Friday, January 18, 2013

NY: Teacher sues over forced removal of religious items

A high school science teacher in Cheektowaga is accusing school officials of censoring her speech by ordering the removal of religious items from her classroom.

Joelle Silver, 29, complained in federal court papers that Cheektowaga Central School District officials threatened to fire her if she didn’t take down posters with religious messages, notes with Bible quotes and a “prayer request” box for the school’s Bible Study Club.

Silver, who teaches biology and anatomy and has been with the district for seven years, got rid of the material.

She then charged district officials with violating her First Amendment rights and acting hostile because she is Christian, in a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York,

But a national organization that complained to the district twice about Silver last June said the classroom postings were unconstitutional and needed to be removed.

“Public employees, including teachers, have to act neutrally with regard to religion. They cannot push any religion,” said Rebecca Markert, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit membership organization based in Madison, Wis., that promotes separation of faith and government.

Silver, who lives in Amherst, is being represented by the American Freedom Law Center, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious liberty cases.

Attorney Robert J. Muise maintained that constitutional violations occurred when district officials forced Silver to remove the religious materials. “They essentially want her to cease being a Christian once she enters school district property,” said Muise.

Superintendent Dennis Kane said the district was caught in the middle of a dispute between “two big special-interest groups” and was likely to be sued regardless of what it did or didn’t do.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation in September sued a Pittsburgh-area school district for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument at a junior high school.

“There’s rulings that favor both perspectives on this,” said Kane. “More than anything else on this, each side wants an example.”

After consulting with a district lawyer and an attorney for the district’s insurance carrier, district officials issued an eight-page “counseling letter” to Silver, said Kane, who is named personally in the suit along with School Board President Brian J. Gould.

The lawsuit mentions the letter several times, but because of the litigation and privacy restrictions in personnel matters, Kane said he was not able to comment on its contents.

The case dates back to last June, when a student alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation to a poster with a biblical verse in Silver’s class and a drawing of three crosses on a wall near her desk.

The student also reported to the organization that a guest speaker discussing genetic defects in Silver’s anatomy class had used Bible passages in his presentation and that Silver herself had referred to Adam and Eve in a discussion about the human rib cage.

The student felt uncomfortable and alienated by the religious references and materials, said Markert, who wrote a letter to Kane on June 7 asking the district to investigate and direct Silver to take down the postings.

A week later, on June 14, Markert wrote another letter informing Kane of additional religious postings in Silver’s classroom, including four posters with Bible quotes from the Book of Psalms.

The student also said that Silver told students in the anatomy class that whoever had reported her to the Freedom From Religion Foundation lacked integrity and character and was akin to someone who had cheated on the final exam, Markert wrote in her follow-up letter.

“This student should be lauded for standing up for constitutional rights, not made to feel like an outsider and defamed by being compared to someone who cheats on exams,” Markert wrote, encouraging Kane to further investigate and discipline Silver.

Silver denied that she questioned the integrity or character whoever reported her. In a talk to her class on the final day of the school year, she said she apologized if she had offended anyone and explained that she wanted people to work together to solve their conflicts.

Muise said that Silver wasn’t pushing her faith on students.

The original poster she was told to take down contained a quote from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love.”

The quote was superimposed over a picture of an American flag and school books.

“Is that proselytizing?” asked Muise.

The district demanded that Silver take down a posted quote from Ronald Reagan, in which the former president declares “without God democracy will not and cannot endure” and “If ever we forget that we are One nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”

The district ordered Silver to remove even the small personal sticky notes with Bible quotes she kept on her desk and to keep any Bible verses in a private folder.

Muise called it “one of the most egregious examples of religious hostility I have witnessed in a public school.” Any religious reference in schools is “treated almost as if it’s some disease that has to be eradicated,” he added.

The lawsuit states that Silver’s Christian faith defines her as a person, and passages from the Bible guide her actions, including those as a public school teacher.

District policy allows teachers to display personal messages and other items that reflect their individual personalities, opinions and values, as well as messages that are not part of the curriculum but relate to political and social concerns, the lawsuit also states.

“As a result of the defendants’ draconian restrictions, plaintiff must keep her faith hidden at all times,” the lawsuit said.

But Markert said the district did the right thing.

“There’s a lot of case law that supports the district’s decision,” she said. “I don’t think the school district is forcing her not to be a Christian.”


Children of parents who stay at school longer get better results, new British study shows

Just a common IQ factor

Increasing parents' education by just one year can improve their children's marks by two grades, research claimed yesterday (Wed).

New data reveals that, on average, children whose parents stayed in education longer scored significantly higher than those whose parents left school at an earlier age.

The findings are published as the government plans changes to the education system that from 2015 will see all children required to stay in education until they are 18.

Professor Paul Gregg, lead author of the study, said the findings suggest that there will be significant gains by raising the minimum leaving age to 18.

'The proposed further raising of the school leaving age to 18 by 2015 should lead to benefits not just for the generation affected but, also in the future, for their children,' he said.

Experts believe keeping parents in education longer could impact on their child-raising skills and, in the long-run, allow their children to also achieve more.

The conclusion was reached after researchers looked at the difference in achievement between the children of parents affected by the 1972 reform when the minimum school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16.

Children of the first tranche of parents to be forced by law to stay an extra year achieved exam results up by two grades in one GCSE, or by one grade in two GCSEs, in comparuison to those whose parents were allowed to leave the year before, according to the University of Bristol study.

Professor Gregg said: “The children of more educated parents go on themselves to higher educational achievement.

'The results here suggest that as a result of attaining more education, parents with higher levels of schooling provide a better childhood experience and home environment and consequently their children do better in school.'

