Friday, March 07, 2014

Homeland Security Will Not Deport German Christian Homeschoolers the Romeikes

Obama wins the court battle but concedes political defeat

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has verbally informed the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that the Romeike family, German homeschoolers who sought legal asylum in the United States, has been granted indefinite deferred action status, which means that the order for their removal from the United States will not be acted upon.

As Breitbart News reported Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court had denied the Romeike family’s petition for certiorari, or review. According to a press release Tuesday by HSLDA, however, news of the Supreme Court’s denial sparked “an immediate and unprecedented reaction.” Fox News informed HSLDA that it recorded one million page views of the story about the Romeike family within 24 hours – an all-time high.

“We are happy to have indefinite status even though we won’t be able to get American citizenship any time soon,” said Uwe Romeike. “As long as we can live at peace here, we are happy. We have always been ready to go wherever the Lord would lead us – and I know my citizenship isn’t really on earth.”

“This has always been about our children,” Romeike continued. “I wouldn’t have minded staying in Germany if the mistreatment targeted only me – but our whole family was targeted when German authorities would not tolerate our decision to teach our children. That is what brought us here.”

HSLDA Director of International Affairs Michael Donnelly observed that the only reason the Romeike family had to come to America was because of Germany’s repressive policy towards homeschoolers.

“Germany’s persecution of homeschooling parents continues and is one reason, I suspect, that DHS was willing to grant the family indefinite status,” Donnelly said in the press statement. “How could our country send this loving, peaceful family back to be crushed by outrageous fines, criminal prosecution, and the loss of their children?”

In November, the Supreme Court had ordered the Department of Justice to respond to HSLDA’s petition on behalf of the Romeikes. Prior to the high court’s order, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had denied asylum to the family after the Obama administration appealed an earlier decision by a U.S. immigration judge who had granted the Romeikes political asylum.

Before fleeing to the U.S. in 2008, the Romeike parents had been threatened with thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time in Germany because they chose to homeschool their children. Germany’s highest court has asserted that its ban on homeschooling is designed to ensure that religious homeschoolers do not become a “parallel society.”

“HSLDA is determined to continue working in support of beleaguered homeschooling families in Germany and other countries,” said Donnelly. “The right of parents to decide how their children should be educated is a fundamental human right. The United States got it right in this case, and we call on Germany to change its policy so that parents in Germany can homeschool their children in peace.”

“Our entire family is deeply grateful for all the support of our friends and fellow homeschoolers and especially HSLDA,” said Romeike. “I thank God for his hand of blessing and protection over our family. We thank the American government for allowing us to stay here and to peacefully homeschool our children – it’s all we ever wanted.”


1.6M Paying Students Drop School Lunch--‘Challenges With Palatability’

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it eat one of Madam Obama's school lunches

 1.6 million students who used to pay for school lunches have stopped buying them, according to a Government Accountability Office Report (GAO).

GAO noted that part of the decline was due to the "challenges withpalatability" of lunches that have to meet new nutrition guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The GAO also noted that among students still getting the school lunches there was “plate waste”--n.b. students throwing away some of the food.

“All eight SFAs [school food authorities] we visited also noted that students expressed dislike for certain foods that were served to comply with the new requirements, such as whole grain-rich products and vegetables in the beans and peas (legumes) and red-orange sub-groups, and this may have affected participation,” said the GAO in its report,   Implementing Nutrition Changes Was Challenging and Clarification of Oversight Requirements Is Needed.

“Further, some SFAs we visited noted that negative student reactions to lunches that complied with the new meat and grain portion size limits directly affected program participation in their districts,” said the GAO.  The school food authorities noted that changes made to sandwiches led “to a middle and high school boycott of school lunch by students that lasted for 3 weeks and, at the same time, “participation in school lunch significantly declined in those schools.”

The report also said, “Nationwide, participation in the National School Lunch Program declined in recent years after having increased steadily for more than a decade. According to our analysis of USDA’s data, total student participation—the total number of students who ate school lunches—dropped from school years 2010-2011 through 2012-2013 for a cumulative decline of 1.2 million students (or 3.7 percent), with the majority of the decrease occurring during school year 2012-2013.”

