Friday, January 10, 2014

Neuroscience in British education

"These methods need to be investigated thoroughly to dispel the ‘myths’ surrounding practices that may or may not have educational value"

Visual, auditory or kinaesthetic; there’s a high likelihood that, as a student, you may have been labelled as a particular kind of learner. A student who learns best when presented with educational material in a particular format.

However, according to a recent report from the Wellcome Trust, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that this form of intervention in the classroom is beneficial to students; with some suggesting it could be detrimental.

Despite this, 76 per cent of teachers surveyed by both online community, Schoolzone, and the Wellcome Trust, say they currently use Learning Styles in their work, with 68 per cent of respondents reporting that they initially came across the method through working in a school, rather than through academic or scientific journals.

The surveys, commissioned by the Trust, sought to explore how neuroscience is affecting education and learning by noting the methods used by teachers within a classroom environment.

The report revealed that, overall, more than nine out of ten teacher respondents say neuroscience influences their teaching, yet, it has been shown that many of the techniques these teachers reported using, such as Brain Gym, have little in the way of proven effective results through systematic testing.

As a consequence of this report, the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), yesterday launched a £6 million Education and Neuroscience fund to develop evidence-based practices for use in a classroom setting and to test those methods, such as Learning Styles, which are regularly used in schools.

The fund aims to bring together educators and neuroscientists in the first project of its kind to take place on this scale.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning at the Wellcome Trust says: “Neuroscience is an exciting field that holds a great deal of promise both for understanding how our brains work and, through application, for improving how we learn and perform.

“From our surveys we found that many teachers mentioned using certain practices including Learning Styles, mnemonics, mindmaps and Brain Gym. These ideas are being implemented and are very appealing, but teachers aren’t being provided with the evidence that these practices work.

“In fact, if you look at educational practice in general, there isn’t a history of requiring the sort of evidence that you would, for example, in medicine. This is one of the aims that the Education Endowment Foundation is trying to achieve.”

The fund is open to collaborations across the UK, while the interventions themselves have to be tested in UK schools and should have the ability to be applied in a classroom setting.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chair of the Education Endowment Foundation and the Sutton Trust, said: “Improving our understanding of how the brain works will deepen our understanding of how pupils learn.

“Knowing the impact of neuroscience in the classroom will also make it easier to spot the plausible sounding fads and fakes, which don’t improve standards. This is essential if we are to increase the attainment of pupils, particularly those from low-income families.”

One such investigation that Dr Leevers hopes will come out of the fund is based on the idea that you can improve the state of brain arousal and activity to improve readiness to learn. This technique, known as ‘biofeedback’, is currently only used by 1 per cent of the 1,200 teachers who took part in the two surveys last year.

“You can train people quite efficiently by giving them a visualisation of their level of brain activity,” says Dr Leevers. “This has yet to be trialled across different groups of children, or at scale, but there have been positive elements of its impact, particularly in groups of students with attention problems.”

Further to this particular investigation, other projects could look at the length of lessons, listening to music and whether sleep patterns and starting school later could benefit students, particularly teenagers who experience a delay of around two hours in their sleep/wake cycle as a result of puberty – this theory has already been tested in some schools.

“Most educational practice hasn’t been systematically tested,” says Dr Leevers, who hopes that the fund will provide evidence to show how schools could make the best use of neuroscience; determining the best way for their pupils to learn.

“The only testing has been the implementation of a method in the classroom – but the results haven’t been looked at in depth and evaluated to see which are best and which get the best educational outcomes.”

A report written by Dr Paul Howard-Jones, Reader in Neuroscience and Education at the University of Bristol, further highlights the important of evidence based research saying that enthusiasm from some teachers and schools to adopt interventions with a ‘neuro tag’, mean these methods need to be investigated thoroughly to dispel the ‘myths’ surrounding practices that may or may not have educational value.


Australia:  International Baccalaureate studiers at private school top matriculation best performer

The elephant in the room is that most of the high-scoring students were Chinese.  China has come to Australia in a big way, much to Australia's advantage

Eight International Baccalaureate students at one Sydney private school scored the top ATAR of 99.95 compared to six HSC students at James Ruse Agricultural High School, raising questions about whether the alternative qualification gives students an advantage in university admission.

The diploma, which is not allowed to be taught in NSW public schools, was offered at 15 private schools last year as an alternative to the HSC.

When results were released on Saturday, 11 of the state's 450 IB students, or 2.44 per cent, received the top score of 45, which translates to an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank of 99.95.

By comparison, 48 out of almost 55,000 ATAR-eligible HSC students achieved the same result, a rate of 0.087 per cent. While the IB students make up a tiny sample of the wider community of school-leavers, the year's results suggest they were 28 times more likely to achieve an ATAR of 99.95.

The president of the Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said the top IB mark would be equivalent to several marks at the top of the ATAR scale for an HSC student.

"And you couldn't reliably differentiate any more specifically than that," he said.

The lowest score for a student who passed the IB translated to a 69.35 ATAR, which was higher than the median ATAR of 69.20 among HSC students.

The IB scores range between 24 and 45 and any score above 33 translated to an ATAR above 90.

The director of information services at the University Admissions Centre, Kim Paino, said the high performance among IB students partly reflected that it was only offered in "private schools of a particular demographic". But she said it would be hard to argue the top-ranked IB student deserved anything other than the top ATAR.

"I mean, that would be quite controversial," she said. "And if there are that many good IB students this year, then good luck to them."

The principal at the MLC School in Burwood, Denice Scala, said her IB students felt more in control of their study because their grades did not depend on ranking or scaling and there was not a limit on how many students could receive the top marks.

"They know, if they get the assessment results that they want, what their ATAR will be," she said. "So there are no surprises."

A third of the school's students chose the IB over the HSC last year and more than 90 per cent of those students achieved a score equivalent to an ATAR above 90. None of the school's HSC students received the top ATAR of 99.95. "We certainly don't choose to do the IB because of the conversion to the ATAR," she said.

"We chose to do the IB because of the fact that it's really rich in what it offers our students."

IB students must study six subjects, as well as a 4000-word research essay, study the theory of knowledge and undertake community service.

MLC School student Emma Williams, who received the top IB score of 45 on Saturday, said the IB "definitely" translated favourably to the ATAR. "I'd say that's probably one of the main advantages of the IB," she said. "If you're prepared to work hard in either course, I would definitely suggest the IB to anyone."


