Friday, March 22, 2013

Dems Vote to Punish School Children

On pretty much a party line vote, Democrats rejected Senator Coburn's proposal to shift other national heritage funding so as to restore White House tours for taxpayers -- the people who, in fact, subsidize the operation of what is supposedly "the people's house." (See here).  Had the positions of the parties been reversed, no doubt most of the MSM would be trumpeting headlines like that above.

The GOP should be trumpeting that fact to everyone who will listen.  Every time Democrats do this, we should be asking why there seems to be money, for example, for the President to throw swanky St. Patrick's Day parties for the elite and connected -- like Chris Matthews (See here) -- but no Democrat can seem to find a way to let school children into The White House.

If Republicans are serious about improving their standing with normal Americans, it's a good time to start pointing out that the party of Big, powerful government is the party that fosters exactly the kind of cronyism and insider dealing that should be anathema to a free people.  Democrats loooove to talk about insider dealing on Wall Street -- but we have an alphabet soup of agencies designed to inhibit and punish that kind of self-dealing.  In contrast, at the moment, there seems to be no Democrat in the Senate who is at all disturbed at the patent self-dealing practiced by the government class at the expense of the people.

Now that's a message to take to the country.


University Could be Defunded Over Sex Week

A group of Tennessee lawmakers is preparing to issue an ultimatum to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville – either defund the first-ever “Sex Week” or they will defund the university.

Lawmakers, alumni, and taxpayers are furious that the university allocated nearly $20,000 to fund a week-long salute to sex that included a poetry-reading lesbian bondage expert, a campus-wide condom scavenger hunt and seminars on—among other things – oral sex and lesbian erotica.

“We should be teaching these children what is important to learn so they can get jobs,” state Sen. Stacey Campfield told Fox News. “I don’t know what jobs they plan on getting if they’re having seminars on oral sex and bondage. I don’t see how that will help someone in their professional career – unless they plan on becoming a porn star.”

“This is truly an offense to the people of Tennessee,” State Rep. Susan Lynn said on the House floor. “I am offended for the people of my district at the University of Tennessee having sex week.”

A university spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that the nearly $20,000 event is being funded by student fees and university money.

The nearly $20,000 cost was covered by money given from specific academic programs “who see a common interest – from law, from sociology and from history.”

“The university is providing funding for this workshop because it covers a wide range of issues that are beneficial to our students,” the spokesperson said. “It’s tackling important topics related to sexual health, sexual identity, preventing sexual assault, gender roles and religion.”

State Sen. Stacey Campfield told Fox News he is beyond outraged.

“They’ve been trying to say it’s about safety and birth control,” he said. “These kids are supposed to be some of the smartest kids out there – and they don’t know where to buy condoms?”

Campfield called Sex Week “completely ridiculous.”

“If they can’t figure out where to buy condoms, I question whether they need to be in college in the first place – if they’re that stupid.”

Campfield has summoned university officials to the state capitol to explain why they signed off on the event. And he’s also going to try and withhold the university’s budget until they get answers.

“The university always cries poor-mouth, that they don’t have any money and yet they seem to have plenty of money to do this kind of stuff,” he said. “We’re going to try and hold their budget until it gets squared away.”

“This is not what tax dollars should be supporting,” he said.

Sex Week is scheduled for April 7-12 and includes 30 events including “Getting Laid,” “Sex Positivity; Queer as a Verb,” “Bow Chicka Bow Woah,” “How to talk to Your Parents About Sex,” “Loud and Queer,” and “How Many Licks Does it Take…” – a workshop about oral sex.

The university spokesperson said the student organizers did a good job making sure there are things to appeal to all students.

Noted lesbian bondage expert and erotica author Sinclair Sexsmith is scheduled to deliver a lecture titled, “Messing Around with Gender."

UT student Brianna Rader, one of the founders of Sex Week, told Fox News that Sexsmith will not be engaging in lesbian bondage demonstrations during her appearance.

“She’s doing a workshop on poetry about sexuality,” Rader said. ‘She’s also going to be talking about constructing and reconstructing gender roles in society.”

The content of sex week prompted Rep. Bill Dunn to express his outrage on the House floor. “It’s debauchery,” he told Fox News. “They are treating sex in such a frivolous manner.”

Dunn, who graduated from the University of Tennessee, said he’s been overwhelmed with phone calls from angry citizens.

“I don’t think they approve of the university using their resources to push forth a hook-up agenda,” he said.

Dunn said he’s been in touch with university officials who told him they’ve already launched an internal inquiry into who ultimately gave the thumbs up for the event.

“There’s going to be an investigation as to whose thumb was up,” he said. “I’m not sure the president of the university was aware of what happened.”

Dunn said he was motivated to speak out after the House passed three bills dealing with human trafficking of children.

“Society needs to understand you are going to reap what you sow,” he said. “If you turn sex into some kind of a game – and toys and debauchery – does it really shock you that people then take it to the step of ‘Hey, kids are just sex toys that we buy and sell and we get our pleasure however we want to?’”

Dunn said it’s time for university presidents across the state to buck up and have the courage to say certain things are inappropriate.

“It’s time for them to stand up,” he said. “There are adults who need to grow up and act like adults and lead young people toward what is good and health – as opposed to promoting stuff that leads to the breakdown of the family and sexual abuse.”

Campfield said the inmates are running the asylum.

“They say it’s all about diversity,” he told Fox News. “Well, perversity does not make diversity just because it’s at the university.”


Revealed: Socialist links of academics trying to sabotage British reforms of the school curriculum

A coalition of Left-wing academics yesterday tried to sabotage Michael Gove's reform of the national curriculum by claiming it would doom children to 'failure and demoralisation'.  The group warned that 'mountains of data' pupils are expected to learn will 'severely erode educational standards'.

