Saturday, February 18, 2012

Florida High School Graduation Rate Plunges

Historically, Florida educators have calculated the high school graduation rate based upon their own state criteria. This year, however, Florida will be required to calculate graduation rate based upon federal criteria.

No surprise, the new calculations result in significant differences.
The federal rate is tougher because it counts as graduates only students who earn a standard diploma within four years. It doesn't count students with disabilities who earn "special" diplomas. It also doesn't allow schools to wipe from their books students who transferred to adult education programs. Instead, those students count against a school because they are not graduates.

Under the formula Florida had been using, students who earn a "special" diploma counted as graduates. The state also deleted from the calculations anyone who transferred to an adult education program — typically students with weak academic records in danger of dropping out.
Using the new federal formula, Florida's high school graduation rate is much lower. One county, for example, saw a 14.5% decrease.

[Add.] Here is a tangentially-related story demonstrating the difference between earning a diploma after successfully completing four years in high school versus being given a diploma with "modified" education requirements. Congratulations to Molly, the basset hound.

WI Elementary School Confiscates, Bans 2nd Grader’s Christian-Themed Valentines

Exactly who would be harmed by them was not explained

Dexter Thielhelm, a second-grader at James Madison Elementary School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, had a simple message for his classmates: “Jesus loves you.” The young boy had worked diligently with his mother and siblings to create candy and notes for his friends at school, as he filled empty water bottles with candy and a rolled-up a Bible verse (John 3:16) to share with his classmates. But earlier this week, to the surprise of the boy and his family, school officials confiscated the valentines before they could be handed out.

Apparently, it is district policy that Christian valentines not be distributed — a message that Melissa Wolf, Dexter’s mother, received when she met with principal Matthew Driscoll this week. The verse, ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” was apparently too religious in nature for the school to allow to be disseminated.

Wolf, 30, who has spoken out to media outlets, says that she’s not happy with the way in which the principal handled the situation. Driscoll, however, declined to comment to media on Wednesday.

“He wishes I would have asked him for permission to hand out this questionable material,” Wolf explained, describing her interaction with the principal. “I did not get an apology. I got an apology that he didn’t call me; I didn’t get an apology for taking this away from my children. He sat and listened to me kindly, and heard the things that made me upset.”

Here’s the really intriguing element to the story. Wolf has two other children at the same school. Both of whom are autistic and nonverbal. These children made similar valentines and they, too, were confiscated. But one of her other children who attends a different school — a local charter institution — handed his notes out without a hitch, the Wausau Daily Herald reports.

While Wolf is clearly frustrated by the situation, the district’s assistant superintendent, Mark Holzman, addressed the issues and attempted to explain the rationale behind the confiscation. The district doesn‘t have a specific policy that bans religious verses being handed out on Valentine’s Day, he said, but the young age of the children was one of the primary reasons he cited (i.e. the students aren’t old enough to understand the religious message).

The district also had concerns that the Christian content could lead others with negative messages to also distribute to fellow classmates. After all, once one person is allowed to hand out a message, any individual can then tout his or her values, Holzman argued.

“Otherwise we would be allowing anybody to give out personal messages or values,” Holzman explained. “If somebody wanted to put anti-Semitism in there … people would be outraged by that. If kids have a choice, it’s a different scenario. But in this case we’re talking about handing it out to everyone in the class, and they don’t have a choice.”

Wolf says that, though the school attempted to explain to Dexter why the valentines couldn’t be handed out, he was embarrassed and confused by the incident.


Entitlements for Teachers

On Friday, I received an email from a local public school teacher who is also a Republican. The objections that she expressed were to me in my role as chairman of the Republican Party in the county where we both live. Her gemini memberships in the teachers union and the Grand Old Party make for an interesting antithetic. So, I figured that I would respond to her concerns in the form of a cogitative Townhall article. Here is the set up:

In 2009, Douglas County, Colorado elected a conservative school board, reflecting its conservative predilection and 2-to-1 Republican over Democratic registration. The members of this board are parents, thoughtful citizens, and all accomplished professionals.

These seven citizens quickly made it apparent to everyone that their intentions were far more substantive than having local celebrity status. In two years' time, they have reduced spending by over $40 million, replaced the superintendent, crafted a merit pay plan, and implemented a voucher program (challenged in court by the ACLU).

Here is the email that I received, followed by my response:

I am very disheartened by what is going on in the DC school district, particularly the school board. I am a registered republican and a school teacher in the district and I feel they are hiding behind the republican party to get their agenda of pushing vouchers. And then they blame it on the union. I am proud to say that our schools are very good schools and have always had a good reputation and have performed well on state tests. However with this republican school board, they have pushed for vouchers for private education.

I can understand this concept if we were a failing school district. But what it is doing is dismantling the cohesiveness of the schools. By pushing their voucher agenda, they are portraying to the general public that the public schools are inadequate. Also, because of this, they are misrepresenting what many of my republican friends believe in, in public education. I am seriously considering changing my party affiliation from the republican party to the independent party as a result of all this nonsense going on with DC schools. It's very discouraging as a veteran teacher to see what is happening in our district and I know many of my republican friends feel the same way. Tax dollars should go for public education, not private education!

Dear Disheartened in Douglas,

Thank you for expressing your views. As a Republican, I am certain that you identify with most of the party platform. And as a public school teacher, it is understandable that your views on education would be influenced by the culture in which you work. What stands out to your fellow Republicans in reading your letter is that, in the entire 220 words, there is not a single mention of concern for what the customer desires.

In most other business transactions, you are a customer. Let's take restaurants, for instance. Would you be satisfied with notion that your personal dining budget is devoted to the public school cafeteria? That is not to say that cafeteria food is in any way undesirable. But the choice has been made for you and that is what you get. That is what everyone gets. Every day. Only the wealthy have enough money to spend beyond the taxes they already paid for dining to eat at a private restaurant.

In the case of public education, the primary customers are the parents. The secondary customers are the students. And who pays for your salary, your pension, the buildings and the buses? The voters, of course. When the voters selected the current school board members, they saw which candidates were endorsed by the union and which candidates were endorsed by the Republican Party. And the voters overwhelmingly selected these seven board members because they promised to create an education environment that would include competitive choices for parents.

Nearly every resident of Douglas County, including the parents of school aged children, works within the setting of free enterprise. And nearly every student who passes through the Douglas County School District will work within the free market, not funded by taxes. Would it not seem fitting that the professionals who are tasked with preparing students to thrive in capitalism should celebrate private enterprise?

The source of your internal struggle is captured in your final statement. As a Republican, you would normally have an aversion to entitlements. Yet as a teacher, your personal livelihood is dependent on the ever-reducing funds for public education. While the emotions are understandable, I would assert to you that there is only one group of people who are entitled to the education tax money provided by the residents; the students themselves. In a free society, education is the great equalizer for opportunity. We choose to tax everyone in order to educate the youth. We do not choose to tax everyone in order to ensure that the government is sufficiently funded to provide instructions to America's children.

Private construction companies compete for tax dollars to build roads and bridges. Corporate defense contractors compete for tax dollars to create weapon systems. Even faith based organizations compete for tax dollars to provide human services. Government funding does not necessitate government delivery. I see nothing other than liberal arrogance that would place such authority of the service provider above the service consumer.

In response to your threat of leaving the Republican Party, let me make this appeal. The union values you for your dues, 70% of which goes directly to the Democratic Party (see my article here). We value your gifts and talents as you make an enormous difference preparing young Americans to thrive as capitalists in a free society.


