Friday, May 24, 2013

Calling all conservative educators (you know who you are)

I put up 9 blogs 6 days a week so it should be obvious that I can't give each one the attention that I think it deserves.  Despite that they all get a good audience as blogs go.

I have long felt, however, that some of them would benefit from having a co-blogger.  And that has recently been shown to be right.  I turned over the day-to-day running of  GUN WATCH to Dean Weingarten about 6 months ago.  He has put a lot of effort into it and now gets TREBLE the readership that I used to get.

So I live in hopes that something similar could be achieved with  EDUCATION WATCH.  It gets about 300 pageviews every day, which may not seem much but which puts it in the top 1% of blogs.  A newly started blog would be lucky to average 10 pageviews each day.

So if you are a teacher at some level or are otherwise particularly interested in education, this may be a good chance for you to make your voice heard on a regular basis.  Email me  here

Wimps Versus Barbarians

Thomas Sowell

An all too familiar scene was enacted on the campus of Swarthmore College during a meeting on May 4th to discuss demands by student activists for the college to divest itself of its investments in companies that dealt in fossil fuels.

As a speaker was beginning a presentation to show how many millions of dollars such a disinvestment would cost the college, student activists invaded the meeting, seized the microphone and shouted down a student who rose in the audience to object.

Although there were professors and administrators in the room -- including the college president -- apparently nobody had the guts to put a stop to these storm trooper tactics. Nor is it likely that there will be any punishment of those who put their own desires above the rights of others.

On the contrary, these students went on to demand mandatory campus "teach-ins," and the administration caved on that demand. Among their other demands are that courses on ethnic studies, and on gender and sexuality, be made a requirement for graduation.

Just what is it that academics have to fear if they stand up for common decency, instead of letting campus barbarians run amok? At a prestigious college like Swarthmore, every student who trampled on other people's rights could be expelled and there would be plenty of replacement students available to take their places. Although colleges and universities across the country have been giving in to storm trooper tactics ever since the nationwide campus disruptions of the 1960s, not all have. Back in the 1960s, the University of Chicago was a rare exception.

As Professor George J. Stigler, a Nobel Prize winning economist, put it in his memoirs, "our faculty united behind the expulsion of a large number of young barbarians."

The sky did not fall. There was no bloodbath. The University of Chicago was in fact spared some of the worst nonsense that more compliant institutions were permanently saddled with in the years that followed, as a result of their failure of nerve in the 1960s.

When the nationwide campus disruptions and violence of the 1960s gave way to quieter times in the 1970s, many academics congratulated themselves on having restored peace. But it was the peace of surrender.

Creating whole departments of ethnic, gender and other "studies" were among the price of academic peace. All too often, these "studies" are about propaganda rather than serious education. Academic campuses have become among the least free places in America. "Speech codes," vaguely worded but zealously applied to those who dare to say anything that is not politically correct, have become the norm.

Few professors would dare to publish research or teach a course debunking the claims made in various ethnic, gender or other "studies" courses.

Why did all this happen? Partly it happened because of the lure of the path of least resistance, especially to academic administrators and faculty. But there was no such widespread surrender to every noisy and belligerent group of student activists prior to the 1960s. Moreover, the example of the University of Chicago showed that surrender was not inevitable.

The cost of resistance to the campus barbarians may not have been the only factor. Resistance requires a sense that there is something worth defending. But decades of dumbed-down education have produced people with no sense of the importance of a moral framework within which freedom and civil discourse can flourish.

Without a moral framework, there is nothing left but immediate self-indulgence by some and the path of least resistance by others. Neither can sustain a free society. Disruptive activists indulge their egos in the name of idealism and others cave rather than fight.

It's not just academics who won't defend decency. Trustees could fire college presidents who cave in to storm trooper tactics. Donors could stop donating to institutions that have sold out their principles to appease the campus barbarians. But when nobody is willing to defend civilized standards, the barbarians win.

Whether on college campuses or among nations on the world stage, if the battle comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are bound to win


University Will Investigate Christian Professor’s Intelligent Design Class Following Atheist Furor‏

Ball State University, a public institution in Muncie, Indiana, is purportedly looking into claims that a course centered around the subjects of creationism and intelligent design constitutes a violation of the separation of church and state. The college purportedly began its investigation after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, sent a letter of complaint regarding physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin.

Hedin’s offense? He apparently encourages students to read books by scientists, journalists and proponents who embrace intelligent design. The description of his course, as reported by World on Campus, claims that students will “investigate physical reality and the boundaries of science for any hidden wisdom within this reality which may illuminate the central questions of the purpose of our existence and the meaning of life.”

While the course, “Inquiries in Physical Sciences,” is an elective, that hasn’t stopped critics like University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne, in addition to the FFRF, from speaking out against it as an alleged violation of the separation of church and state. In addition to sharing pages from the course syllabus on his blog, he wrote:

"Note the numinous implications, especially the course objective to consider the implications of physics, life, and consciousness for “indications of the nature and existence of God.” As you’ll see, the syllabus is clearly slanted to show that scientific phenomena do indeed provide evidence for God.

Note that  on page 2 (below), the course outline itself, the students are to discuss theistic evolution, intelligent design, irreducible complexity, and, for crying out loud, “miracles and spirituality!” There’s also “Beauty, complex and specified information, and intelligent design: what the universe communicates about God.”

Not everyone agrees with Coyne, though. Despite having negative comments to throw Hedin’s way (he called him a “dingbat professor”), PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota who is also an atheist, defended the professor’s right to tout and explore unpopular ideas in the classroom. After all, isn’t that what academic freedom is all about?

“Academic freedom is the issue here, and professors have to have the right to teach unpopular, controversial issues, even from an ignorant perspective,” Myers wrote, going on to place the course — and the situation — in context. “The first amendment does not apply; this is not a course students are required to take, and it’s at a university, which students are not required to attend. It’s completely different from a public primary or secondary school. A bad course is an ethical problem, not a legal one. It’s also an issue that the university has to handle internally.”

The FFRF, though, an atheist-activist mouthpiece, is siding more with Coyne’s camp, as the group’s letter sparked an investigation by school administrators — an inquiry that was launched just one day after the atheist group’s letter of complaint was received. While the university did not cite Hedin’s name in its response, it was clear who was being referred to.

