Saturday, January 07, 2012

Want your children to perform better at school and be happier? Then get them out on the playing field

The wider benefits of sport were once traditional wisdom

Schoolchildren may be able to boost their classroom performance by getting out on the playing field, a study suggests. A review of previous research found evidence that physical activity can improve academic achievement in children and teenagers.

Scientists in the Netherlands pooled data from 14 studies with sample sizes ranging from 53 to 12,000 participants aged between six and 18.

The authors, led by Dr Amika Singh, from Vrije University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, wrote in the journal Archives of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: 'According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance.

'The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children.'

Exercise may help mental faculties by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, reducing stress and improving mood, said the researchers.

Physical activity could also boost levels of growth factors that help generate new nerve cells and assist the 'rewiring' of neurons.

The researchers added: 'Relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance.

'More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately.'


British education boss blasts education authorities who are 'happy with failure' as he pushes for weakest primary schools to become academies (charters)

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday accused critics of the Government’s academy programme of being ‘happy with failure’. He revealed ministers are pressing ahead with converting the country’s 200 worst performing primary schools into academies.

Hundreds more are being threatened with similar intervention because they are failing to ensure pupils reach a high enough standard in the three Rs.

Mr Gove warned opponents – including local authorities, Labour MPs and teaching unions – who want to ‘get in the way’ of his reforms to keep their ‘hands off’. In a blistering attack, Mr Gove labelled opponents as ‘enemies of promise’ who are damaging children’s prospects by putting ‘doctrine ahead of children’s interests’.

His speech at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College in south-east London, an ‘all-through’ academy for children aged three to 18, infuriated teaching unions which insist academy conversion does not raise standards in itself.

Mr Gove went on the offensive as new figures show that 45 per cent of all maintained secondary schools are now academies or about to convert. There are 1,529 academies in England, compared with 200 in May 2010 when the Coalition came to power.

Academies are state schools that are free of local authority control and can govern themselves. The previous Labour government introduced academies as a secondary-only programme but the Coalition has extended the freedoms to primaries.

Ministers can also use powers under the Academies Act 2010 to require schools to convert to academies if they are consistently failing. Around 1,310 state primary schools in England fail minimum ‘floor standards’.

They have fewer than 60 per cent of pupils reaching a basic level in English and maths at age 11 and children making below average progress between seven and 11.

Mr Gove said most local authorities on the Government’s hit list were being ‘co-operative and constructive’. He added: ‘Some, however, are being obstructive. They are putting the ideology of central control ahead of the interests of children. ‘They are more concerned with protecting the old ways of working than helping the most disadvantaged children succeed.’

Mr Gove said academy conversion was only a ‘threat to the complacent, to those who have been complicit in failure’. He added: ‘Defenders of the status quo say these schools shouldn’t be judged in this way because they have a different approach – they are creative or inclusive. ‘But you can’t be creative if you can’t read properly and speak fluently – you can’t be included in the world of work if you aren’t numerate.’

Mr Gove said educating pupils to level four – the standard expected of their age – wasn’t ‘that big an ask’.

But Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was not the ‘act of academy conversion’ that raised standards in schools.

He added: ‘There are many highly successful schools working with their local authority and partner schools; they are not the “enemies of promise” but professionals dedicated to improving the lives of young people.’


£100 to play truant! British schools accused of bribing worst pupils to stay away when Ofsted inspectors call

Disruptive pupils are being bribed up to £100 each to stay away from lessons during Ofsted inspections, it has been claimed. Despite having good attendance records, poorly behaved students are being paid to truant to prevent their schools getting bad ratings. Such underhand tactics are being increasingly used to trick inspectors, according to teachers.

Other methods include headteachers ‘borrowing’ outstanding staff from neighbouring schools to take lessons while telling their own weak teachers to go off sick. Some also take brilliant artwork on loan from other schools to impress inspectors. The stunts have been revealed in evidence collected by the Times Educational Supplement.

In one example, a teacher described how he was worried about taking three of the worst classes in his ‘hell hole’ school during an inspection. But, the day before, the deputy headteacher arrived and reeled off the names of more than a dozen of the most challenging pupils from the ‘worst’ three classes.

He told the teacher: ‘None of these little **** will be in tomorrow, you have my word.’

The teacher asked how he could be sure as the pupils had ‘excellent’ attendance records and the senior teacher showed him an ‘inch-thick wad of £20 notes’. The teacher said: ‘I learned later that some of those kids had received up to £100 or so not to attend school that day. ‘It seemed he [the deputy] had, in total, paid the equivalent of a whole class to truant for the day.’

Meanwhile an advanced skills teacher (AST) told the TES he was expected to ‘guest’ at another school and pretend to be the acting head of science during an inspection. Another AST claimed that several teachers were ‘on standby’ to pose as staff for an inspection of a partner school at ‘45 minutes’ notice’.

The TES said: ‘Then there is the school artwork, highly praised by Ofsted, that is loaned to neighbouring schools and proudly displayed every time inspectors visit.

‘There are the schools where certain teachers are told to go off sick when Ofsted is due, and others where highly experienced professionals suddenly appear.

‘There are schools where the most disruptive pupils disappear for a trip and those where lessons are rehearsed by pupils so they can be performed during an Ofsted visit.

‘These stories, and many more like them, are not unusual, according to the teachers who tell them. They claim they are symptomatic of an inspection system that is “broken” and full of “cover-ups”.’

The TES received almost 200 examples of schools conning inspectors.

Schools are usually given two or three days’ notice of visits but Ofsted has been carrying out some no-notice ‘dawn raids’.

Yesterday Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education and an Ofsted inspector, said: ‘It is utterly deplorable. Any school that gets caught cheating should go straight into special measures.’

Ofsted said it received 38 complaints about a school’s ‘conduct or activities’ during inspections carried out from last April to November.

A spokesman said attendance records would show if schools were excluding large numbers of pupils while stand-in teachers would be exposed by their ‘limited knowledge of the school during feedback’.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Hannah and Her Brothers

Mike Adams

Shelby wasn’t expecting such difficult questions when she took a job teaching grammar school in middle Tennessee. But it was an election year and little Emily had been hearing a lot of talk about politics. So she raised her hand on the first day of class and asked “Miss Shelby, what is the difference between a conservative and a liberal?” Miss Shelby thought for a while before she replied with a story that was dated but true. It happened when Miss Shelby was just about Emily’s age:

“When I was in the fifth grade, there was a girl named Hannah. She was beautiful and athletic. She used to try to beat the other boys in the 100 yard dash. She lost time and time again. But one day in fifth grade, she beat all the other little boys in a race.

Patrick, who used to be the fastest boy in school, got mad. He got really mad. In fact, he picked on Hannah so badly that the school teacher grounded him from recess for an entire month. That made Patrick madder still.

“The boys in the class all picked on Patrick for losing his title as the fastest kid in school to a girl. They even went so far as to say that Patrick probably couldn’t beat Hannah in a fistfight. They teased and teased and teased poor Patrick. Then one day he just snapped did something really stupid: he challenged Hannah to a fistfight after school.

“Being a lady, Hannah declined to fight. That meant Patrick got to save some face. But, unfortunately, Patrick would not give up trying to fight Hannah. So finally, she told Patrick to meet her at the baseball field after school one day. The entire school was buzzing over the fact that Hannah agreed to fight Patrick. There were at least fifty kids who showed up for the fight. There were also a couple of dozen people waiting in the bleachers when Hannah arrived at the ball park. Among them were Hannah’s four older brothers; Ben, Peter, Rob, and Luke John.