Achievement through school at each of the Key Stages at Years 7, 11 and 14 was also up, the team found, and was reflected equally in numeracy and literacy.

Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which tracked 19,966 children born between 1991 and 1993, was used by the team to compare results from tests taken at different ages.

'The findings are important for the Government’s social mobility strategy as they show the full impact of extra parental education and the knock-on effect in their children’s attainment, which is maintained as the children age,' the researchers added in a statement.

Reporting their findings they said: 'Our results suggest that increasing parental education has a positive causal effect on children’s outcomes that is evident at age 4 and continues to be visible up to and including the high stakes exams taken at age 16.

'The policy implications of these results are important with the UK currently planning for a Raising of the Participation Age (that is in full-time education or a job with an apprenticeship) to age 18 by 2015, as they suggest a positive impact on the educational attainment of the next generation results from increasing the schooling of individuals who wish to leave school at the first opportunity.

'The mechanisms through which parental education causally affects children’s outcomes – the “why” question – remains a very important question for future research to answer, with implications for the design of education and family-related policy.'

The paper ‘Early, late or never? When does parental education impact child outcomes?’ is published tomorrow by the University of Bristol's Centre for Market and Public Organisation.


Tried and tested maths techniques to replace unwieldy 'chunking and gridding' systems that baffle British pupils

Pupils will be marked up for using traditional multiplication and division in an overhaul of primary school maths being unveiled today.

The changes will spell the end for fashionable teaching methods that baffle parents and leave pupils struggling to progress to more advanced problems.

Teachers will instead be expected to teach long division and multiplication using tried-and-tested techniques.

In tests, youngsters who can demonstrate they used traditional methods but slipped up on the final answer will be awarded some marks, while those getting it wrong with the newer techniques will be given none.

Education minister Liz Truss will announce the reforms today at the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield.

She will criticise ‘chunking’ – a form of long division that requires pupils to repeatedly subtract ‘chunks’ from a number and involves an element of guesswork – and ‘gridding’, which requires them to fill in grids to multiply numbers.

Mrs Truss said: ‘Experts from other countries .... cannot fathom why our education system has adopted an untried method for teaching maths which holds back the most able and confuses everyone else.’

A blueprint for a new primary school curriculum, due to be unveiled in the next few weeks, will specify that children should learn efficient calculation methods for multiplication and division, with no reference to chunking or gridding.

The change will be reflected in national tests for 11-year-olds from 2016, which will be revamped to reward pupils whose working shows they have used ‘best practice’.

Mrs Truss said: ‘Chunking and gridding are tortured techniques but they have become the norm in recent years.

'Children just end up repeatedly adding or subtracting numbers, and batches of numbers.

‘They may give the right answer, but they are not quick, efficient methods, nor are they methods children can build on, and apply to more complicated problems.

‘Column methods of addition and subtraction, short and long multiplication and division are far simpler, far quicker, far more effective and allow children to understand properly the calculation and therefore move on to more advanced problems.’

Under the changes, any 11-year-old who answers a question correctly in national curriculum maths tests will be continue to get marks regardless of the method they used.

But those who arrive at the wrong answer but use recommended methods – such as column addition and subtraction, and short and long multiplication and division – would be recognised with some marks.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gangs are Latest Excuse for Not Closing Failing, Half-Empty Chicago Schools

Instead of appropriately dealing with gang-related violence, an independent Chicago school closure commission is recommending no school closures because such a move could force students to cross gang lines.

So in Chicago, gang violence is the “new normal” and instead of combating and gaining some control over the problem, city leaders are simply accommodating it.

Wow. Gangs of street punks are now influencing public policy and million dollar decisions. It looks like they really have won.

Of course the Chicago Teachers Union, which stands to lose money if schools close, agrees with the recommendation.

The CTU has been arguing against school closures for some time, as the union is looking to stave off an increase in the number of non-union charter schools, which serve about 50,000 students. A moratorium on school closures would naturally mean that more union teachers will be needed and their dues money will keep flowing to the CTU.

Chicago Public Schools are facing a $1 billion budget deficit and now that the district has locked in an expensive three-year collective bargaining agreement with the CTU, reducing labor costs is not really an option. But consolidating schools and streamlining operations is.

But now taxpayers might have to continue to pay to operate half-empty schools because city leaders don’t seem to be willing to deal with gangs. The Chicago Tribune reported there are 100,000 empty seats in schools in a district that has 400,000 students.

“CPS built new schools to relieve overcrowding in some communities but failed to close enough of the older, emptier ones, often caving to community pressure,” the newspaper reported.

Those half-empty schools are among the city’s worst performers academically.

The latest excuse shows the CTU will stop at nothing to protect the miserable status quo, regardless of the consequences for Chicago’s children.


More city co-eds turning to sugar daddies for school support

More New York City co-eds are turning to a new source of income — sugar daddies — to cope with the rising cost of their college tuition, surprising statistics released yesterday reveal.

And the majority is enrolled at New York University, according to the sugar-daddy dating site

Nearly 300 NYU co-eds joined the site’s service last year seeking a “mutually beneficial” arrangement with rich older men — a 154 percent jump over 2011.  It was the second-highest number of new members for any college in the country.

Hundreds more young women from Columbia, Cornell and Syracuse universities also have recently signed up for the service, the site said.

“I’ll admit that I’ve thought about doing something like that,” said a Columbia junior who gave only her first name, Karen.   “It would be easier in some ways than working, taking classes and then spending years paying back loans.”

Alex Cranshaw, 22, who graduated from NYU last year, said three of his female classmates had sugar daddies — including a woman whose benefactor financed a whole semester in Madrid.