Overseas education crucial to Australian universities

INTERNATIONAL education is Australia's fourth biggest export earner, providing crucial cash flows for universities. But newly released archives reveal a Cabinet power struggle between ministers focused on revenue and those concerned with aid.

International education in Australia began as a post-war overseas aid scheme, with students from the Asia-Pacific region sponsored to study here under the Colombo Program. But by 1987, these students were paying about 45 per cent of the average commercial fees.

Education minister Susan Ryan wanted the payments maintained at that level for the next three years, saying the Overseas Student Charge had risen annually since 1980. "There have been rises of the order of 40 per cent in each of the last two years," Senator Ryan noted in a March 1987 submission.

She advocated "certainty and predictability" in the charge, partly because of the effect "controversy surrounding the charge has on Australia's image as an attractive destination".

Senator Ryan said the charge had reached a "practical ceiling" because it was almost as high as the full fees paid on some commercial courses. "To increase the current level of OSC would bring into question the whole rationale for the subsidised program."

A draft press release included in the submission lauded the overseas student program's benefits in "reinforcing understanding and goodwill and in more firmly establishing Australia as a friendly neighbour in the Asia-Pacific".

But other departments were hostile to the proposal. "It is not apparent that the benefits of the program justify such a large subsidy to overseas students," says a summary of Treasury's views.

"Increases in the OSC to date do not appear to have deterred applications," Treasury noted, adding that it would agree to more enrolments "subject to full fees being levied."

The Department of Foreign Affairs argued for annual increases in the charge until "full cost recovery" was achieved, while the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said fixing future years' charges constituted "an inflexible constraint on future budgetary planning".

The Expenditure Review Committee said the charge should be lifted to 55 per cent in 1988, 65 per cent in 1989 and 75 per cent in 1990. But this was overridden by Cabinet, which settled on 55 per cent for all three years.

Cabinet also accepted Senator Ryan's recommendation that the annual intake quota be set at 3500 students "provided that aggregate student numbers do not in future years significantly exceed the current level".

Last year there were over 500,000 foreign students in Australia.


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Common Core and the EduTech Abyss

Michelle Malkin

The Common Core gold rush is on. Apple, Pearson, Google, Microsoft and Amplify are all cashing in on the federal standards/testing/textbook racket. But the EduTech boondoggle is no boon for students. It's more squandered tax dollars down the public school drain.

Even more worrisome: The stampede is widening a dangerous path toward invasive data mining.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the ed tech sector "is expected to more than double in size to $13.4 billion by 2017." That explosive growth is fueled by Common Core's top-down digital learning and testing mandates. So: Cui bono?

In North Carolina, the Guilford County public school district withdrew 15,000 Amplify tablets last fall. Pre-loaded with Common Core apps and part of a federal $30 million Race to the Top grant program, the devices peddled by News Corp. and Wireless Generation were rendered useless because of defective cases, broken screens and malfunctioning power supplies.

Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dumped $1 billion of scarce resources into a disastrous iPad program. Educrats paid $678 per glorified Apple e-textbook, pre-loaded with Common Core-branded apps created by Pearson. As I've reported previously, Pearson is the multibillion-dollar educational publishing and testing conglomerate at the center of the federally driven, taxpayer-funded "standards" scheme. Pearson's digital learning products are used by an estimated 25 million-plus people in North America. Common Core has been a convenient new catalyst for getting the next generation of consumers hooked.

Students breached the LAUSD's iPad firewalls and made a mockery of their hapless adult guardians. Despite hefty investments in training and development, many teachers couldn't figure out how to sync up the tablets in the classroom. Taxpayers now realize they were sold a grossly inflated bill of goods, but the district wants to buy even more iPads for computerized test-taking. School officials recklessly plan to use school construction debt-financing to pay for the new purchases.

Los Angeles taxpayer Planaria Price summed up swelling outrage perfectly in a letter to the Los Angeles Times this week: "Cash-strapped LAUSD -- which in 2012 cut libraries, nurses, thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff ... is spending more than $1 billion on one of the nation's most expensive technology programs. ... I would say that 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark,' but few would understand because the teaching of Shakespeare has also been cut."

By its own account, Apple dominates 94 percent of the education tablet market in the U.S. Microsoft is pushing its own Common Core-aligned Surface RT tablet and app suite, along with "Bing for Schools." Rival Google wants in on the game on the taxpayers' dime, too. The company's "Chromebooks," which use a cloud-based operating system mimicking the Google Chrome browser, are gaining market share rapidly. While they are cheaper than iPads, they depend on reliable WiFi. Google offers a suite of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for "free."

But is this really about improving students' academic bottom line -- or Google's bottom line?

In one school district, the Google devices are used as glorified whiteboards. A recent news article touting Chromebook adoption in Nebraska's Council Bluffs school district described how kindergarteners drew "dots on the rubber-cased tablets clutched in their hands. Then they wrote what they'd done as a math equation: 3 + 3 = 6." No one explained why pencil and paper were insufficient to do the elementary math, other than a teacher gushing that she likes to "mix it up" and provide a "variety of experiences." The district is one of 50 across the country piloting Google Play for Education.

Google is building brand loyalty through a questionable certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company. The GAFE enrollees are "trained" on Google products. They take classes, attend conferences and hold workshops (some, but not all, funded by Google). After passing GAFE tests, they earn certification. Next, the newly minted GAFE educators open up consultancy businesses and bill their school districts (i.e., the public) to hawk Google's suite of products to other colleagues. And they tell two friends, who tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on.

Google can collect student/family data to target ads through related services outside the GAFE suite, such as YouTube for Schools, Blogger and Google Plus. These are not covered under the already watered-down federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Under the Obama administration, Grand Canyon-sized loopholes in FERPA have already opened data mining to third-party private entities.

One parent shared her kids' experience with the Chromebooks online: "The biggest problems to date are that kids figured out quickly how to bypass security so they could look at non-approved web material and that kids have problems drawing figures when taking classes such as Chemistry or Physics. ... Many preferred traditional textbooks; others resented the teachers being able to spy on them with the software embedded in the Chromebook."

Another savvy mom noted: "If you think Google won't be handing over any and all data it gets from your kids using their Chromebooks, you're nuts."

