Friday, March 08, 2013

The dorm boom: Higher education’s fellow traveler

As universities are reportedly suffering from less revenue from state governments, anyone driving through a college campus is likely to be interrupted by construction traffic. Where I live, much of the campus of the local university has been under construction since I moved here in 2008—when Wall Street was crashing.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on new facilities nationwide, from dorms to basketball arenas. And yet funding from the State continues to fall.

Creative Destruction amid the Construction

It’s a curious time for a campus construction boom. Alternatives to a traditional college education are growing every day. Millions are signing up to take courses known as MOOCs (massive open online courses). The New York Times reports that dozens of public universities plan to offer free online courses for credit to anyone worldwide with an Internet connection.

The education model that was once strictly for polymaths is becoming mainstream. Even big universities such as Arizona State, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Arkansas are participating in a new program called MOOC2Degree. “We’re taking the MOOC idea, but now it will be part of a degree program, not a novelty,” said Randy Best, the chairman of Academic Partnerships, a company that helps public universities move their courses online. 

The Times points out that colleges hope the new online program will attract thousands of students to provide a “new revenue stream [that] could be a lifeline for public universities hit hard by declining financial support from states.” 

The Dorm Boom

Amid the change and uncertainty, real estate developers are rushing to build student housing. Major homebuilding companies like Lennar and Toll Brothers that ramped their businesses up in the single-family housing boom have now shifted their focus to another boom: student housing.  

Ironically, these builders see student housing as a port in the storm to smooth out the ups and downs of the housing business. The Wall Street Journal’s Dawn Wotapka explains their rationale.

“During the real estate crash,” writes Wotapka, “as prices of single-family homes declined and apartment landlords reduced rent, many student-housing landlords continued to raise rent, thanks to the generosity of parents and student-loan programs.”

For instance, Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors, a private equity investor with 15,000 beds, earned more than 20 percent annually from 2007 to 2012, despite the downturn. 

As evidence of how hot this market is, in 2012, $3.7 billion worth of student housing projects traded hands, a near doubling from the prior year. Landmark Properties, a longtime owner of this type of product, owns units totaling 5,000 beds, but is looking to expand its portfolio by over 50 percent, with another 2,700 under construction.

Landmark’s president, J. Wesley Rogers, told The Wall Street Journal, “A lot of people think our space is hot. You see a lot of new players circling the space right now.” 

Developers believe parents will  continue to send their kids away to university no matter that tuition costs have increased 440 percent in the last 25 years, more than four times the rate of inflation.  


Each year from now until 2022, three million students will graduate from high school and will be looking to head off to college. After all, a college degree is the key to financial success.

Except it hasn’t been lately. Most college graduates cannot find a job requiring a degree. If they can find employment, it is as bartenders or baristas or the like, a phenomenon referred to as “mal-employment.”

In a research brief titled, “The Employment and Mal-Employment Situation for Recent College Graduates: An Update,” produced by the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University, the authors note that between 2007 and 2012, there was a sizable change in the proportion of all young college graduates who worked in jobs requiring a college degree. In 2007, 54.1 percent of 20-to-24-year-olds were employed at jobs requiring a college degree. Five years later, that percentage shrank to 43.9 percent.

For 25-to-29-year-olds, the proportion of those employed in college-required jobs fell from 63.9 percent in 2007 to 56.7 percent in 2012. According to the researchers at Drexel, a large part of these declines occurred in the last two years, despite a job recovery for the overall workforce. 

Hard Realities

One of these days students and parents will figure out that college is not the bargain it once was. There is not enough gold at the end of the collegiate rainbow to pay off thousands in student loans.

As with most booms, there is plenty of debt fueling college admissions. The New York Fed reports that student loan debt has nearly tripled since 2004. Repayment isn’t always possible, however; not everyone finishes college. While more than 80 percent of students think they’ll graduate, only half that number actually do.

As it is now, according to TransUnion, “more than half of student loan accounts are in deferred status, where the repayment of the principal and interest of the loan is temporarily delayed. Deferred loans now represent 43.5 percent of all student loan balances.” 


In Austrian business cycle parlance, students and their parents are investing in the higher-order good of a college degree, believing that skills-required, higher-paying jobs await college students after they have spent four to six years honing their skill sets. However, time preferences haven't changed. The demand for consumer goods remains, and that's where the jobs are.

The boom in government bureaucrats, barristers, and bankers is over. JPMorgan Chase just announced it is getting rid of 19,000 jobs. At the end of last year, banks in the United States had 2.1 million full time employees. That’s 100,000 less than at the end of 2007. Since the end of the recession, government has shed 580,000 jobs, and James Huffman writes in the Wall Street Journal that law schools are in trouble, with applications down by half since 2004. The reason? Only about 65 percent of 2011 law graduates had law-related employment within nine months of graduation. And even those with work aren’t necessarily set: Starting pay has crashed.

All of these facts would seem to fly in the face of the logic of the student-housing industry, but developers appear undaunted. Reportedly there is a shortage of between 1.5 and 2.15 million beds. Universities lack the funds to build and are counting on the private sector.

While Freddie Mac, a large purchaser of student housing loans, is a bit cautious after purchasing $1.7 billion in loans last year, the private sector is ready to build. Kayne Anderson’s managing partner Al Rabil isn’t worried about oversupply. “In most all cases, you’re looking at a situation where development is just catching up in creating supply to keep up with demand.”     

Bricks-and-mortar higher education is a bubble searching for a pin. Now it’s not alone. Student housing is going along for the ride.


Choosing A-levels: 'A new social divide in British education'

Many government schools still encouraging pupils to study junk subjects

Universities want students with core academic A-levels. We need to give schools – particularly in the state sector – an incentive to teach them, says Chris Skidmore.

Like it or loathe it, it is undeniable that the EBacc – the measure of performance at GCSE that tracks the proportion of pupils gaining passes in core academic subjects – is slowly transforming the educational landscape.

In 1997, just under 50 per cent of pupils entered GCSEs in English, maths, two sciences, a language and either history or geography. By 2010, this figure had more than halved, with only 22 per cent of pupils sitting these subjects. Enter the EBacc, and an IPSOS-MORI survey suggests the percentage of pupils taking the full EBacc will be back up to 49 per cent as soon as 2014.

Over the same period, the percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in history will go up from 31 per cent to 41 per cent, geography from 26 per cent to 36 per cent, a language from 43 per cent to 54 per cent, and triple science from 16 to 34 per cent. It is hard to think of a more influential policy that has had such an immediate effect.

But what about A-levels? It is clear that leading universities are being increasingly explicit about which A-level courses they will look kindly on. In a booklet called Informed Choices, the Russell Group of 24 leading universities list ‘facilitating subjects’ which will keep many doors open for students. These include Maths, English Literature, the sciences, Geography, History and foreign languages.