Insane British Leftist idea scrapped: Penalty for paying off student loan early is lifted

Students will not be penalised for repaying university loans early after David Cameron scrapped a Liberal Democrat plan to raise more money from the middle classes.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, had intended to introduce an early repayment penalty which would have cost graduates thousands of pounds if they cleared their debts within 30 years of leaving university.

The Prime Minister is understood to have dropped the scheme earlier this week amid warnings that it would be unfair on the hundreds of thousands of people expected to repay their loans early. The deal was agreed after Mr Cameron backed down and allowed Mr Cable to appoint the controversial Prof Les Ebdon as the Government’s new university admissions tsar.

A Downing Street source said: “The Lib Dems were very keen to appoint Ebdon and we felt very strongly about penalties for early repayment of loans. This is hopefully good news for tens of thousands of families, as well as many Conservative MPs who had raised concerns about the penalties.”

From this September, students will be charged up to £9,000 annually to study at university in England and Wales. They will be offered loans of more than £16,000 a year to cover tuition and living expenses.

Once a graduate earns more than £21,000 a year he or she will repay the equivalent of nine per cent of their earnings. The higher their salary, the more interest they will pay, up to a maximum of inflation plus three percentage points for those earning more than £41,000.

The system was designed as a form of “graduate tax” so that those benefiting most from a university education would repay most.

But to stop wealthier graduates, or those assisted by their parents, from opting out of the “progressive” system, it was planned that they would face a levy of five per cent of the value of early repayments.

Someone repaying a £40,000 loan early could have had to pay a penalty of £2,000. The Government has said previously: “It is important that those on the higher incomes are not able unfairly to buy themselves out of the progressive mechanism.”

Over the past decade, 225,000 people have made early repayments even though the interest on student loans is currently in line with inflation. When interest for top earners is higher, there will be an even greater incentive for early repayments. Large firms are expected to offer to repay loans for their best recruits.

Some parents had been concerned about their offspring facing a lifetime of debt from university – and there were reports that they would borrow money themselves to fund the fees, so Mr Cameron’s intervention is likely to be welcomed.

The Treasury is also thought to have backed the scrapping of penalties as it is expected to lead to government loans to students being repaid more quickly.

However, despite the climbdown over early repayment penalties there are still growing concerns over the imminent appointment of Prof Ebdon as the new director of fair access. One senior Conservative source said: “The scrapping of repayment penalties is very welcome but it’s still not a great political deal as Ebdon has the potential to do real damage to our country’s education system.”

Tory MPs are urging Mr Cameron to overrule Mr Cable and reopen the search for a new admissions watchdog.

Prof Ebdon, the University of Bedfordshire’s vice-chancellor, has defended degrees in “soft” subjects such as media studies and fashion design, and angered traditionalists with his blunt attitude towards widening the student intake at highly academic universities.

He has said he would be prepared to ban universities that miss their admissions targets from charging the maximum tuition fees.

Barnaby Lenon, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council and a former headmaster of Harrow School, warned that the reputation of leading universities must be preserved.

“The fact is that British universities are among the best in the world and I personally believe that one of the reasons for that is because entry to these universities has been by straightforward competition and selection,” he said.

Dr Cable will confirm Prof Ebdon as the new director of fair access next week.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Colorado student quits high school choir over Islamic song praising 'Allah'

A Colorado high school student says he quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric "there is no truth except Allah" made it into the repertoire.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing "Zikr," a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland's selection, Harper said, he quit.

"I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. "This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet ... I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth."

But district spokesman Jeff Kirtland defended the decision to include the song.

"Choral music is often devoted to religious themes. ... This is not a case where the school is endorsing or promoting any particular religion or other non-educational agenda. The song was chosen because its rhythms and other qualities would provide an opportunity to exhibit the musical talent and skills of the group in competition, not because of its religious message or lyrics," Kirtland told in an email while noting that the choir "is a voluntary, after-school activity."

"Students are not required to participate, and receive no academic credit for doing so," he said.

At an upcoming concert, the choir is scheduled to sing an Irish folk song and an Christian song titled "Prayer of the Children," in addition to the song by Rahman.

"The teacher consulted with students and asked each of them to review an online performance of the selection with their parents before making the decision to perform the piece," Kirtland said, and members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren't required to sing them.

Rahman, who has sold hundreds of millions of records and is well-known in his homeland, has said the song is not intended for a worship ceremony. He told in a written statement that the song, composed for the move "Bose, the Forgotten Hero," is about "self-healing and spirituality."

"It is unfortunate that the student in Colorado misinterpreted the intention of the song," Rahman said. "I have long celebrated the commonalities of humanity and try to share and receive things in this way. While I respect his decision for opting out, this incident is an example of why we need further cultural education through music.”

The song is written in Urdu, but one verse translates to "There is no truth except Allah" and "Allah is the only eternal and immortal." Although the choir sang the original version, Wieland distributed translated lyrics.

Grand Junction High School Principal Jon Bilbo referred questions to Kirtland.


FL: Tampa parents rip school for letting controversial Muslim group speak to students

Parents in Tampa are the latest to protest school officials inviting a controversial Muslim civil liberties advocacy group to speak to students.

Dozens of people showed up at a Hillsborough County school board meeting Tuesday night to complain that a member of Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, spoke to history students at Steinbrenner High School last fall. They cited the group's past connection to a terror financing case involving the terrorist group Hamas. The group, which purports to promote diversity and tolerance of the religion, has met a similar reception in Texas and Georgia in recent years.

“We do not have a problem with Islamic groups speaking with students, but we do have an issue with a group that has ties to terrorism speaking,” Randall McDaniels, head of the Jacksonville Chapter of ACT for America, one of the groups actively seeking to stop CAIR members from speaking to students in public schools, told

CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor dismissed the criticism as "fear-mongering.” Hassan Shibly, the Florida CAIR member who spoke to the students, said the parents are misguided.

“This hatred and animosity only shows the importance of reaching out to the community,” he said, “It’s insulting to the school and the students to think that one person can influence their beliefs. It’s misleading."

The group, the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, also has come under criticism for, among other reasons, being named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terror financing case involving the Holy Land Foundation.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute who focuses on the Middle East and terrorism, said concerns about CAIR are not unfounded.

"They have been co-conspirators in a terrorism finance trial and seek to stymie debate rather than safeguard it," Rubin said. "Almost every day, jihadists on religious Internet forums belie CAIR’s claim that religion has nothing to do with terrorism. Ultimately, there is a battle for interpretation going on inside the world of Islam, and rather than seek to win that debate for the moderates and proponents of tolerance, CAIR acts as the jihadists’ offensive linesmen.”

Parents in the Houston-area town of Friendswood objected to a presentation CAIR made to junior high students in 2008, sparking a furor that led to the principal's resignation. In 2010, parents in Gwenett County, Ga., forced the school system to disinvite CAIR from holding classroom presentations.


Scottish children's tsar adds support to schoolboy's battle to wear a skirt to school

I don't think this is doing the kid any favours. He will just be mocked

Boys should be able to wear skirts to school because uniforms 'should not discriminate', a children's adviser has claimed. Tam Baillie, the Scottish parliament’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, has backed 13-year-old Luca Scarabello, who is fighting for a ban on ‘gender-specific uniforms’.

Mr Baillie said that Luca, a pupil at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, who lodged a petition with the Scottish Government in November, had ‘raised important rights issues’. The public petitions committee (PPC) is considering Luca's proposals.

In his response to the PPC, Mr Baillie claimed that forcing uniforms on children could cause ‘serious distress’ for those with gender variants. Mr Baillie said ‘We should be rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves. 'I would agree that gender specific uniforms or dress codes can cause serious distress in gender-variant pupils. 'School uniforms and dress codes should not be discriminate, directly or indirectly against any of these protected groups.