“He funded her tuition, paid for her housing, gave her spending money and paid for her airfare,” Cranshaw said.  “She told her parents she got a scholarship. They had no idea.”

Not all students approve of the arrangements.

“Clearly, we need more financial aid if those are the lengths people are going to pay for school,” sniffed Ashley Thaxton, 20, an NYU theater major.  “I have friends who work multiple jobs, and there are other opportunities to support yourself through school,” she said.

Still, few jobs bring in as much money — and as many extra benefits.

The average co-ed “sugar baby” receives about $3,000 a month in allowances and gifts from her sugar daddy, enough to cover tuition and living expenses at most schools, said Jennifer Gwynn, a spokeswoman for the site.

In New York City, where cost of living and learning are higher, sugar babies can fetch as much as $4,000 a month.

NYU and Columbia are among the nation’s most expensive universities, with Columbia ranking third with $59,208 in total annual costs and NYU ranking fifth with $58,858 in total annual costs, a recent Forbes magazine survey found.

The Pew Research Center says one out of five households are in debt because of student loans.

“I can understand why someone would be desperate enough to do it,” said Abby Kron, 19, an NYU student studying communications.  “But I don’t support it.”

Then again, “it’s easy to stand in judgment when you or your parents’ economic status allows you to pay your tuition in traditional ways,” she said.


Top British universities 'given powers to recruit more students'

Popular universities will be given more freedom to expand under Government plans to relax controls on places, it was announced today.

Institutions will be able to recruit unlimited numbers of bright sixth-formers gaining the equivalent of one A and two B grades at A-level from September 2013, it emerged.

Ministers will also ease controls on other students – those failing to gain the highest grades – by allowing academics to over-recruit by up by to three per cent without incurring fines.

The move – outlined by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is designed to stop universities taking a “cautious approach to recruitment” and effectively leaving some places empty.

In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, ministers hinted that number controls would be lifted further in future years to reward sought-after universities and take places away from the least popular institutions.

The letter, signed by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said officials should “consider increasing the flexibility for those institutions that have shown strong recruitment patterns in 2013/14 and taper this away from institutions enjoying less demand”.

It comes just 24 hours before the main deadline to apply to university this year through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

The Government has already radically slashed direct state funding for university teaching. In its place, universities have been given the power to impose student tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year.

In the letter, ministers said it would result in £8 billion worth of funding for teaching in 2012/13, rising to £9.1bn in 2014/15.

The Government also wants to encourage more competition between universities and reward the most popular institutions.

Last year, they were given powers to recruit unlimited numbers of students with two As and a B at A-level – benefiting around 80,000 school-leavers.

Next autumn, number controls will be lifted for students with ABB, affecting an additional 35,000, it emerged.

Places for all other students – around two-thirds of the total cohort – are subjected to number controls, with universities fined for over-recruiting. But the letter said that “over-recruitment of up to three per cent will no longer incur a financial penalty”.

“This should deter over-cautious behaviour in making offers and recruiting students,” it said.

But the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, suggested that Government reforms to higher education were already proving a turn-off for students.

Figures published last month showed that applications had dropped by 23,000 so far this year, with students deterred by the rise in fees.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The move to allow universities to over recruit is an interesting one and presumably has been introduced after the failings of the government’s recent reforms which left many universities with unfilled places.”

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “The introduction of £9,000 per year tuition fees, the imposition on an artificial market for students, cuts to central teaching grants and constant tinkering have left the entire higher education sector in turmoil.

"That the government is making more places available than they previously promised and are going some way to reintroduce leeway for universities that accidentally over-recruit is to be welcomed but this is rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic rather than fixing problems of government’s own making."


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guns, schools, and state

With all the news about teachers rushing to accept invitations for free firearms training, I got to wondering how that might fit in with the tragically misnamed Gun-Free School Zones Act.

Turns out school districts can allow guns if the boss-o-crats want to. But I realized something else interesting. The clause the feddies inserted to make this otherwise bogus law “constitutional” could also mean that those guns manufactured and carried in-state under all those new firearms freedom laws ought to be legal for school and near-school carry.

And those instate guns ought to be exempt from whatever the Biden/Obama/Feinstein crowd decides to do.

Yeah, I know; a court that, over many decades, says somebody who grows wheat or marijuana for private use is participating in “interstate commerce” is a court that will absolutely scream that every gun everywhere on the planet is part of interstate commerce. And the weasely wording in the law clearly invites that interpretation.

But still … I can just see Oathkeeper-types making a great display of protecting school children with firearms produced instate. Or … how about not Oathkeeper types, but mothers and fathers and older sisters and brothers? And teachers who haven’t been authorized by their bosses?

Free women and men protecting their loved ones with firearms produced in freedom. Whotta concept!


David Coleman, Education Hero

Finally, someone with clout is committed to undoing the damage done to the American educational system by radical scholars. Our hero is David Coleman, president of the College Board, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former McKinsey & Company consultant.

Coleman used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mold the requirements for the Common Core States Standards in English -- adopted by 46 states to be implemented in 2014 -- to mandate that 50% of reading assignments are non-fiction "informational text" in elementary school, and 70 percent by grade 12.

This change stems from the opinion that the "easy reading" and the highly subjective diet of poetry and fiction on the curriculum menu has prevented students from learning to digest complex non-fiction, including studies, reports, and primary documents. Coleman does not mince his words: "People (employers) don't give a damn about what you feel and what you think. What they instead care about is, can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you are saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me?"

