Saturday, July 27, 2013

Success DOES depend on your parents' intelligence: Exam results are influenced by genes, not teaching

All that is old is new again.  The facts below have been known since the work of Binet over 100 years ago but are politically incorrect.  So it is good to see them getting a rare mention

Parents' intelligence really does have a huge bearing on a teenagers' success at school, a leading geneticist has claimed.

Professor Robert Plomin, from Kings College London, found inherited intelligence could account for nearly 60 per cent of a teenager's GCSE results, while the school environment, including the quality of teaching, only influences results by a third.

His study was based upon long-term analysis of twins and suggests that their genes play a larger part than the education they receive when it came to their achievement in schools.

Professor Plomin, from the university's Institute of Psychology, led the research that studied 11,000 twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996. He has since talked to the Department for Education about his findings.

The Telegraph reported that ministers and senior officials are 'seriously considering' how the findings could be used in future reforms of the education system.

Professor Plomin told The Spectator that education professionals have been too fast to dismiss the influence of genetics in a bid to avoid labeling children as soon as they start school.

However, he believes that his controversial findings can be used in a positive way to develop education tailored to a child's unique needs, rather than following a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

In the future, Professor Plomin thinks that genetic scanning could eventually be used to identity particularly gifted children or those with academic weaknesses.

He said that children already label each other, whether it is by academic or sporting ability, and that by reading a child's genome, adults can predict and therefore influence a child's academic progression, as well as prevent disease.

Professor Plomin told the magazine: 'If we can read their DNA, we can tailor the teaching to help a kid with learning difficulties.

'Surely it’s worse to just sit in a classroom and sink, unable to read because no one has identified that you might have trouble.'

His Twins Early Development Study, which has not yet been published, examined the GCSE results of 11,117 twins and found that their genes had a 'substantial' influence on their performance.

The study found that the twins' genes had a bearing on 52 per cent of their marks in English, 55 percent in maths and 58 per cent in science.

Taking an average across all the subjects, inherited ability swayed 58 per cent of the teenagers' test scores at the age of 16, while the school environment and therefore the quality of teaching only accounted for 36 per cent.

It could be argued, based on the results of the research, that the present school system is doomed to fail at closing the gap in results between the cleverest and weakest students and it seems that home environment has a limited influence too.

Professor Plomin said: 'Much more of the variance in GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment.'

This is not the first study to suggest a strong link between a children's genes and their intelligence and that the connection may become more noticeable with age.

He added that the genetic influence of a person's IQ increases as they age, with some scientists considering that it becomes 80 per cent inheritable in later life.

The theory is that small genetic differences become larger as a person ages and creates environments correlated to their genotype.

For example, clever people might seek out intellectually stimulating pursuits like reading and socialise with like-minded people.

A Department for Education source told The Telegraph: 'As we learn more from science, a decentralised school system with great teachers providing personalised learning will be even more important, so that teachers can make decisions for the best interests of each child.'


High-tech and Humanity: 'English Majors Are What We're Looking For'

Economic anxiety defines the Detroit bankruptcy, and not just in Michigan and the Midwest. Detroit is the urban nightmare, symbolic of America's downward cultural spiral since the 1960s, when optimism about what Americans could accomplish was the national elixir.

The automobile was the national icon: powerful, beautiful and reliable. Detroit's advertising slogans reflected America's immeasurable self-confidence. Cadillac boasted that it was "the standard of the world." Buick promised that "when better cars are built, Buick will build them." Packard, then Detroit's ultimate expression of luxury, smugly advised, "Ask the man who owns one."

The car was the example of infinite American possibility. Americans had just returned from winning two wars, one beyond the Atlantic and the other in the Pacific, and we were liberated to think we could do anything -- in business, engineering, medicine, the law or whatever else struck our fancy. We were free to explore the possibilities of the mind. There was the saying that the first-generation American had gone into business so his son could be a doctor and his grandson could be a professor.

The returning American soldier, getting a college education on the G.I. Bill as the happy alternative to the war he had just won, could look at his reality in a fresh way. Many measured themselves by their ability to make money; others exhilarated in how prosperity freed them to "rise above" money matters to study philosophy and literature. But all that was a long time ago.

The pessimism of the present day affects the way we think about the future in narrower ways. A half-century ago, 14 percent of college students studied the humanities, the reflection of the great ideas that liberated an imagination grounded in what Matthew Arnold, the 19th-century English poet and critic, described as "the best that has been thought and said in the world."

Aristotle said mastering metaphors was a sign of genius. That may have been exaggeration from the man who espoused the golden mean, but the ancient philosopher understood that poetry had its practical virtues (even if his colleague Plato didn't include the poet in his ideal society).

Humanities majors sometimes were referred to as "eggheads," disdained by their more practical brothers and sisters, but mostly they were proud to carry on a tradition requiring that they read the great works from antiquity to modernity. Humanities majors are down now to 7 percent, and they are not exactly high status on campus.

In a digital age, no one much cares that the humanities major is an endangered species. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in a report titled "The Heart of the Matter," makes the case that, like the natural sciences, the humanities feed "mental empowerment." True enough, but the report ignores important reasons why young men and women ignore a humanities major today. Tenured professors smother the beauty and truth of the ancients with arcane jargon, trading the wisdom from the forest for the weeds of multicultural and politically correct revisionism.

That's too bad. Without the passion that stirs the soul with great writing, it's easy to overlook the riches of a liberal arts education. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, he noted that Apple's DNA was not made up of technology alone. "It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing," he said.

Jobs was not alone in recognizing that the high-tech employers seek innovators who employ imagination, metaphor and storytelling, all growing from the rediscovery of great works of literature. Michael Malone, author and teacher, tells of inviting a Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneur to talk to his college writing class. When he told his visitor to go easy on the downside of life for an English major in a tech-savvy world, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur replied: "English majors are exactly the people I'm looking for." The battleground, writes Malone in The Wall Street Journal, has shifted from engineering to storytelling as the means of translating an idea into imagined reality. The study of fine writing and the arts opens the mind to a larger nature, to quality measured not by big data, but by big ideas.

"At a time when economic anxiety is driving the public toward a narrow concept of education focused on short-term payoffs," observes the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, "it is imperative that colleges, universities and their supporters make a clear and convincing case for the value of liberal arts education." That's a hard sell to engineers, economists and politicians watching Detroit slide down the tubes, but there's merit in it. You should channel Steve Jobs.


British children as young as five kicked out of class as almost 100 primary pupils are suspended EVERY DAY for assaults on teachers and classmates

Almost 100 primary pupils are suspended each school day for assaulting their teachers and classmates, according to official figures.

Children as young as five are increasingly being ordered out of the classroom after attacking school staff, Government data shows.

Thousands more are being sent home for verbal abuse or threatening behaviour.