“The university received a complaint from a third party late yesterday afternoon about content in a specific course offered at Ball State. We take academic rigor and academic integrity very seriously,” read an official response from Ball State. “Having just received these concerns, it is impossible to comment on them at this point. We will explore in depth the issues and concerns raised and take the appropriate actions through our established processes and procedures.”


British Conservatives plan for network of military-style state schools

A network of schools run by former soldiers is being planned by the Government after ministers approved the opening of Britain’s first military-style academy.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is proposing the establishment of a chain of state-funded “free schools” which boast an Armed Forces ethos in line with similar plans in the United States.

The disclosure came as the Department for Education granted approval for one military-style school in Oldham – the first of its kind in the UK.

Under plans, The Phoenix Free School will open from September 2014 staffed by former members of the Armed Forces and led by a serving Army captain.

It will have a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour and aim to boost sporting competitiveness among pupils, it is claimed.

Approval for the school – among 102 new free school projects announced on Wednesday – comes despite a decision by officials to reject the application last summer.

It is believed that other schools with an Armed Forces ethos could follow after the DfE posted a research paper on its website urging new providers to set up military-style schools.

The report says backers should consider opening a cadet unit on site or bringing former soldiers into lessons as teachers through the "Troops to Teachers" retraining scheme.

Schools are also being encouraged to use programmes such as SkillForce, which works with young people who are in danger of becoming Neets – not in education, employment or training.

Labour has already set out proposals for a generation of "Service Schools" staffed by former members of the Armed Forces to raise education standards.

The DfE document says: “The Government is interested in exploring how academies and free schools can use their freedoms to foster a military ethos and raise standards.

“We are also looking for parties interested in opening a new school with a military ethos.”

Another DfE paper, published at the same time, adds: “Our ambition is for pupils to use the benefits of a military ethos, such as self-discipline and teamwork, to achieve an excellent education which will help them shape their own futures.

“Promoting military ethos in schools helps foster confidence, self-discipline and self-esteem whilst developing teamwork and leadership skills."

A number of “military schools” have already opened in the US as part of the established state education system.

Under plans, the Phoenix school will open in Oldham in September 2014 as the first such venture in the UK. It will take children aged 11-to-18.

Its main backers include Captain AK Burki, a member of the Army’s Counterinsurgency Centre, who recently served in Afghanistan, and Tom Burkard, professor of education policy at Derby University and a former instructor in the Royal Pioneer Corps.

The school says it will provide a full curriculum and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to behaviour.

“Our teachers will embody the Army’s core values of moral courage, self-discipline, respect for others, integrity, and loyalty,” the school’s website says. “They will all be trained in the military ‘Methods of Instruction’ syllabus – and they will all know their jobs.”

Free schools are new, state-funded institutions run free of local authority control. New schools are being set up across England led by parents, teachers and charitable organisations.

Through the Troops to Teachers programme, which started in the United States 19 years ago, ex-military personnel are encouraged to retrain as teachers.

Between March 2011 and October 15 last year, 254 service leavers applied for initial teacher training (ITT). Of these, 132 were accepted.

But the small number of former servicemen making it into the classroom has led to claims from Labour that the programme is failing.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Undoing the Brainwashing

Thomas Sowell

This time of year, as college students return home for the summer, many parents may notice how many politically correct ideas they have acquired on campus. Some of those parents may wonder how they can undo some of the brainwashing that has become so common in what are supposed to be institutions of higher learning.

The strategy used by General Douglas MacArthur so successfully in the Pacific during World War II can be useful in this very different kind of battle. General MacArthur won his victories while minimizing his casualties -- something that is also desirable in clashes of ideas within the family.

Instead of fighting the Japanese for every island stronghold as the Americans advanced toward Japan, MacArthur sent his troops into battle for only those islands that were strategically crucial. In the same spirit, parents who want to bring their brainwashed offspring back to reality need not try to combat every crazy idea they picked up from their politically correct professors. Just demolishing a few crucial beliefs, and exposing what nonsense they are, can deal a blow to the general credibility of the professorial pied pipers.

For example, if the student has been led to join the crusade for more gun control, and thinks that the reason the British have lower murder rates than Americans have is because the Brits have tighter gun control laws, just give him or her a copy of the book "Guns and Violence" by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

As the facts in that book demolish the gun control propaganda fed to students by their professors, that can create a healthy skepticism about other professorial propaganda.

There are other books that can likewise demolish other politically correct beliefs that prevail on campuses. My own recent book, "Intellectuals and Race," has innumerable documented facts that expose the fallacies in most of what is said about racial issues in most college classrooms.

For those students who have bought the campus party line on Third World nations, the classic study of that subject is "Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion" by the late P.T. Bauer of the London School of Economics. He made a veritable demolition derby of most of what has been said in politically correct circles about the relationship between rich and poor countries.

For those students who have been conditioned to regard the welfare state as the solution to social problems, there is no book that exposes the actual human consequences of the welfare state more poignantly than "Life at the Bottom" by British physician Theodore Dalrymple. He has worked in both low-income neighborhoods and in prisons, so he has seen it all.

Although Britain is the setting for "Life at the Bottom," Americans will recognize very similar patterns here. Problems found in low-income black ghettoes in the United States are found in low-income white neighborhoods in Britain, where none of the usual excuses about racism, slavery, etc., apply. The only thing that is the same in both countries is the welfare state and its poisonous ideology.

If your student has been led to believe that "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty, in plain English -- is the only way to go, a devastating book titled "Mexifornia," by Victor Davis Hanson, introduces some cold, factual reality into a subject usually discussed in sweeping and lofty rhetoric.

A book that offers a choice between the island-hopping strategy that General MacArthur used in the Pacific and the all-out assault across a broad front that was used by the Allied armies in Europe is titled "The New Leviathan."

It has thirteen penetrating articles by leading authorities on such subjects as national security, ObamaCare, environmentalism, election frauds and more.

Those parents who want to follow the MacArthur strategy can recommend reading one, or a few, of these articles, while those who want to follow the strategy of attacking all across a broad front can recommend that their student read the whole book.