“Patrick put up his dukes to fight Hannah. She remained calm with good reason. Patrick never saw the punch coming. He didn’t even see Ben come down from the bleachers and approach him from his weak side. But he felt Ben’s punch to his lower stomach. He also felt it when Ben rolled him over on his back, climbed on top of him, and gave him his very first broken nose. Ben pounded Patrick until his face was a bloody mess. It was made worse by the fact that he was crying uncontrollably.

“It should go without saying that Patrick never picked on Hannah again. In fact, he never picked on anyone again. He was greatly humbled by the experience of getting his nose broken by Ben. He just told his parents he was hit in the nose by a pitch and let the matter go at that. Hannah and her family are all conservative Republicans, by the way.”

When Miss Shelby was done with her story, Emily looked very confused. So Shelby started talking again – sort of the way Jesus did with his disciples when they were too dumb to understand a parable:

“Emily, I know you don’t know much about politics so I’ll explain why I shared this story with you. It illustrates four important characteristics of conservatism. I’ll explain them all in relation to Hannah and her brothers:
1. Conservatives believe the individual has unique talents given by a Creator. In the fourth grade, the girls started to sprout above the boys in height. In fact, many of the girls could have beaten Patrick but they did not try. Hannah was taught that it was a sin not to fully exploit her God-given talents. So she always tried her best. Even when she was splitting infinitives.

2. Conservatives are more interested in competing than in sparing the feelings of their inferiors. Hannah knew she would upset the fragile feelings of Patrick. But she didn’t care. The joy of competition outweighed the fear of causing personal offense. At first, she kind of enjoyed the reaction of Patrick. Being the target of jealousy and covetousness is much better than being ignored altogether.

3. Conservatives understand that human nature is ugly and must be controlled through fear. Hannah had an opportunity to sit down with Patrick and negotiate over their differences. But Hannah’s parents instilled in her a deep distaste for the United Nations approach to avoiding conflict. She was raised to believe that peace could best be kept by an overwhelming demonstration of force. Ben certainly supplied that show of force. Why negotiate with a punk who fights girls when you have four brothers who play junior and senior high school football? It is better to overwhelm a relatively weak opponent than to risk an embarrassing upset. Just ask the 1980 Russian Olympic Hockey team.

4. Conservatives believe that the family, not the government, is the foundation of society. Hannah could have called the police or told the principal that Patrick was threatening her. But that is not the way she was raised. Hannah and her three sisters, four brothers, mother, and father all have a saying: “Our family is sort of like the Ten Commandments. When you violate one of us, you violate all of us.” Hannah was raised to believe that, unlike the police, her family can always be counted on to respond in a time of need.

When Miss Shelby finished, she knew she had only told half of the story. But she promised she would later tell the story of another friend so little Emily could also understand the liberal mindset. And, dear reader, I promise to share that story with you in my next column about a little girl named Allison who lived in Illinois.


Why won't any British political party dare champion grammar (selective) schools? I owe mine everything

By Michael Portillo

This was surely one of the most original excuses ever heard for non-attendance at a gathering. Ten years ago, I went to a reunion of staff and former pupils from my old grammar school, Harrow County for Boys, which was based in north-west London. The happy centrepiece of the evening was a tribute to a much-loved master, Harry Rees, who was finally retiring after years of devoted service, not only in teaching history but also in staging school drama productions.

The farewell took the format of the popular TV show This Is Your Life, though, in reference to Harry’s work in drama, it was entitled This Is Your Backstage Life.

At one stage during the proceedings, which were full of fond reminiscences, the organiser said: ‘Now Harry there is one boy you might remember from about 30 years ago, who was a dab hand at painting scenery for your sets.

‘Unfortunately he cannot be with us tonight,’ continued the organiser, pausing for effect… ‘Because he is in Sweden — receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine.’

The explanation was absolutely true. The boy in question was none other than the brilliant scientist Sir Paul Nurse, now President of the Royal Society and in 2001 the recipient of the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on cell structures.

And it was right that Sir Paul should be mentioned, even in his absence, at our reunion, because his rise to the pinnacle of scientific achievement reflected the high academic standards of the school.

I was reminded of my affection for the place when I recently participated in a new documentary series on the history of grammar schools, the first episode of which will be shown on BBC Four tonight.

Like so many other grammar schools that flourished in Britain before they were abolished through a mix of ideology and political folly, Harrow County was a fiercely competitive institution, where all boys were taught to strive for excellence.

It was precisely because of this demanding regime that results were so good. Funded by the state, the school gave bright boys a magnificent start in life, no matter how disadvantaged their backgrounds.

As the BBC programme shows, the grammars like Harrow County were true engines of social mobility for working-class pupils fortunate enough to win places at them. Indeed, Sir Paul Nurse himself is a classic example of this pattern.

He was brought up in Wembley by his grandparents — his grandfather was a mechanic in the local Heinz factory and his grandmother was a cleaner.

Yet from these modest beginnings he became one of the world’s greatest geneticists, thanks partly to the influence of Harrow County.

I, too, feel I owe a huge debt to the school, for I am also from an unconventional background. My own father was a refugee from the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, later going on to become a BBC radio producer after World War II.

Having passed my 11-plus exam, the selective test that decided whether pupils would go to the elite grammars or the less academically orientated secondary moderns, I was lucky enough to study there between 1964 and 1971, before winning a place at Cambridge University.

Founded in 1911 at the zenith of Britain’s imperial grandeur, Harrow County was consciously modelled on the English public school — not surprisingly since not far down the road was Harrow, one of the most renowned establishments in England and the alma mater of Winston Churchill.

The customs of Harrow County reflected this traditionalist public-school ethos. There was a powerful house structure, with the head boy and prefects at the top of the pupil hierarchy. To denote his status, the head boy wore a gown with sleeves, while prefects donned sleeveless gowns.

Latin was compulsory in the early years and Greek was still on the curriculum. Rugby, the gentlemen’s game, was played, rather than soccer.

When I arrived in 1964, the school still had a strongly authoritarian atmosphere, thanks to the tough-minded headmaster Dr Simpson, who firmly believed in corporal punishment. Fortunately, when Dr Simpson retired the next year, the cane was phased out, though discipline remained strong.

What was most striking about the school was its superb academic record, reflected in the phenomenal levels of attainment in public exams. In the year I left, no fewer than 22 pupils won places at Oxford and Cambridge, with all but one of them gaining either a scholarship or an exhibition [a kind of scholarship].

This record was achieved not through lavish facilities or state-of-the art equipment. Indeed, Harrow County’s site was quite cramped, many of the buildings were Edwardian and, in my final years, the classroom furniture was incredibly shabby.

No, academic success was reached through two factors. One was the ferociously competitive culture of learning in the school. Harrow County was unashamedly elitist, with pupils divided into streams according to their ability. The brighter ones were encouraged to take their O-levels a year early, so that they would pass sooner into the huge sixth form, which had more than 300 pupils. In practice, therefore, we had three years to prepare for our A-levels and university exams.

The other vital factor was the high calibre and dedication of the teaching staff. All of them were extremely bright and prepared us meticulously.

I had one history teacher called Mr D’Arcy who produced duplicated, closely typed sheets of information on every conceivable subject that could come up as an exam question, from the origins of World War I to the arguments for the 1832 Reform Act. In all, he made about 200 of these beautifully written summaries, a monument to his diligence.

But it was not all work. The school was also strong in sports, especially in cricket. Moreover, all pupils either had to be in the Boy Scouts or the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). One enjoyable consequence of being in the Scouts was that, at the start of each new school year, we had to camp out in tents on the school playing fields. It was also a tradition that we all had to wear either our Scouts or CCF uniforms every Friday in term time.

