Friday, October 25, 2013

British Liberal leader:  parents 'taking chance' with children's private education

This popinjay himself went to an elite school and clearly owes a lot to the position in British society that gave him.  In the usual Leftist way he is however obsessed with credentialism.  You need a piece of paper to say you can teach and nothing will prove anything otherwise to him.  I myself had good success as a High School teacher without one minute of "teacher training".  And I am far from alone

State schools should not be granted the same freedoms as those enjoyed by independent schools, the Deputy Prime Minister said, because parents can choose to send their children there.

Mr Clegg has opened a rift within the coalition by criticising Michael Gove’s decision to let his flagship free schools hire teachers who lack teaching qualifications.  Such qualifications are not required by many fee-paying schools.

“If you pay your fees you take your chances. The idea that in the schools system, for which Governments are responsible supported by all taxpayers – which is far, far bigger than the smaller number of schools where parents pay the fees and take their chances, that you don’t have a duty of care – that we don’t a duty of care towards parents and children with some basic standards, I cannot for the life of me understand.”

Mr Gove insists headteachers of free schools and academies must have the freedom to employ untrained teachers in the same way private schools “hire the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils.”

The policy has outraged the teaching unions, who regard it as a cost-cutting measure that will harm children’s education.

Mr Clegg was educated at the independent Westminster School and taught by men with no professional teaching qualifications.

He said he was “really proud” that the free schools programme had freed teachers from Whitehall micromanagement but added: “Freedom does not mean anarchy. There’s law that they have to abide by.”

“Just because you’ve got qualified teacher status doesn’t mean you’re the greatest teacher ever. But it provides a certain basic quality standard.”

“I think most parents listening to this programme would think it is a totally standard suggestion, hardly revolutionary, that in a profession which is as important as teaching that teachers should be qualified or seeking qualification while they are teaching.”

Asked whether Mr Clegg’s intervention had caused a ‘Coalition crisis’, he said: “I’m perfectly entitled to talk without being shouted down about my vision of the future of the schools system.”


Obama Administration Is ‘Strengthening’ Colleges It May Later Reward Under New Ratings System

President Obama’s Education Department recently announced that it is sending 39 lesser-known colleges a total of $20.1 million this year as part of the government's “Strengthening Institutions Program.”

The grant money may be used for planning, faculty development, building an endowment, or boosting academic programs.

The Strengthening Institutions Program helps colleges and community colleges “expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions.”

Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont – a four-year liberal arts college that promotes “environmental sustainability” – said it would use its share of the grant money to fund a project called "Strategies for Student Success," which school officials describe as a "model program for how all students can flourish."

Helping students graduate and get a good job or a graduate degree are two elements of a new college ratings system announced in August by President Obama.

President Obama said his college ratings system will help students and families select schools that provide the “best value. After the ratings system is well established, “Congress can tie federal student aid to college performance so that students maximize their federal aid at institutions providing the best value,” the White House website says.

In other words, the federal government can’t set tuition rates, but it can used federal student aid as leverage.  As the White House put it, “President Obama’s plan will connect student aid to outcomes, which will in turn drive a better, more affordable education for all students.”

But even before the government’s college ratings system is in place, the Obama administration is sending millions of taxpayer dollars to colleges that serve a "substantial number" of low-income students, essentially strengthening those colleges so they might have a better chance of being rated a “best value” when the ratings system takes effect.

Green Mountain College says the Education Department is giving it $2 million over five years ($399,950 in the first year of the five-year grant program). The college says it makes the environment a "unifying theme across the curriculum."  Among other things, it offers a master's degree in "Sustainable Food Systems."

"At the end of their undergraduate careers, GMC students are able to articulate a positive vision for a just and sustainable society, and they have the skills and knowledge they need to help make that vision a reality at the personal, local and global levels," the school's website says.

Green Mountain College has 700 undergraduates. Tuition, room and board run about $43,708, but the college says 94 percent of all GMC students currently receive some kind of financial aid. The college says it is committed to helping families pay for a GMC education with an "ambitious multi-year affordability plan."

And it says approximately 25 percent of GMC students are the first in their family to attend a college or university. So this appears to be exactly the kind of college that the Obama administration eventually will reward with “best value” ratings and federal student aid.

Although the new college ratings system is still in the works, President Obama dropped some hints in August, when he  spoke at the University of Buffalo:

He said the new college ratings system will measure whether a school helps students of all backgrounds graduate with good career prospects and manageable debt.

“And then down the road, using these ratings, we’re going to work with Congress to change how we allocate federal aid for college. Because I said this last year, and I meant it, colleges that keep their tuition down while providing a high-quality education, we want to see their taxpayer support go up. We should not be subsidizing schools that are not getting good results for the young people who attend them.”

The college ratings system is supposed to be in place before 2015. The White House said it will be based on measures such as “Access,” which includes the percentage of students receiving need-based Pell Grants; “Affordability,” which will measure average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and “Outcomes,” including graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.

As previously reported, federal Pell Grants are gifts of cash -- not loans. They are not based on academic merit but on whether a student's income and his or her parents' income is low enough to qualify the family as what the Department of Education calls "low-income."

Essentially, Obama's plan would encourage colleges to discriminate against applicants who come from families with total incomes of $60,000 or more by awarding colleges higher federal ratings and increased federal aid for admitting a higher “percentage” of students who receive federal Pell Grants.

Many of the 39 institutions sharing this year’s 20.1 million are community colleges or technical schools.

The strengthening institutions program is not new: It was authorized under Title III, Part A, Section 311 of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended.

In fiscal 2012, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $5.4 million in new grants to 14 colleges and universities as part of the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP).

SIP did not conduct a grant competition in FY 2011; instead it funded down the FY 2010 slate, making 34 new awards at a cost of 12,965,081.

In FY 2010, SIP conducted a competition and funded 48 new awards totaling $18,216,000.

And in FY 2009, SIP funded 57 new awards from the FY 2008 slate, totaling $21,307,000.