The statistics, published by the Department for Education, reveal the state of behaviour in England's schools in 2011/12, and suggest a worsening situation in primaries.

Pupils aged between five and 11 were suspended 9,120 times for physically assaulting another pupil last year, the figures show, down marginally from 9,160 times in 2010/11.

But there was an increase in the number of times pupils of this age were suspended for assaulting an adult - 8,630 occasions in total, compared to 7,830 the year before.

It means that the equivalent to 93 primary-age pupils were suspended on any given school day in 2011/12 for physical assault, such as violent behaviour, obstruction, wounding and fighting, according to an analysis of the statistics.

Primary school pupils were also expelled on 120 occasions for assaulting a classmate - up from 90 the year before, and 200 times for assaulting staff, the same as in 2010/11.

The figures show that primary schools were forced to temporarily bar pupils aged 11 and under from lessons 6,200 times for verbal abuse and threatening behaviour such as being aggressive, carrying a weapon, homophobic abuse and harassment, swearing, threatening violence and intimidation.

This is equivalent to almost 33 primary pupils being suspended on any given day for these reasons.

It is a slight improvement on 2010/11, when pupils were suspended on 6,320 occasions.

The figures show that the number one reason that primary schools suspend a child - 9,770 times last year - is for being challenging, disobedience, or continually violating school rules - known as persistent disruptive behaviour.

Others were sent home for bullying, racist abuse, sexual misconduct, drugs and alcohol, damage and theft.

The picture was different in England's secondary schools, where there was a drop across the board in suspensions, the figures show.

A DfE spokeswoman said: 'Heads now have more power than ever before to ensure strong discipline in the classroom.

'We have introduced new search powers, no-notice detentions, and have ensured heads' decisions on expulsions cannot be overruled.

'The Government is tackling the causes of exclusion by improving the quality of teaching, raising standards in literacy and numeracy, tackling disadvantage through the Pupil Premium, overhauling the special educational needs system and making radical improvements to alternative provision.'


Friday, July 26, 2013

Vouchers: My Personal Case

Larry Elder

"I think you should check out the APEX program," my high school counselor Mrs. Workman suggested.

APEX stood for Area Program Enrichment Exchange, and involved several L.A. area high schools, including Fairfax High. Intended for "advanced" students, the program allowed them to take courses not offered at their home school.

In my case, I had exhausted all of the Spanish courses at Crenshaw High, the predominately black inner-city school I attended. But Fairfax, predominately Jewish, had higher-level courses and would accept me.

"It'll be a way for you to continue your Spanish -- where, I see from your transcript, you excel. I'd suggest you do this," she said.

"How does the program work?"

Each morning, she explained, a school bus would pick up the APEX students -- by definition a group of supposedly "high-level, college-bound kids" -- and bus them to their chosen school. We would attend two classes each morning at the APEX school, after which we would be bused back to Crenshaw.

"Where do I sign?"

Mrs. Workman laughed, "I expect you to do well."

About that I had little doubt. After all, I made mostly A's, and did particularly well in Spanish. I ranked sixth or seventh in a class of 250. Of course I would do well.

But I didn't.

I knew I was in for a ride when I walked into class that first day at Fairfax. The teacher greeted me in Spanish. But I noticed that everyone in the class spoke in Spanish. I don't mean the halting way I spoke, with iffy grammar and conjugation. These kids were fluent! I was shocked.

Despite the stack of Spanish course A's I had piled up since middle school, I never really thought achieving fluency in a class setting was possible -- unless you lived in Mexico or Spain or had Spanish-speaking parents.

But it became clear that from the time these Fairfax kids took their first Spanish course -- and, for that matter, every other course -- teachers demanded far more from students than Crenshaw teachers demanded of us. The Fairfax kids also demanded more of themselves. And they were matter-of-fact about the high expectations their parents had for them.

When I came home from that first day at Fairfax, I cried.

"These A's I'd been getting," I told my mom, "were crap. Probably C's at Fairfax. It's as if I'd been playing Little League baseball -- and now I'm playing against the Dodgers."

"You're right," she said, "it's not fair -- but do your best. You'll rise to the occasion."

I got an F on my first test. This was followed by more F's and D's. There was a lot of oral class participation, and the teacher and students were patient as I butchered the language. They felt sorry for me.

The final exam, which accounted for most of the grade, was a written book report on Don Quixote -- also to be given orally, without notes, while standing in front of the class. Holy bleep!

I busted my butt, worked my way through the book, and wrote and memorized my presentation. I checked and rechecked my report. Then I practiced it in front of the bathroom mirror. Never had I worked as hard on anything in school. I vowed not to be embarrassed.

I spoke third. After each student spoke, the no-nonsense teacher immediately critiqued the speech, corrected grammar and syntax, and offered ways to improve.

My turn. The walk to the front of the class took forever. "I'll show them," I said over and over. I cleared my throat and let it rip. I knew I had rocked when, after I finished, no one said anything, not even the teacher. Who was that fluent guy in Larry's body?

"Bien, senor Elder," the teacher finally said. "Muy bien."

I told my mom what happened. She didn't use the word "voucher," but she wondered why parents couldn't choose the school to which they send their kids, rather than the one -- good or bad -- that happens to be the closest.

"Doesn't seem right," said Mom. My Fairfax experience, she said, "shows what happens when kids are pushed. I can't do anything about this. But maybe someday you can."

Hopefully, I just did.


You Might Be at a Liberal College If ...

As students go back to school this month, some will be facing a completely new environment: a college campus. For freshmen, the adjustment is huge: being away from home, fending for yourself when it comes to meals and doing laundry, and balancing the late hours of studying and writing papers with an exploding social life.

Then there’s the actual classroom environment. College is a laboratory of ideas, where countless viewpoints are argued, discussed and evaluated. Conservatives, however, often find themselves in an environment hostile to their opinions. From the things they are learning in class, to who they are learning from, to the groups they join, to the speakers who come to campus, it’s a seemingly never-ending barrage of liberal tripe.

Parents are extremely invested in their children’s education, often emotionally and financially. Yet conservative parents can likely expect three things for their child in those four years: one, people that don’t share their beliefs, whether peers or professors; two, a school administration not terribly concerned with fostering debate; and three, classes that waste their kids’ time and their parents’ money on topics that range from the harebrained to the openly hostile.


Just a cursory look at course listings at the top 50 private, public and Ivy League schools, according to U.S. News and World Report, will find countless examples of classes that will make parents ask why they’re sending a child to that school. Take, for instance, a class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled “Paying for Green Government: Financing and Implementing Sustainability Initiative.” The course description says the class is “designed to provide an in-depth introduction to planning and funding greener government operations.” It gets better:

“The Environmental Finance Center will lead a participatory workshop that focuses on the finance and policy challenges that arise when local governments consider implementing energy efficiency, green building, fuel efficiency, waste reduction, alternative energy projects, and other sustainability initiatives. Participants will learn how to select green projects for their community; what basic finance tools are available for green projects; how to leverage third-party equity to take advantage of tax credits; and how to apply for guaranteed energy savings contracts. The course will also cover relevant information on how to apply federal stimulus money to greener government.” Solyndra, anyone?

