Friday, November 09, 2012

Indiana GOP firm despite education coup

Top Republican officials, including the current and future governor, argued vehemently Wednesday that their education reform mandate is intact despite the defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“The consensus and the momentum for reform and change in Indiana is rock solid,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said.  “Every other factor that matters is aligned in this state in the direction of progress and change and reform, of teacher accountability, of more choices for families, more ability for school leadership to lead.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said his election on an agenda of education change, as well as the House’s picking up a supermajority of members, points to Hoosiers supporting continued progress in the area.  “We have a strong affirmation on the progress of education reform in this state,” he said, noting he hopes to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion next year.

But the new superintendent of public instruction, career teacher Glenda Ritz, takes issue with the Republicans’ assessment of the election.  “(Bennett’s defeat) was a direct message on the education policies of the last four years. It was a referendum going forward,” she said.

Ritz and others noted that she received more votes than even Pence – 1.3 million in all – and said the Republican leadership of the state can’t ignore her role in the process.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said any reasonable person can see that ousting the superintendent of public instruction is a direct comment on recent changes.

Bennett, 51, clashed with teachers around the state when pushing a pile of reforms, including taxpayer-financed vouchers for private school, more charter schools, reduction in power to collectively bargain for teachers and tying teacher pay to student scores.

The Indiana Department of Education also took over several failing schools and loosened teacher licensing requirements to allow more professionals in the classroom.

Ritz said Bennett had a 10-1 fundraising edge over her, including loads of help from national education advocacy groups, but her grassroots effort prevailed in the end.

Only GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said clearly that Bennett’s loss was about him – not his policies.

He first noted that many of the education changes were pushed by the legislature – not Bennett – and that House Republicans were largely re-elected while picking up nine seats in all.

“This is not an indictment in any way of reforms,” Bosma said. “Some of the education reform controversy deals with the tone and presentation of the reforms and how it’s explained. Occasionally the discussion moved into arenas that teachers found offensive.”

Daniels even raised the prospect of making the position appointed by the governor – something he ran on in 2004 but never actively put on his legislative agenda during his eight-year term. Pence said he has not formed an opinion on that matter.

“Oh, isn’t that something?” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “The election didn’t work out the way they wanted, so they’ll change the rules. Can you imagine the backlash of undoing an election? That would be asinine.”

Schnellenberger said he hoped Republicans would see the defeat as a chance to take a step back and consider that they might not be right all the time.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is at least willing to listen.  “The voters are sending a message,” he said. “I’ll be very attentive to what seemed to drive her to victory.”

Kruse believes Bennett’s tendency to move forward without consulting educators offended people.  “It was an anti-Tony Bennett vote more than a pro-Glenda Ritz vote,” Kruse said.

But he acknowledged working closely with Ritz on various bills in 2011 and said he looks forward to maintaining that positive relationship.


The young British children who do worse educationally also do worse physically

The "explanation" offered for the findings is hardly an explanation at all.  The findings are however well explained by IQ being one aspect of general biological fitness

Tens of thousands of children are being held back at school because their sedentary lifestyles have left them lacking basic physical skills. A study of four and five-year-olds shows nearly a third struggle with tasks such as balancing on one leg and crawling.

Researchers say children increasingly spend their early years sitting in front of screens and being ferried around in prams and car seats, with fewer opportunities to roll, climb, crawl and enjoy rough-and-tumble play.

The study found those who struggle with basic physical exercises are significantly more likely to fall behind academically.

Sixty children in reception classes at a school in the West Midlands were given 14 short tests, including asking them to balance on one leg for three seconds and crawl a short distance.

The study found 30 per cent of pupils showed signs of physical immaturity and a further 42 per cent some signs of delays in development.

Some children even appeared not to have lost primitive baby reflexes, such as their arms and head extending when their head moves to the side.

The study, carried out by former primary headmaster Pete Griffin in conjunction with the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, found that of pupils in the bottom half of the group for physical maturity, 77 per cent were in the lowest two groups for academic ability.

Mr Griffin said: ‘The main issue is that children don’t have the same kind of physical challenge and upbringing they might have had 40 or 50 years ago.’  ‘Children are strapped into travel systems and are not physically picked up as much.  ‘I don’t see family members throwing their babies up into the air as much. We do less of that.’

Babies also spend less time on the floor learning to roll and crawl, he said.  ‘There’s less opportunity to climb, to roll, to jump.’  In these safety-conscious times, parents will stop their children walking along a wall in case they fall, he added.

The rise of screen-based entertainment was likely to be having a ‘dramatic effect’, both because it led to sedentary lifestyles and stunted concentration.  ‘There’s less creativity involved in playing on the screen or watching TV,’ he said.

‘TV comes in very small bites so children are not used to concentrating for long periods, video games move from one stimulus to another very rapidly.’

This was likely to have an effect on children’s ability to concentrate in the classroom, he warned.

