Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stop the slander of inner-city parents

A few years ago I wrote an article for this journal urging school choice. Afterward, I received a number of arguments against it — bad arguments. One of these was what I termed the “incompetent parent argument,” which is the one you often hear from the defenders of the present public school system (that is, from greedy rentseekers who benefit from the system, because they are employed by it). The argument is this: school choice will fail because inner-city parents are too ignorant and indifferent to make wise choices about their kids’ education.

This claim is usually proffered sotto voce, since inner-city parents are often members of ethnic minorities. The argument can be accused of having a racist cast, yet the people who offer it are typically politically correct progressive liberals who love accusing the rest of us of racial insensitivity.

But to return to the argument itself. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal exhibits the ultimate refutation of this rubbish. It reports the dramatic swelling of a “crime wave” of inner-city parents who lie about their home address on school applications. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) recently had to grant clemency to a poor black mother who had dared — dared!! — to use her father’s home address to get her two daughters into a decent school.

For this act of vicious criminality, she was charged with grand theft. After being incarcerated for nine days, she was convicted on two felony counts. If they had remained on her record they would have ruined her chances of getting a teacher’s certificate and becoming a teacher herself.

The lady is not alone. Not hardly. In several states, desperate parents — you know, the inferior inner-city parents who are genetically incapable of the same love for their children that tenured white teachers can feel — have been arrested for trying to do what she did, and are facing jail time or other punishment. School districts around the country are hiring detectives to follow children and see whether they really live where they say they do. Some districts are even using “address-verification” programs to halt the abominable crime of finding a decent education for your kids. One of these programs,, uses “covert video technology” to find the pernicious perps.

Minority parents must care a lot about choosing good schools for their kids, if so many are risking prison for the chance to do so. And of course, these people are hardly criminals. As the article suggests, we can view them as practicing a form of nonviolent protest to achieve their civil rights, in the honorable tradition of Martin Luther King.

A couple of months ago, more evidence that parents are not indifferent but are in fact committed to finding good schools came to light. It was an internal teachers’ union PowerPoint presentation boasting about how the union (the notorious American Federation of Teachers) thwarted parents’ groups in Connecticut from passing a “parent-trigger law” that would have forced a change in administration of any failing school if the majority of the district’s parents voted for the change. If the parents had been as indifferent as rumored, would the union have gone to such Machiavellian means to screw them?


Rupert Murdoch labels US education system a crime

Rupert is right but he is short on specifics. I wonder what he is up to?

RUPERT Murdoch has labelled the US education system a "crime against our children". He said it needs visionaries of the calibre of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs to reform it.

"We need to tear down an education system designed for the 19th century and replace it with one that's suited for the 21st," said Mr Murdoch at an education conference in San Franscisco. "And we need to approach the education industry the way my friend Steve Jobs approached every industry."

The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said high dropout rates and general underachievement in US schools needed to be transformed. "The standards for America's public schools are lower than our standards for American Idol," Mr Murdoch said.

"Most American classrooms haven't changed much since the days of Grover Cleveland. You have a teacher, a piece of chalk, a blackboard - and a room full of kids.

"Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. "To be willing to blow up what doesn't work or gets in the way.

"And to make our bet that if we can engage a child's imagination, there's no limit to what he or she can learn."

Mr Murdoch said better-trained teachers, technology and a competitive educational marketplace would produce a better system than the one that was suffering from a crisis of imagination and crisis of rising costs.


British private schools escape the Leather Lady

A landmark ruling has freed private schools to decide for themselves how they meet their duty to help the poor to justify their status as charities. The ruling by three senior judges frees independent schools – most of which are classed as charities which allows them to enjoy valuable tax breaks – from interference by the Charity Commission.

It marks an end to a long-running dispute between the Independent Schools Council and the state watchdog, which is headed by Labour supporter Dame Suzi Leather.

Under rules which came into effect in 2006, private schools had to prove their ‘wider public benefit’ to keep their charitable status. Labour ministers said the Commission would push schools to advance the cause of social mobility and offer free places to poorer children.

Yesterday judges at the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery) Chamber, a division of the High Court, said it was for the schools themselves and not the Commission to decide how they should meet their legal duty to help the poor.

The ISC, which represents half a million pupils in 1,260 schools, had challenged the right of the regulator to ‘micro-manage’, saying its guidelines were ‘prescriptive and interventionist’.

The judges, Mr Justice Warren, Judge Alison McKenna, and Judge Elizabeth Ovey, said schools could help the poor in a number of ways, including sharing their facilities with state schools, instead of just offering free or subsidised places.

They added that some of the guidelines operated by the Charity Commission are ‘erroneous’ and must be changed.

Once a minimal or threshold level of help for the poor has been offered by a school, ‘what the trustees decide to do in the running of a school is for them’, they said.

Under the judgment, they can also offer teachers to state schools, open their playing fields and swimming pools to state school pupils, and invite state pupils to join classes in subjects their own schools do not offer.

ISC general counsel Matthew Burgess added: ‘The ruling takes public benefit decisions away from the Commission and hands them back to school governors, and for that reason we warmly welcome it.’

The Charity Commission said: ‘We accept of course the tribunal’s conclusion that some parts of our guidance do not explain the law clearly enough.’ But it added: ‘It is a matter for individual charitable independent schools to decide for themselves how to meet the public benefit requirement as long as it gives more than a tokenistic benefit to the poor.’


Friday, October 14, 2011

D.C. Drove Up Your Student Debt

One of the major complaints of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, many of whom have taken on significant student debt, is that the cost of college is too darn high. And they're right, but not because of greedy corporate fat cats. No, the real guilty party here is federal politicians, who for decades have been fueling high profits — and prices — at both for-profit and nonprofit schools.

Wait. Big profits at nonprofit colleges? Yes, money has been piling up even at schools you thought had no interest in profit. And Washington, D.C., is the biggest hand feeding the beast.

Thanks to recent congressional hearings and battling over new regulations for for-profit schools, most people — including many college-aged, profit-disdaining Wall Street squatters — are probably at least vaguely aware that for-profit colleges are making good money.

But not just openly profit-seeking schools are making big bucks. If we define profit simply as revenue derived from providing a service exceeding costs, putatively nonprofit colleges actually have much higher margins than for-profit schools.

How do we know that? It's tough, because nonprofit schools typically report all their profits as expenses. Basically, they take excess revenues coming from undergraduate education and distribute them throughout the college in subsidies for research, graduate education, low-demand majors, low faculty teaching loads, excess compensation or featherbedding. In other words, rather than rewarding investors, colleges pay themselves.

Given this surplus-into-costs alchemy, there are just a few ways to get at schools' real costs. One is the buildup method, in which you calculate all the inputs required to educate undergrads, from market-rate professors' salaries to photocopying costs. The second is to get the best internal accounting of actual college expenditures you can, which a few states furnish, and estimate costs from that.

Using both methods reveals that it costs roughly $8,000 to educate an undergraduate at an average, residential college.

Now look at your college bill, including room and board: An average of almost $37,000 at a private four-year university, and $16,000 at a public equivalent.

So what's the profit? The average tuition and fee charge at a private bachelor's college, minus institutional aid, was $13,515 in 2008. Subtract $8,000 from that, and just from tuition and fees the school made about $5,500 per student, a margin of 41%. Add donated money like endowment funds, which are often intended to help undergraduate students, and the margins become even bigger.

Profits are similar at public institutions — only what schools don't get from tuition they make in state subsidies.

This is where Washington's policies come in.

Colleges have been able to achieve these stunningly high profit margins by radically increasing the prices they charge students. Inflation-adjusted tuition and fees have tripled in the last 30 years.

Politicians have enabled schools to charge these skyrocketing rates in the name, ironically, of helping students. Indeed, inflation-adjusted federal aid to students has quadrupled since 1980, going from $35.4 billion to approximately $146.5 billion. Meanwhile, total student debt has leapt ahead of total credit card debt, blowing past the $800 billion mark.