English teachers are up in arms, and the interested public has grounds to fear the new non-fiction requirements will force-feed even more left-wing gibberish into the course work. Until, that is, they see the selections: Alexis de Tocquevilles's Democracy in America, a segment from the Federal Reserve's FedViews newsletter, and a General Services Administration Executive Order on transportation management and the environment. This is hardly the Communist Manifesto, but rich and deep readings that challenge young minds.

In addition to the inclusion of quality non-fiction, changes in fiction selections suggestions indicate a shift back to standards: Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; The Declaration of Independence; Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?:," Allen Paulo's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences; Mark Fischetti's Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control; and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Coleman, astride a white charger protected by chain mail provided by the Gates crowd, has somehow slashed and pounded his way into a position of authority in the sorrowful battlefield of education curriculum. Why the radical scholars have allowed this to happen remains a mystery. Perhaps they have come to realize their contribution to the dramatic decline in learning in the U.S. that has reached new lows worldwide in comparative academic rankings.

A cadre of 1960s activists burrowed into the university, emerging in the late 1970s and early 1980s as professors, often with tenure. Instead of occupying the dean's office, they assailed the ramparts of traditional curricula under a manifesto that proclaimed Western culture unworthy because its accomplishments are tainted by slavery, racism, chauvinism, and imperialism -- rhetoric right out of the Comintern handbook.

Multicultural studies and politically correct thought police replaced orderly and historically specific learning. Self-esteem indoctrination replaced discipline and measured achievement in grade school where the revolution on campus trickled downward. On college campuses, Identity politics infiltrated course work. Women's Studies, Queer and Gender Studies, Chicano Studies, Sex Studies -- an array of "Studies" covering every conceivable minority group -- displaced 4000 years of accumulated knowledge. The ancient Greeks, the Biblical era, Rome, Renaissance Europe, the Pax Britannica, and the unprecedented accomplishments of America were consigned to the trash heap.

Standards fell accordingly. Respect for others became codified with unenforceable and irritating statutes. Proper manners (what Disraeli called the "invisible customs" of a society) were denigrated as elitist. What used to be called "walking around knowledge" has vanished in the new academic regime. College graduates are functionally unsound in the light of the real world. Smart perhaps, but woefully uneducated.

The People's History of the US by avowed communist Howard Zinn is the most popular among public school systems in the country. Film directors are now filling the history gap. Steven Spielberg's schmaltzy offerings and Oliver Stone's wobbly and left-leaning non-fiction films are defining who we are in the vacuum created by the radical education agenda. Stone's Untold History of the United States, recently aired on the cable network Showtime, demonstrates the dangers of abandoning history education for political aims, unless you are a devotee of the Stalinist take on the 20th century.

This march to mediocrity was accomplished by exploiting the guilt felt by unconvinced peers and administrators to overcome resistance to the sea change on campus. College presidents cowered for fear of being labeled racist, chauvinist, or homophobic. As the "new scholars" took over, they insisted on hiring more of their own ilk. Faculties today are gorged with academic fellow travelers.

Scholars who do not adhere to the party line are never hired. Those teachers who refuse to capitulate are denied tenure -- and often driven off by whisper campaigns claiming they are guilty of being "insensitive" or acting "inappropriately" in class. Diversity of opinion on campus has disappeared in harness with the freefall of traditional knowledge.

At least David Coleman has thrown his lance into the fray. Although his target is lower education, his goal is to create a useful college graduate. As he put it to outraged English teachers: "It is rare in a working environment that someone says, 'Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood".


Call for overhaul of maths study in Britain as it's revealed just one in five pupils take subject after 16 - compared with 90% in Germany

There have been calls for an overhaul of maths education in England after it emerged just one in five pupils continue with the subject beyond GCSE level.

A study has revealed just one in five students in England go on to study maths after the age of 16, in contrast to countries like Germany and Hong Kong, where more than 90 per cent of pupils continue with the subject.

In Singapore, New Zealand and the U.S., over 65 per cent of students persevere with maths.

The Nuffield Foundation, which carried out the research, wants to see a new maths qualification introduced in England for those pupils who do not wish to study the subject at AS or A-level.

The new qualification should focus on mathematical fluency and statistics according to the study, which looked at maths education in seven countries.

It suggests that some students should be given an extra year to prepare for their maths GCSE to ensure they have a good grasp of the subject.

And it says that encouraging teenagers to study a wide range of subjects may be a better way to increase take-up of maths than making it compulsory.

The report argues that New Zealand and Singapore have high levels of pupils taking advanced maths, which is equivalent to AS-level, but it is not compulsory.  Instead, both countries allow students to take a choice of subjects, but require these to cover a range of disciplines.  For example, in Singapore a student studying arts and humanities must also choose a maths or science option.

The report also found that the evidence from Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore indicates that the strongest incentive for students to continue studying maths is because they need to do so for higher education or employment.

It also says that universities and employers should ask students planning to study subjects such as teaching and nursing to continue taking maths beyond GCSE.

Report author Professor Jeremy Hodgen said: 'Our study shows the importance of a consensual approach to policy development and implementation.

'Higher education and employers will need to be involved in the development of a new qualification if they are to value it and to make it an entry requirement.

'Schools and colleges may need to be incentivised to offer the new qualification to students, as well as to ensure that existing advanced qualifications maintain their levels of participation.'


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New York City Schools Spend $6,900 Per Student - on Bus Transportation!

Government schools are an expensive endeavor, especially when union labor and no-bid contracts are involved.

The New York City Department of Education has been catching heat from transportation unions lately over a decision to solicit bids for private transportation services in an effort to curtail runaway costs.

The district has not sought "significant" bids for student transportation services in 33 years. That means it's probably been using the same companies for years, without competitive bids to naturally control rising costs.