Mr Griffin added that the pressures of today’s exam-focused schooling meant that children with immature physical skills were less likely to catch up.  ‘There is less of a place for a late developer in the education system,’ he said.


Is it still worth going to university? Earning power of a degree in Britain falls 22% in a decade

The higher salary that graduates traditionally gain from having a university degree has been slashed by a fifth during the past decade.

A study has found that the rise in numbers attending university and increased competition for jobs has drastically driven down the earning power enjoyed by previous generations of graduates.

Researchers from Warwick University followed 17,000 students from 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history, and compared it to graduates who finished their studies in 1999.

The recent graduates are, on average, earning 22 per cent less than those who started at university a decade earlier.

They are also struggling to find jobs that justify the debts they have built up in getting their degrees, with four in ten failing to get work that requires their qualifications, while one in ten have spent at least six months on the dole.

The researchers concluded that a degree continues to deliver a 'significant earnings advantage', although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

Medicine and law graduates suffer the least, losing about 16 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, while arts graduates saw the sharpest slump in earning power, losing 32.9 per cent.

Students who began their studies in 2006 were the first to pay tuition fees of £3,000-a-year and emerged from university owing a record amount. Almost half reported debts of £20,000 or more.  Despite this, the researchers found that 96 per cent of graduates would do a degree again if they had the chance.

They also concluded that a degree continues to deliver a 'significant earnings advantage', although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

While medicine and dentistry graduates were earning on average £32,447, those who studied the creative arts and design were bringing in just £18,514.

While the average decline in earnings since 2003 was estimated at 21.9 per cent - about two per cent a year - the slump for arts graduates was 32.9 per cent.

For medicine and related subjects, it was 16 per cent. Law held up particularly well, with graduates in this subject seeing an earnings decline of just nine per cent.

With a further hike in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000-a-year, the study concludes that the boom in the numbers going to university seen in recent decades is over.  It claims the number of graduates will now plateau at 250,000 per year.

The 'Futuretrack' research, conducted by Warwick University with funding from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, followed 17,000 students from the time they applied for courses in 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history and experiences on the job market.

The researchers had previously carried out research among graduates who finished their studies in 1999.  'Compared with the experiences of graduates some ten years earlier, Futuretrack graduates faced a tough labour market,' the report said.

'The greater number of graduates seeking employment, coupled with harsh economic conditions, have combined to create higher levels of graduate unemployment, a higher proportion of graduates in non-graduate employment and a lower rate of progression for graduates than was the situation ten years earlier.'

The Government has claimed that a degree can add more than £200,000 to a male graduate's salary over a lifetime compared with those who decided against university.  But the research found the claim 'does not reflect the evidence revealed here'.

It said the 'relative earnings advantage associated with a degree appears to have been declining slowly over the past decade, possibly by as much as two per cent per annum relative to average earnings in the economy'.

The report went on to warn that the decline in the earnings premium was not simply due to the recession, and was unlikely to bounce back up as the economy improves.

In further findings, students who got involved in teams, societies and clubs at university were more likely to have landed good jobs. The researchers found that employers are increasingly looking at extra-curricular activities when seeking to differentiate between a field brandishing mainly 2.1s.

Graduates with first-class degrees and those who attended high-ranking universities were also better off.

One of the most 'disturbing' findings, the researchers, said was that the pay gap between men and women was showing no sign of narrowing. Men earn about £2,000 more per year on average.


Thursday, November 08, 2012

More tax revenue for schools in California

There is of course zero guarantee that all or any of the money raised will actually go to schools.  Tax revenue is fungible

Overcoming decades of anti-tax sentiment in California, Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 -- billed as a tax hike to rescue the state's schools -- narrowly won Tuesday.

"I know a lot of people had some doubts and some questions: Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?" Brown told supporters as the measure inched into the "yes" column just after 11 p.m. "Here we are ... We have a vote of the people, I think the only state in the country that says let's raise our taxes, for our kids for our schools, and for our California dream."

With most precincts reporting, results showed the Bay Area, Los Angeles and coastal areas supporting the measure while inland and rural areas were rejecting it.

Brown made Proposition 30 the hallmark of his administration, spending the year trying to convince voters that California schools have reached a breaking point and need taxpayers to come to the rescue. It will raise $6 billion annually for education and the state budget by increasing the sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years and raising income taxes on the wealthy by up to 3 percent for seven years.

"It sold itself," he said at a victory party in Sacramento.  "The core reason it brought people together was a belief in schools and universities and the capacity of government to make wise investments that benefit all of us."

The governor has repeatedly promised that rejecting Proposition 30 would have meant $6 billion in fresh cuts to schools starting Jan. 1 -- threatening to shorten the K-12 school year and raise tuition at public universities again.

Kevin Thompson, a teacher in Union School District in San Jose, who took time off from teaching to campaign for the measure. "The early returns look really good," he said earlier Tuesday night. "I think the message is out, that this is the way we're going to invest in our students and our schools."