In other words, the feds have been blasting helium into the college-cost bubble, enabling profits — which, if driven by undistorted demand, could be good — to balloon at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Fortunately, since Washington has been a big part of the problem, it can be a major part of the solution. One relatively easy thing it can do is change financial aid rules that give schools sizable advantages over students when setting after-aid prices. Basically, when students apply for aid the feds give schools students' total financial pictures, enabling colleges to change their after-aid prices on a student-by-student basis. Students have no such insider knowledge about schools.

The politically tougher, but essential, move would be to phase out the big subsidies to students that enable schools to raise prices with impunity. That means reducing everything from Pell Grants, to cheap student loans, to tuition tax deductions.

The outcry would be that this will hurt students, an objection that would probably issue loudly from the people raging against the financial machine. But it would do the opposite, forcing schools to keep their prices in line with the real cost of providing education, and saving both students and taxpayers big bucks. And that is what everyone should want.


New law nationalizes science education standards

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB300, Oct. 8, which approves the forthcoming national science-curriculum standards and lays out the path for California to put them into effect in 2013. It is hard to think of something that could be more important than teaching the subject-matter of science well. California and American K-12 students need to learn science content that is the most rigorous in the world, and teachers need to teach K-12 science in the most effective way possible.

If Americans are going to create feats of engineering, invent cutting-edge technologies, make scientific discoveries, and work in a scientific-technological workplace, our students will need a science curriculum with a rigor and effectiveness as good as or better than that of top-performing foreign countries.

The brand-new law says that California’s science standards are to be based on those being created under the auspices of the federal government’s National Research Council (NRC) – but are as yet sight unseen.

I see three problems with the policy contained in California’s new law. The first is that the law would replace California’s top-rated science standards instead of updating them. The second is that the National Research Council has a history of promoting “fuzzy” science. The third is that the law furthers the nationalization of curriculum that is currently taking place across the country -- but under the radar of most parents and taxpayers.

California’s current science-curriculum standards were written under the supervision of nuclear scientist Glenn Seaborg. Seaborg was a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, chair of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), member of the “Nation at Risk” commission, president of the American Chemical Society, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discoverer of 10 elements, and adviser to 10 presidents, from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.

Governor Brown wants to discard Seaborg’s standards for pig-in-a-poke standards written behind closed doors by as-yet-unnamed science educators -- who are not going to be as knowledgeable and expert as Seaborg.

California’s science standards were given an A-rating (on an A-F scale by) by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. California got 97 out of 100 per cent, according Fordham’s reviewers, and its score was the highest rating of any state science standards in the country.

The Fordham review summed up by saying: “California has produced an exemplary set of standards for school science; there was no question among readers about the “A” grade.”

So the question naturally arises, why not just update the matters that need updating after a dozen or so years. The answer lies in the yearning of Progressive educators for “fuzzy science” and the drive under the administration of President Barak Obama to nationalize the public-school curriculum.

“Fuzzy science” is also called “discovery-based”or “inquiry-based” instruction, though it might better be termed excessively inquiry-based. The notion is that students will make scientific discoveries and construct scientific theories and ideas of their own with minimal guidance. This view of learning is sometimes called “constructivism.”

Contrary to those who hold this view, it is in fact crazy to expect K-12 students to reconstruct the scientific knowledge that scientists have accumulated over thousands of years. This is a method of teaching that objects to acquiring knowledge based on facts, disdains memorizing formulas and definitions, and resists mastering standard problem-solving techniques. In essence, inquiry-based instructions is the old Progressive Education approach of learn-through-play and follow-what-interests-the-student dressed up in new jargon.

The NRC has a long record of promoting fuzzy science. In 2000, the National Research Council published “Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards,” which – as the title suggests -- promoted “inquiry” as the best way to teach K-12 science.

Back in 1996, the NRC had published the “National Science Education Standards.” Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said at the time: These standards are “science as inquiry-based learning. And that's a major revolution.”

Inquiry, as laid out the NRC’s 1996 science standards, may only be inquiry "into authentic questions generated from student experiences." Hence, such NRC-style inquiry, as physicist Alan Comer wrote, is “very different” from traditional laboratory-based science, in which “students learn to systematically use methods and equipment appropriate to ends determined by the curriculum.” Here in the NRC’s earlier standards, we see an example in a new guise of the idea that teaching must follow-what-interests-the-student.

One has to conclude that the NRC has a history of proposing science curriculum that is based on discovery-learning and against learning facts and formulas. This method of teaching is not only wrong-headed; it has never been proven to be better than traditional subject-matter content and traditional teaching methods.

What are these new NRC new national science-curriculum standards that Governor Brown has committed California to? They don’t exist yet and will surely be somewhat different from the NRC’s 1996 standards. But there is evidence that the same spirit of “inquiry-based” Progressive Education will persist.

University of Virginia biologist Paul Gross has reviewed (for the Fordham Institute) the new NRC framework for its national science standards. He wrote that the new framework frequently writes about “scientific inquiry” and overlapping concepts. Gross notes that according to the NRC framework students will be taught that inquiry is an aspect of science to be distinguished from scientific facts.

But Gross asks what is “the evidence for [inquiry’s] separability (pedagogically speaking) from facts”? His answer: Such evidence is “thin to nonexistent in modern cognitive psychology.” In its devotion to Progressive Education’s inquiry-based learning, the NRC wants to impose on America’s classrooms an approach that isn’t backed by research psychology.

Gross criticizes the NRC framework for – like the NRC’s 1996 standards – not letting go of the subjectivist, “postmodern” view of how science really works. The 2011 framework relies on postmodern works of the 1980s and ‘90s that argue that scientists (and science as a community of scholars) cannot discover truth (that is, what really exists and is going on).

Instead, according to postmodernists (whom the new NRC framework references), “truth” is what influential people and power-wielders have imposed on society and enforced as culturally acceptable. The new NRC framework suggests that how-science-works should be taught to students not as a search to find out reliable truth about nature, but instead as power-brokerage and influence-peddling.

Judging by the framework for the new national science-curriculum standards, they will shun the concept of objective scientific truth and will instill Progressive Education teaching methods. To add insult to injury, the framework also promises teaching of science without using analytic mathematics.

Ze’ev Wurman, who worked on the California Mathematics Framework and the California Standards Commission, reviewed the new NRC science framework and zeroed in on the difficulty: The framework does not expect students to use analytical math in any K-12 science problem.

Brown University biologist Michael McKeown writes: “Only one formula or equation in [the NRC framework’s] 280 pages? So much for physics at even the simplest level. Chemistry is out. Imagine making solutions, doing dilutions, doing pH changes with out basic math skills.”

Why is the NRC science framework (and hence the forthcoming national standards) mathless? Math teacher Barry Garelick suggests that Progressive Educators believe that the quantitative aspect of science is “inauthentic,” so they don’t think it is valuable and won’t include it.

The result is, Wurman says, that the NRC science framework “simply teaches our students science appreciation, rather than science.” It expects America’s students to become “good consumers of science and technology,” rather than teaching them what is necessary for them to be the “discoverers of science and creators of technology.”

Having established that the forthcoming national science standards are going to deprecate mathematics, will be unfriendly to the idea of scientific objectivity, and will be locking in Progressive Education – we can turn to why these standards are “national.” (Previous curriculum standards have been developed and put into effect at the state level.)

What has happened is that some people have thought that America should have a European-style Ministry of Education at the national level, where the national government sets curriculum for all public schools and tests all public-school students. These people have been working to accomplish this for a long time. They reflexively believe that civic problems are best managed at the national level, and loss of local control is an insignificant price that citizens should happily pay.

These national aggrandizers pay lip service to social science, but the evidence does not show that countries with national curriculums do better that those with regional or state curriculums.

The NRC is part of the federal government, and its creation of the science framework and its sponsorship of the national standards themselves are welcomed by advocates of nationalization of K-12 schooling. Federally sponsored national science standards, like the national math and English standards, are a big step toward full nationalization in the European mode.

This nationalization is proceeding apace, under the radar of state legislators, members of Congress, taxpayers, and parents. It’s important, it deserves to be better known, and it deserves a broad public debate.