"Teachers are Democracy's Last Line of Defense from the Tyranny of the One Percent"

Minnesota's 2013 Teacher of the Year gave a five-minute acceptance speech at the 2013 Education Minnesota Conference in St. Paul, MN. While most of her remarks were spent praising her fellow teachers and students alike, she seemed to think it was also an opportune time to take a jab at rich Americans.

Hall, who teaches at Open World Learning Community in St. Paul, talked to her audience about teaching character and modeling traits she associates with success. But, her message quickly turned hypocritical, for she managed to sneak in a potshot at America’s wealthiest Americans, many of whom gained their riches through the hard earned success Hall herself seemed to champion:

“From where I stand, teaching is a profession which takes a gritty patriotism. And from where I stand, teachers are American democracy’s last line of defense from the tyranny of the one percent. I feel Americans do feel a debt of gratitude toward us, for teaching character, for modeling persistence and generosity and responsibility.”

From where I stand, Ms. Hall, you’ve got some mixed messaging. Her biased comment nonetheless received a round of applause and when she ceded the podium back to the emcee, the latter was quick to call the teacher “fabulous” and “amazing.”

Even more laughable was when the teacher of the year lamented how educators are mistreated by the media.  “I have to admit, these negative messages baffle me, they don’t match up with the teachers that I know [...] These messages must come with people who haven’t been in our classrooms.”

They endure negative media messaging? Clearly, Hall and her fellow educators haven’t turned on the news lately. Wealthy Americans have arguably received the cruelest treatment in the media in recent years, what with the glowing, edited coverage of Occupy Wall Street.

How sad Minnesota has awarded a teacher who has no problem with demonizing successful Americans.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

College Students Go Out of Their Way to Mock Bristol Palin, Promote Sex on Campus

Fliers scattered around the University of Pennsylvania campus read that Bristol Palin was going to be this year’s fall speaker. Penn’s Special Events and Planning Committee had apparently made its highly anticipated announcement and decided to host the advertised Teen Pregnancy Prevention Spokesperson, leaving some students dazed and confused.

Those posters turned out to be a hoax. Under the Button, UPenn’s “24/7 source for all things Penn,” apparently took the time to create the fake advertisements just to write this charming description on their web page,

"A proud teen mama, (and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Ambassador…huh,) Bristol Palin has travelled the U.S. advocating for abstinence, earning her the name “The Worst Person In The World”. Now, thanks to some questionably-legit fliers, she’s coming to Penn! No offense B, but Penn kids are active, and the university dishes out more free condoms than acceptance letters. But hey, make yourself at home, just don’t be shocked when we choose bad sex over no sex."

I hope the ink and paper these students wasted was worth it. The “active” link the author includes in the post takes you to a New York Times article called, “Sex on Campus – She Can Play That Game, Too,” which seems to approve of young women at UPenn choosing one-night stands over serious relationships. I analyzed the seven-page feature in July. If these students want Penn to be known for its free condoms rather than its diplomas, mission accomplished.

On UPenn SPEC’s Facebook page, they condoned and even applauded the poster hoax.

"Contrary to Under the Button's story this morning, Bristol Palin will not be our fall speaker. However, we congratulate the masterminds of this hoax for their poster-making skills and flyer-ing tactics! We look forward to announcing our fall speaker in the coming week!"

These students’ hoax may have been “all in good fun,” but it wasn't all in good taste. After the negative media attention Palin received for her unplanned pregnancy during her mom’s vice presidential campaign, she has been an ambassador for pro-life and pro-family causes. By doing so, this 23-year-old has managed to change a negative into a positive. She even shared her joyful life with her son in a Lifetime documentary called, “Life’s a Tripp,” proving that from an unplanned pregnancy can come a blessing, not just a regret.

That’s a message any college student should hear.


Checking Your Kids' School Assignments

Have you checked your kids' school assignments lately? You might be shocked if you do.

Sixth-grade children in a history class in the Bryant School District in Arkansas (whose website brags that the district "has embraced" Common Core standards) were assigned a project to update the U.S. Bill of Rights because it is "outdated." They were instructed to "prioritize, revise, omit two and add two amendments."

The written assignment is full of lies, such as "the government of the United States is currently revisiting the Bill of Rights"; that "They (presumably the government) have determined that it is outdated and may not remain in its current form any longer;" and that our Constitution can be changed by a "National Revised Bill of Rights Task Force (NRBR)" (to which students could be appointed).

St. Joseph-Ogden High School, a public school in St. Joseph, Ill., gave its sophomore class an assignment to choose which of 10 people were "worthy" of getting kidney dialysis when the hospital had only six machines. The assignment instructed the students, "four people are not going to live. You must decide from the information below which six will survive."

The students were given the list of the 10 who desperately needed kidney dialysis with identification about their occupation, age and ethnicity, and told to give each a score. The instructions stated: "Put the people in order using 1-10, 1 being the person you want to save first and 10 being the person you would save last," with the assumption that those getting scores 7 through 10 would be marked for death.

Since when are high school students allowed to judge who may live and who must die? Is this to prepare us to accept death panels from Obamacare?

Unfortunately, such public school class assignments are not new. A Department of Education hearing in Seattle on March 13, 1984, heard a parent describe the health class in Clackamas High School in Oregon.

Students were presented with the "lifeboat situation": too many people are in the sinking lifeboat and the students were ordered to choose whose lives are not worth saving and should be thrown overboard so the lifeboat won't sink. Variations of the lifeboat situation have been widely used in public schools for many years.

A drama teacher at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, Ariz., had his students perform a play in which one of the characters falls in love with a goat. The play includes sexually explicit content and vulgar sexual terms.

At Lucy Elementary School near Memphis, Tenn., an assignment required each student to pick an idol and write an essay about him or her. A 10-year-old girl chose God as her idol, but the teacher found this unacceptable and demanded that the girl write about someone else.

The girl then wrote about Michael Jackson, which the teacher accepted. After the girl's mother spoke out against this in the local media, the school apologized and gave the girl credit for her original work.