And those costs are increased every year because the companies use high-paid union drivers.

In response to the union criticism, the DOE recently issued a "School Bus Bids FAQ" which makes a staggering admission: the city spends $6,900 per student (for a total of $1.1 billion) per year for bus transportation.

In a 180 day school year, that's $38.33 per student a day. At that rate it might be more cost-effective for the school system to distribute vouchers for kids to take taxis.

City officials say New York spends more than twice what Los Angeles (the nation's second-largest city) spends on K-12 student transportation.

They point out that a recently bid contract for pre-kindergarten bus services saved the city $95 million over five years.

The unions are obviously upset because competitive bidding means companies seeking a city transportation contract will naturally want to control their labor costs. Higher wages and expensive benefits for drivers means a higher bid, and a higher bid may fail to secure the contract.

The unions are also upset because the city is removing a provision from its bidding rules that says companies must retain drivers during layoffs based on seniority.

Union officials say less experienced drivers could compromise safety and put students at risk.

The DOE claims the bus unions may strike as a result of losing seniority, leaving 152,000 students - including 54,000 who require special transportation services - without a ride to school.

Such a threat was lodged previously by the Amalgamated Transit Union when the city solicited bids for the pre-K contract.

So instead of allowing the city to save tax money through a bidding process, and allowing the bus contractors to retain the best (not necessarily the most senior) drivers, union officials and supportive politicians are screaming bloody murder.

Former city Comptroller Bill Thompson called the move "misguided" while Public Advocate Bill De Blasio said there was "no legal rationale" for effectively eliminating seniority, according to CBS 2.

Both are rumored to be running for mayor and are currently kissing the ring of Big Labor.

Perhaps there's one potential mayoral candidate out there who understands how stupid it is to waste millions of precious education dollars on an expense that has nothing to do with student learning - all in the name of keeping Big Labor fat and sassy.

A lot of disgusted taxpayers might support such a candidate.


Mentally challenged girl, 15, 'gang raped under her desk during class as teacher did NOTHING'

A mentally challenged 15-year-old New York girl endured a brutal gang rape as she was trapped beneath her by two boys with her teacher only feet away, alleges a lawsuit filed Friday.

The special needs student, identified only by the initials K.J., was allegedly sexually assaulted for 10 minutes as another student  'hit her on the head whenever she tried to escape,' during a science class at Martin De Porres Academy in Elmont, N.Y.

The girl's mother, who filed the suit, alleged that the teacher ignored the assault even as one student danced on the desk while another attempted to sodomize K.J.

Though the girl told a school social worker the next day, school officials failed to report the crime. 

K.J. has an IQ of 60 and was sent to De Porres by city.  She was the only girl in her class of 13 boys.

Her alleged attackers all had known 'violent propensities' and are residents of Casa De La Salle, a home for juvenile delinquents.

K.J.'s mother said she was powerless to get her daughter transferred immediately, and as a result the girl was bullied for months.

In December, school officials put her in a room with one of the boys who had been sexually harassing her and admonished them to 'discuss their issues.'  K.J. left that classroom with a gash over her right eye.

'It's mind-boggling how this could happen,' attorney Madeline Bryer told the New York Post.

The school's executive director Ed Dana sad an internal investigation as conducted as soon as they heard of the abuse and fired the teacher.

'We want the community to know that we hold our teachers to a high standard. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of the children in our care,' Dana said in a statement


British education boss to confirm plans for performance-related pay in schools

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will announce this week that the Government is pressing ahead with the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers despite unions threatening industrial action over the move.

From this September, schools in England and Wales will rip up the existing staff salary structures so that there are no longer automatic pay rises for all teachers each year.

Instead, individual heads will have almost total freedom to decide pay levels, giving them the power to reward the best performers and prevent the weakest teachers from receiving annual increases.

The National Association of Head Teachers has backed the introduction of more flexibility in setting salary rises, but classroom unions are bitterly opposed to the move and have warned it will lead to "unfairness and discrimination" in staffrooms.

Mr Gove's announcement later this week that he is going ahead with the plans, which were outlined in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, will ramp up tensions with the unions.

The two biggest teaching unions - the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT - are already taking part in joint work-to-rule action as part of a long-running protest over changes to pensions, public sector pay freezes and mounting workloads.

It is likely that a move towards performance-related pay will add to their list of grievances and could lead to an escalation of the action.

The pay reforms are based on proposals from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), which makes recommendations to the Government on teacher salaries and working conditions.

It comes despite the Government deciding to retain national pay arrangements in the NHS and prison service.

Currently, teachers outside London receive an initial salary of œ21,588 and can see their pay rise year-on-year to œ31,552. They can then move onto a higher salary band that is supposed to reward good performance, although most teachers automatically receive the pay increase.

Under the new plans, the STRB is proposing to abolish all pay increases based on length of service and link pay to performance based on appraisals by line managers.

The Government argues that the move will help to improve the quality of teaching in schools.

Responding to the proposals in December, Mr Gove said they would make teaching a more attractive career and a more rewarding job.

"They will give schools greater flexibility to respond to specific conditions and reward their best teachers," he added.   "It is vital that teachers can be paid more without having to leave the classroom. This will be particularly important to schools in the most disadvantaged areas as it will empower them to attract and recruit the best teachers."

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, has suggested that the independent pay review body had been "leant on" and claimed its recommendations were "seriously out of step" with those made for other parts of the public sector.  "These proposals place virtually unlimited discretion on teachers' pay in the hands of head teachers at a time when unfairness and discrimination are already rife," she said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said performance-related pay rises were a "sensible principle" but noted that they would be hard to implement.


Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain, new research reveals
There is no demonstration that any of these changes are permanent

The works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth are “rocket-boosters” to the brain and  better therapy than self-help books, researchers will say this week.

Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers has a beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader's attention and triggers moments of self-reflection

Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have   found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers has a   beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader’s attention and triggers    moments of self-reflection.

Using scanners, they monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they read   works by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S Eliot and others.

They then “translated” the texts into more “straightforward”, modern language   and again monitored the readers’ brains as they read the words.

Scans showed that the more “challenging” prose and poetry set off far more   electrical activity in the brain than the more pedestrian versions.

Scientists were able to study the brain activity as it responded to each word   and record how it “lit up” as the readers encountered unusual words,   surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure.

This “lighting up” of the mind lasts longer than the initial electrical spark,    shifting the brain to a higher gear, encouraging further reading.

The research also found that reading poetry, in particular, increases activity   in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with   “autobiographical memory”, helping the reader to reflect on and reappraise    their own experiences in light of what they have read. The academics said   this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books.

Philip Davis, an English professor who has worked on the study with the   university’s magnetic resonance centre, will tell a conference this week:   “Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain.

"The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to   create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid   alike.”

In the first part of the research, the brain activity of 30 volunteers was   monitored as they read passages from Shakespeare plays, including King Lear,   Othello, Coriolanus and Macbeth, and again as they read the text rewritten   in simpler form.

While reading the plain text, normal levels of electrical activity were   displayed in their brains. When they read Shakespeare, however, the levels   of activity “jumped” because of his use of words which were unfamiliar to   the readers.

In one example, volunteers read a line from King Lear: “A father and a   gracious aged man: him have you madded”. They then read a simpler version:   “A father and a gracious aged man: him you have enraged.”

Shakespeare’s use of the adjective “mad” as a verb sparked a higher level of   brain activity than the straightforward prose.

The study went on to test how long the effect lasted. It found that the “peak”   triggered by the unfamiliar word was sustained onto the following phrases,   suggesting the striking word had hooked the reader, with their mind “primed    for more attention”.

Working with psychologists at the university, the next phase of the research   is looking at the extent to which poetry can provide therapeutic benefit,   using the work of, among others William Wordsworth, Henry Vaughan, John   Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.

Volunteers brains have been scanned while reading four lines by Wordsworth:   “She lived unknown and few could know, when Lucy ceased to be. But she is in    her grave and oh, the difference to me.”

Four “translated” lines were also provided: “She lived a lonely life in the   country, and nobody seems to know or care, but now she is dead, and I feel   her loss.”

The first version caused a greater degree of brain activity, lighting up not   only the left part of the brain concerned with language, but also the right   hemisphere that relates to autobiographical memory and emotion.

Intense activity is this area of the brain suggests that the poetry triggers   “reappraisal mechanisms” causing the reader to reflect and rethink their own    experiences in light of what they read.

“Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of    experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive,” said    Professor Davis, who will present the findings at the North of England   education conference in Sheffield next week.

“This is the argument for serious language in serious literature for serious   human situations, instead of self-help books or the easy reads that merely   reinforce predictable opinions and conventional self-images.”

Professor Davis hopes to scan the brains of volunteers reading Charles Dickens   to test if revisions the writer made to his prose spark greater brain activity than the original text.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Oakland’s Radical Occupy Teachers Finally Reveal Their Goal: ‘Abolish Capitalism’

At least the teachers of Occupy Oakland are finally being honest about their political agenda.  They’re openly calling for an all-out abolition of capitalism.

The Occupy Oakland Education Committee – comprised of public school teachers from the Oakland, California school district – has renamed its publication “ClassRoom Struggle” and its platform TEACH, which stands for “Transform Education, Abolish Capitalism and Heal.”

Finally the radical teachers have acknowledged what we’ve been saying all along: they want to end capitalism and replace it with a socialist economy, quite possibly enforced by a totalitarian form of government.

And what, precisely, is their strategy? They tell us that goal number one is to abolish “capitalist schools.”

“What we are calling to abolish is not education but rather capitalism,” the group wrote in a statement. “We see the struggle to abolish capitalist schools as one place where we can begin to chip away at capitalism’s grasp on our society. Capitalist tendencies run deep into the structure and politics of schools.

Operated the proper way, these schools have a great deal of potential for left-wing causes, according to the Oakland group.

“While public schools have served a role in developing white supremacist, capitalist and imperialist ideology and social structure (for example through segregated schools, tracked programs, mandated pledge of allegiance, etc.), they have also been key sites of struggle and served as assets for movements of working class students of color and other youth struggles,” the group wrote.

The last part is the scariest. They clearly want to encourage rebellious behavior among young student and recruit them into their anti-American movement.

The teachers have an absolute right to subscribe to any silly political theory they choose. That’s one of the great things about living in the country they hate. But many teachers in Oakland and throughout the U.S. have been using their classrooms as “assets” for their radical movements. They seek to brainwash youngsters into hating America and mistrusting the economic system that has given our nation a very high standard of living.

This proves what domestic terrorist-turned-professor Bill Ayers recently said: Radical leftist teachers have a great deal of influence in our schools, and they should use it to further the revolutionary cause.

America will continue its slide toward socialism as long as radical activists like Ayers and the Oakland teachers are allowed to use our taxpayer-funded schools as bully pulpits and recruiting zones for their movement.


Bill Ayers, School Union Officials Escalate Attacks on Teach for America

Teach for America has been a breath of fresh air for public schools around the nation.

The group recruits top college graduates to spend several years teaching is some of our nation’s worst schools.