Rank pupils by their marks, not by grades: This would better distinguish stars at A-level, says British education boss

Pupils could be ranked on their raw exam marks under proposals to tackle grade inflation at A-level. Currently, the marks awarded to candidates are converted into grades.

However many employers and academics have complained it is too difficult to distinguish between pupils’ abilities as so many of them are awarded top grades.

Under measures outlined yesterday by Education Secretary Michael Gove, raw marks would instead be used to rank all pupils, allowing a clearer comparison of their ability.

In addition, Mr Gove is also looking at re-introducing a system that only allows a fixed percentage of pupils to get top grades.

The ranking data would be published in online tables and show whether a pupil came tenth in the country or 200,000th. This information could be accessed by employers, parents and pupils across the country and would enable youngsters to compare their performance with peers.

In addition schools, colleges and universities could use it to better differentiate between candidates. If introduced, the proposals would lead to the biggest shake-up of exams in 60 years – since the A-level was introduced in 1951.

Speaking at a conference on standards, organised by exams watchdog Ofqual, Mr Gove pledged to ensure grades reflect ability and to ‘tell the truth and shame the devil’.

While experts welcomed the plans, some critics claimed the emphasis on competition will place undue pressure, and possibly shame, on non-academic children with poor grades. It is not yet clear whether the ranking information would appear under pupils’ names, or if youngsters would be given individual reference numbers.

Mr Gove is also looking at reintroducing ‘norm referencing’, a grading system last used between 1963 and 1987. This would, for example, see just five per cent of candidates awarded an A* grade in maths.

In contrast, currently any student who gains an A overall as well as scoring at least 90 per cent in each of their papers in the second year achieves an A*. Mr Gove said this change would be suitable only for top grades.

Over the past two decades, exam pass rates have risen dramatically. Some 44 per cent of pupils obtained an A-level at C or above in maths in the early 1990s, compared with more than 55 per cent in 2008.

Mr Gove yesterday cited Burlington Danes Academy in west London, which has set up a system to rank pupils. The method sees pupils tested every half-term and given a ranking which is shared with the pupils, their parents and teacher. At the end of term the rankings, which have proved popular among parents and pupils, are published.

He said: ‘Is there a case for exam boards publishing more data about the performance of students, rather than less? It could be a completely wrong-headed idea. But I put it out there explicitly for debate.’

Professor Robert Coe, director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University, welcomed the move. He said: ‘We have the data to rank pupils so we should be doing so. Ranking is crucial to selecting candidates. Whole grades no longer give us enough information and lots of youngsters now get three A*s.’

A spokesman for exam board Edexcel said: ‘We know universities and employers want to get more detailed information about how students perform at A-level, and we think students would welcome more information on their achievements too.’

‘We welcome a conversation regarding the possible introduction of norm referencing for A* candidates, although we should not limit discussions to just one method of differentiating outcomes.’


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rethinking the teacher quality challenge

"Human capital" is quickly becoming the new "site-based management." While few are sure what it means, everyone craves it, has a model to deliver it, and is quick to tout its restorative powers. It's trendy and impressive sounding, but too often settles for recycling familiar nostrums or half-baked ideas in the guise of new jargon. Ensuring that "human capital" amounts to more than one more glorified fad requires confronting the full extent of the challenge with honesty and imagination.

Our schools are in a constant, unending race to recruit and then retain some 300,000 teachers annually. Given that U.S. colleges issue a grand total of perhaps 1.5 million four-year diplomas a year across all majors and disciplines, even non-mathematicians can see that our K-12 schools are seeking to recruit about one in five new college graduates into the teaching profession. No wonder shortages are endemic and quality a persistent concern.

It does not have to be this hard. Our massive, three-decade national experiment in class-size reduction has exacerbated the challenge of finding enough effective teachers. There are other options. Researchers Martin West and Ludger Woessmann have pointed out that several nations that perform impressively on international assessments, including South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan, boast average middle-school class sizes of more than 35 students per teacher. That compares to a national student-teacher ratio in the U.S. of less than 16 to 1, and average class sizes in the low to mid-twenties (our class sizes are so much larger than our student-teacher ratio because of how we deploy staff and the amount of non-instructional time built into teacher contracts).


'Savvy' parents will abuse new admissions rules, head warns

Which shows how hard it is for Brits to get their kids into a good State school

New-style admissions rules face being abused by “savvy” middle-class parents to force children into the most sought-after comprehensives, MPs were warned today.

An overhaul of the national admissions code could turn into a “huge bureaucratic monster” for schools as families use greater powers to flood head teachers with complaints, it was claimed.

The Commons education select committee was told that some parents already hired “QCs and barristers” to help them fight appeals after children failed to gain places.

But Rob McDonough, head of West Bridgford School, Notts, said that Coalition reforms – that allow families to make formal referrals directly to the national admissions watchdog – could lead to schools being inundated with large numbers of spurious grievances.

The comments come weeks before the publication of a new national admissions code dictating entry to thousands of state primary and secondary schools across England.

Under changes being proposed by the Government, schools will be able to effectively reserve places for the children of teachers and give priority to pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

In a key development, parents will also gain greater rights, including more time to lodge appeals. For the first time, families will also be able to shop a school directly to the Office for the Schools Adjudicator – the official admissions regulator – if they suspect head teachers of flouting national rules and selecting pupils “by the back door”.

But Mr McDonough warned that the move could lead to a flood of complaints from pushy parents. Giving evidence to MPs on Wednesday, he said: “Permitting everyone to go to the adjudicator will mean the system will grind to a halt.

“I can well envisage that a lot of parents out there – and particularly the savvy parents – are going to avail themselves of this new opportunity and see if it’s a means of actually another admissions route.”

Currently, parents can appeal against an admissions ruling if they believe children have been unfairly rejected. The appeal is normally heard by an independent panel of between three and five members of the public.

Mr McDonough – whose school is in a leafy suburb to the south of Nottingham – said he already had to “deal with a lot of very savvy parents” who turn up at appeals “with their QC and their barrister… to argue the prejudicial case”.

Under the revised, parents will also be able to complain directly to the official adjudicator, which has the power to force schools to rewrite their own admissions rules if they are unfair or lack clarity.

But Mr McDonough told MPs that parents "will make all sorts of referrals when actually our oversubscriptions criteria are perfectly legal and I can just see a huge bureaucratic monster coming into play”.

The proposed admissions code also allows academies and free schools to prioritise the poorest pupils. Children eligible for new “pupil premium” payments – those from families earning £16,000 or less – will be able to jump to the front of the queue for places.

But Mr McDonough said this system could also be abused by some parents.

“A lot of successful schools face, on a regular basis, fraudulent applications,” he told MPs. “And you could well have a situation of parents being eligible at one point in a child’s time for the pupil premium but then actually becoming no longer eligible but failing to inform appropriate authorities… because now there’s an incentive potentially of gaining a school place. “So there’s another means by which some parents can actually use the system for their advantage.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Under the new draft admissions code, ministers intend that to make it possible that anyone who considers a school’s admissions arrangements to be unfair or unlawful will be able to refer it to the Schools Adjudicator. "The fact is the adjudicator has always has the power to dismiss complaints about specific issues upon which he has already ruled.

“We have held an extensive consultation on the draft code and listened careful to the responses. The new code will be brought into force in February 2012, subject to the approval of Parliament.”


Some State education authorities raise concerns about the common Australian Curriculum prior to roll out

HUNDREDS of issues and concerns have been raised by Queensland education authorities about the Australian Curriculum just months before it rolls out in classrooms.

Concerns include how to teach numeracy across all areas of the curriculum, literacy primarily promoting formal grammar, an inappropriate expectation on Year 2 students to talk about conflict at home, and India and China being unnecessarily "preferentially identified".

The "issues and concerns" are cited in two reports written jointly by Education Queensland, the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Independent Schools Queensland and the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA).

The reports respond to an Australian Curriculum general capabilities draft and a request for feedback on the nature of the cross-curriculum priorities.

The general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities are part of every curriculum learning area.

A revised version of the general capabilities draft is expected to be released next month and state education authorities say they are confident the concerns won't affect the curriculum's delivery next year.