Let's be clear: I am not opposed to introducing kids to 21st-century tools. My 13-year-old daughter taught herself Java, HTML and Photoshop. My 10-year-old son mixes music on Logic Pro. I support competent, focused and practical instruction exposing school kids to coding, 3D design and robotics. What I'm against are bungled billion-dollar public investments in overpriced, ineffective technology. Fed Ed's shiny education toy syndrome incentivizes wasteful spending binges no school district can afford.


Bobby Jindal beats Eric Holder, Obama

By Tom Toth

Since 2008, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's reform efforts to give the opportunity of an excellent education to each student through school vouchers have hit Democrats in the most damaging way possible: Success.

As of the fall semester in 2013, roughly 8,000 Louisiana students in families with economic hardship are attending scholarship schools through the state's voucher program with improved test scores, graduation rates, and 93 percent satisfaction from parents. The average family income in-state for voucher scholarship applications is $15,564 and nine in ten of participating students are minorities.

Desperate to deter the rest of the nation from following Jindal's leadership in teacher union-hated alternative education tools, the Department of Justice (DOJ), led by Attorney General Eric Holder and his boss Barack Obama, last August filed a lawsuit against Louisiana's school voucher program on questionable grounds.

The DOJ alleged that, because the vouchers were being used mostly by minority families, and therefore sending a high amount of minority students to alternative schools with the state vouchers, the program violated federal laws of school integration from the 1960s.

Indeed, Holder and Obama argue that too many poor minorities are receiving a good education by escaping failing schools.

The ridiculousness of the administration's accusations didn't go unnoticed; many in the media criticized the merits of the suit, Jindal's administration was well-prepared to fight it in federal court, and the nation watched Holder and Obama run — with proverbial tails between their legs — from the fight, abandoning their lawsuit only weeks later.

Presumably, the administration calculated that the impending embarrassment of arguing that case in court was worse than the humiliation of abandoning a federal lawsuit.

Whatever the case, Obama's rep tape regulatory firepower will now try what either the administration's legal teams couldn't accomplish or public relations teams couldn't spin. The DOJ has mandated that Louisiana send the federal government information on all voucher scholarship applications and hold acceptance on said applications for 45 days while administration officials reviewed them. In addition, each school district involved with the program must provide "an analysis of the voucher enrollments … with respect to their impact on school desegregation."

No such requests from the federal government investigating the disproportionate amounts of minorities attending failing schools in poor districts have been forthcoming.

Programs like Governor Jindal's are effective, progressive solutions to 21st century education problems in states like Louisiana. Democrats are at a distinct disadvantage to fight for better education results given the millions in campaign contributions that teachers unions account for.

Democrat solutions, therefore, must necessarily also contain union-demanded stipulations such as no teacher accountability or achievement records, unfair seniority advantages for faculty, and damaging tenure requirements from the status quo that are direct contributors to states' education problems.

Conservatives like Jindal face no such constraint.

Conservatives are free to pursue unbridled innovation with the purpose of giving every child in every school district the opportunity for a quality education, regardless of family income, ethnic background, or zip code. Jindal's plans are working for Louisiana. Other states will have different solutions to different problems, and Conservatives exclusively own the full field of possibility.

Because of this, the left will pursue any means necessary to stop his leadership and discourage other governors, state legislatures, and school boards from following suit with successful policies that consequently work against Democrat interests.

So far, Conservatives like Jindal are winning.


Military-style discipline to raise standards in British state schools

Military-style discipline will be introduced into state schools under sweeping government plans to train more ex-soldiers as teachers and dramatically increase the number of cadet forces, it has emerged.

The Government is investing at least £19 million on programmes designed to develop an Armed Forces “ethos” in the state education system.

For the first time this month, former servicemen without university degrees will be able to take part in a new training programme designed to fast-track them into the classroom in around half the time taken by most other teachers.

Ex-military personnel will be be able to gain full teaching qualifications within just two years as part of the Troops to Teachers course. Most teachers take at least four years.

The Coalition suggested that evidence showed former soldiers made better teachers than those recruited through conventional routes.

In further changes, the Government also pledged to create an extra 100 cadet force units in state schools within the next 12 months – boosting overall numbers by around a third.

The move has been condemned by teachers’ leaders who claimed that the recruitment of soldiers without degrees risks undermining the profession.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said schools should “welcome applicants from all walks of life who feel they can make the commitment to teach”.

But she added: “Teaching involves a complex mix of knowledge, skills and understanding of child development and trainees need both a high level of education themselves and thorough teacher training before they can take on the demands of educating our young people.

“The NUT believes that teaching must remain a graduate profession.”

But David Laws, the Schools Minister, said evidence from the United States showed that "troops can make outstanding teachers who are likely to have a more significant result on the achievement of children and to remain in teaching longer than teachers recruited through other routes".

“The development of military ethos, such as self-discipline, resilience, teamwork and leadership, lead to positive outcomes both for individual young people and for society as a whole," he added.

Former members of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force who have degrees have already been able to enrol on one-year graduate teaching courses. Thousands of forces personnel have lost their jobs as part of swingeing cuts at the Ministry of Defence, with the size of the Army alone being cut by 20,000 to 82,000 by 2020.

Questions have been raised about its success to date. Previous figures showed just over 200 former soldiers with degrees have made applications to training courses since March 2012.

But the Department for Education hopes numbers will grow significantly with the introduction of a new training programme – launched in mid-January – specifically for those servicemen without higher education qualifications.

Training programmes will involve four days in school and one at university, with courses centring around seven institutions: Brighton, Bath Spa, Canterbury Christ Church, Huddersfield, Reading, Southampton and Staffordshire. Trainees receive a £11,200 training salary for each year of the course.

Service leavers taking part will be the only people allowed to start teacher training without a degree while being qualified within two years, the DfE said.

The move forms part of a major plan to promote a military ethos in state schools.

Some £11m is being spent to create an additional 100 cadet units by 2015 in a move that is intended to provide training for up to 5,000 teenagers. There are currently just over 300 Combined Cadet Force, Sea Cadet, Army Cadet and Air Training Corps units in state secondary schools across England.

The first new unit opened as part of the programme was based at the City of London Academy, in Islington, north London, with sponsorship from the Honourable Artillery Company.

Other initiatives include investing £8m over two years for charities run by former servicemen to provide Armed Forces-style obstacle courses, team-building sessions and confidence-building exercises in schools across England.

Answering a recent Parliamentary question, Mr Laws said: “Military ethos is about improving educational attainment – and those things that support it such as good behaviour and attendance – through instilling positive qualities and values such as confidence, resilience, self-control, loyalty, agency, teamwork and problem solving."


