Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Scholarships for Murderers, Thanks to 'Progressive' Officials and NAACP‏

A thieving murderer who killed a professor is receiving an all-expenses-paid scholarship at a Louisiana law school, courtesy of college administrators and the NAACP:

When he was 20 years old, [Bruce] Reilly beat and stabbed to death a 58-year old English professor at Community College of Rhode island, capping off his crime by stealing the professor’s car, wallet, and credit cards. . . . Reilly is an admitted student in Tulane’s law school . . . The Louisiana Bar, like all other states, requires proof of good moral character and fitness to be admitted to the bar, a requirement that almost always excludes felons – particularly those who have been convicted of a violent crime as heinous as Reilly’s. . .It is next to impossible for him to become a licensed attorney even if he graduates, as Tulane University officials must surely know. . .As at least one student complained to The Times-Picayune, Reilly is taking up “another’s space in the law school even though he may never be able to practice as a lawyer because of his conviction.” But it gets worse.

Reilly is attending Tulane on an NAACP scholarship and a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. . . .Now, we know that the NAACP (and apparently the dean of Tulane) thinks it is appropriate to give a scholarship to a convicted killer.

Earlier, a left-leaning British government paid the college costs of the “Crossbow Cannibal,” enabling him to take more lives after he had previously been incarcerated for attempted murder and many violent crimes. “While pursuing a PhD in “homicide studies” at the British taxpayers’ expense, a man with a long history of criminal violence became a serial killer, noted Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal. After Stephen Griffiths’ release from prison — and a mental hospital, in which he was diagnosed as an incurable psychopath — he was accepted by the University of Bradford; the government paid his fees and living expenses. Griffiths “killed and ate three women, two cooked and one raw, according to his own account.” He’s now serving a life sentence, giving him time to complete his doctorate on 19th-century murder practices, notes education expert Joanne Jacobs.

Every criminal, it seems, must have the chance to go to college at taxpayer expense, the more morally-depraved the better — at least according to the Progressive mind, which seems to view criminals as victims of society.

(Tulane is private, but it receives not only federal funds, but also Louisiana state funds, which its law clinic then uses to sue Louisiana businesses that subsidize it through their tax dollars. Legal commentator Walter Olson has an interesting book, Schools for Misrule, that discusses the phenomenon of state-funded law clinics suing states to demand huge government spending increases — resulting in state taxpayers subsidizing lawsuits against themselves)).

Subsidies for academic underperformers are also in fashion. Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, recently lavished taxpayer money on a bottom-tier left-wing college whose students could not even receive a high-school diploma at a school with rigorous standards.

States spend billions of dollars operating bottom-tier colleges that manage to graduate few of their students — like Chicago State University, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate,” and UT El Paso, which graduated only “1 out of 25 students in a timely manner.” As more and more mediocre students go to college, students learn less and less. “Our colleges and universities are full to the brim with students who do not really belong there, who are unprepared for college and uninterested in breaking a mental sweat.” “Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority,” according to a widely-publicized January report from experts like New York University Professor Richard Arum. “36% showed little” gain after four years, and students “spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago.”


The man who turned around the worst school in Britain

Discipline and old-fashioned standards are his secret weapons

Mossbourne Academy is ranked among the top one per cent of schools in the UK. This year, 82 per cent of pupils attained five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C. Many schools in leafy shires covet such success. Eight of its students — one a teenage mother — won places at Cambridge. Ofsted rates it both ‘outstanding’ and ‘exceptional’.

Yet when it opened in 2004, it was rising from the dust of the old Hackney Downs School — closed after it was condemned as the worst school in Britain.

The man behind this transformation is its inspirational head, Sir Michael Wilshaw, whose success has earned him national acclaim and Government recognition. Now, Education Secretary Michael Gove has singled him out to be the next Chief Inspector of Schools.

As head of Ofsted — a post he takes up in January — Sir Michael, 65, hopes to replicate the success of Mossbourne across the country. The challenge is huge, but he intends to tackle it with his customary rigour.

In a week when the Prime Minister accused many schools of ‘coasting’, Sir Michael reiterates his belief in strong leadership, inspirational teaching and a firm sense of order.

Detractors have objected to the parade-ground discipline at Mossbourne; to the regimented playground queues, the scrupulous insistence on courtesy and formal terms of address for teachers.

Sir Michael’s justification for his ethos is incontrovertible: strong discipline allows for learning; without it classrooms descend into mayhem. ‘We recognise that our pupils need more structure at school, not less, if they lack it at home,’ he says. ‘Children here know there are lines which they should not cross. ‘They don’t want a badly behaved class, a chaotic school. They say: “It’s strict but we learn a lot.” It is up to every school to create such a culture of orderly behaviour.’

On his watch at Ofsted, there will be no allowances for difficult home lives, and no woolly tokenism. He abhors the idea — promulgated by Nick Clegg — that standards should be lowered to allow more students from deprived backgrounds access to top universities.

‘If you talk to our eight pupils who won places at Cambridge this year, they’ll say they didn’t want to be singled out for special treatment. ‘If you go to the top universities, you’ll be mixing with the best and it would entrench mediocrity in the state sector if allowances were made for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.’

Failing schools, he insists, should be hauled from the abyss of ill-discipline and under-achievement by heads who brook no excuses. ‘If heads are going to do something about disadvantaged children and close the attainment gap with the best schools, there can be absolutely no excuses not to deliver. ‘It does not matter about levels of poverty, ethnicity or what the child’s background is. I say: I don’t care where you’ve come from. It’s where you’re going that’s important.’

In pursuit of order and control, he supports the move, endorsed by Michael Gove, of imposing boot camp regimes in schools where laxity has led to anarchy and falling academic standards. ‘Where discipline is an issue, there is nothing wrong with Army-style rigour,’ he says. ‘I’ve employed people, both here and at other schools, who have police and Army backgrounds and they have been good teachers. They understand how to deal with difficult children. ‘It’s an absolute nonsense for schools to be turned upside down by a minority. If a youngster is disrupting a class, you deal with it quickly. You nip it in the bud.’

To this end, Mossbourne parents sign a ‘home/school contract’: they agree to obligatory evening and Saturday morning detentions for miscreants. But, equally, there are extra lessons for the gifted and talented; a plethora of sports clubs and drama and music groups — the school is a specialist music academy — all of which extend the school day well into each evening.

‘Our pupils are not obliged to come here, but if they do they must accept that we are in loco parentis and we expect parental support for us,’ says Sir Michael. And he stands by his controversial belief that in areas of deprivation, and where families are dysfunctional, teachers should act as surrogate parents.

‘It’s common sense, isn’t it?’ he asserts. ‘Where there are children whose parents — despite loving them deeply — have not the wherewithal to support them, where the estates they live on are degenerating into chaos because of gangs, school is the only chance they have.

‘If that means getting the children into school earlier, keeping them later, giving them an evening meal and escorting them to bus stops and train stations so they get home without being mugged or bullied; if it means giving them the skills and training to equip them to get a job, then I make no apologies for us being surrogate parents.’

In line with this ethos, the Mossbourne day starts early. On the day I visit, at 7.30am prompt, 220 pupils file in — smart and orderly in regulation grey and crimson uniforms — to read with teachers.

It is part of a programme to bring those who arrive from primary school without the requisite literacy skills swiftly up to speed. ‘Children who cannot read or write properly quickly become disruptive,’ argues Sir Michael.

The sceptical — and professionally envious — have suggested Sir Michael achieves such excellent results because his school creams off the best students from the surrounding area, as a grammar school does through the use of entrance exams. This, he says, is ‘bunkum’.