Concerns raised in the general capabilities report include: "It is not clear how to support numeracy as a general capability and teach numeracy within the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics."

Under literacy it states: "The structure primarily promotes formal grammar. Being literate requires more than the ability to correctly use formal grammar; being literate requires proficiency in the full range of literacy competencies."

Authorities also warn: "It is not appropriate for students by the end of Year 2 to be '. . . describing possible causes of conflict at home . . .' as this may be a highly sensitive area for some children."

In the cross-curriculum response, under "Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia", it states: "The preferential identification of China and India are unnecessary. By only highlighting two relationships we are sending inappropriate messages that favour growth over other factors."

A QSA spokesman said the general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities were designed to provide additional support for teachers and their considerations should not delay implementation of the Australian Curriculum.

"Queensland schools are still on track to successfully implement the Australian Curriculum from 2012," he said.

Education ministers from around Australia will meet on Friday to consider the curriculum's achievement standards. Education Minister Cameron Dick said Queensland supported the Australian Curriculum.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Job's belief in school choice

The death of Steve Jobs last week captured the attention of people not only around the nation but around the globe. While Jobs and his products are known worldwide, less well known, as Lori Drummer of the Independent Women’s Forum writes, was this innovator’s “passion” for educational opportunity via school choice.

As Jobs noted in a 1995 interview with the Smithsonian Institution: “Equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great education.” He added that “the customers of education” are ultimately “the parents” and that “what we need to do in education is go to the full voucher system.” He stated:
I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher…several things would happen. Number one[,] schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting…. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is…the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise.

Jobs reported that, if his own educational experience hadn’t been positive, “if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I would have absolutely ended up in jail.”

Unfortunately, far too many students today are not so lucky. Stuck in underperforming and all too frequently violent schools, students are left with little hope for a promising future.

And it isn’t just students in the inner cities who are affected by underperforming schools. A study released just two weeks ago by Jay P. Greene and Josh McGee reveals that many schools in even the most affluent districts perform at only an average level compared with students around the world.

However, school children who have had the opportunity to receive a voucher and leave their underperforming neighborhood schools say that school choice has made a big difference in their lives. For example, Ronald Holassie, a recipient of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship—a voucher program for low-income children in Washington, D.C.—testified in 2009:
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has changed my life and has made me the successful young man standing before you now.… The program gave me a chance to…be in a different high quality learning environment…. My study habits increased, I had better grades, I began to know my high expectations academically and I began to soar to success.

More state leaders are catching the school choice vision shared by not only Steve Jobs but education reformers and families around the country. These leaders understand that solving the nation’s education problems is not impossible, but as Jobs noted in 1995, although “we fall far short,” currently, “we do know how to provide a great education.”

Americans mourn the loss of a great innovator whose creativity and ingenuity impacted millions around the world. Let’s not be left to mourn the loss of the unfulfilled potentials and dreams of children around the nation who are so in need of educational opportunity.


Reading skills of English teens 'worse than the Chinese' as study finds they lag behind by a year-and-a-half

The reading standards of English teenagers have been condemned following a respected survey that found they lag a year-and-a-half behind their Chinese peers.

Ministers will warn today of a ‘stark gulf’ between the ability of 15-year-olds here and those from other leading countries.

Their concern follows the analysis of an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study showing English teens are 18 months behind Chinese of the same age and one year behind those from South Korea and Finland.

They also languish at least six months behind their counterparts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

The analysis underlines the scale of improvements needed to put English teens on a parity in reading with teens from, for example, Shanghai.

At present, 55 per cent of state school pupils in England get at least five A* to C grades at GCSE – including English and maths. This would need to increase to 77 per cent. It follows a damning survey by the OECD, which showed that England has fallen in the international tables over the past nine years. In reading, we have gone from seventh to 25th, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science.

Schools minister Nick Gibb condemned the poor level of standards.

He blamed it on an education system and a society that has placed little importance on reading for pleasure. He said that nearly 40 per cent of English pupils never did so, adding those who read for fun for just 30 minutes a day are typically one year of schooling ahead.

‘The gulf between our 15-year-olds’ reading abilities and those from other countries is stark – a gap that starts to open in the very first few years of a child’s education,’ said Mr Gibb. ‘The Government’s focus on raising standards of reading in the early years of primary school is key to closing that gap.’

He added: ‘Our writers – Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, George Orwell and Ian McEwan – are the finest in the world. It is time we are also among the best readers in the world.’

Today’s figures are from a Department for Education analysis of the Programme for International Student Assessment, conducted by OECD in 2009.

Entitled How Big is the Gap?, the DfE research highlights how far England slipped behind other nations in reading under Labour.

In reading, 20 countries scored significantly higher than England, with China top. England was also out-scored by Estonia, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia. In science, China again leads the rankings. Estonia and Australia are among the nine other countries significantly ahead of England’s 15-year-olds.

Mr Gibb said the Coalition has introduced a series of measures to raise standards. ‘We are bringing in a new spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary test for 11-year-olds and are re-introducing marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar in relevant GCSE exams. ‘We are introducing a phonics check for six-year-olds, so those with reading problems can be identified ... and given extra help they need to catch up.’


Australia: Hatred of non-government schools at work?

A lot of Leftists resent the fact that non-government schools get varying degrees of financial support from the Federal government

A GIPPSLAND Catholic school is questioning whether it is being discriminated against by being banned from a generations-old community campground. The St Kieran’s school community in Moe is gutted by a decision by government-run Somers School Camp to allow only state schools to access Woorabinda School Camp in Yallourn North from next year.

The camp said today its priority was for government schools programs, but hinted today that Catholic and Independent could still have access on weekends and school holidays.

St Kieran’s acting principal Lisa Broeren said children from the low-income area would have nowhere else to go if shut out from the local camp. “I guess why we’re so upset is it’s the kids’ parents and grandparents here who actually built it, and it’s their family members who ran it all those years and now they’re saying ‘bad luck’. And we’d like to say ‘bad luck’s just not good enough’,” Ms Broeren, who also attended the camp as a child, said.

She questioned Somers’ motive for shutting independent schools out of the facility. “We would just love to know what their justification is – is it discrimination against Catholic schools?,” she said.

A letter to the school from Somers School Camp Principal Denise Anthony says Woorabinda is now funded to provide educational programs for state government school students across Victoria. “You can see that Woorabinda has changed and although Catholic and independent schools, such as St Kieran’s, will not have access past the end ... ,” Ms Anthony says in the June letter.

Today, Ms Anthony rejected claims of discrimination, telling the the move to only allow public schools to use the site was not discriminatory, and stressed Catholic and independent schools had known of the move since the site was taken over by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in April last year.

“Since 2010 the landscape has completely changed – Woorabinda was once a quasi-private camp, who opened its doors to everybody because they needed to get support in the local area, and they also needed to raise funds to self-manage. “The Department of Education now owns and operates this site, which means we have a commitment to provide programs to government primary school students,” she said.

She said it may be possible for the independent and Catholic schools to use the site on weekends and during school holidays, “but with being a fully-funded government primary school, we can’t provide programs for the government sector and for the private sector at the same time.”

“I believe that we are doing our job as a government primary school by providing high quality education programs to the people that we are meant to be providing to. In other words: the Department of Education, the State Government is funding us to provide programs to State Government students,” she said.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development funded several infrastructure improvements to the camp in the past year.

Somers School Camp provides an outdoor education program for children in Years Five and Six, for nine days a year on the Mornington Peninsula. It includes activities like bush cooking, orienteering and ropes courses.

Children have written to state and federal ministers, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard – as well as the media – in a plea to stop the shut out.

In a letter to the Herald Sun, Year 6 student Matthew Pearce said the Catholics were being discriminated against. “Are they destroying the dreams of the next generation? Well St Kieran’s Catholic Primary School Moe thinks they are,” the letter reads.

"Because Somers are not letting Catholic and private schools attend Woorabinda school camp. Would you like to know why? Just because they can and they want to, which is pure discrimination against Catholics. "We are not living in the 1800s, when people were judged by their religion or the colour of their skin."