The 'endless lists of spelling, facts and rules' will narrow the experience of learning, they said, as it does not allow children to develop 'problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity'.

They argued that the Education Secretary's blueprint for education in England will lead to a 'dumbing down' of standards.

The blistering attack appeared in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent yesterday.

But it quickly became clear the 100 academics – all of whom are professors of education or lecture in the subject at universities – were predominantly Left-wing ideologists with links to trade unions, socialists and the Labour Party.

The organiser of the letter, Terry Wrigley, a visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, is a regular contributor to publications Socialist Worker and Socialist Review.

Other signatories include Meg Maguire, professor of sociology and education at King's College London and a member of the Hillcole Group of Radical Left Educators, and Professor Dave Hill, a professor in education at Anglia Ruskin University who has been a general election candidate for Labour and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

A source close to Mr Gove accused the group of bringing about the 'systematic devaluation of exams' by 'peddling unscientific nonsense about the curriculum' for decades.

The academics said high-achieving education systems, such as those in Finland and Massachusetts, promote 'critical understanding and creativity, not rote learning'. They claim English children would be under pressure to learn 'too much, too young'.

The new curriculum is intended to usher in a back-to-basics approach to education, described by Mr Gove as arming children with the 'fundamental building blocks' needed to learn.

In maths, children will begin fractions from the age of five and know their 12-times table by nine.

There will be a greater emphasis on grammar, spelling and punctuation in English, with poems recited in front of classmates from age five.

One of the most contentious subjects is history, which will cover events chronologically from the Stone Age to the Cold War. Critics have claimed the focus on key dates and characters risks creating a 'monochrome' list of goodies and baddies and will be biased towards white British men.

For the first time pupils will also learn an ancient or modern language from the age of seven. The curriculum is far shorter than the one introduced by Labour and was intended to give teachers more leeway in how they taught.

But the academics argued it 'betrays a serious distrust of teachers in its amount of detailed instructions'.

They wrote: 'Much of it demands too much, too young. This will put pressure on teachers to rely on rote learning without understanding. Inappropriate demands will lead to failure and demoralisation. The learner is largely ignored.'

The curriculum is out for consultation until April. So far, nearly 6,000 responses have been submitted.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Blob That Ate Children

 John Stossel

Shortly after I did my first TV special on education, "Stupid in America," hundreds of union teachers showed up outside my office to yell at me. They were angry because I said union rules were a big reason American kids don't learn.

The union is a big reason kids don't like school and learn less. Union contracts limit flexibility, limit promotion of good teachers, waste money and make it hard for principals to fire even terrible teachers.

But I was wrong to imply that the union is the biggest problem. In states with weak unions, K-12 schools stagnate, too.

Education reformers have a name for the resistance: the education "Blob." The Blob includes the teachers unions, but also janitors and principals unions, school boards, PTA bureaucrats, local politicians and so on.

They hold power because the government's monopoly on K-12 education eliminates most competition. Kids are assigned to schools, and a bureaucracy decides who goes where and who learns what. Over time, its tentacles expand and strangle attempts to reform. Since they have no fear of losing their jobs to competitors, monopoly bureaucrats can resist innovation for decades.

As one advocate of competition put it, the Blob says: "We don't do that here. We have to requisition downtown. We got to get four or five people to sign off; the deputy director of curriculum has to say this is OK, etc." Most reformers just give up.

The Blob insists the schools need more money, but that's a myth. America tripled spending per student since I was in college without improving student achievement.

In Los Angeles, they spent half a billion dollars to build the most expensive school in America. They planted palm trees, put in a swimming pool and spent thousands of new dollars per student.

The school is beautiful, but how's the education? Not so good. The school graduates just 56 percent of its students.

Three schools in Oakland that Ben Chavis started aren't as fancy, but the students do better. They get top test scores. And Chavis doesn't just take the most promising or richest students, as teachers unions often claim competitive schools do. Chavis' schools take kids from the poorest neighborhoods.

So what does the education Blob decide to do? Shut his schools down.

School board members don't like Chavis. I understand why. He's obnoxious. Arrogant. He probably broke some rules. For example, he's accused of making a profit running his schools. Horrors! A profit!

If he did profit, I say, so what? He still got top test results with lessgovernment money. Good for him!

But the Blob doesn't like success that's outside its monopoly. It doesn't matter that Chavis has now resigned from the school's board. Oakland may still close his schools. Think about that. As measured by student achievement, his schools are the best. But the Blob doesn't care. And the Blob has the power of government behind it.

In New York City, the union teachers protesting outside my office said: "Our rules are good and necessary, and if cities would let us train teachers and run schools, we'd do a great job. ... We have the expertise, intelligence, the experience to do what works for children."

They said if charter schools must exist, the union should run one, and they "would create a school where all parents would want to send their children." So New York City gave the United Federation of Teachers a charter school of its own. The union boss called it an "oasis."

But what happened? Today, the teachers union school is one of New York's worst. It got a "D" on its city report card. Only a third of its students read at grade level. And the school still lost a million dollars.

Yet it's the union's model school! I assume they tried their best, staffed it with some of their best teachers. The union knew we were watching. But with union rules, and the Blob's bureaucracy, they failed miserably.

I really want to ask them why they hate competition, but they won't come on my Fox television show.