Fourth graders in Gilbert, Ariz., and third graders in Louisiana were given a lesson on adultery that included specific questions designed to make the child curious about what adultery is and how it affects relationships. The teacher said it came from approved Common Core materials for third graders.

Glenn Beck reported that Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, Md., which is Common Core compliant, administered an intrusive survey to students that included personal questions about family, religion, income, political identification, illegal drugs, Obamacare, guns, and same-sex marriage. Go to The Blaze to be entertained by the conflicting responses that school officials gave to parents who complained and to reporters.

The question that parents found particularly obnoxious and troublemaking was, "If President Obama were caucasian how much more or less criticism do you think he would receive?" The multiple-choice answers were: "A lot less; Somewhat less; No difference; Somewhat more; A lot more."

Fifth graders in North Bellmore, N.Y., spent several weeks studying the United Nations. One mother was highly offended when her daughter received full credit for writing that our human rights come from government (instead of from God, as our Declaration of Independence proclaims).

At Alliance High School in Nebraska, the principal announced on Oct. 7 that, because of the government shutdown, he was shutting down the usual morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. After public protest, he reversed his ban.

None of the above assignments are quoted directly from a Common Core curriculum, but some claim to be "aligned with Common Core" or "Common Core compliant." It's beginning to look like such assertions are a cover to fill the minds of public school students with all kinds of inappropriate, left-wing notions, while erecting a Common Core "wall" to prevent parental oversight.


British schools may have to cancel swimming lessons after court ruling

A woman who suffered serious brain injuries when she had a accident during a school swimming lesson in childhood has won a landmark legal case which is expected to have major implications for school trips and other out-of-class activities.

Annie Woodland nearly drowned during a compulsory swimming lesson at a council-run pool in 2000, when she was a 10 year-old pupil at Whitmore junior school in Basildon, Essex.

The county council claimed it was not responsible for her injuries because she was being taught by a private contractor at the time.

But the Supreme Court - overturning previous court decisions which backed the local education authority - unanimously ruled the council was ultimately responsible for Miss Woodland’s care even if it had hired a private company to carry out swimming lessons.

Judges have previously warned that imposing such a wide-ranging duty of care on the local authority could have a major impact on schools.

In the Court of Appeal earlier this year, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Kitchin said it would be likely to have a chilling effect on the willingness of education authorities to provide educational experiences for pupils, and that it could also have an impact on hospitals and other public bodies.

The Supreme Court’s decision paves the way for Miss Woodland to pursue compensation for negligence from the local education authority in a separate hearing next year.

Ian Woodland, her father, said the legal proceedings had caused “enormous damage” to the family, who now live in Blackpool, Lancashire.  “Up until this ruling, we had seen only injustice. The last thing you would expect is that the school had uninsured swimming teachers when swimming is part of the national curriculum,” he said.

“How could the school not be responsible for our daughter during a national curriculum lesson?  “Yet everywhere we turned, we were let down.  “I hope that, in the light of this judgment, no other family has to go through the same as we have done.”

Miss Woodland got into difficulties during the swimming lesson and was found “hanging vertically in the water”, the court heard.

She was resuscitated but suffered serious hypoxic brain injury, caused by lack of oxygen. Now aged 23, she is incapable of looking after her own affairs.

Catherine Leech, the family’s solicitor, said: “The Supreme Court has agreed that schools have a duty of care to pupils which cannot be delegated to any external contractors which they bring in to take lessons.

“This judgment is also important because it can be applied to those charged with looking after vulnerable individuals, be they school pupils or those in care homes.

“In this case, the school argued that it should not be considered at fault for the negligence of such contractors. “Yet if Annie had been at a private school she could have sued for what happened, just as if she had been taught by a member of staff at her school rather than an uninsured teacher contracted by the school.”

She added: “I don’t think that what the Supreme Court has decided will place an unreasonable burden on schools or prevent them from using independent contractors. They will still be protected if they check that those contractors who they employ are properly insured.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We very much hope this will not affect schools’ preparedness to organise these very often transformative experiences.

“The companies that operate school trips nowadays know that it is the resposnibility of schools to satisfy themselves that stringent risk assessment has taken place.

“This is a salutary reminder both to schools and to trip operators that these matters cannot be taken lightly.”


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In 23 Advanced Economies: U.S. Adults Rank 21st in Math Skills

Separating out white, black and Hispanic adults would be more informative

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on Friday released the initial results of an international survey of adult skills in literacy and mathematics, revealing that Americans rank 21st in “numeracy” and are tied for 15th in literacy among adults in 23 advanced economies.

American adults also scored below the average in both numeracy and literacy for all respondents in all 23 advanced economies.

Japan and Finland ranked first and second in both categories and Italy and Spain took the bottom two spots in both.

The international survey--the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)--was developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The data from Russia was not included in the initial results, the NCES said, "because they were released too late for publication."

“Numeracy” was defined by the survey as “the ability to access, use, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas, to engage in and manage mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life.”

“Literacy” was defined as “understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written text to participate in society to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

The survey tested a sample of approximately 5,000 Americans ages 16 to 65, using a test that was scored on a scale of 0-500.

In numeracy, American adults achieved an average score of 253 out of 500, nosing out Italian adults who averaged 247 and Spanish adults who averaged 246.

Japanese adults led the field in numeracy, averaging 288 out of 500. They were followed by the Fins, who averaged 282; and the Belgians and the Dutch, who both averaged 280.

In literacy, American adults achieved an average of 270 out of 500. That put Americans well ahead of Italy and Spain, whose adults scored 250 and 252, respectively, but far behind Japan and Finland, whose adults scored 296 and 288 respectively.

The NCES report said that among the American survey sample there were 112 people who were unable to complete even the survey’s initial background questionnaire “because of a literacy-related barrier: either the inability to communicate in English or Spanish (the two languages in which the background questionnaire was administered) or a mental disability.”