Yet when we look at what is happening on the ground, students are sadly being failed by schools who are not properly advising students which courses will give them the best chances and the widest choices when they get to applying for higher education.

More worryingly, a new social divide in education is emerging between state and independent schools.

Take a breakdown of the numbers taking A-levels in 2011/12: 22,005 pupils studied media studies, yet just 474 of these were taken in the independent sector. It is the same story across the board: 1,881 pupils studied communication studies, 32 in independent schools; 6,206 studied film studies, 143 in independent schools; and 1044 pupils took performance studies, of which only 21 pupils in independent schools thought the qualification worth taking.

And it’s not just a binary divide between the independent sector and state schools that is alarming: out of 25,806 pupils eligible for free school meals, just 236 took further maths. 5.5 per cent of FSM pupils took history A-level, compared to 11 per cent of non-FSM pupils.

These disparities will leave many poorer pupils disappointed when it comes to applying for universities, as they will find their possible choices have been limited in a way that could have been avoided.

If we are to tackle this glaring social divide we will need to radically rethink our approach. An Advanced Baccalaureate, or ABacc, which provided a solid core in the subjects that count, while allowing for specialisation beyond that, would go a long way to dealing with the problem.

Extending knowledge in key facilitating subjects beyond GCSE level for all students would widen degree options, particularly for students from lower-income backgrounds, while at the same time improving the academic rigour of post-16 education.

The benefits of a broader post-16 curriculum are such that many schools have already embraced alternative qualifications such as the IB and Cambridge Pre-U. This has spread particularly widely in the independent sector, once again putting pupils from better off backgrounds at an advantage. It is time we closed this divide and made it available to everyone, not just the fortunate few.


Australia: Most trainee teachers fail benchmark

Fewer than one in three of school leavers starting teaching degrees this year would meet the O'Farrell government's new benchmark for teachers, part of a suite of reforms designed to lift the standard and status of teaching in NSW.

Teaching students will have to pass new literacy and numeracy exams to gain their degrees, while new teachers will be supported by mentoring and support initiatives to strengthen their skills.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli described the plans as the "most significant reforms around quality teaching ever undertaken in Australia by any jurisdiction".

While he admitted that some of the reforms would incur "significant" cost, he did not commit new funding nor suggest any reversal of the recent $1.7 billion cut to the education budget.

High-school leavers who hoped to do a teaching degree would have to score a minimum of "Band 5", or 80 per cent, in at least three of their HSC subjects, one of which had to be English. Of this year's intake of teaching students who were high-school leavers, only 30 per cent achieved that standard.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said he did not believe the new requirements would discourage people from entering teaching.

"Quite the reverse," he said. "I think the fact that we're seeking to raise standards, to raise the status of teaching, will encourage more people to enter the profession."

Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias said the new standards did not translate to an exact ATAR cut-off, but he said 70 was a rough estimate.

Under the proposed reforms, all teachers would also have to register and be accredited by the NSW Institute of Teachers, and those who had been out of the profession for more than five years would have to do a refresher course, which would be available by 2014.

Unions and the non-government school sector welcomed the reforms on Wednesday but stressed financial support would be crucial to their success.

"I'm confident and hopeful the government realises how resource-intensive this is," the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said.

But the universities said the stricter benchmark could lead to a teacher shortage.

"Introducing entry requirements such as this ignore the well-documented fact that input measures are very poor predictors of graduate success and teacher quality," chief executive of Universities Australia Belinda Robinson said.

The Australian Council of Deans of Education warned the moves could add "significant layers of complexity, review and costs" to initial teacher education courses.

New measures would also be put in place to remove more quickly and de-register teachers who did not meet the professional teaching standards.

Mr Piccoli said the government's response had not been prescriptive about how this would take place, as different sectors had different industrial-relations arrangements.

"Within the government sector I can say it is something of a difficult and cumbersome process for principals so there are things we need to do to make the process shorter and more predictable," he said.

Laura Robinson, a primary teacher at Croydon Public, did not rely on HSC marks to become a teacher, but studied a master of teaching as a mature-age student.

She said raising the bar for high-school graduates entering teacher education "can't be a bad thing". But, she said, it was not the solution to lifting education standards. "Funding is the answer. We need to raise the bar within schools before we focus on graduates," she said.

The year 3 teacher was in her fourth year in the job and said it was a balancing act. "You're trying to do your best but, if you've got a budget of $150 a year for your class, that doesn't really work."


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Hostility to homeschoolers in the Obama admin.

Some sentences are made of words while others are made of jail time. And home-schooling families focused on the former kind of sentences are increasingly finding themselves under the threat of the latter—even in America.

For example, consider Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, the Christian couple who fled Germany in 2008 after the government levied them with heavy fines and even once had their children removed from their home and placed in foster care all because they home-school.

Germany bars parents from educating children at home even when the children flourish in that environment. Applying laws actually enacted during the Nazi period of the 1930s, Germany has long been at war against home-schooling families—even sentencing some parents to jail terms for teaching their children at home.

The Romeike were granted asylum in the United States in 2010, and they have peacefully lived in Tennessee and educated their outstanding children at home ever since. Uwe and Hannelor teach their children at home for religious reasons and by every standard their children are thriving.

But their German nightmare has begun all over again with Attorney General Eric Holder taking the position that German laws against home schooling did not violate the family’s “fundamental rights” to educate their children at home and therefore were not sufficient grounds for asylum.

Holder ignores the fact that several million children are home-educated in the United States every day and in every state, and virtually all home-educating parents would argue that they are exercising a fundamental right as parents to oversee the education of their own children. He also ignores settled Supreme Court precedent establishing both religious and parental grounds to home-educate children.

The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security has also lined up against the Romeikes, as has the Board of Immigration Appeals. Of course, the virulent opposition of the public school teachers union—a core Obama administration financial and voting constituency—to the Romeike’s asylum request cannot be understated.

The teachers unions, as most people who follow these issues know, is in a bloody knife-fight to kill home education in the United States.

The stakes are extraordinarily high. The Romeikes have five school-age children the German government will likely snatch from their home if forced to return. And, of course, there are also the fines and jail sentences hanging like the Sword of Damocles over their heads.

All of this because the parents have decided that the better course for their children is home education.

The Romeikes are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to give them permanent refugee status. The Home School Legal Defense Association says it could take a full year for the circuit court to rule.

The significance of this case will become even more obvious as the political agenda of the Obama administration and its teachers union allies clash with the fundamental right of parents to determine how their own children will be educated.

Every American should hope that the only sentences the Romeikes and their children face are the ones in text books.


The Coddling of College Hate Crime Hoaxers

Michelle Malkin

American college campuses are the most fertile grounds for fake hate. They're marinated in identity politics and packed with self-indulgent, tenured radicals suspended in the 1960s. In the name of enlightenment and tolerance, these institutions of higher learning breed a corrosive culture of left-wing self-victimization. Take my alma mater, Oberlin College. Please.

