Saturday, February 25, 2012

What are my Kids Learning? Poll Shows Professors Fail Presidential History

Presidents Day celebrates America’s rich presidential history, yet the people we entrust to teach and write our history books—university professors—have a skewed view of our nation’s past leaders.

On Ronald Reagan’s 101st birthday, Young America’s Foundation released a scientific poll conducted by The Polling Company Inc. of 284 professors on their views on our past presidents—particularly on President Reagan. Those views on Reagan were not surprising. Professors have less of an appreciation for arguably the greatest modern President than do a majority of Americans. What was perhaps more alarming, however, was their disdain of our great founding presidents.

When asked to list their picks for the three greatest presidents of all-time, professors mentioned Franklin Roosevelt significantly more times than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison—and four times as often as President Reagan.

Little Love for Founding Fathers

Professors expressed clear distain for America’s Founding Fathers and founding documents. A meager 1% of professors thought the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, ranked in the top three presidents (compared to 54% for FDR), and only 30% picked Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.

While there are 43 presidents to choose from, the fact that Bill Clinton got six times as many mentions as James Madison is disturbing. In the poll, 87% of professors said it was “important to pass on analysis and understanding of previous United States Presidents.” But what kind of analysis are they passing on?

In the poll, three times as many professors identified themselves as liberal than as conservative. For a long time, we’ve known about the widespread liberalism in academia, but many Americans don’t realize the impact this ideological bias has on their children’s education.

30% of professors admitted in the Foundation’s poll that their ideology plays a role in their curriculum. That number is alarming enough, but we know from closely studying the intolerant intellectual atmosphere on college campuses, it is far worse than those numbers admit.

As our poll numbers reflect, the ideological sentiments being passed on to students by many professors on the Left dismiss our Founders as largely irrelevant. Is this really what we want our kids to believe?

I don’t. I want my children to see the founders as the visionaries they were. They set the stage for the greatest growth in personal freedom the world has ever seen. But that’s not the story most kids are learning in history class.

Anti-Conservative History

In fact, students are hearing little if anything positive about conservative leaders from professors. In 2011, Gallup released a poll indicating that a plurality of Americans think President Reagan is the greatest president in US history. In our poll, not one professor said Reagan was the greatest president, and 60% said he wasn’t in their top ten. When asked to grade President Reagan, they gave him a C+.

Current popular American opinion of President Reagan arguably isn’t the only way to evaluate his place in history. However, professors are not only out of touch with the American public, they’re out of touch with historical facts.

The facts are that President Reagan ended the cold war and generated the greatest period of peacetime economic growth in US History. Under President Reagan, the misery index (inflation plus unemployment) fell nearly 10 points and youth unemployment dropped more than 5%. Revenues doubled, and the country pulled out of two economic recessions. Professors can’t say the same about FDR or any other president.

The Importance of Factual and Balanced Presidential History

America’s youth look up to the presidency, and many students’ policy beliefs will result from their understanding of a particular president. Our higher education is trying to pull America to the left, and we cannot let their slanted views of historical presidents preside as fact in the classroom.

Our government has strayed from America’s founding values of limited government and personal responsibility. Americans are suffering the economic consequences. Our children must learn about the successes of these fundamental principles so they shape their future around what worked.

Professors gave President Reagan a C+, but Americans should give professors an F. It’s great that professors think presidential history is “important” to share in the classroom, but America, for the sake of our children, let’s make sure these professors get the history right.


Struggling to spk: British Firms send new arrivals on courses to stop them using mobile shorthand in conversation

Bosses are having to send young recruits on courses to ‘de-text’ their speech because they can no longer hold a proper conversation. Training is being given to school leavers who use text-speak such as ‘IDK’ for ‘I don’t know’ and ‘LOL’ for ‘laughing out loud’.

Peter Searle, UK chief executive of the recruitment company Adecco, said growing numbers of firms have been forced into action to rectify the problem. He also warned that social networking websites have created a generation of employees who lack the basic skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

Heavy use of Twitter and Facebook is isolating staff because relationships are all through a machine, he said. ‘We have instances in offices where people would rather sit at their desk and send e-mails to each other next door than walk around and have a conversation. ‘They have no respect for their manager. They don’t ask them for advice because it isn’t their social background to do that.’ ‘All the things that we think of as normal, they aren’t prepared for.’

Employers are struggling to fill vacancies because some school-leavers are unable to work in a team, turn up on time or communicate with colleagues, said Mr Searle. This includes talking in text message language. ‘They only know to interact with short “text speak” to save themselves time, so they start using text speak in conversations,’ he said.

‘They come out of school and want to get a job, but the people who are interviewing them are saying their personal social skills and technical abilities are not suited to the way things work in industry.'

Research for Adecco found that 52 per cent of employers believe the British school system is failing to equip youngsters for the world of work.

Recommendations include an ‘employment experience’ programme to be developed to give pupils a taste of what to expect in their working life.

‘We have a generation of people who are fundamentally bored and who need something to motivate them,’ said Mr Searle.

The recession had highlighted the gap between what the education system provides and what businesses want, he added. ‘There are no large environments where you can just hang up your brain as you go inside and go through the day and get paid for it [Except the public service, of course]. Our education system is failing to equip the future workforce effectively.

‘As a nation, we place insufficient value on the basic tools of employability such as behaviour, attitude and communication – in the classroom, the workplace and in the home. 'As a result, we fear a whole generation of potential workers will be deemed unemployable and lost to UK businesses.’

Mr Searle’s warning reinforces evidence from exam boards that teenagers are using text short-hand in written papers, including ‘C’ for ‘see’ and ‘U’ for ‘you’.

GCSE courses starting in September will award marks for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. A new curriculum is expected to place greater emphasis on developing speech.


Australia: The drift to private High Schools continues in Qld.

They try to pooh-pooh it below but State schools have to be pretty bad for so many parents to abandon them -- at a considerable monetary sacrifice. Private enrolments are now about 40% of the total, which is huge and getting bigger

STATE high schools are continuing to lose students to the independent and Catholic sectors, figures released today show.

The 2012 Day 8 state school figures - the student data used to allocate staff - show that while primary school enrolments are booming, more than 4000 Year 7 pupils from last year left the sector for private education.

State primary school enrolments rose from 310,104 on Day 8 last year to 317,072 this year - the biggest jump in the sector in recent years. Education Minister Cameron Dick said there was record growth in Prep in state schools, with 1800 extra pupils in 2012, taking the year level to more than 44,700 students across the state.

"This increase reflects the Queensland Government's successful implementation of Prep as the first year of schooling," Mr Dick said.

But the state sector lost about 10 per cent of its Year 7 students when they moved into Year 8 - a figure that was slightly less than in previous years.

About 39,880 Year 7 students were enrolled in a state school on Day 8 last year. The number of students enrolled in Year 8 at state schools this year is 35,712. Overall, state secondary enrolments dropped from 174,737 last year to 174,377 this year.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said this number was "insignificant" and praised his sector.

"I think state high schools offer more opportunities than the non-government sectors because state high schools offer a far broader range of curriculum," Mr Fuller said.

He said state high schools also served some regional, rural and remote areas where non-government schools didn't exist. Mr Dick said the 2012 Year 8 intake was slightly higher than last year, while a record 30,700 Year 12 students were enrolled on Day 8.

He said Queensland was the only state or territory to have increased government school enrolments every year since 2006.

"Nationally, Queensland continues to have the third-highest proportion of students in government schools, with only Northern Territory and Tasmania higher," he said.

"'We know that while state schools have shown increases in enrolments this year of more than 6600 students, we also expect non-state schools to grow when we see their enrolments later in the year."

Overall, state school student numbers rose 1.4 per cent on last year, up from 484,840 pupils on Day 8 last year to 491,449 this year.

Tiny enrolment drops were recorded in the Darling Downs, South West and Far North Queensland regions, with increases everywhere else.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Summer students get taste of Occupy movement at Maryland community college

Students in ninth through the 12th grade attending summer programs at a community college outside Washington, D.C., will get a taste of the Occupy operation in a new course that aims to get them interested in "the movement for justice."

"Occupy MoCo!," one of the newest courses at Montgomery College in Montgomery County, Md., is part of the Summer Youth program offered for 2012.

"We are at an exciting time in the history of the world. People all over the planet are taking democracy into their own hands and working together to create solutions for a better world," reads the course description for YOU392.