Meanwhile, wealthy attorney Molly Munger's Proposition 38, a competing tax-for-schools measure, trailed badly, as expected, despite Munger providing most of the money for the $48 million campaign. Proposition 38 sought to raise $10 billion, mostly for K-12 schools, by raising the income tax on the wealthy and middle class, who bristled at the idea of hiking their own taxes by hundreds of dollars a year.

"Win or lose, Molly Munger put public education back on the front burner, where it belongs, during this election cycle," said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Yes on 38.

However, a third tax measure, Proposition 39, passed as expected, closing a loophole that allowed big multistate businesses to pay fewer state taxes. The result could add $1 billion a year in new revenues to the state. Bay Area hedge fund manager Tom Steyer bankrolled nearly the entire $39 million campaign for Proposition 39, which voters approved overwhelmingly.

But deep into the night Tuesday and Wednesday morning, all eyes were on Proposition 30.

Supporters led by teachers, other employee unions, Democratic politicians and even some businesses waged a $40 million campaign. Brown personally campaigned around the state in recent weeks and has staked his political reputation on the measure as his top priority during his current term.

Principal Amy Caroza estimated that Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland would have lost $200,000 if Proposition 30 failed and said she didn't know how the school would offset that loss.

Voters have spent the last two decades rejecting one tax hike after another, and many voters either didn't believe Brown that the cuts would happen or thought the state should make due with the money it has. They also continue to be skeptical of state government and think new projects like the $69 billion high-speed rail line are a waste when the state needs more for schools and public safety.

In addition to anti-tax groups and conservatives, Munger briefly launched attack ads on Proposition 30 last month while a group with ties to the Koch brothers donated millions of dollars to defeat the measure.

"We are grateful for all the hard work from thousands of small business owners, taxpayers and many groups from around the state in helping us communicate our 'no on 30' messages to voters," the No on 30 campaign said in a statement.


Education reform law turned back in SD

Voters overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education reform law, which sought to overhaul the way South Dakota public schools evaluate and reward their teachers.

Daugaard promised to hand out $15 million per year, giving $2,500 to all competent math and science teachers, college scholarships for those who take hard-to-fill teaching jobs, and bonuses for teachers who rate as the best in their district or take on leadership roles.

But half of every teacher’s rating was to be based on test scores or other quantifiable measures of student achievement, a major point of contention for the teachers union. The law also would have phased out job protections for veteran teachers.

When the law passed the Legislature by a single vote, the South Dakota Education Association organized a petition drive to put it on the ballot. About 68 percent of voters rejected it Tuesday.

“I think (voters) listened to the teachers,” SDEA President Sandy Arseneault said.

The vote-no campaign had a heavy TV presence, thanks to the National Education Association, which poured $683,000 into the campaign to defeat the measure. The state chapter chipped in $15,000.

A group backing the law reported contributions totaling $113,500, which came mostly from Sioux Falls business leaders and StudentsFirst, a national political action committee led by reform-minded Democrat Michelle Rhee.

Valerie Schonewill, a 29-year-old librarian from Sioux Falls, initially supported the law. She thinks teachers are underpaid and liked the notion of paying bonuses while holding them accountable. But teacher friends who objected to merit pay and special treatment for math and science teachers, as well as the official vote-no argument included in ballot materials, persuaded her to vote against.

Carol Blickstead, 58, a former public school teacher who now works as a private school librarian in Sioux Falls, voted against the law. She took offense to the possibility that schools would start paying merit-based bonuses, saying it implies many teachers aren’t doing a good job.


Idaho education reform laws headed for defeat

Leaders of a campaign to reform Idaho schools that would have weakened unions and put laptops in the hands of the state’s high schoolers all but conceded their loss late Tuesday night as voters appeared to reject the propositions.

“I thought it would be a little closer,” said Ken Burgess, manager for the campaign in support of the propositions that included one that awards bonuses to teachers based in part on student test scores.

“We feel great,” said Mike Lanza, chair of the campaign to defeat the so-called Luna laws. “The public doesn’t like these laws.”

The three propositions trailed throughout the early voting, with the closest running 12 percentage points behind with more than half of the state’s precincts reporting.

State schools chief Tom Luna spent much of the past two years pushing his plan through the Legislature and then seeking support from Idahoans, including parents.

Some of Idaho’s most powerful people, including Gov. Butch Otter and Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Melalueca, backed the plan. VanderSloot put $1.4 million toward supporting the so-called Luna laws. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has wrestled with teacher unions, put $200,000 toward bringing the three propositions to victory.

The three education laws, passed by the Legislature in 2011 and put on the November ballot after a successful petition drive, were at the top of many Treasure Valley voters’ minds Tuesday.

Kathie Corn, a retired teacher, expects she’ll hear from her colleagues about her vote in favor of Proposition 1, which limits bargaining rights and ends continuing contracts, or tenure.