A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said the minister would be asking the Department of Education to look into the matter.

Parent Melissa Ballantine, who attended the camp as a child, said her youngest son, Jaxon, would miss out on the camp because of the ruling. “The kids are gutted, the parents are gutted, the whole school community - we just can’t see how it’s fair to these kids, should all kids have access to these things,” Ms Ballantine said.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

America's universities and colleges have destroyed America

By mocking ideas of right and wrong

Mike Adams

Son, you sure ask tough questions, but I’ll try my best to answer. Having lived a long life (and seen America at both its highest and lowest points) I think I have some insights. Many of those insights came from my parents, rather than mere experience. My mother was the first one to tell me that America would fall from the inside as a result of moral decline – not from some outside threat. She first told me that during the Cold War. I didn’t believe her then, but time has shown just how prescient she was.

I suppose the fall of America could best be traced to a failure to grasp one simple idea; namely, that ideas have consequences. Of course, that also means that bad ideas have very bad consequences.

Most of America’s very bad ideas were born on our college campuses. In fact, they were nurtured during the time that America was strongest. That was some time after the fall of the Soviet Union when we were the world’s lone superpower. The ideas took a while to sink into the larger society. Few people realized what Lincoln knew in the mid-nineteenth century; namely, that one could look at our campuses at any time and see what the culture would look like in twenty years. The larger social consequences of ideas are often delayed by many years.

The first dangerous idea embraced by postmodern America was the idea that one has the right to negate other ideas simply because they cause discomfort. This idea gained acceptance on our college campuses right after the fall of the Soviet Union. It resulted in a weakening of the character of the average college student. In fact, it served a counter-evolutionary function in the sense that it guaranteed that the ideas of the weakest students would be the ones to survive in the intellectual marketplace. It also did much to extinguish humility as a character trait among educated people.

The idea that one has a right to negate ideas simply because one is uncomfortable is narcissistic. Our speech codes reinforced that bad trait while simultaneously reinforcing the bad ideas that accompany it. Unsurprisingly, civility in discourse began to decline in the age of speech codes. It was an Orwellian development. The Ministers of Peace were becoming the Ministers of the Cultural Wars.

It was not long before these students began to assert their “right to be unoffended” in a proactive way. Instead of waiting for speech that might offend them, they actively sought it out. They joined groups that held ideas contrary to their own - and did so knowingly. After joining these groups they asserted a right to lead the groups that were advancing the ideas they found to be objectionable. When the groups predictably sought to exclude them, they claimed to be victims of discrimination. The universities supported them in their efforts to ban belief requirements in all organizations, particularly religious organizations. Oddly, in the age of diversity, all the groups began to look the same. They believed in nothing. Their leaders believed in nothing. They had no common cause that required strength in numbers. There was no more need to associate.

Eventually, the students had to leave campus and fend for themselves in the real world. When they did so, they realized churches and other organizations operated by principles foreign to them. They relied on antiquated ideas that had not been taught on the campuses in years. The churches required adherence to core beliefs for membership. The requirements were even more restrictive for deacons, elders, and other positions of leadership. Many were excluded. Many were determined to bridge the gap between the academy and the society-at-large.

So they proceed on a theory they learned at the university. Whenever Christian organizations sought to receive student funding, the university would tell them to set aside the “discriminatory” practice of demanding that all members, or just officers, believe in something. This demand was made despite the fact that the university funding came in the form of the fees students had paid only because the administration made them. The process involved three steps:

1. Administration charges fees.

2. Religious groups ask for their money back.

3. Administration forces group to abandon beliefs in order to get back fees they were forced to pay.

If students refused to renounce their religious beliefs, the university kept the money. In other words, the “mandatory student fee” was a misnomer. It was actually a “tax on orthodox beliefs.”

This method was later modified in order to deal with churches that required belief statements for membership, or for church leadership positions. Since they were paying no taxes, they were seen as being “given something” by the government. So the government decided that tax breaks for churches must be contingent. If the church “discriminated” on the basis of belief, they would no longer be given a tax exemption. In other words, they would be taxed only if they believed in something.

Liberal churches, on the other hand, continued to get tax breaks because they believed in nothing. So they survived. This was also counter-evolutionary in the sense that they were doing poorly before the government interfered with the religious marketplace. They were also the churches populated by the easily offended. In this way, churches preaching Mere Christianity lost their ability to survive and to influence the culture.

After that, the notion of truth still survived. But it lacked an objective basis. It was seen as a mere struggle for power among warring factions. They learned their tactics in the Ivory Tower. Truth is not transcendent. It must be won at the edge of the sword or the point of a gun. And so they took to the streets.

The groups had but one thing in common: They knew the old ideas had to go. But they were not sure what would replace them. They had no exit strategy. And so they eventually consumed themselves.


Three quarters of British bosses say graduates are not fit for work

Three out of four bosses say school leavers and graduates lack the basic skills needed to join the workforce.

A poll of some of Britain’s biggest businesses, such as HSBC, Santander, KPMG and Procter & Gamble, found widespread despair with the quality of potential recruits.

Many young people turn up for interviews ‘without the vital employability skills that employers are looking for’, such as punctuality and a general ‘can-do’ attitude.

The research was carried out by the Young Enterprise charity. Its chairman Ian Smith said: ‘The situation is getting worse because the Department for Education is adopting an alarmingly narrow focus on academic skills and exams. ‘This will make it less likely that students emerge from education with these employability skills.’

As a result, Britain’s top bosses say they have no option but to recruit foreign workers, or to shift work abroad to overseas subsidiaries.

Young Enterprise says the recruitment crisis affects everybody from 16-year-old school leavers to university graduates in their early 20s.

Asked to identify which skills were lacking in their new recruits, one said ‘too many to list’, before adding: ‘Commercial awareness, written and spoken English to a high enough level, technical skills, inter-personal skills, you name it.’

Another said: ‘Basic literacy in maths and English. Soft skills – how to behave in an office or professional environment.’

The criticism follows similar repeated attacks on standards from business lobby groups. In August, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said bosses prefer foreign workers to British school leavers because they have a more ‘positive’ attitude.The report said employers have ‘concerns about the employability of young people’, but are ‘eager’ to hire migrant workers because they love their attitude and their skills.

The British Chambers of Commerce said many school leavers and graduates with ‘fairly useless’ degrees are unemployable because they lack basic skills.

Its report, published in the summer, warned: ‘Too many people [are] coming out with fairly useless degrees in non-serious subjects.’

When asked about their concerns, bosses were critical of some of the most basic skills. The report states: ‘In general, younger people lack numeric skills, research skills, ability to focus and read plus written English.’

One unnamed entrepreneur told researchers: ‘Plenty of unemployed, mostly without experience in my sector. The interpersonal skills of some labour interviewed in the past have been very poor.’

Earlier this year, it was also revealed Britain has become the ‘Neet’ capital of Western Europe, having more young people out of work or education than even Romania.

Only four of the 27 European Union nations have more poorly educated and unskilled young people. In just five years, 12 EU countries have overhauled Britain and now have fewer youngsters without qualifications.

For the latest study, Young Enterprise polled 28 major companies and professional bodies, which are their main corporate sponsors, such as Accenture, BT and GKN.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We share the concerns of many businesses that too many of our young people leave school without the necessary skills – in particular in the basics of English and maths. That’s why we are prioritising them.’


Britain's millionaires mostly went to state schools

The discussion below is a bit careless. 28% of millionaires went to private schools. But because only 7% of Brits go to private school, the figures mean that ex-private pupils were 4 times more likely to become millionaires than others

Self-made millionaires are more likely to have gone to state school and the University of London than private school and Oxford or Cambridge, new research has found.

Almost 72 per cent of millionaires attended state schools while the balance went to private schools, according to research by Skandia, a branch of insurer Old Mutual.

Of the millionaires who attended university, 11 per cent went to the University of London while 8 per cent went to Oxford and 5.5 per cent went to Cambridge.

The findings are revealed in a study of 549 people with “net investable assets” of £1 million or over, Skandia said.