15,000 British teachers have been judged incompetent – and most of those are 'qualified'

Lots of "qualified" teachers aren't much use

I was on the Today programme this morning talking about Nick Clegg's U-turn on free schools with Fiona Millar (starts at the 175 minute mark). The focus of our discussion was whether schools should be able to employ teachers who don't have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

The case for granting headteachers this latitude is overwhelming. To begin with, the fact that a person doesn't have QTS doesn't mean they're not qualified to teach. Richard Cairns, the headmaster of Brighton College, employes 39 teachers who don't have QTS, but many of them have first class degrees from Oxford and Cambridge in the subjects they've been employed to teach. As the head of an independent school – the Independent School of the Year, according to the Sunday Times – Cairns is trusted to exercise his professional judgement when it comes to who the best applicant is to fill a particular post. Shouldn't we have the same confidence in the professional judgement of state school heads?

No, say Fiona Millar and Nick Clegg, and exhibit A in the case for the prosecution is the Al-Madinah school in Derby, one of two free schools to be judged "inadequate" by Ofsted. The problem with that argument is you can't judge the success or failure of the free schools policy on the performance of just two schools. One hundred and seventy four free schools have opened since 2011 and, of those that have been inspected by Ofsted, 75 per cent have been ranked "good" or "outstanding". That compares favourably to the national average, with only 62 per cent of state schools getting the equivalent thumbs-up since Ofsted introduced its tough new inspection regime at the beginning of last year. It's premature to draw any conclusions about free schools on the basis of this because the total number that have been inspected so far is still small, but we can say that granting schools more freedom, such as allowing head teachers to judge who they think is best qualified for a teaching job, does not inevitably lead to disaster.

Yes, say the critics of free schools, but the cost of deregulating taxpayer-funded schools will always outweigh the benefits because the consequences of exposing children to incompetent teachers are catastrophic. It doesn't matter if three quarters of free schools are "good" or "outstanding", the fact that two have been ranked "inadequate" is a good reason to abandon the policy because the harm that's been inflicted on the children in those two schools, directly as a result of employing "unqualified" teachers, is greater than the advantages enjoyed by children in the other free schools. You can't treat children as guinea pigs in what amounts to a "dangerous ideology experiment", in the words of Tristram Hunt.

Trouble is, QTS is no guarantee of competence. According to a Panorama investigation in 2010, 15,000 members of the teaching profession are "incompetent" – and the vast majority of them have QTS. One reason why such a large number continue to work in our schools is because it's so difficult to get rid of them. Panorama also discovered that only 18 teachers had been struck off for incompetence in the United Kingdom in the last 40 years. That's one reason why 419 taxpayer-funded schools were judged "inadequate" by Ofsted last year, only one of which was a free school. So while the concern of Fiona Millar and Nick Clegg to protect children from incompetent teachers is understandable, insisting that taxpayer-funded schools only employ teachers with QTS won't help.

As my colleague Gabriel H Sahlgren has pointed out, there's no empirical evidence to suggest that pupils taught by teachers with QTS perform better, either in England or anywhere else. The fact is, most teachers aren't very good at the job when they first start, regardless of whether they have QTS or not. Some become good after a few years, some don't, and there's no evidence that those with QTS are more likely to become good than those without. It's notoriously difficult – virtually impossible, in fact – to tell which teachers are going to be good on the basis of their qualifications alone. Indeed, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a famous essay on this very subject for the New Yorker, comparing effective teachers to football quarterbacks. In both cases, there's almost nothing you can learn about candidates in advance that predicts how successful they will be.

This suggests that it's sensible to reduce the amount of red tape around who schools can hire and fire, enabling head teachers to cast their nets as widely as possible and then get rid of teachers who prove ineffective, not return to the top-down state regulation favoured by Fiona Millar and Nick Clegg. The only people who will benefit from clawing back the freedoms enjoyed by free schools will be the teaching unions. It may be in the interests of their dues-paying members to limit the pool of potential teachers, but it's not in the interests of schoolchildren or the country.


Britain's  teachers unions’ guild system must be abolished, not strengthened

In a jab at Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is said to soon be requiring that all free schools and academies hire teachers with officially approved teacher qualifications. Mr Clegg shouldn’t be blamed for aiming to make sure that all English pupils have access to good educators. And surely, teachers who have undergone officially approved training must be better than those who haven’t? It sounds so right. But it’s not. In fact, it’s utterly and completely wrong.

Few dispute that good teachers are crucial for pupil performance, both in the short and in the long run. At the same time, better-educated pupils commit fewer crimes, and contribute more to economic growth, so good educators are clearly also crucial for producing positive spill-over effects that benefit society at large. This means that the public does indeed have an interest in ensuring a good teacher force.

Yet after decades of research we have little understanding of what makes educators effective. Observable characteristics, including teacher qualifications, generally have no or very small effects. This is a remarkably consistent finding in most rigorous studies worldwide. If there’s anything research in the economics of education has disproved, it’s the theory that teachers with specific qualifications perform better than those without. Most people might also find this intuitive since practically everybody has probably experienced good unqualified teachers and bad qualified ones (and vice versa).

But doesn’t this mean that a mandate requiring all educators to undergo officially approved training at the very least wouldn’t do any harm? Well, no it doesn’t. Since such a mandate ensures that many perfectly good educators – perhaps better than those holding teacher qualifications – can't enter the market, we would instead perpetuate a system that does nothing to improve the overall teacher pool. This is not in the best interest of children.

Should anybody be able to become a teacher then? Not necessarily. There is some evidence that teacher subject knowledge impacts performance positively. But there are many ways to gain subject knowledge, which is probably best determined by diagnostic assessments rather than via crude measures such as degree qualifications. Indeed, an English study from 2012 found no impact at all of degree qualifications on pupil achievement. At the same time, the impact of subject knowledge should not be exaggerated. Most of the variance in teacher effectiveness remains unexplained. For this reason, the diagnostic assessments should only be used to weed out the worst apples.