"Take advantage of this interactive opportunity to learn critical thinking skills that will help you in college and gain insight into becoming a global leader of the 21st century. Learn about the Occupy Wall Street movement and explore real-life human rights implications. Review social justice concepts and explore human rights issues related to current events. Young people hold the power to change their community, their schools, their future -- are you ready to join the movement for justice?"

Elizabeth Homan, the school's director of communications, said the class "does not take a stance on the Occupy movement. Rather, the movement provides a creative opportunity for students to discuss protests throughout history, as well as current events, definitions, and various processes that can be used to voice opinions in the community."

The class, however, is a standout among the academic courses offered for the season.

Other new classes being offered for the summer 2012 session include "3D Geometry -- Let's Build a City," "Be a Nurse or Just Work with One," "Battle-Bot Build-a-Thon," "Be a Real Life Investigative Reporter," "Chemical Wizardry," "Diggin' for Dinosaurs Rockin' Rocks and Crystal Creations," "Junkyard Warriors," "Game Building Software," "Passion for Fashion," and "Your Doll and You," among others.

Homan said the class is a noncredit program that is two weeks in length, and is designed for high school students who take AP/honors classes.

"The class is a hybrid of history and current events. Students will learn about protests throughout history, as well as the current events of today. They will participate in role-playing, read newspapers, and learn how people voice opinions in the community," Homan said in an email to

The Occupy MoCo! class costs $190 for 10 three-hour sessions. Homan said tuition covers the cost of the class, which is being taught by a part-time summer youth instructor. Homan said there will be no homework or field trips. "Everything will take place in the classroom," she said.


Ariz. Bill Would Fire Teachers for Bringing ‘Partisan’ Opinions Into the Classroom

Teachers in Arizona would automatically be fired for bringing “partisan doctrine” into their classrooms under a bill pending before the state legislature.

Arizona Senate bill 1202 is meant to ensure students get a balanced view of what they’re taught in school, Capitol Media Services reported. In addition to firing teachers who bring partisanship into the classroom, school districts that allow it to happen would face losing state funding.

The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Lori Klein of Anthem, who said she has received complaints about “political indoctrination in the classroom,” according to CMS. Klein, a Republican, is also sponsoring a separate measure that if passed would see teachers suspended or fired for using profanity in the classroom.

SB 1202 passed out of the Arizona Senate Government Reform Committee last week and is now set to go before the full state Senate for a vote. It comes after the Tucson Unified School District suspended its controversial Mexican-American studies program after it was set to lose funding on the grounds the curriculum violated a newly-enacted state law specifically designed to target the program. State officials contended the program promoted reverse-racism, and the law prohibits classes designed for a particular ethnic group or which “promote resentment toward a race of class of people.”

Arizona GOP congressional candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer testified in favor of the bill, telling lawmakers: “I have seen, firsthand, the damage done to our young students by partisans who pretend to be educators.”

“I have seen young students who, through classroom indoctrination rather than instruction, were incited to threaten and harass anyone who disagrees with their position,” she said, according to CMS.

Mercer added that it’s one thing when university professors bring politics into their teaching, but quite another when it’s done in a classroom full of young students. “When you are targeting young, impressionable minds, starting from kindergarten, these children get lost,” she said.

What exactly defines a “partisan” opinion was a point of contention for legislators, CMS reported, but Klein said the bill is simply to ensure one point of view isn’t emphasized over another, regardless of ideology.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Republicans or conservatives should not be promoting their point of view. Liberals, socialists, Marxists should not be espousing their views in the classroom.”

The committee stripped the legislation of any penalty for using partisan books — ones that a history teacher might assign about a U.S. president, for example — but one lawmaker remained concerned the bill could stifle the learning environment.

“The language here is so broad that you‘re going to stifle the education environment and kids’ ability to learn. Let‘s say they’re talking in science [class] and a teacher throws out ‘global warming.’ That could be considered a partisan issue,” Phoenix Democratic Sen. David Lujan said according to CMS, adding that it should be up to the students to decide whether they believe in the issue.

Glendale Republican Sen. Rick Murphy said much of it comes down to context. “As long as the teacher was tolerant of people having other views and not punitive towards them if they express those and try to persuade their classmates of that, and as long as its relevant, I don’t see a problem with that,” Murphy said. “If they‘re talking about what’s relevant to the class, I wouldn’t see a problem with that. But if they’re talking about it in math, I would have concerns.”


Shocking truth about graduate unemployment in Britain: Graduates have the same chance of being out of work as a school leaver with just junior High School attendance

A graduate aged 21 has the same chance of being unemployed as a 16-year-old school leaver with one GCSE, official figures revealed yesterday. Around one in four of both groups is currently without a job.

The shocking statistics highlight the problems facing graduates leaving university at a time of crisis in the jobs market.

Nearly six unemployed people are chasing every vacancy and economists warn that the jobless total, which has hit 2.67million, will climb even higher.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 25.9 per cent of 16-year-olds who left school with as little as one GCSE at grade C or above are currently unemployed.

The situation is almost identical for a 21-year-old graduate. Despite having A-levels and a degree, 24.8 per cent are unemployed.

The figures will fuel concerns among parents and their children about whether a degree is worthwhile at a time when students face the prospect of leaving university with debts of up to £50,000.

They also raise serious doubts about Labour’s famous pledge to have 50 per cent of school leavers going on to university.

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the careers website Graduate Fog, said she regularly hears from graduates who are in work but have had to return to their old holiday jobs.

She said: ‘They are pulling pints [doing bar work] or doing data entry because they cannot find a graduate job that pays any better.’


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Department of Education: Catholic Schools Beat Public Schools

When two schools meet in a basketball game, the winner is indisputable. One team outscores the other. The same is true in certain types of academic competition. When students take standardized national tests, students from some schools outscore students from others.

In the most recent round of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the winners were indeed indisputable. Catholic schools thrashed public schools.

It wasn't close. "In 2011," says the Department of Education in a report on the NAEP tests, "the average reading score for eighth-graders attending public schools was 19 points lower than the overall score for students attending private schools,and 20 points lower than for students attending Catholic schools specifically."

If the Catholic school in your community beat the public school in basketball by 20 points, partisans of both teams would deem it a rout. If the Catholic school beat the public school by similar margins year after year, people would wonder what was wrong with the public-school basketball program. Were the coaches incompetent? Did they not care about instilling excellence in their teams?

Well, in the Department of Education's national eighth-grade reading test, the Catholic schools not only routed the public schools by 20 points last year, they have made a habit of such routs.

In every round of NAEP reading tests over the past 20 years, Catholic-school eighth-graders have defeated public-school eighth-graders by double-digit margins. The closest the public schools ever got to the Catholic schools was 17 points -- and that was in 1992, long before today's elementary school students were even born.

The Catholic victory margins are not as great in mathematics, but the history of unbroken domination is the same.

"In 2011," says the Department of Education, "the average mathematics score for eighth-graders attending public schools was 13 points lower than the overall score for students attending private schools and 13 points lower than for students attending Catholic schools specifically."

In math, the closest the public schools ever got to beating the Catholics schools was when they lost by only 9 points -- but that was 22 years ago. Since then, the Catholic schools' victory margin in math has gradually grown.

So, what is the matter with public schools? Why can't they compete with Catholic schools in basic academic disciplines like reading and math?

One thing is certain: It isn't a lack of money. In the 1998-99 school year, according to the Department of Education, U.S. public elementary and secondary schools spent $9,923 per pupil (in inflation-adjusted 2009-2010 dollars). In the 2007-2008 school year, they spent $12,236 per pupil (in 2009-2010 dollars). In just eight years, America's public schools increased average per-pupil spending by $2,313 in inflation-adjusted dollars -- a real increase of 23 percent.

But in that same period, the average public-school eighth-grade reading score virtually flat-lined -- going from 261 (out of a possible 500) in 1998 to 264 in 2011.

The average public-school eighth-grade math score showed slightly more improvement for the additional $2,313 per student. It crawled from 272 (out of 500) in 2000 to 283 last year.

If significantly increasing the money transferred from taxpayers to public school administrators and teachers cannot significantly increase the math and reading scores of the students these administrators and teachers are supposed to serve, what will?

Ideally, organized on a community-by-community basis, all parents of all students would get a voucher equal to the cost of educating a child in the local public school, and the parents would be able to choose, in a free market, exactly where they wanted their child educated.