“The decrease in the total number of students eating school lunches during the last two school years was driven primarily by a decrease of 1.6 million students paying full price for meals, despite increases in the number of students eating school lunches who receive free meals,” said the report.

“While the number of students who buy full-price lunches each month has been declining gradually since school year 2007-2008, the largest one-year decline—10 percent—occurred in school year 2012-2013. In contrast, the number of students participating in the program each month who receive free meals has steadily increased over the years, though the increase was much smaller in the last year,” said the GAO.

“Each month, states report to USDA the number of lunches served in the program and USDA adjusts the data to determine the number of students participating,” reads the report. “According to the data, student participation declined by 84,000 students (0.3 percent) in school year 2011-2012 and by an additional 1,086,000 students (3.4 percent) in school year 2012-2013.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required that the USDA update school lunches to account for new nutrition requirements.

“Regarding the lunch components – fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and milk -- lunches must now include fat-free or low-fat milk, limited amounts of meats/meat alternatives and grains, and whole grain-rich foods,” says the GAO.  “Further, lunches must now include both fruit and vegetable choices, and although students may be allowed to decline two of the five lunch components they are offered, they must select at least one half cup of fruits or vegetables as part of their meal.”

Some of the reason for decline in participation in the lunch program was because of challenges with implementing the new lunch content, such as palatability and “plate waste.”

“In our state survey, 48 states identified student acceptance as a challenge and 33 states noted challenges with palatability – food that tasted good to students – for at least some of their SFAs in school year 2012-2013,” said the GAO.

“For example, most states reported that school food authorities (SFAs) faced challenges with addressing plate waste – or foods thrown away rather than consumed by students – and managing food costs,” reads the report, “as well as planning menus and obtaining foods that complied with portion size and calorie requirements.”

Other factors, such as complying with the new standards, made the process for school food authorities difficult.

The GAO says, “Several factors likely influenced the recent decreases in lunch participation, and while the extent to which each factor affected participation is unclear, state and local officials reported that the decreases were influenced by changes made to comply with the new lunch content and nutrition standards. Almost all states reported that student acceptance of the changes was challenging for at least some of their SFAs during school year 2012-2013, a factor that likely affected participation.”

“All eight SFAs we visited also noted that students expressed dislike for certain foods that were served to comply with the new requirements, such as whole grain-rich products and vegetables in the beans and peas (legumes) and red-orange sub-groups, and this may have affected participation,” reads the report.

“Further, some SFAs we visited noted that negative student reactions to lunches that complied with the new meat and grain portion size limits directly affected program participation in their districts,” said the GAO. “For example, in one district, changes the SFA made to specific food items, such as sandwiches, contributed to a middle and high school boycott of school lunch by students that lasted for 3 weeks at the beginning of school year 2012-2013. During this time, participation in school lunch significantly declined in those schools.”

“SFA officials in two districts believed that lunch price increases, combined with the lunch content changes, led some students to stop buying school lunches because they felt they were being asked to pay more for less food,” reported the GAO.  “Some middle and high school students we talked to in these districts echoed this sentiment and said this combination led them to consider food options other than the school lunch program, particularly at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.”


10-year-old Ohio boy suspended for pointing finger like gun

Boys can no longer be boys

Nathan Entingh's pointed finger was apparently a “level 2 lookalike firearm.”

 An elementary school principal suspended a 10-year-old boy for three days after the student pointed his finger like it was a gun and pretended to shoot one of his classmates.

“I was just playing around,” fifth-grader Nathan Entingh told the Columbus Dispatch. “People play around like this a lot at my school.”

The suspension letter from Devonshire Alternative Elementary School said that Entingh used a “level 2 lookalike firearm” during the incident.

District spokesman Jeff Warner said Entingh put his “lookalike firearm” against the other student’s head “execution style.”

“The kids were told, ‘If you don’t stop doing this type of stuff, there would be consequences,’” Warner said. “It’s just been escalating.”