“My friends are going to be mad when I say it, but that’s OK,” said Corn, 68, who taught in Idaho for 25 years. “There were too many teachers who shouldn’t be working forever and nothing was done.”

But Corn voted no on Prop 3, the laptop and online mandate for high school, reflecting the split ballots cast by many Idahoans on Luna’s Students Come First laws. Proposition 3 drew the most no votes of any of the measures.

Danton Killian, 52, a Meridian welder, voted no on Props 1 and 3 and yes on 2. He’s concerned about a $180 million, 8-year laptop contract with Hewlett-Packard and about machines becoming obsolete.

“It’s a little early to be making rules about what you can do with technology,” he said.

Stacey Van Kirk, 41, of Eagle, opposed all three proposition. She didn’t like Proposition 2, which hands out bonuses to teachers based in part on how students perform on achievement tests.

“I do not think teachers should be (incentivized) by teaching to the test. I think they already do that so much and I think kids are already losing,” she said.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

British drama teacher facing dismissal after she is convicted of hitting pupil, 13, with folder for talking in class

A drama teacher could be sacked after being convicted for smacking a 13-year-old boy in the head with a folder because he was talking in class.  Vanessa Greening, 49, lost her temper with the child as he watched other pupils perform at a high school in Tipton, in the West Midlands.

A court heard Greening flipped and slammed the folder she was holding into the schoolboy's head after hearing someone speak during the performance.

Greening from Bearwood, Birmingham, was sentenced to a six-month community order at Sandwell Magistrates Court on Friday last week after being found guilty of common assault.

The young victim, who was sat next to his teacher at Alexandra High School, had admitted speaking when he shouldn't, but claimed when Greening lashed out with the binder he hadn't said a word.

She was hauled before magistrates after parents of the pupil complained to teachers who then contacted the police.

Greening, who turned up to court clutching a folder, now faces the sack following a career in the classroom spanning 30 years.

Prosecuting, Kelly Crowe said: 'Whilst they were watching the group do the piece of work, someone spoke, and the defendant who had a folder in her hand slammed it once to his head.'

The court heard the boy was shocked but uninjured and later told police 'it didn't hurt'.

JPs were also told Greening, who had pleaded not guilty, had been previously reprimanded for her conduct.

Defending Laura Culley said she didn't accept that the incident happened 'intentionally or otherwise.'

Following the case, headteacher Ian Binnie did not confirm whether Greening would lose her job or not.

Headteacher Ian Binnie said in a statement: 'The school reported the allegations made to the police and worked closely with them during their investigation.  'I am aware of the verdict but I am unable to comment further at the moment as the school's disciplinary procedures are underway.'


British teachers off school for "training" are caught at wedding: Head accused of lying in letter to parents

When father-of-two Kamal Hussain received a letter from school saying classes would be ending early for staff development, he duly arranged for his children to have the afternoon off.

But he became suspicious when he spotted three teachers in smart clothing driving past him when they were meant to be at school for the ‘inset’ (which stands for ‘in-service training’) afternoon.

Calling in at the deserted school, he was told by a cleaner that the head and teachers had gone to a colleague’s wedding.  A furious Mr Hussain then drove to the wedding venue and confronted the head, who he says was sitting with 23 of her staff.

Mr Hussain yesterday lambasted head Gillian Pursey, for sending a ‘blatant lie’ in an official letter to parents. He said: ‘I was just so angry and furious. I teach my children not to lie – what sort of example does that set?  ‘I’ve lost my trust and confidence in them and I’m going to look to move my children elsewhere.’

He called for an inquiry into the matter, saying pupils had lost hundreds of hours of teaching between them.

Mrs Pursey, 51, head of St Hilda’s Primary School, Oldham, sent a letter saying classes would end at 2pm on Tuesday, October 30, instead of 3.30pm, for ‘staff development’.  Teachers are entitled up to five days at school without pupils present so they can carry out administrative tasks or training.

However, Mr Hussain, 35, who had recently been refused time off for his own children to attend a family wedding, found Mrs Pursey and up to 23 of her staff sitting down for a meal at a colleague’s wedding.  When he confronted Mrs Pursey at her table, she claimed the teachers had been given time off to ‘do research’, adding she had the governors’ permission.

Mr Hussain added: ‘But to my understanding the governors don’t have the real authority to put in jeopardy the education of 500 pupils.’

Last night Mrs Pursey said: ‘Staff were given that hour and a half of staff development time to research things for the school’s golden jubilee celebrations.  ‘They could do that research on or off site, and whenever they liked. Some decided to do it straight away, and others decided to do it after the wedding.  ‘It was all agreed with the school governors and is all  above board.’

An Oldham Council spokesman said: ‘This is an interim management issue for the school and no action will be taken.’


Disruptive under-fives 'blacklisted by British schools' who are also judging parents by their jobs

If schools were allowed effective discipline options, they wouldn't need to do this

HEAD teachers are screening out unwanted pupils by trawling nurseries for disruptive children and blacklisting them, it was claimed yesterday.  They are also accused of judging parents on their jobs and trying to dissuade those in lowlier roles from making an application.