Of the sample, almost 60 per cent of the millionaires were male and more than half were under the age of 50. However the survey found that more women than men had net assets of over £3 million.

Almost a third of the millionaires said that Government policies – such as high taxes – are the biggest threat to their wealth. This compared to a fifth who said that they see a stock market crash or economic uncertainty as the biggest threat to their wealth.

In a sign that the Government’s 50 per cent tax rate is driving wealth-creators overseas, more than half of the millionaires said that they plan to or would consider emigrating abroad.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Character and Education

When I went to City College fifty-something years ago, ALL of my friends finished school within four years, unless they were interrupted by army or medical problems. Students who had financial or family problems went to school at night and worked during the day and they naturally took longer, but of all the people I knew, 0 full-time day students required six or seven years to complete an undergraduate degree.

One reason that everyone went through college pro forma is that they went through the first 12 grades of their education in the same way, except for those who finished in less time because of rapid advance classes and skipping grades.

A series of small things characterized our academic experiences. Students didn’t wear sneakers to school and neither students nor teachers wore jeans or any other informal clothing. School was a place where you lined up in size places to move through the hall quietly and where you raised your hand and waited to be called upon before speaking in class. You sat at your own desk and took responsibility for your own work. Cheating was a serious and punishable offense – as was gum chewing.

We still memorized the multiplication table and we learned to recite whole poems by heart. Our report cards reflected our achievements at “good citizenship” as well as scholarship, and teachers graded us on such things as “works & plays well with others” and “needs more self-control. “

Most children lived in a family headed by their married, biological parents. Homework was checked by the teacher and handed back with comments requiring correction. School represented authority to which you respectfully deferred or paid the penalty in two places. For children of immigrants in particular, school also represented a privilege for which you were meant to feel grateful and appreciative. Your expected payback was to work as hard as you could.

And then came the sixties when pedagogy capitulated to the generation it was supposed to lead. Just about everything mentioned in the previous paragraph was reversed and the consequences are still reverberating through every level of academia. Schools adopted the mantra of creativity and self-expression as opposed to rote learning, discipline and hard work. They became the primary laboratory for social engineering until eventually, political correctness supplanted reason and students were admitted to schools to balance the rainbow without regard to whether they could handle the curriculum.

Everyone was pushed forward regardless of ability or accomplishment so that today, the majority of college freshmen need remediation in order to do the bare minimum of their coursework. And because it wasn’t necessary to work as hard as before, students grew lazier as schools became more complacent until we ended up with college students who require high school tutoring – in over their heads till they realize how hopeless the situation is and drop out.

And now, because we have removed the source of anxieties that used to exist for children whose work was red-penciled, criticized, revised and graded – we have ended up with children who suffer no pangs of conscience as they cheat (and freely admit to it), plagiarize from the readily available internet and lack that requisite sense of guilt and shame that acts as both internal brake on anti-social behavior and strong deterrent to poor performance.

Cheating and plagiarizing have always been a part of the educational system but the cavalier attitude that they’re no big whoop is new. Cheating used to consist of copying from another student’s paper (usually without consent); now it has morphed into the type of industry where one student can earn thousands of dollars for faking multiple I.D.’s and taking the SAT’s for his shiftless friends. Cheating also extends to faculty and administration altering test scores so that their schools attain the necessary performance records to stay in business.

A recent Sunday Times magazine article detailed the efforts of the headmaster at the Riverdale Country School and one at a KIPP charter school to instill the concept of character as a necessary adjunct to success in school and life. One of the techniques is posting bold messages throughout school buildings with such exhortations as Be Nice, Work Hard, There Are No Shortcuts (at KIPP) and at Riverdale a charter-education program called CARE with such underlying touchy-feely sentiments as “Be aware of other people’s feelings and find ways to help those whose feelings have been hurt.”

Educators are just waking up to that old-fashioned notion that self-control is a pivotal factor in children’s ability to be productive at school. The old list of citizenship categories that disappeared from report cards decades ago has been retrieved and recast as slogans or lessons in sensitivity. Pop psychology has replaced morality, manners and decorum as the paradigm for measuring character.

There’s an old joke about the woman who brings her husband to a psychiatrist to stop his fetish for tearing paper into tiny pieces. She informs the doctor that the patient has already been to several other doctors without success. At the end of the hour, she returns to pick her husband up and within a day realizes that he’s been cured. She calls the psychiatrist the next day to find out how he was able to do it. He responds, “I just walked him back and forth, constantly telling him, Stop Doing That! Stop It, Stop It, Stop It Right Now!”

Schools stopped exercising that kind of authority long ago as the focus on students’ individual rights trumped the need for teachers to maintain classroom order. But the molding of character is something that evolves in small building blocks from toddler-hood on – much like the development of language. If children don’t hear sufficient language for the formative years of development, they cannot compensate for that deprivation with immersion in language later on.

Similarly, if children have not been raised with consistent lessons of right and wrong, with insistence on honesty, respect for others, discipline, hard work, delayed gratification, carrots and sticks – no amount of sloganeering on school walls can fill that fundamental void. Character is formed as an accretion of observed and learned behavior and parental and societal demands. For many of today’s children, middle class home life is chaotic as parents have lost the rudder of common sense in navigating a path between an overly permissive, media-saturated landscape and schools that worry more about diversity than educational content.

For other children, home life is a single female parent raising children without a father, a sure predictor of dropping out of school and future poverty. The one truism that does apply to our current situation is that there are no shortcuts. Without the restoration of parental and school authority, without the insistence on an honest work ethic without grade inflation, without a return to the fundamental mastery of reading, writing and arithmetic there can be no change in our bankrupt educational system. And in a society with fewer and fewer jobs for unskilled labor, the main statistic that will steadily grow is that of the unemployed and worse – the permanently unemployable.


British Special needs teacher wins five-year battle to clear name over unfounded sex and race claims

Bitchy female accuser

A teacher who was accused of abusing the special-needs pupils in her care has been cleared of all charges after an agonising five year fight.

A former colleague of Alison Addison, 51, who taught at the Russett School, a special school near Northwich, Cheshire claimed the teacher had physically abused children, used racist words in the classroom and had sex with the caretaker in the school pool.

She was finally cleared by the General Teaching Council for England last month when it ruled that her accusers were 'not to be relied on', it was reported in The Sunday Telegraph.

Ms Addison's ordeal started when she was suspended from the post she had held for 15 years over the claims made by another member of staff on her birthday in June 2006.

It was alleged that she had force-fed peas to children with severe learning difficulties, strapped them into buggies, deliberately tipped them up, used inappropriate discipline, talked about sex in front of pupils and staff and verbally abused children by swearing and using racist language.

The first claims were made in an anonymous phone call to the NSPCC, which it passed to Cheshire County Council prompting a police investigation.

Ms Addison who had been teaching for 24 years told The Sunday Telegraph: 'When the head teacher, who was a good friend, called me over she had a strange look on her face. 'When I got to the office there was a Cheshire county council official sitting on the sofa and I was told I was suspended. 'Disbelief was my overwhelming feeling. I didn't know the details of the allegations and I didn't find out for another four months.' 'The list of things made me look like a monster.

Sue Foy, 49, a trainee teacher who was a teaching assistant in Ms Addison's class, had said in the staffroom that she disliked the teacher and disagreed with her methods.

She denied calling the NSPCC but told police she had caught Ms Addison having intercourse with the caretaker, Phil Abbott, 53, in a cupboard, on the head teacher's desk and in the hydro-pool, used to treat severely disabled pupils, it was reported in The Sunday Telegraph. Retired Mr Abbott denied the claims.

Ms Addison, 51, a divorced mother of a grown-up son, said: 'The list of things made me look like a monster. 'I was good friends with the caretaker, whose wife had just died of cancer. I hugged him in a corridor one day, but to suggest these things – it was appalling and outrageous.'

She started a new job selling beauty products, at a chemist where she met human resources management specialist Emma Kate Lomax, a customer who became determined to help her clear her name. Mrs Lomax knew the evidence against Ms Addison was suspect because in 2009 the Independent Safeguarding Authority had ruled that she should not be barred from working with children.