'Schools should be reviewing their uniform code policies to ensure they do not have the effect of unlawfully discriminating against pupils with a protected characteristic.'

The young peoples' commissioner believes that forcing children to stick to strict uniform policies could contravene the UN convention on the Rights of the Child and the Equality Act 2010. The latter law places a duty on public bodies to prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender-reassignment or sexual orientation.

However he accepted that having a uniform acts as a "leveller" between children of differing financial backgrounds and helped reduce stigma and bullying. He added 'This is clearly an issue which divides people and there are strong views on both sides.

'I believe we should be celebrating difference, rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves freely in a way that is both inclusive and respectful and helps them to develop a strong sense of who they are. 'I would suggest that a balance be struck between school dress codes on the one hand and the need for relaxation of requirements, where this is appropriate, on the other.'

Mr Baillie made the comments as he lent his backing to teenager Luca Scarabello who is campaigning for boys to be allowed to wear the traditionally female clothing in class.

The youngster from Camelon, Stirlingshire believes that if girls can wear trousers boys should be able to wear skirts.

The campaign is being backed by the Scottish Transgender Alliance and LGBT Scotland, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In his petition, the schoolboy said ‘Gender specific uniforms ... cause problems for gender variant pupils and create a stigma. It is outdated nonsense.’

MSPs have been discussing the proposal to scrap 'gender specific' uniforms. However Mr Baillie thinks a blanket ban is not the way forward, with a more flexible approach being the preferred option, and he called for a debate on the teenager's proposals that traditional uniforms be replaced with more comfortable and cheaper alternatives.

But the proposals have been rubbished by family campaigners. Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said 'Schools should be free to make their own decisions about uniform policies in consultation with parents, without the constraints of political correctness. 'Gender is determined by objective biological facts and not by a person's feelings, no matter how strong they may be. 'Rather than encouraging children to become what they are not, we need to help them recognise and accept what they are.

'To that end, maintaining a distinction between what boys and girls are required to wear can be positive and helpful for pupils struggling with gender identity issues. 'This is yet another case of the language of children's rights being used in an attempt to add weight to what is nothing more than a personal minority view. 'To enforce it on everyone by force of law is undemocratic.'

It is not the first time the issue has hit the headlines. In January, a Cambridgeshire couple revealed they kept the gender of their son, Sasha, a secret for five years until he started school. Parents Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper referred to him as ‘the infant’ and allowed him to cross-dress. They said they did not want to ‘stereotype’ him.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teacher tenure: Why should educators be different?

On Monday, Missouri Rep. Scott Dieckhaus (R-Dist. 109) proposed a bill (House Bill 1526) to reform the state's teacher tenure laws. As we have argued before, getting rid of teacher tenure is good for Missouri's public schools, and this bill is particularly strong for three key reasons:

1. Teachers could be fired for doing a bad job. Most of us live in a world where doing consistently bad work means you lose your job. Not so for teachers.

Under the current laws, a tenured teacher can be fired only for egregious conduct, such as willful or persistent violations of the school laws, excessive or unreasonable absences, and felony convictions. Even then, a severely truant teacher would get generous procedural protections from termination: a majority of the school board must vote to fire the teacher, and the teacher can appeal the board's decision through an administrative hearing.

If this bill passes, boards could not only fire convicted felons, but they could also dismiss teachers for unsatisfactory performance.

2. No more indefinite contracts for teachers. Most of us also have to live with the reality of at-will employment. Again, not so for teachers.

Under the current laws, a teacher who survives a five-year probationary period becomes "permanent personnel" with an indefinite contract to teach.

The proposed bill, on the other hand, gives school administrators more discretion to retain teachers they actually want teaching in their schools. Schools could contract directly with teachers for up to four years; and what's more, the board would retain the power to terminate a multi-year contract if the teacher scored poorly on evaluations.

3. Teachers will get paid for what they do, not how long they have done it. That is right, teachers do not live with the reality of performance-based pay either.

Under the current laws, school districts are prohibited from basing salaries on performance-related criteria. Instead, districts pay their teachers based on length of service and level of education. The proposed bill removes this prohibition and requires school boards to consider teacher evaluations when making decisions related to pay, retention, promotion, and dismissal.

Not surprisingly, the unions started speaking out against HB 1526 before it was even proposed. Missouri National Education Association President Chris Guinther told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week: "we've got to be given the protection that we need to give those kids the quality education that they need." Wouldn't our kids be getting a better education if school boards could dismiss failing teachers more easily, like this bill would allow? The problem with the union perspective is that it focuses on teachers, not on kids. Tenure is not about having due process, as Susan McClintic, president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association, told the Columbia Missourian last week. On the contrary. Teachers do not have a right to their jobs; it is the students who have a right to a public education, and they should have good teachers to boot.


Public schools zealously protecting a monopoly they did nothing to earn

“No Child Left Behind.” That’s the stated policy of our nationalized, near-monopoly public school system.

The slogan is the usual grandiose utopian mumbo-jumbo we’ve come to expect from Washington, followed by a multitude of annoying and absurd outcomes in schools across the country.

At least, it’s nice to hear that all children matter. But in public schools do they? Really?

In my Virginia backyard, the ongoing battle over whether homeschooled students will be permitted to try out for public school sports teams is starkly instructive. For the last three legislative sessions, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has introduced House Bill 947, which would allow homeschool children to try out for public school sports by disallowing public schools in the Commonwealth from contracting with the Virginia High School League, the private organization that bans homeschool kids from participating.

Interesting to see that public school administrators have signed contracts with a private entity, VHSL, which actively discriminates in the precise way public school groups so vehemently favor.

The Virginia High School League offered their own glass-half-empty statement in opposition to the legislation, explaining that, “If a non-student makes the team, a student attending the school will not.” The VHSL statement also quoted an ominous warning from former State Superintendent for Public Instruction William Bosher, that “Allowing students who are homeschooled to participate in high school athletics could change the entire structure of high school athletics.”

But would this earth-shattering “change” to “the entire structure” be good or bad?

The legislation has been dubbed “The Tebow Bill,” after Tim Tebow, the NFL’s rookie sensation, who led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. Before that Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the University of Florida and before that he was a homeschool kid allowed to play football for his local public high school. Of course, homeschoolers are sometimes a little unconventional. Tebow has consistently failed to get arrested on drug or gun charges and, even more controversially, he talks about his religious faith.

“We’re not ready for this type of incursion into our school system,” complained Delegate Bob Tata (R-Virginia Beach), the House Education Committee chairman, while explaining that the state’s school boards and superintendents oppose HB 947. The state’s teachers’ unions also oppose the bill, as does the Virginia Parent Teacher Association.

Yet, the invasion of their hallowed public-private playground by the private public may be imminent. The barbarians are already at the gate of the evenly-split state Senate, HB 947 having passed the House of Delegates this past week by a vote of 59-39.

Expect intensive lobbying by the politically powerful education establishment. In an email, the Virginia PTA urged its cadre to: “Let [legislators] know that public school is your choice and team sports are a privilege you earned and expect them to protect.”

Notice how fast public education went from a right for every child to a privilege for some, who plead with politicians to protect them from having to associate with “the other.” To do the unimaginable: give others an equal chance to “try out.”

Where have we heard this sort of debate before?

And if integrated sports teams are unthinkable, the PTA email poses a harrowing question, “What’s next? Drama, debate, electives?”

If we’re not careful, truly public education could break out. With free and diverse integration.

The PTA’s orthographically deviant slogan is “every child. one voice.”

Why not allow every one of those children his or her own voice? And an equal chance to win a spot on the team.