A primary head lifted the lid on ploys he claims some fellow schools are using to weed out poorly-behaved or low-achieving pupils.  Nigel Utton said one headmistress checks nurseries for disruptive pupils and puts their names on Post-It notes in her office.  She then tries to ensure they don’t get places by giving their parents ‘a bad view’ of the school.

He claimed a second head told a lorry driver that sending his son to the school would be similar to forcing him to work as a brain surgeon.

According to Mr Utton, head of Bromstone Primary, Broadstairs, Kent, the vast majority of schools, both primary and secondary, are using subtle techniques to engineer their intakes.

He called on Ofsted and the Government to crack down on the practices and reward schools which do well with a broad intake of pupils.

His remarks received support from Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson, who is conducting an inquiry into ways that schools illegally ‘exclude’ pupils by asking them to leave without formally suspending or expelling them.  She condemned schools which ‘pull up the drawbridge’ and ‘let children fail’.

Speaking at a seminar in central London staged by Westminster Education Forum, Mr Utton warned that pressure on schools to maintain test results was driving some to use dubious methods to keep out pupils considered disruptive or difficult.

‘This is what some of my colleagues do across the country,’ he said.  ‘Basically they don’t let them in. And there are different ways of not letting them in.

‘One head teacher I know of puts Post-It notes on her wall.  ‘She goes round the nurseries finding out which are the disruptive children and puts their names up on her wall, and those children don’t get into her school.’  This head’s school had been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, he said.

The school must abide by national rules on fair admissions so the head tries to stop them applying in the first place.

Mr Utton, who said his own school took pupils with a range of needs and abilities, claimed that another common ruse was to ‘alienate’ parents at open days or show-rounds.  ‘When a parent comes and looks round your school, you are rude to them so they don’t go to your school, they go to the school down the road.’

Some heads attempted to ‘signpost’ families to other local schools, claiming they would be more suitable for their children.

A further strategy was to ‘denigrate’ parents according to their jobs.  ‘A parent was sent to me, a lorry driver. He was told by the head teacher of an outstanding school, “your child coming to our school would be an equivalent of asking you to be a brain surgeon”,’ he said.  ‘This is a real example from this year. The kid came to my school.’

He added: ‘Once the children are in, if they are kids you don’t like, there are ways of getting rid of them.’

He also hit out at the trend for children with behavioural problems to be ‘drugged’ with Ritalin.

Rosi Jordon, deputy head of Chessbrook, a unit for expelled pupils in Hertfordshire, said schools felt under pressure to ‘get shot’ of some children ‘at all costs’ to boost their league table positions.

She told the seminar that schools were increasingly aware that pupils who fail to meet exam benchmarks can knock ‘half a per cent’ of the school’s overall score.

‘I know of one head teacher who will say, “Leave your personal problems at the school gate. When you are in here, you are doing your work, and I do not want to know anything of what happens personally with you”,’ she said.  ‘”You can only be here if you are performing for us, and if you’re not - go”.’


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Preschool is no substitute for parents

In naming preschool a legislative priority, GOP leaders may make Indiana the first state to ground such a program in private initiative. There’s talk of preschool vouchers, for example, rather than the usual state preschools, which function like a space-time-money vacuum.

As a mother of two small children, a relatively new Hoosier, and someone who reads stacks of education studies for work, I’d like to sketch why state preschool has largely failed so far.

Anyone interested in surveying early childhood research would do well to start with E.D. Hirsch, a prominent former University of Virginia professor and bestselling author. His work demonstrates that people build new knowledge on old knowledge. Knowledge sticks to itself, like a spider’s web. This means what and how much children learn in their earliest days is crucial to constructing a sort of upside-down pyramid of knowledge that increases as they age.

“There is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age six is the single highest correlate with later success,” Hirsch writes.

This means a child’s most influential teachers are his parents, as our ancestors knew without studies. They also knew another truth we don’t like to acknowledge: Some parents are better than others. Some weave their children the first few rounds of mental spider web with habits such as speaking frequently with their children, reading books aloud, practicing numbers and names, and taking the kids to places that expand their knowledge, such as the zoo, grandpa’s farm, the library, and parks.

These are all normal behaviors for many families (they are also largely free, so not restricted to rich people). But these habits are foreign to some, and consequently their children are deprived.

Observers of this deficit suggest government can solve the problem. Kids can’t count to ten by age five? Put ‘em in school at age three.

This is similar to the classic answer to the question about what holds up the turtle that the ancient myth says the Earth rests on: It’s turtles all the way down. When children prove unready for preschool at age three because of home deprivation, then what? Decide when a woman gets pregnant whether she will be a fit mother and, if not, have government agents waiting in the delivery room?