But, unfortunately, if we did this in today's America -- where the president believes he can order Catholics and Catholic institutions to act against their faith -- people in government would surely use a voucher program as a political weapon to sap the spirit from religious schools and turn them into dismal facsimiles of the failed public schools that the voucher-bearing parents and their children have fled.

The truth is the primary purpose of the average American public school -- like the Catholic school -- is not to teach children reading and math. It is to develop character -- to help assimilate students into the school's vision of our civilization.

And here, even more than in reading and math, our public schools have become the leading indicator of national decline.

In the public schools today, children are not taught to believe that the traditional family is the indispensible foundation of our society, or that every human being -- including those still unborn -- has an inalienable God-given right to life, or that the United States of America enjoys an exceptional place in the history of nations because our Founding Fathers instituted a government that was constitutionally limited in its functions, leaving it to a moral and self-reliant people to thrive and prosper in a free society.

The liberal elites who generally define and determine what is taught in our public schools do not believe these things and do not want the children who graduate from the government academies to believe them, either.

Today, public schools are competing with Catholic and other religious schools not just in developing the math and reading skills of their students, but for the very soul of America. May the private religious schools win this all-important contest, too.


Why Did a TV Group Have a MI Educator’s Controversial Testimony Removed From the Internet?

This week The Blaze featured a story out of Michigan regarding an education official’s controversial comment that educators — not parents — know how best to serve children.

The remark was made earlier this month during a meeting of the Michigan House Education Committee: Debbie Squires, associate director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, said parents have an opportunity to weigh in on how their children’s schools are run when they elect school board officials.

“Educators go through education for a reason, they are the people who know best about how to serve children, that’s not necessarily true of an individual resident,” Squires said. “I’m not saying they don’t want the best for their children, but they may not know what actually is best from an education standpoint.”

Squires’ remarks caught fire and were featured on several national news sites, including The Blaze, in part because they were captured on video. But on Tuesday, the same day we posted our own story, the YouTube video of the meeting clip was removed by the user, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a pro-charter school organization.

The Blaze reached out to MAPSA to inquire about why they removed the video. Buddy Moorehouse, the organization’s director of communications, said it was over a copyright issue: Michigan Government Television, the nonprofit public affairs cable channel that filmed the committee hearing, claimed MAPSA was violating its licensing policy by only featuring a brief clip of it in their video.

“They contacted us and said their policy states you need to use the entire gavel-to-gavel coverage” when featuring their footage online, Moorehouse said. He added they opted to comply in the interest of maintaining a future working relationship with MGTV.

MGTV, which began in the mid-1990s as a government initiative, is now funded entirely by cable subscriber fees. Michelle Webb, MGTV’s acting executive director, confirmed that her organization requested MAPSA remove its video in what she said was “the format that they did it in.”

“They took just one segment out of it and they edited it, added graphics and so forth,” Webb said. She said MGTV permits its content to be used in full — “they could have put the entire committee [hearing] on there with no problem at all” — but said MAPSA’s use violated their copyright policy.

But even though MGTV succeeded in getting MAPSA to remove its video, there’s another factor at play here: what’s known as the “fair use” doctrine. Under fair use, a copyrighted work may be reproduced without its author’s permission under certain circumstances. There’s no perfect formula that guarantees something is fair use, but there are four factors under U.S. law to be used in making such a determination: the purpose of the use, including whether its for a commercial nature or for a nonprofit education purpose; the nature of the copyrighted work being used; the amount and substantiality of what’s being used in relation to the entire work; and the effect the use has on the potential value of the copyright work.

In general, news reporting, criticism and comment tend to be held up as fair use.

With that in mind, The Blaze decided to include the raw clip of Squires’ comments that made news, without the additional graphics that prompted MGTV’s complaint. The full hearing is not expected to be available online before Friday morning, but The Blaze will link to it when it is.



Three articles below

School plan to test wealth of parents under Gonski review of education

A very similar proposal was a big loser for Mark Latham in 2004 so why this Gonski apparatchik thinks such a neo-Communist policy would be accepted by any Australian government is a mystery

PARENTS of private school students could face family wealth assessments to determine how much government support their children's schools need as part of recommendations to overhaul the nation's education funding system.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was forced to reassure parents there was no "hit list" of wealthy private schools despite the two-year Gonski review proposing that parents with the "capacity" to contribute more money could be expected to pay up to 80 per cent of the cost of their children's education.

The review also called for a $5 billion funding overhaul to help arrest a rapid decline of Australian education standards.

But Ms Gillard refused to give a financial commitment to the reforms yesterday. The changes put a standard cost of education on the head of every student, with extra loading for disadvantages such as disability and low socioeconomic status.

The Gillard Government has insisted no school would lose a dollar if the reforms were implemented, promising to contribute a minimum of 20 to 25 per cent of funding for all schools.

The Government's response also ruled out an expansion of capital funding from the commonwealth saying, "the scope of proposed new funding contribution may be too large". [Qld.] State education minister Cameron Dick also said it was "premature" to make any commitment to funding.

The Gonski review was heavily critical of the nation's education systems, noting that funding arrangements were confusing.

It said that in the past decade, the performance standards of Australian students when compared with those in other countries have slipped dramatically, from equal second in reading to equal seventh and from equal fifth in maths to equal 13th.

Report architect David Gonski warned the slide would continue and said the funding overhaul was based on the fundamental principle that "differences in educational outcomes must not be a result of differences in wealth, income, power or possession".

As a basic estimate, the report suggests funding of about $10,500 a secondary school student and $8000 a primary school student.

The report recommends governments stump up a minimum of 20 to 25 per cent of that figure for wealthy private schools and expects schools themselves to contribute a minimum of 10 per cent.

However, if parents at a private school were found to have the "capacity" to pay more, they could be expected to fund up to 80 per cent of the cost of their child's education.

The report wants the Government to find a more specific way of measuring family wealth, instead of the present post-code based model.

One exception to the approach to private school funding is the recommendation that non-government schools that do not charge fees and have no capacity to do so, or provide the education of students with very high needs, will be fully funded by the Government.

The Opposition savaged the review, saying the Coalition would not implement a policy that "hits parents in their hip pocket".

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the approach to private schools would mean higher school fees and feared there would be no indexation for non-government school funding. "We will make sure at the next election that parents and teachers and principals know the coalition will continue the current quantum of funding, plus real indexation," he said.


ALP rejects schools means testing

Schools Minister Peter Garrett has denied means testing parents of private school students will be introduced as part of the government's response to the Gonski report.

In the first public forum held since the report was released on Monday Mr Garrett was asked if the government was planning to introduce means testing. "There is nothing in this report that refers to means testing of parents at all," Mr Garrett said at this morning's forum.

The report says that parents' capacity to contribute financially should be taken into account when determining the level of government support to non-government schools.

The Government has not given any firm committments about the propsoed Gonski reforms - which seek to make school funding more equitable - as it starts a consultation with the community, states and stateholders over the coming months.

Earlier opposition Education spokesperson Christopher Pyne says that the report "hints" at government plans to introduce means testing for schools funding like it has for private health insurance. "Capacity to pay can only mean one thing and that is how much income is available in that household to pay for school fees," Mr Pyne said.

A key part of the government's response to the report was to hold public meetings so that parents and communities could "have their say about this important education issue".

The forum today - at the Department of Education in Canberra - was attended by teachers, parents and education interest groups and streamed online but, disappointingly for the government, the auditorium was only half full.

During the 45-minute forum - which functioned as a question and answer session - Mr Garrett and School Education Secretary Senator Jacinta Collins did the vast majority of the talking.

Forum participants asked a range of questions, such as when schools would see funding, what support would be available to boarders and the representation of Catholic parents in the ministerial reference group.

When asked about accountability for the reforms, Mr Garrett referred to other accountability measures such as the My Schools website.

He said that overall funding for the proposed reforms could not be discussed until the consultative process was complete. This a host of government working groups and consultation with states and stakeholders. "I know it sounds like talk – but it's actually work," Mr Garrett said.

Senator Collins said she could not "pre-empt an outcome" on the government's position on setting up a philanthropy fund to help schools form philanthropic partnerships - as recommended in the report.

Journalists were not permitted in the auditorium during the session but were able to watch the webcast in a room nearby.

"This is a very democratic process" Mr Garrett said, who added that he expected to host similar events across Australia.

