the Summum Bonum Learning Center avoids using punishments, payments, grades, and rewards – all of which are examples of extrinsic motivation and control. The use of extrinsic motivation can be traced to B.F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism (although behaviorists prefer rewards to punishments). Behaviorism posits that everything an individual does (act, thought, and feeling) is a form of behavior. Consequently, it denies the existence of psychological constructs such as the self, mind, or will. Furthermore, the theory of behaviorism posits that human behavior can be shaped and controlled (or “conditioned”) by the application of external reinforcements that induce a person to respond in specific ways. Educational theories based on behaviorism rely on extrinsic motivators to shape a child’s learning experience and psychological development.

Regardless of the status of psychological constructs such as the mind or self, SBLC rejects rewards and punishments as the basis for shaping a child’s learning experience. Extensive research, compiled by Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, shows that extrinsic motivators such as rewards and punishments are ineffective. They appear to “work” for simple, quantifiable tasks, but their impact diminishes with time. Just as important, they are ineffective for tasks involving quality, creativity, risk taking, and long-term commitment. In addition, they tend to shift a child’s reasons for doing things from the task itself to an emphasis on getting the reward. Because they are a rather crude attempt to control a child, they fail to address why children learn. At the same time, they actually de-value learning because they are viewed as bribes to engage in something disagreeable. In the eyes of perceptive children, they are seen as phony ploys, and that perception fosters a feeling of being controlled, which is linked to long-term aggression and resentment.

Extrinsic motivators also have disturbing ethical implications that compromise learning and long-term development – implications that voluntaryists instinctively understand. In a sense, extrinsic motivators reduce human beings to passive machines – things to be switched on and off, slowed down, and speeded up at the whim of some controller. Not surprising, these extrinsic motivators raise the status of the reward-giver above the recipient, creating a controller-controlled relationship – the source of status-based relationships and their widespread acceptance as “normal.” Furthermore, by shifting the attention of the learner from the task to obtaining a reward, they reduce the learner’s level of personal engagement in a task, causing learners to make only the minimum effort needed to obtain the reward. Not surprisingly, they discourage students, instill a fear of failure, create anxiety; and suppress the spirit of cooperation by pitting learners against each other. Is it any wonder that public schools and many private schools are such abysmal failures?

In contrast, intrinsic motivation and the practice of motivational interviewing accustom children to thinking about themselves and their goals without being forced into any mold by a politician or curriculum developer. Intrinsic motivation and motivational interviewing also bring learners into the learning process by offering choices and enabling them to enlarge the scope of their choices. They also support a habit of providing detailed feedback to students and parents while identifying why children learn. With these practices in place, children experience learning as a process of discovery, making mistakes, and accepting challenges – the opposite of “playing it safe” to obtain a good grade or some other reward. A school based on intrinsic motivation engages children in the problem-solving process through both choice of content and collaboration. The children learn to value explanations as a means of understanding, not simply reciting information because they were told to do so.

Just as important, by making use of nonviolent communication (taught by Marshall Rosenberg), the Summum Bonum Learning Center fosters the development of empathy by providing an environment where it is demonstrated by adults and is acted out by children with each other on a regular basis. Most obviously, this will take place as children tutor one another. With no grading curve to shame or uplift the students based on their performance, they will no longer be pitted against each other. Instead, they will be able and willing to help one another to learn. At its heart, this type of environment values the perspective of the learner. Further, both the Summerhill and Sudbury alumni have already demonstrated their resultant emotional well being – evidenced by changes in the behavior of even “disturbed” students as they slowly adjusted to the new, healthier environment of these schools. Moreover, both of these schools demonstrated the “fitness for study” of their graduates; they were usually accepted at the universities of their first choice when they chose to attend these institutions.