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Employment and the advantage of education: The right way to count

People with more education don't just make more money if they have jobs; they're more likely to have jobs in the first place.  As a result, the earnings premium now greatly exceeds the wage premium.  Consider the following caricature approximation of modern male earnings:

(a) College grads with full-time jobs earn 70% more than high school grads with full-time jobs.

(b) 95% of college grads, but only 70% of high school grads, have full-time jobs.  Everyone else receives $0 of income.

College grads in this scenario enjoy a 70% wage premium but a 131% earnings premium.  This is easy to compute: 1.70*.95/.7=2.31, indicating that college grads earn 2.31 times as much as high school grads.

Ability bias aside, is this computation appropriate?  It depends.  If a college degree really reduced your probability of involuntary unemployment from 25% to 5%, then multiplying the wage effect and the employment effect is fine.  College is your ticket out of a hellish situation.

But what if your unemployment is voluntary - in the sense that, given the market wage for people with your skills, you prefer not to work?  Then multiplying the wage effect by the employment effect seems like double-counting.  Yes, college raises what you actually earn by 131%, but it only raises what you're able to earn by 70%.

Not convinced?  Suppose college graduates worked more solely because college speeds up your hedonic treadmill.  After four years of high-achievement socialization, college grads feel like losers unless they earn at least $100,000 a year.  High school grads, in contrast, feel perfectly satisfied with half that.  Or suppose that colleges subtly indoctrinate women with the view that material success is much more important than maternal success.  Why should merely shifting priorities from kids to cash count as a personal "benefit"?  This is just the crude materialism economists are often mocked for espousing.

Now recall that official statistics distinguish between the employed, the unemployed, and those who are "out of the labor force."  The lazy response to my point is to treat the officially unemployed as "involuntarily unemployed" and the officially "out of the labor force" as "voluntarily unemployed."  So if college grads' employed/unemployed/out of the labor force breakdown is 95/3/2, and high school grads' breakdown is 70/10/20, the "correct" college earnings premium is 1.70*(95/98)/(70/80)=94% - more than 70%, but a far cry from 131%.

The diligent response, though, is to adjust official unemployment numbers for the "discouraged worker" and "prideful worker" effects.  At least outside of deep recessions, I tend to think that the latter effect is larger.  But either way, you've got to admit: Unless everyone without a job is involuntarily unemployed, counting the full employment gap as a "benefit" of education is not reasonable.


Principal Tells Seventh Grade Teacher Her Students are 'Not Allowed to Fail'

A seventh grade teacher’s candid email to The Washington Post has shed some light on our country’s tragic education system, in which schools are refusing to punish students for bad behavior.

When WaPo’s Valerie Strauss asked readers the question, “How hard is teaching?,” a veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland responded with a lengthy note explaining her school’s frustrating policies that ultimately led her to quit her job.

The educator shared why she first decided to pursue a teaching career: she wanted to show young people that education meant “exploring new things, experimenting, and broadening horizons.” But, her dream quickly met reality:

Forced to abandon my hopes of imparting the same wisdom I had gained through my experiences and education, I resigned myself to the superficial curriculum that encouraged mindless conformity. I decided that if I was going to teach this nonsense, I was at least going to teach it well.

This reluctant, yet effective strategy left ten of her students with ‘Fs.’ The grades did not go unnoticed by the school’s prinicipal. She called her into her office and told her the following:

“They are not allowed to fail.”  “If they have D’s or F’s, there is something that you are not doing for them.”

Taken aback, the language arts teacher realized just how poor the school’s standards had become:

What am I not doing for them? I suppose I was not giving them the answers, I was not physically picking up their hands to write for them, I was not following them home each night to make sure they did their work on time, I was not excusing their lack of discipline, I was not going back in time and raising them from birth, but I could do none of these things.

Nor should she have to. Because of the school’s ridiculous policy of passing students who clearly did not put forward the effort, she decided to quit.

Students need to learn responsibility for their actions. If they refuse to do the homework yet still manage to pass the class, what have they learned? That won’t fly in the real world. If you skip work a couple days out of the week or slack off on the job, would you really still expect to get a paycheck?

Not everyone is going to be picked for the starting lineup in kickball. Not everyone is going to be on the honor roll. Nor should they. Having to earn one’s grades promotes a certain drive and discipline.

Bravo to this (former) seventh grade teacher for exposing her school’s low standards and refusing to be a part of it one day more.


Another brick in the wall of Gen Y cultural decline

Schools need to inspire an appreciation of high culture in the younger generation

By Christopher Bantick, writing in Australia

In this age of selfies and X-Factors, spare a thought for the insidious damage being done to Australian serious culture. Given that Pink Floyd may have sung, "Teacher, leave them kids alone", should we be bothered? Yes, very bothered indeed.

The reality that is hidden from many in the Australian community is just how pervasive the celebrity culture is in changing young people's thinking. Moronic introspection is celebrated as significant and worthwhile. If you think I am overstating the case, well consider this.

The vanity that is lauded as virtue pervades the culture to a corrosive extent. Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every word of their latest celeb mouthing inanities.

Taiwan-born director Ang Lee says he makes films to, wait for it, "understand more about himself". If that isn't a 70-millimetre selfie, what is? Then there is the toe-curling indulgence of those music stars, like Sydney singer-songwriter Josh Pyke. He's a 36-year-old who claims that he now "feels he has learnt to sing". Oh please! Can you imagine Pavarotti saying anything so crass?

Or how about this kind of Pyke self-centred twaddle: "I know I can write a song every day and sing it in my voice and it will be OK, but that is not what I do it for. It's about figuring out what your reason is for doing what you're doing."

The kids lap up this kind of self-conscious exhibitionism as a "serious" statement, as they have precious little comparative comment beyond what is shouted out to them from fanzines and blogs of banality.

So who's at fault? Schools need to do more about bringing a little elitism back into the awareness of culture. High culture: fine art, opera, serious drama and music that requires patience and understanding needs to be embedded into the curriculum.

In Australia, elitism is a dirty word. But maybe our jingoistic egalitarianism has gone too far with the sense of cultural equity. Who knows what a sonnet is, a partita, a motet, or who was Goethe or Christopher Marlowe? As for ballet, forget it. There are many other examples.

Why this matters is that without a sense of cultural elitism, then the high cultural markers will atrophy. We'd rather get all teary with Leonard Cohen than concentrate, really concentrate, on Mahler.