Study at Cambridge? Better to have fun in Bangor, says British teacher in controversial article

A state college teacher provoked fury last night after admitting he tried to deter an ‘aggravating’ bright pupil from applying to Cambridge.

Jonny Griffiths, 51, wrote an article for a teachers’ journal describing how he told the boy to ‘enjoy being 17’ and target Bangor University instead.

The remarks, by a senior maths teacher at a sixth-form college in Norfolk, drew widespread condemnation last night, with Tory MPs accusing him of perpetuating a ‘culture of low expectations’.

Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said: ‘Teachers should be doing all they can to help keen students get ahead.

‘I am horrified to hear of an enthusiastic student being discouraged from aiming for the top.’ Mr Griffiths, who teaches at Paston College, in North Walsham, last night claimed he intended to give the boy a ‘jolt’ and ‘a better chance of realising his potential’.

But he went on to criticise the practice of ‘parading’ bright students who win places at Cambridge.

‘Sometimes a weaker student will work really hard to win a place at a “less good” university, while a bright student will hardly break sweat to get a place at Cambridge,’ he said.

‘It is the bright student who is paraded before the local papers. I’m not sure that’s right.’ In his article, Mr Griffiths told how a boy named Michael came to his office at 4pm to discuss his A-level grades. The pupil had been clocking up A grades in maths papers but had recently made ‘silly mistakes’.

Mr Griffiths wrote that ‘driven’ and ‘obsessed’ pupils could be just as ‘draining’ and ‘aggravating’ as their demotivated classmates.

The boy then revealed he had his ‘heart set on’ getting an A in maths but was concerned his performance was slipping.

Mr Griffiths admitted to telling him: ‘Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-level?’

The article continued: ‘His Bambi eyes look at me in a bewildered way, as if he has just seen me kick a puppy. “I mean I care, of course,” I add, swiftly. “But what is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or to go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?”’

He then told a ‘stunned’ Michael he was ‘gold dust’ to be fought over by university maths departments and employers and to ‘enjoy being 17’.

The student who attends Paston College said that students obsessed with bettering themselves are often as detrimental in a class as disruptive pupils

The pupil subsequently got an answer wrong in class but seemed unconcerned, Mr Griffiths noted.

Last night he told the Daily Mail he was using a specific approach to help a ‘very anxious’ boy. ‘People seem to think I would treat every bright student this way. It is not true at all,’ he said. ‘If Cambridge is where you want to go, then I will do everything I can to help you get there.’

He added that the incident he was referring to happened in 2004 and the boy went on to get As in maths and further maths before progressing to Warwick University.

Mr Griffiths said his remarks had been coloured by his own experience studying maths at Cambridge in the 1970s, which he found ‘as dry as dust’.

But critics said he risked trampling on the boy’s ambitions and misleading him over his choices. Mrs Truss warned: ‘This is a symptom of the disgraceful culture of low expectations that holds many back.’

Political commentator Iain Martin accused Mr Griffiths of ‘smug shamelessness’, adding: ‘Surely there is a way of calming the young man down without upending his ideas about attainment and aspiration?’


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some straight talk from Mike Adams

Who teaches criminology at a university he often satirizes

Dear (Name Deleted): I want to take the time to thank you for turning in your paper assignment on time and for conforming to the minimum word requirement. Unfortunately, I have some bad news: You turned in the paper assignment for your political science class. I am not your political science professor and my name is not Dr. Johnson. The mistake was understandable as you are only a senior. I am certain that such errors will be less commonplace by the time you get your doctorate. In the meantime, the good news is that I went ahead and graded your paper. The bad news is that you got a zero. It really had nothing to do with the requirements of the class you are taking under me. I hope you understand.

Please note that I am aware that you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. I know this because you have told me in writing, over the phone, and in person. There is no need for you to repeat yourself. I generally pay attention when people speak to me. But I am giving you the zero - not in spite of your ADD, but because of your ADD. I really think that attaching a consequence to your conduct will help you grow out of it.


Dear (Name Deleted): Thank you for your concerns over the content of our last murder lecture. These lectures can be tough and sometimes offensive – although I am rarely able to predict just what will offend students these days. In your case, you have been very specific with the basis of your personal offense. Regrettably, however, I will be unable to act upon your request. Let me explain.

When you asked me to refrain from using the term “pit bull” (when I discuss the People v. Berry dog mauling case) you were simply asking too much. I understand your concerns that “pit bulls will be unfairly stereotyped as dangerous” if (after they kill someone) we refer to their specific breed. But what you fail to understand is that the dog’s breed was a relevant fact in the murder trial. Berry chose the dog on the basis of its reputation in the hopes that it would keep people away from the illicit drug business he was operating out of his back yard. He had a pit bull but no fence. That is how the little child ended up being mauled to death.

Generally speaking, I have more concern for the lives of small children than for the reputations of dogs who cannot ever know the status of their reputations. I think if you reflect upon this you will understand that people may speak badly of pit bulls without them actually knowing it.

On a positive note, I have taken your concerns to heart. The next time a Yorkie or a Poodle mauls a small child to death I will make sure to emphasize their specific breed. That way, people will understand that pit bulls are really deeply misunderstood creatures.


Dear (Name deleted): I hope you don’t mind this unsolicited email concerning your status in my criminology class. As you know, I have a policy against coming into class late. You are always in your seat before class begins. But, recently, you have been getting up and walking out during the middle of my lectures. In fact, you do it every class period at about the same time. As you walk out of class, you generally reach into your right hand pocket. I suspect that is because you’re reaching for your cell phone in order to call your girlfriend.

Ever since I banned cell phones, guys have been getting up and leaving class to “go potty” with some regularity (no pun intended). But we all know that my cell phone policy did not really cause grown men to go potty more often. Instead, it began to interfere with their girlfriends’ rule that they must either call or text them at least once every half-hour. Since I am aware of what’s going on, I am going to implement a rule you will not like: I am hereby declaring that upon re-entry into my class, you are officially considered late. This means you will lose a point from your final average every time you step out and then step back in during my lecture.

This may seem harsh, but it will be of tremendous benefit to you. It means you will now be forced to act like a man, take charge of your relationship, and stop letting your girlfriend monitor you like a suspected terrorist. Furthermore, it may actually save your relationship. When a woman monitors you she is most likely cheating on you. She is making sure you are not nearby so she will not get caught in the process. If she isn’t cheating on you, she is very close to dumping you for someone she cannot control. Women love a challenge more than having a lapdog. Please think about what I have told you.


Dear (Name deleted): This is just a quick note to remind you of my policy concerning cell phones in the classroom. At no time am I to see or hear one of these annoying devices during one of my lectures.

I know that when your cell phone went off during our last class that it was a complete accident. I appreciate how quickly you reached into your pocket to turn it off as I was answering a student question on the topic of aggravated rape. This brings us to another issue. Please hear me out.

I know that I have not established any rules concerning the content of cell phone interruptions in my class. But I am considering a new policy in light of the nature of the incident with your cell phone.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I certainly support your right to listen to rap music celebrating the joys slapping a “booty.” I mean, DAT is your right if you’re really into booty slapping. However, (especially given that we sometimes forget to turn off our cell phones) it is perhaps unwise to program the ringer in such a way as to celebrate booty slapping every time someone calls. Know what I’m saying?

Anyway, I just thought I would share my insights with you. I wasn’t really offended. But the sensitive topic of rape should be discussed free from unanticipated celebrations of booty slapping. After all, the women might not share your love of booty slapping. And they might turn on you faster than a Yorkshire terrier.


Teachers must not be neutral about homosexuality?

One would have thought that neutrality was the only proper stance on a politically sensitive matter

The school board in Minnesota's largest school district approved Monday night a replacement for a policy that required teachers to stay neutral when sexual orientation comes up in class, a stance that some critics blamed for fostering bullying.