However the battle is fought, what is most important is that the battle be fought, since the young are the future, and the propaganda of today can become the government policies of tomorrow.


Common Core needs more debate

Parents in Michigan, like those across the country, want their children to have the tools they need to excel in school and beyond. The Common Core national curriculum standards were sold as the way to give students those tools. But with the standards now being implemented, a growing number of Michiganians — as evidenced by the recent House vote to withhold state funds from Common Core — are having buyer’s remorse. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s support for the Core notwithstanding, they’re right to be wary, especially since Core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.

Supporters of the Core tout the fact that 45 states have adopted the standards, but don’t mistake that for enthusiastic support. Before the standards had even been published, states were coerced into adopting them by President Obama’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states like Michigan would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink and the money would be gone; which is why most people hadn’t even heard of the standards at adoption time.

Now the standards are being implemented, and people are asking “what the heck is this?” Many don’t like the answer: untested, uniform curriculum standards pushed on everyone by Washington, and they are acting. The Michigan House acted. The Republican National Committee officially condemned the standards. Several states are in the process of potentially withdrawing from theCore. And nine U.S. senators have requested that a Senate subcommittee handling education end all federal meddling in standards and assessment.

What have Common Core supporters done in response to this groundswell of concern? Rather than address Common Core worries and evidence such as it is empirically unsupported, moves the country closer to a federal monopoly, and treats children like identical cogs, supporters have often dodged constructive debate.

Snyder, while at a Detroit event with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, dismissed concerns as politics-as-usual, saying: “Too many people in our country … are looking to fight someone for the sake of fighting.” Apparently, it is purely political to oppose clear and heavy-handed federal intrusion in what is constitutionally — and logically — a state and local matter.

In response to the RNC’s resolution, Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, complained that the move “will bestow a degree of legitimacy upon the anti-standards coalition.” As if the people who have been decrying the absence of research support for national standards and manypotential flaws in its content have all somehow been illegitimate.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a leading Common Core spokesman — elected to dismiss the RNC as ignorant for resisting the Core. “I don’t really care if the RNC, based on no information, is going to oppose this because of some emotional pitch,” he said. This despite the RNC resolution offering several valid reasons for opposing the Core, including the indisputable fact of federal coercion.

To be sure, there are some specious arguments being made against Common Core, such as the claim that it requires schools to ditch Emerson in favor of reading EPA regulations. Such assertions should be disputed by people on both sides. But those are hardly the only concerns of Core opponents, and many standards supporters are guilty of no lesser deception when they insist, for instance, that the Common Core is “state-led” and “voluntary.”

The vast majority of Common Core supporters, no doubt, are motivated by what they think is best for the country and its children. Unfortunately, many also seem happy to ignore the powerful logic and evidence arrayed against their plan, and to dismiss instead of honestly debate their equally well-intentioned opponents.

As Common Core continues to be implemented the chorus of opposition is likely to grow, and it is critical that supporters and opponents alike keep sight of their truly common goal: improving American education. Dodging honest discussion is no way to get there.Snyder should take the concerns of Michigan’s legislators and parents seriously, and welcome a hard look at the standards.


Ofsted chief: raise class sizes to pay top staff more money

Schools could be required to increase class sizes to give the best teachers higher salaries under a new system of performance-related pay, the head of Ofsted has admitted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said a major reorganisation of lessons and timetables may be needed in many schools to accommodate a more flexible salary structure.

Schools cannot afford to maintain a “highly-paid staff” while keeping class sizes down, he warned.

Speaking in central London, the chief inspector also criticised poor-performing schools that routinely place all teachers on the highest salary level.

He said it was “nonsense” that large numbers of teachers expect a salary increase even when they “don’t teach effectively” and “take too much time off”.

The comments are likely to fuel the row over the new system of performance-related pay, which will be introduced into English state schools from 2014.

Under the plans, heads are being told they can no longer award higher salaries to teachers based on length of service and must hold annual performance appraisals before setting pay rates.

Last month, the Department for Education published guidance suggesting that heads should reward teachers who improve pupils’ exam results, keep order in the classroom and take part in extra-curricular activities.

The move has been savaged by union leaders who claim the system will create tensions in the staffroom and damage teachers’ morale. The National Union of Teachers and NASUWT are already taking strike action over the changes.

But Sir Michael has strongly supported the plans, insisting inspectors will mark down schools that fail to link salaries to performance.

Schools will be expected to pay teachers from their existing budgets.

However, Sir Michael admitted that schools may need major reorganisation and larger class sizes to pay staff more money. The average primary school in England currently has 27 children per lesson, while numbers are set at 20 in secondary education.

“The good heads know they have got these additional freedoms and will reorganise,” he said. “[As] an ex-head teacher, I always said to the staff, ‘I want a highly-paid staff, I want to reward those of you who are prepared to commit yourself to the school and do a good job in the classroom. To do that, might mean that we have larger classes. You can’t have both. You can’t have small classes – small groups – and a highly-paid staff’.”

He added: “It might mean that head teachers have got to make [that choice]… So negotiation with the staff is going to be important.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “This is an invidious choice no head teacher or governor would want to make. It gives lie to the idea that changes to teachers’ pay are a free chance for heads and governors to pay ‘good teachers’ more. The simple fact is there is no more money in the pot.”

Currently, teachers outside London can earn a standard salary of up to £31,500 but see their pay rise to £34,200 if they pass the “threshold” into the upper pay scale, which is supposed to mark good performance.

But Sir Michael said that it was “nonsense” that more than 90 per cent of teachers were put through the threshold “on the nod” when the system was first introduced.

He added: “It’s a nonsense that we see failing schools where most people are at the top of the scale, and that’s something that inspectors comment on. It’s a nonsense that promotion through incremental progression should not be related to the quality of the teaching.”

Sir Michael said: “I have met teachers who have been upgraded because they don’t teach effectively, they then go on leave, they take too much time off, but still expect a salary increase.

“Of course performance and pay should be linked to those who deliver in the classroom and those that go the extra mile. And to make that judgement, heads have got to take performance management much more seriously.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: "It is vital that schools can recruit and reward the best teachers. We are reforming pay so schools can attract and retain the best teachers who have the greatest impact on their pupils' achievements.