The impact this will have on audiences is cause for concern. In the next two decades, the elders or keepers of the cultural treasures will be gone. Their patronage at the box office, let alone their philanthropy, will end. Then what?

Where are the audiences going to come from if today's students have no urbanity and cultural background other than popular cultural indulgences? This is already happening. Ticket prices are not the cause either. Top rock acts are far dearer than most classical musical performances and one Rolling Stones concert ticket would buy a brace or two of good theatre tickets.

What is clear though is that if you go to an opera, a concert of searching classical music or an art show that is not a blockbuster, you'll soon see who's there. Grey hairs and blue rinses. Why? Because they have had the cultural background today's youth lacks.

Sure, private schools are in effect nurseries, or, if you like, the last bastions of elitism. I teach in one and I teach serious, classically demanding literature. Yes, it is elite, consciously so, but anything is elite if it is not pandering to the lowest common denominator. How can a book about a vacuous Sydney teenager reflecting on school, like Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi, be compared with Jane Eyre? It can't.

This goes beyond subjective taste. Does Lou Reed compare with Segovia? It's a no-brainer. Still, Lou Reed took endless column inches of adulatory, valedictory prose recently because of what he achieved (not a lot).

The callow kids suck up their smoothies of cultural pap when anyone says something "pithy" out of an inarticulate, drug-fuelled haze. But "pithy" is a relative term. Listen to Kurt Cobain who sprayed a generation with teen spirit and left this "mortal coil" (Shakespeare in case you didn't know) with the following memorable statement:

"I don't have the passion any more, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy."

Compare the immortal lyrical beauty of John Keats, who also died young and said, "I feel the daisies growing over me."

The ambivalence Australia has to any mention of cultural elitism is reflected in its suspicion of what appears to be difficult to understand. In this sense, schools have opted out of their responsibility to simply lift the cultural standard from Banksy to Hogarth.

The fear I have, is that ignorance will be seen as preferable, even desirable, while serious theatre is unviable, serious literature is not published, concert programs are reduced and other forms of cultural elevation are lost.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Rocky Horror State University

The University of Houston-Downtown has about 14,000 students and, while Wikipedia says UHD students are 39% Hispanic, 29% African American, 20% white, 9% Asian American, the percentage of transgendered students is evidently unknown.

Nevertheless, with the encouragement of “the university’s new Center for Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” UHD is now creating “gender-neutral” restrooms to accommodate the, uh, gender neutral. And this regime is “coming soon to a college near you,” as Aleister at College Insurrection says.


Why does a campus with such a diverse student body need a “Center for Student Diversity”? Doesn’t the student diversity seem to be taking care of itself without supervision?

Does anyone else remember when coed dorms were considered a scandalous idea? Or better yet, does anyone remember when many colleges were either all-male or all-female?

Given that 26 million people live in Texas, if a student body of 14,000 contains enough transgender people to justify “gender-neutral” restrooms, isn’t it possible that Texas could create an all-transgender university, just for them?

Of course, creating UT-LGBT would be redundant, because students at the Austin campus are pretty much all gay anyway.  At least, that’s what the folks at Texas A&M tell me.


West Va. teachers union insists on constitutional right to wear spandex, short skirts

The school board in the most populous county in West Virginia is once again attempting to institute a dress code for public school teachers.

The last time the issue came up — in 2001 — Kanawha County school board members ultimately voted down a policy that would have banned strapless dresses, low-cut blouses, blue jeans and spandex, reports the Spirit of Jefferson and Farmer’s Advocate, a West Va. newspaper.

The details of the proposed Kanawha County Schools dress code remain vague at this point. However, there seems to be a general focus on things like conspicuous tattoos, facial piercings and overly revealing clothes. Spandex may or may not loom large in this round of dress-code controversy.

Basically, the school board’s goal is to introduce standards for determining if teachers aren’t dressed appropriately.

Under the current policy, there is no dress code. Each teacher’s wardrobe must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Even under the existing rules, if you say a teacher is supposed to dress professionally, then it may be incumbent upon us to define what we think ‘professional’ and ‘appropriate’ is,” suggested Jim Withrow, an attorney for the school district.

Becky Jordon, a Kanawha County school board member, wants teachers to come to work looking like professional employees.

“I think teachers should be able to dress comfortably,” Jordon said, according to the Spirit of Jefferson. “All I’m asking for is that if you’re telling a student they can’t wear tank tops, then an employee shouldn’t be able to.”

“I was at a school recently and a teacher had the back out of her shirt and a big tattoo was showing,” the school board member added. “I’ve seen some teachers whose skirts are so short that it does draw attention.”

Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, argues that a dress code is unnecessary.

“What are we trying to do? Does this really impair the children’s ability to learn, and where does it stop? Are we going to line teachers up and measure the length of their skirts?” said Campbell. “Let teachers do their jobs and focus on education instead of imposing someone’s personal preference on their style.”

The teachers union also calls a dress code an unconstitutional encroachment on the human rights of its members.

The union’s trump card is a 1988 Kanawha County Circuit Court decision holding that school boards do not have the authority to force restrictive dress codes on teachers because such codes infringe on freedom of expression.


Political correctness marches on

Today, some of America’s least-free places are the many government schools where students enjoy lesser free speech rights than prisoners, since “zero tolerance” and “social justice” apparently trump liberty.

In October, a Pennsylvania school’s zero tolerance for violence policy dictated that a fifth-grader be suspended for pretending to use his pencil as a bow and arrow. That same month, an 8-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., boy was threatened with expulsion from a charter school — his parents decided to pull him out of the facility — for drawing a ninja, a Star Wars character, and a soldier.

Similarly, zero tolerance for “sexual harassment” mandated in 2011 that an 8-year-old North Carolina boy be suspended for being overheard saying his teacher was “cute.” In 2006, a 4-year-old Waco, Texas boy got an in-school suspension for daring to hug a teacher’s aide. And in 2009, a Milford, Conn., middle school forbade all touching, including handshakes.

Zero tolerance for “racism” or “hate speech” in many schools means no one can wear anything with a Dixie flag.  A New Jersey high school student got suspended for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “redneck” humor.  Teachers in many places can no longer ask children to sit “Indian style” — the preferred politically correct phrase is “criss-cross, applesauce.”

In California, a 2011 state law banned anything in schools that reflects adversely on homosexuals.

“Tolerance” excludes the politically incorrect.