Geography is the sole criterion for entry: those who live closest to the school get the places. Around 1,500 apply each year for just 180 slots — and they are streamed into four sets according to ability.

Remarkably, 38 per cent of pupils do not speak English as their first language. And not only are 42 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals, 30 per cent have special educational needs. Despite all these challenges, the school is thriving.

Sir Michael is an old-school pedagogue. Authoritative but not remote, he is imbued with a strong sense of social justice underpinned by his Catholic faith. He has taught — always in tough East London schools — since the late 1960s.

His own background is modest. His father, a postman, suffered spells of unemployment, but Sir Michael benefited from a grammar school education in South London where he grew up. Thanks to a good history teacher, he read the subject at Birkbeck College, London University.

Impeccably attired in grey suit, crisp white shirt and red tie, he tours the school with me, quick brown eyes alert and interested.

He not only greets children by name, but appears to be acquainted with whole families. ‘How’s your brother? An art foundation course? Jolly good,’ he smiles.

Pupils are polite and deferential. They accord him his full title. I am addressed as ‘Miss’, and each class rises to its feet as I enter.

Mossbourne, for all its ‘boot-camp’ severity, is an inspirational school. In morning assembly achievement is publicly honoured. Laurels are presented for success in languages. A Year 7 pupil steps up to receive a certificate of merit for Latin.

‘Someone translate: “Veni, vidi, vici,” ’ Sir Michael asks the assembled 11-year-olds. A hand shoots up. The correct answer (I came, I saw, I conquered) is supplied and he beams his approval.

The school offers a curriculum similar to that of the leading independent schools. As well as the usual sports, rowing — customarily regarded as a public school activity — is on the syllabus. This year a crew will attend Henley Regatta. To those who ask ‘why?’, Sir Michael’s riposte is: ‘Why not?’


Disgusted British pupils force three girls, 15, who made vile Nazi salutes during Remembrance Day silence to stay away from school

No mention of the names or ethnic identity of the offenders. What does that tell us?

Three schoolgirls sickened their classmates by performing a vile Nazi salute during a two-minute silence to mark Remembrance Day.

The 15-year-olds have not returned to Deer Park School in Cirencester, Gloucestershire since Armistice Day, claiming they have been 'bullied' over the incident.

The girls were put into detention after the incident for the rest of the day, but many of their fellow pupils felt this punishment did not go far enough. There have been calls for tougher action to be taken against the three and for them to be educated about the horrors of war. Pupils say that the girls should be made to meet the families of fallen soldiers and visit war graves to get a better understanding of how offensive their behaviour was.

The school's head teacher Chiquita Henson said: 'I was very disappointed to learn of the actions of the three girls in a classroom away from the main ceremony.

'But I was encouraged by the strength of feeling expressed by their peers. 'The pupils involved have expressed their regret for the upset that has been caused and now wish to move on in their learning. 'We recognise that all young people occasionally make mistakes and are committed to supporting the girls' return to school.'

The girls have been off school since the incident and it is understood that it is because of the angry reaction of other pupils along with allegations of cyber-bullying.

Mrs Henson added: 'This year it was a very moving occasion as a bugle played the last post while the Union Jack was lowered.'

Veteran Allen Howe, chairman of the Cirencester branch of the British Legion, said he was appalled to hear of the incident. 'I was told by my granddaughter who is a pupil at the school,' he said. 'It is absolutely disgusting and totally wrong. I thought it was very good that the other pupils have refused to tolerate this behaviour.'

No more 'pew jumping': Affluent British parents who adopt religion to get children into faith schools is unfair practice, says watchdog

A pathetic interference in the life of the church. The school's criteria are clearly religious

Middle-class parents were told yesterday they may no longer be able to ‘pew jump’ to get their offspring into the best schools. The warning follows an admissions watchdog judgment against a South London secondary accused of ‘selecting’ affluent pupils.

Coloma Roman Catholic convent school in Croydon gives priority to girls who, along their parents, attend mass and help out at church. It also requires its pupils to have been baptised within six months of their birth.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator said the practice was unfair and the school should, instead, cater for pupils who live the closest. The OSA accused the school of falsely claiming its ‘parish life criteria’ ensured it served disadvantaged members of its community.

The investigation was triggered, in part, by the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, which claimed the school’s policy was unfair and counter to its guidance.

Paul Pettinger, of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns for non-denominational schools, said: ‘There is no doubt that many faith schools are socially selective – this may force many to stop.’

Faith schools, which routinely get the best GCSE and A-level results, may now have to ditch faith-based criteria, such as the number of times applicants attend mass. That means parents will be less able to ‘pew jump’ – adopt religion for the sake of their child’s schooling.

Critics of faith schools say faith- based criteria enable affluent parents to secure places because they can afford to spend time helping their church.

In another blow for faith schools, the Education Bill, which became law on Wednesday, makes it much easier to trigger an investigation into school admissions.

Admissions for non-faith schools are dealt with by the local council. However, faith schools are in charge of their own admissions.


British nativity plays are threatened by teachers' work to rule

Militant teaching union members are threatening a return to the sustained industrial action of the 1980s that caused havoc in schools for years.

Teachers and teaching assistants will refuse to hold nativity plays, put up Christmas decorations, photocopy hand-outs for class or supervise out-of-hours games sessions.

They will not prepare lessons, mark homework, write reports, chase up truants, track pupils’ progress or stream youngsters. And they will work a strict 6.5-hour day, a 32.5-hour week and a 194-day year, and refuse to cover the class of a sick colleague.

The move is the outcome of the latest ballot for industrial action by hardline teachers’ union the NASUWT. The results, due tomorrow, are expected to show the majority voted in favour of a two-pronged assault on the Government – to work to rule as well as to strike. Other unions voted only for a rolling series of strikes.

The action could cause a ‘catastrophic’ deterioration in school standards for weeks, months or even years, putting the education of millions of pupils in jeopardy. It is also likely to spoil Christmas fun in schools as staff refuse to make an effort to mark the festive season. And it comes as education standards in England are slipping in comparison with the rest of the developed world.

Nick Seaton, of the parent pressure group the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This could be catastrophic for the pupils and most parents will find it totally unacceptable. ‘Duties such as lesson preparation are absolutely fundamental to good teaching. They should always form part of a teacher’s working life.’

NASUWT members are taking action over a row about changes to their pension scheme and a dispute over conditions and working hours. The union’s 227,500 balloted members work in two-thirds of schools, the majority of which are in the secondary sector.

The action could herald the return of militant union activity in schools on a scale last seen in the 1980s when, for two years, between 1984 and 1986 the NASUWT went on strike and worked to rule.

In a letter to members, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT said it is ‘critically important’ that they vote in favour of action and called for a repeat of the 1980s. She said: ‘NASUWT members supported a combination of action short of strike action and strike action in the 1980s/90s. ‘This secured from the Conservative Government contractual changes…’

If members of the NASUWT vote in favour of action they will be free to take part in the TUC’s national day of action on November 30.

They will join other public sector unions including four representing teachers and heads. It will mean that more than 200,000 heads, deputy heads, teachers and teaching assistants could strike in addition to dinner ladies, cleaners and admin staff who belong to the other unions such as Unison.

The combination will result in massive staff shortages that will make it impossible for most schools to open, for practical or health and safety reasons.


Australia: Higher English hurdles for foreign teachers

This should apply at the university level too. There was a case a few years ago where the University of Qld. hired a law lecturer from China that the students could not understand. The usual stupid "affirmative action", I guess

FOREIGN teachers will have to be better speakers and listeners before being allowed into Victorian classrooms under a registration overhaul.

The State Government has ordered higher English language hurdles for overseas teachers from next year - with the biggest crackdown on verbal communication.