Most of these graduates did not plan to become professional educators, but they want to make a difference in troubled communities. They are focused on helping underprivileged children learn, and they have little interest in compensation issues or union political schemes.

That, of course, does not sit well with teachers union officials. They think Teach for America instructors are invading their turf and taking job security away from longtime union members.

Maybe they are. That’s probably a good thing.

The unions like things the way they have always been, with decent pay, benefits and job security, but little expectation for real learning in the classroom. When young TFA instructors prove it can be done, they make life uncomfortable for the longtime teachers who have not performed very well at all.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, union leaders and other leftists saw an opportunity to attack Teach for America.

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis slammed the group in the context of the tragedy, saying TFA’s policies “kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation.”

What a crock.

Just a few weeks prior, unconvicted domestic terrorist and education professor Bill Ayers called TFA instructors “educational tourists” and “a fraud on every level” and said their efforts will actually “undermine teaching.”

Appearing at a “Change the Stakes” meeting, Ayers implied that TFA has “no vision for the collective voice of teachers” and that TFA instructors are “not serious about the enterprise.”

That depends on what the “enterprise” is. If it’s helping kids learn, TFA instructors are very serious. If it means promoting silly union political efforts, they tend to have little interest. They actually put kids first. What a breathtaking concept for American schools.

It is hard to gauge how serious Lewis is about education, given Chicago Public Schools’ 54 percent graduation rate, or the seriousness of Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson, given the fact that only 7 percent of 8th graders in his district are proficient in reading.

But they’re in it for the long haul, so apparently results don’t matter.

For 20 years, Teach for America has been focusing on results and improving educational outcomes for very needy children. Administrators in dozens of school districts across the nation will testify about the positive contributions they’ve made before moving on to other careers.

Can the same be said for Lewis, Johnson and the rest of the “real” teacher leaders in America?


Imperial weights and measures will be back in British classrooms  in radical shake-up of maths lessons

Children will be required to learn imperial measures as part of the national curriculum for the first time in decades, in a radical shake-up of maths lessons.

Education Secretary Michael Gove wants schools to ensure pupils have a firm grounding in the imperial units most commonly used – including miles, pints, feet and ounces.

Schools have been required to teach metric units as the prime system of measurement since 1974.

Although metric units will still be taught as 'standard', schools will now be expected to improve children's understanding of imperial units to reflect their continued widespread use on the roads, to measure height and for many basic goods, including milk.

The current curriculum merely asks that pupils are familiar with the names of imperial measures and know approximate conversions into the metric system.

But the Government yesterday revealed it intended to 'go further' to increase the rigour of maths lessons and improve children's fluency in dealing with both sets of measures. A revised maths curriculum for primary schools will 'include explicit reference to miles'.

According to drafts of the curriculum, pupils will now be required to 'use, read, write and convert between standard units...including between miles and kilometres'.

They will also need to 'understand and use basic equivalencies between metric and common imperial units'.

The plans emerged in response to a Commons written question by Andrew Percy, Tory MP for Brigg and Goole. Mr Percy, a teacher, said he was pleased the Government had backed his call to 'improve and extend teaching of imperial measurements'.

'The idea that these measures are “old money” and outdated is rubbish and we have got to make sure that kids know how to use both.

'Of course everyone has to learn metric as well,' Mr Percy said. 'Some professions are completely metric.'

Plans for a new primary curriculum, along with other subjects at primary and secondary level, are to be published in the next few weeks. Ministers intend to introduce them in September 2014.

Education Minister Liz Truss said: 'We propose to include imperial units within the new programmes of study for mathematics.'

Officials said the Government was adding more elements to the curriculum, including an increased focus on imperial units, but insisted the initiative would not entail 'significant' change.

'Imperial units are in the current curriculum and will be in the new curriculum. Both the mathematics and science curriculum will continue to teach metric measures as standard,' said a spokesman for the Department for Education.

However, the additional emphasis on imperial units will dismay campaigners, including the UK Metric Association.

Lord Howe, the former Tory Cabinet minister, earlier this year called on ministers to end the 'deeply confusing shambles' of using a mixture of metric and imperial measures.

He warned: 'The only solution is to complete the changeover to metric as swiftly and as cleanly as possible.'


Sunday, January 13, 2013

How home schooling threatens monopoly education

"What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people any more." That's a line from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and it should strike fear into the hearts, not of vampires, but of public-school administrators everywhere.

The fact is, Americans across the country -- but especially in large, urban school systems -- are voting with their feet and abandoning traditional public schools, to the point that teachers are facing layoffs. Some are going to charter schools, which are still public but are run more flexibly. Some are leaving for private schools. But many others are going another step beyond traditional education, and switching to online school or even pure home schooling.

And, as Buffy so accurately noted, it's not just "scary religious people." In fact, rather than scary, those religious people are looking more like trendsetters. A recent piece in The Atlantic told of purely secular parents' decision to take their kids out of New York public schools and home school instead:

"That first year, chatting with other homeschooling parents at soccer games, picnics, and after-church coffee hours, I found that our decision was far from unusual. Homeschooling has long been a philosophical choice for religious traditionalists and off-the-grid homesteaders, but for the parents we met - among them several actors, a jazz composer, a restaurateur, a TV chef, a Columbia University physical-plant supervisor, and a handful of college professors - it was a practical alternative to New York's notoriously inadequate education system."

New York's public school system is indeed notoriously inadequate. And, like most public school systems (or public systems of any kind), it's run more for the convenience of the staff and bureaucrats than for the benefit of parents or kids. Some kids do fine anyway, of course, and some parents aren't in a position to pursue alternatives. But for many parents, traditional schooling is no longer the automatic default choice.