Literature in K-12 schools is a frequent target. Intolerant leftists complain about Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” revealing that racist characters speak racist words, while intolerant rightists target the “Harry Potter” for its wizards and “Snow White” for depicting a woman shacking up with seven men.

God help the bold instructor who lets his class discuss a political issue. As a high school teacher near Athens told me, if a parent or anyone says he was “offended by” something allegedly said in your class, then it means “days or weeks ... involved in a defense.” So teachers are “better off ... walking the straight line and avoiding controversy.”

Only about 40 percent of my college students say they were ever allowed to discuss any controversial issue in high school.

So why the dramatic decline of liberty allowed in our schools? The zero tolerance for violence paranoia is a hysterical overreaction to the saturation media coverage of the handful of horrible school shootings in recent years. But, instead of rationally allowing school workers with concealed-carry permits to be armed — since almost every mass shooting in the United States has been in a “gun-free zone” — education bureaucrats exploit school shootings to impose a totalitarian vise on students’ basic First Amendment free-expression rights. Constipating children’s imaginations appears to be the imperative.

That so many principals face threats of lawsuits from angry parents and students about any alleged inadequacy encourages them to regulate students ever more to reduce their legal liability. More rules beget more administrators to enforce them. And the number of professional paper-pushers generates numbers of rules to justify their jobs, power and pay.

A great many schools of education, administrators, and teachers (especially their unions) value equality far more than freedom. Indeed, freedom is stigmatized as the obstacle to “equity,” “inclusion,” and “fairness.” Allow young folks choices and they might make the wrong ones.

Thus, many educators in schools and colleges see their mission as one of indoctrination toward creating some “social justice” utopia rather than encouraging independent critical thought.  So they preach one party line, and woe unto the student who dares to deviate from it in class discussion. I learned that firsthand in graduate school in the 1990s.

The self-esteem movement has fostered a far more narcissistic, entitlement mindset among many, which says that if my son can’t eat peanuts, then no one can. Not only must I shield my daughter from learning about evolution, but I must save all the children from it.

Most people fear standing up to the intolerati’s encroachments on our rights. The statist war on liberty is constant, and defending freedom is a never-ending struggle. But the prophetic U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, regarded as a great liberal, warned, “The freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.”

We will enjoy precisely as much freedom as we are willing to fight for.


Monday, January 06, 2014

It begins: New NYC schools chancellor will push ‘progressive agenda’ 

Now that New York City Mayor and far-left Democrat Bill de Blasio has chosen Carmen Farina to become chancellor of NYC schools, city residents can expect a sharp turn to the left on education policy.

Farina, a former teacher and long-time adviser to de Blasio, shares the mayor’s desire to foist a “progressive agenda” upon NYC schools, she said at a news conference earlier this week.

“This progressive agenda actually says we know there are things that need to happen, but they need to happen with people, not to people,” she said.

That means liberal education goals — including an expansion of taxpayer-funded pre-K and elimination of merit-based pay for teachers — will definitely be a top priority for the new administration.

Farina taught in a Brooklyn elementary school for over 20 years, eventually becoming a principal. She became known as a supporter for supplemental after-school programs and universal pre-K as she transitioned to more prestigious jobs in the city education administration. She retired in 2006, and is now 70 years old.

The daughter of Spanish immigrants, Farina felt “invisible” when she attended school as a child, according to Fox News Latino. Promoting racial integration of New York schools continues to be a top priority of both Farina and de Blasio.

Both take a more skeptical view of charter schools, school choice and standardized testing than former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican who became an independent during his terms in office. In fact, Farina personally battled a charter school that attempted to move into her neighborhood in 2011.

School reform advocates are already worried that Farina and de Blasio are likely to roll back some of the institutional and financial support that Bloomberg provided to the city’s charter school movement. Modifying the city’s lease agreements with charter schools could force them to pay thousands more dollars per student.

It’s less clear how Farina will proceed on Common Core, the national curriculum guidelines currently being implemented all over the country. Like many moderate chief executives, Bloomberg supported the standards. Rank-and-file teachers union members — as well as many conservatives — remain deeply skeptical of Common Core and its required testing, however. (RELATED: Common Core haters are ‘misinformed,’ says New York ed commissioner)

Farina supports the curriculum component of Common Core, but may opt to modify the standardized testing it requires in order to make things more palatable to evaluation-conscious teachers. If that happens, NYC liberals might just get every education-related thing they could ever want.


USDA: On second thought, some of those school-lunch restrictions weren’t such a good idea

After the federal government’s school-lunch standards were overhauled in 2012 in what I’m sure was a very well-intentioned effort to institute healthier habits in America’s children and help stave off of the country’s growing childhood obesity problem, it didn’t take long for the calorie-intake and portion restrictions in the new code to crash and burn spectacularly. Healthy eating habits being the highly individualized needs and preferences that they are, kids and parents quickly began complaining that students were not able to get enough to eat at lunchtime, and in some districts, school-lunch participation began to drop as more and more students started bringing their own lunches to school. The USDA soon implemented a temporary stay on the rules, and they just made the changes permanent — seeing as how the restrictions were never very well thought out in the first place. NPR explains:

"Why? Because in some cases, schools had to limit healthy foods — such as sandwiches served on whole-grain bread or salads topped with grilled chicken — due to restrictions the U.S. Department of Agriculture set on the amount of grains and protein that could be served at meal-time. …

The USDA temporarily lifted the restrictions following many complaints. And, now, according to a new announced this week, the change will be made permanent.

The School Nutrition Association, a group made up of school food directors, is applauding the decision. The group says the overly restrictive limits on grains and protein worked against them.

For instance, some schools could not offer daily sandwich selections because the two slices of bread exceeded weekly grain limits. And in some cases, salads topped with low-fat cheese or other sources of lean protein exceeded protein limits."

Gee, whiz. Like so many other attempts to socially engineer top-down virtue, this latest instance of the one-size-fits-all, nobler-than-thou regulatory approach to problem-solving not merely failed to find a workable solution, but caused another problem in the meantime on which the USDA has now had to retract. Who could’ve seen that coming?


History dons back British minister over ban on Blackadder: Great War comedy is not a documentary for schools, they argue

Leading historians yesterday backed calls for schools to stop showing Blackadder to children learning about the First World War.

They sided with Michael Gove after he said the comedy Blackadder Goes Forth and shows such as the Monocled Mutineer and Oh! What a Lovely War wrongly depicted Britain’s military efforts as a ‘misbegotten shambles’.