Mr Garrett also said the the government hoped to introduced schools funding legislation to parliament before the end of the year.


A reaction to Australia's Gonski proposals from a Chinese perspective

The author below is an Australian with post-graduate qualifications from two Australian universities and who has been living, studying, working and teaching in China since 1978

For the past 7 years I have been teaching at a HK/Malaysian/local tertiary institution joint venture in Suzhou, China which was seen and resourced by the HK side

As part of the government curriculum students are required to study a compulsory higher mathematics course (which is far in advance of anything I've studied at high school in Maths I and Maths II). This course was rigorously taught and examined albeit not to a national standard exam. Of course there was also a compulsory politics and society course, which is mostly taken by the students as a chance to tune out and nap. The examinations are well projected and students provided with model answers. Clearly no one takes it seriously. By contrast the politically correct curriculum of Australian schools appears seen as the raison d'etre and teachers treat it accordingly.

And so it was that I listened with interest to the press conference announcing the long delayed Gonski Report on Education in Australia. First of all was the promise that 'no school would lose a dollar of funding per student'. That seems an entirely political statement you wouldn't expect from a politically neutral report.

In China there is no universal education system. There never was. Instead there was a separate fee-based system in which the state owned businesses and government departments paid for the fees of the children of their employees. If you did not work for the government you paid your own fees. The better the school the higher the fees. The higher the government department or state owned enterprise, the better the school their employee’s children attended.

The standards at these schools vary. In the major urban centres schools are set up in a hierarchical manner with major state, provincial, and metropolitan schools leading the pack. Then for those who can’t make it, the private schools take up the slack. Many of the private schools are run by the state schools and universities trading on their name and raking in extra cash.

In poor rural villages where students could not afford to pay fees, the local collective or village pays for the school. Poorly paid, educated and under resourced teachers struggle to make a difference with students who are often pulled out of school to attend to farm work. Today the government is beginning to see the importance of proper educational funding for the countryside to reduce the potential for dissatisfaction and to ensure the best students are identified and streamed into better schools. In the cities parents struggle, as they do in the west, to get their children into the best schools and pay the fees any way they can. Often the whole family will contribute hoping to get a member of the family into the government elite who profit from economic rent and are obliged to spread it around the family. In my development here in Suzhou there are a number of families one might identify as from the village, or at least to be parents and relatives of rich officials.

When I was at school in Beijing in the 70’s the education system had just been restored and while I was sharing a room with a student selected on his social class and political credentials, a new group of students arrived who had passed exams. The tension was informative. The gongnongbing students, or those selected from amongst working class, peasants and soldiers, were looked down on by the xinzhishifenzi, or new intellectuals. Like everything in China however the names do not always match the reality. My roommate, ostensibly selected from among the peasant class, was actually the son of a senior PLA general who lived in the same complex as Deng Xiaoping. He had been ‘adopted’ by a family of farmers, perhaps relatives, in order to qualify. It was clear many other students came from similar backgrounds.

An interesting note was struck by some of these New Intellectuals who praised the exam system saying it would result in a decrease in the number of women attending university as the old system had insisted on a 50:50 split of male and female. Within ten years of the exam system being implemented the government was pondering the problem of how to get more male students into university because women were performing better and out numbering men by a significant majority. At this rate it would be very hard to find enough men for government positions the government sources complained!

At our school, the Beijing Language Institute (now the Beijing University of Language & Culture), our teachers had responsibilities outside the classroom as well as in. Indeed the teachers specifically in charge of our Australian cohort were called our Responsible Persons (fuzeren). Should any of us miss a class, or perform poorly in class, we would be visited by the classroom teacher, in addition to our responsible teacher. The reason for our transgression would be investigated and the teachers would offer to help us. They made it clear that our satisfactory performance was their responsibility. Should we continue to miss classes or perform poorly the visits would continue but we would have to take more responsibility and write a confession, or self-criticism (ziwopiping), which demonstrated our contrition and an understanding that we had to attend classes regularly and abide by the teacher’s direction. In other words it was a form of social contract between the school and the student both sides bore responsibility. There were no authoritarian head masters, but major infractions such as attacking local students resulted in immediate repatriation.

Although teachers in China are legendary for their care for their students, and vice versa, there are examples of poor teachers who just put on a video and leave the students to watch it. The moral standards for teachers are high as well. In my school a married teacher, who was very high in the school party apparatus and also widely loved, was dismissed due to reports he was seen out together with another teacher! School leaders insisted teachers set a moral example. Interestingly many of the local teachers insisted that what teachers did in their private time was no business of the school! In Australia you have to sleep with one of the students to be sacked!

So the central question is how can Chinese teachers teach better on much less money and resources? Dedication? Tradition? Student discipline these days is not what it was. The 'Little Emperors' of China have no automatic respect for teachers. Indeed they have the arrogance of the nouveau riche in demanding their certificate since they paid their fees regardless of the effort put in! School officials spend a lot of their time defending their teachers against rich and or powerful bullies demanding to know why their child was failed (he didn't submit assignments or attend enough classes usually). The rich threaten to sue the school. The powerful say they will have it closed down. The traditional respect for education in China is much threatened.

A possible suggestion for the superior performance of Chinese schools (at least the elite schools in the major cities) is the competitive nature of the Chinese school system in which the best fight for a place in the elite schools. As we all know from the 50's on in Australia we sought to destroy a merit based education system in order to attain equality of educational outcomes. The same number of poor students should finish Y12 as rich students. In China, paradoxically, there is no obsession with a social class based education system as is still displayed in the Gonski Report. It is a merit-based system. As a result China has leaders of extraordinary ability and intelligence who are unfailingly guiding China back to its normal position as the pre-eminent power in the world. Meanwhile, since the Wyndham Report in NSW, Australia has unerringly declined from top of the OEDC countries to the bottom. Is there a lesson there?

Generally I can say that the Gonski Report could have been the same one submitted to Whitlam, or that submitted by Harold Wyndham to the NSW government in 1957 i.e. an extension of class war politics. Even now the comment by nearly all educationalists is the urgent need to address the lack of equality or fairness in the measured outcomes analyzed on a social class basis. There should be a cognizance that we have been addressing this problem by various means since 1950 without closing the gap. A more realistic approach would be to place extra resources where they are needed, both at the level of disadvantage and also at ensuring the top group of students received the most challenging education available globally.

The resulting emphasis on equality of outcomes resulted in a ridiculous system of pre-HSC exams designed to rate the school, so that when applied to the HSC results, each school had an equal share of A's, B's, C' etc. This was a nice bureaucratic solution, which had nothing go do with educational outcomes. Universities insisted on raw scores for admission purposes thus exposing the corrupt nature of the 'trick'.

Finally one must say that the Australian obsession with equality of outcomes in education is odd in a capitalist country in which income disparity is generally wide. It seems to be a denial of the capitalist nature of country by our educationalists. It seems a denial of human nature to expect equality of outcome in education when it is not manifest in any other form of human life.

One aspect common in Chinese schools, which is totally lacking in Australia as far as I know, is that each semester the students are surveyed on their satisfaction with each teacher for each subject. This survey covers such things as punctuality, helpfulness, good communicator, covered topic, allowed participation, as well as general topics about school facilities. The results of the survey weigh heavily on the teacher’s evaluation and at the end of the year the teacher’s bonus is based on this as well a peer evaluation. I was a member of the teacher’s union at the school and of course the union supported such surveys. I can’t see any Australian teachers union allowing such evaluations as they are opposed to any merit based system of teacher evaluation and appear to oppose any moves toward continuous education for teachers. They certainly motivated teachers to maintain professional standards as well as satisfying the student desire to enhance the learning environment.

If there is anything to learn from China it is that the thirty years of human disaster resulted from the same idealism and desire for equality. Stalinist socialism didn’t work there, it did work anywhere in the world. In China in the 1980’s it was systematically undone and an exam based system implemented. The search for the best and brightest does not stop at the school system. Twice every year the government will hold open exams in major centres for those who aspire to work in the government. Of course the system does have ‘Chinese characteristics’ a good score alone is not enough to gain admission to government employment, there is a personal interview, and of course ‘good references’ or background also will be considered.

No one suggests we imitate China. Their excellent performance is due to a highly selective system, national standards and rigorously supervised exams, dedicated and responsible teachers, highly motivated students, and an educational philosophy aimed at teaching to the highest world standards with only the slightest nod to political correctness. But we might learn from that.