This week, the famously "progressive" college in Ohio made international headlines when it shut down classes after a series of purported hate crimes. According to the Oberlin Review (a student newspaper I once wrote for), anti-black and anti-gay vandalism/"hate speech" have plagued the campus since Feb. 9.

"'Whites Only' was written above a water fountain, 'N*gger Oven' was written inside the elevator, and 'No N*ggers' was written on a bathroom door" at one dormitory, according to the publication.

Swastikas and epithets were drawn on posters around the school. Activists implied the incidents were tied to Black History Month. The final straw? A menacing presence on campus who allegedly donned a "KKK hood" and robe near the segregated black dormitory known as "Afrikan Heritage House."

Oberlin President Marvin Krislov and three college deans ostentatiously published an "open letter" announcing the administration's decision to "suspend formal classes and non-essential activities." The campus body immediately jumped to conclusions and indulged in collective grievance-mongering. The New York Times, Black Entertainment Television and The Associated Press all piled on with angst-ridden coverage of the puzzling crimes at one of the first U.S. colleges to admit blacks and women.

Oberlin alumna Lena Dunham, a cable TV celebrity who starred in a pro-Obama ad likening her vote for him to losing her virginity, took to Twitter to rally her fellow "Obies." The Associated Press dutifully reported Dunham's plea as news: "Hey, Obies, remember the beautiful, inclusive and downright revolutionary history of the place you call home. Protect each other."

But what the AP public relations team for Dunham and the Oberlin mau-mau-ers didn't report is the rest of the story. While Blame Righty propagandists bemoaned the frightening persistence of white supremacy in the tiny town of Oberlin, city police told a local reporter that eyewitnesses saw no one in KKK garb -- but instead saw a pedestrian wearing a blanket. Yes, the dreaded Assault Blanket of Phantom Bias.

Moreover, after arresting two students involved in the spate of hate messages left around campus, police say "it is unclear if they were motivated by racial hatred or -- as has been suggested -- were attempting a commentary on free speech."

Color me unsurprised. The truth is that Oberlin has been a hotbed of dubious hate crime claims, dating back to the late 1980s and 1990s, when I was a student on campus. In 1988, giant signs reading "White Supremacy Rules (Kill All N*ggers)" and "White Supremacy Rules, (F*uck (slashed out and replaced with 'Kill') All Minorities)" were hung anonymously at the Student Union building. It has long been suspected that minority students themselves were responsible.

In 1993, a memorial arch on campus dedicated to Oberlin missionaries who died in the Boxer Rebellion was defaced with anti-Asian graffiti. The venomous messages -- "Death to Ch*nks Memorial" and "Dead ch*nks, good ch*nks" -- led to a paroxysm of protests, administration self-flagellation and sanctimonious resolutions condemning bigotry. But the hate crime was concocted by an Asian-American Oberlin student engaged in the twisted pursuit of raising awareness about hate by faking it, Tawana Brawley-style.

Segregated dorms, segregated graduations and segregated academic departments foster paranoid and selective race-consciousness. While I was on campus, one Asian-American student accused a library worker of racism after the poor staffer asked the grievance-mongering student to lower the blinds where she was studying. Call the Department of Justice!

A black student accused an ice cream shop owner of racism after he told the student she was not allowed to sit at an outside table because she hadn't purchased any items from his store. Alert the U.N. Commission on Human Rights!

In 2006, I went back to Oberlin to confront the campus with the hate crime hoax phenomenon. As I told students back then, liberals see racism where it doesn't exist, fabricate it when they can't find it and ignore it within their own ranks. I documented case after case of phony racism by students and faculty, from Ole Miss to Arizona State to Claremont McKenna, and contrasted it with the vitriolic prejudice that tolerant lefties have for minorities who stray from the political plantation.

The response from "students of color"? They took offense, of course, and characterized my speech as self-hating hate. Just as their coddling faculty and college elders have taught them to do.

I repeat: Mix identity politics, multicultural studies, cowardly administrators and biased media -- and you've got a toxic recipe for opportunistic hate crime hoaxes. Welcome to high-priced, higher mis-education, made and manufactured in the U.S.A.


Australia: Teachers angry over lost perk

The new conservative government is moving fast.  And Queensland is unicameral:  No pesky upper house to hold things up

QUEENSLAND is taking "a giant step backwards" in the classroom and defying world best practice by banning teachers from professional development during school time, national education experts warn.

Principal and teachers warn student learning will suffer in state schools as a result of the controversial move.

But Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says parents want to see their children have the same teacher throughout every school day and denies the move is a cost-cutting measure.

The State Government has sparked widespread concern and surprise by its decision to ban Professional Development (PD) during school time in state schools, amid a national focus on improving teacher quality in a bid to boost student results.

Grattan Institute school education program director Dr Ben Jensen said the ban was a giant step backwards.

"It goes against what the best schools in Australia are doing and what the best systems around the world are doing and directly runs against the idea that schools should operate in a way that continually improves learning and teaching, which should be our objective,'' Dr Jensen said.

He said schools needed to move towards a model in which professional learning was built in to how they operated daily, rather than running largely ineffective PD courses and workshop.

Professor Brian Caldwell, who was hired by the State Government in 2010 to provide a review of teacher education, backed Dr Jensen, saying PD was essential to boost teacher quality.

But Mr Langbroek said it was better for students if PD happened outside school time.  "Parents expect continuity with respect to teaching in the classroom," he said.

"For this reason the Government made the decision to limit professional development to the six pupil free days each year, school holidays or afternoons after school."

He said concerns had been raised about some instances in which it was difficult to do PD outside school hours and the Government was working towards "an appropriate solution'' around those.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said the six pupil free days for PD was not enough time given the introduction of new national curriculum, increasing technology and workplace demands.

"QASSP absolutely supports teacher continuity...however, If we are to improve student outcomes we have to improve teacher quality,'' Mrs Backus said.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said if the ban remained students would "miss out on a whole range of opportunities - not as a consequence of teachers not being willing to - but teachers not being able to deliver the newest educational practices and theories''.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Alabama passes school vouchers for students at failing schools, Dems erupt
Did they erupt in joy for the children who now have a real opportunity to choose success over failure?  Er, not exactly:

Republicans dropped a legislative bombshell tonight as they slammed through a dramatically revamped education bill that will give tax credits for families at “failing schools” to send their children to private school or another public school.

Lawmakers voted mid-day to send a school flexibility bill — that would let school systems seek waivers from some policies — to conference committee. The conference committee reported a dramatically different bill that included the flexibility measures plus what some lawmakers called school vouchers.