Cambridge historian Professor Richard Evans and fellow Great War expert Professor Gary Sheffield said the Education Secretary was right to criticise shows like Blackadder – although they differed sharply on his broader point that the conflict had been a ‘just war’.

Professor Evans said: ‘I don’t think teachers should be showing Blackadder in history lessons – and I think some of them are. There is plenty of excellent material on the First World War they can use.’

Professor Sheffield added: ‘I am glad Michael Gove has put this into the public domain.  ‘People do pick up their views on the First World War from shows like Blackadder and Oh! What a Lovely War. I’m a fan of both, but they should not be taken as being documentaries.’

Writing for the Daily Mail yesterday as Britain prepares to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, Mr Gove said only ‘undergraduate cynics’ would say soldiers had fought in vain.

He said the war was necessary to curb Germany’s ‘aggressively expansionist’ aims.

He also hit out at Professor Evans’s claims that troops were wrong to believe the war was about defending freedom.

But the academic, speaking on Radio Four’s World at One   yesterday, attacked Mr Gove’s interpretation of the war, saying he was ‘peddling his own political myths’.

Professor Evans said: ‘He wants to argue Britain was fighting for democracy but he has obviously forgotten that Britain’s main ally was Tsarist Russia – a despotism far greater than anything in the Kaiser’s Germany.

'You also have to remember that only 40 per cent of adult men had the vote in Britain.

‘The war was a very complex set of circumstances and it is wrong of Mr Gove to reduce it to patriotic tub-thumping that we should support the soldiers.  'Of course no one wants to belittle their heroism and self-sacrifice, but we have to look at the war in the round and the long term.’

Professor Sheffield was praised by Mr Gove for helping to rehabilitate the reputation of controversial Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and said he was ‘surprised’ to receive the politician’s accolade.

The self-confessed Left-winger agreed with Mr Gove that the war was ‘ultimately about ideologies – that is democracy against an autocratic, aggressive state’.  ‘It’s a war we should be very glad the Allies ended up winning,’ he added.

Blackadder Goes Forth, which starred Rowan Atkinson in the title role as a captain in 1917 Flanders, chronicles his increasingly gutless efforts to dodge the action and is shown in some schools to help children learn about the war.

Mr Gove said it wrongly portrayed the war as ‘a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite’.


Sunday, January 05, 2014

Pre-school ed.: Impervious to Evidence, Liberals Ride Again

"We will restore science to its rightful place ... " So intoned a "dismissive and derisive" President Barack Obama in his first inaugural. It's been oft quoted in the five years since (frequently by me, I'll confess) for its arrogance and condescension, which has continuing relevance, but before turning to the left's latest departure from scientific rigor, I cannot resist a fuller quotation. The second part of this sentence from Obama's first inaugural reads " ... and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost." Hmm.

In his second inaugural (compared to Abraham Lincoln's second by Chris Matthews), Obama proposed a vast new program ($150 billion in combined federal and state funds) for universal preschool serving 4-year-olds. "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than $7 later on -- by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime ... We know this works."

Universal preschool is universally popular with Democrats. Nancy Pelosi has hailed Head Start as "one of our most effective investments," while the newly minted progressive heartthrob New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, proclaims, "We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student."

Before getting to science, let's talk politics. The federal government already runs a preschool program called Head Start. Democrats love it because they can claim to be doing something beneficial for poor children. Republicans decline to oppose it because they fear ads saying "Rep. X wants to deny education to poor children ... "

Now, let's talk science. Head Start, a product of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, has been carefully evaluated by the Administration for Children and Families within the Department of Health and Human Services. The study examined 4,667 3- and 4-year-olds across 23 states. It compared children who had applied for but not been accepted into Head Start to those who had participated in it. The children were evaluated by their teachers, parents and outside examiners both before and after. As David Armor and Sonia Sousa relate in the winter issue of National Affairs, the Head Start Impact Study found almost no positive effects of the program.

While children in the program showed some positive results on measures of cognitive skills and social/behavioral ratings while in the program, those results lasted only so long as the children were enrolled and did not carry through to kindergarten or early elementary school. The principle positive effect noted in the HSIS was in social skills for 3-year-olds, but these results were reported only by parents and not replicated by outside examiners. Teachers, by contrast, noted a negative effect on social/emotional skills for the 4-year-old cohort.

The point of Head Start is the promise that it offers poor children a leg up and prepares them for school. It would be nice if it worked, but it doesn't. It does provide jobs for teachers and federally subsidized day care. But taxpayers have spent $180 billion since 1965 for a program that fails to achieve its objectives.

Other studies have examined the effect of preschool more generally on school performance and have found effects ranging from very small to none.

What then was Obama referring to when he insisted that "high-quality" preschool "boosts graduation rates," "reduces teen pregnancy" and so forth? In a post titled "Obama's Preschool Proposal Is Not Based on Sound Research" on the center/left Brookings Institution website, Russ Whitehurst explains that the studies the president and other advocates of universal pre-K rely on are flawed. They do not involve randomized controls (as the HSIS did) but instead employ something called "age-cutoff regression discontinuity."

Due to state-mandated birthdates for enrollment in preschool, the studies wind up comparing kids who are actually enrolled in play-based programs for 3-year-olds with those enrolled in academically oriented preschool for 4-year-olds. These regression discontinuity studies also fail to account for dropouts from the program. The Brookings post, to which Armor also contributed, concludes: "Because 'gold standard' randomized studies fail to show major impacts of present day pre-K programs, there are reasons to doubt that we yet know how to design ... a government funded pre-K program that produces sufficiently large benefits ... "

Armor and Souza suggest in National Affairs that those truly respectful of science would propose: "A national demonstration project for pre-K in a selected number of cities and states, accompanied by a rigorous randomized evaluation that would follow participants at least into the third grade. This demonstration project should also examine whether 'preschool for all' closes achievement gaps between rich and poor, since it is possible that middle-class children will benefit more than disadvantaged children."

This would put science in its "rightful place," but don't hold your breath. Many liberal nostrums are impervious to evidence.


Who Could Hate Student Achievement?

Ask any parent what are the key factors that will help their children achieve the American Dream, and the top answer will almost certainly be a quality education.  Sadly, for generations it seems that there has been a steady increase in bad headlines and alarming stories about the state of education for American children, especially in urban and underserved areas—precisely where it is most critical.