In May, a week-long GTC hearing received further warnings that the accusations were false.

Last week Mrs Foy, who now manages a charity nursery in Didsbury, Manchester, stood by her claims, telling the Sunday Telegraph: 'I don't know why the GTC didn't believe my evidence'. 'I felt I had to do something for the sake of the children, who could not speak up for themselves.'


Poor students to get expert tuition from top British private schools

Poor teenagers will be given expert tuition by teachers from Britain’s top private schools under a significant expansion of the Government’s controversial free school programme.

Staff from Eton, Highgate, City of London School and Brighton College will lead lessons at a new sixth-form college being established in east London, it is announced today(MON).

The college will focus on tough A-level subjects such as maths, science, history and geography in an attempt to push more disadvantaged teenagers into top universities.

The project is among a wave of 55 new taxpayer-funded “free schools” to be given approval by the Government today.

Under the scheme, parents groups, charities, faith organisations and entrepreneurs are given cash to open their own state school free of local authority interference. They get almost complete control over admissions, the curriculum, staff appointments, length of the school day and shape of the academic year.

The first 16 free schools – including primaries, secondaries and all-through establishments for three- to 18-year-olds – opened last month.

Today, the Department for Education will announce that another eight will open in 2012, with more being given outline approval to open after that.

This includes England’s first state-funded bilingual primary school that aims to teach in English for half of the time and Spanish for the rest.

In a further move, a new sixth-form college – the London Academy of Excellence – will be set up in a deprived area of the East End.

The college – which will eventually teach 400 students – is being backed by 11 independent schools in the south-east, led by Brighton College.

Staff from Eton will take responsibility for the teaching of English, while Highgate School will take the lead in maths and City of London will teach PE, it was revealed.

In a statement, Brighton College said: “Only 12 ‘hard’ subjects will be offered; students will not be able to take media studies, food technology or sociology, for example. Instead they will be choosing from the likes of maths, physics, chemistry or history.

“This is to be a robustly academic institution. With expert pastoral care and careful university guidance, the aim is to secure places for the students at the very top universities.”

All students attending the college will be required to wear business-like suits and the school day will last until 5pm. All students will be required to work in the community for half a day each week.

In a further announcement, the Government will today propose the establishment of 13 new-style University Technical Colleges.

Under the plans, pupils will be able to opt out of mainstream schools at the age of 14 to enrol at a technical college and learn a trade.

The institutions – also opening from 2012 onwards – will teach a range of courses including engineering, motor skills and business, alongside mainstream subjects.

One of the UTCs will be established at Silverstone, the Formula One circuit in Northamptonshire, and specialise in high-performance engineering, motorsports and event management and hospitality. It will be co-sponsored by Tresham College of Further and Higher Education.

Two UTCs have already opened in England – including one sponsored by heavy plant manufacturers JCB – with a further three in development.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Abolish the Department of Education

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has produced a masterful 626-page document dissecting federal spending and recommending cuts of about $9 trillion. Called “Back in Black,” it was released in July and, unfortunately, has been largely under the radar. Let’s hope the six senators and six representatives on the Special Joint Committee charged with federal deficit reduction will give it careful scrutiny.

Coburn’s template for identifying areas to cut, generally speaking, was functionality--whether the federal program is accomplishing what was intended by the legislation creating it.

But here’s another thought: How about using whether the federal government had the constitutional power to enact the federal program in the first place? If that power is not in the Constitution, a program should be abolished.

Take the Department of Education, for example. The time is right to abolish it as unconstitutional.

Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to fund education. The federal government tried to justify it to the U.S. Supreme Court indirectly under the Commerce Clause in 1995, by saying young people with high-quality educations foster interstate commerce, but the Court rejected that argument. The Court said the government can lawfully regulate only “commercial” activities under that Clause. Commercial activities may sometimes affect local public education, but education itself is not commercial and thus not subject to federal regulation.

President George W. Bush, of course, famously ignored that holding when he advocated and signed “No Child Left Behind.” Its goal was to improve the educational performance of American students in return for more federal funding. With NCLB an abject failure, now the Obama administration is offering the states “waivers” from its student-testing based standards in return for promises of increased student and teacher performance--and accepting the administration’s preferred mandates. NCLB’s legality is questionable under the Constitution, but Congress has passed it, so it is also legally questionable whether the Obama administration can repeal it by administrative fiat and impose new and different conditions from those in the NCLB law.

Nobody likes NCLB. Congress can’t agree on a reauthorization. Obama wants to write a new law he thinks is better. What’s best, though, is to just get rid of it and get the federal government out of education entirely.

Coburn suggests reducing federal elementary and high school funding and turning it into block grants. But abolishing federal funding, or at least phasing it out over time, isn’t unthinkable. Though federal funding of local public education has more than doubled since 1970, in 2007–08 it comprised just 8.2 percent of per-pupil school spending. Since then, outcomes not only have not improved--they have gotten worse.

“Back in Black” states, “While some policymakers have been successful in creating the message that increased funding and additional programs can serve as an elixir to the significant shortcomings in our education system, our nation’s students have been cheated by both an ineffective federal bureaucracy and an uncertain future of burdensome debt. If the answer were simply to provide more funding, the results from the enormous financial contributions we have made to date would be evident.”

In 2012, Coburn’s report says, about $200 billion in federal funds will by spent by the Department of Education to administer 230 programs. The list is mindboggling. It includes: Early Reading First, Striving Readers, Reading First, Reading Is Fundamental, Even Start, Head Start, Early Head Start, Homeless Education, Native Hawaiian Education, Alaska Native Education, Rural Education, Indian Education, Historic Whaling and Trading Partners etc. ...

And the kids still can’t read.

Getting the federal government out of local schools can only make schools better by returning them to local control and saving them from costly federal mandates.

Early in our nation’s history, state constitutions included provisions for state publicly funded education. The nation’s founders could have included such a provision in our Constitution. They did not, and there was good reason why.

School boards are elected locally. They set curriculum and hire teachers and administrators. If students are not being adequately educated, parents and the community have recourse at the polls. Local control is why the founders stayed away from education as a federal responsibility. It’s time for people to take back that power.


CAIR Spreads Islamic Propaganda in Florida Approved English Textbook

The war for the “Heart” of America (our children) in accordance with the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood has taken another bold step forward, one which has apparently gone undetected by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and other education officials.

While Islamic Indoctrination in America’s public school textbooks has been detailed in reports by groups like ACT for America, American Textbook Council, and most recently a report by Citizens For National Security (CFNS) which cites over 200 false or misleading excerpts in (27) twenty seven of Florida’s approved History and Social Studies textbooks, this is the first time to our knowledge of Islamic propaganda being reported in an English textbook.

The textbook “Elements in Literature” fourth course by Holt, Rinehart and Winston (ISBN 10:0-03-099302-4) is currently being used by Hilliard Middle-High School in Nassau County, a state of Florida approved textbook.

The lesson is based on an article “Islam in America” by Patricia Smith of the New York Times. A concerned school employee, who requested anonymity, brought this textbook to the local ACT! for America – Jacksonville Chapter for review. What immediately caught our eye was Ihsan Bagby, the Professor of Islamic Studies referenced in the article.

In other words, he states Muslims can’t be loyal American Citizens. Then consider CAIR was designated a Muslim Brotherhood front group and the Palestine Committee (HAMAS) by a federal judge in largest terrorism funding trial in U.S. history (U.S. vs HLF). CAIR members were sentenced up to 65 Years in Prison as a result.

While the message is subtle, the author starts by portraying Sana Haq, a 17 year old Muslim girl as all-American, and then explains as an observant Muslim she prays five times per day, which makes her different. Detailing how shopping for jeans could take a week to find a pair which meets her definition of “decent” and although she is not allowed to date, she has male friends. Sana goes on to tell how Islam affects every aspect of her life, “If you ask me to describe myself in one word, that word would be Muslim”… “Not American, not Pakistani, not a teenager. Muslim. It’s the most important thing to me.”