That’s only the start. At Georgetown University, a class in its Women and Gender Studies program titled, “The Breast: Image, Myth and Legend,” is where students will analyze how the breast has been depicted in Western art and culture. If that’s not something your son or daughter should be “exposed” to, maybe show them what’s going on over at Dartmouth College, where they can take a class called “Queer Marriage, Hate Crimes, and Will and Grace: Contemporary Issues in LBGTQ Studies.” In this course, a student will examine, among other things, “how pop culture movies like Basic Instinct, Scary Movie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and television’s Will and Grace and Six Feet Under both reflect and shape popular opinion.”

Young America’s Foundation’s study, “The Dirty Dozen,” provides a collection of the worst classes offered by Ivy League, public and private schools. At Harvard University, students can take a course called “Inequality and American Democracy.” The course description talks about how inequalities of wealth and income have grown since the 1970s, and it asks how changing social and economic inequalities influence American democracy.

Conversely, Stanford University took a bold step forward with their “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” course, but it didn’t last long. In that case, the popular class was discontinued because, as the school claimed, they wanted to refocus resources elsewhere. However, the Stanford Review reported Brown University invited the course’s professor to give the same class at their school.


If the courses are skewing Left, the professors are the driving force. Granted, not all professors push their own ideological slant into their curriculum, but recent research backs up the claim that students are dealing with a decidedly liberal plethora of teachers.

In 2007, political scientists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons wrote a paper titled “Social and Political Views of American Professors” that found 34 percent of the professors polled self-identified as liberals, while only 8 percent identified themselves as conservative. An even more recent poll by Young America’s Foundation looked at 284 professors nationwide, and the results mimicked the work by Gross and Simmons: 57 percent of professors identified themselves as liberal and 16 percent as conservative.

One can also look at money given to presidential candidates as a fairly easy indicator of ideology among those in higher education. In the 2012 presidential race, the company with the most employees, employee’s families or company PACs contributing to President Barack Obama was the University of California school system. The massive system’s employees contributed more than $1 million. And it wasn’t the only school on this list. Either the employees, their families, the organization PACs or some combination thereof at Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago all came in the top 20, contributing a combined $3.5 million to President Obama.

Critics will say that contributions and courses being offered are not indicative of how a professor will teach in the classroom or what materials he or she will use to educate the students, but that is hard to defend when liberal professors admit to bias against conservative colleagues. A September 2012 study published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science journal found that, when polling academics and scholars in social psychology, more than a third of the individuals polled would not hire someone who was a conservative.


Filipino women teachers are banned from wearing veils in the classroom

Women teachers have been ordered to remove their veils when teaching in the classroom in the majority Catholic country of the Philippines.

It is the latest twist in the ongoing controversy over the wearing of the religious garment, that sparked a riot in the French capital Paris on Friday.

An order was sent out by the Filipino Government yesterday instructing female teachers to take off their religious veils in a move that was claimed would build a better relationship between teachers and pupils.

Education secretary Armin Luistro said it was part of reforms designed to make schools more sensitive to religion.

Muslim schoolgirls will still be allowed to wear the veil in schools as well as 'appropriate clothing' in gym class.

But while female Muslim schoolteachers can wear the veil outside class, they have been told to remove the veil during lessons so they can interact better with students.

The order stated: 'Once the teacher is in the classroom, she is requested to remove the veil.'

It added the move would help aid 'proper identification of the teachers by their pupils, thus promoting better teacher-pupil relationship'.

It would also help the teaching of languages, where 'lip formation' plays a role in pronouncing certain letters.

The Government’s Office of Muslim Affairs said it agreed with the education department’s measures, although it had not yet received a copy of the order.

Roque Morales, an adviser to the office, claimed that while he did not know how many Muslim Filipinas were working as teachers, the practice of wearing veils, such as hijabs and niqabs, was widespread in the southern Philippines.  He said: 'You would almost see it everywhere.'

So far there have not been any complaints from Muslim teachers, he added.

The office said that Muslims make up about 15 per cent of the Philippine population, mostly based in the southern regions, which they consider their ancestral home.

The hijab and niqab - a religious garment worn by some Muslim women to cover their whole face - continue to divide cultures around the world.

Two years ago, France banned the niqab and the burqa from being worn anywhere in public in a move that sparked protests among Muslims.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Overweight students are less likely to be accepted to university than their thinner counterparts

Fat is unattractive, particularly among young people -- so some exclusion is to be expected

Winning a place at the best universities can be difficult enough - and now American scientists believe how much you weigh could influence whether you are accepted.

Researchers at Bowling State University found that overweight students, especially girls, are less likely to get into university than skinnier students.

The group of psychologists studied almost a thousand applications for postgraduate courses and found that academics favoured thin candidates in face to face interviews.

However, there was no significant difference in success rates when conversations were carried out over the phone or when credentials were assessed remotely.

Psychologist Jacob Burmeister and colleagues at the university asked 97 applicants for psychology graduate programmes at more than 950 universities in the US whether they had an interview in person or on the phone, and whether or not they received an offer.

Dr Burmeister said: 'When we looked at that we could see a clear relation between their weight and offers of admission for those applicants who had had an in person interview.

'The success rate for people who had had no interview or a phone interview was pretty much equal, but when in-person interviews were involved, there was quite a bit of difference, even when applicants started out on equal footing with their grades, test scores and letters of recommendation.'

The study, which was published in the journal Obesity, also suggested the weight bias was stronger for female applicants.

The researchers examined letters of recommendation - a common feature in the application process for winning a place at US universities - and identified positive and negative statements in them as well as the overall quality of the letters.

Dr Burmeister said:'One of the things we suspected was the quality of their letters of recommendation written by their undergrad mentors would be associated with the applicants' body weight, but it really was not.

'It may be that letter writers come to know students well and body weight no longer played a factor.'

Previous studies by British researchers have found overweight people, especially women, are less likely to be hired because employers assume they will be lazy, and when they do get a job tend to be bullied, earn less and are often overlooked for promotion.


More students turning to private colleges as fees rise

Private colleges in Britain are mostly vocationally oriented

Record numbers of students are taking higher education courses at private universities and colleges, despite concerns over low employment rates, research shows.

A new Government analysis reveals that 160,000 students were enrolled at some 674 privately-funded institutions last year, far higher than previous estimates.

In many cases, students are taking degree-level qualifications in subjects such as business, management, accountancy and IT or specialist arts courses in music, drama and dance.