Republicans heralded it as a historic day for education and life-altering for children stuck in poorly performing schools. But tempers boiled over as Democrats called the maneuver “sleaziness” and a “bait and switch.”
Governor Robert Bentley insisted that this represented a step forward for children whose choices had been restricted to just the failing schools in the government education monopoly prior to the passage of the bill, which Bentley will sign next week:

The reaction on the state senate floor can be heard here, although it’s not easy to follow except to note the anger over the change in the bill.  “We’re going to help children in this state!” says one of the bill’s backers, over the repeated chant of “Point of order!” from one of its opponents.

Democrats in the legislature accused Republicans of “sleaziness” in pushing the school choice option for students in failing schools:

The move drew outrage from Democrats who said the plan was evidently in the works for some time.  “I’ve never seen such sleaziness,” Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said.

And consider the race card tossed:

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, as she was leaving the House chamber threw her hands over her head and shouted, “Welcome to the new confederacy where a bunch of white men are now going to take over black schools.”

Well, if the “black schools” are where students are failing, wouldn’t that set the black students free of that failure?  Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?  Why wouldn’t we want to give those students the same chance at success as other children in the state, rather than leave them locked into failing state-run institutions?

Our tipster on this story noted that the teachers union managed to block a more limited school-choice bill last year in Alabama, which is probably why the state GOP held their cards closer to the vest this time.  If Alabama voters agree that this was a sleazy maneuver, and the argument can certainly be made, then Republicans will suffer the consequences in the next election.  If, however, the parents of those children locked into failing schools value the educational possibilities for their children over the needs of the teachers union and the Democrats, the state GOP will reap a harvest of new voters.  I suspect that the latter will be much more true than the former.


Texas schools Rotten to the Core

Texas is a right-minded red state, where patriotism is still a virtue and political correctness is out of vogue. So how on earth have left-wing educators in public classrooms been allowed to instruct Lone Star students to dress in Islamic garb, call the 9/11 jihadists "freedom fighters" and treat the Boston Tea Party participants as "terrorists"?

Here's the dirty little secret: Despite the best efforts of vigilant parents, teachers and administrators committed to academic excellence, progressive activists reign supreme in government schools.

That's because curriculum is king. The liberal monopoly on the modern textbook/curricular market remains unchallenged after a half-century. He who controls the textbooks, teaching guides and tests controls the academic agenda.

That is how the propagandistic outfitting of students in Islamic garb came to pass in the unlikely setting of the conservative Lumberton, Texas, school district. As Fox News reporter Todd Starnes noted this week, a 32-year veteran of the high school led a world geography lesson on Islam in which hijab-wrapped students were banned from using the words "suicide bomber" and "terrorist" to describe Muslim mass murderers in favor of the term "freedom fighter."

Madelyn LeBlanc, one of the students in the class, "told Fox News that it was clear her teacher was very uncomfortable lecturing the students. 'I do have a lot of sympathy for her. ... At the very beginning, she said she didn't want to teach it, but it was in the curriculum.'"

But the headline-grabbing injection of moral equivalence into social studies and American history is just the tip of the education iceberg.

Top-down federalized "Common Core" standards are now sweeping the country. It's important to remember that while teachers-union control freaks are on board with the Common Core regime, untold numbers of rank-and-file educators are just as angered and frustrated as parents about the Big Ed power grab. The program was concocted not at the grassroots level, but by a bipartisan cabal of nonprofits (led by lobbyists for the liberal Bill Gates Foundation), statist business groups and hoodwinked Republican governors. As I've reported previously, this scheme, enabled by the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" funding mechanism, usurps local autonomy in favor of lesson content and pedagogical methods.

One teacher described a thought-control training seminar in her school district titled "Making the Common Core Come Alive." A worksheet labeled "COMMON CORE MIND SHIFTS" included the following rhetorical muck:

--The goal of curriculum should not be the coverage of content, but rather the discovery of content. ... If done well, Common Core will elevate our teaching to new heights, and emphasize the construction of meaning, while deepening our understanding of our students."

--"In our classrooms, it is the students' voices, not the teachers', that are heard."

Blah, blah, blah. In practice, Common Core evades transparency by peddling shoddy curricular material authored by anonymous committees. It promotes faddish experiments masquerading as "world-class" math and reading goals. Instead of raising expectations, Common Core is a Trojan horse for lowering them. California, for example, is now citing Common Core as a rationale for abandoning algebra classes for 8th graders. Common Core's "constructivist" approach to reading is now the rationale for abandoning classic literature for "informational texts."

Claims that Common Core bubbled up from the states are bass-ackward. A shady nonprofit group called "Achieve Inc.," stocked with federal-standards advocates who've been around since the Clinton years, designed the materials. They were rubber-stamped by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and subsidized by the Gates Foundation.

In states like Texas, which (SET ITAL) rejected (END ITAL) Common Core, similar secretive alliances prevail. The Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, a nonprofit group led by government officials, designed the "CSCOPE" curriculum now used in 80 percent of the state's schools. The state Board of Education, local schools and parents were denied access to the online CSCOPE curriculum database -- which was exempted from disclosure rules. In fact, dissemination of the lessons was considered a crime until earlier this month. Only after parents and teachers across the state blew the whistle on radical CSCOPE lesson plans (including designing a new flag for a socialist lesson) did the state take steps to rein in the CSCOPE zealots.

Grassroots activists in Indiana, Alabama, Utah and nearly a dozen other states are now educating themselves and their state legislatures about the centralized education racket, whether it's under the guise of Common Core or any other name. Last week, in response to a passionate parent-driven protest, the Indiana state Senate passed legislation to halt Common Core implementation. Anti-Common Core bills are moving through the Alabama state legislature, where lawmakers are especially concerned about how Common Core's intrusive database gathering would violate student privacy.

As Texas goes, so goes the nation. The fight against the federalization of academic standards is a national education Alamo.


Australian universities improve world standing

AUSTRALIAN universities have improved their international standing in the past year and now enjoy the third highest ranked reputation in the world.

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, to be released today, found Australian now lags only behind the US and UK, with six of our universities ranked in the Top 100.

In the past year, Australian universities outperformed the Netherlands, Japan and Germany, with two new entrants on the list _ Monash University in Victoria, and the University of NSW _ joining the four existing place holders.

The University of Melbourne improved its rank from 43 to 39 and Australian National University from 44 to 42. Sydney University rose one place to 49, and University of Queensland remained in the 80th percentile.

Times Higher Education editor Phil Baty said the reputation rankings have been held since 2011 and Australia has improved its standing at each survey.

The results are based on a global opinion poll and take into account more than 16,000 responses from senior published academics in 150 countries.

"Australia is a country very much on the way up in terms of worldwide academic prestige," Mr Baty said in a statement.

"In many ways these results show that Australia's image among scholars around the world is catching up with the reality: until now it has tended to perform less well in the reputation rankings compared with the overall, objective World University Rankings.

"These results show how well poised Australia is to make the most of its geographical advantages: while it has strong links with the best universities in the West, it has also made the most of East Asia's booming higher education scene. If it continues to exploit these opportunities, Australia could be a serious beneficiary of the Asian century, which is great news for its economy and competitiveness."