Received via email

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Liberal University Admissions Policies Cheat Students

In recent months, there have been a growing number of reports of cheating on standardized tests. Last fall, 20 people were arrested in connection with an SAT cheating scandal at a Long Island high school, leading the local prosecutor to bring charges against the students. Just last month, an official with Claremont McKenna College in California resigned after admitting to inflating the SAT scores of incoming freshmen to boost the college's standing in the US News and World Report rankings.

We teach our children that cheating is never acceptable, but the sad reality, and the dirty little secret, is that some colleges and universities have been essentially cheating on test scores by manipulating their admission policies.

Whether it involves top athletes or wealthy international applicants, it happens more than we want to admit. The Claremont McKenna scandal also raises concerns about the influence and validity of college rankings, issues that present problems for US News and World Report and other college ranking publications like Princeton Review and Kiplinger.

The most disturbing form of legitimized cheating on college rankings is known as a test optional admissions policy. An increasing number of colleges give applicants the option of submitting or withholding their SAT scores as a part of their admissions package. Unfortunately, this practice leads to inflated average SAT scores among incoming freshmen because only the highest scorers are likely to submit their rest results, and higher SAT scores mean a higher ranking for the school.

Some experts argue that this trend ultimately harms students. In 2008, Jonathan Epstein, a researcher with the education consultancy Maguire Associates, studied the impact of test-optional policies in college admissions. Epstein discovered that test-optional policies at colleges and universities lead to artificially inflated average SAT scores. He also found that the policies further confused prospective students and families and was "not in the best interest of any institution or higher education in general."

Standardized tests have been used since the 1920's to measure the educational development of our children and to predict post secondary performance.

Colleges and universities have continued to rely on standardized tests to make admission decisions as they attempt to differentiate among students who will likely succeed and those who will be at risk or under perform.

Opponents of the SAT exam have long argued argue that the test determines who gets into college and who does not, and should be abolished in favor of “test optional policies.” These arguments are largely promoted by left wing academics and liberal activist groups who wish to further the manipulation of higher education through an equality of outcome in higher education rather than the traditional merit-based college application process.

They also use this reasoning as a tool to subvert laws preventing affirmative action and other forms of discrimination in college admissions.

So in an attempt to be the best, colleges are taking shortcuts with test optional admission policies and gaming the system in an effort to increase their rankings, get the best athletes and athletic facilities, raise more money from alumni and donors, and otherwise enjoy the accolades that come with the prestige of a higher ranking. But the ones who suffer are our children, who will not get an accurate assessment of whether a particular school is the best fit for them, especially among colleges with test optional policies that artificially inflate the school's average SAT scores.

Cheating is always wrong. It is wrong when students cheat on SAT exams in order to increase their chance of getting into a good college and it is equally wrong for colleges to cheat in order increase their rankings and stature.

As a mother of two young children, I encourage and expect my children to maintain integrity and honesty, and hopefully, become productive members of society. If colleges and universities expect to be the training ground for our children and future leaders, they also need to adhere to the highest standards of integrity and honesty. Eliminating test optional policies and replacing them with an honest and proven admissions standard would be a good place to start.


British school bans slang! Pupils ordered to use the Queen's English in the classroom 'to help children get jobs'

Parents may breathe a sigh of relief - but the local MP hasn't. A teaching academy has ordered youngsters to leave slang at the school gates and learn to speak the Queen's English.

Sheffield's Springs Academy hopes to give them a better chance of getting a job, so slang or ‘text talk' have been banned while they are in the buildings.

The United Learning Trust which runs the school, which has 1,100 students aged for 11 to 18 and is an working class area of the city, believes slang creates a wrong impression to employers at interviews.

Kathy August, deputy chief executive of the Trust, said: 'We want to make sure that our youngsters are not just leaving school with the necessary A to Cs in GCSEs but that they also have a whole range of employability skills.

'We know through the close relationships we have with business partners and commercial partners that when they are doing interviews with youngsters, not only are they looking at the qualifications, they are also looking at how they conduct themselves.

'What we want to make sure of is that they are confident in using standard English. Slang doesn't really give the right impression of the person. 'Youngsters going to interviews for their first job need to make a good impression so that employers have confidence in them. 'It's not difficult to get youngster out of the habit of using slang.

'When youngsters are talking together they use text speak and that's absolutely fine, that's what you do in a social context, but when you are getting prepared for life and going for interviews you need to be confident in using standard English.

Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has said the school was wrong to ban slang. 'I'm a parent and when youngsters are at home we all have to make sure that we are all working together because this is for the benefit of those young people and their future.

'Using slang is a habit but youngsters are very adaptable and once they know that is what is expected and they know the reason is to help their employability skills they will pick it up very quickly. It is not a big problem at all. 'It's something new and people are saying why are we doing it but once we have exclaimed it hasn't been a problem.'

Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has said the school was wrong to ban slang MP Angela Smith, a former GCSE English teacher at a South Yorkshire secondary, slammed the ruling: 'The school, is wrong to ban slang. How will the school police this? 'Who will say what the difference is between slang and dialect? It could completely undermine the confidence of the children at the school.

'If someone tells them how to speak they could dig in her heels and do it all the more. I really think they have set themselves a task that is impossible to achieve. 'Who is going to adjudicate? Who is going to say slang, dialect or accent? And which one is right and which one is wrong?

'Most people know when to put on their telephone voice because that is what we are talking about. When people go on the phone or talk to anyone in authority they put on a different voice.'

Mrs August responded: 'We are not trying to stamp out dialect or accents, it is simply the use of slang words. 'For example if someone goes for an interview it is more preferable to say "Good morning" rather than "Hiya" and when the person leaves an employer would much rather here the words "Goodbye" rather than "Cheers" or "Seeya". '"Thank you" is a better word to use than "Ta". And it's not a case of policing or enforcing this policy at Springs Academy, we are simply encouraging it among the students.'


Australia: Chaos in Qld. schools, warn teachers as uniform but unrealistic national curriculum is rolled out

CHILDREN and teachers are stressed, a statewide computer system keeps crashing and "total confusion" reigns over what has to be taught in state schools under the rollout of the Australian curriculum, teachers warn.

Early Childhood Teachers' Association president Kim Walters said some of the new curriculum content was too hard for the state's youngest children and teachers couldn't download required resources because the network kept crashing or there were access and speed problems.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates agreed there were problems with the network, saying Education Queensland did not have "sufficient bandwidth" to handle the number of users for its online Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C) package.

LNP education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the State Government had failed students by "rushing in the curriculum" before New South Wales and Victoria.

Curriculum concerns at new three Rs

Queensland students this year are among the first in the country to take on the Australian curriculum in all Prep to Year 10 classes in English, mathematics and science.

Ms Walters said curriculum content was another problem, with Preps in particular not ready for some of it. "One of our lessons in the first week ... was recognising the number name F-O-U-R, for four. Some of them can't even recognise their name," she said.

"Just having your 26 children sitting on a mat all doing the same thing at once ... is physically impossible in the first week of school with children who aren't ready to do school yet. I think some of the children are very stressed. "Definitely there are a lot of stressed teachers as they try to do their very best."

She also said teachers were being sent mixed messages about whether they had to teach C2C lesson plans, but EQ had moved to fix this.

Mr Bates said there were "some very stressed teachers" who were trying to do their best with the new curriculum, but there was always going to be teething issues in this "transition year". "Is it too hard? In some cases it might be more than we previously expected, but that is certainly one of the challenges I think teachers are up to," he said.

Mr Bates said there were clear messages about what was expected of teachers in the classroom, but because teachers were so busy with the curriculum the message wasn't always getting through.

EQ had told the Courier-Mail in the past C2C is not mandatory, but teachers continue to report receiving mixed messages about the status of C2C on the ground."

EQ director-general Julie Grantham said the implementation of the national curriculum was challenging and rewarding with the department valuing teacher feedback, "especially around C2C".

Assistant director-general of Information and Technologies Dave O'Hagan said the department was monitoring the computer systems and had upgraded the bandwidth, but there were still challenges in regional areas because of limited broadband availability. He said there were also "some stability issues" which caused the network to crash last week.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Neutrality in Schools: Ending the Pretense

For most anyone paying attention to the public education system in the last four decades, one has seen a more or less continuous erosion of the concept of neutrality in social views. From a practical standpoint, this represents little change. Since the government took over the education of children, and even before, some viewpoints have been favored over others. What distinguished the time of the 1960’s was that there was a brief period when neutrality was publicly agreed upon as an ideal worthy of pursuit.