But the non-academic activity I enjoyed by far the most was the drama — though I was more of a producer than an actor. For those of us in the sixth form, the great attraction of dramatics was that we would stage co-productions with the local grammar school for girls.

One of the Harrow girls who featured in some of our plays was none other than Diane Abbott, now the Labour MP for Hackney and the first black woman elected to Parliament. Surprisingly, she was a quite shy as a teenager, though she was a good actress.

I look back on my schooldays with a warm glow of nostalgia. They were wonderful times. There was no unpleasantness in the school, no bullying or vicious gangs. Indeed, even though this was the late Sixties, I don’t recall any drugs.

We were certainly aware of the social revolution that was taking place across Britain, especially in music and politics. I was actually a youthful supporter of the Labour Party then, but there was no hint of angry rebellion in the air.

I was lucky enough to make a number of great friends at Harrow County, including the TV presenter Clive Anderson, who was just as funny and quick-witted as a boy as he is today.

I was also close to Geoffrey Perkins, the BBC comedy producer who sadly died a couple of years ago, and Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who has just stepped down as Britain’s ambassador to the USA.

Sadly Harrow County, like so many other grammar schools, disappeared in the 1970s when it was amalgamated with other local schools to form what was known as Gayton High School, later to be renamed Harrow High in 1998 when it became fully co-educational.

The demise of the grammar schools was a tragedy for this country, robbing the brightest working-class children of the chance to be educated to the highest level.

The absurdity of the grammars’ abolition was that the politicians were addressing the wrong problem. Instead of tackling the failure of the old secondary moderns, they attacked the one part of the school system that worked well.

The paradox today is that no major political party would dare to campaign to bring back grammar schools, yet where they still exist, such as Kent or Buckinghamshire, no front-rank politician would dare to advocate their abolition, because they are so cherished by parents.

But at least the new Education Secretary Michael Gove is moving in the right direction, through the creation of free schools and academies which will undermine the miserable, dead-hand of central bureaucracy. The sadness is that, over recent decades, so many children have been betrayed by political dogma.


No "Teach for America" equivalent allowed in one Australian State

They love their useless 4-year degrees. I was a successful High School teacher with ZERO teaching qualifications

QUEENSLAND has rejected a key federal education initiative aimed at stemming teacher shortages in mathematics and science.

The Department of Education and Training has confirmed no Teach Next teachers, who are trained for about eight weeks before they hit the classroom, will be employed in state schools next year.

The Gillard Government said in last year's Budget speech it would spend $18 million over four years on the program, which is similar to the Teach for Australia scheme knocked back by the Bligh Government.

Under Teach Next, "highly qualified professionals" take an intensive training course of about eight weeks before entering the classroom. They then complete the rest of their teaching qualification over the next two years while working and receiving mentoring.

DET executive director Tom Barlow said while the department had explored options for implementing Teach Next, there were legislative barriers relating to the registration of teachers restricting participation. "In order to satisfy teaching requirements in Queensland, graduates complete an accredited four-year undergraduate qualification, or a one-year post-graduate qualification," he said.

"The department is exploring innovative strategies to attract high-calibre teachers for Queensland state schools through scholarship and incentive programs."


Thursday, January 05, 2012

VA School District Defends Shocking Occupy-Themed Song Performed by Third-Graders: ‘I’m So Happy to Be Part of the 99%’

The ever-vigilant crew at WeaselZippers has uncovered a jaw-dropping incident at Woodbrook Elementary School in Virginia in which third-grade students performed (and school officials claim wrote) a song titled, “Part of the 99” as part of a “Kid Pan Alley” performance in October.

But despite the backlash, Albermale County school district is standing behind the song, claiming the children chose and wrote the lyrics themselves.

The lyrics, which mirror the very same sentiments and slogans espoused by the Occupy movement, have critics up in arms. The highly politicized song, which many believe is intended to indoctrinate children, follows below:

Some people have it all
But they still don’t think they have enough
They want more money
A faster ride
They’re not content
Never satisfied
Yes — they’re the 1 percent

I used to be one of the 1 percent
I worked all the time
Never saw my family
Couldn’t make life rhyme
Then the bubble burst
It really, really hurt
I lost my money
Lost my pride
Lost my home
Now I’m part of the 99

Some people have it all
But they still don’t think they have enough
They want more money
A faster ride
They’re not content
Never satisfied
Yes — they’re the 1 percent

I used to be sad, now I’m satisfied
’Cause I really have enough
Though I lost my yacht and plane
Didn’t need that extra stuff
Could have been much worse
You don’t need to be first
’Cause I’ve got my friends
Here by my side
Don’t need it all
I’m so happy to be part of the 99

Local CBS 19 reports:
Conservative blogs are buzzing, discussing what they call “an indoctrinating sing-along” with an Occupy Message. In one blog, Weasel Zippers, writes “to have third graders sing about class warfare and rail against the one percent is evil and a violation of the trust parents put in them [schools].”

“Just as I wouldn’t promote a Tea Party song in a third grade class, I think the same is true for any song of political ideology.” says Jefferson Area Tea Party Chair, Carole Thorpe.

Kid Pan Alley is an organization that helps kids write and perform their own songs. Their mission is to inspire kids to be creators.

Students write the songs and school officials are standing by the lyrics.

“They don’t censor what the kids write. They don’t shape what the kids write. It all comes out of the kids own mouths and the kids own words,” claims Albemarle County School Board Chair, Steve Koleszar.

But many question whether third-graders have the faculties or political knowledge to write such lyrics and even if they do, assert that a song like “99” has no place in schools, period.

“Does this also include religious content of lyrics? Would it include profanity? Does the school at any point say this content is inappropriate for an eight-year-old?,” presses Thorpe.
Kid Pan Alley leaders have addressed the song, saying “we have taken swift action to clarify our guidelines for lyrical content.”

School officials are standing by the Kid Pan Alley program and also the lyrics.

“The kids choose the topic, this class chose the topic and those are their words” asserts Koleszar.


CA Judge Deems Ramming Jewish Woman with Shopping Cart ‘Free Speech’

Back in June of 2010 a leader of a pro-Palestinian student group at University of Berkeley allegedly rammed a Jewish woman with a shopping cart as she staged a counter-protest to an anti-Israel “Apartheid Week” rally conducted by the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. The counter-protest was dubbed “Israel Wants Peace Week.”

Now, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg has deemed that the Muslim students who harassed Jessica Felber and other Jewish students were simply engaging in protected political speech.

The Greeley Gazette reports:
On Thursday U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the harassment, even if true, constituted protected political speech and dismissed the case against the university.

Seeborg said the university did not have any obligation to intervene in any dispute where a private individual on campus was allegedly interfering with another’s constitutional rights. He instead appeared to indicate that the incident was an outcome of Felber’s counter protest.

Felber and another Jewish student claimed the University did not do enough to prevent the harassment which included the Muslim group conducting checkpoints around the campus. Students were asked if they were Jewish while passing the checkpoints.

“The incident in which Felber was assaulted with a shopping cart, for example, did not occur in the context of her educational pursuit,” Seeborg stated. “Rather, that event occurred when she, as one person attempting to exercise free speech rights in a public forum, was allegedly attacked by another person who likewise was participating in a public protest in a public forum.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Seeborg said that much of the conduct involved “pure political speech” that is constitutionally protected even if it “contained language that plaintiffs believe was inflammatory, offensive or untrue.”
Seeborg said some courts have allowed public colleges to outlaw harassing speech and conduct that interferes with students’ rights, but schools have no legal duty to do so. The Muslim organizations receive campus funding on the same basis as other groups, the judge said, and any attempt to withdraw it would raise “serious First Amendment issues.”