It is thought that large numbers of students are being attracted to private institutions – more than half of which are officially profit-making bodies – to take shorter courses at a fraction of the cost of those charged by mainstream publicly-funded universities.

According to the report published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, more than half of institutions charged between £3,000 and £6,000 and the average maximum fee stood at £5,050. By comparison, average fees of around £8,300 were set for students starting courses at state-funded institutions in autumn 2012.

It follows a Coalition decision to allow students to take out taxpayer-backed loans of up to £6,000 to take courses at private education providers.

Experts believe that the number of students being attracted to the private sector will continue to grow in coming years.

A survey of institutions conducted as part of the research found that two-thirds were anticipating a rise in the number of British and European students taking degree-style courses, while just over six-in-10 are planning to expand the range of courses on offer.

The study – carried out by CFE Research – found that the vast majority of students were satisfied with their course but it suggested that large numbers of graduates may struggle to get a job.

Of those institutions that provided figures, a third suggested that less than half of students who finished courses in 2011 went into graduate-level jobs, while 75 per cent said that less than half went onto further courses. This compares with an average of 90 per cent of students at mainstream universities who go into good jobs or take another college course.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said the figure was “a concern” but insisted that employment rates may be skewed by the presence of large numbers of foreign students who may not be properly tracked by institutions when they graduate.

The Government has actively courted private higher education providers, allowing them to enrol students carrying £6,000-a-year state-funded loans, provided courses are formally accredited by the universities watchdog.

Mr Willetts added: “This research highlights the important role alternative providers play in the higher education sector. They are more common than people think, offer an attractive alternative for students and also deliver high student satisfaction rates.

“Through our higher education reforms we will welcome more alternative providers to the sector. This will create more competition, extra choices for students and will maintain the UK’s reputation for providing a word class student experience.”

Most private colleges offer higher education diplomas or degrees formally accredited by another – mainstream – university.

Some private institutions have their own degree awarding powers, including Buckingham University, the University of Law, Regent’s College in London, the IFS School of Finance and BPP, which specialises in finance, law, health and business courses.

Criticism has been levelled at private institutions amid claims they will skimp on quality and put profit before students.

Mr Willetts defended his reforms, saying: “The lazy criticism of these moves is of course to say that opening up the system diminishes quality.

“But this ignores the great tradition of British higher education, which is a story of dynamism, of new universities meeting changing needs. It ignores the fact that many of our most successful universities were once considered worryingly ‘alternative’.

“When University College London opened in 1828 it offered a secular alternative to the Oxbridge duopoly, as well as a curriculum with new and practical subjects like modern languages, economics and engineering. It was variously dismissed as ‘that godless institution on Gower Street’ and ‘a mere lecture bazaar’.”

*Richer pupils are twice as likely to attend one of Britain’s leading universities as those from the poorest homes, according to figures from the Department for Education.

Just four per cent of teenagers eligible for free school meals – a key measure of poverty – went on to study at Russell Group institutions in 2010, compared with nine per cent of other pupils


Australia: Catholic sector seals 'Better Schools' deal

This is a cave-in by the Leftist federal government.  They wanted to buy control by tying it to more money.  Rudd is giving the money but not getting control

CATHOLIC educators have agreed to sign the "Better Schools" agreement after Kevin Rudd offered an extra $600 million and undertook to rewrite a key section of the Gonski education changes Julia Gillard rushed through parliament in June.

As the August deadline approached for schools to finalise funding for next year the national Catholic education system, which teaches almost 750,00 school students or 20 per cent of Australia's school population, entered an “ongoing” agreement with Labor for the Gonski school funding reforms.

While accepting the agreement and welcoming the negotiations from the Prime Minister and new Education Minister, Bill Shorten, Catholic systems will continue to negotiate in some states because of different state funding arrangements.

The deal is a boost for the Rudd government's negotiations, which have now led to deals with NSW, Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and with the independent schools.

It is expected the Liberal government of Victoria may also agree to the federal government's terms, especially after Catholics' concerns about ministerial intervention have been addressed. Negotiations are also continuing with Queensland and the Northern Territory, while Western Australia has yet to sign up.

The Catholic school administrators were highly critical of Ms Gillard's approach and the negotiations of former education minister, Peter Garrett, and the lack of parliamentary debate on the “historic” reforms which Ms Gillard described as a “crusade”.

The opposition has threatened not to honour the Gonski legislation and education deals if a majority of states do not agree.

The key concession to the Catholic education system is that the Catholic administrators will retain autonomy on funding decisions.

It's understood the government has agreed to change the legislation which Ms Gillard insisted be included as law and not just as regulations - either when parliament resumes or after the election.

Mr Rudd this afternoon formally announced the agreement in Melbourne under which Catholic schools would receive an additional $1.6 billion over six years - an increase of $600 million.

“That is a large additional shot in the arm,” he told reporters at Aquinas College in Melbourne.

“Today, because of the work that's been done, we now have almost two-thirds of the kids in Australia benefiting under the Better Schools plan, which will deliver extra funding and extra resources ... in most of the states of Australia,” Mr Rudd said.

“We've still some (states) who we've got to get across the line.”

Mr Rudd said he would meet Victorian Premier Denis Napthine later today.

“Our call is pretty basic: come on board, premier, this is a great plan for Australia,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Shorten said today's announcement was “unreservedly good news” for students in Catholic schools and their parents.

The new funding model will now cover about 2.5 million of Australia's 3.5 million school students, he said.

Sydney Catholic Schools welcomed the agreement as a “positive outcome”.

“I am pleased that the uncertainty of the past 19 months is now behind us, and that the government has given our Catholic school system assurances of flexibility and autonomy to be able to continue to allocate precious resources where they are most needed and where they will have the greatest impact,” said Dan White, executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Education Scam

In the news lately is the plight of the students. Everybody tells them they should go to college. But college is expensive. And since nobody has any money in America, they have to borrow. They end up with a worthless college degree and, on average, about $25,000 in debt.

This scam takes place on several levels. The whole nation gets scammed into thinking that “education” is a good thing.

Here’s a typical newspaper article, this one from The Wall Street Journal:

“Education Slowdown Threatens US”

“Throughout American history,” the article begins, “almost every generation has had substantially more education than that of its parents. That is no long true. When baby boomers born in 1955 reached age 30, they had about two more years more schooling than their parents, according to Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz... But in 2010 they averaged only about 8 months more schooling than their parents.”

The article goes on to tell us that college graduates have less trouble getting a job than those who only graduated from high school. But so what? Suppose everyone had a Ph.D. Would jobs suddenly appear for them?

“The wealth of nations is no longer in resources. It’s no longer in physical capital. It’s in human capital,” says an expert quoted by the paper.