Once this process is completed, the only viable policy is to leave it to headteachers to decide whom they want as teachers. This is how private companies operate, in education and in other sectors. And who would accept that all manufacturing workers would need specific union-approved qualifications before companies can employ them?

Because of the lack of knowledge regarding what makes educators effective, the government should clearly step out of the way here. Regulation should always be carefully assessed before implementation, even if it can be shown that it could be helpful. This is because there are many unintended consequences that must be taken into consideration. But when there is so little evidence that a regulation would do any good at all, politicians should simply keep their hands off.

Unsurprisingly, unions and others have cried foul, rhetorically asking whether doctors should not be required to undergo medical training either. This comparison is entirely invalid. In medicine, there is a best-practice approach based on rigorous research that has found out what is and what isn’t appropriate treatment. This doesn’t exist in education. We simply don’t know exactly what type of teaching will generate the best outcomes for kids. What we do know is that forcing all teachers to have qualifications doesn’t help.

Forcing all academies and free schools to hire educators with officially approved teacher qualifications is therefore a nonsensical policy, at least if we’re interested in increasing pupil performance. Instead, it would further enforce teachers unions’ monopoly, strengthening the guild system they have been able to acquire through the political process. It’s good for unionised teachers – who will face less competition from other educators – but bad for kids.

The right policy is therefore not to reverse the freedom of academies and free schools to embark on their own quests to find good teachers, but rather to extend that freedom to all publicly funded schools. If the Liberal Democrats truly want to improve the English education system, nothing less than a U-turn would be expected. Hitherto thou shalt come, Mr Clegg, but no further.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Angry mother files bill in Mass. Legislature after son was referred to outside "gay" club by school

A really horrifying story. The "certain traumas" referred to obliquely almost certainly means homosexual child molestation.

The outrageous promotion of homosexuality to extremely vulnerable children in the public schools -- without concern about how it affects them -- has become legendary, particularly in Massachusetts.

This is the story about how one angry mother, with support from MassResistance, is fighting back. She is confronting the Massachusetts Legislature, pushing a bill she had her State Representative file to protect other children and their families from going through what happened to her family.

Certain traumas during the formative years are known to cause sexual identity issues during adolescence. Most children outgrow this confusion unless otherwise influenced, which is why homosexual activists want unfettered access to public school children.

When the Splitz family's son had experienced such traumas, their pediatrician referred him for counseling and by all accounts it was working wonderfully. The boy was happy, vibrant and quite active in church and other extracurricular activities. He excelled in school and also very close to his family -- a model teenager.

The nightmare begins

But then, while attending high school at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne, Massachusetts, things changed dramatically. He suddenly became distant, angry and disrespectful to his parents as well as to other adults he had once respected. He quit his church activity and many of his other activities, and almost flunked his junior year of school. Life at home became stressful and chaotic.

His parents learned that he had mentioned to the school's "adjustment counselor" that he thought he might be "gay." The counselor then gave him the business card of a local "gay youth" club run by adult homosexual activists and suggested he look into it.

At the "club" he was told in very strong terms that he was born gay, could never change, that trying to change was dangerous and apparently was introduced into the homosexual lifestyle by the activists there. Furthermore, he was instructed that anyone who didn't embrace his "gay" sexual identity was a hater and a homophobe including his parents. He was also provided with sexually provocative homosexual literature as well as anti-Christian literature.

He now considered himself "gay" and rebelled against his parents for not embracing his "identity." The high school continued to subvert the parents, taking further steps to alienate their son from them.

The Splitz family's nightmare continued as guidance counselors, administrators, and the Department of Education stonewalled them, lied to them, and manipulated them in ways that deeply wounded the family and put their son at risk.

Their son is now in college out of state and the family is trying to heal now that he is away from certain influences, and he is finally realizing that his parents have never stopped loving him. But Mrs. Splitz is fighting back against those who violated her parental rights and religious liberties, and greatly harmed her son.


Sign in Indiana School Promotes Population Control

Fr. John Hollowell, a priest and blogger from Indiana, saw a disturbing sign in the hallways of Northview High School in Brazil, IN.

At first when I walked past the sign I thought to myself - "Oh, cool, they're starting to catch on that our population levels are at a critical phase and that we're heading for a demographic winter because no one is having kids anymore; they're trying to get the word out that our population growth is trending towards a crisis...."

Then I literally had a sick feeling in my stomach when I realized I had the sign completely wrong.

In 1968, the book The Population Bomb was released and predicted, among other things, mass famine and death from starvation due to overpopulation. The book initially claimed that there was no possible way for India to feed its population of 200 million.

Since the book was published, India's population has grown to over a billion, and while malnourishment levels are unacceptably high, it is mostly due to corruption and and government ineffectiveness, not overpopulation. The mass starvation due to food shortages never came to fruition--food production actually increased faster than ever before.

Despite the completely wrong predictions in The Population Bomb, the idea that the world is becoming grossly overpopulated has remained in the public's mind. This has led to a shockingly low fertility rate in the western world--almost all of Europe is not reproducing at replacement-level rates.

It is not a school's job to dictate family size to its students, but I am not at all surprised by this sort of rhetoric. This ridiculous project is grounded in junk science and overly-hysterical predictions, and should not be presented as fact to students.


Best jobs in Britain still go to public school pupils as privately-educated workers are 7% more likely to get high-flying positions

Public schoolboys [in the British sense] are up to 10 per cent more likely to land top jobs than those who have the same grades from the same university but went to state school, research shows.

Around 20,000 graduates who left university in 2006/7 were tracked by academics for the government’s Social Mobility Commission.

It found that class had become a bigger predictor of success in the workplace than gender.

Children from private schools were 7 per cent more likely to go into an ‘elite’ job in the media or law than those with the same degree who went to state schools.

The private school advantage was even more pronounced for males who had at least one parent in a ‘management’ role at work – who were 10 per cent more likely to get a top job than state school pupils with the same level of university education.