The Huffington Post adds:
The suit also alleged this attack was part of a pattern of behavior during Apartheid Week, during which Jewish students were spit on and Israel’s government was equated to that of Nazi Germany.

While the university has previously disciplined some of the event’s participants and even had Husam Zakharia, the student who hit Felber with the shopping cart, arrested in connection with the incident, Felber (who graduated last year) has accused university President Mark Yudof, who is Jewish, of allowing an anti-Semitic environment to flourish on campus.

“SJP and Zakharia have been involved in other incidents on campus to incite violence against and intimidate Jewish and other students,” stated the lawsuit. “Defendants knew of this history of incitement and intimidation yet took no reasonable step to adequately control Zakharia or other student members of the SPJ.”

Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer said the judge’s decision affirms that Muslims assaulting Jewish students is now protected speech.

“This is an outrageous decision. The Muslim students were trying to silence the freedom of speech of the Jewish students. The judge says this is a ruling in favor of free speech, but actually the freedom of speech was being infringed and the judge is saying that is ok to protect the freedom of speech of the Muslim students. Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech as well?”


Taking the soft option: Figures show number of British pupils doing High School courses in traditional subjects fell by half under Labour government

Just one in five pupils were entered for GCSE exams in traditional academic subjects during Labour’s last year in Government, new figures have revealed today.

In some areas, just three per cent of children were given the chance to study the core academic subjects of English, maths, two sciences, a language or history or geography.

The official figures reveal the extent to which hundreds of thousands of children were encouraged to drop academic subjects in favour of so-called softer options.

They show that in 13 years under Labour, the number of pupils entering these academic core exams fell dramatically from 50 per cent in 1997 to 22per cent in 2010.

Of those who were took these subjects, only 16.5 per cent in England achieved good grades of A* to C.

Ministers have now introduced a new ‘English Baccalaureate’ – made up of five traditional subjects: English, maths, a science, history or geography and a foreign or ancient language - to encourage pupils to study subjects value most by employers and universities.

The figures reveal staggering regional variations. In Knowsley, just 3 per cent of pupils achieved good results in these traditional subjects - just 107 children.

There were 9 local authorities where fewer than 1 in 10 pupils were entered for the exams, and 34 local authorities where fewer than 1 in 10 pupils achieved good grades in these subjects.

Pupils in deprived local authorities were much less likely to study an academic core of GCSEs than their peers in wealthier areas.

The local authority with the largest proportion of pupils achieving the core EBacc subjects was Buckinghamshire, where 33.2 per cent pupils achieved good grades. In Hertfordshire, 4,612 were entered the EBacc academic subjects – more than in 24 other local authorities combined.

The statistics relate to pupils who took their GCSEs last summer and chose their subjects in 2009.

In nearly every other developed country in the world, children are assessed in a range of core academic subjects at 15 or 16 even if they are on a ‘vocational’ route.

In France, for example, all children take the ‘Brevet des Colleges’, which assesses French, maths, a modern foreign language and one of either history, geography or civics.

But Labour gave non-academic qualifications - including computer skills, sports leadership and certificates of ‘personal effectiveness - parity with traditional subjects in league tables in 2004.

The move helped fuel a damaging collapse in the number of children taking academic courses as schools pushed weaker pupils into other areas to improve their league table performance.

Ministers believe the move was part of a deliberate attempt to obscure the poor performance of schools after years of massive public spending increases.

Recent research by the Department for Education shows that the EBacc has made a dramatic difference already with 47 per cent of pupils due to take their GCSEs in 2013 now studying a combination of EBacc subjects.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Labour’s educational betrayal of the poorest children is the unwritten scandal of the last thirteen years.

'While children in wealthier areas sat the exams which guaranteed entry to the best universities, pupils in deprived areas were steered away from the qualifications which could have transformed their opportunities.

'If we are to ensure our young people get the college places and jobs they deserve we must stop students being diverted towards soft subjects and give them the qualifications employers respect.’

Tory MP Damian Hinds, who sits on the Education Select Committee, added: ‘These figures show categorically how, over 13 years, the last Labour Government imposed a postcode lottery on the life chances of a generation, with too many young people steered away from the subjects that employers value most.’

But shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg hit back at the claims. He said: ‘Labour broadened the curriculum, and raised standards. All these figures demonstrate is that more children had more choice in the subjects they took at GCSE under Labour. The figures ignore the fact pupils also got better results.

‘This re-hash of old figures makes no account for outcomes, just a crude assessment of how many pupils took subjects. As well as in core subjects such as English and Maths, Labour raised standards in GCSEs like History and Geography.’


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The utility of higher education is greatly overestimated

To translate the article below: Much of the economic benefit attributed to getting more education is in fact the result of a higher IQ. Higher IQ people tend to stay in the education system for longer but would do well even if they didn't

There are two conceptually distinct problems with standard estimates of the return to education (see here, here, and here for more).

Problem #1: Ability bias. People with traits the labor market values (intelligence, work ethic, conformity, etc.) tend to get more education. Since employers have some ability to detect these valued traits, people with more education would have earned above-average incomes even if their education were only average. Punchline: Standard estimates overstate the effect of education on worker productivity and income.

Problem #2: Signaling. People with traits the labor market values (intelligence, work ethic, conformity, etc.) tend to get more education. Since employers have imperfect ability to detect these valued traits, people with more education earn above-average incomes even if they personally lack these valued traits. Punchline: Standard estimates overstate the effect of education on worker productivity, but not the effect on income.

Neither of these stories enjoys much support from labor economists. They usually just ignore the signaling model - but when they're being careful they'll off-handedly admit that "Standard empirical tests can't distinguish between the human capital and signaling hypotheses." If you mention ability bias, however, labor economists will quickly point you to a massive literature that supposedly debunks it.

But if you pay close attention, there's a bizarre omission. Despite their mighty debunking efforts, labor economists almost never test for ability bias in the most obvious way: Measure ability, then re-estimate the return to education after controlling for measured ability. For example, you could measure IQ, then estimate the return to education after controlling for IQ.

When I ask labor economists about their omission, they have a puzzling response: "IQ is a very incomplete measure of ability." True enough. But the right lesson to draw is that controlling for IQ provides a lower bound for the severity of ability bias. After all, if the estimated return to education falls sharply after controlling for just one measure of ability, imagine how much it might fall after controlling for measures of all ability.

What happens to the return to education after controlling for IQ? I've done the statistics myself on the NLSY, and found that the estimated return to education falls by about 40%. I've talked to several other economists of widely varying political persuasions who reached very similar results. Only yesterday, though, did I discover an excellent publication that replicates this 40% figure - and shows it to be extremely robust: McKinley Blackburn and David Neumark's "Are OLS Estimates of the Return to Education Biased Downward? Another Look" (Review of Economics and Statistics, 1995). Their conclusion:
Thus, in our NLSY data, OLS estimation of the standard log wage equation, including test scores, appears to provide an appropriate estimate of the return to schooling. Such estimates indicate an upward bias of roughly 40% in the usual OLS estimate of the return to schooling (that omits proxies for ability). In contrast to evidence from other recent research using different statistical experiments to purge schooling of its correlation with the wage equation error, our results show that one can address the issues of omitted-ability bias, measurement error, and endogeneity, and still conclude that OLS estimation omitting ability measures overstates the economic return to schooling.

Call me cynical, but I'm confident that if Blackburn and Neumark's work had come out the other way, defenders of education would loudly include it on their list of reasons to ignore ability bias. Indeed, I wonder if their list would have grown half as long if the obvious test undermined education skepticism instead of supporting it.