Federal Direct Student Loans Up Nearly Fivefold Under Obama

Shortly before Congress enacted the Obamacare law in March 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

When President Obama ultimately signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act -- one of the two bills comprising Obamacare -- he gave a speech celebrating one of its surprises: language that terminated the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program that allowed federally guaranteed student loans to be made in the private sector with private capital, thus giving the Federal Direct Student Loan (DL) program a monopoly over these loans.

As the Congressional Research Service has put it, this program makes the U.S. Treasury a "banker" for college students.

"The DL program uses a different administrative structure and draws on a different source of capital than was used in the FFEL program," said a CRS report published on March 4. "Under the DL program, the federal government essentially serves as the banker -- it provides the loans to students and their families using federal capital (i.e., funds from the U.S. Treasury), and it owns the loans."

For Obama, this was the perfect arrangement -- allowing what he described as a redistribution wealth from banks to college students.

"For almost two decades, we've been trying to fix a sweetheart deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks to act as unnecessary middlemen in administering student loans," Obama said when he signed the bill at Northern Virginia Community College. "These are billions of dollars that could have been spent helping more of our students attend and complete college, that could have been spent advancing the dreams of our children, that could have been spent easing the burden of tuition on middle-class families. Instead, that money was spent padding student lenders' profits."

Last week, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Sen. Marco Rubio, who said he had just finished paying off more than $100,000 in student loans, presented a far different picture of the program.

"You should be very concerned about student loan debt," he said. "It is the next big bubble in America."

So, now that the U.S. Treasury is the banker for the federal student loan program, what is happening with student-loan debt?

The hard numbers can be found in the Monthly Treasury Statements (MTS). Table 6, Schedule E in these statements lists the account balances for federally guaranteed and direct loan programs.

In January 2000, according to the MTS, the balance of the Federal Direct Student Loan program was $51.643 billion. Over the next eight years, that nearly doubled, rising to $101.682 billion in January 2008.

In January 2009, the month Obama was inaugurated, the balance of the Federal Direct Student Loan program was $119.803 billion. In June 2010, the last month that private-sector lenders could make federally guaranteed student loans, the balance was $178.806 billion. In February 2013, the latest month reported, it was $588.048 billion.

The balance in Federal Direct Student Loan program has increased nearly fivefold under Obama.

And it continues to rapidly expand. "In FY 2013, ED (the Department of Education) estimates that 22.5 million new DL program Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans, averaging $5,366 each and totaling $120.8 billion, will be made to undergraduate and graduate students and the parents of undergraduate dependent students," said the CRS in its March 4 report.

It is not clear whether the government actually expects all of these students to repay these loans.

The CRS report describes numerous ways students can get out of paying back all they owe in a timely manner to the taxpayers.

For example, the loans offer an "Income-Based Repayment Plan" -- or IBR. "The IBR plan is designed to present borrowers the opportunity to make monthly payment amounts based on the relationship between their student loan debt and their income," said CRS. "It affords borrowers who experience prolonged periods of low income the prospect of debt forgiveness."

Then there is the "Income-Contingent Repayment Plan" -- or ICR. "Repayment according to the ICR plan also affords borrowers the opportunity to make loan payment amounts based on the relationship between their student loan debt and their income; and the prospect of debt forgiveness for those who experience prolonged periods with low incomes."

If these don't work, CRS says the secretary of education is authorized to "establish alternative payment plans for borrowers of DL program loans who demonstrate that they are unable to repay according to other available repayment plans due to exceptional circumstances."

Even some graduates who can afford to pay their debt to the taxpayers, CRS reports, can have "DL program loans forgiven, cancelled or repaid as an incentive for entering certain occupations or professions, or for performing certain types of public service."

The bottom line: As an increasing number of Americans borrow money directly from the U.S. Treasury for finance college, there will be an increasing interest among Washington politicians to forgive this debt and redistribute wealth not from bankers to students, but from people who never went to college, or who did and paid for it themselves, to people who attended college on the Obamacare plan.


Australia:  Victorian government caves in to teachers

HALF-day stop-work action is still planned for Victorian schools in term two despite a major backdown by the Napthine Government in the bitter teacher pay dispute.

But parents and teachers are optimistic a deal can be reached quickly to avert the industrial action after the Government scrapped its insistence that pay be linked to performance.

Premier Denis Napthine said the removal of the key sticking point in the ugly battle showed his "real commitment" to resolving the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement stalemate.

"The Government can announce today that it has decided to take discussions on performance pay off the table, and deal with this issue ... outside the current EBA processes," he said.

Dr Napthine said the Government was still committed to a merit-based pay system in the long run.

The head of the Australian Education Union in Victoria, Meredith Peace, said the backdown by the Government wouldn't mean an end to the industrial action.

This includes rolling half-day regional stoppages, set to hit schools in May and June, and a ban on teacher overtime, which has forced the cancellation of school camps, productions, sports and excursions outside school hours.

"We will stop campaigning when we get an agreement with the Government," Ms Peace said. "This doesn't resolve the dispute.

"There are a number of outstanding issues ... salaries is one of those, workload, class sizes, the high level of contract employment."

The union and Government will meet again today to discuss the issues.

The AEU in November reduced its pay claim to 12.6 per cent over three years, while the Government offered 2.5 per cent a year plus performance pay.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said industrial action was hurting parents and small businesses that ran camps and other extra-curricular activities.

He said the Premier should get personally involved in the dispute to achieve a quick outcome.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said she hoped the dispute could be resolved in time for the end of term one next week.  "Common sense has prevailed. Let's get on with educating these kids," she said.

Institute of Public Affairs policy director Tim Wilson said the Government must push ahead with performance pay.