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board adopted the "Respectful Learning Environment" policy on a voice vote. Only board member Kathy Tingelstad voted no.

After hearing more than an hour of often impassioned testimony from more than 20 people on both sides, board member Scott Wenzel said the change eliminates an old policy that singled out one minority group for different treatment.

"This policy is truly a compromise, Wenzel said. "And I truly hope that it will move this district and community forward from this point on."

The district, which is the target of two lawsuits over the old policy, has found itself in the national spotlight over the issue, and Tingelstad and several parents who testified said they didn't appreciate it.

"I just think we could have done a lot better job," Tingelstad told reporters after the vote. "I think we were being pushed by outside influences that were outside of our school district. I know we're setting some national standards her tonight but I'm disappointed," she said, adding that the board could have better addressed the concerns of those who testified against the change.

The new policy commits the north suburban Twin Cities district to providing "a safe and respectful learning environment for all students." It says that when contentious political, religious, social matters or economic issues come up — it does not specifically cite sexuality issues — teachers shouldn't try to persuade students to adopt particular viewpoint. It calls for teachers to foster respectful exchanges of views. It also says in such discussions, staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

The proposal was unveiled at a Jan. 23 school board meeting after an earlier revision attempt left all sides unsatisfied. The new policy takes effect immediately and might move the lawsuits closer to settlement.

The district's teachers union endorsed the policy change. Julie Blaha, president of the Anoka-Hennepin local of Education Minnesota, told the board the new policy could just become buried among all the district's other policies, or it could become "the first few paragraphs of a new chapter ... in which everybody feels safe and welcome at school. A chapter where it is clear that every student, staff member and family is valued for who they are. And a chapter full of rigorous conversations between professionals about how to improve our school climate."

Critics said the old neutrality policy kept teachers from preventing bullying of students who are gay or perceived as gay. It had the support of parents who believe homosexual conduct is immoral and told the board they don't want their children taught otherwise.

Barb Anderson, of Champlin, was one of several parents who asked the board not to give in to demands for changing it.

"If you pass a policy with weak language of appeasement, the gay agenda will be given an even greater foothold in our school district," Anderson said. "We are at a crossroads. You either cave in the demands of the homosexual activists, an action that will make our schools unsafe for all kids, or you stand firm and protect the children."

The old policy had been under fire since six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. A parent of one of the students who committed suicide says her son was bullied for being gay. Gay advocacy groups say some of the others students who killed themselves were also bullied.

The district has said its internal investigation found no evidence that bullying contributed to the deaths. But the district changed its anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in October 2010 to clearly state that harassment or bullying of gay students wouldn't be tolerated.

The district has about 38,500 students and 2,800 teachers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau has scheduled the next round of settlement talks for March 1 and 2 in two lawsuits filed by students, former students and parents against the neutrality policy. Both sides have been keeping those discussions confidential, but the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which are representing the plaintiffs, issued a statement applauding the policy change.

"Today is the first day in nearly 18 years that Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District no longer has a harmful policy that singles out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students," the statement said. "The repeal of this policy is an important first step, but the District must do much more to create a safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environment for all students, including LGBT and gender non-conforming students, and those perceived as such."


One in 20 British 11-year-olds leaves primary school with maths ability of a seven-year-old

Huge numbers of pupils are leaving primary school with the maths ability expected of children four years their junior, shocking new figures have revealed.

Results of this year's SATs tests show that tens of thousands of pupils - one in 20 - are starting secondary school with the numeracy skills of a seven-year-old.

Boys were found to be performing worse than girls with around 15,600 falling well behind.

And figures for GCSE level maths, released two weeks ago, are equally shocking with one in three pupils failing to get at least a C.

The government has been quick to blame the previous Labour administration for misspending billions of pounds on education. A government source said: 'Employers and universities complain about the quality of our children's maths. 'We have to put right Labour's failure.'

Last week we revealed how universities are now being forced to dumb down degree courses requiring the use of maths, including sciences, economics, psychology and social sciences, because both the pupils and lecturers cannot cope.

The reputation of the country’s universities and graduates is now under threat, according to a report published by the education lobby group RSA.

‘English universities are sidelining quantitative and mathematical content because students and staff lack the requisite confidence and ability,’ the report says, adding that English universities are ‘not keeping pace’ with international standards.

A survey released in January suggests that parents are partly to blame because they are often too busy to help with homework.

The study by online tutor mytutor found many young children were leaving primary school unable to spell, add up or do their times tables. It claimed more than a quarter of children were unable to add two small sums of money without using a calculator as they can't do division and basic algebra.

Twenty-seven per cent of children surveyed could not add £2.36 and £1.49 to get £3.85. In addition, more than a third, 36 per cent, could not divide 415 by five and a quarter did not know the answer to seven multiplied by six.

The survey of 1,000 children aged between 10 and 12 found that one in four did not know their times tables and a quarter could not use decimal points.

Almost half of parents surveyed, 48 per cent, said they thought their child was worse at maths than they were at the same age. Almost four in 10 parents - 39 per cent - said they spent less time learning with their children than their parents did with them a generation ago. Only 30 per cent claimed to spend more time helping their child with their learning than their parents did.

And nearly six out of 10 parents - 59 per cent - spent less than an hour a week learning with their children - amounting to just eight-and-a-half minutes a day. One in five parents spent less than 30 minutes a week learning with their offspring.

Government education adviser Professor Steve Sparks argues that all students who continue with further education after 16 should also take a new maths qualification alongside their other subjects.

He claims that teaching post-16 students basic maths and statistics is vital for them to be able to compete in the modern world.

Last year a report by former Countdown presenter Carol Vorderman recommended that school pupils in England should study maths up to the age of 18. It found just 15 per cent of pupils study maths beyond GCSE level, below almost all other industrialised countries where nearly all study the subject to the age of 18.

Ms Vorderman said 24 per cent of economically active adults were 'functionally innumerate', with many universities and employers complaining that school-leavers did not have necessary skills.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why do rich kids do better than ever at school?

This will be an enraging finding to equality-mongers but for me the interest is in the explanation. The author below has few explanations so I may not do much better but let me try.

I think it goes back to the deteriorating quality of public schools. I think I learnt more in grade school 50 years ago than most kids now learn in High school. Does the fact that even some Harvard freshers (about 20%) have to be diverted into remedial math and English classes before they can go further tell you anything?

So it is only the rich who can afford to go private or live in high class areas who now have a chance of giving their kid a good education. A most lamentable change.
The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations

Sean F. Reardon,


In this chapter I examine whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, I investigate the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income achievement gradient. As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened?

The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In this chapter, I describe and discuss these trends in some detail. In addition to the key finding that the income achievement gap appears to have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings.

First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap. Second, as Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson note in chapter 3 of this volume, the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school. Third, although rising income inequality may play a role in the growing income achievement gap, it does not appear to be the dominant factor. The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the association between family income and children's academic achievement for families above the median income level: a given difference in family incomes now corresponds to a 30 to 60 percent larger difference in achievement than it did for children born in the 1970s. Moreover, evidence from other studies suggests that this may be in part a result of increasing parental investment in children's cognitive development. Finally, the growing income achievement gap does not appear to be a result of a growing achievement gap between children with highly and less-educated parents. Indeed, the relationship between parental education and children's achievement has remained relatively stable during the last fifty years, whereas the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply. Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children's achievement.


Escaping the FedEd monster

Trent Kays, writing in the Minnesota Daily, got almost everything wrong about education, beginning with his article's headline, "Ron Paul's War on Education." The correct headline should have been "Ron Paul's War for Education."