Entingh’s father Paul feels that a three-day suspension is unwarranted. “He said he was playing,” Paul said. “It would even make more sense maybe if he brought a plastic gun that looked like a real gun or something, but it was his finger. I would have even been fine with them doing an in-school suspension.”


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Obama Admin. Wins Battle to Deport Christian Home School Family

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike came to the United States in 2008 seeking political asylum. They fled their German homeland in the face of religious persecution for homeschooling their children.

They wanted to live in a country where they could raise their children in accordance with their Christian beliefs.

The Romeikes were initially given asylum, but the Obama administration objected – claiming that German laws that outlaw homeschooling do not constitute persecution.

“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” the Justice Department wrote in a legal brief last year. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Romeike’s appeal – paving the way for the Christian family of eight to be deported.

“I think this is a part of the Obama administration’s overall campaign to crush religious freedom in this country,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. His organization is representing family.

“The Obama administration’s attitude toward religious freedom, particularly religious freedom for Christians is shocking,” he told me in an exclusive telephone interview. “I have little doubt that if this family had been of some other faith that the decision would have never been appealed in the first place. They would have let this family stay.”

Had the family stayed in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, they would have faced the prospect of losing their children. Like the Pilgrims, they fled their homeland yearning for a place where they could be free.

Farris said the religious bias perpetrated by the Obama administration is “palpable.”

“It’s a denial of the essence of America,” he said. “The Pilgrims left England to go to Holland to seek religious freedom. They came here to seek religious freedom and parental rights for their children. Had this administration been waiting at Plymouth Rock, they would’ve told the Pilgrims to go back home.”

There are nearly 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. You’d think the Obama administration could find a place eight immigrants who want to live here legally.

Farris said the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case sends a chilling message to Americans who currently home school their children.

“This administration thinks it’s a privilege to home school – not a right,” he told me. “We’d better buckle down and be ready to fight them every step of the way.”

As for now, the Romeike family will be able to stay at their four-acre farm in the eastern Tennessee. But it’s only a matter of time before the Obama administration begins formal deportation proceedings.

Last year, I interviewed 15-year-old Daniel Romeike, a soft-spoken boy with aspirations of one day becoming a mechanical engineer. He told me he was afraid of what might happen if the family was deported. He feared being taken from his parents and placed in government custody.

“If I had a chance to talk to President Obama, I would ask him to let us stay in this great country of freedom and opportunity,” Daniel told me.


The suspended art teacher who Sellotaped shut mouths of 10-year-olds who refused to stop giggling

A primary school teacher has been suspended for Sellotaping over the mouths of her 10-year-old pupils after they refused to stop giggling and talking.

Priscila Davo Ortega, 27, allegedly lined up more than 20 children during her art lesson and put layers of sticky tape across their lips because they were being too noisy.

Parents said that when some children ripped off the tape because they were struggling to breathe, the Spanish-born teacher replaced it.

Other children were left with bleeding lips when the tape was removed, and several said that they were scared about returning to school.

Miss Ortega has been suspended from teaching art and Spanish at Danesfield Church of England middle school in Williton, Somerset, pending an investigation. Police said they would work with the local education authority.

Parents learned what had happened when their children returned home on Monday. The Year 6 pupils said Miss Ortega imposed the punishment because they were making too much noise while playing a game of blind man’s bluff.

Lisa Duffield, said: ‘I was absolutely disgusted when my daughter told me what the teacher had done. I went straight round the school and demanded to speak to Mr Bradbury, the headteacher.

‘I told Mr Bradbury that under no circumstances was my daughter to be taught by her until this matter was sorted out. I didn’t trust myself to speak to the teacher myself, as I feared I might slap her.’

Sarah Gower, 38, of Williton, said: ‘The teacher did not like that they were giggling too loud, told them all to be quiet, and if they weren’t quiet she would put Sellotape over their mouths, which she did.

‘A couple of them had difficulty breathing, so they ripped it off and she put more on top. My son was confused about what happened and he was a bit scared about going to school this morning.’