To repeat: The straightforward way to test for ability bias is to measure ability, then control for it. If this approach failed to reveal ability bias, it would be reasonable to dismiss it. In practice, though, the straightforward test finds ability bias to be not merely real, but large. I'm not going to let anyone forget it. Expect me to invoke Blackburn-Neumark on a regular basis from now on.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Prestigious, Top-Tier University to Offer ‘Occupy 101’‏ course

Columbia University is offering a new course on Occupy Wall Street next semester, reports the New York Post. Dr. Hannah Appel, who claims to have spent several nights camped out in Zuccotti Park, will be teaching a course formally titled “Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement.”

On her blog, Appel defends OWS, arguing that “it is important to push back against the rhetoric of ‘disorganization’ or ‘a movement without a message’ coming from left, right and center.” This is how the course will be set up (according to the syllabus):

* Up to 30 students will be expected to get involved in ongoing OWS projects outside the classroom

* It will be divided between seminars and “fieldwork”

* Upperclassmen and grad students will be sent into the field for full course credit (which prompted the Post to ask “Does getting pepper-sprayed count as extra credit?”)

Addressing the safety risks of sending students out to perform “fieldwork,” Appel writes, “I can say with absolute certainty that there is no foreseeable risk in teaching this as a field-base class.”

“…absolute certainty…”

While some would argue that her obvious support for the OWS movement will influence the overarching message of the course, and “keep her from being an objective teacher,” Appel disagrees.

“Inevitably, my experience will color the way I teach, but I feel equipped to teach objectively,” Appel told The Post. “It’s best to be critical of the things we hold most sacred.”

The class will been broken up into three sections. The first portion of the course is titled “Occupation, Direct Action & Other Tactics.” The second portion is called “On Revolution.” The third and final portion of the course is called “The Alter Globalization Movement and the Question of Anarchy.”

The Blaze has addressed the issue of academia engaging OWS before, but perhaps it bears repeating: if University professors want to have an honest and open discussion on “income inequality,” revolution, anarchy, and total social upheaval, perhaps it would behoove them to review the following figures—you know, for “objectivity’s” sake:

Consider the following:

Harvard Professor Average Salary: $193,800
Columbia Professor Average Salary: $191,400
University of Chicago Professor Average Salary: $190,400
Stanford University Professor Average Salary: $188,400
Princeton University Average Salary: $186,000

Now compare these numbers:

U.S. Marine 20+ Years Median Salary: $76,200
U.S. Marine 10-19 Years Median Salary: $53,100
U.S. Marine 5-9 Years Median Salary: $40,000
U.S. Marine Less Than 5 Years Median Salary: $28,700

Given these sets of facts, would it be unfair to demand Miss Appel offer a seminar titled “Occupy the Quad”?

As written earlier on The Blaze:
To be fair, the difference in salary between a tenured Harvard professor and a U.S. Marine may not be as extreme as, say, the difference between a Goldman Sachs executive and a New York City police officer.

However, as far as one can tell, the Occupy movement isn’t just about a difference in numbers. It’s about a specific socio-political theory that says, “It’s not fair that so few should have so much.”

When the Occupiers say that we should protest Goldman Sachs because hedge funders are paid more than the police, wouldn’t that same logic apply to [Columbia] because its professors are paid more than the U.S. Marines?

It would seem that both of these examples are flawed in their logic because, at their root, they are dependent an arbitrary and personal understanding of what “too much” is.

Who gets to decide that? …unless someone produces a fact-based proof for what “equal” looks like, then the entire idea of “income inequality” will continue to go in circles…


Unstable homes hit British High School grades: How family support is vital to success at school

Ever since the prewar Terman & Oden studies we have known that high IQ people are less prone to divorce so what we are seeing here could just be an IQ effect

Young people who grow up in an unstable household are twice as likely to leave school with no good GCSEs, according to the Prince’s Trust.

Those without a good education are also more likely to have been read fewer bedtime stories and to have had less support at home than their more successful peers, its research shows.

It also suggests the parents of those aged 16-25 with no A* to C grade GCSEs are less likely to help with their child’s homework. The survey found stability at home was linked to success in later life, according to the charity’s fourth annual Youth Happiness Index.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of all high-achieving 16- to 25-year-olds said someone at home always helped them with their schoolwork, as opposed to 38 per cent of those with no qualifications.

Those with no good GCSEs were less than half as likely to have someone read to them as the average young person, according to the YouGov survey.

The lack of routine also impacted upon their mental health, with the number of those with no qualifications three times more likely to be depressed than their well-educated peers. One in three of those with lower qualifications ‘always’ or ‘often’ felt rejected, compared with one in five overall.

Those with no good GCSEs were also more likely to have irregular mealtimes than those with more than five GCSEs at grades A* to C.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: ‘Without the right support, directionless teenagers can become lost young adults – unconfident, under-qualified and unemployed.’


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cheating Rampant on College Tests

What if the test score that you post on a standardized test wasn’t a true measure of your intelligence? Admissions offices tend to correlate intelligence with standardized test scores. If your test score doesn’t reflect your actual performance, doesn’t that make the test score correlation meaningless? The test score difference I am referring to is not related to cultural bias and the arguments sociologists make to harpoon standards in academia. Are you aware of the trend in wealthier high schools where students game the standardized test system?

Gaming the system is rampant among a certain sector in America. Find an upper crust neighborhood in the US and you will find families that are trying to artificially create an edge. They have the disposable income or inherited trust assets to do it. The game: Extended Time.

If you are wealthy enough, or desperate enough, you find a willing psychologist. Parents will pay fees of up to $4000 to have their child diagnosed with a learning disability. When their kids take all tests, including regular tests in school, they get extended time. Prove a bad enough disability and the student may get up to 4 days to take the ACT! Jackpot.

The edge is big enough to change the outcome of admission at college. Kids that are medium to great students and have extended time on standardized tests raise their scores significantly, up to four points on the ACT, and on the SAT. It affects math scores more than verbal scores. The extended time bump is enough to move scores from one echelon of schools to the “elite” schools that sound good at cocktail parties.

Studies have shown it’s easy to fake.
“The results reveal a strikingly high ability of college students to falsify a positive ADHD diagnosis by way of a self-report battery: 75% of students taking the ADHD Rating Scale, 95% of students taking the Brown Adult ADHD Scale, 90% of students taking the Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scale, and 65% of students taking the Wender Utah Rating Scale. These findings are remarkably different from the 7 to 8% of the college population that has been reported previously to be affected by the disorder (Weyandt, et al., 1995). These results also reveal that all four batteries are significantly easy to fake. While the psychological tests used for child diagnosis are refined and well documented, the ease of diagnosis falsification of batteries developed for adults is a sign that further improvement of these scales is needed and a reliable adult scale has yet to be produced.”

Not only that, but the statistical curve showed a bi-modal distribution. ”
“Hypothetically, if you distributed the scores of all students sitting for the SAT on a curve, with or without accommodation, it should approximate the normal curve (a.k.a. the “bell-curve”). When the College Board plotted the 2005 results of students taking the test with accommodations, the results yielded not a bell-curve but rather a bi-modal distribution (meaning the distribution was top and bottom heavy with a disproportionate number of low scoring and high scoring students rather than a tendency toward the mean). This greatly alarmed the College Board that the population of students receiving accommodation did not mirror the rest of the population.”

The reason they do this is because some enterprising parents sued ACT under the American’s With Disability Act to remove the check off showing a child took the test with a disability. They were successful in 2004.