"We should be making sure there are incentives so that teachers deliver the best outcome for kids and can be judged against that," Mr Wilson said.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CA: New state bill on transgender students in locker rooms

California public schools would be required to allow transgender students to use school facilities and participate in activities and on sports teams that match their gender identity under a bill introduced at the Capitol.

State law already prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, but backers of the measure, AB1266, say some schools and school districts don't provide access to restrooms, locker rooms or sports teams that align with the identity of transgender students.

The bill would make it clear that the law requires that, they said.

"Transgender boys are boys, and transgender girls are girls, and this bill ensures they are treated as such," said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, which is backing the bill introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

Barring a transgender student from using a locker room that aligns with his or her gender identity can create barriers to achieving needed credits for graduating, backers said, and stopping a student from participating on a sports team diminishes involvement in school.

They said some students feel unsafe at school when they are required to use a restroom that doesn't match their gender identity. The proposed law includes the phrase that the access to programs, facilities and activities shall be granted "irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."

Opponents say the proposal is extreme and could result in male and female students sharing locker rooms or showering together.

Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento-based organization that opposes many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights bills at the Capitol, said there is no legal requirement for how one determines a gender identity, and that leaves the school situation open for abuse.

"It is solely at the discretion of their opinion of themselves," she said. "We should not be mandating state law based on that."

Current law does not specify how schools should accommodate transgender students, and England said that's a good thing because it allows local districts to make their own determinations.

Several school districts already have policies that mandate the kinds of access specified in the bill, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and the San Francisco Unified School District.

S.F.'s longtime policy

The San Francisco policy has been in place since the mid to early 1990s, and district officials know of about 150 current middle school students and 300 high school students who identify as transgender, said Kevin Gogin, the program manager in school health programs for the district. Those numbers come from a yearly survey the district gives to students and represent about 1.5 percent of those enrolled.

San Francisco Unified, Gogin said, is the only public school district in the country to survey whether students identify as transgender as part of a larger risk behavior questionnaire funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students must identify as a certain gender "exclusively and consistently" and officials work with them to ensure they have access to the same activities and facilities as other students of that gender, Gogin said.

He said there have been no problems with students claiming to be transgender when they are not, nor have there been complaints from parents.

"These are students who have a sense that their gender identity is not matching the sex they were born with," he said.

What kind of assistance a transgender student receives depends on the individual's needs, he said.

Elsewhere in California, transgender students have sought policies like the proposed state law.


Data mining kids crosses line

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how public schools can collect information on "non-cognitive" student attributes, after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents' knowledge.

The feds want to use schools to catalogue "attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intrapersonal resources – independent of intellectual ability," according to a February DOE report, all under the guise of education.

The report suggests researching how to measure and monitor these student attributes using "data mining" techniques and even functional magnetic resonance imaging, although it concedes "devices that measure EEG and skin conductance may not be practical for use in the classroom." It delightedly discusses experiments on how kids respond to computer tutors, using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids' wrists.

And that's not all the feds want to know about your kids. The department is funding and mandating databases that could expand each kid's academic records into a comprehensive personal record including "health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status and religious affiliation," according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics. Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus funds, they must share students' academic data with the federal government.

As Utah blogger Christel Swasey has documented, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act used to protect highly personal psychological and biological information, including items mentioned above and, according to the DOE, "fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting."

Under the DOE's 2011 FERPA reinterpretation, however, any local, state or federal agency may designate any individual or organization as an "educational representative" who can access such data as long as the agency says this access is necessary to study or evaluate a program. These can include school volunteers and private companies. A lawsuit against the regulations is pending.

Meanwhile, several agreements the DOE has signed with two organizations writing national Common Core tests insist the information these tests collect must be "student-level" – meaning these would not be anonymous records but instead tied to specific children.

Previous FERPA interpretations required data collectors to identify students by random numbers. No one knows what personal data the Common Core tests will collect, because those tests have yet to be written and released. But this information mother-lode has to come from somewhere. Since the tests are being written by private organizations, although entirely funded so far by the federal government, no one can do a public records request to find out.

In short, the government wants to collect a dossier on every child, containing highly personal information, without asking permission or even notifying parents. Officials believe "federal agencies should invest in programmatic portfolios of research" to monitor and influence student attitudes through schools, says the February DOE report.

The department recommends schools start tracking and teaching kids not just boring old knowledge but also "21st Century Competencies" – "recognizing bias in sources," "flexibility," "cultural awareness and competence," "appreciation for diversity," "collaboration, teamwork, cooperation," "empathy," "perspective taking, trust, service orientation," and "social influence with others." I'm really looking forward to seeing how psychologists profiling children for government reports interpret each of these characteristics.

Utah officials told Swasey no student may attend schools there without being tracked, even those in non-public schools. The personal data are currently being collected through the tests public schools are required to administer, but part of the agreement the states signed for stimulus money includes a requirement that schools collect data on students who are not tested.

All of this looks like another step in the federal government's push to compile an intimate, cradle-to-grave dossier on every American. What they might intend to do with all that information remains a rather disturbing question.


The unmentionable:  Social class and education

Social background is an overwhelming determinant of educational achievement in Australia as elsewhere. Rich people are smarter and so are their children.  So for pupils living in wealthy suburbs, the social contacts you make are the main benefit of a private education

Public and private schools on Sydney's north shore have continued to achieve almost uniform high results in NAPLAN testing, a trend believed to be one factor driving the enrolments surge in local public schools.

The income that Wenona School, an independent school on the north shore, receives per student is almost three times what is received by Lindfield Public School. Yet the NAPLAN results achieved by their students are roughly the same.

Steph Croft, from the Northern Sydney Regional Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, said the My School data, first published in 2010, was helping to drive the surge in enrolments in the area's public schools, which has seen the highest growth of any region in Sydney over the last five years.