The figures related to how well workers did three years after graduating - and they showed that going to an independent school did not give an immediate huge advantage to graduates in the job market.

Six months after graduating, privately-educated pupils were just three per cent more likely to get a top role than those who went to state schools.

‘Three years after graduation, those from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds and those who attended private schools are more likely to be in top jobs’.

Wealthy graduates were also more likely to take up postgraduate study, which could get them even better jobs.

‘This research shows that even if we compare students from the same institution type, taking the same subjects and with the same degree class, socioeconomic status and private schooling still affects an individual’s chance of securing a top job,’ the report concluded.

But academics do not know whether the advantage given to private school pupils is simply the ‘old boys’ network’ or whether they learn better social skills so appear more confident in job interviews.

‘Our results indicate a persistent advantage from having attended a private school. This raises questions about whether the advantage that private school graduates have is because they are better socially or academically prepared, have better networks or make different occupational choices.’

‘An individual who has a parent who is a manager and who attended a private school is around 7 percentage points more likely to enter  the highest status occupations.

‘Male graduates from a managerial background who attended a private school are around 10 percentage points more likely to enter the highest status occupations.’

Black graduates were 2.7 per cent less likely to be in a high status job, despite securing the same level of degree as a white pupil.

Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility tsar, said it showed that that hardworking pupils who went to elite universities were still being held back by their background.

‘Despite often considerable effort, social elites have not been opened up, whether at top universities or in the top professions,’ he said.  ‘The top professional jobs are still more likely to go to men from a private school and privileged background.

'The hope that the phenomenon of a social elite dominating the top jobs would fade over time seems misplaced. The professions need to redouble their efforts to make access open to a far wider pool of talent.’

Mr Milburn will soon be speaking to leaders in medicine about the lack of access to children from working class backgrounds to the profession.  He said it seemed unfair that those who wanted to get into medical school had to get work experience first.

‘It is not a coincidence that those who get the relevant work experience are the sons and daughters of doctors,’ he said.

Mr Milburn has called for employers to stop selecting pupils from just a handful of universities – a common practice among leading firms.  Top employers predominantly recruit from 20 or fewer universities.

The elite Russell Group of universities should also ‘redouble’ their efforts to attract bright pupils from middle and poor backgrounds over the next five years, he said.


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Latest Partisan Educational Scandal: What Kids Are Learning in School Right Now

By  Barry Rubin

These are tales of contemporary America.

It began when I visited a family with children in Maryland in my son’s old school and the cute kid showed his school assignment. My friend took a photograph of it and wrote to me:

“PLEASE, if you want to publicize it do so, BUT please white out the handwritten answers, because in this age of totalitarianism, they could easily go after/persecute the child and his family. The school might be able to identify the child from his handwriting.”

Such is the fear now.

The fifth grade was learning vocabulary, supposed to choose the appropriate word from a list to replace the phrases in one of the words on the list.  The subtle indoctrination is horrifying.

1. The speaker called on us to take part in the organized refusal to attend performances of theatres that use non-union actors.
2. Greenpeace is taking part in a series of actions to stop the killing of whales.

3. The king of Norway presents the Nobel Peace Prize in a formal event in honor of the occasion held in Oslo.

4. The separate companies were brought together and formed into one large corporation.
5. The people in the courtroom eagerly awaited the decision at the end of the trial.
6. Conditions in the jail take away the self-respect of the prisoners housed there.
7. The immigrants were kept from going on their way by inspectors who demanded to see their papers.
8. Students felt that their privacy was being treated in a disrespectful and improper way when their lockers were being searched in a rude manner.
9. The separation of the different races in public schools was outlawed in 1954.
10. During the fire drill, students moved out of the school in an orderly way.
11. The children will remain in the state’s care and control until their parents can be located.

Just to make the point clear, I did not cherry-pick these examples. These are the first 11 which constitute the first page.
I don’t know if it is necessary to say this, but it is an extraordinary degree of politicization and it is all toward the left side.  If you need a list of why, I say this:

    Union activism (the teachers all belong to one; Right to Work states? Corruption, the union I was a member of betrayed the workers.)

    Environmentalist cause.

    Undeserved prize won by their leader

    Monopoly; evil corporations.

    Possibly neutral but law and order; no justice

    Prisoner rights

    Poor treatment of immigrants

    Poor treatment of students; the radical Weatherman of the 1960s called their school policy, “Jailbreak.”
    Racism! Injustice of America.

    But you have to obey our authority. We are only justifying rebellion when we tell you to.

    Remember we own you if we decide to do so.

Just to show some potential different questions:

5. Potentially dangerous problems in the jail, where violent criminals were kept, required strict conditions.

7. The inspectors did their job and protected the public by keeping immigrants from going on their way by demanding to see their papers.

8. Unfortunately, the amount of drugs and weapons in school required violating the privacy of some students because of a disrespectful and improperly behaving minority.

9. It was a proud day for America when school discrimination was ended in 1954.

Bonus story: One friend, who is a lecturer of sociology, said that the far right controls the media in America! She also teaches her students that the corporations are doing better than ever, making record profits, because they’ve downsized and are overworking everyone. [Obamacare makes it tempting to make workers part-timers so greedy companies get blamed!]

The pro-Obama people seem to think there’s an economic recovery, but then are telling me that they haven’t seen so many empty storefronts of businesses that have closed!


Boyhood is not a mental illness

All the employees of school districts on a witch hunt to expel and otherwise permanently punish young boys for shooting toy guns or forming their fists into the shape of a gun need to read “Back to Normal.”

The purpose of psychologist Enrico Gnaulati’s 2013 book is to argue how ordinary childhood behavior is often misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, depression and autism – frequently with life-long, disturbing consequences. But along the way he raises the taboo question of whether we “label boys as mentally unstable, behaviorally unmanageable, academically underachieving, in need of special-education services, or displaying behavior warranting school suspension just because their behavior deviates noticeably from that of the average girl?”