It was not generally approached using that term. Rather than neutrality, there were phrases bandied about such as “color-blind,” “equal opportunity,” and “equal protection under law.” I was in the middle grades during that time, and my understanding was limited. It certainly sounded like an ideal that matched up with my concepts of what America “should” strive for.

For all of the high sounding catch-words, the implementation broke down almost immediately. “Equal opportunity” degraded rapidly into a game of semantics involving how best to assure different minority groups preferences. Though giving lip service to respect for all cultures, what had been thought of as “traditional” in America rapidly was singled out for scorn, derision, and a new breed of institutionalized discrimination. As the practice broke down further, it became inevitable that even the thought of government not supporting some non-traditional group was considered intolerable.

The latest example of this shift was observed recently in the Minnesota Board of Education. The policy regarding student and teacher conduct has been changed from one of neutrality, with educators steering clear of opinions about controversial groups and issues, to one labeled “Respectful Learning Environment.” At least one reason for the change is legal troubles resulting in several lawsuits alleging that neutrality has created an environment where gay students are subject to bullying.

The shift prompts me to consider two very important questions: First, what was it about the policy of remaining neutral as teachers that would encourage bullying to any specific group? Surely the school had the same authority under the past policy to administer discipline against any students that acted in a bullying fashion? If the message that the school is trying to send is that all students are worthy of respect, at least with regard to their physical and emotional well-being, then what could possibly serve better than a values-neutral protection of every last student?

The second question, to me, is even more relevant to the issue of bullying: If it has already been observed that there is animosity to particular groups at the school, how does the school intended to reduce that by showing favoritism to the group involved? Isn’t that a near-certain recipe for setting current resentments in concrete, and then setting up an entirely new layer? Haven’t the people in charge learned anything from how affirmative action has placed many achievements by women and African-Americans vulnerable to suspicion?

True neutrality in any system is nearly impossible. I think most people who spend any time considering the difficulties will agree on that. However, it’s only by aiming for the impossible, the ideal, that we have any hope of achieving a moderately equitable reality. By aiming directly at the imperfect, we take the first step toward achieving the intolerable.
Obama's Higher Education Reforms Doomed to Fail

Usually low-tier, last week President Obama signaled in both the State of the Union and a University of Michigan speech that higher education will loom large in Campaign 2012.

With Americans outraged over skyrocketing prices and student debt, it makes sense. Unfortunately, Obama's proposed solutions aren't similarly sensible.

In his speeches, the president talked tough about reining in colleges that raise prices at breakneck speeds, casting much needed attention to a decades-old problem.

But decrying symptoms doesn't cure a disease. That requires attacking root causes, which is where Obama fails: Rather than assault ever-expanding student aid, which practically begs colleges to inflate prices, the president wants to increase aid while imposing weak price controls on schools and states.

Obama isn't totally off, of course, in reasoning that colleges largely set their own tuition, so one way to control prices is to pressure schools. And he's right that states tend to slow funding for public colleges during bad economic times.

But how is it colleges can raise their prices at incredible rates and still get people to pay?

Because students use lots of money belonging to other people, and Washington ensures that the funding meets ever-ballooning bills.

Indeed, in 2010 the federal government disbursed roughly $140 billion in financial aid to students, a staggering amount that has exploded from roughly $30 billion, adjusted for inflation, in 1985.

And those tightfisted states?

According to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers, inflation-adjusted state and local allocations to public institutions actually rose from $69.2 billion in 2000 to $74.9 billion in 2010.

Gov't Spending Up

In that same time, however, inflation-adjusted tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased from $4,586 to $7,889.

Schools hiked their prices despite state and local appropriations rising.

Corroborating that cheap states aren't the primary drivers of college costs are private institutions. They haven't lost big state and local subsidies because they've never gotten them, yet they increased real prices from $21,013 in 2000 to $28,254 in 2010.

Still, on a per-student basis state and local funding has been decreasing, because enrollment has significantly grown.

Such losses might be regrettable were students graduating and moving on to high-paying jobs. But they aren't.

According to the federal Digest of Education Statistics, the latest six-year graduation rate for public four-year programs is a dismal 55 percent. In addition, about one-third of bachelor's holders are in jobs that don't require degrees. Finally, real earnings for people whose top attainment is a bachelor's have dropped over the decade.

Simply put, there are too many people in college. Unfortunately, to deal with these realities the president is proposing to increase aid, to which he'd couple a few soft price controls.

Too Many Students?

He proposes, for instance, increasing spending on Perkins Loans, Work Study, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants to $10 billion, but giving less money through those programs to colleges that, according to the White House, "show poor value, or... don't act responsibly in setting tuition."

The president would also create a $1 billion "Race to the Top" that would "incentivize" states to, among other things, "maintain adequate levels of funding for higher education."

The White House doesn't define "adequate," but the implication is clear: Spend more taxpayer money, get more taxpayer money.

Ultimately the plan is a stinker, with the disaster-exacerbating aid increase the most likely part to pass. Few in Washington can resist doling out "free" money.

And the price controls?

Such controls are almost always bad, distorting supply and demand. But given the government-fueled Ivory Tower excess, perhaps weak controls would be helpful, at least in the short term.

But the ones proposed would have little power. Even plussed-up to $10 billion, the programs the president would employ for leverage would be dwarfed by Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and tax incentives, which tally in the hundreds of billions. Most colleges could more than make up for slight Perkins or Work Study losses with other aid.

And Race to the Top? If it's at all like its K-12 cousin, it'll be a dud. Lots of states made huge fusses to get the money, but since it's been awarded the winners have shown little urgency to implement their promised reforms.

It's good that the president is focusing on higher education. But his remedies would do nothing to cure the disease.


Why lack of male teachers could be the reason boys fail in British classrooms

Schools need more male teachers because boys make less effort in women’s classes, a new study claimed today. The shortage of men in school staffrooms could be one reason for the under-achievement of boys, researchers found.

Female teachers tend to give boys lower marks than they deserve - and boys are less likely to work hard in their classes.

Men appear to be better at motivating boys but are vastly outnumbered in the nation’s schools, taking just a quarter of teaching jobs, and 15 per cent in primaries.

‘Boys often disengage in the educational process, and this is likely to be due in part to their perceptions of their teachers,’ said the study’s authors. ‘There is an under-representation of male teachers in both primary and secondary education in England.’

Girls also made more effort when they were graded by male teachers, according to research by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

But teachers were found to be more lenient with students of their own sex. Girls actually received higher grades from female teachers than male. Male teachers, in turn, gave boys higher marks.

For the study, 1,200 pupils aged 12 and 13 in 29 schools across England were given £4 and asked to place bets on their performance in an exam. One group of pupils was marked by their class teacher - some male and some female - and another by an anonymous external examiner.

‘The results of the experiment show that male pupils tended to lower their investment when a female teacher marked their exams,’ said the study.

‘Further analysis confirmed that female teachers in the experiment did tend to award lower marks to male pupils than external examiners. ‘So male pupils’ perceptions seem to be roughly in line with female teachers’ marking practices.’

Girls placed substantially bigger bets when they knew they were being marked by a male teacher instead of an anonymous examiner. But male teachers did not mark them more leniently, and in fact tended to discriminate in favour of boys.

Campaigns staged over recent years to increase recruitment of male teachers have failed to change significantly the make-up of staffrooms. A quarter of primary schools do not have a single male teacher, according to figures released last year. Staffrooms in 4,278 of the 16,971 primaries in England are solely populated by women. And there are just 25,500 men teaching young children, compared with 139,500 women.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone has raised the issue in the House of Commons. ‘This is especially a problem because there are more and more families where children are growing up without a father,’ he said. ‘The teachers in primary school are overwhelmingly women, and they do a great job. ‘But it would be even better if there were more male teachers to act as role models, particularly to young boys.’


Report on Australian education

A rather silly report that sets out impossible ideals. One might have hoped for something more realistic but what we got was an ivory tower fantasy.