Paul advocates abolishing the federal Department of Education; however, Kays says "that is not the right way to solve education problems."

But once the concept of "education" is properly defined, abolishing FedEd is the only way to solve education problems.

Government, by definition, doesn't "educate." Government is force. Government consciously and purposefully "indoctrinates."

Had Mr. Kays studied history alongside journalism he might have learned how this came about. He might have started with the Mackinac Center's "School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education" by Matthew J. Brouillette, specifically the chapter entitled "The 1830s and 40s: Horace Mann, the End of Free-Market Education, and the Rise of Government Schools.

The Classics Illustrated version is that Horace Mann (the "father of American public school education") brought the Prussian system of state-controlled (and mind-controlling) education to America.

As award-winning educator John Taylor Gatto put it, the traditional American school purpose - "piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc." - gave way to Prussian state socialism and its centralized schooling system designed to deliver obedient soldiers to the military, obedient workers to mines, factories, and farms, compliant civil servants to the government, subservient clerks to industry, and submissive citizens to the nation-state.

The results are all around us today.

Contrast this with another early German educational theorist, Wilhelm von Humboldt. Although he believed in "free and universal education for all citizens" (i.e., coercively taxpayer funded) Gatto notes his "brilliant arguments for a high-level no-holds-barred, free-swinging, universal, intellectual course of study for all, full of variety, free debate, rich experience, and personalized curricula."

So while Ron Paul advocates turning public schooling over to the states, thereby creating 50 little authoritarian indoctrination monsters instead of one big one, libertarians believe in free market education.

How will the free market answer Kays' objections of who will ensure that a standard of education is maintained, or ensure that poor children get an education, or who will give deserving students money for college?

One short article can't make up for years of government indoctrination. For that, Kays needs self-education. He could begin here and then keep on going:


Australia: Red tape blocks school science lessons

IT'S the age-old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg? Queensland's 650,000 school students are now unlikely to be given the chance to find out after a recent crackdown was ordered on egg hatching in classrooms. In a decision criticised for tying schools up in more red tape, teachers must now submit a 15-page application form before their students can watch chickens hatch from eggs in an incubator.

Teachers are now saying the paperwork is too time-consuming and they won't bother with the once-popular classroom activity. The application form is the same one used to gain approval to dissect rats and toads in school laboratories.

The ruling that books and chooks don't mix has led to the cancellation of dozens of hatching kit orders after some Catholic schools booked incubators in time for Easter before realising they now needed formal approval from the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee.

Exasperated owners of hatching kit businesses fear at least 1000 unwanted embryo eggs that had been pre-ordered must now be destroyed.

Ann Richardson of Henny Penny Hatching said schools had been threatened with fines of more than $30,000 if they hatched eggs in the classroom without formal approvals, which could take six months. "Teachers are just finding it too hard," she said. "There was no negotiation. We don't know what to do."

One teacher wrote to Ms Richardson in dismay at the decision, saying bean plants would prove a poor substitute for her life-cycle classes.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the paperwork burden had made it "virtually impossible" for teachers to continue the activity. "It is really a case of bureaucracy and red tape being imposed on the education of our children to their detriment," he said. "Any animal, whether at home or school, should be treated humanely, but our children have a right to learn about the natural world."

Teachers were previously able to conduct chicken hatching in schools without formal permission.

But Animal Ethics Committee project officer Brad McConachie said that has changed after advice from the State Government that poultry programs in schools needed formal approval by the committee under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 code of practice.

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said chicken hatching was complex and the welfare of the animals needed to be taken seriously.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Will University of California, Santa Cruz, Address anti-Jewish Bigotry on Campus?

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, claims that two federal complaints against his university, alleging a hostile environment for Jewish students, are without merit. While expressing general support for the recent extension of the provisions of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include Jewish students, Yudof does not believe that the situation on UC campuses rises to the standards of the federal statute. He recently told the Forward: “I think it is about people engaged in abhorrent speech on our campuses. But I am skeptical at the end of the day that with those two instances we will be found to be in violation of Title VI.”

As a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of a Title VI complaint filed on behalf of Jewish students at my university, which has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education since March 2011, I strongly disagree with Yudof’s assessment.

Although he implies that the primary target of my complaint is “abhorrent speech” on campus, this is simply not so. Rather, my complaint focuses on university faculty and administrators who have regularly and egregiously abused their positions as employees of a public university and violated the tenets of their profession to promote their own virulently anti-Israel political agenda, which in turn has had deleterious effects on many Jewish students.
Consider the following examples included in my complaint:
1) A conference titled “Alternative Histories Within and Beyond Zionism” took place at UCSC, sponsored by eight departments. Four professors and one graduate student, none of them scholars of Israel or the Middle East, though all of them self-proclaimed anti-Zionists and anti-Israel activists, delivered papers demonizing the Jewish state, denigrating its founding ideology and promoting efforts to harm Israel, such as divestment campaigns.

The five talks were replete with lies, distortions and gross misrepresentations of the facts, including claims that Zionism is racism; Israel is an apartheid state; Israel commits heinous crimes against humanity, including genocide and ethnic cleansing; Israel’s behavior is comparable to Nazi Germany, and Jews exaggerate the Holocaust as a tool of Zionist propaganda. All five speakers agreed that Israel should be dismantled as a Jewish state.

2) A UCSC community studies class designed to train social activists was taught by a professor who described herself in her online syllabus as an active participant in the “campaign against the Apartheid Wall being built in Palestine” and used her class website to encourage students to protest Israel’s “destructive actions“ outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. The professor’s course readings, chosen to incite hatred of the Jewish state, contained unreferenced statements such as the following:

*“Israeli massacres are often accompanied by sexual assault, particularly of pregnant women as a symbolic way of uprooting the children from the mother, or the Palestinian from the land.”

* “We define Zionism as a settler-colonial political movement that seeks to ethnically cleanse historical Palestine of the indigenous population and populate it as a Jewish-only state.”

These examples and many others found in the complaint contain language that clearly meets the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. Department of State, including rhetoric that denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination (such as by claiming that Zionism is racism); that applies a double standard to Israel’s behavior not applied to any (for example, blood libel); that compares Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, and that accuses the Jewish people and the State of Israel of exaggerating the Holocaust.

As a result of their experiences with such university-sponsored, anti-Semitic expression, Jewish students at my university have expressed feeling emotionally and intellectually harassed and intimidated by their professors, isolated from their fellow students and unfairly treated by administrators. Some have even reported leaving the university, dropping classes, changing fields of study and hiding symbols of their Jewishness.

Ultimately it is up to the federal government — not Yudof — to determine whether there has been a violation of federal law at UCSC, and it is important to point out that the DOE would never have initiated an investigation of my complaint had it been deemed frivolous or lacking in merit.

If Yudof truly valued the protections that Jewish students have recently been afforded under Title VI, he would not pass premature judgment on my complaint. Rather, he would simply welcome the federal investigation of a UC campus and the opportunity it could provide for understanding and addressing the serious problem of anti-Jewish bigotry.


Teachers Unions Staring Into Financial Abyss, Channeling Saul Alinsky

Fresh on the heels of an exclusive report detailing a 7-day Caribbean cruise that National Education Association staffers are currently enjoying, Education Action Group has learned that dozens of teachers unions around the country are running out of money.

According to reports published by the National Staff Organization – a group made up of NEA and state affiliate union staffers:

“Fifteen states are considered to be financially distressed because of membership loss and their very survival is in jeopardy. And because of financial hardship, 41 state executives are on NEA’s payroll instead of being paid by their state. Two states—Indiana and South Carolina—remain under an NEA trusteeship.”
NSO President Chuck Agerstrand called it a lesson in “trickle-down economics.”