For decades the College Board placed an asterisk * next to the scores of all students who took the SAT under nonstandard testing conditions. Disability rights activists considered this a form of discrimination and filed multiple suits to revoke the nonstandard designation (*). In 2004, beset by lawsuits, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to remove the nonstandard designation, meaning students’ test-scores would no longer be “flagged” as an indication that the students had received extra time or any other special accommodations on their tests. With the flag gone, the number of applications for special accommodations increased dramatically.

Colleges don’t know who is truly disabled, and who isn’t. That makes things tougher on the admissions department. As the practice becomes more widespread, it makes the standardized tests less important-and standards for admission murkier.

The wealthy don’t stop there in their effort to get Junior into an Ivy League school.

The next step in gaming the system is hiring the essay writer for college applications. Now, all your kid really has to do is fill in blanks on the college application. Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up.”, and this exercise proves it!

Any family that can’t afford all these extra financial efforts is theoretically disadvantaged. But, many of those families are already taking a backseat since wealthy families can send their kids to private schools, and enrich their kids more anyway. There is no way to level that playing field; but the extended time dance is just blatant cheating. Families are exploiting a loophole they created.

There are some points that need to be crystal clear. In this post, I am pointing out families that truly cheat the system. There are certainly many kids that need extended time on standardized tests due to mental or physical disabilities. I am not talking about those children. Most of them were diagnosed with disabilities before high school. Families that cheat, get their diagnosis in the junior or senior year of high school.

What does it do to the self esteem of the child that knowingly receives extended time when they don’t deserve it? Can you imagine the kid that received extended time raising his hand in the operating room when they had to make a split second life or death decision? “Stop, stop! I need extended time.”!


Obliterating What’s Left of Childhood Privacy

From preschool through high school and their careers, young Americans will now have all their data consolidated and shared by federal agencies. Thanks to years of the expanding surveillance state, data collection, and centralization of education, accelerated by an overlooked provision in President Obama’s stimulus program, everything about kids that is documented from the time they first set foot in class will be information freely shared among federal bureaucracies. Emmet McGroarty and Jane Robbins write:

Under regulations the Obama Department of Education released this month, these scenarios could become reality. The department has taken a giant step toward creating a de facto national student database that will track students by their personal information from preschool through career. Although current federal law prohibits this, the department decided to ignore Congress and, in effect, rewrite the law.

It appears that no data is safe—grades, absences, disciplinary incidents, health records, STD test results, and family income would all be fair game, for the federal government to share internally and with private businesses, without the students or parents knowing. It’s all for the sake of the children, of course.

Also see this clip on CNN:

Notice the anchor seems rather calm about this whole development, as though it’s a reasonable course of action for government to take. At this point, it is difficult to have arguments about such things based on facts alone. Either people support this kind of thing, or they oppose it.


Stop teaching about the holocaust so that children see Germany in a better light, says Lord Baker

British schools should no longer teach children about the Nazis because it makes them think less favourably of modern Germany, the architect of the National Curriculum has claimed.

Lord Baker of Dorking, who spent three years as Margaret Thatcher’s education secretary, said that he would ban the topic and concentrate on British history instead.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said that schools should concentrate on teaching “the story in our own country” rather than the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust.

Lord Baker, who introduced the National Curriculum in the 1980s, said: “I would ban the study of Nazism from the history curriculum totally.

“It’s one of the most popular courses because it’s easily taught and I don’t really think that it does anything to learn more about Hitler and Nazism and the Holocaust. “It doesn’t really make us favourably disposed to Germany for a start, present-day Germany.”

Lord Baker now runs a series of university technical colleges which teach courses on the lives of great British engineers, scientists and inventors, a model he would like to see applied more widely.

"Why I’ve got a thing against the Holocaust and all of that is I think you study your own history first,” he said. “I’m sure that German children are not studying the British Civil War, right? “I think children should leave a British school with some idea of the timeline in their minds – how it came from Roman Britain to Elizabeth II.”

He stressed that he would not entirely exclude European history, saying that in order to study the Tudors and Stuarts, students would have to learn about Luther.

“I would focus much more on British history basically. But that takes you over the seas – we’ve been a great international country. It takes you into the empire. We’ve been a seafaring nation – you get to know other countries.”

Holocaust charities dismissed his suggestion.

James Smith, Chairman of the Holocaust Centre, said: “The study of the Holocaust leaves children ill-disposed to present day Germany only if it is badly taught. The period of the Nazis was not just a blip in German history; the Holocaust was a Europe-wide crime.

“The Holocaust is why the nations of the world, not only Germany, ratified the United Nations Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide and why the United Nations looked forward to the day the International Criminal Court would be established.

“Forgetting how much of our legislation that protects fair and equal societies is rooted in the knowledge of how far humans can sink would be a backward step for civil society and democratic values.”

His remarks come as ministers prepare to overhaul the curriculum. The Coalition has tasked an expert panel with reviewing the structure of existing lessons in England and is expected to issue a report next year. It could recommend making history compulsory up to the age of 16 – instead of the current cut-off of 14.

Lord Baker said that his biggest regret as education secretary was not extending the school day by at least one period. He said it was “outrageous” that most schools finish for the afternoon at 2.30 or 3pm, causing “huge, huge problems with childcare”.

He would prefer schools to teach until at least 4 or 5pm, extending their lunch hour to include an hour of sport, drama, debating or even puppetry.

By extending the teaching day until 5pm and adding two extra weeks a year in his university technical colleges, the institutions have gained the equivalent of an extra teaching year for every pupil over five years.

But he was forced to retreat on his ambitions as education secretary because of opposition from teaching unions, he said. “There was a two-year teachers’ strike and by settling it, we made an agreement with the teachers that they can only spend – I think the figure is still the same – 1,215 hours a year. “If I was going to ask them to do another 40 minutes, I’d have had to reopen the negotiations – I just couldn’t take it on.” He added that union resistance would still block the idea today.


Monday, January 02, 2012

5 ways to save American education

A research team led by Marc S. Tucker, a relentless advocate for adopting successful international practices in U.S. schools, recently concluded that we, in essence, are doing almost nothing right.

His investigators could find no evidence, Tucker said, “that any country that leads the world’s education performance league tables has gotten there by implementing any of the major agenda items that dominate the education reform agenda in the United States, with the exception of the Common Core State Standards.”

Congratulations, I guess, go to the 45 states implementing that new common curriculum. Other American approaches, such as charter schools, vouchers, computer-oriented entrepreneurs and rating teachers by the test scores of their students, are rarely found in the overseas systems showing the greatest gains, according to Tucker’s new book “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems.”

On Monday, I listed several false assumptions Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, says have caused us to go astray. They include our view that our mediocre scores on international tests are the result of too many diverse students, that more money would help schools improve and that it is better to focus on lowering class sizes than raising teacher salaries.

Today, I offer the solutions Tucker and his team propose. They are heavily influenced by what is working overseas, particularly in Japan, Korea, Finland, Shanghai, Singapore and Canada. Can these reforms blossom in our very different culture, with stronger local control of schools and less respect for teachers? I guess at the chances of success here for each suggestion.

1. Make admission to teacher training more competitive, pegged to international standards of academic achievement, mastery of subject matter and ability to relate to children. Most U.S. education schools can’t survive financially without enrolling many average or below-average students, so this has only a 20 percent chance.

2. Raise teacher compensation significantly. Initially, this has the same bad odds, a 20 percent chance. But over time, standards and salaries could rise if education schools developed special academies — similar to undergraduate honors colleges — that were as selective as the Columbia, Harvard and Stanford education schools and the Teach for America program. Tucker says that with better pay, fewer teachers would quit, saving money now spent to train replacements.

3. Allow larger class sizes. More students per classroom means more money to pay teachers. The American trend toward smaller classes (down to an average of about 25 per classroom) has run its course. Some of the most successful public charter schools have 30 students in a class. Japan does well with large classes. Given those developments, chances are 70 percent this could be done.