Elsewhere in the blahblahsphere, Larry Summers, former secretary of the Treasury, challenged Mitt Romney to present a budget plan, which among other things, included more “investment” guess!

But “investments” in education have been increasing for the last 40 years...and for the last 40 years...there has been not one penny of return.

So, let’s follow the money. The feds give students money...or give it to the universities directly. Either way, it ends up in the pockets of the education industry. Unemployment has gone up and down...with no relation to the supposed investments in education. Employees — including those with college degrees — have not earned a penny more in real hourly wages. And test scores show they don’t know anything more than they did, at far lower investment, 4 decades ago.

Investments in education are losers. Why invest more?

Because the money comes out of nowhere. It’s nowhere money. Might as well bailout the financial industry. And “invest” in healthcare too.

But the nowhere money is not with no cost. It looks just like other money. And it buys the same things. So, the guy who has it is able to use it to take away resources from other people.

Follow the money. From the Fed to the the favoured, no-return industries — health, education, finance and the military.

The zombies get more money. The rest of the economy ends up with less.

And now, much of the cost rests on the shoulders and backs of young people in the form of unpaid student loans, from MSNBC:

    "Here’s what we do know about student loan debt: it’s roughly $1 trillion in size, greater than either auto or credit-card debt and second only to mortgage debt in the US.

    Borrowers in their 30s today owe $28,500, on average. The debt burden has soared just as — and partly because — the recession hit, so younger graduates carrying the highest balances are hit with the double whammy of a weak job market (that still isn’t showing any sign of rapid improvement).

    And this all comes as globalization and technological change have upended once-reliable career paths, wiped out many mid-level professional jobs and leave low-paying fields in health, food and beverage services, and retail as among the fastest growing job markets over the next decade.

    Oh, and consider that student loan debt remains one of the most difficult types to forgive or discharge in bankruptcy, in part because the federal government (i.e. taxpayers) made or guaranteed 80 percent of all outstanding student loan debt as of last year. And finally, that once loans in deferral or forbearance are excluded, the delinquency rate on student loan debt was an estimated 27 percent as of the third quarter of 2011, according to a study by the New York Fed."


Obama agrees with Hitler on schooling children

According to Godwin's Law, the first person to invoke Hitler loses the debate. But there is a corollary. Sometimes the comparison invokes itself.

In a legal case that seems headed to the US Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has sided with Hitler against parental rights. Romeike v. Holder involves a German family which is seeking asylum in America because Germany has threatened to remove the Romeike's younger children if they continue to homeschool.

In 1938, Adolf Hitler ordered all German children to be educated either in state schools or in government-approved private schools that strictly followed the Nazi blueprint. The Reichsschulpflichtgesetz (Compulsory Education Law), which specifically banned home schooling, remains in force in Germany today.

The Nazi and American systems of education have always had similarities. The 19th century American education reformer Horace Mann is called the father of American education. The main goal of both systems was not to teach children the three Rs or critical thinking but to produce good citizens. The Nazi vision of a “good citizen” and that of Mann differed but the two approaches had definite overlap. For example, they stressed the inculcation of obedience to authority. Moreover, they reflected a belief that the state should focus upon children because, unlike adults, children were 'wax' and could be more easily shaped.

A key difference between the German and American educational systems, however, is that Americans are legally permitted to home school their children.

That situation may change under Obama. In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama called on “every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” Traditionally, education is a state prerogative but the federal government is often able to dictate terms because state schools depend upon federal funding.

The DOJ's stance toward the Romeikes is also revealing. The family was initially granted asylum under a statute that applies to any applicant who has a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” US Attorney General Eric Holder objected to the asylum and the ruling was overturned on appeal. Romeike v. Holder was then taken to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals where the homeschoolers' petition was denied. Nevertheless, the court has ordered the DOJ to respond to a rehearing request.

Given that the DOJ brief in Romeike v. Holder was filed on behalf of the US Attorney General, it can be seen as an official statement on home schooling from the Obama administration. It states “The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society....Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.” In other words, banning homeschooling promotes tolerance and good citizenship. The brief makes favorable reference to a German court ruling that found, “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area.” In other words, people whose philosophy contradicts the 'general good' (as defined by the state) should be integrated by forcing their children to attend state schools where they become part of a propaganda machine.

   "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side, and you will not get me on your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to me already. A people lives forever. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants however now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community'." -- Adolf Hitler

The comparison between Obama and Nazis on education sounds like hyperbole, but it is rapidly becoming less of an overstatement. Consider an social experiment being conducted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – the second largest school district in America. 'Covered California', the state’s health insurance exchange, has granted LAUSD almost one million dollars for a pilot program. One of the program's main goals is to train students to become “messengers” for Obamacare. Specifically, the children will be trained to 'educate' their families and possibly other adults about why they should enroll in the tax-subsidized healthcare program. Public school is now training children to educate their parents toward the correct political position.

Heartland Institute explained, “LAUSD will also use tax-paid staff to promote ObamaCare through phone calls to students’ homes, in-class presentations, and meetings with employees eligible for ObamaCare’s taxpayer-covered healthcare.”

Investor's Business Daily reported the words of LAUSD spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry. She explained “proudly” that the “pilot program” was meant to ascertain “how well teenagers serve as messengers of government-sponsored information.” Investor's reported: “If they prove proficient at influencing their own families to believe material sent home from schools, she said, the teens will be used to deliver numerous other official messages to adults in their home and neighborhoods.” And pilot programs, by definition, are trials in contemplation of expanding the model.

Public schools have always been used to spread state propaganda but the LAUSD program is so blatant that it is being widely compared to the Hitler Youth; sadly, this also becomes less and less hyperbole. The Nazi program was for males aged 14 to 18, with children aged 10 to 14 being divided by sex into two other sub-programs. The Hitler Youth were instilled with Nazi values which they then spread them to relatives and the general public. The program evolved from children teaching their parents to children denouncing those parents who refused to 'learn'.

But for Obama Youth to be truly effective, children must be forced to attend public school or state-approved private ones. He could do it with the stroke of a pen by using his favorite political weapon: an executive order. That is what Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, expects to happen.

To me, Farris' prediction still seems over the top. On the other hand, I have just compared Obama to Hitler and a LAUSD program to the Hitler Youth. When reductio ad absurdum no longer works, as it no longer does in American politics, it is not possible to say what is overstatement.

There has never been a better time than now to get your children out of America.


White teenagers 'less likely to apply to university' in Britain

Maybe whites have been first to recognize the dubious value of a degree nowadays

White schoolchildren are less likely to apply to university than classmates from any other ethnic group, according to research from the official admissions body.

Fewer than three-in-10 white teenagers have lodged applications to start degree courses this autumn amid growing concerns over access to higher education, it emerged.

Figures show that white pupils are now around half as likely to strive for university as school-leavers from Chinese families.