“We expect heads to be able to judge what is best for their pupils."


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Antisemitism at UCSC

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East today issued a Joint Statement in defense of University of California at Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. Rossman-Benjamin, an activist known for her opposition to campus anti-Semitism, has recently been the target of a public campaign of character assassination because of her advocacy for the civil rights of Jewish college students.  LDB and SPME joined together today to defend Rossman-Benjamin against these smears and to denounce efforts to suppress advocacy for the civil rights of university students.

Rossman-Benjamin is a co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that combats anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses.  She is also a member of the Brandeis Center's Academic Advisory Board and a former member of SPME's Board of Directors.  Rossman-Benjamin has famously accused her university, UC Santa Cruz, of harboring a hostile environment for Jewish students.  The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Rossman-Benjamin's complaint, which is now pending.

On June 20, 2012, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin delivered a speech at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts.  During the course of that speech, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin described anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin attributed some responsibility for contemporary campus anti-Semitism to two organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association. Rossman-Benjamin also stated that some members of these organizations have had connections with terrorist organizations.  In response to that synagogue presentation, student activists at the University of California have launched a campaign to condemn Rossman-Benjamin.  As a result of this campaign, in March 2013, Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a resolution that called on outgoing UC President Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin's remarks.

LDB and SPME jointly announced:  "We find the accusations against Rossman-Benjamin to be false, scurrilous, and unjustifiable. Over the years, Rossman-Benjamin has tirelessly campaigned against anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli harassment. Perversely, Rossman-Benjamin is now being branded a purveyor of hate speech and Islamophobia precisely because she attempted to expose hate speech which her accusers would prefer to shield from scrutiny."

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, "I have worked with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin over the years, and I consider her to be a bold and courageous fighter for the civil rights of Jewish college students.  It is reprehensible that some people are targeting her for abuse because of her fight against campus anti-Semitism."

SPME President Richard Cravatts added, "We are issuing this statement to set the record straight. We have carefully reviewed the allegations against Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, and we consider them to be completely disingenuous and false. Rossman-Benjamin should be commended for her campaign against campus anti-Semitism, rather than subjected to this sort of intimidation and abuse."

Professor Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director of The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, personally joined the Joint LDB-SPME Statement. "I know Tammi Rossman-Benjamin well," Rosenfeld commented, "and have the highest respect for her work.  The allegations against her are patently false. Rossman-Benjamin is a tenacious advocate for students' rights as well as free speech. Hers is a vital, much-needed academic voice, and efforts to silence or intimidate her for her dedicated opposition to campus anti-Semitism need to be strongly resisted."


British grade-school pupil, 10, who spots 'grammar mistakes' in her English exam writes a letter of complaint to Education Secretary Michael Gove

A schoolgirl who spotted grammatical 'mistakes' in her English exam has written a letter of complaint - to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Eagle-eyed Rebecca Lee, 10, a pupil at Christ Church Primary School in Clifton, Bristol, noticed commas 'missing' from two questions in her SATs last Tuesday.

The Year Six pupil says she was so 'annoyed' by the basic punctuation errors that she wanted to take her complaint to the top.

So she wrote to Mr Gove saying: 'I understand that you are very keen for us to all learn our complex sentences and use of accurate punctuation.  'I believe that your department should also use the correct punctuation in all SATs tasks.'

The schoolgirl said she hoped to hear back from Mr Gove.

Rebecca, from Clifton, said: 'The exam wording should be setting an example and I was annoyed. I had to write.

'I've not heard back yet and am still waiting - Mr Gove's busy but I do hope to get a response back.'

The 'mistakes' were in a section of the exam on complex sentences - and had commas 'missing' from two sentences.

One sentence read: 'If there is not enough rainfall this month there will be a drought' and 'As he was the chief of the tribe the final decision was his.'

This afternoon a spokesman for the Department for Education defended the lack of commas in the exam paper.

He said: 'The commas here are a matter of choice. They can be used to mark out clauses that appear at the beginning or the end of a sentence, but they are not necessary.

'We decided to use commas sometimes and not at others to make the tests more like real life where people will have their own styles.

'The only clauses that must be surrounded by commas are those in the middle of a sentence.'

The same sentences - featuring commas in the correct places - had appeared in an earlier part of the exam on grammar.

The Government's Standards and Testing Agency is meant to check if exams are up to scratch before pupils take them, but a spokesman insisted that using commas in complex sentences was 'a matter of choice'.

Rebecca's teacher Barney Braithwaite said many of his pupils noticed the mistake when they undertook the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test.

He said: 'I laughed my head off when I had heard that Rebecca had sent the letter. She obviously felt moved enough by the mistakes.'


Why schools are failing our boys

Comment from Australia

Boys will be boys, they tell us, but how many of us actually take this adage to heart and embrace it?

I am the mother of four boys, now all adults. If I think back to their childhoods and adolescence, it’s a whirlwind of movement and physicality, adventure and injury, rough and tumble play, of fart jokes and stinky sports shoes, short and to-the-point communication, and lots and lots of food and Milo. (Actually, it’s not so different when we all get together now.)

This description of life with boys won’t surprise most people – and yet why is it that the one place where children spend most of their time, school, is so stacked against meeting boys’ needs?

A recent survey in WA found that girls are starting to outperform boys in maths and science, which hasn’t been the case previously. Fantastic news for our girls – these fields badly need some gender balance, but it’s a shame if it’s at boys’ expense. We are also seeing disturbing numbers of boys in remedial classes and in behaviour management units in our schools across the country.

Boys are also more likely statistically (75% more likely than girls in fact) to die or be injured in an accident, to commit a crime, to be injured playing sport, to get cancer, to die at work, to go to prison, to be admitted to hospital and to fail school … well, boys will be boys right? But what does that mean for parents and teachers?

It’s long been acknowledged that the low number of male primary teachers is an issue and unless your son’s female teacher has brothers, how can we expect her to understand the boys in the class unless we actually talk about the differences between boys and girls, politically incorrect as that might be?

Neil Farmer in his book, Getting it Right for Boys, explains some key differences in how most boys’ and girls’ brains function and some of these are that girls have better ability for “cross talk” between their right and left hemispheres, better memory storage and are more verbal and better listeners.