Stacey Bradbury, 28, from Watchet, Somerset, said she was ‘disgusted, shocked, traumatised’ by Miss Ortega’s actions.  Her 10-year-old son Thomas said: ‘She put Sellotape on our mouths just because we were talking. Some people had a really bad rash after and some girls in my class had their lips bleeding.’

Rob Lovell, 33, of Williton, said his 10-year-old daughter told him Miss Ortega said she was carrying out an ‘experiment’ to see how long the children could be quiet.

‘When my daughter took the tape off her mouth, it split her lips and they were bleeding,’ he said. ‘The same thing happened to quite a few of the pupils. They were all very upset.’

Miss Ortega is from the village of Huetor Santillan, near Granada. She worked as a nanny in London from November 2010 to June 2011, before returning to Spain to complete a master’s degree in secondary education.

She did a month-long placement at Danesfield in 2012, and began working there full-time in January. In May last year, she wrote on Facebook: ‘Now for sure, next school year, I will be an art and Spanish teacher in Danesfield School in pretty Sommerset[sic]! A bit nervous but happy.’

Last night, Miss Ortega’s family said she must have acted ‘in jest’ and not to punish the children.  Pablo Davo, her uncle, who lives next door to her parents Jorge and Mari Trini in Huetor Santillan, said: ‘Sellotaping children’s mouths up because they’re being noisy would be totally out of character for Priscila.  ‘She loves her job and she loves children and she never mentioned any problems when she was back here a couple of weeks ago.’

Danesfield School was rated as ‘good’ in its most recent Ofsted report, and the incident happened on the first day of lessons since it became an academy.

Headteacher Ian Bradbury said: ‘The wellbeing of our children is of vital importance to us. An incident happened in a lesson on Monday. Following that incident, I have suspended the teacher involved until a full and thorough investigation has taken place.’


British courses in self-tanning and balloon artistry 'to be axed'

Courses in subjects such as self-tanning, balloon artistry and instructing pole fitness will fail to attract taxpayer funding under a shake-up of adult education, it is announced today.

More than 5,000 qualifications will be stripped from a list of funded courses as part of a drive to boost investment in more rigorous disciplines that lead directly to a job, it emerged.

Matthew Hancock, the Skills Minister, said the changes would result in some £200 million being redirected towards work-based qualifications and apprenticeships.

The move comes amid fears that the taxpayer is being left to fund large numbers of courses that are currently deemed to be of little or no value in the workplace.

Other subjects due to be axed from a prescribed list include “coaching angling” and aerial balloon displays.

In all, it will cut the number of funded qualifications from 11,000 at the moment to around 6,000.

The move – aimed directly at adult education – follows a similar purge on qualifications for 16- to 19-year-olds which has seen courses such as "cutting facial hair" and "fitting eyelash extensions” taken out of official league tables.

Mr Hancock said: “Small qualifications in coaching angling, aerial balloon displays and self-tanning are not a good use of tax payers’ money or learners’ time.

“There are currently 15,400 regulated qualifications, and even with the restrictions we have made so far, 11,000 of them are eligible for Government funding. This means the system is complicated, bureaucratic and hard to understand and we need to change that.

“We are determined to make sure that people who work hard to achieve a qualification can be sure that it is recognised as meaningful and valuable to employers and that it makes a real contribution to our long term economic recovery.”

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills published a report on vocational qualifications on Wednesday.

The strategy – Getting the Job Done: The Government's Reform Plan for Vocational Qualifications – sets out a series of changes to college and work-based courses for adults.

This includes giving employers a greater say in course syllabuses to make sure qualifications lead directly to jobs and giving Ofqual, the exams regulator, new powers to review the adult education system.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The 'Investment' of Higher Education

What do Harry Potter, Lady Gaga and Star Trek have in common? Each is the subject of courses offered at supposedly serious American colleges and universities. It's no wonder then that according to a recent survey by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, only 11% of today's business leaders "strongly agree" that college graduates offer the skills needed in the real business world, while 88% want more connection between the business and college arenas. Apparently, studying the intricacies of Lady Gaga's unique wardrobe won't support a family in the real world -- shocking, we know.