All teachers from non-English-speaking countries, including South Africa, will have to prove their skills with higher scores under the International English Language Testing System.

The new standards will apply only to new applicants and build on previous minimum standards.

Australian-born teachers are exempt from the IELT test, along with their counterparts from the US, UK, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada.

Minister for the Teaching Profession Peter Hall said the higher standards for verbal communication, to be introduced in April, would also be applied nationwide.

Teachers with overseas qualifications made up 13 per cent of the 6000 people registered since June.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

S.C. Teacher Accused Of Making first-graders Rub Her Feet

And she still has her job!

Lexington County School District Three is investigating after a first-grader complained about having to rub her teacher's feet.

A district representative said the district has launched a full investigation, appropriate action has been taken and the situation has been rectified. But that's not nearly enough for some parents.

"She admitted to the children rubbing her feet," said Brenda Norris. "Just the thought of it... They immediately sent her home, but she's back there today."

Norris is far from satisfied after her 6-year-old granddaughter, who is in first grade, came home from Batesburg-Leesville Primary School last Wednesday to said she was "tired of rubbing her teacher's feet."

"'Do she take off her socks and shoes?'" Norris recounted asking. "'Grandma, she wears flip flops.'"

Norris refused to name the teacher, but said she would select students to massage her feet during class time. "My granddaughter has nightmares, she cries," said Norris. "She said 'I have three wishes, Grandma. One of them was not to go to school today.'"

Outraged, Norris took to Facebook and found at least half a dozen parents who said this also happened to their kids. The district says the situation has been handled. "I don't trust the system at all now," said Norris. "I can't trust the system. I'm afraid for her to go to school."

Norris said the punishment is unacceptable since the teacher still has her job, and her granddaughter's trust has been destroyed. "She was taught to do what the teacher said do," said Norris. "And the teacher wants her to rub her feet? She told me 'grandma, you didn't tell me if I touch someone else, to tell you.' That broke my heart."


British parents rebel over lessons on sex for pupils aged four and plans to teach homosexuality to six-year-olds

A primary school is facing a parents’ revolt over the content of sex education classes for children as young as four. Up to 20 families are said to be prepared to withdraw youngsters from the lessons because of concerns they are being sexualised too soon with discussions about homosexuality, masturbation and orgasms.

Under the plans, those aged six could be taught about same-sex relationships and the difference between ‘good and bad touching’. Topics for ten-year-olds include orgasm and masturbation.

Grenoside Community Primary in Sheffield already offers sex education to pupils in the two oldest year groups, but is planning to extend it to the younger ones as well. Some parents have been shocked by details of the lessons revealed in consultation meetings.

Headmaster Colin Fleetwood insists the material is not explicit and is in line with national curriculum guidelines. But parents including Louise Leahy – who has four children aged five to ten at the 319-pupil school – are furious.

‘There is a great deal of material in there which children don’t need to know at such a young age,’ the 41-year-old said. ‘It’s almost like the lessons and videos shown are saying, “Put all your toys in the bin, now it’s time to grow up”.’

She said some of the vocabulary used for the first two year groups is inappropriate, and objected to a DVD for older children showing a man lying on top of a woman.

Videos about people touching themselves encourage children ‘to think in a sexual way’, she said, adding: ‘One governor told me her child needs to know this stuff because she watches Emmerdale and EastEnders, but mine don’t and I don’t want them to.’

Katie Burrell, 26, whose six-year-old son Redd is at the school, agreed, saying: ‘My boy still believes in Father Christmas, he doesn’t need to be told these things.

‘The lessons for six- and seven-year-olds are far too explicit. I think a lot of parents will take their children out of these classes. ‘I am by no means a prude, but some of this is beyond stupidity.’

Mr Fleetwood said governors will decide what can taught following the consultation. He added: ‘We want this to be a positive learning experience which will help our children make sensible and responsible decisions as they grow up.’

His view was echoed by Dr Sonia Sharp, executive director for children, young people and families at Sheffield City Council, who said the lessons are widely taught at other primary schools in the city.

More than a fifth of UK primaries offer sex education, the content of which is decided by governors. It is compulsory only at secondaries.

Labour planned to make the subject compulsory from age five. Yesterday, the Department for Education said it is reviewing the subject.


Australia: Parents support Judeo-Christian teachings, say Queensland conservatives

Queensland's Liberal National Party has strongly backed religious instruction in state schools, arguing Islamic and non-religious parents often want children brought up with a Judeo-Christian grounding. sought comment from both sides of politics about the prospect of introducing secular ethics classes in Queensland, nearly a year after the New South Wales government rolled out such courses state-wide as an alternative for non-religious students.

Both Labor and the Coalition in NSW support the ethics classes, saying students who did not attend religious education sessions should have access to some structured learning rather than being sent to the library for private study.

But their Queensland counterparts appear to be lukewarm on the idea. LNP education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the party was not planning to alter any legislation at this time, but would be happy to consider any proposals or submissions.

“The LNP believe that the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders want their children brought up with a Judeo-Christian grounding in religious education,” he said in a written response. “In many cases this applies to people who themselves may not be particularly religious.

“I am sure this also applies to the increasing number of Queenslanders who identify themselves as Islamic. The LNP is therefore supportive of RE in schools.”

Dr Flegg said he respected the view of people who objected to a faith-based RE program but the overwhelming majority “still want their children to understand values as they underpin our community”.

The government was last night unable to provide figures on the extent of religious education participation in Queensland state schools.

Queensland's education laws allow approved representatives of denominations and faith groups entry into state schools to provide religious instruction of up to one hour per week.

However, this is meant to be provided only to children whose parents have nominated that religion on their enrolment forms or to children whose parents have given written permission. Parents can opt out, with students sent to alternative activities, such as reading or studying.

Education Minister Cameron Dick did not express a view on ethics classes but said Education Queensland would seek further information from NSW following the first full year of the program, which began at the start of 2011.

Mr Dick said principals had discretion over the types of activities offered to students who did not attend religious instruction classes.

“Alternatives already exist, which include wider reading, doing personal research, revision of class work or other activities at the discretion of the principal,” he said in a written response. “These decisions are made by principals at the local level. Principals may decide to provide an ethics-based class.”

A year ago, the then-Labor NSW government announced it would give parents the choice to place their children into secular ethics classes instead of religion lessons after declaring a pilot program a success.

In the trial, year 5 and 6 students explored philosophical issues surrounding how they ought to live and what principles should guide ethical decision making.

Each of the 10 lessons in the trial explored a particular ethical question, such as what made a practice or action fair or unfair, and students had to discuss their reasoning. Other topics included lying, ethical principles, graffiti, the use and abuse of animals, interfering with nature, virtues and vices, and children's rights.

The ethics classes were spearheaded by the St James Ethics Centre which developed a 10-week lesson program delivered by volunteers.

The philosophical ethics program was rolled out more broadly from the start of this year, with students encouraged to engage in dialogue and discussion on ethical issues.

The NSW Coalition, which swept to power in March, insists it will maintain an election commitment to keep the ethics classes available "because the government believes that there ought to be an alternative provided for students who are not taking scripture classes".

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations state president Margaret Leary said yesterday the ethics class idea had not been raised as a major topic within the organisation. She said non-religious students were sent to the library or other areas to read, study or perform other learning activities.

It would be interesting to see how the ethics courses worked in NSW, she said.

University of South Australia ethics and philosophy lecturer Sue Knight, who last year evaluated the NSW pilot program, made a broader point about the lack of structured alternatives to religious instruction in state schools across the country.

Humanist Society of Queensland president Maria Proctor said last year ethics classes had merit, but they should not be limited to students not attending religious instruction.