These differences explain a lot of the angst that happens in our homes and schools where boys are mainly misunderstood by the opposite gender.

One of the most noticeable major differences (and yes there are always exceptions) between girls and boys in the classroom is that boys are more likely to learn through movement. Passivity numbs them to a degree.

Boys have been shown to develop their right brain before their left brain, whereas girls develop both at the same time and this partially explains why boys are often up to 18 months behind girls when they start school and why girls are more emotionally and verbally savvy.

The right brain is more about ‘doing’, creativity and intuitive processing (rather than logical) and spatial growth and awareness. This may be why most boys prefer the sandpit to drawing and painting. It may also explain why men are better at reverse parking, but hey you didn’t hear it from me.

Classrooms, especially those trying to get everyone up to scratch for the NAPLAN, aren’t really conducive to this.

The second major difference is that the amygdala is actually bigger in boys than girls so they are biologically driven to want to be warriors and superheroes and to take risks – often perceived as naughtiness.

The brain difference also explains why boys get confused around emotions. Many boys will take any emotional state – even sadness, confusion, frustration and hurt – and turn it into an anger response. So much aggression is often masking other emotional vulnerabilities.

Combine this with their extra testosterone and we have a situation where if we don’t provide our boys with plenty of opportunity to diffuse pent-up energy, it will manifest itself in disruptive, aggressive and even bullying behaviours.

It worries me that Australia’s “education revolution” is eroding critical playtime and the opportunity for physicality in our schools and the cost is high for all children but even more so for our boys – and perhaps their teachers who end up devoting more and more time to behaviour management. Boys have shorter attention spans and often need more stimulation to become engaged in activities that they perceive as ‘boring’ with little fun and lightness.

Most girls do not have the same huge need to discharge energy and can sit at desks much longer than boys without becoming restless and disruptive.

Another challenge is that boys only hear 70-75% of what girls do and that’s with eye contact. If a boy is absorbed in a play activity, or is facing away from his parent or teacher, he will generally not hear a thing being said. He also struggles with information overload – so making too many requests in one communication can create a glazed look as he fails to understand what is required of him.

We need to factor in these gender differences when we’re communicating with boys. They need all the help they can get to ensure they can thrive in our schools and in life, and reverse those scary statistics. They need boy champions to do this.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Standards and students thrive in a free market

Last night, I conducted an experiment to test the impact of the Common Core State Standards. When my kids were asleep, I placed a copy of the standards under their pillows. I was hopeful that they would be “college- and career-ready” when they woke up, but to my dismay, they had not learned anything from the standards.

You might not be too surprised about the results of my experiment because you know, as do I, that standards do not teach kids; parents and teachers teach kids. That is part of the reason that state and national standards have had very little effect in improving student achievement.

For standards to have any effect, they have to change the behavior of teachers. The only way to accomplish that is with heavy-handed government coercion and intrusion into school systems through test-based accountability. These accountability systems restrict the freedom of local schools and teachers to effectively meet the needs of their unique students.

It is not that we should not have standards, it is that one set of standards centrally imposed does more harm than good. Absent state or national standards, there would still be rigorous content standards for students. As Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute writes, “standards are ubiquitous in free markets.”

Proponents of state or national standards might say “math is math, it shouldn’t matter where you learn it.” That is true in the sense that 2 + 2 always equals 4. But it is not true in the sense that we have discovered the exact right sequence or method of teaching math. On this, there is considerable disagreement.

In a free market, schools would still have standards; officials would just have more latitude to choose the standards for their school. Parents would also have more options in a free market to choose the school that they believe is the best fit for them. Choice is the best method of accountability.

McCluskey sums up the argument very well: “Only a free market can produce the mix of high standards, accountability, and flexibility that is essential to achieving optimal educational outcomes.”

We need to stop trying to standardize education and start trying to personalize education.


Labour: make work experience compulsory and axe 'EBacc'

Compulsory work experience will be reintroduced in schools under a Labour plan to get teenagers ready for the jobs market, the Daily Telegraph has learnt.

The party is planning to reverse a Government decision to make two-week work placements an optional requirement before the end of school, it emerged.

Shadow ministers admitted that too many placements in the past involved “making tea and doing the photocopying” but insisted that high-quality work experience was vital.

It was also revealed that Labour is proposing to scrap the Coalition’s English Baccalaureate – a school league table measure that rewards pupils for gaining good GCSEs in a range of academic subjects – amid claims it “distorts” children's’ options and stops them studying the arts and engineering.

The disclosure is made before the publication on Tuesday of an interim report commissioned by the party into the future of 14-to-19 education, vocational qualifications and skills training.

Prof Chris Husbands, director of the University of London’s Institute of Education, is leading the review amid concerns over education for the “forgotten 50 per cent “ of schoolchildren who fail to go on to university.

Speaking before the publication, Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said there was currently a “massive gap in this country between the world of education and the world of work” and a number of key reforms were being considered by the party in attempt to bridge the divide.

It will coincide with the raising of the education leaving age to 17 from this September and 18 in 2015. This includes:

 *  Requiring all teenagers to study English and maths up to the age of 18 through GCSEs, A-levels or other qualifications to raise standards in the three-Rs;

 *  Introducing a requirement for independent careers advice – reversing a Government decision to devolve the function directly to schools – because of fears schools with sixth-forms are steering pupils towards A-levels over other options such as apprenticeships and further education colleges;

 *  An overhaul of apprenticeships to tie them more accurately to specific careers sectors.

But some of the most high-profile reforms are being planned for the 14-to-16 phase where Labour claim the Coalition is failing to prepare children for the workplace.

Last year, the Government dropped a requirement for compulsory work experience placements as part of a review into vocational education by Prof Alison Wolf, from King's College London.

Mr Twigg said it should be reinstated in some form but insisted the length of placements had yet to be decided, adding: “The quality of it varied. Certainly there were cases where people were in a workplace just making a cup of tea and doing the photocopying, but actually there were also brilliant examples of workplaces that did it really, really well. Giving young people that chance to see a real workplace is really fantastic and if anything two weeks isn’t enough.”

But a Government source said Mr Twigg backed the Wolf report, adding: "Either he doesn't know what is in the Wolf report or he is being hypocritical for political gain."