He adds, “In a sense, girl behavior has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

He cites numerous studies showing that typical boy behavior – wrestling, rough games of tag, good guy/bad guy imaginative play that involves “shooting” – are condemned by preschool and elementary school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women,  without the behavior being redirected appropriately to release boys’ “natural aggression.” Boys who play in the way noted above are not on a path to mass murder, contrary to what zero tolerance school policies suggest. For the vast majority of them, they are simply on the path to manhood. I wonder how many of us who recognize that truth still stifle our boys’ rough play or cowboy shoot outs out of fear of the new rules – reinforcing the capriciousness of regulations in young minds who will one day asked to make them.

Without changes to rigid policies and attitudes about what constitutes good behavior, we will be on a path as a society to generating mass confusion and depression in boys whose natural tendencies are being relabeled as criminal traits or medical problems that need to be treated.

This is not just an existential threat. As unorthodox feminist Camille Paglia said recently in remarks at American University: “Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany.  Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits.  Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force.  I close with this question:  is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?”

If that sounds crazy, is it wrong to worry how the massive increase in the number of children taking anti-depressants and other drugs as a result of skyrocketing diagnoses of ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder will impact their lives?

Many drugs used to treat the above disorders cause serious problems, including mood swings, sleeplessness, weight gain, weight loss and slower growth. And then there is the long-term impact of a mental health diagnosis, which can create a sense that the child is not in control of his actions because it is purely a chemical imbalance in the brain.

As Gnaulati writes, however, in many cases it’s “causes—plural, not singular—that explain why a child behaves the way he or she does.”

“On any number of occasions in my practice over the years,” he writes, “I have seen how a mildly depressed or ADHD-like kid can be transformed by a change of teacher, a change of school, signing up for a sport, a reduced homework load, a summer abroad, a front-of-the-class seating arrangement, a month living away from home with an even-tempered aunt, or any of a host of other everyday steps.”

Many forces conspire to push a mental health diagnosis, from rules on health insurance to schools achieving certain goals under federal No Child Left Behind law. Gnaulati’s book should give parents struggling with a difficult child hope that their child may not be permanently mentally ill, but going through a difficult stage that can be treated without medication. And it should give school administrators perspective on how best to handle unruly boys and channel their energy without condemning their nature. At the very least, we don’t need any more boys suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun.


Even Britain's  greatest luvvies are baffled by the Bard's writing

A complete educational failure.

Many of Britain's biggest stars of stage and screen admit they struggle to understand Shakespeare because of the way they were taught the Bard's plays at school.

Sir Michael Gambon, the star of the Harry Potter films, admits he is 'frightened' by England's national poet, while Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, says he sometimes shares that 'familiar feeling of giving up at a Shakespeare play'.

The stars vent their frustration in a new BBC Four documentary, Muse Of Fire. Sir Michael, who has played Othello, Macbeth and Coriolanus, said: 'I am very frightened of it (Shakespeare), although I know there is nothing to be frightened of.'

Other stars admit they struggle to understand the concept of the iambic pentameter, which is supposed to unlock Shakespeare's language by helping actors understand the rhythm of the words.

Zoe Wanamaker, who has starred in a string of Shakespeare productions at the National Theatre, said she found some of Shakespeare's words 'incomprehensible', adding: 'I don't know really what iambic pentameter is. Somebody has to tell me.'

Christopher Eccleston, who played Iago in a BBC adaptation of Othello, said: 'I have never had a formal lesson in iambic pentameter. I don't understand it.'

Eccleston added: 'My introduction to Shakespeare was in the fifth year of my secondary comprehensive school. You should not give kids Shakespeare straight away.

'You should give them drama and the ones who are really passionate about it will end up finding Shakespeare themselves because he is the greatest-ever playwright.'

Even Ralph Fiennes, who directed a film adaptation of Coriolanus, admits he struggled with Shakespeare. He said: 'I got E for English at A-level. I didn't know how to answer a complex question about King Lear.'


Sunday, October 20, 2013

British graduates with conceded passes get £9,000 to be teachers as number of job applicants collapses

Graduates who scrape a third class degree are to be offered bursaries to train as teachers following a U-turn by the Education Secretary.

Funding for teacher training was withdrawn from anyone with the lowest class of honours degree two years ago because Michael Gove wanted to improve the calibre of applicants.  The move put England alongside high-performing countries such as South Korea and Finland which recruit top scholars.

But he has had to relax the ban in maths and physics because of a  collapse in the number of candidates.  There were 709 teacher training vacancies in maths last year – around a third of the total spaces available. The shortfall in physics was 386.

Under one of Mr Gove’s key reforms, thousands of graduates are now training in schools rather than going through a teacher training college.

Critics claim that this approach is too fragmented and making it more difficult to analyse the numbers going into different subjects and predict the correct number of trainees needed for different areas.

But supporters of the reform say that it allows schools a greater say in how teachers learn their craft - and removes them from the ‘damaging’ influence of Left-wing courses at colleges that favour trendy methods.

Mr Gove wants more than half of teachers trained in schools by 2015.

From next year, bursaries of £9,000 will be offered to graduates with a ‘relevant degree’ to entice them into teaching maths or physics.

They must also have a B grade or higher at A-level in the subject they plan to teach. The decision will add to concerns about the quality of teaching in classrooms.

Experts have previously warned that pupils are falling behind in subjects including maths at primary school because many teachers only have a GCSE C grade in the subject.

Earlier this month the Association of Teachers and Lecturers complained classroom support staff were increasingly being asked to stand in for teachers.

Mr Gove has also faced criticism from Labour for allowing academies and free schools to use unqualified teachers – even though the party’s education spokesman Tristram Hunt and his predecessor, Stephen Twigg, have both taken classes in their constituencies.

But there is increasing pressure for sufficient teachers in key subjects such as maths and physics since top universities indicated their preference for applicants with traditional A-levels.

Official figures show a surge in the number of teenagers taking them at GCSE and A-level.

An OECD report last week also revealed shockingly poor levels of numeracy in England compared with global rivals.