Ms Proctor said her organisation, which defended the separation of church and state, disliked religious instruction being provided in state schools and believed students should not be “segregated based on what their parents believe”.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obama Administration Promotes Panic Over “Bullying” To Incite Attacks on Students’ Rights and Well-Being

Obama administration officials call bullying an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, bullying and violence have steadily gone down in the nation’s schools, as studies funded by the Justice Department have shown.

As the Associated Press noted in 2010, “There’s been a sharp drop in the percentage of America’s children being bullied or beaten up by their peers, according to a new national survey by experts . . . The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year had declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008.”

The myth that bullying has risen among girls was debunked in a 2010 New York Times column, “The Myth of Mean Girls.” As it noted, “this panic is a hoax. We have examined every major index of crime on which the authorities rely. None show a recent increase in girls’ violence; in fact, every reliable measure shows that violence by girls has been plummeting for years.”

If bullying has gone down, how can it be a pandemic? By broadening the definition of bullying to include speech and vague power relationships.

The anti-bullying website defines even “eye rolling” as bullying, so if you roll your eyes at a bully, you yourself can be accused of “bullying.” Its ridiculously-broad definition has been adopted by schools like Fox Hill and Alvarado Elementary, which define “eye rolling” and “staring” as “bullying.” As a small middle-schooler, I rolled my eyes at bullies. A recent survey defined bullying to include “the use of one’s . . . popularity to . . . embarrass another person on purpose.”

A student can even be deemed guilty of “bullying” for not inviting a hostile classmate to her birthday party, since social “exclusion” is considered bullying (even though forcing children to invite unwanted guests to their birthday party can violate their right to free association). As a bullying victim noted in response to an article about such broad anti-bullying policies, “as someone who was frequently bullied as a youth, this policy would have required me to invite my own bullies to my birthday party. That sounds exceedingly miserable.”

Forty-five states “have laws requiring public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies,” but there’s no federal law against bullying, in general. That hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from trying to federalize anti-bullying policy. Its website defines “teasing” as a form of “bullying,” and “rude” or “hurtful” “text messages” as “cyberbullying.” Since “creating web sites” that “make fun of others” also is deemed “cyberbullying,” conservative websites that poke fun at the president are presumably guilty of cyberbullying under this strange definition. (Law professors like UCLA’s Eugene Volokh have criticized bills by liberal lawmakers like Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) that would ban some criticism of politicians as cyberbullying.)

School bullying can only violate existing federal law if it involves racial or sexual harassment. Moreover, harassment by students violates federal law only if it’s condoned by school officials, and is severe and pervasive. In its 1999 decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can be sued “only where they are deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, of which they have actual knowledge, that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.” As it emphasized, “Damages are not available for simple acts of teasing and name-calling,” nor are they available for even “severe one-on-one peer harassment” if it occurs just a “single” time.

Thus, federal law does not ban most bullying.

To be actionable, harassment in school must be both severe “and” pervasive, rather than just severe “or” pervasive, unlike in the workplace. This limit on liability may have been a response to Justice Kennedy’s dissent, which noted that court rulings had cited the First Amendment to strike down campus harassment codes modeled on workplace harassment laws.

Federal civil-rights laws do not ban sexual-orientation discrimination. By contrast, most school districts do prohibit anti-gay harassment. Many states and municipalities do have gay-rights laws banning sexual-orientation harassment, and most states have hate-crimes laws that cover gays more broadly than federal law.

Despite the fact that federal law does not prohibit anti-gay harassment, the Obama administration has told the nation’s school officials that they may be liable for bullying, including anti-gay bullying. In an October 2010 letter, the Education Department told the nation’s school officials to take “steps to reduce bullying in schools,” saying that some bullying “may trigger responsibilities” under federal laws “enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.” Contrary to the Supreme Court’s Davis decision, the letter told schools that conduct “does not have to . . . involve repeated incidents” to be illegal, and need not be “severe” as long as it is “pervasive or persistent.”

The letter falsely suggested that anti-gay harassment is usually discrimination based on sex. It cited as illegal “gender-based harassment” a case in which “a gay high school student was called names.” By contrast, court rulings have often dismissed lawsuits over homophobic sexual harassment in cases like Wolfe v. Fayetteville School District, Simonton v. Runyon, Higgins v. New Balance, and Schroeder v. Hamilton School District. (Admittedly, a minority of courts, like the liberal Ninth Circuit, have managed to effectively equate most forms of sexual-orientation harassment with gender-based harassment.)

The Education Department’s letter was interpreted by some news reports as saying federal law already bans bullying in general, and anti-gay harassment. “The Department of Education states that federal education anti-discrimination laws provide protection against harassment of gay and lesbian students,” noted an approving commentary at the liberal American Constitution Society.

The Education Department also took aim at student speech outside of schools, such as “graphic and written statements” on the “Internet.” It did so even though the Supreme Court’s Davis decision based liability on the fact that the school had “custodial” power over students at school, and “the misconduct” occurred “during school hours and on school grounds.” It did so even though cases like Lam v. University of Missouri rejected lawsuits over off-campus conduct.

The anti-bullying panic has enriched high-paid consultants. After New Jersey passed an anti-bullying law, hundreds of schools “snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual.”

Federalizing bullying would harm civil liberties and falsely accused people. The Education Department has already argued that the existence of a federal law banning sexual harassment overrides traditional protections in school disciplinary proceedings for students accused of harassment, protections like the clear-and-convincing evidence standard most colleges once used. It has also argued that students should not be allowed to cross-examine their accusers, and that colleges should investigate based on anonymous allegations. It took those positions in a 2011 letter that I criticized as legally-unfounded in The Washington Examiner. (I once worked as an attorney in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights). Under federal pressure, many colleges recently reduced safeguards against false allegations.

Banning all eye-rolling as “bullying” violates the First Amendment under the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Saxe v. State College Area School District, which invalidated a harassment code that banned isolated instances of hostile speech, holding that even a hostile “purpose” is not always reason enough to ban speech that is neither lewd nor disruptive.

And banning all teasing is harmful, according to psychologist Dacher Keltner, who noted in The New York Times that teasing is educational for children and teaches them “the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously.”

Some anti-violence activists criticize the current panic over bullying, and say it diverts attention away from more serious safety issues. “Teasing and bullying aren’t an issue in our community. Youths killing and maiming other youths is,” said Ron Moten, co-founder of the anti-youth-violence group Peaceoholics. “The new movement is not about children. It’s about politics.” Besides, Mr. Moten said, schools can’t “police everything a kid says.”

Legal mandates imposed on schools in the name of preventing bullying can have bad consequences for child development. As a school administrator noted after passage of New Jersey’s sweeping anti-bullying law, “The anti-bullying law also may not be appropriate for our youngest students, such as kindergartners who are just learning how to socialize with their peers. Previously, name-calling or shoving on the playground could be handled on the spot as a teachable moment, with the teacher reinforcing the appropriate behavior. That’s no longer the case. Now it has to be documented, reviewed and resolved by everyone from the teacher to the anti-bullying specialist, principal, superintendent and local board of education.”


Starkey: 'Britain is a white mono-culture and schools should focus on our own history'

David Starkey has provoked more controversy by claiming that most of Britain is a ‘mono-culture’ and that immigrants should assimilate.

The TV historian rejected claims by other academics that it is a diverse country, describing it as 'absolutely and unmitigatingly white' outside of London. His outburst comes three months after he blamed ‘black culture’ for the summer riots and claimed that parts of Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech had been right.