It ignores a couple of elephants in the room: The fact that the large black population pulls down standards in the USA and UK and that China will always be ahead of Australia because of their higher average IQs -- particularly when it comes to mathematical ability

No wonder even an ALP government is kicking it into the long grass. Below is the klutz behind the report

A DETAILED report today will condemn education funding as illogical and inconsistent but the Government will only offer lots of consultation in its immediate response.

The report by David Gonski will sound the alarm on Australian school performances and urge that education become more competitive internationally.

"Australian schools need to lift the performance of students at all levels of achievement, particularly the lower performers," the report, started 18 months ago, will say.

"Australia must also improve its international standing by arresting the decline that has been witnessed over the past decade."

Mr Gonski is expected to condemn the current funding system by pointing to an absence of a "logical, consistent and publicly transparent approach to funding schools".

"Every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family or the school they attend," the report will say.

The Gonski review comes with a forecast that jobs for skilled workers will grow at 2.5 times the demand for unskilled labour, underlining the need for students to complete a high level of schooling if they want to be employed.

Official figures will show that while we are ahead of standards in Britain and the United States, our international rating in key education areas has been dropping when compared to our closer neighbours, particularly China.

Over the decade Australia has gone from equal 2nd to equal 7th in reading; the average 15-year-old Australian maths student is two years behind his Shanghai counterpart.

Four of the finest top school systems in the world are nearby – in Hong Kong, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore. The report will say we have to match them.

Meanwhile, there are inequalities within the Australian education system, with the literacy gap between disadvantaged pupils and those from higher income homes growing to the equivalent of three years of schooling.

Some 89 per cent of Year 3 students from disadvantaged backgrounds are below average in reading, compared to 13 per cent of advantaged pupils.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Schools Minister Peter Garrett have vowed there will be no hit-list of wealthy private schools, a policy which helped destroy Mark Latham's attempt to win government for Labor in 2004.

The Government also has pledged no school will lose a dollar in funding per student and that indexation will be included in any new funding scheme.

The Prime Minister and Mr Garrett plan a wide ranging national consultation on the report's findings, a move which could push out any new funding commitments past the May Budget.

The Government will be limited in the fresh funding round, to start next year, by its determination to get a Budget surplus in 2012-13.

Ms Gillard and her minister will "kick start a a grass roots, nation-wide discussion" with visits to schools and discussions with teachers and parents.

"We will discuss the proposals outlined in the report with the community and talk about what we think our education system needs to drive better and better outcomes for every child in every school," said Ms Gillard in a statement.

Mr Garrett said the inquiry, the first into the fundamentals of the education system for 40 years, was vital because "our future prospects as a country literally depend on having a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce".


Australian Catholic schools fear heavy hit from funding review

That's a lot of voters to alienate

CATHOLIC schools face fee increases of up to 131 per cent, forcing a potential exodus from primary and secondary facilities and campus closures, according to confidential modelling ahead of the Gonski review.

The church is preparing for the Gillard government to radically overhaul funding, amid concerns of a collapse in real-terms of payments to the sector.

The Australian has obtained a confidential briefing note, which contains three modelling scenarios, all of which point to big fee increases in Catholic primary and secondary fees by 2016 and a potential flight of pupils to the government sector.

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria modelling warns that primary school fees could rise between 92 per cent and 131 per cent by 2016, inevitably forcing out lower socio-economic status students from the system.

The modelling was conducted before School Education Minister Peter Garrett attempted to assuage fears at the weekend of a backlash against the private sector under the Gonski review. His comments yesterday have failed to convince the Catholic sector.

The CECV investigated funding scenarios on the assumption of substantial reform flowing from the Gonski review, with specific analysis of funding maintenance provisions and the removal of any indexation mechanism that went beyond inflation.

The CECV working party reported on February 9, questioning the Gillard government's assertion that no school would lose a dollar. "This assurance does not indicate whether an indexation mechanism will be applied under the new funding model," the CECV says.

The commission, which oversees one of the nation's biggest school systems, warns that any downgrading of funding would have a big impact on fees.

The commission's Gonski working party warns that by 2016 primary school fees could rise by an average of $1197 per student or 92 per cent on the estimated fee for 2013. Secondary school fees could rise by an average of $1903 or 39 per cent.

The dynamic would worsen if the government were to tie funding indexation merely to inflation and remove other provisions.

If this were to occur, funding would effectively stagnate from next year until 2018, with the federal cash injection diving by $828 million.

By 2016, primary school fees would rise an average of $1706 per student or 131 per cent on the estimated 2013 fee, while secondary fees would rise by $2019 a student or 42 per cent based on the 2013 numbers.

"If any of these three scenarios were adopted there will be significant and widespread consequences for Catholic education in Victoria," the commission's Gonski working party warns. "The magnitude of these fee increases would be very likely to lead to an exodus from Catholic schools to the government sector," the working party said.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Obama Community College Job Training Plan Is Unproven

President Obama's latest budget would give $8 billion to community colleges to train workers in growing sectors of the economy. Yet it is unclear if such programs work, and the latest plan stresses the slow-growth green energy industry.

The Community College to Career Fund would award grants to the institutions to train students for careers in sectors such as clean energy, advanced technology, health care and transportation. The 2009 stimulus contained $2 billion for such grants, with the first $500 million awarded last September.

Community colleges often award vocational "certificates," which indicate the completion of a discrete program of study. Limited research on these technical degrees suggest that longer study has a bigger payoff.

"For certificates of less than a year, I could not find evidence of consistent, strong labor market returns," said Brian Bosworth, president of FutureWorks, a consulting firm. "Certificates of oneyear or more, yes, there is strong evidence of labor market returns. They are a good platform for people wanting to start a career and have long-term success."

But it's far less clear that federal grant programs to community colleges achieve such results.

"I do not believe that we have a strong enough database to say that (the president's proposal) will work or how much it will pay off," said Mark Schneider, vice president at the American Institutes for Research.

Schneider, who was commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics during the Bush administration, notes that the federal government does not yet have the data to examine the vocational programs nationally. But he adds that the Education Department should have "gainful employment" information regarding career-oriented programs in March.

The Education Department last year ordered colleges to show that they are preparing their students for "gainful employment" or risk losing federal student aid.

Other federal vocational training programs have had mixed results.

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, passed in 1984, provided funds for high-school vocational training.

A report found some improvement in earnings for students taking part, but not any impact on their academic performance. Ultimately the report stated that the "path and pace of improvement are hampered by a lack of clarity over the program's fundamental purpose and goal."

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was supposed to provide low-income populations with greater access to community colleges and vocational training. But due to poor accountability, WIA actually limited access to training, according to an article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Clean Energy Murky

Another problem may be the economic sectors that the new Obama program may target.

"It's perfectly OK for the government to make sure that community colleges are doing this in high-demand areas," said Bosworth, "Now can the federal government decide what is high demand for the whole country? Probably not, but I don't think they'll try."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the purpose of the fund was to "align job-training programs to better meet the needs of employers."

Some touted sectors, such as health care, are growing rapidly.

Clean energy, however, is more murky. It's been a high political priority for Obama going back to his presidential campaign. But despite billions of dollars in taxpayer funds for "green jobs," it hasn't been a high-growth industry.

"The size of the clean energy industry relative to other industries has been declining and not increasing over during the last decade," said Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

He cites a 2011 study by the liberal Brookings Institution that found from 2003 to 2010 clean energy jobs grew at an average annual rate of 3.2% vs. 4.2% employment gains for the overall economy.


British Private schools fear 'social engineering' in university admissions

Like Leftists everywhere, the British Liberals hate the idea of merit. All men are equal, donchaknow

Professor Les Ebdon's selection as the new head of the university regulator has raised fears of "social engineering" among independent schools and elite universities.

When Professor Les Ebdon was once asked about his university’s lowly position in the national rankings, his response was swift and revealing. “It’s a snobs’ table,” he said, which guarantees that “institutions like Cambridge and Oxford are always at the front, while newer places bring up the rear”.

The man at the centre of a Coalition storm, who looks set to be the next head of the Government’s higher education admissions regulator, is well versed in the language of “them and us”.

Over the years, the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University has bemoaned the “Oxbridge obsession”, referred to the “well-off and well-heeled” Russell Group of leading universities as “these people”, and claimed that for parents who pay independent school fees, the new £9,000 a year tuition fees “might not seem an awful lot of money”.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly for a man brought up on a north London council estate who won a place at Imperial College, London, Prof Ebdon has a self-proclaimed mission to increase the number of working-class students going to university and widen the social mix of students at the best institutions.