It was also revealed that applications from black teenagers have increased by 70 per cent over the last seven years, with more than a third now attempting to get on to a degree course.

The disclosure is made in a report that lays bear the extent to which children’s gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity and postcode has an impact on their chance of applying to university.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows a widening gulf in access between men and women, with young women almost a third more likely to push for a degree place.

It also emerged that students from the wealthiest areas are more than four times as likely to apply to top universities as those from the poorest postcodes, despite a narrowing in the divide over the last decade.

The conclusions will prompt fresh concerns over the impact that social background has on children’s chances of doing well at school and progressing onto a good university or well-paid career.

Last year, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, said problems were particularly acute among boys raised in poor white families where an “anti-school culture” has been allowed to develop in recent decades.

According to the latest figures, just 29 per cent of white school-leavers – those aged 18 – applied to university this year. This compared with 34 per cent of black pupils, 41 per cent of those from Asian families and almost 57 per cent of teenagers from Chinese backgrounds.

The largest increase in application rates came from black pupils, with numbers now rising beyond a third compared with just 20 per cent in 2006.

In all, 44 per cent of all pupils apply to university by the time they turn 19, with application rates up on a year earlier when the imposition of £9,000 annual tuition fees for the first time had a major impact on demand.

But significant differences still remain between the sexes.

UCAS said 49 per cent of women and just 38 per cent of men are now pushing for a university place and “this difference is slightly larger” than in recent years.

Application rates are also skewed significantly by parental income. Well over half of teenagers from the wealthiest areas applied this year compared with less than a fifth from the poorest postcodes.

UCAS insisted the gulf between the two groups had narrowed in recent years, although the wealthiest were still 2.7 times more likely to apply to any university, rising to 4.3 times when looking at applications to the most sought-after institutions.

It also emerged that:

• 18-year-olds from London were the most likely to want to study for a degree, with 42 per cent applying this year, compared with just 31 per cent from the North East;

• Some 73 per cent of students are applying to university courses charging maximum £9,000 tuition fees this year, up from just 59 per cent a year earlier, when fees were increased to this level for the first time;

• Figures suggest a flight to quality, with applications for “high tariff” universities – those that demand the highest A-level entry grades – up by three per cent, compared with 1 per cent for lower tariff institutions.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “These figures confirm that the desire to study at university remains strong, with application rates for 18-year-olds at near record levels.

"Some challenges remain but no one should be put off going to university for financial reasons.

“Our reforms mean students do not have to pay fees upfront, there is more financial support for those from poorer families and everyone faces lower loan repayments once they are in well-paid jobs.”

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive said: “Young application rates for higher education are rising again after falls in 2012 and the gap between rich and poor is closing as disadvantaged groups are applying at record levels.

“Our new analysis of demand by ethnic group shows that white pupils at English schools now have the lowest application rate of any ethnic group. There has been significant growth in demand from black pupils.”


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dismissed Professor Who Told Students to ‘Stomp on Jesus’ Allowed To Do It Again

What if your professor told you to stomp on the One you pray to every night? Well, that’s just what Dr. Deandre Poole, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, asked his students to do in his intercultural communications class when he instructed them to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, throw it on the ground and step on it. While school administrators quickly suspended the student who refused to take part in the ‘Jesus Stomp’ exercise, they only removed Dr. Poole from his position as a matter of safety after he began receiving death threats. Now, the professor who forced students to violate their religious consciences is returning to FAU to teach summer and fall classes, with the questionable “Jesus Stomp” assignment allowed to remain as part of the curriculum.

Back in March, when this controversy erupted, a couple of students on the popular college website cited Poole’s arrogance and lack of inclusiveness in the classroom. One person wrote, “Prof Poole is a bit arrogant. Most of what is taught here is opinion yet Prof Poole is intolerant of opinions that conflict with his own.” Another student complained Poole is “Disrespectful and dismissive of ideas that he does not agree with. I do not recommend his class.”

These direct student comments and Poole’s conduct seem counter to his faculty description on FAU’s website, which reads, “His research focuses on the role mediated messages play in shaping individual attitudes and beliefs concerning issues of justice and inequality, and examines how leaders, organizations, and other influential authorities dominate and oppress marginalized groups of people.”

I wonder if any of those “marginalized groups of people” include Christians. If Poole had swapped those five letters in his “Jesus Stomp” assignment for A-L-L-A-H, no doubt the politically correct liberal media would be in an uproar and the government would be calling for the school’s demolition.

Sadly, Poole is not the only college professor to recently mock God. Anthea Butler, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, responded to George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict by writing on her blog our Lord and Savior is “a white racist God with a problem.”

Poole’s reinstatement at FAU, along with Butler’s inappropriate comment, is yet another indication of the ostracizing Christians face on college campuses. Those who are tasked with teaching children about diversity may want to check their own biases before the bell rings each day.


Arizona Student Suspended for Asking that Classes be Taught in English

A 50-year-old community college student in Arizona has been suspended -- her crime: asking that class discussions be conducted in English. When the nursing student filed a complaint about the issue, claiming that Spanish-dominated class discussions were preventing her from learning, her program director at the college found the complaint discriminatory against Hispanic students and responded by suspending her, even calling the student "a bigot and a b--ch." The student has now filed a lawsuit. Here's the story:

    A nursing student at Pima Community College (PCC) has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was illegally suspended after she complained that her classmates were speaking in Spanish and orally translating English to Spanish so excessively that she was failing to learn.

    In early April, the student, Terri Bennett, formally requested a rule limiting classroom discussion to English. Nursing program director David Kutzler allegedly responded by called her a “bigot and a bitch,” reports Courthouse News Service.

    Kutzler allegedly charged that Bennett was “discriminating against Mexican-Americans” and threatened to report her complaint as a violation of the school’s policies against discriminatory behavior and harassment.

    A second meeting two days later involved Bennett, Kutzler and three more PCC staffers. The public school officials allegedly told Bennett that she would “not get a job” because of her desire to limit class discussion to English. She claims they said she should “seek counseling” and that she might have a learning disability....

    Later in April, Bennett received critical feedback from a teacher—for the first time, she maintains. The critique chastised Bennett for “ineffective communication skills.” Then, on April 22, Bennett received a suspension letter from the state-owned school.

It's a twisted day in America when a student has "ineffective communications skills" because she speaks English. Foreign language skills are beneficial for workers in a variety of fields, but to punish a community college student for lacking Spanish proficiency is obviously absurd. The Arizona Constitution reads: "...schools shall always be conducted in English." In light of this, it'd be hard to imagine the student losing her case.

In considering immigration reform, it's important we consider the social dimension to immigration -- not just the dollars and cents. This is why, in terms of legal immigration, we'd be smart to allow more people from countries underrepresented among recent immigrants.