The reality is that mass preschool programs don’t work. Most studies claiming fabulous effects from government early childhood programs are extrapolations from three test programs of decades ago. No statewide preschool to date approximates these intensive programs, which included expensive amenities such as health care, parent training, and home visits, costing upwards of $65,000 per child, and unlike typical half-day preschool they were full-day and even full-year interventions.

No state preschool does that much substitute parenting, or could, so it’s not surprising they haven’t yielded smarter kids. Oklahoma, for example, has the highest percentage of state preschool students in the nation, but students statewide have had declining average test scores since the program began.

States’ experience with preschool largely exemplifies what doesn’t work. Research and common sense show us why: Even 40 hours of remediation a week doesn’t change the child’s other 58 waking hours.

Instead of attempting the impossible--displacing parenting--a rational and fitting early childhood initiative would aim to cultivate it. This is the crux of the early childhood deficit Republican lawmakers must target. They could start by acknowledging it.


Sick Vid: ‘Big Bird’ Punches ‘Romney’ in Face… During School Performance‏

Ever since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would cut funding to PBS and Sesame Street if elected, the left has championed Big Bird as a way to verbally attack him.  Now, video uploaded to YouTube by the Texas Sports Center takes it a step further, showing Mitt Romney being punched in the face by the iconic character during a school halftime performance.

According to the Texas Sports Center, the the Beaumont Central High School marching band decided to have a political “dance-off” instead of a more traditional show, and the director began by asking whether everyone is going to vote on Tuesday.

After “Obama,” identified as the athletic youth in the white shirt, dances and does a back flip, the beloved Sesame Street character taps a young man wearing a Mitt Romney mask on the shoulder.

“Wait a minute, I got somebody for you, Mr. Romney!” the announcer calls.  “Mr. Big Bird is in the house! Big Bird!”

“Romney” then moves out of the screen while Big Bird does a brief dance, but when he comes back Big Bird decks him in the jaw, sending him straight to the ground.

Though the political bias is pretty clear based on the captured video, the Texas Sports Center adds that Romney also did a dance of his own.

“Tasteless inappropriate influence of and use of high school students,” one commenter concluded, while another said it was “beyond the bounds of decent taste.”


Former Australian PM  wants jobs quota for Asian speakers

Since there are about a million Australians who speak an Asian language as their home language (out of 22 million Australians) this is a bit idiotic

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd says the business community should set aside a quota of jobs for Australian students who can speak an Asian language.

Mr Rudd has praised the Federal Government's white paper on Asia, which outlines how Australia can deepen its engagement with the region.

The white paper calls for more students to be taught at least one of four Asian languages - Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi and Indonesian - in every school in Australia.

Mr Rudd told Sky News that businesses also need to provide incentives for students.  "They need to know there's a career path for them," he said.

"So if the 100 businesses which make up the Business Council of Australia were simply to say each of us will provide 10 graduate jobs for first class Chinese speakers, Japanese speakers or whatever, each year, that's 1,000 jobs on the Australian market.

"Kids will respond to that and they will master these languages and become as they were, the army of the future in our economic engagement with the neighbourhood."

He says the roadmap to 2025 set out in the white paper is comprehensive and a "wake-up call" to Australia.

"It draws together the various arms of what both government, corporates and others in Australia are doing in their engagement with Asia and charts a framework for the future," he said.


Monday, November 05, 2012

The Old School Bully

Comments and toon below by conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG.  He is referring to the Federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett, a notable Green/Left lamebrain

The oxygen was once again sucked out of the room this morning when I saw & heard the Hon. Minister for "SHORT MEMORIES" smugly telling us that he along with the ALP & Facebook will be taking on the cyber bullies and combating this insidious threat to us all !!!!

How will Garrett turn around an issue that was nowhere near as endemic as it now is? ....... He is telling the kids to dob in the bullies.  My God, what are they smoking at his office, this is the best that they can do?

Of course the issue with children being cruel to each other will probably NEVER go away, it is definitely a part of human development. The problem that exists now and didn't when I was a kid is that parents are almost scared to discipline their children, rather than face the wrath of D.O.C.S or worse, the Police.

Teachers, well forget it, their hands have been tied ever since Garrett's do-gooder crowd managed to remove corporal punishment from schools back in the early 80's and even earlier when Comrade Whitlam disbanded the public school cadet corps. This was an establishment where all were made to realise that they were equally weak and strong and that there is no "i" in team. Now everybody has to be a winner and no one is ever wrong, just go along with the consensus of the left.

The PC crowd always tell govt that it is not the child that is at fault but rather society in general is to blame. To a point they are right because of the desensitising masses being bombarded with sex and violence on a daily basis on all communication media along with the fact that the rights of the child to freely express itself in any manner it deems fit, always outweighs the rights of the parent/guardian to raise the child in a manner that they deem correct.

So now we are stuck with a generation of children who not only have no issue with cruelty to each other without consequence but they can do it easily and anonymously via mobile phones and the internet.

Yep , the social engineering has failed and now those who caused it to happen are trying to tell us that they have the answer....... talk about whistling past the cemetery!!!