He made his latest comments during a historians conference discussing Education Secretary Michael Gove's announcement that he wanted to put ‘our island story’ at the heart of Britain's national curriculum. Dr Starkey told the meeting that the National Curriculum should involve ‘a serious focus on your own culture’.

Cambridge University historian Joya Chatterji asked him to explain what he meant, arguing that contemporary Britain was ‘rather diverse’.

But Dr Starkey cut in, telling her: ‘No it’s not. Most of Britain is a mono-culture. You think London is Britain. It isn’t.

‘Where I’ve come from in Yorkshire, where I’ve come from in Westmorland [in Cumbria], where I largely live in Kent, where I holiday much in the South West, it is absolutely and unmitigatingly white.

‘You have such a series of assumptions. It is a kind of Ken Livingstone-esque view of rainbow Britain. ‘Bits of Britain are rainbow and jolly interesting but to read out from those to everything else is profoundly misleading.’

Dr Starkey added: ‘Successful immigrants assimilate or become bi-cultural.’

Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said he did not believe Dr Starkey was racist but was saddened that he ‘feels that he must occasionally utter nonsense that may give comfort to racists.’

Lee Jasper, Chairman of the London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, tweeted: ‘Starkey the racist academic strikes again.’

Former prison chaplain the Reverend Pam Smith jokingly questioned on Twitter whether Dr Starkey ‘can’t see people who aren’t white’ given the racial diversity of many towns outside the capital.

Richard Evans, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, criticised Mr Gove and Dr Starkey for advocating ‘myth and memory rote-learning’ to feed children ‘self-congratulatory narrow myths of history'. Dr Evans said school history teachers were right to reflect Britain’s multi-ethnic make up in lessons.

Dr Starkey had been accused of racism by more than 100 viewers of Newsnight in August when he claimed that 'whites have become black'. He added: ‘A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.’

But Ofcom ruled that the Newsnight discussion had been balanced by other speakers who did not share the outspoken historian's views.


Australia: The million dollar man is still keeping shtum (silent)

"Greenfield" (Grunfeld) is a well-known Ashkenazi surname so it will be apparent to many that the taciturn man is Jewish. The "close relative" that he unfairly benefited is also therefore presumably Jewish.

So this appalling man is giving new life to one of the oldest slurs against Jews: nepotism. And to top it all, his evasivesness gives life to yet another common slur against Jews.

In a world where antisemitism is still boiling (ask almost any Muslim or almost any British Leftist) it is hard to believe that an intelligent man could be so irresponsible. He has damaged himself, the university, his family and his community and yet seems intent on reinforcing the damage rather than mitigating it. And the ridiculous pretense that he is resigning even though he has done nothing wrong just increases the stench.

I won't mention the street-names that would be given to Greenfield's behaviour

He should immediately tell all, apologize profusely and resign forthwith

As both I and my son are graduates of UQ, it pains me to have the university's name dragged through the mud by this foolish man. The university is not getting much for the million dollars a year it pays him

UNIVERSITY of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield has returned to work but failed to explain his involvement in a nepotism controversy that has destroyed his career.

Prof Greenfield invited The Courier-Mail to the campus to make a statement on Monday but offered nothing new, tartly restating comments he made last week in a prepared statement. "As CEO I accept responsibility," he said, without explaining what he was accepting responsibility for.

The exercise in accountability took just 21 seconds.

I had been ushered into an executive meeting room down the hallway from his office in the Chancellery building at the university's St Lucia campus and was told beforehand how the vice-chancellor was very busy but had "squeezed someone else out so you could get in".

I was asked to sit at a table under a humorous picture by Torres Strait artist Alick Tipoti depicting a smiling crocodile, a talking cockatoo and a dingo.

Prof Greenfield suddenly entered the room but would not sit down. He spoke briskly, turned on his heel and left to be photographed by The Courier-Mail in another room. Before walking away he added: "My focus now is ensuring the transition to a new management is smooth. "The university is actually travelling very well and we don't want to lose that momentum. That's all I'll say."

Prof Greenfield looked grey and slightly haggard. But he made it clear by his tone and by his demeanour that he was determined to tough it out.

Before saying goodbye a press minder said she was happy the university was "now back to normal".

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Prof Michael Keniger agreed to stand down after an integrity investigation found a student had been admitted to a course without the proper qualifications.

Later, Prof Greenfield described the student at the centre of the affair as a close family relative. The university's operations manager, Maurie McNarn, confirmed Prof Greenfield had discussed the student's enrolment in a phone call to Prof Keniger.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, will be allowed to stay at the university as vice-chancellor until after he turns 65 in May.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are children still being "left behind"?

Accountability does work -- but gaps are still large

Did the federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), close the education gap? Now that Congress is talking about reauthorizing NCLB, it struck me that it would be worthwhile to see what the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tell us about the direction the nation has moved in the years since the law was passed–as compared to the trend line in the decade prior to its passage.

At the bottom of this post are the results I reported to a packed house at the Association of Public Policy and Management in Washington, D. C. last Saturday. They show that, for fourth graders, the black-white test score gap had, in the 12 years prior to the passage of NCLB, opened up by 7 points. The Hispanic-white gap had opened by 5 points. No wonder there was a demand for an accountability system that required a special look at the learning experiences of minority students.

After the law was enacted, the black-white test-score gap closed by 2 points and the Hispanic-white gap closed by 1 point. That is a switch in the trend line of 9 points and 6 points, respectively. Not as much as we would like, but better than what might have been.

At the 8th grade level, the black-white gap had remained unchanged prior to NCLB, but closed 4 points after its enactment. For Hispanics, the negative trend was 4 points prior to NCLB, and the positive trend 3 points after the law came into being. That constitutes a direction switch of 7 points.

Notably, none of the reversal in the trend was due to a decline in average white test scores. As can be seen below, average white scores since 2002 are up–quite a bit in math, less so–but still positive–in reading.

I have not presented here a sophisticated study of NCLB’s impact on student performance. But others have, and they, too, report that NCLB’s impact has been, on the whole, modestly positive.

Of course, NCLB can be faulted for the exaggerated rhetoric contained in its title, but that should not prevent us from taking a thoughtful look at the actual NAEP record that has now become available.

When that is done, one must concede that NCLB is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. But after its passage into law, white, black and Hispanic students all made gains and the widening of the white-minority test score gap was reversed.


The Secret to Good Parenting? Good Schools

I’m not so sure Mike is right that “we have a parenting problem, not a poverty problem,” and I’m even less sure that he is right that educators should “start talking about the problem.”

I know this may sound heretical, since anyone who has spent more than a minute in an inner city school or neighborhood (see my Ed Next story on two Chicago charters) knows the intensity of the social dysfunction – and no school is immune to its effects. But parenting is not a problem that educators are equipped to handle – they have a hard enough time agreeing on curriculum.

I think of a sixth-grade teacher in our small district who, on meet-the teacher-night, passed out no “parent contracts” and no “student contracts” – both were then the rage — and gave no lectures about student behavior and the role of the parent. He described what he was going to teach that year, what books the kids would be reading and then said to the assembled parents, “You don’t have to worry about a thing; I’ll take care of your kids.” And he did. He had the same kids from the same bad families that every other teacher had, but he didn’t complain about them – and his classroom was quiet and orderly. And because of that, his students will be better parents.

None of this is to say that parents don’t make a difference in a student’s life. Or that schools should pretend that it doesn’t make a difference. It is to say that schools and parents have different responsibilities – and we need to appreciate the differences.

My own rule of thumb, as a member of a school board, is a variation on the Kati Haycock “no excuses” motto: “We can talk about parents after we get the buses to run on time.” We can tell parents what to do after the school’s drinking fountains are fixed and the potholes in the school driveway are plugged. We can teach parenting classes after we get our teachers to show up on time and our aides to stop yelling at children. We should instruct parents about being better parents after we start returning their phone calls – and after school board members stop bullying one another. We can tell parents what to read to their kids after we get a written, taught, and tested curriculum.