International school league tables 'utterly wrong'

British schoolchildren may be performing better on the world stage than prestigious league tables suggest because the ranking system is “utterly wrong”, according to an academic.

Countries’ positions in the tables created by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development can fluctuate dramatically and may be “meaningless”, it is claimed.

The tables – dubbed the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – are based on the results of tests sat by 15-year-olds in different countries around the world.

In the last rankings, British pupils dropped down the tables to be listed 25th for reading, 28th for maths and 16th for science out of 65 developed nations.

The findings have been used by the Coalition to justify large-scale reforms to the curriculum and the qualifications system.

But a study has cast major doubts on the reliability of the rankings.

Prof Svend Kreiner, a statistician at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, pointed to the fact that different questions of varying difficulty were used in different nations.

He told the Times Educational Supplement that places fluctuated significantly depending on which test questions were used.

Analysing the 2006 reading test, he concluded that the UK could have been ranked anywhere between 14th and 30th, while Japan could have been positioned from eighth to and 40th.

He said: “It is meaningless to try to compare reading in Chinese with reading in Danish.”  [Hmmm...  I can see an argument for saying English is just as difficult as Chinese!]

In a separate disclosure, it emerged that half of students taking PISA tests in 2006 did not sit the reading exam, but were allocated “plausible” scores by statisticians.

But Dr Hugh Morrison, a mathematician from Queens University, Belfast, told the TES that the system was used was “utterly wrong”.

The OECD said questions were “tested to ensure they have the same relative difficulty across countries”, but admitted that “large variation in single ranking positions is likely”.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Two top FL Lawmakers want to Drop National Common Core Tests

Florida's legislative leaders want the state to withdraw from national Common Core tests, even though Florida is leading one of the two federally funded national Common Core testing groups.

The two wrote to state Superintendent Tony Bennett July 17, explaining why they want the state to use its own tests to measure national Common Core K-12 goals in math and English.

"Too many questions remain unanswered with PARCC [the Common Core testing group Florida leads] regarding implementation, administration, technology readiness, timeliness and utility of results, security infrastructure, data collection and undetermined cost," wrote Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Panama City) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). "We cannot jeopardize fifteen years of education accountability reform by relying on PARCC to define a fundamental component of our accountability system."

National Common Core tests will replace state tests in more than 40 states in 2014-2015.

Weatherford and Gaetz believe Florida schools simply do not have the technical capacity to handle all-online PARCC tests. First, PARCC recommends one computer for every two students in schools, while Florida's average is three students per computing device. And approximately 50 percent of Florida schools have the bandwidth necessary to administer PARCC tests.

"To date, the cost of the full implementation of PARCC assessment materials is indeterminate, let alone the costs for the technology and professional development," they write.

PARCC tests will be costly in another way: The testing group projects they will consume at least 20 days of Florida's 180-day school year, they note, which is more than current tests.

Another item left unanswered by the national testing group, the lawmakers say, is its student privacy and data security policies. Those are not set for release until 2014.

While teachers and schools have been promised test results that finally come back to them in time for them to respond before students leavet their classrooms, "PARCC does not have a plan for the timely return of assessment data" to make good on that promise, Gaetz and Weatherford say.

Based on these concerns, "It would be unacceptable to participate in national efforts that may take us backward and erode confidence in our accountability system and our trajectory of continued success," the lawmakers write. In conclusion, they ask Bennett to state his positions on "immediately withdrawing" Florida from PARCC, phasing in new, Florida-based tests, providingteachers more training, further integrating technology into schools, and reporting the costs associated with these policy changes.


British girl kicked off school trip for chocolate stash

Nosy teachers opened a letter the girl had written.  They obviously saw themselves as prison guards

A GIRL, 11, had her bags searched and was sent home from a school trip after teachers opened a sealed letter to her mum which revealed a secret chocolate stash.

The Telegraph reports that Holli McCann and two of her fellow Year Six classmates tucked into the contraband on the first night of their excursion to the Isle of Wight.

While she wasn't caught eating the chocolate, teachers opened a sealed letter to her mother, Kerri, telling her about the sweet treat.

After reading the letter teachers removed the lining of her suitcase and tipped out her toiletries bag to find the hidden stash.

Kerri McCann was ordered to drive 260 kilometres through the night to come and pick her up, otherwise Holli would be forced to sit and watch her classmates undertake the week of fun activities.

The children were all forced to sign a behaviour contract before the trip of which Holli was found to be in breach of.

Mrs McCann, 47, is an unemployed full-time carer to her autistic son. She had saved for six months to pay for the 300-pound ($500) holiday for her daughter, but was then forced to borrow 130 pounds from friends and family to be able to make her way to the Isle of Wight to pick up Holli.

"They had been planning the feast weeks before the trip and Holli was in charge of bringing the chocolate,” she said.

"It wasn't even at midnight. They ate the chocolate at about 9.30pm and it only went on for about 15 minutes. It's not like they were having a party or making noise.

"The teachers had no idea about it until they read Holli's letter to me.

"I am furious that they read her letter, it is like being in prison. It's not like she is five - she is 11 and deserves privacy in what she writes to her mum.”

"Holli said she was really upset because they emptied her toiletry bag into the sink and pulled out the lining in her suitcase.

"It was carried out in such a manner you would have thought they were running an international drug smuggling operation from their hotel room.

"I don't see how eating chocolate makes the holiday unsafe. They were not being naughty - they were just having fun."

The school has not commented on the incident despite an official complaint being lodged by Mrs McCann.


'Clegg's plans to rank primary pupils must be good. The teaching unions hate it'

The failure within the current system to detect the large number of pupils leaving unready for secondary school is a scandal that we can’t afford to let continue, says Chris Skidmore

Announcing a new consultation from the Department for Education which will look at assessment in primary schools, Nick Clegg quickly received the clear signal, so familiar to Michael Gove, that he was doing the right thing: near instantaneous denunciation from the teaching unions.

Attempts to improve accountability in the schools system will always be attacked as attempts to brand children successes and failures, but what was announced yesterday was anything but that. Changes to primary school assessment will make parents better informed, guarantee school autonomy, and most importantly, ensure far more children go to secondary school properly prepared.

Primary education is ripe for reform; it is clear that the current system is failing to deliver, particularly for the most disadvantaged students, who were 20 per cent less likely to reach the required level in English and Maths in 2012.

But even this required standard, a Level 4 in English and Maths, is failing pupils. Achieving Level 4s should show that pupils are ready to move on to secondary education, yet it has proven to be a woefully poor indicator of a child’s future prospects of success, with less than half of those who are achieving lower-end Level 4s then going on to get five GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English in 2012.

It’s vital that we make sure our judgment of ‘secondary ready’ actually means something.