The next paragraph informs the students that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S., and estimates Muslim demographics in America between 1.5 and 9 million.

It is interesting how the author or anyone could determine Islam as the fastest growing religion with such a wide guestimate in regard to Muslim demographics? Reflecting on this and the images chosen, the author knowingly or not promotes one Muslim Brotherhood agenda of exaggerating the size and political clout of the Islamic community in America. More accurate estimates actually place the Muslim population in the U.S between 2.5 and 3.5 Million.

Some American Muslims are in fact secular, just as there are secular Jews and Christians. However, after a quick review of this text, those knowledgeable in Islamic Doctrine quickly realizes Sana by all appearances is Sharia compliant. This is reinforced by her statement “I am Muslim” and “not American, not Pakistani, but Muslim”. Sana is portrayed as a devout Muslim, as such; her allegiance must be to the Ummah (Islamic community/nation) and the supremacy of Islamic law and not the Constitution or man-made law in accordance with Sharia. Ihsan Bagby and Sana Haq seem to share this allegiance.

In contrast, students are given the impression Sana, is just like any other American, with the exception that as a Muslim, she is more “Modest” and “Decent” then most of her western friends, and she dresses this way by her own volition and not as a religious requirement.

The next section titled “Contrast with Europe” opens by praising the cultural advances Muslims have made in America, their high voting record, and successful integration as opposed to their European counterparts who remain on the economic and political fringes, briefly mentioning that Muslims rioted in many French cities in 2005.

The author uses Dearborn, Michigan, (a city with one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in America) as her shining example of integration, and another human interest piece about a senior high football player giving a glowing detail about his requirement to fast during Ramadan. Hassan ends with the statement “When you start your day off fasting…..At the end of the day you know you’ve work hard, you know you’ve been faithful….. After fasting all day, you feel like a warrior.”

Surely Patricia Smith is wishing she had looked into her crystal ball or consulted a medium prior to using Dearborn as an example of Islamic “integration” in America. Many controversies emanating from Dearborn have come to light in recent years, to include at each of the past three “Arab Fest” in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. The City of Dearborn was recently embarrassed for a second time, when it lost a lawsuit as a result of unconstitutional actions taken by Dearborn police at Arab Fest to silence Christian citizens. The incidents were caught on video with “integrated” Arab crowds cheering this First Amendment violation in the background.

It is becoming increasing clear the Islamic community in Dearborn, is much more aligned with their European counter parts who dwell in many of the 750 huddles/No-go zones in France, as well as those in other European cities occupied by Muslims who refuse to “Integrate”. Muslims who are demanding Sharia law become the law of the land. This may or may not be representative of the mindset of the majority of American Muslims; however the reality of the situation in Dearborn combined with those Muslims with influence in the American mainstream is quite disturbing.

The final and most offensive Section “Impact of 9/11” – is a tired restatement of Muslim victimhood following 9/11 with absolutely no mention of the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day at the hands of Muslims, and no condemnation, and no mention of tens of thousands of attacks in the name of Allah since that day.

Bagby states on one hand “September 11 exposed American Muslims for the first time to a large degree of hostility”, “that many young Muslims spend a lot of time correcting common “Misperceptions” about Islam: that it condones terrorism (it doesn’t); and that it denies women equal rights (it doesn’t though many majority-Muslim cultures and countries do)”.

Professor Bagby uses truth, partial truth (Islamic doctrine of Kitman), and deception (Islamic doctrine of Taqiyya/holy deception) to lead the child to the conclusion that Muslims in America are greatly persecuted and misunderstood by Americans.

Now the facts: While it is true there was an increase in hate crimes in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, American’s as a whole were cautious not to offend Islam or Muslims, as demonstrated in speeches by President Bush and other leaders, yet there is no discussion of this?

According to FBI statistics, hate crimes against Muslims and Christians are almost equivalent, ranging between 4-9%, quite insignificant in comparison to Jews, the real victims with stats ranging between 66-71.8% each year since 9/11. Yet Children are left with the impression that Muslims are a victim class, despite the fact Jews, lesbians, gays, and Caucasian males have higher rates of hate crimes perpetrated against them each year.

In the lesson Professor Bagby, then tells our children Muslims do not condone terrorism. While he is doctrinally correct, this statement is deceptive and misleading. Terrorism as defined under authoritative Islam is the UNJUST killing of a MUSLIM only, so while his statement is technically correct, it does not apply to non-Muslims killed on 9/11. Killing Innocent Human Beings is also condemned under Islamic Law, however non-Muslims are excluded because they are guilty in the eyes of Islam, merely for the fact they are not Muslim.

Bagby’s inference that Islam offers women equality is completely counterfactual. Islam recognizes no equality between religion, gender, nor Muslim and non-Muslim.

Regarding women: The inheritance of a female Muslim is ½ that of a male, her testimony in court is ½ that of a male, a husband may divorce her by simply saying “I divorce you” three times and he keeps all property and any children, women must petition the court for a divorce which is seldom granted, a husband my take his wife by force if she refuses to submit, a husband may beat his wife, and more in accordance with Sharia law derived from the Noble Koran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet, again none of this is discussed in the lesson.

Islamic outreach has been a one way street, one which has made America a very dangerous place. Consider Shabbir Mansouri, Founder and Director of the Council on Islamic Education (CIE), which is virtually responsible for all textbook content regarding Islam who said “I am waging a Bloodless Revolution in America’s Public Schools” . Incidentally, the CIE changed its name to the Institute on Religion and Civic Values (IRCV) to help camouflage its true nature.

Then consider an English lesson which allows a CAIR/HAMAS leader to twist and influence the impressionable minds of our children, unwittingly or not, reinforced by the very people we entrusted to educate them.


Times Higher university rankings: Britain has better universities than the government realises

Britain has better universities than the government realises, the editor of Times Higher Education has said following the publication of its World University Rankings.

Ann Mroz, Editor of Times Higher Education, said: “The UK is blessed with some truly brilliant universities – more brilliant than the government understands judging by its hastily concocted higher education reforms, with all the uncertainty they entail.

“While we may be second to the US in terms of the overall number of world-class institutions, given the disparity in funding levels our performance is nothing short of staggering. Put simply, we spend much less on our universities than many of our competitors – less than the OECD average – and yet outperform almost all of them.

“These facts make the massive gamble that we are now taking by all but abolishing public funding for university teaching, and replacing it with tuition fees, all the more questionable. Consultation on the White Paper on the future of higher education has just closed. The government should heed these ranking results, reflect on concerns raised about the speed and extent of its planned reforms and think again. This is a political fix for something that was never broken.”

This year’s rankings show that while the US still continues to dominate higher education, the UK has firmly cemented its place as the second-best higher education system in the world, based on the number of institutions in the top 200.

The UK has 32 universities in the top 200, three more than last year, and seven in the top 50 (two more than last year). However, there was a fall in the number in the top 100, with more universities than before languishing in the bottom half of the table.

Oxford is now officially the country’s top university, inching ahead of Cambridge. Oxford’s success is related in part to a refinement in methodology this year to make Times Higher Education’s rankings the first global league table to reflect subject mix fairly. It also pipped Cambridge on international outlook and scored better on research funding after normalisation. Imperial College is the third British institution in the top 10. With University College London also in the top 20, there is a widening gap in the UK between a super-elite and the rest of Britain’s leading institutions.

The number two position must not be taken for granted, however, in this pivotal time for British universities, said Mroz. Funding is an essential factor in the success of a university. Recent OECD figures (September 2011) have shown that spending on higher education in the UK has fallen from 1.3% of GDP in last year’s report to 1.2% this year, against an average of 1.5%. These latest figures are based on 2008 data, before the financial crisis and current funding reforms started to take hold, so in reality that spend is probably even lower.

While the government is trying to address this through tuition fees there is huge uncertainty as to whether this will work and it could result in a weakening of the UK knowledge economy. One thing is certain: as other countries across Europe and Asia continue to invest heavily in higher education, increased funding – public or private – will be vital if British institutions are to maintain their advantage at the forefront of global higher education.