Mr Twigg also said the so-called EBacc would be scrapped. It currently ranks schools by the proportion of pupils gaining at least a C grade GCSE in five disciplines – English, maths, science, foreign languages and either history or geography.

But he said it had a “negative effect in areas like creatively and engineering, which get put to the fringes”.

“[The EBacc] is at best an irrelevance and in some cases it is distorting young people’s choices so they are not doing things that are best for fulfilling their potential,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are giving young people the skills they need for further education and employment.

"Raising the participation age to 18 and expanding work experience post-16 will give all students the chance to complete high-quality, relevant work placements.

“We accepted Alison Wolf’s recommendation to remove the duty on schools to provide work experience for pupils under 16s. Schools continue to have the freedom to offer quality work experience.

“The EBacc is not the limit of what young people should study – it is a common core, to which each pupil can add the subjects and qualifications which are most suitable for them. There should be plenty of time in the timetable for arts subjects as well."


Australia:  Demand for private school places sees fees triple

40% of Australian teenagers now go to non-government schools

PRIVATE school fees have tripled in the past 20 years, as a surging demand for places has hit parents' hip pockets.

Education costs have also been blamed for skyrocketing fees at some of Victoria's elite private schools since the mid-1990s.

Independent Schools Victoria says the education CPI has increased 182 per cent in the past 20 years.

Chief executive Michelle Green said if parents stopped investing their own money in their children's schooling, taxpayers would have to foot a massive jump in the education bill.

The Herald Sun compared fees at 16 Victorian schools in 2013 with the cost of educating a student in 1995.

The fees, detailed in a 1996 Herald Sun article, increased by up to 222 per cent.

The average fee for Year 12 students is $24,081 this year; it was $8232 in 1995 - an average rise of 193 per cent.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows average weekly earnings have risen 119 per cent between 1995 and November 2012.

Australian Scholarships Group chief executive John Velegrinis said private schools did not fear the perception of being expensive.

He said they tried to invest more in modern, state-of-the-art facilities to protect their brand.

Mr Velegrinis said there was greater demand for private school spots, including from international students.

In January, the Herald Sun reported that since 2010 there had been a 1.6 per cent increase in enrolment at independent secondary schools while state high-school student numbers had fallen.

A University of Melbourne Department of Economics paper released last year concluded fees charged by independent schools were increasing at a very high rate, with more of the expense being borne by parents.

It found higher fees were charged at schools with more staff, better university entrance scores, more music and language offerings, were older, had more students from a higher socioeconomic background and fewer students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The paper's researchers told the Herald Sun fees at low-socioeconomic status independent schools were not rising as fast as elite schools.

Victorian Parents Council executive officer Christine Delamore said the cost of providing schooling had risen at a much higher rate than CPI.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Standards-based reform lacks evidence

By James Shuls

This past weekend, I was featured prominently in a story by Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the Common Core State Standards.

Crouch summarized my position on content standards like this: “Shuls of the Show-Me Institute would prefer parents and schools to set their own standards, rather than states.” She also quoted me as saying, “Ultimately, there’s absolutely no evidence that content standards improve education.” Both of these are true, but they deserve a little more explanation. In this post, I will address the evidence on content standards.

Proponents of national standards often point to some of the top-performing countries and note that they have national standards. These proponents often fail to point out that some countries that perform better than us do not have national standards and many who perform worse than us do have national standards. We could just as easily point to those countries at the bottom and say, “look, national standards don’t work.”

Even at the state level, the evidence that rigorous standards improve student achievement is very weak. The Fordham Institute, one of the biggest supporters of the Common Core, has issued grades for state standards for some time now. Using these grades, the Brookings Institution examined the correlation between the rigor of each state’s standards and performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The authors concluded that there is no relationship between standards and performance. Moreover, they predict that the Common Core will have very little impact on student achievement:

"What effect will the Common Core have on national achievement? The analysis presented here suggests very little impact. The quality of the Common Core standards is currently being hotly debated, but the quality of past curriculum standards has been unrelated to achievement. The rigor of performance standards — how high the bar is set for proficiency — has also been unrelated to achievement."

Believing that rigorous standards will increase student achievement may be a fine theory, but it simply has not panned out in practice. There are several reasons for this, which I will address in my next post. I will also explain why I think parents and schools could do a better job of setting standards than the government.


My advice for graduates

    Don’t take the job that pays the most money. Nothing wrong with money, but it’s the wrong criterion for choosing if you are fortunate to have a choice in this not-so-great job market. People often confuse economics with anything that is related to money as if the goal of economics is to make you rich. But the goal of economics is to help you get the most out of life. Money is part of that of course, but usually there are tradeoffs–the highest paying job has drawbacks. Don’t ignore those.

So take the job that is the most rewarding in the fullest sense of the word. Sure, money matters. But so does how much you learn on the job, how much satisfaction it gives you and whether it lets you express your gifts. The ideal is to find a job you love that still lets you put food on the table and a roof over your head. You spend a lot of time at work. Don’t do something you hate or that deadens your soul just because it pays well.

    Time is precious. One of the simplest but most important ideas of economics is the idea of opportunity cost:  Anything you do means not doing something else. Don’t spend all of your leisure on email and twitter and entertainment. Keep your brain growing. Listen to Planet Money. Read a novel. Take a cooking class or keep working at that musical instrument.

    Finally remember the question Mary Oliver asks in her poem, The Summer Day:

    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    You don’t have to answer that question today. Or even tomorrow. But time is precious. Find a way to use your gifts. If you don’t have any gifts, invest in finding some. If you have some, invest in improving them.


Rise of the supersized schools in Britain: Baby boom and immigration behind increase in primaries with more than 1,000 pupils

The size of primary schools has rocketed in the last three years as Britain deals with an explosion in the birth rate fuelled by the rise in young immigrant families.

There are 60 per cent more supersize primaries with more than 700 pupils - including some with more than 1,000 - than in 2010, according to Department for Education statistics.

While three years ago there were no schools with more than 1,000 pupils, it is now becoming more common to have six classes in each year.

There are now 130 schools with more than 700 pupils, compared with just 80 three years ago.