Monash University president Ed Byrne said in a statement: "Australia is ideally situation between the rising academic powerhouses of Asia and established centres in the old Westticipate a bright future."

UNSW Vice Chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer, put the institution's first-time inclusion down to a "very strong improvement path".

"When you look at the quality of the student intake, it's gone up every year. It's harder and harder to get in and if you look at research in particular, we are winning increasingly competitive grants," Professor Hilmer said.

Universities in the US and UK still hold the bulk of the top 100 positions, (43 in the US and nine in the UK) with an elite group of six "super-brands" including Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge, holding the top positions since the rankings' inception.

The highest ranking university outside of the US and UK is the University of Tokyo at 9th, while India and New Zealand are among the countries with no entrants on the Top 100 list. China's two most prestigious universities, Tsinghua University and Peking University, both dropped slightly in the rankings, but they remain in the Top 50.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Nobody is mentioning race here but I would not be surprised if the real problem was a white student tackling a black student.  We must be "even-handed", you know. 

A Florida high school student wrestled a loaded gun away from another teen on the bus ride home this week and was slapped with a suspension in return.

The 16-year-old Cypress Lake High student in Fort Myers, Fla. told WFTX-TV there was “no doubt” he saved a life after grappling for the loaded .22 caliber revolver being aimed point-blank at another student on Tuesday.

“I think he was really going to shoot him right then and there,” said the suspended student, not identified by WFTX because of safety concerns. “Not taking no pity.”

The student said the suspect, a football player, threatened to shoot a teammate because he had been arguing with his friend.

Authorities confirmed to WFTX the weapon was indeed loaded, and the arrest report stated the suspect, identified by WVZN-TV as Quadryle Davis, was “pointing the gun directly” at the other student and “threatening to shoot him.”

That’s when, the teen told the station, he and two others tackled the suspect and wrestled the gun away. The next day, all three were suspended.

“How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?” he asked.

The school’s referral slip said he was given an “emergency suspension” for being involved in an “incident” with a weapon. Lee County School District spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said in a statement that “If there is a potentially dangerous situation, Florida law allows the principal to suspend a student immediately pending a hearing.”

“Those kids had to fight for their lives,” the mother of the suspended teen said. “All the kids that was involved in this they should have a pat on their backs because they did the right thing to save someone from burying their child.”

The suspended teen is allowed to go back to school Monday.

Meanwhile, the student accused of pointing the weapon has been charged only with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon “without intent” to kill.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation is ongoing and that the charges are “based on our findings at this time.


CA: Santa Rosa Diocese requires its teachers to reject 'modern errors'

A Catholic organization wants its employees to be Catholic!  How "insensitive" of it!

The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is requiring its 200 schoolteachers to sign an agreement affirming that "modern errors" such as contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are "matters that gravely offend human dignity."

The move is an effort by Bishop Robert Vasa to delineate specifically what it means for a Catholic-school teacher -- whether Catholic or not -- to be a "model of Catholic living" and to adhere to Catholic teaching.

That means means abiding by the Ten Commandments, going to church every Sunday and heeding God's words in thought, deed and intentions, according to a private church document that is an "addendum" to language in the current teachers' contract.

In his two years as Santa Rosa's bishop, Vasa has attempted to bring his strict interpretation of church doctrine to a diocese that historically has had a more tolerant approach.

But some teachers fear the addendum is an invasion of their private lives and a move toward imposing more rigid Catholic doctrine.  "Personally, it's probably something that I can't sign," said a teacher at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa.

John Collins, the diocese superintendent, said the contract language is not an effort to drive certain teachers away or "provoke" them. He said about 25 percent of the teachers are non-Catholic.

"People are being invited to grow in an understanding and appreciation and embrace of the Catholic faith," he said.

He said he did not expect that many teachers would reject the document, which they must sign if they are to return for the 2013-2014 school year.

The teacher, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, said he has not made a final decision whether or not to sign the document.


Only Half of First-Time College Students Graduate in 6 Years

As we’ve covered here many times before, there is an abundance of evidence showing that going to college is worth it. But that’s really only true if you go to college and then graduate, and the United States is doing a terrible job of helping enrolled college students complete their educations.

A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center digs deeper into these graduation rates. It finds that of the 1.9 million students enrolled for the first time in all degree-granting institutions in fall 2006, just over half of them (54.1 percent) had graduated within six years. Another 16.1 percent were still enrolled in some sort of postsecondary program after six years, and 29.8 percent had dropped out altogether.

As you can see, many of the students who ultimately graduated did so at a different institution than the one where they had originally enrolled. Of the whole cohort of 2006 matriculants, 42 percent graduated where they had first enrolled, and another 9.1 percent graduated from a place to which they had transferred.

The graduation and transfer rates varied greatly by state, and by the type of institution in which the student first enrolled. In Minnesota, for example, 27 percent of students who enrolled at four-year public institutions graduated at a different school within six years. That was the highest share for any state in this metric.

A small share of students (3.2 percent) who started out at four-year schools ended up receiving their first degree or certificate instead from a two-year school, with rates above 5 percent in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. On the other hand, 9.4 percent of all students who initially enrolled at a two-year public institution received their first degree at a four-year school.

The report also looked at the state-level completion rates for students who are “traditional” (that is, age 24 and younger) versus “nontraditional” or “adult” (over age 24).

Not surprisingly, in almost every state, traditional-age students starting at public four-year schools had higher completion rates than nontraditional-age students. The smallest gap was in Arizona (1 percentage point, 68.4 percent of traditional students graduating versus 67.6 percent of adult students) and the highest was in Vermont (42 percentage points, 74.3 percent versus 32.2 percent).


Monday, March 04, 2013

FL: Christian student organization, Rollins College embroiled in dispute

The Knowles Memorial Chapel is an interdenominational chapel on the picturesque campus of Rollins College in Winter Park.  It's one of the places college leaders used to allow members of a Christian student organization to meet.

Last Friday, the college said it would no longer designate a meeting place for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter and its 15 or so members, because the college no longer recognizes the group as an official campus organization.  The board of trustees cited that the group was in violation of the school's non-discrimination policy.

Intervarsity has been on the campus, in some form, for nearly four decades, according to group leaders.  Last November, the college put the group on notice that it was in violation of the school policy, because of the group's requirement that its leaders be Christians.

The group recently asked the college for an exemption to the policy as a religious organization, but it was denied.

"When you create a non-discrimination policy that effectively excludes students from campus -- marginalizes the Christian students -- the policy is failing to accomplish what Rollins itself wants to do," Intervarsity Christian Fellowship National Field Director Greg Jao told FOX 35.  "We hope that will become clear to the administration and they'll reconsider."