Or maybe it’s just “trickle-down karma.” It’s ironic that the very same financial problems unions have created for government schools – through collectively bargained contracts that give annual, automatic pay raises and world class benefits – are now appearing in their own organizations.

The teacher unions’ laser-like focus on left wing politics means that state legislatures – many of which are currently controlled by Tea Party Republicans – have no incentive to help rescue them.

The unions’ chickens have come home to roost, as the saying goes.

What’s the solution? Creating a “culture of organizing,” according to the NSO, which wants to boost the number of dues payers and thus soothe the financial problems. So prior to the 7-day Caribbean cruise, staffers participated in a three-day retreat to learn how to better organize.

The staffers studied organizing theory charts and read quotes from Saul Alinsky. The National Education Association is now teaching an organizing method the Service Employees International Union has been using as well: “Constant Organizing Goals.”

In a 2010 PowerPoint document, SEIU described the COG method this way:

“[It] requires unions to build public relationships involving a quid pro quo interchange driven by self-interest and guaranteed by mutual accountability.”
This underscores the notion that the union’s strategy is to meet its needs first and not seek what is in the best interest of students or taxpayers.

The NEA’s bargaining strategy method has these four steps:

1. Educate

2. Agitate

3. Escalate

4. Evaluate

The further into the process, the theory goes, the more power is built. But the power, of course, is for high salaries, better benefits, and fewer responsibilities. That’s great for the adults, but doesn’t do much for the students.

But after all – it’s not about the students. Somebody has to bail water out of the sinking union boat and it’s not going to be students. Teachers, grab a bucket.


Australia: SCHOOL CRACKDOWN: Dud teachers face axing in deal worth millions

Good if it actually happens. Government schools cannot afford to be too fussy, though. It's mainly the least talented of graduates who go into teaching these days. Trying to teach in an undisciplined school is only for the desperate -- aside from a few idealists

POORLY performing teachers will be sacked in a landmark education reform to be rolled out nationally.

In return for signing up to the Federal Government's teacher hiring policy, aimed at improving standards, state governments will be offered cash handouts worth millions.

The national reforms will need to be agreed to by each state and will be first rolled out in Queensland and New South Wales. The Queensland Government will be offered $7.5 million, and the NSW Government will be offered a handout of more than $12 million.

In a move that will break the longstanding deadlock about whether principals can hire and fire, school management will be given free rein to take over the recruitment and management of teachers and support staff.

School boards and councils will also take over the budget control and strategic planning, giving parents a greater role in oversight of their school operations. They will also be given the right to set salaries for teachers and contracts for school maintenance, such as cleaning.

"To get the best results we need principals to have the powers to get and keep the best teachers," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told The Daily Telegraph yesterday.

NSW government schools have the most centralised decision-making processes in Australia. All staff hiring is also centralised out of the state Department of Education, which has the say on hiring and firing of teachers.

The PM will announce the reforms ahead of the release of the Gonski review of school funding, due next week. It will be the first review of how schools receive funding since 1973 and is expected to call for major injections of funds into an education budget that tops $36 billion annually.

As federal education minister, Ms Gillard introduced the My School website and the Naplan tests, which brought in national standards for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in reading, writing and numeracy.

The Federal Government will withhold the additional funding if the State Governments do not sign up to the harder reforms, specifically around the hiring and firing of teachers by principals.

The onus is now on NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to submit an implementation plan to the Federal Government to prove how he would lift education performance.

Inability to hire and fire staff has been one of the principals' greatest gripes. Principals will now become more accountable for their school's performance. A trial of the reforms will involve 325 schools in NSW over the next two years.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

‘He’s Our Man, Yes We Can!’: Pro-Obama Song Taught to Kindergarteners at TX School

Kindergarteners Learn Yes We Can Obama Song at Tipps Elemntary School in TexasKindergarteners at a Texas elementary school were sent home with lyrics to a pro-President Barack Obama song that included such lines as “Barack Obama is the man” and “He’s our man, yes we can!”

The song, part of a Black History Month program, was forwarded from a parent at Tipps Elementary School in Houston to Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo, a nationally syndicated radio host and frequent fill-in for Glenn Beck. Included with the lyrics was an apparent memo to kindergarten teachers that said kindergarteners would be “required” to learn the chant for the program [all spelling errors below are original]:


Attached is a chant about President Barack Obama. All Kindergarteners will be required to learn the chant for the Black History program. Please write how many you will need. Keep one copy to practice with students at school.

Mary Stovall
Bridgette Babineaux

The Barack Obama Song

Who is our 44th President?
Obama is our 44th President
Who is a DC resident?
Obama is a DC resident
Resident, President

Who’s favorite team is the Chicago White Sox?
Obama’s favorite team is the Chicago White sox
Who really thinks outside the box?
Obama really thinks outside the box
Outside the box, Chicago White Sos
Resident, President

Who really likes to play basketball?
Obama really likes to play basketball
Who’s gonna answer our every call?
Every Call, Basketball
Outside the box, Chicago White Sox
Resident, President

Who’s famous slogan is Yes we can?
Obams’s famous slogan is Yes we can
Who do we know is the man?
Barack Obama is the man
He’s our man, Yes we can!
Every Call, Basketvall
Outside the box, Chicago White Sox
Resident, President
Who won a grammy for “Dreams of my Father”?
Obama won a grammy for “Dreams of my Father”?
Now can you guess who’s a famous author
Barack Obama is a famous author

Famous Author, Dreams of my Father
He’s our man, Yes we can!
Every Call, Basketball
Outside the box. Chicago White Sox
Resident President

Who wants to go to college at Yale?
Malia & Sasha will go to college at Yale
Who’ll make sure they won’t fail?
Barack & Michelle know they won’t fail

They won’t fail, they’re going to Yale
Famous Author, Dream of my Father
He’s our man, Yes we can!
Every Call, Basketball
Outside the box, Chicago White Sox
Resident, President

After receiving the lyrics, Pagliarulo sent the following email to Pam Redd, principal of Tipps Elementary School:

Dear Principal Redd,

Hi there.. my name is Joe Pagliarulo.. I go by Joe Pags on the radio. I had a listener contact me today.. with the attached document. I’m confused. How exactly is holding this president up on high — indoctrinating little children to believe what YOU want them to believe about this president a good lesson for Black History Month..

What’s said in the document is nothing less that proselytizing YOUR feelings for the president. You can love him. You can vote for him. You can be proud that he’s the first Black president — which would be appropriate for this month’s program.

But, you DO NOT get to tell the taxpayers who pay your salary that their kids have to genuflect to the altar you’ve clearly built to this president. I’d LOVE to have you on my show. I’d LOVE for you to explain to those who pay your salary why YOUR political beliefs are the ones THEIR kids have to get in lock-step with.

Really looking forward to hearing from you.



The Tipps Elementary principal’s office would not comment on the matter, directing all inquiries to the communications department at the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Kelly Durham, the district’s assistant superintendent for communications, defended the song during a telephone interview with The Blaze and called it “an instructional activity to honor Black History Month.” The kindergartners will be perform it during an evening school program, she said.

Durham said each grade level was assigned a different historical figure to profile, and the kindergarteners got Obama — an appropriate figure because “he’s the president of the United States.” Durham said she knew one other grade level had been assigned Rosa Parks, but did not know who the remaining grades received.

She disputed the characterization that it was a “requirement” for kindergarteners to learn the song, saying all students were given permission slips for their parents to sign before they were allowed to take part.

“As a parent, you would have the right to say I don’t want my child participating in this,” Durham said.