Supersized schools are most prevalent in deprived areas, particularly east London and central Birmingham, where cheap council housing is available for families.

Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, already has 1,200 pupils and will expand to accommodate 1,600 by 2014, according to the Guardian.

Local authorities are forcing headteachers to open mobile classrooms on playing fields and in playgrounds, music rooms and libraries, in order to comply with laws meaning councils must find all children a school place, the newspaper reported.

But a National Union of Teachers study earlier this year found a fifth of areas where new free schools were being built, under the Government's scheme, already had at least 10 per cent of places going spare.

Colin Ross, a school governor and Sheffield city council shadow cabinet member, said primary schools should not exceed 420 pupils - or two classes of 30 in each year.

He told the Guardian: 'Parents want to know that primary school teachers know their children. If a school becomes bigger than 420, it is very difficult for staff to know each child.'

Bob Garton, head of the 1,200-pupil Gascoigne Primary in Barking, east London, said: 'We have no open space. We had a playing field, but temporary classrooms are on that now. We don't have one spare room. We are full to bursting.'

But Kay Jones, headteacher of Pinkwell primary in Hayes, Middlesex, which currently has 983 pupils and will expand to 1,200 by 2016, said size was not a barrier to good teaching.

'Class sizes are the same as in other smaller schools and we make sure there are only 300 children in the playground at any one time,' she said.

Studies have shown that pupils may be less likely to be bullied in larger schools but research on whether large primaries are better or worse for children are inconclusive.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Common core: A Tocquevillean education or cartel federalism?

The development of the Common Core, the model school curriculum standards that have been adopted by 45 states, offers us a glimpse into the dark underbelly of the democratic drift toward soft despotism. Proponents tout Common Core as “state-led” and say states “voluntarily adopt” the standards. Philanthropic and corporate America have gotten involved voluntarily. Parents and students—those most intimately affected by the initiative—won’t get to be a part of the voluntarism. But Common Core is so good, the argument goes, they’ll want it anyway.

Bringing greater uniformity to the K–12 curricula across the country is supposed to rescue kids stuck in lousy schools and improve standards for everyone. But policy analysts across the spectrum from Brookings to Heritage are expressing skepticism about the promises accompanying the new standards. And it is quite likely that such bureaucratic uniformity from Washington to the state capitols and then to every public school district in the land will pose new risks to America’s federalist experiment in self-government. What’s more, the Common Core movement is pushing increased college matriculation just as students and parents are beginning to reassess the costs and benefits of college tuition.

Apologists for the Common Core seek to allay fears of creeping nationalization with appeals that seem to invoke the blessing of Alexis de Tocqueville, who admired the energetic voluntary associations Americans once formed in almost every field of endeavor. Tocqueville’s been making a comeback of late, so this defense of the Common Core isn’t in itself surprising. But what happens, we must ask, when state leaders, private donors, and voluntary associations embark on initiatives that don’t align with the principles of federalism necessary for sustaining America’s constitutional order?

All the Best Kinds of Experts

In many ways, the Common Core coalition’s rapid sweep of the country in four short years resembles nothing so much as the social movement for Prohibition a century ago, which led to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 (a police power fiasco that was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933). The best sorts of professional experts in education and government are on board, as are philanthropic and corporate America. The motives seem pure: Who doesn’t want schools held to higher standards?

The core fact of the Common Core, though, is that it’s a relentless and coordinated push by philanthropic and bureaucratic experts to shift authority and responsibility from local citizens and independent school districts to the far-removed high cover of central authorities. The Obama administration quickly tied Race to the Top dollars to Common Core adoption by the states, not only tainting the appearance of the Common Core’s voluntary roots but compromising their reality, too. State officials faced new external incentives: Rush to adopt the Common Core standards in order to submit applications for Race to the Top grants. Another carrot was added to the mix: States adopting the Common Core could receive administrative waivers from certain requirements imposed upon them by the much touted No Child Left Behind legislation passed by Congress in 2001.

Indeed, the campaign for passage and implementation of the Common Core—which now includes a concerted (and corporate-sponsored) advertising campaign—epitomizes the trend toward cartel federalism described by Michael Greve in The Upside-Down Constitution (2012). In contrast to constitutional or competitive federalism, which works to discipline government at all levels, Greve describes cartel federalism as a form of bargaining among state governments and local elites that works to strengthen and centralize the national authority in return for attractive political and revenue returns. “A cartel federalism that empowers government at all levels is pathological, and quite probably worse than wholesale nationalization,” writes Greve.

The spring 2013 issue of Philanthropy magazine, published by the erstwhile-conservative Philanthropy Roundtable, recounts the “Common Core’s Uncommon Rise” and depicts the now all-too-common ways cartel federalism and its helpmate, philanthro-policymaking, work to generate and promote policy bandwagons.

In 2008 the American Diploma Project, heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, convened state officials and education reform groups, many of whom saw national standards as a key move to promote greater equity of educational processes and outcomes. “[F]rom those meetings,” Philanthropy reports, “emerged the idea of leveraging the cross-state work that the governors and chiefs had been working on with the voluntary mechanism that the American Diploma Project had been using to help states benchmark standards to college and career readiness.” 

The new coalition began to make promises to donors, with apparently little attention to what voters in their respective states might have to say in the matter:

"In the early stages of conversation with the foundations, there was a lot of skepticism about whether the states could do this and would do this,” explains Gene Wilhoit, who was until recently executive director of CCSSO. “We didn’t have the entire support we needed when we started the process. So when we sat down with the philanthropic community we had to make some pretty specific promises to them—like having so many states agree to participate in the process, and that those states would sign on to the adoption.” Cash-strapped states did not have the funds necessary to undertake the Common Core project on their own, and funding from the federal government wasn’t desirable from the states’ perspective—governors and education commissioners knew that if voters were to embrace national benchmarks, they would need to be convinced that states were in the driver’s seat.

Once the voluntary sector was co-opted, the rest was politics.

To Educate for Liberty?