“Education transformed my life,” he says. “I’m absolutely certain that my background has been a factor in my commitment to widening participation.”

Under his leadership, Bedfordshire’s fortunes have been transformed. It is now a thriving institution that successfully recruits from some of the poorest postcodes, giving the dream of a university education to thousands of students with low exam results or even no A-levels at all.

Even his critics would applaud Professor Ebdon’s efforts. What they fear, however, is giving him the power to remake other universities in Bedfordshire’s image.

The appointment — expected this week despite Tory opposition from the Prime Minister down — will be welcomed by those who want greater opportunities for the socially disadvantaged.

Yet opponents fear it will lead to the “social engineering” of university admissions, with privately-educated pupils routinely rejected because of the school they attended and less-qualified state school pupils given places on the basis of their “potential”.

With Prof Ebdon in post, the country risks “levelling down standards at university for the sake of a misguided strategy,” according to Nadhim Zahawi, one of the Tory MPs on the Commons Business, Innovations and Skills Committee which voted against his appointment. “In the UK, we are second probably only to America in university quality. What I would hate to see is a head of Offa who would level down standards at university instead of levelling upwards.”

The furore over Prof Ebdon is the latest in a series of rows about the UK’s dire social mobility record that has put university admissions centre stage, dating back to 2000 when Gordon Brown, then chancellor, condemned as an “absolute scandal” Oxford University’s rejection of state school pupil Laura Spence. The high-profile case put the middle-class dominance of higher education under the microscope.

Since then, universities have come under increasing pressure to admit more students from poor backgrounds.

Labour’s weapon was Offa, established in 2004 to mollify left-wing backbenchers threatening to sink Labour’s plans to introduce variable fees of up to £3,000 a year. It was given real power — the potential to ban a university from charging full fees if it failed to attract applications from working class candidates.

Although the power has yet to be exercised, the threat has been enough to put the “widening access and participation” agenda at the heart of university admissions.

As a matter of course, students now provide information on their university application form about the education levels of their parents to allow admission tutors to take into account those who are the first in their family to go to university.

Children in care are also flagged on the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (Ucas) form, as are pupils who have attended summer school, mostly attended by pupils selected by their state schools.

Increasing numbers of institutions take into account “contextual data” relating to the kind of school a candidate attended. Students from low performing secondaries are sometimes given lower A-level entry requirements. This positive discrimination is also extended by some universities to students who live in deprived areas with low proportions of young people going on to higher education.

As thousands of sixth formers across the country wait nervously for university offers of places, figures suggest that almost two-thirds of universities will employ data covering students’ social class, parental education or school performance to give the most disadvantaged candidates a better chance of getting on to degree courses this year.

At Birmingham University, a student’s background may be “factored in to move an applicant up the ranking order”, for instance; while at Leeds, the poorest teenagers may receive lower offers — such as an A and two Bs instead of three As for the most demanding courses.

Applicants to Oxford who are flagged because of their school and postcode, and have the necessary three A grade prediction, will be shortlisted for interview. Or, as the university says ominously, the department who failed to select them will be asked to explain why.

What independent schools fear is that this pressure on admission staff and academics will result in background factors being used in a formulaic fashion to meet unofficial quotas, where candidates with the “right” profile are automatically selected before other, equally well-qualified candidates. Some universities are already moving beyond simply using information on a candidates’ background in a tie-break situation.

Last year, one of the largest exam boards advocated a national system for ranking pupils’ achievements according to the school in which they were taught.

Teenagers at weak secondaries would get bonus points while those at elite schools would be penalised. Applicants with the same grade would then be “ranked according to the favourability of the context in which they were educated”.

While the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference of private schools might publicly claim there is no evidence of across-the-board discrimination, privately, some heads feel that it may play a part in cases where well-qualified students are rejected by every university they apply for.

One such student, Prina Shah, 18, from City of London School for Girls, was turned down to study medicine last year by every university she chose despite being awarded an exemplary four A*s at A-level.

According to Mark Steed, the principal of Berkhamsted School, in Hertfordshire, discrimination does “apparently exist” against independent school pupils. “Take the case of one Berkhamsted pupil last year,” he says. “She had a perfect academic record: 10 A*s at GCSE and was predicted A*A*A* at A-level. She was rejected by four out of five universities.

“Now I can understand how someone with such an academic record could fail to gain a place at Oxford — the Oxbridge colleges still believe in additional testing and interviews.

"However I am at a loss as to how she could fail to gain an offer to study English from Leeds University on the basis of her UCAS form alone. How many A*A*A* applicants does the English Faculty at Leeds get each year? What can justify their standard offer of AAB, if they can reject A*A*A* candidates without an interview?”

For Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, in Berkshire, the move to impose “artificial systems” on university admissions is worrying. “It’s like the nationalised industries of the 1970s,” he says. “By distorting the system you institutionalise patterns of failure. “The great fear is that you produce unintended consequences, such as a lack of competitiveness in state schools by making it easier for their pupils to get a leg up.

"It will drive the independent sector to crank up its exam achievement to an even greater level, which will not be a good outcome for the wider aspects of learning.”

A regulator director on a mission and with the power to impose, in Prof Ebdon’s words, “nuclear” financial penalties on universities could wreak real damage, according to Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckinghamshire University.

He fears that the admission of less-qualified students by the back door will threaten the quality of UK higher education: “His appointment is potentially disastrous for the leading universities. Discrimination of that kind will undoubtedly weaken our universities and make it harder for them to guarantee academic excellence and compete in the world league. It introduces institutional unfairness.”

High ranking institutions argue that the focus on admissions is ignoring the underlying cause of why so few disadvantaged pupils go to university — state school failure.

A lack of candidates from poor backgrounds with the right grades in the right A-levels is the main reason student intakes are skewed towards the privately educated middle-classes, they say. “It is really important to understand the root causes of the under-representation of students from poorer backgrounds - underachievement at school and poor advice on the best choice of A-levels and degree course,” says Wendy Piatt, the Group director general.

Figures released in 2010 show that only about 1 per cent of the 81,000 pupils on Free School Meals (FSM) who get to university win a place at the top 20 institutions. And only 45 teenagers on FSM made it to Oxford or Cambridge, half the number of undergraduates supplied by Westminster, the £30,000-a-year public school in London, where an average of 82 sixth formers go on to Oxbridge each year.

But underlying this stark picture are even starker statistics that show that only 189 FSM pupils across the whole country achieved three A grades at A-level, the standard offer for many courses at Russell Group institutions.

The figures reveal the extent to which the Government faces an uphill struggle to change the fate of the poorest pupils through its academy and free school “revolution”.

In the meantime, Professor Ebdon, whose own grammar [selective] school education gave him the opportunity to attend one of the best universities in the world, believes universities should take responsibility and be “more flexible about entry” — or face the “nuclear” consequences.


Australian PM's guarantee on private school funding

FAMILIES fearing big rises in tuition fees have won a crucial guarantee that taxpayer funding to private schools will be protected.

But the Government will dump the current controversial arrangements that deliver big funding increases to private schools every time public school funding rises, regardless of their needs.

For the first time, the Gillard Government will back a pledge that "no school will lose a dollar" under a proposed new funding system, with a promise to offer new indexation arrangements covering grants to private schools.

The big changes proposed by the Gonski report on school funding, led by businessman David Gonski, will be unveiled tomorrow and are expected to endorse the ALP's longstanding push for a needs-based funding model. It will endorse parental rights to choose public or private schools, as vital.

Over time, the needs-based funding model is likely to deliver more money to some low-fee Catholic and independent schools and a big injection of funds to public schools. But the rapid growth in taxpayer funding for rich private schools is likely to slow under the new system.

"What we're saying is indexation will be built into any future model that will assist parents worried about future increases in school costs," Education Minister Peter Garrett said yesterday.

The existing system has been blamed for entrenching disadvantage in the system, ensuring that attempts to inject more funding to students with special needs or living in remote or Aboriginal communities, flowed on to wealthy private schools as well.

Instead, the new measure that determines funding to independent and Catholic schools will be based on an analysis of the cost of educating a child in both the public and private systems.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos backed the changes, warning public schools needed a "massive injection in funding".

"Disadvantaged students are up to two years behind other children. Indigenous students are up to three years behind. We don't have a level playing field," he said.