One of the most significant effects of the Summum Bonum Learning Center will be played out within the families of the learners. The family is the first social “association” with which a child comes into contact. Furthermore, during the first four years of life, 90% of the brain and its functions are formed ( Consequently, since parents are deeply involved in the training for both nonviolent communication and intrinsic motivation at SBLC, the Summum Bonum Learning Center will be helping to reform relationships within the family itself. This will promote healthier interpersonal relationships in the process – the kind that are antithetical to the state. By reforming the two most influential associations in a child’s life (the family and school), SBLC is striking the root in a profound way.


The higher education bubble in Britain

Rachel’s post yesterday got me thinking about university education. Like many, I’m coming to think of it as being the next big bubble. Money is being ploughed into it higher education, and for many – probably most – people, it’s just not worth it. We’ve become afflicted by acute credentialism: to be taken seriously in many professions, you need a couple of letters after your name.

What’s wrong with this? Well, for a start, it makes it harder to break into new jobs. Credentialism raises barriers to entry, and protects certain professions from competition. (Incidentally, occupational licensure – which I consider to be one of the great evils of our time – is worse.) Moreover, it increases the penalties for making bad decisions. Did you spend your teenage years getting drunk and skipping class? Well, sorry, you’ve ruined your life because you can’t get the degree from that Russell Group university that you needed so you could do the job you wanted to do. And God help you if you chose art history instead of accounting on your UCAS form.

Worst of all, credentialism forces people in education to conform so that they get the grades they need. School and university are the two places in people’s lives where freethinking and contrarianism can thrive; where being brilliantly wrong is better than being boringly correct. When your on-paper performance matters so much to your future job prospects, this becomes more difficult. As a result, university becomes more like a training course and less like the thoughtful, argument-filled Academy that it should be.

In a speech at Oxford Brookes University last June, David Willetts said that more than 50% of degree courses were "license to practice" courses. In fact, the true figure is likely to be a lot higher. By now, almost all university courses are credentialist training courses, even humanities and social sciences, because having letters after your name is now so important to finding a decent job.

How did we get here? Mostly, I blame government. Long ago, it was decided that education was the key to social mobility. Targets were set to get people into university, irrespective of their ability. That someone thought it a good idea to get 50% of school-leavers into university says it all – university was just an extension of mass schooling, and shunting as many people through it as possible was the key to making people smarter.

Where a bachelor’s degree once set people apart from the crowd, now it’s a master’s degree. Some day, I’m sure a PhD will be the minimum. Standards have fallen and costs have risen as the bubble grows. Once, everybody wanted to own expensive tulips. Today, people are putting their money into letters after their name. Bubbles are pointless, madness of crowds hysteria driven by easy money, and we're seeing one in education.

People use qualifications to signal their intelligence. It’s hard to show an employer that you’re smart, and a degree is like a good reference letter vouching for you to an employer. But forcing more and more people into university education has devalued that reference. Like trees competing for sunlight growing taller and taller, the credentials have become loftier and loftier to achieve the same ends. The bubble is growing. Someday, it will have to burst.


Time to stop increasing U.S. education spending?

Even The New York Times is now questioning the massive spending increases on education that have occurred over the last generation in a discussion entitled “Spending Too Much Time and Money on Education?”:
Americans are spending more and more on education, but the resulting credentials — a high-school diploma and college degrees — seem to be losing value in the labor market.

Americans who go to college are triply hurt by this. First, as taxpayers: state and federal education budgets have ballooned since the 1950s. Second, as consumers: the average college student spends $17,000 a year on school, and those with loans graduate more than $23,000 in debt. And third, as a worker: in 1970, an applicant with a college degree was among an elite 11 percent, but now almost 3 in 10 adults have a degree.

Given that a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree and even graduate school are no longer a ticket to middle-class life, and all these years of education delay the start of a career, does our society devote too much time and money to education?