Record one in six British students now graduates with a first: Fresh concern over grade inflation after figure triples since late 1990s

A record number of graduates have been awarded first-class degrees, prompting fresh concern over  rampant ‘grade inflation’.  The number of students given first-class honours soared 16 per cent last year – the biggest increase on record.

More than a sixth of students now graduate with the top grade following a tripling in firsts awarded since the late-90s.

The trend is thought to be linked to moves by universities to reduce the number of traditional exams that students sit in favour of coursework.

Some degrees no longer require students to sit a single exam during their entire three years of study.  Good results are said to be easier to achieve in coursework than exams.

Some leading employers are already threatening to demand first-class degrees from job applicants instead of 2.1s due to the rise in top grades. University leaders yesterday admitted the 200-year-old degree classification system was a ‘blunt instrument’.

Most students who started university this academic year will be given a school-style report alongside the main degree classification in an attempt to give employers more information about their breakdown of marks.

Many in higher education hope the initiative will lead to degree classes being scrapped altogether but some leading universities are sceptical about the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) and have no plans to adopt it.

Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 61,605 students were awarded firsts last year – a tripling since 1999 when 20,700 achieved the best possible grade.

In 1999, only 8 per cent of pupils achieved a first. By 2011, this had risen to 15.5 per cent and last year went up again to 16.9 per cent – the biggest annual rise in nearly 20 years of records held by HESA.

A record 66 per cent of students graduated with at least a 2.1, up from 64 per cent the year before and 61 per cent in 2008. Last year 49 per cent graduated with a 2.1, 27.5 per cent a 2.2 and 6.6 per cent a third or ordinary pass. A further 26,715 failed to gain a classification.

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, 2.1 degrees are the ‘most common select criteria’, used by 76 per cent of employers who filter out applicants with a 2.2 or worse.

It said some bosses were ‘considering increasing their requirement to a minimum of a first degree classification due to the high volume of their graduates who actually achieve this’.

The Universities UK umbrella body said the rise in firsts and 2.1s over the past decade had been fuelled by booming A-level performance, which was brought to a crashing halt last summer under measures introduced to tackle grade inflation.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive, said: ‘The sector has recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument. Hence the recommendation last year that, from autumn 2012, all students entering undergraduate degrees will leave with a HEAR, as well as a degree certificate.

‘The aim of the HEAR is to provide a more detailed account of what a student has actually achieved during their studies, rather than just a one-off degree classification.’    

A breakdown by sex showed that 17.3 per cent of men got firsts compared with 16.6 per cent of women, while women were more likely to get 2.1s.


Teaching self-esteem undermines students’ academic achievement

Self-control, not self-esteem, leads to success, researchers have found. Indeed, teaching self-esteem actually harms students’ achievement and work ethic. “In one study, university students who’d earned C, D and F grades ‘received encouragement aimed at boosting their self-worth.’ They did worse than students with similar grades whose self-esteem had been left alone. ‘An intervention that encourages [students] to feel good about themselves, regardless of work, may remove the reason to work hard,’” notes “Roy Baumeister, a Florida State professor who’s studied the topic for years. ‘Self-control is much more powerful and well-supported as a cause of personal success,’ he says.”

A year ago, The Washington Post reported on the failure of self-esteem to improve educational achievement: due to the self-esteem fad, American students’ self-esteem outstripped their achievement, which fell compared to their international peers. U.S. eighth-graders did worse in math than their peers in countries like Singapore and South Korea, but felt better about themselves and their ability in math. “‘We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,’ Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. ‘That has backfired.’” Yet, “for decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement.” That false “theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies” and time-consuming feel-good exercises in our schools.

So now, teachers in some school systems are belatedly “tempering praise to push students” to achieve more rather than just feel good about themselves. But in other school systems, there are “self-esteem” teachers, who continue to teach students to feel important despite their own mediocrity, and to feel “bullied” when their exaggerated ego is affronted by behaviors like “eye-rolling” or critical comments from peers, which some self-esteem teachers claim is a form of “bullying,” even though it is often constitutionally protected speech.

While visiting my mother in Washington State, I heard a bossy “self-esteem” teacher talking to then-Governor Lowry on a talk radio show, where he was a guest and she was a caller. “Governor Lowry, I teach self-esteem,” she growled, in a deep, harsh voice that made her sound like a 300-pound bully. My cousin Gigi, who teaches special education in the state, says that self-esteem teachers are some of the angriest people around. Yet millions of tax dollars have been spent on such “self-esteem” teachers.

Due to inflated self-esteem, “More students say they’re gifted in writing ability” than in the past, “yet test scores show writing ability has gone down since the 1960s,” says psychologist Jean Twenge. “And while in the late 1980s, almost half of students said they studied for six or more hours a week, the figure was little over a third by 2009 – a fact that sits rather oddly, given there has been a rise in students’ self-proclaimed drive to succeed during the same period.”

Achievement is sometimes inversely related to self-esteem. “American students, for example, took first place in self-judged mathematical ability in a comparative study of eight countries, but last place in actual mathematical competency. Korean students, in contrast, ranked themselves last in self-judged mathematical skills and took first place in actual mathematical performance.”

Government officials who associate self-esteem with better performance have gotten causation backwards. It is better performance that eventually leads to higher self-esteem, not higher self-esteem that causes better performance. As law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds has noted, government officials’ misunderstanding of causation may also help explain government policies that contributed to the housing bubble, and government officials’ misguided desire to send everyone (no matter how bored or disinterested in academics) to college (a policy that leads to many students dropping out of college after incurring large amounts of debt, or costing taxpayers a bundle for subsidized college tuition).