"There's a group of people who are choosing schools off the My School website and moving houses to get into the area for certain schools," she said.

A snapshot by Fairfax Media of government and non-government schools in the north shore region shows high results were achieved regardless of school sector in the 2012 NAPLAN tests.

From the Sydney Church of England Grammar School, known as Shore, where fees tipped $25,000 in 2013, to the public Mosman High School and the Catholic systemic school Blessed Sacrament, children in most grades achieved test scores significantly above the national average in reading in both year 3 and year 5.

The principal of Lindfield Public School, Craig Oliver, said he was not at all surprised his students were performing on par with their private school peers.

"If I was a parent of a child I was considering enrolling in a high-fee private school and I was making my decision on the basis of NAPLAN results alone, I would be considering the public school option was a very attractive one," he said.

"In terms of funding, we don't attract anything like the levels of funding the private schools do but we certainly do make the best of what we do have."

He said many of the families at his school could afford a private school education but chose to stay in the public system.

The headmaster of Shore, Timothy Wright, said it was not surprising the whole area was performing well.

"It's a well-known fact in educational research that literacy and numeracy performance does broadly correlate with socio-economic status … because it correlates with such things as parent education and parent commitment to education," he said.

"Without having done a scientific poll, I'd be confident to say that most of the students in my school have parents both of whom went to university."

He said schools in the area also tended to retain good teachers.

"Our staff turnover would be 3 [per cent] to 5 per cent in a typical year and I think stable staffing helps build strong academic cultures."

All of the schools had a similarly high score on the My School's website's Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, which uses a range of data to rate the education and affluence of a child's family, as well as whether the school is in a regional or remote area and proportion of indigenous students.

Dr Wright said he was happy to see public schools doing well but believed Shore offered points of difference outside NAPLAN measures. "We would say our point of difference is in the breadth of our co-curricular and other activities that aren't necessarily available in all public schools."

Helen Proctor, from the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, said parents were looking for more than just strong academic results and were often influenced by behaviour, networking, facilities and discipline.

"Why does someone buy a top-level BMW when a Holden can do the job?" she said.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Asians shine  when ability counts

What does 9 blacks versus 620 Asians tell you?  It tells you of two IQ distributions that barely overlap

It’s match day in New York City, when eighth grade hearts beat a little faster as they find out if they got into their first choice high school, or, in a minority of cases, one at all.

Of the 63,658 students who submitted an application to a public school, 90 percent received a match. Eighty-four percent of students matched to one of their top five ranked schools, while nearly half, 47 percent, matched to their top choice. These numbers are similar to last year’s match results.

Students who took the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) also found out today whether or not they received an offer of admission to one of eight schools. Education officials said about 28,000 took the test and a total of 5,229 students received admission based on their test scores.

SchoolBook reported this week on the single-test admissions policy at these schools, along with the test prep programs meant to prepare students for the exam.

The one-test admissions policy is the subject of a legal complaint, which argues that not enough black and Latino students gain admission to the specialized schools — particularly Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School which are the most competitive.

This year, the racial breakdown of admission offers at these three schools looks like this (race and ethnicity data were not available for about 14 percent of test-takers):

—Stuyvesant offered admission to 9 black students; 24 Latino students; 177 white students; and 620 students who identify as Asian.

—Bronx Science offered admission to 25 black students; 54 Latino students; 239 white students; 489 Asian students; and 3 American Indian/Alaskan Native students.

—Brooklyn Tech offered admission to 110 black students; 134 Latino students; 451 white students; 960 Asian students; and 5 American Indian/Alaskan Native students.


Univ. of Colorado Begins ‘Bold Experiment’ — Appoints Professor of ‘Conservative Thought and Policy’‏

The University of Colorado-Boulder is attempting a “bold” new experiment — hiring a professor of “conservative thought and policy.”

Appointed to a one-year term beginning this fall, Dr. Steven Hayward joins the university thanks in part to over $1 million in private funds donated to the cause.

Long considered a liberal stronghold, the school first unveiled plans to establish a visiting scholar endowment in 2007, but the economic downturn forced it to push back the three-year pilot program. Hayward, the author of books on Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and the Biblical perspective on nature, has signed on for the first year.

“This is a bold experiment for the university and me to see whether the ideological spectrum can be broadened in a serious and constructive way,” Hayward commented.

Steven R. Leigh, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, added in a statement: “Dr. Hayward brings an impressive breadth of knowledge to this position, having researched a range of environmental, historical and political issues.”

The professor will tentatively teach three political science classes and one in environmental studies about free market environmentalism. He wants to include the conservative perspective but said he won’t advocate for conservatism in the classroom.

“I’ll teach the whole spectrum, from blue to red,” he promised.

While he expects to invite speakers to campus and hold conferences during his time in Boulder, Hayward doesn’t think he’ll be engaging in debate on “front page issues” like gun control and civil unions, which have been hotly contested in Colorado in recent months.

Jon Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute in Denver, expressed doubts about the program but confidence in Hayward for the Washington Times.

“What a superb choice — [Hayward's] work speaks for itself, and he’s got an incredible reputation,” Caldara said.  “He’s going to be an anomaly, but since there’s only one of him at a campus of 30,000, that’s a ratio CU can handle.”


Homework haters in Australia

Learning to study and work by yourself is an essential skill.  You will learn that way for most of your life so you need to learn how.  And you probably learn best by studying at your own pace

HOMEWORK hijacks family life, is stopping children from exercising and should be reviewed, a leading child psychologist has warned.