Nothing in this plan by Garrett discusses what to do with the bullies, how to reform them and how to find out what made them so anti social in the first place. Bloody reactionary policy released by some very reactionary and desperate politicians.

Japanese teaching methods heading to the UK as British pupils look to play catch up

Japanese children can perform mathematical calculations far in advance of their British counterparts just by mastering the abacus, new research has found.

School children as young as five are able to add up five numbers, each running into billions or trillions, in just half a minute - and some Japanese teenagers can add so quickly that scientists are at a loss to explain their skill.

Now British experts, including former Countdown star Carol Vorderman, are saying schools in this country could develop similar techniques to boost Britain’s ‘disgacefully’ low levels of numeracy.

In Japan, use of the abacus - parallel rods each strung with five beads - is taught to all six years olds, and it is widely used in China and other countries in the East which regularly head world numeracy league tables.

Millions of Japanese children also attend the country’s 20,000 after-school clubs, where they learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide much faster than they could with traditional pen and paper -  and advanced users can compete with calculators.

The head of the Academy, Chie Takayanagi, said that whereas people could resort to calculators nowadays, using an abacus sharpened their concentration and memory.

In Japan, the best abacus users can enter competitions and some children do not even need to finger their beads as they can picture the abacus in their heads to make mental calculations.

Japanese teachers said that children in the West often found numbers hard to grasp because they were presented in too abstract a way, while the abacus provided a concrete picture of them.

One said the Japanese method of counting also helped because when children came to words such as eleven, twelve and thirteen they said ‘ten one’, ‘ten two’ and ‘ten three’, which was far more meaningful.

They also learned their times tables like nursery rhymes, and sang them to tunes they remembered into their adult lives.

Ms Vorderman, who was known on the Channel 4 Countdown show for her fast calculations and who has written numerous books on maths, said numeracy in Britain was ‘disgraceful’ partly because schools under-emphasised the visual elements of teaching maths.

She said scientific tests carried out in China using a brain scanner showed those who had been schooled in the West just used the computational side of their brains while those from the East used the visual parts as well,
She said she had learned maths using cuisenaire rods, a Western version of the abacus. ‘That’s how I learnt very very quickly,’ she said.

‘From the age of three I was doing what a lot of six year olds were doing. But everything was simple because it was visual.  ‘Schools are trying to do it with words now, and giving word problems to very young children is completely pointless.  ‘I don’t use an abacus but I wish I did. All aspects of the visual should be encouraged, and the abacus is one.’


American school Staffing Growing Significantly Faster Than Enrollment

A new report by the Friedman Foundation shows hiring of administrative and support staff in government schools has grown seven times faster than student enrollment over the last several decades.  The group found: 

“America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.”

Report author Benjamin Scafidi also noted, “Compared to other nations’ schools, U.S. public schools devote significantly higher fractions of their operating budgets to non-teaching personnel—and lower portions to teachers.”

Unsustainable jobs programs promoted by the federal government have contributed to the problem and politicians have been more interested in job statistics in government schools than actually evaluating what those individuals were accomplishing.

Regardless, Friedman’s analysis shows once again that government schools have a spending problem, not a funding problem.

U.S. News and World Report attempted to obtain comment from the National Education Association, which represents a large chunk of non-instructional employees. The union declined. The magazine noted that the NEA website states, “Support professionals are woefully underpaid, often barely able to afford to live in the communities where they serve.”

Translation: quit your inconvenient analysis and keep the jobs money flowing.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Georgia Teacher Makes Student Deliver Campaign Signs During Class Time

Among the many education-related ballot proposals this election is Amendment 1 in Georgia. The proposed constitutional amendment would reauthorize an independent board to approve charter schools. Currently, school districts are able to regulate charters, thereby limiting their competition. reported on some of the dirty tactics being employed by the education establishment:

In some areas, school employees are reportedly using taxpayer funds and work time to campaign against Amendment 1, possibly violating state law.

“I had a lady come to me … who substitute teaches who said when she walked in to teach the GAE was serving donuts and telling teachers to vote no and to tell their students to vote no,” [Georgia Americans for Prosperity director Virginia] Galloway said.

Opponents also “had an hour-long training session at the Georgia School Boards Association, which is a taxpayer funded training session … on how to defeat the amendment,” she said.

Reports involving students are even more troubling.

Kelly Cadman, vice president of school services for the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said public school teachers have recruited students to deliver campaign signs opposing Amendment 1 during class time.

“A teacher at Brighten (charter school) called me tonight to let me know that her son, who is in the IB program at the local high school, was sent on an errand … by one of his teachers,” Cadman wrote in a recent email to fellow education reformers. “The errand (during his language arts class time) was to deliver several Vote No yard signs to other teachers.

“He didn’t find out what the signs were about (didn’t know what Amendment 1 was) until he got to the last teacher and she told him – the kid was aghast, as he knows this impacts his mom,” Cadman wrote. “Obviously, his mom (the charter school teacher) is furious.”