In the discussion, PayPal co-founder and technology investor Peter Thiel notes that “College Doesn’t Create Success,” noting that college graduates make more money than non-college graduates partly because people who are more creative by nature are “more likely to complete college” than less creative people, even if going to college doesn’t make them any more creative or teach them much of value. The fact that many successful people happened to go to college doesn’t mean that college made them successful, anymore than the fact that “Brooklynites who work in Manhattan” make more money than “Brooklynites who work in Brooklyn” proves “that crossing the Brooklyn Bridge makes people more productive.”

Education expert Richard Vedder sums up education’s decline over the last generation as “Spending Triples; Results Slide.” As he notes,
Spending on K-12 schools, adjusting for inflation and enrollment growth, has roughly tripled over the last 50 years, yet there is little solid evidence that today’s students are better prepared for work and citizenship than their grandparents were — and even some evidence that they are less so.

The university situation is similar, with two-fifths of those entering college failing to graduate within six years, the average college enrollee spending less than 30 hours a week on academics, and a major recent study by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa showing that there is little advancement of critical thinking or writing skills while in school. Moreover, college costs are soaring, and almost certainly the education system is becoming less efficient, at a time when labor productivity is rising elsewhere.

The icing on the cake is the total disconnect between student job expectations, college curricula, and the realities of today’s labor market. More college grads are taking low-skilled jobs previously occupied by those with high school diplomas — more than 80,000 bartenders, for example, have at least a bachelor’s degree. If students are successful in graduating (a big “if”), they often are saddled with debt and only able to get a relatively low-paying job.

As students learn less and less, nowhere is the problem greater than in America’s education schools, which people are required to attend if they wish to become teachers. Students in education schools have some of the lowest test scores of any major, and lower high-school grades. But education schools are so easy for students to pass that, as Professor KC Johnson notes,
the average grade in Education classes far exceeds the average in virtually any other major, to such an extent that “Education departments award exceptionally favorable grades to virtually all their students in all their classes.” The University of Missouri provided the most embarrassing results; at the state university’s flagship campus, one of every five Education classes ended with each student receiving an A. The logical inference of such figures . . . is that Education professors have failed to perform the gate-keeping role of ensuring that badly under-qualified students aren’t simply passed along so they can then become public school teachers. . . they reflect the leveling approach that is at the heart of contemporary schools of Education. Competition is bad; cooperation is good. Individual achievement must be discouraged; collegial collaboration is the ideal. “High-stakes” tests and exams requiring critical thinking have less relevance than group work or classroom chats. Such an environment all but ensures that professors will not attempt, much less succeed, in distinguishing much between students’ abilities.

Many education schools are ideologically oppressive places that seem designed to inculcate left-wing ideology rather than produce effective teachers. K-12 education is better in Japan because teachers there learn through apprenticeships and on-the-job training, rather than taking useless classes filled with psychobabble at education school, as George Leef points out in “Nurturing the Dumbest Generation.” “In Japan, there are no education schools at all. Those who wish to become teachers first earn degrees in some academic discipline and some of them are then accepted as apprentices who learn teaching by assisting veterans in the classroom.”

Increasing education spending has often benefited bureaucrats rather than teachers. There are now more college administrators than faculty at California State University. The University of California, which claims to have cut administrative spending “to the bone,” is creating new positions for liberal bureaucrats even as it raises student tuition to record levels:
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.

Other colleges raised spending on administrators as much as 600 percent in recent years.

States spend hundreds of millions of dollars operating colleges that are worthless diploma mills, yet manage to graduate almost no one — like Chicago State, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.” People endure useless college courses to get paper credentials, but they get their actual education through internships and work.

College tuition is often a rip-off, since most people who went to college because of rising college-attendance rates in recent years wound up in unskilled jobs (including 5,057 janitors who have Ph.Ds or other advanced degrees), and tuition is skyrocketing faster than housing costs did during the real estate bubble, resulting in a 511 percent increase in student-loan debt. (100 colleges charge at least $50,000 a year, compared to five in 2008-09. Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation, while Obama seeks to double it. Spending has exploded at the K-12 level: per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.”