As debate continues over the effectiveness of homework, The Sunday Mail can reveal Education Queensland has abolished its homework time guidelines, including that Prep students "generally" should not be set any.

Students aged 4-5 are now often being sent home with "readers".

Early Childhood Teachers Association president Kim Walters said they were against that idea, with Prep students better off reading practical texts such as recipes and catalogues at home, or having stories read to them by parents.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, who has been voicing concerns about homework for years, said while he was not opposed to it, he was opposed to how it was being delivered.

"The reason I want a change is because the evidence base is there that says there is no academic benefit from homework in primary school, it hijacks family life, they (children) are not doing enough exercise and it causes fights," he said.

He said homework should be reviewed nationally and either abolished in primary school or include practical activities such as housework, shopping, sport and board games.

Associate Professor Mike Horsley of Central Queensland University said homework should be reformed.

Prof Horsley, who co-wrote the book Reforming Homework, said while research showed homework had no effect on achievement in children aged under eight, and little benefit in Years 4 to 6, it did have benefits for younger students by teaching them to "self-regulate" if it was of high quality.

"Research done in Germany shows that often kids who spend a long time doing homework actually achieve less than kids who spend a very small time doing homework," he said.

"It has to involve new learning - not drill and practice ... and they (children) have to have a fair degree of say in how and when and what they do in their homework."

He said homework did make a difference to achievement in Years 10 to 12 and was a contentious issue.

An investigation by The Sunday Mail has found many Queensland Year 11 and 12 students are being set about three hours of homework a night, including assignments.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said in state schools about 15 hours a week was the general guideline for homework in Year 12, but ambitious students often studied more.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said "the happy medium is to make sure kids can still be kids".

Education Queensland assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said state schools developed homework policy in consultation with their school community.

"Teachers are best placed to decide the extent and type of homework that suits the individual learning needs of their students in all year levels, including Prep," she said.


Monday, March 18, 2013

MPs attack British Government’s 'downgrading’ of religious education

Religious education in schools is to come under attack in a report which will warn that more than half of those who teach the subject do not have any expertise.

A cross-party group of MPs, peers and bishops will claim that “a raft of recent policies” have undermined the teaching of RE in schools.

Their report, to be published tomorrow, includes a survey of 430 schools, which found that 10 out of 130 secondary schools broke the law by not teaching RE to some pupils.

In a quarter of the primary schools surveyed, pupils were being taught by teaching assistants, rather than qualified teachers, while 43 per cent of staff teaching RE in primary and secondary schools did not have any specialist training in the subject.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Education described its findings as “unacceptable”.

“A raft of recent policies have had the effect of downgrading RE in status on the school curriculum, and the subject is now under threat as never before, just at the moment when it is needed most,” it concludes.

The group took evidence from sources including current and former schools inspectors and the Department for Education (DfE). The report, RE: the truth unmasked, will be given to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

The report suggests there is a contradiction in the Government’s vocal support for “well-trained” RE teachers, while at the same time withdrawing funding for specialist training.

Stephen Lloyd, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the APPG, said: “It is illogical to think that we can dilute the professionalism and expertise needed to teach RE well and still have a generation of young people that understand and are sensitive to the growing levels of religious and non-religious diversity in our society.”

A DfE spokesman said: “There are now 1,000 more RE teachers than there were in November 2010 and the number of RE teacher training places for 2013 has actually increased by 99 from last year.”


British schools will be 250,000 places short next year: Immigration, baby boom and exodus from private schools blamed

A quarter of a million extra school places are needed by next year, the National Audit Office warns.  The biggest baby boom since the 1950s combined with high levels of immigration have been blamed for the huge shortfall.

The squeeze on household incomes has also seen large numbers of  families turn their backs on private schooling.

An estimated 240,000 of the places expected to be needed in the 2014-2015 academic year are in primaries. More children than ever could be forced to travel large distances to school, be taught in makeshift classrooms or in oversized classes.

Amyas Morse, who is head of the NAO, said yesterday: ‘Despite increases in places and funding over the last two years, the Department for Education faces a real challenge, with 256,000 places still required by 2014-2015.

‘There are indications of real strain on school places.’

The number of pupils in state schools is expected to soar by nearly a million to 7,950,000 by the end of the decade. Last year alone the primary school population went up by 78,000, the fastest rise in a decade.

At least a fifth of schools were full or overflowing last May and the number of infant classes with more than 31 children has doubled since 2007.

Last September, hundreds of primary children were left waiting for a confirmed place as the term began.  And around 23,000 began their education at schools their parents didn’t want them to attend.

The rising demand has had a significant impact on the average time a child spends travelling to school.

Areas under the greatest strain include Hampshire, where 122 primary schools are educating children who are ‘in excess of school capacity’.

Kent has 733 too many children in 114 primaries and 1,351 ‘excess’ pupils in 33 secondary schools.

Were migration reduced to zero, 106,000 fewer places would be needed, DfE figures suggest.

But it is feared that the arrival of an estimated 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians when an immigration cap expires at the end of this year will heighten the problem.

Councils have been concreting over parks and other open spaces to build extra classrooms.

Children are also having lessons in former warehouses, police stations, offices and retail outlets.

Some education chiefs have considered ‘radical’ solutions such as split-shift schooling, with school days staggered to have different year groups taught at different times of day.

Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch UK, said: ‘This is yet another example of Labour’s failure to plan for the inevitable effects of mass immigration which they stimulated.’

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator warned in November that a shortage of capacity for four- and five-year-olds is one of the biggest problems facing councils.

The Government has pumped more than £5billion into creating more spaces. But this did not include costs such as acquiring land – because the Department for Education assumed most places would be in existing schools, the NAO said.