Yet there are inspiring success stories.  In Hartford, one school in particular, Capital Prep, has managed to compile a record that is nothing short of outstanding.

According to the Hartford School District’s website, the entire Hartford School District’s graduation rate was 59.9% in 2011, and the target for 2012 of 62.7%.  By contrast, Capital Prep’s graduation rate in 2012 was ninety-seven percent.

In that same year, about two-thirds (64%) of Capital Prep graduates enrolled in four-year colleges, the second highest level among other schools in the District.  After three years (the latest figures available), 95% were still enrolled in college.

In the 2012-2013 school year, only 12.8% of incoming kindergarteners read and wrote at the state’s established “proficiency” levels, yet by spring this level improved to 59.5%, one of the greatest levels in improvement in the city.

We should not overlook the context of these achievements.   Census records show almost 40 percent of Hartford residents live below the poverty line. According to Hands on Hartford, a local charity, the city’s astounding poverty rate of 33.5 percent makes it the second-poorest major city in the Unites States.  Hartford is 70 percent black and Hispanic.

But I suppose it would not be Christmas season without a Scrooge in the story.  Jonathan Pelto, a liberal ex-politician turned blogger has been working his fingers to the bone.  Since he was ousted from government office 20 years ago, it appears that his newfound purpose is to launch vitriolic attacks against Capital Prep.  What is worse is that this is just one aspect of his efforts to kill education reform in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, neighborhoods in which he likely does not shop, visit, or much less live.

A 1993 New York Times article describes Pelto as being “pushed” from public office, his being fired from political positions with the Democrat Party, his arrogance and lack of being “a team player,” and paints a picture of him sitting around his family’s home “nursing a handful of grudges.” In fact, the state’s Democrat Party Chair said at the time:  “Jonathan’s demise, though part of it is voluntary, is something caused by Jon Pelto.”

Now, Pelto the blogger spends his time railing against education-reform advocates.

Pelto is so obsessed that even the tag-line for A Better Connecticut—an education-reform group— which reads “Every Zip Code. Every Classroom. Every Kid” somehow offends him as he also has criticized this organization and its mission. A quality education for students in “Every Zip Code” may be an honorable goal for some, yet it insults this ex-politician, who is from a rural Connecticut town that is 84 percent white, according to records.

The poverty rate among whites in Hartford is 18 percent, with minority populations hitting 45 percent or more.   And given a poverty rate of almost 50 percent for Hartford residents who don’t finish high school, Pelto’s irrational opposition to reforms that improve the lives of children in these circumstances is nothing short of disgusting.

In recent weeks, Pelto has attacked proposals—and anyone connected with them—to expand a highly successful magnet school program to a nearby public school that is failing, personally deriding school board officials, principals and parents who work tirelessly for a better future for local children.  Keeping minorities poor is not an answer—it is vicious and cruel.

Hartford should move forward with its plans to expand successful magnet school programs across its neighborhoods and provide better education opportunities for children of every race and economic condition, as should other communities across the nation.

With Capital Prep’s positive track record of producing better higher education and career opportunities for kids—and the wealth of social benefits that accompany these achievements—one wonders just who or what is the motivation for such hate-filled attacks.  Our children, whether in Hartford or elsewhere, deserve better.


The ethos of Capital Prep. seems to be very Leftist so perhaps Pelto has a point.  It seems to be turning out little Leftist zombies who are well prepared to succeed in zombie Leftist 4-year colleges.  "Our students are becoming skilled information processors and social change agents"

Tatler publishes its first ever guide to state education after soaring private school fees leave Britain's wealthiest families feeling the pinch

Its well-heeled readers would normally consider nothing less than a leading private school for their children.  But now it appears these are getting too expensive even for the devotees of Tatler magazine.

For among the features on society parties, luxury holidays and top restaurants in its latest edition, the magazine has published its first ever guide to state schools.

Naturally, it has focused on those with the best exam grades, top facilities and extra-curricular activities and the kudos of famous parents or former pupils.

They include St Mary Abbots School in west London - called ‘the alma mater of the little Camerons’ because it is where the Prime Minister sends his children - and Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge which is one of the country’s top feeders to Oxbridge.

But education experts yesterday said the decision was evidence that the pain of soaring private school fees had reached even the wealthiest families.  The magazine itself pointed out putting two children through independent school ‘costs around £600,000 - that’s £1.2 million before tax’.

Reports have shown that parents are increasingly willing to pay a premium for a house near a good state school and top up their children’s education with private tuition as it will still be cheaper than paying to put them through the private system.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘As good as it is, private education is getting very expensive and it’s no surprise that even some of the more prosperous are beginning to look carefully at what the state system has to offer.

‘It can be a canny move by parents as children meet a more representative group of people from society and universities will look more favourably on A-level grades.’

The guide appears in the latest edition of Tatler.

A spokeswoman for the magazine said: ‘This is not something you’d normally expect to find in the pages of Tatler but with private education becoming increasingly expensive and out of reach for today’s reader, the magazine lists the créme de la créme of the British state system.’

Janette Wallis, senior editor at the Good Schools Guide, said there were just 11 state schools in its first edition 28 years ago. Now there are around 300.  She added: ‘Parents used to say to us they were looking at independent schools and were interested in good state schools too - but didn’t really mean it.

‘Now we really do have parents phoning us up to say they’re interested in both and that independent schools had better earn their keep if they’re going to have to keep paying that much money.

‘Private schools have tried not to increase their fees, especially since [the global financial crisis of] 2008. The days when they were willy-nilly making up a figure are gone.  ‘But even if they aren’t engaged in the facilities arms race there are still increases beyond their control, like salaries and other services they provide.’

A report by the Independent Schools Council last year found independent school fees had gone up by 3.9 per cent - the lowest annual increase for 20 years but still well above the rate of inflation.

This left average day pupil fees at £12,153, rising to £27,612 for boarders. Campaign for Real Education chairman Chris McGovern said at the time that lawyers and bankers were complaining about the cost.

Pupil numbers in Britain’s 1,223 private schools have flat-lined at just over 500,000, despite attempts to bolster them with foreign students.

And 33.7 per cent of families now receive some form of financial support such as means-tested bursaries or scholarships.

Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of think-tank Civitas, said: ‘We know that one of the things that happens during a recession is some parents who are paying school fees can’t afford them any more.

‘The silver lining could be that people feel state schools are improving and why should they pay for private schools?’