4. End annual standardized testing in favor of three federally required tests to gauge mastery at the end of elementary school, 10th grade and 12th grade. The change has an 80 percent chance because it would save money and please many teachers and parents who think we test too much. Such tests overseas are of higher quality, not so much computer-scored multiple choice and would help raise American learning standards, Tucker says.

5. Spend more money on students who need more help getting to high standards. Based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Tucker favors a weighted pupil finance formula, only a few U.S. districts have tried. There would be the usual per-pupil funds but extra money for students who need to be brought up to the standard. Americans favor more support for struggling students, but I give this only a 60 percent chance because of state and federal budget difficulties.

Making these changes seems daunting, but Tucker notes that the best school systems overseas took 30 to 100 years to get there. With some patience and luck, we could do that, too.


Third of British parents give schools thumbs down

A third of parents are so unhappy with their child’s school they would advise other families not to send their children there, new figures from Ofsted have revealed.

Thousands of parents who have rated their schools on a new website run by the schools watchdog have raised concerns about teaching, behaviour, bullying and levels of homework.

An initial analysis of results shows that just under a third of families with children at the 650 primary and secondary schools with sufficient responses to give results said they would not recommend their school to others. This rose to half for schools with a poor Ofsted rating.

More than 9,300 parents have filled in the online anonymous questionnaire since the school inspectorate launched the “Parent View” rating website in October. Results are published if the school has received more than three responses.

It is designed to give families more power to raise concerns about schools and can, with other indicators, trigger a snap inspection. Parents’ views will also be passed to inspectors carrying out routine visits.

Jean Humphrys, Ofsted education director, said: “It is very useful to parents when they are choosing schools. Parents very often go by word of mouth. They like to go by other peoples’ experiences so it will help them in that respect.

“It also helps people who are unsure about whether what they are experiencing at the school is a one-off event that is happening to their child or whether it is more common.

“As the results build it will be possible for parents to get a good view about what other families are thinking and feeling about the school. “Schools will also be able to look instantly at the areas that parents are very happy with and where they may have concerns.”

Minster School in Nottingham, which is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted has received 107 responses from parents so far.

While many were positive, nearly one in five parents disagreed with the statement that their child made good progress at the school and 23 per cent did not think pupils received appropriate homework.

A similar proportion said the school did not respond well to concerns raised by parents. More than 80 per cent of parents said they would recommend the school to others.

More than a quarter of parents disagreed with the statement that their child was taught well at Hanson School, a secondary in Bradford, which has received 69 responses. More than half of parents said they would recommend the school.

An Ofsted spokesman said: “Slightly over two thirds of parents have answered that they would recommend their school. If you look only at the responses for schools which are inadequate you still see close to half of parents saying they would recommend their child’s school.”


Textbooks 'being replaced by smartphones and e-readers'

Traditional textbooks are dying out in schools as children increasingly rely on smartphones and e-readers to access information, according to a leading headmistress. Handheld technology is changing the way education is delivered because it allows children to learn "anywhere, anytime, any place", it was claimed.

Louise Robinson, incoming president of the Girls' Schools Association, said pupils were more inspired by the “magic” of using hand Ipads and other tablet computers than reading a book.

The comments come after figures showed a six-fold rise in the number of e-books – editions downloaded from the internet onto electronic devices – sold over the last 12 months. Amazon now sells almost 2.5 books via its Kindle reading device for every one hard copy.

Mrs Robinson, the headmistress of Merchant Taylors' Girls' School in Crosby, Liverpool, said the shift was having a knock-on effect in the classroom.

In an interview, she said: "Taking on board the fact that textbooks will be on your mobile, whatever shape, name or type of fruit your mobile relates to, and therefore anywhere, anytime, any place... it's going to be a huge possibility.

"But also, not only that, the fact that they'll be able to access anything they want to, in advance of your lesson, so if you say 'the next lesson's going to be on the skeleton' what you can see online now in terms of the skeleton and where you can go with it, makes children have far more control over their learning than they ever could do before. "One click and you're into another world."

Mrs Robinson said it was no longer relevant if textbooks were in hard copies. Children still have to be taught how to access information from a book, library or on a computer, she said.

"You and I wouldn't send a child into a library and say 'go and have a look', you'd actually help them, show them where the information is to access, and which bits they should be looking at for their age and stage,” she said.

"But that doesn't stop them going 'I'd like to have a look at that one' and when you see a young child on their tablet, or internet, the magic that they are seeing in that information, the way that they absorb it and reflect it back at you is just wonderful."

Mrs Robinson added: "I can understand the concept that there's the smell of a very old book, I'm not going to throw them all on the bonfire at all. "I do believe that there will be a time and a place for going in to look at an old book. "But when you're doing class reading, why buy the hard copy?"

The GSA represents 179 fee-paying schools educating more than 100,000 pupils. Mrs Robinson, who becomes GSA president in the New Year, said she would use her 12 months in office to champion female entrepreneurship.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Romney's Book Showcases Education Record, Policy Ideas

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the current GOP presidential frontruner, wants to see schools tout the benefits of marriage and pay their beginning teachers more.

He also thinks the No Child Left Behind Act was a step in the right direction because "only the federal government had the clout to force testing through the barricade mounted by the national teachers' unions."
Campaign 2012

Those are just some of the views sketched out in Romney's book, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" , which was published back in March of 2010, in advance of Romney's White House bid. The book devotes a whole entire chapter to education, in which he emphasizes schools' role in preparing students for a changing workforce, and on education as a civil right.

And in the book, Romney talks about the relationship between social issues and education, in a way he hasn't yet on the campaign trail.

"I believe it's time for Americans to be honest with ourselves," Romney writes. "We will never be able to truly address the achievement grap until we eliminate the high rate of out-of-wedlock births in our country. It's not a coincidence that student achievement scores by ethnicity mirror the rates of out-of-wedlock births." He cautions that this isn't just a problem for minorities since "most out-of-wedlock children are born to white mothers." And he says that kids must be taught in school about "the advantages of marriage."

Romney adds: "Any discussion of out-of-wedlock births must exercise extreme care and compassion to make sure we in no way appear to judge or condemn these moms or their children. These moms are some of the best people we know."

Romney hits teacher quality hard. He suggests setting a high bar for education schools and opening up alternative pathways. More controversial is his pitch for an increase in salaries for beginning teachers—that's a bit unusual for a Republican. He also wants to see a movement away from a "lockstep seniority-based grid."

Romney has some ideas on social studies education, too, where he wades into some culture war issues. It bugs him that "progessives have de-emphasized the subjects that had previously been considered essential", such as the history of Western and American civilization. "They presented all the world's cultures to our children and insisted that none was superior to others," he wrote.

He also cites research showing that class size has no impact on student achievement (complete with charts and graphs). And he advocates for expanding school choice, particularly charter schools.

He's a testing fan. He rejects the claim that No Child Left Behind advocates "teaching to the test", which he attributes to teachers' unions.

"'Teaching to the test' can only mean teaching the fundamentals fo math, algebra, geometry, calculus, reading comprehension, and English composition. If giving these students these skills is 'teaching to the test' then I'm all for it."

And Romney likes the idea of using technology to make it easier to teach kids with different learning styles. Teachers' unions oppose a "good deal" of the new "computer learning revolution", he writes. He's a fan of homeschooling too. (He tips his hat to his sister in law, Becky Davies, who has homeschooled four of her children.)

Romney is not a fan of teachers' unions generally, calling them an "obstacle" to education reform. (He's hardly the first Republican—or policymaker—to take up that mantle.)