In other words, once schools are doing what they should be doing, then they can start telling parents what they should do. This sounds harsh and it doesn’t mean that schools shouldn’t encourage parent participation, but when you’ve seen school dysfunction up close and personal, you know you can’t afford to allow the “bad parent” problem into your school! It will be used as a crutch or an excuse — or worse.

Sure, parents have problems; one of them is bad schools.

The irony here, with all due respect to the fine work of our sociologists who tell us how doomed kids from bad backgrounds and uneducated parents are, is that we have somehow turned public schools inside out. What used to be considered “the engine of social mobility” (see Fareed Zakaria in the new Time magazine), the incubator of productive and successful citizens (and parents), the school is now treated as some kind of barometer of caste and class. Instead of a place to liberate one from ones background, to become better (at parenting and citizenship), school has become a mirror for reflecting that background back on students. We slice and dice kids to know their every “learning style” proclivity, dooming them to a suffocating stasis.

As Joseph Campbell has said, “the first purpose of mythology is to pitch you outside of yourself.” The history is obviously more nuanced than this, but as I read it, we created public schools in large part to get kids away from bad homes and bad parents and onerous social and economic circumstance and stigma. It seemed to work pretty well until about 50 years ago. Now, we seem unable to teach kids unless their parents are educated saints and poverty is solved.

Mike isn’t arguing for any particular approach to the parent problem, but it is a slippery slope, especially for school reformers, to turn the discussion to one of parenting (or poverty) precisely because, as Kati Haycock would suggest, it lets schools off the hook.


British Prime Minister's cry about 'coasting’ schools will confuse parents

The PM seems to feel that if the white middle class loses its way, Britain is doomed. He is probably right. And making sure that their kids get the best education possible should help avoid that fate. Given the fixity of IQ, the present focus on stretching the least talented is unlikely to achieve much for the society as a whole

The Prime Minister’s remarks on complacent schools are puzzling parents who thought inner cities had all the problems.

Parents have long had sleepless nights about their children ending up in one of the “failing schools” that our politicians talk about so often – those troubled comprehensives, usually in the inner cities, where many pupils don’t even meet the Government’s basic “floor target” of 5 GCSE passes at grade A* to C.

But now the Prime Minister has given us a new nightmare to keep us tossing and turning – “coasting schools”. These “secret failures”, he warned in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, are to be found where parents least expect them, in “prosperous shires and market towns”.

It is not so much, David Cameron wrote, that children at coasting schools are doing so badly in exams that inspectors’ alarm bells start ringing, simply that they could be doing better if teachers were stretching them instead of allowing pupils “to sit at the back of the class, swapping Facebook updates”.

He painted a picture of “pupils and staff [who] count down the hours to the end of term without ever asking why B grades can’t be turned into As”. What future is there for our offspring in the ultra-competitive global jobs market if their teachers don’t even encourage them to realise their full potential in the classroom?

The Prime Minister’s remarks will make particularly unpleasant reading for those parents who, despairing of finding a halfway decent local comprehensive for their 11-year-olds in urban areas, sell up, take on a new job or a long commute to their existing one, and relocate to the countryside, assuming that the local school in such leafy places will not face the particular challenges of the socially and ethnically diverse inner city. After all that cost, effort and disruption to family life, Mr Cameron is now effectively telling them that the schools they moved out to access are not the havens they were cracked up to be.

Worse, in a speech in Norwich at the opening of a new free school there in September, Mr Cameron rubbed salt into the wound when he suggested that the new breed of inner-London academies – such as Walworth, Burlington Danes (where rumour has it he plans to send his children) and Mossbourne in Hackney, regularly quoted approvingly by ministers – are actually better than four fifths of state schools in Oxfordshire and Surrey. So those parents who squash into commuter trains into London in order to give their children a better start in the Home Counties are actually selling them short.

The phrase “coasting schools”, though it has acquired a new buzz in the education debate, has a longer history than this government. It was used, for example, by New Labour (once Alastair Campbell had tried and rejected “bog-standard comprehensives” in 2001) in the “Gaining Ground” initiative in 2008. Ed Balls, then education secretary, named and shamed more than 600 examples of “coasting schools” and set them a “national challenge” to improve their standards. The Prime Minister has been more circumspect, but there is no doubting his commitment.

So why this rare unanimity between Conservatives and Labour? Because there is data to show that children at secondary schools in shire counties and market towns do not always make as much progress in the five years to GCSEs as assessments of their ability at 11 suggest they should. They may end up with better grades than their inner-city counterparts, but they are still falling short of the progress that might reasonably be expected of them given their ability.

“It is certainly true,” concedes Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, “that there are examples of schools where the catchment is less challenging than the inner city, and where the pupils have fewer disadvantages, that have shown a disappointingly slow rate of improvement.

“Their results may look satisfactory, and therefore they are not under any pressure, but when they are examined closely, there is plenty of room for improvement. However, I would seriously challenge the assertion that there are lots of these schools, and the accompanying implication that some teachers accept mediocrity.”

Until he took up his union post, Mr Lightman was head of St Cyres School, on the outskirts of Cardiff. “It roughly fits the description of an out-of-town school,” he says, “and I can assure you that I never came across a single teacher willing to allow pupils to use Facebook during lessons, as the Prime Minister suggests. Unfairly accusing teachers like this is not helpful.”

All sides, then, appear to accept that there is a problem with coasting schools. The difference between them is over scale. To identify a solution, it helps to work out why such under-achievement happened in the first place. While few would decry the roughly 50 per cent increase achieved in the past decade in the number of pupils gaining 5 A*-C passes at GCSE, there is a growing chorus of voices among educationalists warning that putting so many resources into closing the gap in attainment levels between the least and the most able pupils risks overlooking the needs of those pupils in what might be called “the squeezed middle”.

“The effect of this focus [on closing the gap between high and low achievers] in recent years is now clearly visible in GCSE results for English and Maths,” according to Neil O’Brien, director of the Policy Exchange think tank. “Almost all the improvement has been to move pupils scoring a D, E or F grade up to a C. While this is valuable, the proportion gaining an A*, A or B grade is essentially unchanged. The floor target appears to have led to the neglect of potential high performers.”

In concentrating on making the difference between a D and a C, and hence meeting their government target, coasting schools stand accused of failing to give an extra push to those on course for a C so that they achieve a B, because it will make no difference to how they appear against the all-important “floor target” measurement.

Anecdotal stories include tales of bright pupils being put in for their GCSEs a year early because a school judged they would deliver a “safe” B/C grade, and free up teaching time to concentrate on lower achievers.

Goffs School in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, was one of those highlighted by the Prime Minister in his article as having successfully cast off coasting in favour of seeking the highest levels of achievement for all. “Goffs was not delivering for each student as it should have been, based on their ability, in terms of number and level of qualifications,” agrees head teacher Alison Garner, appointed in 2009. She attributes the turnaround to “employing staff committed to bringing out the best in every child”, to instilling an expectation of excellence in all, for example by adopting as the school motto “every lesson counts”, and “relentless hard work”.

The Department for Education likes to link the zero tolerance strategy on coasting schools with its drive to add to the thousand academies already created under the Coalition government. Goffs is an academy, but that change came very recently, Mrs Garner says, and postdates the radical improvement in the school’s fortunes. Instead she is anxious to praise the local education authority for its commitment to ending the school’s coasting days.