The shortage increases the likelihood of more ‘super’ primaries being opened that can accommodate up to 1,000 children.

Kevin Brennan, Labour’s schools spokesman, accused the Government of cutting funding for school buildings by 60 per cent.

‘Michael Gove’s first job as Education Secretary is to provide enough school places for children – he is failing in that duty,’ he added.

But schools minister David Laws said the NAO report confirmed the Government was ‘dramatically’ increasing funding for school places.  He added: ‘Labour reduced the number of places available even though there was a baby boom.

‘We have already created 80,000 new places to deal with the shortage left by the last government and there will be more places to come.’

A DfE spokesman said: ‘We will have spent around £5billion by 2015 on creating new school places, which is more than double the amount spent in the previous parliament.

‘We are confident that this will meet the local demand that local authorities face.’

David Simmonds, of the Local Government Association, said councils  faced ‘unprecedented pressures’.

‘If the Government wants to rapidly increase the number of school places it should release money from the grip of Whitehall mandarins and let councils, who have both the legal duty and the local knowledge to deliver new places.’


America and continental Europe compared: university study

When I discuss my observations about study in the United States with friends, many remark on the differences and similarities to their studies on continental Europe. Several read Modern Languages as undergraduates and chose to spend their obligatory year abroad at universities in non-English-speaking countries. Some went on to do post-graduate study on the continent. Others, my European colleagues at British and American universities, took the opposite route.

A common set of remarks have emerged throughout these conversations. For British students and academics contemplating a move – across the Channel or the Atlantic -, they give a useful overview of the advantages and disadvantages of different study destinations.


Keen on a good work-life balance? Then Europe’s the place for you. American students tend to shoulder a heavier burden of essays, worksheets and presentations than their French, Spanish and even German cousins. Partly, my sources reckon, this is because study is much, much more expensive in the United States. But it is also a result of social mores: particularly in Latin Europe, young people are expected to play an active role in family life and the American working culture – taking pride in working inhumanly long hours – baffles people.

In the lecture hall

The disadvantage of those inexpensive European degrees is that sometimes, lecture halls are vast, with hundreds (or reportedly: thousands) of students in each one. Your professeur or professore may not “teach” so much as “broadcast” – he may not know your name or deign to ask questions. In some cases (though by no means all), your fellow √©tudiants and studenti will respond accordingly: browsing social media, listening to music and sometimes even making phone calls during lectures. The intimate seminars and study groups of American universities are rare.


Relative to their American equivalents, European university libraries are less high-tech (some still use card catalogues rather than a computerised system) but can contain a fantastic range of historical texts. 42 existing European universities were founded before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, let alone before Harvard (the oldest American university) was founded in 1636. The depth of their archives and the beauty of their architecture reflect this heritage.


Although American universities are better-funded overall (and have deeper pockets when it comes to funding particularly high-achieving students) it is undoubtedly less onerous to attend a European university. For Brits looking to do a year of study abroad, the Erasmus programme offers zero tuition fees and a grant towards living costs. Most British universities have Erasmus links with counterpart institutions in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU countries. Other European universities are sometimes willing to grant British students “visitor” status for free, particularly if a faculty member from your home institution is willing to write a supporting reference. At most continental institutions, fees for a full degree (undergraduate or graduate) are significantly less than what they are in the UK, let alone the United States.

Uppsala University, founded in 1477, is widely regarded as one of the best universities in the world – although it does not score highly in the Times World University Rankings

Quality of experience

This one is deeply subjective. American universities have served me very well over the past three years. Consult the international league tables and the overwhelming impression is of the superiority of American institutions. The upper echelons of the Times Higher Education’s ranking are dominated by them – and most of the other top spots are occupied by British, rather than continental, universities. Even prestigious European centres such as Leiden (64th), Heidelberg (78th), and Uppsala (106th) come relatively low down.

But partly these figures depend on the research funding available to universities. When it comes to top-end scientific research, wealthy American institutions leave others in their dust. But this is not everything. All my friends who have studied in Europe (including those that have experienced university life on both sides of the pond) speak fondly of their time there. Many talk of the intellectual rigour involved in studying in a different language, and in non-Anglo-Saxon academic cultures. Others point to the benefit of being close to the subjects of their historic, literary, artistic, political or scientific investigations. Oh, and the coffee’s better


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Racist graffiti daubed on sign in one of UK's most exclusive communities where villagers are fighting over planned Sikh school
A race row has erupted in one of Britain's wealthiest villages after offensive graffiti was plastered on the site of a proposed Sikh school.  If the Khalsa Secondary Academy is built it would see more than 1,000 people flock into Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, from as far afield as West London.

Tension in the village has grown over the past fortnight with angry locals venting their anger online and at parish council meetings.

Now one racist hooligan has daubed 'NO P*** SCHOOL' and 'DON'T SELL TO P*** SCHOOL' on a sign at the proposed site.  [The graffiti probably used the term "Paki", which is just an abbreviation of "Pakistani" but is considered highly offensive in Britain.  Sikhs are of course neither Pakistanis nor Muslims.  Their home is Panjab State in India and their founder is guru Nanak, not Mohammed. Like  Christianity, Islam and Judaism, Sikhism is monotheistic]

Residents in Stoke Poges have condemned the thugs responsible for the graffiti, claiming their objections to the school have nothing to do with race.

But they feel the Slough Sikh Education Trust (SSET), which is behind the proposed faith school, could be fuelling rumours it is a race issue by circulating images of the graffiti.

Saera Carter, vice chairman of the Stoke Poges Parish Council, said: 'It was discovered at 8:30am in the morning and seven villagers scrubbed it off within the hour.