She said she didn’t know whether the permission slips detailed what the activity would involve, and said she hadn’t heard whether any parents disagreed with the song. Of the school’s 194 kindergarteners, only 25 will be participating in the program — a number Durham said is typical for an evening school activity, and not necessarily reflective of parents’ feelings on the subject matter.

“They [parents] understand that President Obama is the president and he’s the first African American president and February is Black History Month,” she said.

Durham said she did not know who wrote the chant or whether it was approved by a school administrator before it was distributed to students. She told The Blaze the version used by teachers was “different” from the one sent to Pagliarulo, but said she did not know how.

Addressing the song on his show, Pagliarulo called it a clear case of “proselytizing” and indoctrination.

“Am I suggesting mentioning the first black president of the United States should not have been included in the program? No,” Pagliarulo told The Blaze. “What I‘m saying is having your kids and mine bow down to his majesty and propping him up as ’the man‘ and ’yes we can‘ and ’thinking out of the box‘ and ’answering every call‘ and pretending that’s somehow a lesson in black history is historically wrong and not the job.”


Michigan School Plays Fawning Video Tribute to Obama

Well, at least the kids weren’t singing – everybody now – “Mmm mmm mmm…Barack Hussein Obama.” But the latest example of Big Education fawning over Barack Obama isn’t much better.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Cass Elementary School in Livonia, Michigan aired a video of still images of Obama, with a speech by King and – strangely – a Bob Marley song playing in the background.

The students looked about as interested as if they were watching paint dry.

It’s unclear how long the song actually was, as the citizen journalist video is 1:20 long and the song was clearly longer.

But why do these examples keep popping up? Why is he routinely portrayed in a mythical context? While it’s important to honor our president, these examples border on propaganda fit for a dictator.

It’s obvious the teachers unions love Obama. Many of their members do, too. After all, both national unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – have both already endorsed him for re-election. They didn’t even bother to wait to see who his eventual opponent will be.

But the indoctrination campaign for our dear leader is on, and thankfully parents or teachers or whoever they are – keep recording the incidents and posting them for all to see. Perhaps eventually, the propagandists will be shamed into stopping.


Low-cost degrees in the Netherlands attracting British students

You don't have to speak double Dutch - and the fees are significantly cheaper. That's why more and more British students are flocking to universities in the Netherlands, it was reported today.

Traditionally, the UK's seats of learning have attracted a whopping share of European total of students who travel abroad to study. More than a quarter came to Britain in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available.

But as fees have risen to £9,000 a year, universities in the Netherlands have reported a significant increase in interest from the UK. At Maastricht University, figures released this month show 255 Britons have applied for places in September, two-and-a-half times the comparable figure a year ago. Four years ago there were just 18 British students in Maastricht. The figure is now 163 and that could double later this year.

At home, recent figures show a 8,500 drop in the number of 18-year-olds applying for university places in England this year.

The cost of courses in the Netherlands, the fact courses are taught in English and it is easy travel to the country via the Eurostar service are believed to be behind the rise. Undergraduate tuition fees in the Netherlands are currently €1,713 (£1,440) for an academic year, less than one sixth of the £9,000 maximum being levied in England from September. Not only that, for students of any EU nationality who can prove they are working 32 hours a month, the Dutch government hands out grants of €265.

Colin Behr, a second-year European studies scholar from Devon, told The Guardian: 'Going to another country to study is very daunting. But it's a great opportunity. The reason I'm here is the quality and the value for money. It definitely feels more serious than the UK.'

British students now occupy fourth place in the list of nationalities studying at Maastricht and their numbers are rising relatively fast.

Jeanine Gregersen-Hermans, the university's marketing director, said: 'The situation in Britain has changed, so we expect a lot more applications this year. People have been forced to look outside [the UK] and now it has snowballed.'

Yet the number of students coming to Britain still dwarfs the number leaving to study abroad. Of 600,000 EU students taking degrees in non-native union countries, 175,000 were in the UK.

In contrast, only 11,800 Britons were studying elsewhere in the EU, compared with 80,000 Germans, 47,000 French and 41,000 Italians.


Australia: "Overcrowding" in Sydney State schools?

Class-size is a snark. All the evidence shows that it is teacher quality that matters, not class size.

A point not mentioned below is that the turning to State schools mostly seems to be happening in affluent suburbs, where the quality of the pupils keeps standards up

STUDENTS in government primary schools are struggling in classes of more than 30 children as wealthy families turn their backs on expensive private colleges to save thousands of dollars in fees.

Booming public school enrolments have stretched teachers in many popular and high performing primary schools to breaking point as class sizes have jumped to as high as 32 after Year 2.

Children in their first three years of school -- who are not required to sit national literacy and numeracy tests -- have government-mandated small classes with as few as 19 students.

But in senior primary school years children are often forced into large classes, exceeding the upper ceiling of 30 laid down by the NSW Department of Education and Communities.

Data showed enrolments in the best government primary schools has been rising rapidly in recent years, particularly since parents have been able to monitor school performance in the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) tests.

Public school enrolments have increased by 8400 across the state since 2009, with northern Sydney a major hot spot.

Government schools in the city's north, up against heavily marketed independents, have recorded the greatest increase in students -- 5100 over the past three years.

At Caddies Creek in western Sydney enrolments have jumped from 220 when the school opened in 2003 to 925. Mona Vale Public on the northern beaches has increased from 799 three years ago to 900. Others have risen by more than 60 per cent in six years.

Relieving principal at Mona Vale Public Greg Jones said families who would have opted for a private education were saving $20,000 a year by choosing the local government school.

"It reflects the community having increasing confidence in public education . . . we are not losing them (new students) so there is very little leakage," he said.

But a rigid staffing formula administered by the Education Department, under which schools can lose a teacher if student numbers decline by just a few, has made it almost impossible to keep all primary classes at under 30.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations said large class sizes in the upper years of primary school was an issue, particularly as students in Year 3 and Year 5 were required to sit the Naplan tests.

Allison King, from Wahroonga, has three children. Her eldest, six-year-old Malachi, is in Year 2 at Waitara Public School. She believes small class sizes are important: "They're still quite little in Year 3 and with all the literacy and numeracy tests they are doing they need so much attention. I wouldn't like Malachi to be in a big class."

In a bid to juggle a limited number of teachers and classrooms, schools are forming composite classes or using "team teaching" -- with 45 or 50 students in a room with two teachers.

Education Department data showed some schools now had up to 19 composites.

The carer of two primary school children in southwestern Sydney, who did not wish to be identified, said she had been told by a teacher that the quality of learning dropped when classes became larger than 25 students.

"I once complained to a teacher because they didn't mark my child's homework when she was in Year 3 -- the teacher said they didn't have enough time to get around to marking every child's work," the carer said.

"This year the principal wants classes to stay at 27 but I think it will increase. This is because some children haven't even come back from holidays yet and are yet to be placed in classes."

Chairwoman of the Public Schools Principals Forum Cheryl McBride said most of her classes at Canley Vale Public in Sydney's west had 29 or 30 students.

"We would love to have smaller sizes . . . if you are a quality teacher you can be even more effective with smaller numbers," she said.

"Disadvantaged schools also find (larger class sizes) more challenging than affluent areas.

"But it is about competing priorities and I rate the need for more counsellors, help for special needs kids and teachers' salaries ahead of reducing class sizes."

Ms McBride agreed public schools were attracting families who might otherwise have sent their children to private schools.

An Education Department spokesman said $710 million had been spent reducing class sizes in primary schools. They now averaged 24 across all grades.

Sydney regional director Dr Phil Lambert said improved academic performance, exciting programs and "connectedness" between the school and parents of students were reasons why government schools had become more attractive. [Dream on!]