But the college's board of trustees says not so.  "Such exceptions would be inconsistent with the process of learning and growth that the college seeks to foster," read an excerpt from a decision statement released by the board last week.

Director of Public Affairs for Rollins College Lauren Bradley said that, as an unofficial organization, the school will not provide meeting space for Intervarsity members and will not provide any funding, though this group has never received any money, group leaders tells us.

But the group can still meet on its own and will continue to do just that.

"The group exists to promote a religious viewpoint.  To say, 'Well, any student, in theory, should be eligible to lead that religious group,' makes no sense whatsoever," said Jao.

InterVarsity national leaders say they will continue to try to work with the college's administration.


College Shuts Down Student Bible Study

Officials at a Florida college ordered a group of students to shut down a Bible study they were holding in the privacy of a dorm room – because it violated the rules.

The incident occurred at Rollins College in the midst of a campus battle over whether religious groups that require their leaders to follow specific religious beliefs are violating the school’s non-discrimination policies.

Four students affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship were holding an informal Bible study in the common area of a dorm suite. Midway through the study, a resident hall assistant entered the room and asked the student leading the study to step outside.

“He was told they were no longer allowed inside the dorm – even with the express consent of the students to do Bible studies,” said Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s national field director. “They said it was because InterVarsity was no longer a registered student group on campus.”

The well-known Christian ministry was de-recognized as an official campus organization after they refused to comply with the college’s non-discrimination policy.

The Christian group has a policy that mandates their leaders be followers of Christ. The college believes that policy violates their non-discrimination policy.

The strong-arm tactics of the college frightened several members of the Bible study group. But several agreed to tell their story – so long as they remained anonymous. The young collegians were fearful of backlash from college officials.

“I’m so disappointed in the decision that was made to do that,” one student told me “We do love this campus. That’s why we are involved in student ministry here. There’s a great feeling of disappointment because we do feel like this decision is not in the spirit of open dialogue and diversity that we know Rollins upholds as a core belief.”

Jao tells me that the students took their concerns to Student Affairs. He said they compared it to kicking a fraternity off campus but still being allowed to sponsor parties.

“We pointed out that Christian students holding a Bible study is a little bit different than a fraternity sponsoring a kegger in a dorm,” Jao said. “If students want to have a Bible study they should be free to do so.”

A Rollins spokesperson told Fox News that the rule was simply a miscommunication.

“No group is allowed to hold meetings in the common space of residence halls,” the spokesperson said. “A fraternity was recently in violation of this as well, and they were asked to meet elsewhere – so it was not just InterVarsity.”

But Jao said the college is sending a message to Christian students – they are not welcomed. “The challenge is that InterVarsity students are feeling somewhat targeted in ways that no other religious group would be,” he said. “You don’t get much more quiet than four students meeting together to study the Bible.”

And in the aftermath of last week’s decision by the college to not exempt religious groups from their nondiscrimination policy – other Christian organizations are getting nervous.

“Christian students certainly feel marginalized and unwelcome,” Jao told Fox News. “Whether it’s intended or not – that’s the message the students have received.

He said at least one other Christian group has been de-recognized. The college’s Catholic student group is also worried about the ruling.

“They want to know how it will affect Catholic students,” Jao said – fearing de-recognition. “I think they see it’s in the cards.”

“This kind of policy leaves open the door for lots of further consequences as far as expulsion and demands on ministries,” the student told Fox News.

“By and large they are saying this group of students isn’t wanted in the greater conversation on campus,” another student added.

Rollins College doesn’t want a dialogue. They don’t want to have a conversation. They want Christian groups to change their religious beliefs – or face expulsion.

This is the same type of anti-Christian intolerance we’ve seen at the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University.

Clearly, the actions of the Rollins College diversity police were not only out of line – but they were unconstitutional. And I suspect it’s only the beginning of greater injustices.

I’m surprised they don’t make the Christian students drink from separate water fountains


Indoctrination? Houston Public School Assembly Slams Bush and Heaps Praise on Obama

The Katherine Smith Elementary School in Houston held an assembly on Tuesday. The program — which was forwarded to Houston radio host Joe Pags — was innocently titled, “A Dream Come True – Living in the present by remembering the past and looking forward to the future.”

According to the program, the show featured three cast members — one student acting as a speaker and two as Michelle and Barack Obama, and students singing seven songs. As you might expect from the title of the show, and the image below (also from the cover page), most of the songs are a salute to civil rights heroes like Rosa Parks and Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr. But there is also considerable adoration heaped upon President Obama.
Houston School Assembly Sounds Like Obama Indoctrination

While the majority of the program might be considered to be an over-the-top tribute to President Obama, the very first song, “Feels Like Change” actually takes a shot at President Bush.

The rest of the songs, as they were performed:

I Have A Dream – Dr. King is the complete focus of this song.

It’s A New Day – This song sounds more like something that was sung the morning after Obama’s first win in 2008.

I Believe – Another song with lyrics that seem to come from 2008 and the days leading up to and just after the election.

This One’s For You – This song is a complete tribute or salute to President Obama.

Following that Obama tribute was another song that tied the president to Rosa Parks and Dr. King.

“Rosa Sat” is quoted on the front page of the program and includes an oft-repeated refrain:

    Rosa sat so Martin could walk

    Martin walked so Barack could Run

    Barack ran, he ran and he won

    So that all our children could fly

Those words are repeated six times during the song. But there are some other verses that have raised eyebrows from parents:

    Thousands of people that November night.

    All of us here were for the long fight.

    Now we’re as one,

    Creating a new nation.

    Join together in celebration

By having students sing “all of us here were for the long fight” assumes that 100% of the children were supporters of the president. Were they? Additionally, some parents have asked about the line saying, “Now we’re as one, creating a new nation.”

TheBlaze has contacted the Katherine Smith Elementary School several times, requesting an interview with Principal Salazar.  As of this writing, Ms. Salazar has not responded to this request. We have also asked Terry Greer, the Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District to comment on the topic.

As this story was going to press, we received the following response from Superintendent Greer’s spokesperson.

    "The song lyrics you received were used as part of an after-school PTO program celebrating Black History Month at the school.  Students who participated had signed permission slips from their parents to participate in this after-school event.  They danced to the music, but did not sing or otherwise recite the lyrics.

 Copies of the lyrics were given to the parents, but not the students.   This program was organized by three first-year teachers, who mistakenly failed to get the principal’s approval to distribute the song lyrics.  After reviewing the lyrics, the principal agrees that some of the songs were overly political and should not have been included in the program. 

The teachers who coordinated the program have been reminded that materials such as this must receive prior approval by the principal in the future.  The principal apologizes to those who may have been offended by some of the lyrics that were included in the PTO program.


Ignorance about British literature among British literature students

Largely due to hostility to "dead white males" among their teachers

Top A-level English students are turning up at university believing that Charles Dickens is ‘just as old’ as William Shakespeare, an academic has warned.