Can you imagine the hell a Tea Party-minded teacher would catch if she did a similar thing? But union-minded teachers don’t give it a second thought, and schools ignore the bald-faced politicking activist teachers engage in on a routine basis.


An alternative 'facts' curriculum for Britain: Younger pupils ‘must focus on names, dates and places, not vague themes’

Children would go back to learning about landmark events and the great figures of history under an alternative national curriculum drawn up by campaigners.

In a move away from vague themes and topics, pupils would concentrate on names, dates, places and scientific concepts as well as classic art, music and literature.

The lessons, spelled out in a series of primers from the think-tank Civitas, are designed to put knowledge back at the heart of teaching and complement a curriculum expected to be launched by Michael Gove early next year.

A draft of the Education Secretary’s plan requires pupils to study a narrative of British history including key figures such as Winston Churchill, and in geography, show an understanding of the countries of the world.

The primers created by Civitas are designed to fit into Mr Gove’s framework and stretch primary age children.

While rejecting rote learning, the think-tank says a ‘significant body of enduring knowledge and skills’ should ‘form the foundation of a strong curriculum’.

David Green of Civitas said he wanted to help reverse a trend that has seen children taught broad topics such as ‘the seashore’. ‘You could count ships in maths,’ he said. ‘But there’s a limit to how far you can deploy the seashore effectively as a theme for all those lessons.’

He said low expectations of youngsters – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – had been a ‘terrible weakness’ in education for a generation.

He said the new curriculum would end the narrowing of education driven by a ‘corrupted’ regime of ‘teaching to the test’ – drilling to pass primary school tests.

Civitas has published two books in its series, covering what children in years one and two at primary school need to know. The next four are in development.

As well as a guide for teachers, the books are aimed at parents and grandparents to help them deepen children’s knowledge.

Schools, including the proposed West London Primary Free School, backed by journalist Toby Young, have expressed an interest in using the series of books.

However, the Civitas syllabus is likely to meet resistance from some teachers who claim that the rise of the internet and search engines such as Google are rendering the need to teach knowledge in schools increasingly obsolete.

The books are based on the ideas  of E.D. Hirsch, an influential American educationalist who says the key duty of schooling is to give children access to the common knowledge that draws their society together.  His theory is that the more knowledge a person has, the more sticks – like a snowball.

Mr Gove and former schools minister Nick Gibb, the architect of the Government’s curriculum review, have spoken of their admiration for Mr Hirsch’s work.

Under the Civitas scheme, pupils will leave primary school having studied a broad range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, songs, music, great works of art and speeches by key historical figures.

In geography, children would begin by identifying the countries of the UK on a map and build up to in-depth studies of the continents.


Australian mother outraged over hugging ban:  Letter to paper

(Stupid Fascist school Principal:   If something is a problem, don't deal with it.  Ban it!)

Heidi Rome

I am writing this to you as a concerned parent.

My daughter is in year six and is in the Academic Class of Excellence.   She is a well-mannered, bright and caring person who her teacher thinks highly of her and she would never do anything to hurt another person.

 Last Friday she received detention from the principal, the reason she received this was because she gave her classmate (female) a friendly hug goodbye after the end of day bell had gone.

I have since spoke to the school and the principal and apparently there is a rule at the school that the students are not allowed to hug one another.

I have never heard of this before and I read nearly all of the schools newsletters.

I asked why such a harsh punishment and her reply was because she had only just spoken to the whole school about this issue two hours previously so she was taking a stance on the matter. Well I think this is way over the top to punish a child for a friendly hug.

 My concern is the harsh punishment and the fact kids are no longer able to be kids and hug one another. Her reasoning for this rule that was bought in was to stop boyfriend / girlfriend hugging (some parents had complained about it) and the students that were running across the schoolyard and slamming into one another.

So everyone suffers now because of a few silly children, I asked her why not teach those children appropriate behavior instead of banning hugs altogether.

What is that teaching the children instead, that hugs are inappropriate and wrong?

I have also asked the question have they spoken to a child physiologist regarding the effect on giving the impression to the students that they must not hug your friends?

The answer was no, but I can if I want too. Also siblings are not allowed to hug each other, so how can you explain to a five year old that they cant hug their older brother or sister.

 According to theorist regarding child development this is a natural development of children and I certainly don't want my children not to be able to hug friends or family.

I have spoken to a number of parents from this school and teachers from other schools and they completely agree me and are outraged about this rule.

Research has also shown that in this day and age where communication is ruled by technology children need to have more affection and be encouraged to have human empathy.

Schools should be a comforting place for kids and be all warm and fuzzy as for some children it may be the only bit they get.

I hope this matter can be bought to the attention of other parents out there and something done about it as I do not want my younger primary aged children being bought up in a society that says hugs between friends and siblings are inappropriate at school and also the school is not going to change this rule.