“I do get sick and tired of hearing about the fairy dust of academy status,” says another head teacher, who doesn’t want to be named. “Simply changing your status does nothing in itself to raise standards. It is down to leadership, investment, individual tracking of each pupil’s attainment, and effective interventions. Yes, all of these happen in academies, and enable them to raise standards, but they are happening in plenty of other schools, too.”

However, if the academy question is put to one side, many of those other key tools for success are about to be introduced more widely. Revised league tables in the New Year will measure progress made by pupils according to whether they are judged low, medium or high-achieving, and will take into account “value added” – ie, how far the school stretches its intake. And the new head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, late of Mossbourne, has coasting schools firmly “in his sights”, the Prime Minister has promised.

Time for parents to sleep soundly again? Or on their commuter trains back to the “prosperous shires”? Perhaps – but only until the next educational nightmare comes along.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sec. Duncan says he supports allowing kids of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition

That good ol' generous taxpayer again!

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday he’s encouraged that some states are allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

As an example, Duncan pointed to Rhode Island, where this fall the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education unanimously approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrants starting in fall 2012.

Another dozen states have similar laws or policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In contrast, four states have laws specifically prohibiting illegal immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition, and two states bar those who are illegally in the country from attending public secondary schools altogether, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

Duncan said some of the children of illegal immigrants came to the United States when they were infants. He said the United States is their home, where they’ve worked hard in school and taken on leadership roles. For too long, he said, the U.S. policy toward them has been backward.

“They are either going to be taxpayers and productive citizens and entrepreneurs and innovators or they are going to be on the sidelines and a drag on the economy,” Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The topic has been an issue in the GOP presidential primary race, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry taking criticism from rival contenders for supporting a law that allows illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition at Texas universities if they meet other residency requirements

Under the Rhode Island policy, in-state rates will be available only to illegal immigrants’ children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received a GED. Students will lose their resident tuition unless they commit to seek legal status as soon as they are eligible.

The Pew Hispanic Center has said the number of Hispanic college students ages 18 to 24 increased by 24 percent, meaning about 35,000 additional young Hispanics were in college in 2010 compared to a year earlier. It’s the largest such increase. Duncan said he was pleased to see the increase and will be monitoring the students to see if they graduate.

Duncan supported the DREAM ACT, which Congress failed to pass last year. That legislation would have allowed young people to become legal U.S. residents after spending two years in college or the military. It applied to those who were under 16 when they arrived in the U.S., had been in the country at least five years and had a diploma from a U.S. high school or the equivalent.

Also on Monday, the Lumina Foundation, which seeks to expand educational opportunities for students beyond high school, announced it will provide $7.2 million over a four-year period to 12 partnerships in 10 states with significant and growing Latino populations. The effort seeks to leverage community leaders across the education, business and nonprofit sector.


David Cameron goes to war on Britain's 'coasting schools'

Britain is facing a “hidden crisis” because schools in prosperous areas are failing to push middle-class children to reach their full potential, David Cameron warns today.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister says there is a “shocking gap” between the best and worst schools and their teachers as many “coast” and “muddle through”.

He says the “secret failure” of comprehensive schools in wealthy shires and market towns is as significant as the problems facing schools in deprived, inner-city areas.

The shortcoming has been hidden from parents because league tables identify only problem schools rather than institutions achieving average results when their pupils have the potential to be top achievers.

In today’s article, Mr Cameron discloses that tackling the “coasting comprehensives” will be a top priority for the Government. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new chief inspector of schools, is said to have them “in his sights”.

Mr Cameron writes: “Why should we put up with a school content to let a child sit at the back of the class, swapping Facebook updates? Or one where pupils and staff count down the hours to the end of term without ever asking why B grades can’t be turned into As. Britain can’t let weak schools smother children’s potential.”

He says that while it is “relatively easy” to identify problem schools, it is just as important to tackle those that are resigned to mediocrity.

“It is just as important to tackle those all over the country content to muddle through — places where respectable results and a decent local reputation mask a failure to meet potential,” he writes.

“Children who did well in primary school but who lose momentum. Early promise fades. This is the hidden crisis in our schools — in prosperous shires and market towns just as much as in the inner cities.”

In January, new league tables will be published that will show how low-, middle- and high-achieving children are performing in their schools.

In June, a new national pupil database will be introduced to show how pupils have progressed during their time in school. The data will not disclose any names but should allow parents to identify schools that are better at pushing certain pupils in different subjects.

Mr Cameron writes: “This challenge is one for all parts of the country — places where governors, parents and teachers might never guess things might be wrong. That’s why it is vital to shine a spotlight on secret failure by giving people the information they need to fight for change.

“The last government shied away from the problem. It kept huge amounts of data under wraps — focusing only on league tables which seemed to show things were getting better every year. It set a narrow definition of coasting schools which allowed many to slip through the net undetected. By contrast, this Government is going to widen it so that more average schools are pressed to do better.”

The Prime Minister says Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, one of the most deprived areas in Britain, is now achieving far higher marks than comprehensives in middle-class areas across the Home Counties.

“The point of education is to change lives — it’s not good enough for teachers in shire counties to be satisfied with half of children getting five good GCSEs, when Mossbourne Academy achieves 82 per cent in Hackney,” writes Mr Cameron.

“When people involved in education can see what needs to be done to get out of a rut — and are given the freedom to make their own choices rather than orders from above — dramatic improvement is possible. Goffs School in Cheshunt, for instance, went from barely half its pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths, to almost three quarters in a single year.”

It is understood that the Government has decided against sending “hit squads” into comprehensives identified as “coasting”. Ministers instead hope that by publicly identifying failing schools, parents and governors will put staff under intense pressure to improve standards.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the incoming head of Ofsted, previously warned that the watchdog needed to do more to tackle teachers who were coasting.

He said extra effort was needed to identify “the teacher … who year in, year out just comes up to the mark, but only just, and does the bare minimum”.

The Government is also giving permission for dozens of new free schools, effectively independent schools paid for by taxpayers within the state system, across the country. Mr Cameron says he wants these schools to be the “shock troops of innovation” who will “smash through complacency”.

The Coalition is also relaxing admissions and expansion rules for successful schools, which is expected to lead to an increase in grammar school places.

Yesterday, it emerged that some grammar schools are planning to take over schools in neighbouring towns — effectively leading to the creation of the first new grammar schools since the 1960s.

Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee, said it was a “small but important step”.


Australia: UQ boss Professor Paul Greenfield goes to ground

Brisbane is a small city where not much happens (thankfully). There are the usual crimes of violence in certain areas late at night but nothing that deserves more than one mention in the papers.

So the story of a Jewish university head fleeing allegations of corruption is a lot of fun and Brisbane's local newpaper has made the most of it. Latest below:

Seven days after The Courier-Mail broke the enrolment scandal that has seen Prof Greenfield and his deputy, Prof Michael Keniger, agree to step down, the UQ boss continues to avoid facing the music.

The university has so far refused to reveal the full details of the "misunderstanding" that Prof Greenfield said had led to "irregularities" that benefited a close relative. It has also refused to say where Prof Greenfield is, what he is doing and why he continues to avoid answering questions from The Courier-Mail.

University security guards are stationed outside Prof Greenfield's home in exclusive riverside Indooroopilly, and his office remains empty.

He was also absent from his Peregian Beach holiday hideaway on the Sunshine Coast. The professor's last confirmed engagement was a review of the KAIST research institution in South Korea on Thursday.

"The enrolment decision was as the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding ... and a breakdown in the normal checks and balances that control such decisions," is the closest Prof Greenfield has come to an explanation, and that came on Wednesday, only after repeated pressure from this newspaper.