They can’t place major works of literature in their historical context and fear being stretched, preferring to stick to easier texts they’ve already read during their sixth form studies.

This is despite the fact they’ve gained three As at A-level, including English, according to Professor Helen Fulton, head of York University’s English and Related Literature department.

The professor of medieval literature highlighted a ‘retreat from difficulty’ among some students who prefer to read short or computer based texts rather than traditional narratives with a beginning, middle and end.

Professor Fulton spoke out at a Westminster Education Forum seminar, where critics described the Coalition’s new English national curriculum as ‘impoverished’ and based on the works of ‘dead white males’.

The Government has scrapped a list of suggested authors At Key Stage Three (ages 11 to 14) and Key Stage Four (14-16).

At Key Stage Four, pupils must study two plays by Shakespeare; representative Romantic poetry; a 19th century novel; First World War poetry; British fiction, poetry or drama since WW1 and world literature written in English.

The Government also lists how they should be taught to ‘read for understanding’ such as by ‘distinguishing between main and subsidiary themes and summarising texts’.

Professor Fulton criticised the Key Stage Four curriculum, saying it ‘seems to emphasise skills rather than knowledge’.

She said: ‘I would have thought it should be the other way round at Key Stage Four.

‘By then, you would expect the skills to be there and you actually want to start broadening the knowledge of the students in terms of the range of texts and the historical development of language in literature as well so there’s some clear sense of chronology.

‘Many students come (here) thinking Dickens is just as old as Shakespeare because they’re all in the past and getting that sense of chronology and literary history is something that we have to work at.’

Professor Fulton said she presided over a ‘very high performing’ English department, which has eight applicants for every place.

It relies on good A-level preparation’ and has to ‘take for granted’ that students ‘come with particular skills and knowledge that we can then build on’.

Professor Fulton said that ‘by and large, we’re not disappointed’ but some students are ‘reluctant’ to stray out of their comfort zone and prefer to take easier options.

This is despite the fact that the department introduces them to different material such as medieval literature and ‘unusual texts from different periods’.

She said: ‘We do have some worries about the tendency towards a retreat from difficulty, for example students feeling slightly reluctant to be stretched, slightly reluctant to go outside their comfort zone because they’re afraid they won’t be able to write on something they’re not familiar with.’

Some students believe it will take too long to learn something new and it’s ‘much easier to dash something off on a Shakespeare play that they’ve already studied for A-level’.

She said: ‘So that retreat from difficulty is something that we’re trying to come to terms with and trying to nurture the confidence of students in working with material they’re not familiar with.

‘We’re also very aware of the impending death of narrative.

‘It does seem to be a tendency that students are consuming texts that are not basically narratives in the classic realist sense of having a beginning, a middle and end and a bit of plot development and character development.

'Again that’s something that we’re trying to manage and deal with. I’m sure it’s the same in A-level classes as well.’

Professor Fulton added that A-level students should be aware of contemporary literature and know, for example, the Booker prize winners.

Meanwhile, Dr Simon Gibbons, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) told the seminar that the government’s plans for English in secondary schools is too narrow and old fashioned.

He said the new curriculum was a ‘pretty impoverished version of what English is’, with a narrow range of reading containing a canon of ‘dead white males’.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Texas Teen Suing School District After She Was Punished for Not Reciting Mexican National Anthem in Class‏

Brenda Brinsdon, interviewed by Fox News in 2011, is suing her Texas school district after she said she was punished for refusing to recite the Mexican national anthem pledge of allegiance in class.

A Texas high school student has filed suit against her school district, claiming she was punished for refusing to recite the Mexican national anthem and pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment.

Brenda Brinsdon, then 15, told TheBlaze exclusively in 2011 that students in her intermediate Spanish class were instructed to recite the Mexican anthem and pledge individually in front of their peers at Achieve Early College High School in McAllen, Texas. Brinsdon refused, telling TheBlaze at the time that “Reciting pledges to Mexico and being loyal to it has nothing to do with learning Spanish.” She also provided TheBlaze with video she recorded of students taking part in the assignment.

As an alternative task to reciting the pledge and anthem, she was assigned an essay on the history of the Mexican revolution — an assignment for which she received a failing grade.

According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday, Brinsdon was not allowed to return to the Spanish class after her story received media coverage. She was made to sit in the office each day instead of attend class and ultimately failed the course.

She is suing the McAllen Independent School District, principal Yvette Cavazos and teacher Reyna Santos for violating her constitutional right to freedom of speech and equal protection under the law — according to the suit, the district has a policy to excuse students from saying the American pledge of allegiance if they object, but not if they oppose pledging to another country.

“The plaintiff has been punished for being a patriotic American,” attorney Erin Mersino told TheBlaze Thursday. Mersino is with the Thomas More Law Center, which filed the suit on the Brinsdon family’s behalf. “She has been punished for not pledging her loyalty to a different country which used to be determined to be treason, now a person is given an alternative assignment and given a failing grade and is kicked out of class for doing so.”

Mersino said they want a judgement from the court saying the school district was wrong and preventing something similar from happening to another student. Brinsdon herself is half-Mexican, with an American father and a mother who immigrated to the U.S. She still attends the school as a junior.

“This truly is a case about a teenager who’s a patriot, who is a true American,” Mersino said. “She did the right thing by following her conscience and not doing what her teacher was compelling her to do by pledging her loyalty to a different country to which she is not loyal.”

A representative from the McAllen Independent School District did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze.

In 2011, a district spokesman defended the pledge assignment, telling TheBlaze it was “simply spreading the culture of another country.”


Duncan the liar

The descriptions of the post-sequester landscape that have been coming out of the Obama Administration have been alarming, specific--and, in at least some cases, hyped.

“There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

When he was pressed in a White House briefing Wednesday to come up with an example, Duncan named a single county in West Virginia and acknowledged, “whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know.”

And, as it turns out, it isn’t.

Officials in Kanawha County, West Virginia say that the “transfer notices” sent to at least 104 educators had more to do with a separate matter that involves a change in the way West Virginia allocates federal dollars designated for poor children.

The transfer notices are required by state law and give teachers a warning that they may be moved to a different position next school year. They don’t necessarily mean a teacher has been laid off, said Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title 1 for the Kanawha County public schools. “It’s not like we’re cutting people’s jobs at this point.”

She said those 104 notices will ultimately result in the elimination of about five to six teaching jobs, which were likely to be cut regardless of the sequester.

“The major impact is not so much sequestration,” she said. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”

In addition, the county notified all of its Head Start teachers that they may be out of a job, not because of sequestration, but because the Obama administration had recently labeled the Kanawha County program “deficient”, a designation that requires it to compete for funding instead of getting an automatic renewal.

The county is assuming that it will not operate a Head Start program next year, one county official said, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk about the program.