A large part of the problem has been the lack of rigour and expectations, which has been deeply entrenched in the system. A more rigorous curriculum, as announced last week, is of course a necessary part of tackling this. But it is only one side of the coin.

To be effective the new curriculum needs to be backed up by system of assessment and accountability which will let us see whether these new standards are being met or not – a fact made clear in Lord Bew’s review of examinations and accountability at key stage 2, published in 2011. It’s no coincidence then that this consultation has been opened so soon after the new curricula were announced.

The new assessment structure has been informed by three principles: the progress children make should be given the same weight as the attainment of pupils; the involvement of central government in setting assessment should be limited to the ends of key stages, leaving schools free to assess pupils as they see fit the rest of the time; and parents should have access to the information about their child, their school, and how others are doing.

The importance of measuring progress is central to the announcement. It recognises that schools in disadvantaged areas can be unfairly targeted as failing when they are doing a lot for their pupils, while others which are simply coasting are judged acceptable.

This has also given rise to one of the elements of the announcement that has received much of the press attention – the idea that children should be assessed at an early age, giving a baseline from which the effectiveness of early years teaching can be judged. While it is not clear what form such testing would take, the need for it is clear.

If we want to see what progress is being made by primary schools we need some measure before Key Stage 1 testing of how children are doing.

While the idea of baseline testing hasn’t been received without controversy it is the principle of informing parents about how their children are doing that is really creating the heat from the unions. The objection that pupils will then be branded failures is at the heart of the low expectations culture that they are seeking to preserve, as it embodies the view that we shouldn’t question how well or how badly we are performing.

A reformed system would recognise that parents have a right to know how their children are doing, and how good the schools they are being sent to are. As more and more primary schools gain autonomy, giving parents a genuine choice between schools, this information is becoming increasingly important, as choice can only empower parents when they are fully informed.

Together with the high expectations which have been built into the new curriculum a system of challenging assessments, with published results, will empower parents and improve education. The failure within the current system to detect the large number of pupils leaving unready for secondary school is a scandal that we can’t afford to let continue, and which this package of measures will help to address.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rap Superstar on charter schools

    What do researchers at The Heritage Foundation and Miami-born rapper Pitbull have in common? A belief in the power of charter schools.

    Pitbull, whose given name is Armando Christian Perez, delivered the opening address at the National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Perez has six children, three of whom attend charter schools.

    “I believe in the system. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” the entertainer told the crowd of charter schools advocates at the conference. “Every day I see firsthand how my children are becoming highly motivated thanks to the charter schools they attend.”

    Perez is so convinced of the power of charter schools to “revolutionize education in America” that he is providing backing for a new charter school in his old inner-city neighborhood of Little Havana.

    Charter schools “are fundamentally about freedom, and freedom is what America is all about,” the rapper proclaimed.

For what it’s worth, here’s a succinct definition of what school choice actually is:

    As Heritage’s Israel Ortega writes, “School choice, put simply, is the ability of parents to send their children to schools of their choice. It’s a simple concept, but the reality is that this choice is often limited —particularly among low-income Americans and minority communities.”

    The fight for school choice is the fight to ensure that parents everywhere can provide their children with the educational opportunity necessary for success. As Heritage visiting fellow Virginia Walden Ford writes, “Parents are made to feel hopeless and helpless when faced with failing neighborhood schools that their children must attend because they don’t have the resources to either move to a neighborhood with better schools or to pay private school tuition.”

School choice initiatives are often ignored and neglected by the American media. So when high-profile entertainers celebrate and defend them, it’s a really big deal. Pitbull’s presence at the conference therefore is not insignificant -- especially because he supports a political party that, in some ways, is hostile towards this movement.


Swansea schoolboys keep cool in skirts after shorts ban

Stupid British rigidity circumvented

Boys at Gowerton Comprehensive School in Swansea resort to wearing skirts to school in order to deal with the heat following a ban on shorts.

Mothers of the students at Gowerton Comprehensive School said the boys had not been allowed to wear gym shorts as an alternative and they were also not permitted to roll up their trousers to cool down.

The boys defended their decision to wear skirts saying: "It's cooled us down quite alot, if we wore trousers in class it would affect us, getting sweaty and losing concentration because of the heat".

One concerned parent said the heat even had health consequences on her son.

"Stephen came home from school on Wednesday and he'd been complaining that it had been hot all day and as he was telling me about his day he passed out in the living room."

Temperatures hit the high twenties in Wales last week as Britain continues to experience a heat wave which is expected to last into next month.


Australia:  Complaints aside, ICT graduates in demand, say teachers

(ICT = Information and Communications Technology)

While ICT workers rail against employers offshoring work and using overseas staff on 457 visas for destroying opportunities in the sector, academics insist their graduates are finding jobs as easily as ever.

Leon Sterling, dean of the ICT faculty at Swinburne University and head of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT, said debate about the issue was "distorted by a small minority of loud voices".

Professor Sterling said outsourcing did not spell bad news for new starters but instead led to the creation of additional opportunities.

"Far from removing jobs, there are more jobs," he said. "People may be nervous, as a result of getting the message that there are no jobs in ICT, but it’s not true."

His comments follow the release last week of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s ICT Workforce Study, which called for more young people to be funnelled into the sector to avoid a major skills shortage.

AWPA chief executive Robin Shreeve said use of more overseas workers on 457 visas was likely if the sector did not receive a big influx of new blood. The number of ICT workers holding 457 visas rose from 5327 to 9271 in the past two years. The number of tertiary ICT graduates dropped from 9093 in 2003 to 4547 in 2012, despite concerted efforts by academia and industry bodies to talk up the advantages of a technology career to school leavers.

About 90 per cent of Swinburne’s 2012 graduates had found employment in the sector, Professor Sterling said.

It’s a similar story at the University of Queensland, according to Paul Strooper, the head of the IT and electrical engineering school.

"There will always be offshoring of jobs but they’re not the sort of jobs we train people for here," Professor Strooper said. Most UQ students had jobs before graduation, he said, with companies wanting to employ graduates often arriving too late.

University of Wollongong bachelor of IT graduate Mark Darragh went from university to a full-time job last July.

Employed as a systems engineer at Suncorp in Sydney, he undertook a final year internship with the bank, which led to the offer of a graduate role.

Being open to all possibilities within the sector was the key to success, Mr Darragh said.

“You don’t want to have a silo approach…come in open minded, you have more opportunities,” he said. “IT is a very broad field.”

Another Wollongong 2012 alumnus said her path to employment had been less smooth. She obtained her current IT support officer role after two months of searching but said the position was not secure.

“I’m currently in the process of looking for another job but have been finding it difficult,” she said.

“I am concerned as I hear in the news about so many IT positions being off-shored to other countries when there are people like me who are more than capable of carrying out the duties.”

Other classmates were still job hunting, the graduate added.