'As a village we were offended by it. We don't want to offend our Asian neighbours or the SSET as we are a peaceful village.

'Sikhism is a peaceful religion but this is immature and inflammatory behaviour and it wouldn't surprise me if the SSET is turning this into a race issue.'

Stoke Poges is known for the exclusive Stoke Park estate which featured in the James Bond classic Goldfinger. Recent figures ranked Stoke Poges as having the eighth highest concentration of £1 million properties sold in Britain.

It is understood Mr Kandola has also sent the image to Dominic Grieve, the Conservative MP who represents Stoke Poges as part of the Beaconsfield Ward.

Locals have said their opposition to the school is based on the proposed site - the current UK headquarters for Pioneer - being on greenbelt land.

They say Stoke Poges doesn't have the infrastructure to deal with 1,000 people entering the village each day and also fear children will lose their right to free bus travel if the multi-million pound taxpayer-funded school opens on the site.

When 222 parents at the village's primary school were asked if they would send their child to the Khalsa Academy, 93.25 per cent said no.

The chairman of the Slough Sikh Education Trust yesterday has described the racist graffiti as 'unfortunate'.

Nick Kandola said: 'The incident of graffiti at the proposed school site is unfortunate.  'We would much rather things like this weren't happening and, as a Trust, we would prefer to focus on the more important questions of how we can best deliver a new school in this location and serving this community. 'We do not want to draw unnecessary attention to this incident.

'We want to address the more fundamental questions about improving local educational choice and bringing forward an excellent planning proposition.'


University College London bans hard-line Islamic group which tried to segregate men and women at a debate held on university premises

A Muslim group has been banned from a university after segregating men and women during a debate.  Visitors to the event at University College London were told to use men’s or women’s entrances.

Organisers Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) told women to sit at the back, while men and couples were sent to the front. Three people who objected were ordered to leave.

The segregation was halted only when one speaker, US scientist Lawrence Krauss, stormed out.  Ignoring audience jeering, he told an organiser: ‘Either you quit the segregation or I’m not interested.’  He returned when staff allowed men and women to mix.

The public debate on Saturday was on the subject ‘Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?’  Atheist Mr Krauss was joined by another guest, Greek Islamic convert Hamza Andreas Tzortzis.

Audience member Dana Sondergaard wrote on her Facebook page: ‘After watching three people be kicked out of the auditorium ....  Dr Krauss bravely defended his beliefs of gender equality.’

Yesterday, Mr Chagtai told MailOnline: 'In all normal Islamic events people will naturally often separate themselves: men with men and women with women.

'It is de rigueur, in a way that is not too dissimilar to practices in Orthodox Jewish communities.

'The issue that UCL had is that it it can't be enforced.  But because of the limited space of the auditorium, there were a number of ladies who used their free will and didn't want to sit with the opposite sex, so we needed to cater for that.'

He said iERA had been told by UCL that segregation was against their ethos, and had intended 'to stick to what they said in letter and spirit'.

Mr Chagtai said his organisation was now conducting an internal investigation into what happened on the day.  He added: 'We need to take their criticism like this very seriously.  We feel it's the honourable thing to do to see if there was anybody that influenced segregation on the day from our staff.'

Atheist writer Richard Dawkins called the segregation 'sexual apartheid' and called it a 'disgraceful epsiode'.

Writing on his blog, he said: 'University College London is celebrated as an early haven of enlightened free thinking, the first university college in England to have a secular foundation, and the first to admit men and women on equal terms. Heads should roll.

'Isn’t it really about time we decent, nice, liberal people stopped being so pusillanimously terrified of being thought “Islamophobic” and stood up for decent, nice, liberal values?'

UCL's press office issued a statement saying iERA would never again be allowed to hold events on the university's campuses.  It said: 'We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds [but]... it now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting.

'We are still investigating what actually happened at the meeting but, given IERA’s original intentions for a segregated audience we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL’s ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises.'


WA: Abuse of Authority:   Vice principal forced middle schooler   to log in to Facebook

An Everett middle school student and her family said that her civil rights were violated after her vice principal forced her to log in to her Facebook account.

The family is now demanding clearer school policies.

Samantha Negrete, 14, was recently called to Vice Principal Bryan Toutant's office at North Middle School.

Toutant was investigating a case of cyberbullying involving one of Negrete's friends, who allegedly posted a photo of another girl on Facebook and made disparaging comments about it.

Negrete told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Dubois that, when she arrived in Toutant's office, he was on his computer, and he told her to log in to her Facebook account.

"I felt like I was made to do it," Negrete said.

The vice principal found what he was looking for, and ever since, Negrete said, she has been teased and bullied herself.

"A lot of people are calling me a snitch and saying, 'Why would you do this? This is all your fault,'" Negrete said.

Connie Becerra, Negrete's mother, said that if the school had called and asked permission, it wouldn't have been a problem.

But, Becerra said, forcing the eighth-grader to show a school authority her Facebook page is comparable to police barging into a home without a search warrant.

"She's being called a snitch now, because she was the information gateway for him to get the information he needed to use against other children," Becerra said.

The issue has fueled the debate about whether schools have the right to see a student's private social media posts.

The Everett School District hasn't decided if the vice principal was right or wrong in this case, but an outside agency is looking into it.

The school district is now taking a close look at its policies and will be tackling the issue with teachers and administrators at a special forum on Friday.

"Principals must respond quickly when they hear about a safety issue," said Mary Waggoner of the Everett School District. "That balance of how they conduct the investigation is uncharted territory for a lot of schools, with the prevalence of social media."

Becerra's family contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the incident, but they aren't planning any legal action.