Teacher at £13,000-a-year British girls' school was fired after taking hundreds of pictures on school trip using his OWN camera

British photography phobia again.  And he 'failed to follow procedure.'  How awful!

A respected teacher at a prestigious £13,000 pounds-a-year girls' school was sacked for taking hundreds of photographs of a school trip on his own camera, a tribunal heard today.

Christopher Hammond, long-standing head of German at the elite Abbey School, was dismissed because he used his own camera to take the pictures rather than following guidelines to use a school-owned device or memory card.

While none of the content of the images was said to be indecent, Mr Hammond was dismissed following the episode as he had 'failed to follow procedure.'

The camera enthusiast deliberately flouted well-known school rules prohibiting such conduct despite previous warnings about his behaviour, the headteacher who dismissed him claimed.

Mr Hammond today took his case for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and age discrimination against the Abbey School, Reading, Berkshire, to an employment tribunal.

The school denies the claims. The tribunal heard how Hammond joined the independent school in September 2000 and was dismissed on May 20 2011.

As the head of the German languages department he was responsible for organising trips to the European country and also co-ordinated exchange visits with German students.

Mr Hammond also ran the school's Duke of Edinburgh award scheme participation and would accompany pupils on expeditions, often in sole charge of groups, the tribunal was told.

It was alleged that during a week-long trip to Germany in April 2011 he took 870 photographs of pupils, documenting the trip.

Abbey School headmistress Barbara Stanley told the tribunal that safeguarding pupils' personal data was paramount and Mr Hammond's conduct merited dismissal.

Barrister Oliver Hyams, representing Mr Hammond, described the former Abbey School teacher as a keen amateur photographer who had  'come quite late to the revolution in digital photography,' adding: 'He was an enthusiast about Germany and going there on trips, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, teaching and photography.'

He also said Mr Hammond could appear set in his ways or old-fashioned.

Headteacher Mrs Stanley, who qualified as a teacher in 1973, said that schools had to take 'the utmost care' in safeguarding information about pupils.

In her evidence to the tribunal in Reading, Berkshire, she said: 'As information technology - digital cameras, the internet and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter - has evolved, it has become far easier for information such as photographs and videos to be shared.

'As a result, schools must now do everything within their power to ensure that personal data about pupils - including, for example, photographs - are used, stored and transmitted appropriately.'

The school has a strict ICT policy for staff which is kept under regular review by deputy head Kathryn Macaulay, said Mrs Stanley, referring to Department for Education guidance stating that photographs taken of pupils for school purposes must be taken and stored on school-owned equipment and never by teachers' own equipment.

Mrs Stanley, who has been a headteacher for the last 18 years with 11 of those at The Abbey, said she had suspended Mr Hammond during a phone call on May 4 2011.

On the same day she sent a letter to Mr Hammond detailing the allegations against him, which were that he had breached school policies and refused to follow an instruction from his line manager by carrying on taking pictures when told not to.

She also contacted the police on the advice of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), she said.

Just over a week later, on May 12 2011, Mrs Stanley said she met with Mr Hammond and a trade union representative acting on his behalf.

'There was virtually no factual dispute,' said Mrs Stanley, a former geography teacher. He accepted that he had been provided with a school camera for use on the trip.

'When asked, by his own representative, why he had not used it, he said that he had not brought it with him.

'He accepted that he had taken pictures of pupils on his own camera. He accepted that this was in direct contravention of the school's policies.

'He accepted that he was aware of the policy, having received updated safeguarding training less than a week before the incident. He accepted that he had downloaded these photographs onto his personal computer.

'He accepted that he had refused to follow Mrs Byrne's instruction to stop taking photographs.

'He accepted that he had breached the acceptable use policy but said he did not see anything wrong with using his own camera.'

Mrs Stanley said she thought 'long and hard' before dismissing Mr Hammond, adding: 'I bore in mind that the security and welfare of our pupils is our prime responsibility.'

The incident on the school trip in April 2011 was 'not the first or even second incident of this sort,' said Mrs Stanley.

'I consider that it would have been disproportionate to dismiss without giving the claimant a chance to demonstrate that he could follow the policy.

'However, at the time of his dismissal the claimant had been warned on about five occasions not to take photos of school pupils on his own camera over a 12-month period.

'This was despite the fact that the claimant was not only given a school camera to use but knew that all staff had been offered the option of a school memory card for his or her own camera.

'The claimant was warned formally in a meeting with his NASUWT rep on July 5 2010 and again following a disciplinary hearing in December 2010, when he was warned that further incidents could lead to dismissal.'

Mr Hammond had received training on child protection and safeguarding, she said, with the last session on April 8 2011 - less than a week before the trip which resulted in his sacking on grounds of gross misconduct.

Mrs Stanley added: 'I accept that it is unlikely that he personally would use these photos to cause harm but that is not the point.'

She said Mr Hammond's actions 'made it impossible for us ever to be completely sure he was suitable to work with children', prompting the school to alert the LADO.

She also said Mr Hammond had been receiving support as a teacher for several years and had displayed a 'flagrant failure to meet and sustain his targets' in the classroom.

'Many parents had become concerned and a selection of parental complaint letters and emails were submitted,' she added.

Mr Hyams told the tribunal Mr Hammond had been a keen photographer for 10 years at the time of the incident.  Pictures he had taken were even used by the school in publicity material, he said.

Mr Hammond had been provided with a camera from the school as well as an SD memory card and a USB card reader in advance of the trip, said Mr Hyams.

The equipment meant that any photographs taken using the camera could be downloaded onto any computer rather than just school machines, meaning the rules made 'no sense in practical terms,' Mr Hyams told Mrs Stanley.

She replied: 'It's because not everybody does act honourably that you have to have so many rules and regulations.'

Despite this, Mrs Stanley admitted she had given Mr Hammond permission to take photographs of a school trip on his own camera when they were both on a visit to Christmas markets in Aachen in 2010.

She told the tribunal: 'We were colleagues on a trip where I was trying to support him. I was there all the time he was with the girls, therefore I knew where the photographs were.'

Mrs Stanley added: 'We went through what he should have done and why he should have done it and I told him what he should do next time.'

Wearing a smart grey suit over a red jumper and a white shirt with a blue tie, bespectacled Mr Hammond of Canterbury, Kent, looked calm as he listened intently to the proceedings.

The Abbey School is a top independent day school for girls with more than 1,000 pupils aged between three years and 18 years old and is based in Kendrick Road, Reading, Berkshire.

A total of around 250 staff are employed at the institution.

The school, which was founded in 1887 and named after the previous school at The Abbey Gateway in Reading where Pride and Prejudice novelist Jane Austen had been a pupil, was ranked 57th in The Sunday Times top independent schools 2012.

Annual fees at the school cost up to £13,290 pounds.

The employment tribunal hearing in Reading, Berkshire continues before judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto and is scheduled to last for seven days.