"Teachers' unions do their very best to secure...insulations from performance for their members, and the results are lack of accountability, rising pay as a simple function of years on the job, and near-absolute job security," he writes. "These have a deadening impact on student achievement. I don't blame teachers' unions...I blame administrators, school boards, and parents for saying yes, even when schools are manifestly failing their students."

And if Romney could "wave a wand over American education and get one result"? He'd want to see schools rededicate themselves to teaching writing.

Romney also showcases his record as Massachusetts governor. Here's what he defines as his "education sucesses" back in the Bay State:

* Creating a scholarship for the students who scored in the top 25 percent of their high school class on state graduation exams. The scholarship could be used at any state institution and was worth about $2,000 a year.

* Vetoing a bill that would have prohibited the creation of new charter schools.

* Implementing the state's high school exit exam program. Romney threatened to pull state funding from one district (New Bedford) when the mayor threatened to give a high school diploma to all students, regardless of whether or not they passed the test. The mayor relented.

—Championing "English-immersion" programs for English-language learners, rather than "bilingual education."

Romney also seems to have the biggest cadre of education advisers in the GOP field right now.

They include: Nina Rees, who served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement under President George W. Bush; Marty West, a Harvard professor, and F. Philip Handy, the former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education under former Gov. Jeb Bush. (Handy worked as an education adviser on Sen. John McCain of Arizona's campaign back in 2008.)


'We were fired for being white and Christian', claim principal and his wife dismissed from Dubai-backed 'multicultural' college in Scotland

A principal and his wife have been sacked from a college whose stated aim is to promote multiculturalism because they are white Christians, they claim. Professor Malory Nye, 47, says he was dismissed from the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland, because his race and religion were seen by his superiors as a threat to its core Muslim values.

He says the college’s claims to pursuing multicultural values were a charade and that he was dismissed so he could be replaced by a Muslim.

His wife Isabel Campbell-Nye, 42, alleges she was forced from her position as head of the English language centre because she attracted too many students who were not Muslims or Arabs.

The independent college, whose patron is Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, advertises itself as a research-led institution 'that promotes a greater understanding of different religions and cultures in a multicultural context, for the benefit of the wider community'.

The couple are taking the college to an employment tribunal claiming racial and religious discrimination, and unfair dismissal.

Mrs Campbell-Nye is also claiming sex discrimination after she was suspended and later dismissed apparently because she is married to Prof Nye.

The couple, from Perth, were marched off the college grounds in June and have not been allowed to return since. They claim they were given no reason for their suspensions and were dismissed in November despite no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The couple have also lodged grievances against the chancellor of the College Lord Elder – a Labour peer and close friend of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown - for his handling of what they describe as a ‘sham’ disciplinary process.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler of Dubai, is patron of the college

Prof Nye and his wife began working at the college eight and four years ago respectively, choosing to marry on the campus last year.

However, they believe their attempts at pushing it in a more cosmopolitan direction angered their superiors. Prof Nye said his suspension came just days after he changed the college’s name from the ‘Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies’.

The couple allege that Abubaker Abubaker, the director of operations, and Mirza al-Sayegh, chairman of its board of directors and private secretary to the Sheikh, decided to force them out because they were British, white and Christian.

Prof Nye told the Telegraph: 'It is clear to me that there is collusion between these two individuals that I should be removed from my position on the basis that I am not an Arab and not a Muslim and that the person who has the role of principal should be Arab and/or Muslim.

'Multiculturalism and respect for cultural and religious differences are, I had thought, core values of the college. 'However, I believe that such inclusive multiculturalism no longer fits the particular type of multicultural vision of certain managers and the chairman, that is accepting of different cultures, so long as the majority of students are Muslims and/or Arabs and the ethos is distinctly Islamic. 'My face and lack of Muslim faith no longer fit.'

Mrs Campbell-Nye says Mr Abubaker also wanted her removed from her position because she had attracted too many European and Asian students, who weren't Muslim, to her English course at the college, which receives no public funding.

She said: 'Some are from Arab and other Muslim backgrounds. However, a substantial number are from other parts of the world and other cultures. 'I believe Mr Abubaker does not feel happy with us recruiting students from these backgrounds as it does not fit the particular multicultural vision he has for English language.

'The only times Mr Abubaker has encouraged me to bring in students to English language are when they are Arabs or Muslims.

'I believe that Mr Abubaker’s discrimination against me, because I am not Muslim, I am not Arab, and I am also a woman – and because I have brought a number of non Muslim/non-Arab students to the college – is a significant reason for my suspension.'

Despite a waiting list for places on its English language courses, the college closed the department last month, leaving its two remaining tutors redundant at Christmas.

The college, which operates as a charity in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, advertises in its prospectus that 'multiculturalism is at the centre of our vision and structure'. 'Our multicultural ethos is visibly translated and implemented in our day-to-day operation. Our staff and students come from diverse national, cultural and religious backgrounds including Muslims and non-Muslims,' it says.

A spokesman for the college said: 'We can confirm that we have been notified that Employment Tribunal proceedings have been raised in the name of Professor Malory Nye and his wife, Isabel Campbell-Nye.

'The College, an independent, not-for-profit charity, places diversity, religious pluralism and multiculturalism firmly at the core of its Higher Education programmes – and its day-to-day activities,' the spokesman said. 'The Al-Maktoum College will vigorously defend its reputation as a centre of excellence within the higher dducation sector and the good name it has won over the last ten years here in Dundee, nationally and internationally.

'Professor Nye was dismissed from his post as Principal at the College following a period of suspension on full pay and an inquiry conducted by the College Chancellor. 'Contingency plans were put in place to ensure the continued smooth running of the College. 'We are in consultation with our team of legal advisers and, as a result, we are not in a position to discuss the matter further at this stage.'


Australian private school fees rising

Overall, 39% of Australian parents send their children to non-government High Schools (versus a sad 7% in Britain). The figures given below for South Australia would seem to be in line with that average

Fees at Adelaide's elite schools will top $500 a week in 2012 as they are forced to cover rising costs. Since 2007, yearly fees at many of the state's top schools have risen by between $5000 and $6000, or 30 to 40 per cent, with at least five now charging more than $20,000 for Year 12.

About one in five SA students attended one of the state's 94 independent schools, many of which are in outer metropolitan and country areas and which charge low to moderate fees.

About the same number of students attended Catholic schools. Mercedes College and Rostrevor College were among the highest-charging schools in that sector.

Association of Independent Schools of SA executive director Garry Le Duff said the average fee rise was between 5.5 and 6.5 per cent.

He said the increases differed across year levels and at each school depending on their level of growth. "It's not in the interest of schools to set excessive fee rises but schools have a responsibility to remain viable," Mr Duff said. The fee rises ensured improvements that met parents' expectations and attracting the best teachers, he said.

Mr Le Duff said the latest Education Resources Index revealed costs had risen by 6.7 per cent for pre- and primary schools and 7.3 per cent for secondary schools.

He said the drivers included updating IT, teacher salaries especially with the roll-out of the national curriculum and the new SACE. "The cost of utilities - electricity, water and insurance - are imposing increasing burdens on schools," he said.

At Prince Alfred College the average fee increase was 5.5 per cent, but differed across year levels. Headmaster Kevin Tutt said the school worked to cut staff to deliver extra classroom resources.

"The fee structure next year reflects the increases in our operational costs and the rising cost of salaries and tuition expenses," he said.

St Peter's Girls principal Fiona Godfrey listed teacher salaries, technology upgrades and the school's preparation to implement the International Baccalaureate Diploma from 2013 as key reasons for the fee rise.

Private schools generally offer discounts for siblings.