Bursaries are also being increased in maths and physics for trainee teachers with higher degrees.

Graduates with a 2:2 will be eligible for £15,000 instead of £12,000 and those with a 2:1 will receive £20,000, up from £15,000 - bringing them into line with applicants holding a first class degree.

Schools minister David Laws said bursaries were rising in other subjects – although candidates will continue to need at least a 2:2 degree to qualify.

Funding will not be available for low-priority subjects such as art and business studies.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Smaller bursaries will be available for graduates with a relevant degree and a good A-level in maths or physics who show real potential to be brilliant teachers.’


Judge strips boy of £3,000 payout for cutting his hand on water fountain in school scuffle with little brother

Schools cannot be a ‘hazard-free zone’ for children, a senior judge said yesterday as she stripped a nine-year-old pupil of £3,000 in compensation.

Appeal Court judge Lady Justice Sharp said schools should be reasonably safe for pupils – who ‘are inclined to lark around’ – but could not safeguard them against freak accidents.

She was ruling in the case of a schoolboy who successfully sued his local council for £3,215 in compensation after cutting his hand in a playground scuffle.

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision, saying the pay-out would mean ‘the law parting company with common sense’.

Nine-year-old Lewis Pierce sued West Sussex County Council for damages after an accident at St Andrew’s School in Nuthurst.

It arose when Lewis was sprayed with water from the fountain, which had been fitted in the playground earlier that day, by his seven-year-old brother, George.

Incensed, he lashed out but George ducked and Lewis hit the fountain instead. He cut his thumb and damaged a tendon, which had to be repaired by surgeons under general anaesthetic.

He made a full recovery from the accident in June 2010. The court heard that Lewis was ‘completely unconcerned’ by the 1in scar it left him with but his mother Annette began legal action on his behalf against the local education authority.

Lawyers for the family said the school had not carried out a proper risk assessment before installing the water fountain and claimed that Lewis’s injury was the result of negligence or breach of duty.  Brighton County Court agreed and awarded the schoolboy £3,215 in compensation last year.

But West Sussex took the case to the Court of Appeal and argued that the same model of water fountain had been fitted in schools throughout England and Wales without causing injury.

Iain O’Donnell, for the council, said schools might have to ban the fountains if Lewis was allowed to keep his pay-out, for fear of other potential claims.

He told the court that schools could never be completely free from hazards. ‘Any part of the premises, for example the corner of a brick wall, could be perceived as sufficiently sharp to cause a laceration if punched,’ he said.

The water fountain was ‘not unduly sharp to normal touch’ and Lewis’s injury was caused by his own ‘spontaneous and unpredictable act’, the Appeal Court heard.

Lady Justice Sharp said schools should take reasonable steps to ensure children’s safety, ‘bearing in mind that children are inclined to lark around’.

But she said they were not under a duty ‘to safeguard children in all circumstances’, adding: ‘The law would part company with common sense if that were the case.’

The Appeal Court ruled that the county council was not responsible for Lewis’s injury and warned that a ruling in his favour would have led to a legal obligation on schools to pad and protect every edge or corner on which a child could conceivably injure themselves.

West Sussex County Council hailed the Court of Appeal decision as ‘a victory for common sense’.

The legal costs of the original claim and the appeal will now have to be paid by the Pierces. The amount was not revealed.

Mrs Pierce, 36, defended the decision to sue. Speaking at her family’s £300,000 home in Cowfold, West Sussex, she maintained that it was ‘more than a simple case of a minor accident resulting from a spot of playground rough and tumble’.


Premature children should start school a year later: Study finds babies born early have 50% more chance of failing at reading and writing

A no-brainer, I would think

Some premature babies should start school a year late to give their brains time to develop, experts have claimed.

The call follows a study which found that boys and girls born early are 50 per cent more likely to fail the reading, writing and maths tests given at the end of their second year in school.

Children born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are also more likely to be diagnosed as having dyslexia, deafness and other problems that class them as having special educational needs.

However, the Bristol University study found that some of their learning difficulties are simply due to them starting school too early.

Campaigners argue that if they started school on the date they were due to be born, rather than the date they actually arrived, they would do better.

Children in England generally start school in the September after their fourth birthday.

This means that a child born several weeks prematurely on August 31 would begin a year earlier than they would have if they had been carried to full-term.

The researchers analysed medical and education information gathered on almost 12,000 children born in the Bristol area.  More than 700 were born prematurely.

Overall, the premature children were more likely to do badly in the tests given at the end of the second year of primary school.

Plus, 35 per cent had special educational needs.  This compares with the 23 per cent of their full-term classmates.

Strikingly, the study found that those children who were born close to cut-off date for staring school – and so started their education earlier than they would have otherwise done – did worse.

This suggests their problems weren’t solely caused by damage done by their early birth.  Instead their brains were still maturing and they might have done better if they’d started school later.

Researcher Dr David Odd said that up to one in six premature babies start school early.

He said: ‘It is easy to look at a premature child’s date of birth and think that is how old they are but they are not that old.

‘These children are going to school in some cases a year earlier than they would have done.

‘Development doesn’t speed up just because you are born earlier.  They still have to go through all the developmental stages.’

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONEalso showed that it was not just very premature babies that suffer, with some of those born just five or six weeks early doing badly when starting school.

Previous research has shown that summer-born children, who, like some premature babies, are young for their year, do worse at school and are less likely to get a place at university.

Wendy Ellyat, of the Save Childhood Movement, which believes children are being pushed into formal education too young, said: ‘It is now evident that not only are summer-born children particularly disadvantaged by an early start to formal learning but also pre-term infants – and we show that such early disadvantage is likely to then impact onto the whole of their school lives.’

Sir Al Aynsley-Green, a retired professor of child health and a former Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘Education experts must look at these data and argue for a change in policy so that the school entry age for children born prematurely is based on their expected due date rather than their premature date of birth.’

However, Dr Odd said that more research is needed to rule out possibilities such as premature children being stigmatised or bullied if they start school late.