The debate over the Common Core is exposing new fault lines in America’s reigning political coalitions. Instrumental in the Obama presidential victories, teachers’ unions have been emerging as opponents of the Common Core. On the right, meanwhile, opposition to the Core is mounting from more libertarian- and Tea Party-oriented groups, while more neoconservative groups join in support for the new standards. In the National Review Online, Kathleen Porter-Magee (Thomas B. Fordham Institute) and Sol Stern (Manhattan Institute) recently tried to set conservatives straight, complaining:

Common Core offers American students the opportunity for a far more rigorous, content-rich, cohesive K–12 education than most of them have had. Conservatives used to be in favor of holding students to high standards and an academic curriculum based on great works of Western civilization and the American republic. Aren’t they still?

Such arguments miss the fundamental problem, however, which is that even if national standards could improve education for American students—and this is by no means certain—the rush to join in the national standards movement further alienates responsibility for education from the people whose lives are most intimately tied to what goes on in schools: teachers, students, and parents.

Officials in my state, Indiana, have wisely decided to review the state’s decision to adopt the Common Core, but as these things go, the odds are very long for a complete reversal. Nevertheless, the deliberations in this state and others may help us elevate the conversation beyond debates over the projected impact of these new standards. It opens the door to asking fundamental questions, such as whom is education really for?  Is education primarily a tool of social control? Is education merely a benchmark for assessing state-to-state and international competitiveness? Or is education more properly the cultivation, student by student, of the knowledge and personal capacity for self-governance? An auspicious moment is arising for political leadership in helping citizens re-examine both the principles of federalism and the role of education in promoting liberty.

No Exit, No Discovery

Regardless of the merit of the proposed standards, it still matters who decides and whether there are rights of exit from the influence of the interlocking directorates of educational “experts,” government agencies, and companies standing to reap the rewards from selling new curriculum-aligned materials and tests to thousands of local school districts and families.

This is exactly the sort of debate over the very possibility of freedom in America that should be enjoined by those who would renew the federal vision of the American founders. Returning to a federal system that promotes liberty does not mean returning to educational arrangements that fail to provide access and opportunity for all children. But it does require renewing one of the perennial questions of a self-governing people, articulated here by Robert B. Hawkins, Jr.: “How can a society so constitute itself that its members will be free participants in a self-governing order and not merely the subjects of the state?”

In considering the role of education today, we must also take account of the ways in which the progress of both liberty and knowledge share dependence on trial-and-error discoveries. Schooling and public policy, therefore, need more of what we have learned about the mechanisms that best support the creation, diffusion, and validation of knowledge.

We understand today through the work of social theorists such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Michael Polanyi, Michael Oakeshott, and others that the methods of scientific rationality are not applicable to the management of social problems in which human persons are actors.

Writing in The Freeman on behalf of a freer market in education in 1995, Sheldon Richman deftly brought to bear the contrast between a closed universe of knowledge and an open universe, in which discovery remains possible. Richman observed that in government school systems, neither contracting out nor even charter schools were likely to help us make education better, for “the ends of the educational system are still set by the same small group of officials, who are protected from competition.” 

Common Core would build an “aligned” national infrastructure on the basis of what educators “know” at the present time with little apparent room for future competition as to the ends or the means or the methods of education. While educators may increasingly speak a standardized language, the children still may not learn. Worse, treated as educational subjects rather than as human persons, the rising generations may become even less capable of self-governance.

In “Individualism, True and False,” Hayek, invoking the insight of Lord Acton, offers us an antidote to the Common Core’s we’re-all-in-this-together boosterism: “While individualism affirms that all governments should be democratic, it has no superstitious belief in the omnicompetence of majority decisions, and in particular it refuses to admit that ‘absolute power may, by the hypothesis of popular origin, be as legitimate as constitutional freedom.’”

American debate over education should be, in the spirit of genuine American federalism, less concerned with global competitiveness and more attuned to the questions of what social arrangements most contribute to the capacity of a people for liberty.


Steve Jobs’s High School GPA Is Proof That Grades Aren’t Everything

When you die as a billionaire who created one of the most influential companies in modern history, people automatically assume that you were pretty smart. And smarts mean good grades in school, right? That’s what your teachers want you to believe.
Mr. Stephen Paul Jobs was a genius, but not at getting As on his report card.

It’s common knowledge that Jobs was a college dropout. He left Reed College after only six months and ended up getting a job as a low-level technician at Atari. He would then go on to create the Mac with Steve Wozniak, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Atlantic did some digging through Jobs’s recently released FBI file and found a great nugget of history: his high school GPA. During his years at Homestead High School (1968-1972), Jobs averaged a 2.65 GPA, meaning he got mostly Cs and Bs. So he wasn’t a bad student, but definitely not the scholar you would expect from a future industry titan.


British teachers vow to strike after head suggests sitting in on lessons... but staff claim it puts them under 'intolerable pressure'

After Chris Everitt was put in charge of a failing school, he thought it would be a good idea to sit in on lessons to see how the teachers were faring.  But now he is facing strike action after the teachers claimed such a move would put them under ‘intolerable’ pressure.

Westwood Girls College was placed in special measures after it was rated inadequate by Ofsted in January.

Mr Everitt was brought in at Easter as interim manager in an attempt to improve standards at the school in Upper Norwood, south east London.

But teachers have responded angrily, threatening three walk-outs over the next month, when many pupils are taking their exams.

Angry parents condemned the move. Lucia Castro, 40, said: ‘It seems that the school has started to pick up again recently. ‘Some of the teachers had it cushy all this time. They are being given more of a hard time now and they aren’t happy with it.’

Butt Rehmen, 41, said: ‘I don’t think they should go on strike – they should be monitored.’

Graham Cluer, of the NASUWT, said there had been a succession of interim heads at the school and each had carried out observations. ‘It is putting an intolerable workload and stress level on teachers,’ he claimed.

Around 40 teachers at Westwood School, which has pupils aged from 11 to 16, will strike on May 22, June 6 and June 18.

Staff from Harris Federation, an academy chain that is taking over the school in September, will hold some classes for older children and ensure exams can take place.  But children in Years 7, 8 and 9 will have to stay at home.

Mr Everitt, who is employed by the Harris Federation, said  ‘lesson observations’ were an ‘essential component’ of raising standards.

The Ofsted report noted a string of failings, including too little being known about ‘the quality of teaching in the school’.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the threatened strikes were ‘outrageous’.