"As the two senior officers, (senior deputy vice-chancellor) Michael Keniger and I have accepted responsibility for this error and breakdown," the statement continued.

Yesterday, university security again asked The Courier-Mail to leave the UQ executive building.

Outside the vice-chancellor's home, his wife said he was not home and would not be returning for "a long time".

In his statement from Korea, Prof Greenfield was critical of the media scrutiny.

"While I am upset at the inappropriate media pressure on my family and UQ and the public attacks on my reputation, I am most concerned that UQ does not take its eye off the main game," he said. The university was "on a roll", he said. "There are numerous reasons for this, but one is that we do not engage in self-indulgent in-fighting."

Prof Greenfield made it clear he would not quit before the agreed date of June next year, after he turns 65. "We need your support over the next eight months so that the momentum is maintained," he said.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Campus, a Law Enforcement System to Itself

With its first priority being to protect the reputation of the university

After the body of an Eastern Michigan University freshman was found in her dorm room in December 2006, naked from the waist down with a pillow over her head, the chief of the university police said there was “no reason to suspect foul play,” and let her parents believe she had died of natural causes.

That silence held for more than two months. In that time, the student who was eventually convicted in her murder had free run of a campus where he was previously caught climbing into a window of a university building.

In recent years Marquette University has been accused of mishandling accusations of sexual assault by four athletes, and Arizona State has been faulted in handling a student’s rape, allegedly by a football player with a history of sexual aggression on campus.

The Penn State scandal has ended the reign of the university’s patriarch and longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, amid national expressions of shock. But the case is also emblematic of a parallel judicial universe that exists at many of the country’s colleges and universities.

On most of these campuses, law enforcement is the responsibility of sworn police officers who report to university authorities, not to the public. With full-fledged arrest powers, such campus police forces have enormous discretion in deciding whether to refer cases directly to district attorneys or to leave them to the quiet handling of in-house disciplinary proceedings.

The Penn State police did investigate a complaint in 1998 about Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach who was charged last week with sexually abusing eight boys, and turned it over to the district attorney, who declined to prosecute.

But many serious offenses reach neither campus police officers nor their off-campus counterparts because they are directly funneled to administrators.

That is what happened at Penn State in 2002, according to a grand jury report, when a graduate assistant to Mr. Paterno reported that he saw Mr. Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the locker room showers.

“I think we’re just on the cusp of breaking the silence,” said Colby Bruno, the managing lawyer at the Boston-based Victim Rights Law Center who specializes in cases of sexual assault on campus. “But there are a lot of very invidious ways that a school can go about squelching these reports. This is everyone’s problem; it’s not just a sports problem or a sports-icon problem.”

Like the Eastern Michigan case, which brought a federal investigation and a lawsuit that forced the university to pay the victim’s family $2.5 million, the Penn State case is expected to intensify the federal Education Department’s recent push to enforce laws that require public disclosure of such crimes and civil rights protections for victims and witnesses.

The department is investigating whether Mr. Paterno and other Penn State officials violated the reporting and disclosure requirements of one of the laws, known as the Clery Act. Separately, the scandal puts Penn State on the radar of the department’s Civil Rights division, which this April issued a tough letter to all 6,000 colleges and universities that accept federal money, spelling out how they must handle cases of sexual violence under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to prevent the creation of “a hostile environment” for accusers that would violate equality of access to education.

“Obviously, when things of this nature come to our attention, we have a duty to look into the matter,” Russlynn Ali, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said of the Penn State scandal.

The law that first demanded colleges disclose potential crimes dates to 1990 and has been amended several times to close loopholes. Named after Jeanne Clery, a student murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in 1986, it requires the reporting of crimes to law enforcement agencies and the publication of crime statistics.

Paul Verrecchia, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, defended the professionalism of campus officers, who, just like other police officers, he said, “raise their hand and swear to uphold the laws and protect the Constitution.” Local law enforcement officials can also be influenced by the power of the university, he added.


Obama defends HeadStart, despite decades of evidence that it achieves nothing

The most recent evaluation

US President Barack Obama Tuesday used "huggable" young children as a backdrop for his latest bid to make Republicans pay a price for blocking his economic and education reforms.

Obama traveled to Pennsylvania, a state which he must win if he is to win reelection next year, to tout his job creation plans and to unveil a new effort to improve early childhood education.

The president met children and teachers in a Head Start program, which offers education, health and nutrition to children from low income families and prepares them for kindergarten in the state school system.

Obama argued that early education for America's kids was vital as the United States competes with China, South Korea and European nations which he said were "serious about education."

He complained that Republicans in the House of Representatives earlier this year voted for a budget that would have reduced funding for Head Start and had blocked aspects of his jobs bill designed to keep teachers in work.

So, saying he was bypassing a constructive Congress, Obama said that he would introduce a new rule that would require low performing Head Start programs to meet new standards to get continued federal aid.

"After trying for months to work with Congress on education, we've decided to take matters into our own hands," Obama said. "Can't wait for Congress any longer."

The president, however, argued that Congress, which has so far failed to pass any pieces of his $447 billion jobs bill designed to cut 9.0 percent unemployment and revive the economy, still needed to act.

Before his speech, he toured a classroom filled with colorful signs and drawings and filled with children aged three to five years. One child wore a shiny red T-shirt, bearing the slogan "Black President" bearing a picture of Obama.


New British teachers have poor knowledge of the subjects they teach

Children risk being left with a poor understanding of key subjects because of failures in the way teachers are trained, according to a leading headmistress.

Bernice McCabe, head of fee-paying North London Collegiate School, said many new teachers were struggling to communicate fundamental academic disciplines in the classroom.

She said training courses increasingly emphasised trendy teaching skills and different approaches to learning over the application of traditional subject knowledge.

Mrs McCabe, director of the Prince's Teaching Institute, a charity founded by the Prince of Wales to encourage teachers to rediscover their passion for subjects, said the content of lessons was too often seen “a secondary consideration”.

The comments come just days after the charity launched its own master classes to give newly-qualified teachers expert tuition in English, history, geography, physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics. Some 160 staff from state schools took part in the first sessions last weekend.

It also follows the Government’s proposed shake-up of teacher training in England. From next year, more primary school teachers will be trained as subject experts – to give children as young as five specialist lessons in areas such as maths, science and foreign languages.

In a further move, the standards that all new teachers must meet before being allowed into the classroom have been rewritten – focusing on tackling behaviour and the basics of teaching.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Mrs McCabe said: “There is a striking change of emphasis from those teaching standards introduced in 2007 that are currently enforced and those being proposed. The first requirement of teachers in the future will be that they should ‘inspire’ their pupils. “That word was very much absent from the 2007 core standards which don’t place an emphasis on subject knowledge.

“The emphasis at the moment is very much on 'processes' – an awareness of different kinds of skills and learning approaches to suit children – rather than subject content.”

In addition to the Saturday classes, the PTI – established by the Prince a decade ago – is introducing a part-time Master’s degree course through Cambridge University. It will give top teachers an award in “advanced subject teaching”.

Mrs McCabe, who is also a member of an expert panel currently reviewing the National Curriculum in England, said: “Often, when I’m interviewing newly-qualified teachers, they talk about processes in the classroom rather than the subject they are going to teach. “The quality of teaching has to start with good subject knowledge.

“I think the focus on 'process' and the skills that pupils need is starting from the wrong place. I don’t think the children can always hold on to what’s being taught with this approach.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education spokesman said: “Bernice McCabe is absolutely right that we need to ensure we have teachers with a deep subject knowledge.

“That’s why we’re already reforming teacher training to make sure that those who become teachers, especially in secondary schools, have a deep and expert understanding of their subject.”