Meanwhile, Gallup found that 96% of college and university chief academic officers are "extremely or somewhat confident" that their schools produce job-ready candidates. We wonder how many of these administrators have ever worked outside academia. Barack Obama wants the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college grads in the world by 2020. Just what we need -- diploma-toting experts in the invented Klingon language who, sadly, think the world needs their "knowledge."

All this is not to say higher education is worthless. The survey found 95% of the general public thinks some post-high school education is necessary, but the vast majority believes such education should focus more on useful skills. The question is what is a college education worth? The nation's student debt has far surpassed credit card debt and now exceeds $1 trillion -- up from $253 billion just 10 years ago. And as college tuitions continue to skyrocket, making those loans even more necessary, perhaps one of those useful skills would be knowing that paying money to study the science of superheroes may not be the best investment.


ObamaCare’s Growing Threat to America’s Education System

 The ObamaCare credibility gap continues to grow as new evidence of broken promises comes to light. Despite the administration’s repeated pledge health care reform would not harm employment, the New York Times reports teachers and school workers are already experiencing cuts to hours and income thanks to the president’s fatally flawed law:                      

*    Indiana schools curb student services, cut worker’s hours:

    Vigo County has reduced field trips for children and cut back transportation to athletic events. School employees who had two part-time jobs totaling more than 30 hours a week — for example, bus driver and basketball coach — were required to give up one of the jobs.

 *   Connecticut school districts forced to make tough choices:

    Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn…said in an interview that the new health care law was having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation…Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” Mr. Benigni asked. “If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for benefits for substitute teachers, I’m not sure that would be best for our students.

*    New Jersey college instructors experience reduced hours, less pay:

    William J. Lipkin, an adjunct professor of American history and political science at Union County College in Cranford, N.J., said: “The Affordable Care Act, rather than making health care affordable for adjunct faculty members, is making it more unaffordable…and our hours are being cut, which means our income is being cut. We are losing on both ends.”

*    Ohio part-time faculty see less work:​

    The University of Akron, in Ohio, has cut back the hours of 400 part-time faculty members who were teaching more than 29 hours a week, said Eileen Korey, a spokeswoman for the school. “We have more than 1,000 part-time faculty,” Ms. Korey said. “Four hundred would have qualified for health insurance. That would add costs that we cannot afford.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has heard similar stories from teachers, professors, and school workers nationwide. The president’s health care law is hurting America’s students and threatening the strength of our nation’s education system.


Four in ten miss out on first choice school: British population rise fuels demand for secondary places

More than four in ten children in some areas were yesterday denied their preferred secondary school amid mounting competition for places.

Tens of thousands of ten and 11-year-olds found they had  missed out as allocations were announced by councils across the country.

Many areas reported a rise in the number of applicants and a corresponding decline in the number of pupils being assigned their first choice schools.

The allocations to more than half a million families are likely to see a surge in appeals.

Research by the Mail shows a booming population in many towns and cities is fuelling rising demand for secondary places.

In London, where the demand for secondary school places rose 5 per cent in a year, 31 per cent of youngsters were rejected by their first choice school – up slightly on last year.  This rose to 42 per cent in the boroughs of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham and 41 per cent in Wandsworth.

In Bristol, the population of secondary school age youngsters shot up 8 per cent, leaving 23 per cent of children without their first choice school – compared with 18 per cent in 2013.

Under the admissions system, parents list their school  preferences.  They are then allocated places according to the schools’ admissions criteria, which are mainly based on a family’s proximity.

Other factors can include random lotteries or ability banding – measures aimed at preventing middle-class parents playing the system by moving into catchment areas.

Banding involves all pupils being tested, with a set number of bright, average and low ability children admitted.

Competition is particularly intense for places at grammar and faith schools, as well as flagship free schools and academies, which are funded by the taxpayer but free from local government interference.

Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, saw 1,863 boys sitting the 11-plus test, competing for 160 places.  The West London Free School, founded by journalist Toby Young, had 1,124 applications for 120 places.

Matt Richards, senior director of, said: ‘Most people are happy with a good school, they don’t necessarily want an outstanding school, but if there isn’t one in your area then you have a problem.  ‘There are areas where schools are still failing.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Every parent deserves the chance to send their child to a good school.

Parents may list up to a certain number of schools in order of preference on their application form - in London boroughs with larger numbers of schools that can mean up to six schools, while in other areas they may be allowed to list a smaller number - for example, parents in Bristol can list a maximum of three.

Unlike with primary schools, where catchment areas are all-important and house prices go up as a result, where you live is not usually as important a factor in most secondary applications.

There is no guarantee that children will be offered a place at their first or even third choice school - some will be offered a place at a school they did not apply to and have no wish to go to.

There is a deadline date of 17 March (in most local authority areas) for parents to respond to the offer they are given, either to accept the school place offered or to appeal a decision or place a child on a waiting list.  Places become available at schools when parents decide to send their child to a private school, look elsewhere for schools or to home-educate their children instead.

Parents who have appealed a school's decision not to offer their child a place will have their appeal heard by an independent panel.  They will first check your child meets all the school's admissions criteria, and should come back to you with a decision within a week.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

With 80 Percent of Public School Graduates Unable to Read, NYC Mayor Kicks 700 Kids Out of Charter Schools

New York City's new socialist Mayor, Bill De Blasio, has kicked 700 students out of charter schools. Here are the details from the Heritage Foundation:

 De Blasio is blocking four charter schools – run by the Success Academy charter school network – from opening or expanding, rolling back an offer made to the charter network by his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to co-locate in spaces not being fully used by the traditional public school system.

“The cumulative impact of de Blasio’s actions virtually halts charter school expansions,” the New York Post reported.

The charter network’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, runs twenty-two Success charter schools in New York, educating some 6,700 students. The city had agreed to allow the charters, which are public schools that are operated with more autonomy, to co-locate in buildings with traditional public schools.

But that all changed when de Blasio took office. “There’s no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent,” he exclaimed.

One of the four schools is already in operation and three additional Success academies were slated to open their doors this fall. The mayor’s actions have left “at least 700 children without a school this coming school year.” Fifty thousand children are on charter school wait lists in New York.
According to a report from 2013, 80 percent of public high school graduates in New York City don't have the basic skills to properly read or do math. Further, minority students in NYC are hardly even finishing school.

 Nearly 80 percent of high school graduates lack basic skills like reading, writing and math and are required to relearn them before qualifying for community college.

Critics pointed out that just 13 percent of black and Latino students graduate from New York City schools with the skills required for community college – and overall, 80 percent of all graduates lack these skills.

The number of students who lack crucial reading, writing and math skills is the highest it has been in years, CBS 2 reports. Officials from City University told the news station that 79.3 percent of graduates, or 10,700 students, who arrived to take a test to get into community college last year failed and were required to relearn basic skills that should have been taught in high school. This is a sharp increase from the 71.4 percent who were lacking the skills in 2007.
Michael Bloomberg left his office with a legacy of absolute failure on education, but it seems De Blasio is already well on his way to be worse. Parents in New York are begging for school choice and education options outside of the public system The system De Blasio is protecting and upholding traps students, provides nearly zero opportunity for educational success and destroys the futures of thousands of children.


Working class children must learn to be middle class to get on in life, British  government advisor says

Working class children must be taught to think and act like the middle classes if they are to get into the best universities and top professions, a Government adviser has said.

Peter Brant, head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said that children from poor homes need help to change the way they eat, dress and conduct personal relationships to get ahead in life.

In a post on the commisison's blog he said that bright children are less likely to apply to top universities because they are worried about "not fitting in".

He said that they need to become more comfortable with middle-class social setting such as restaurants, theatres and offices if they are to succeed.

Last year Sir John Major, the former head of the Conservative Party, warned that it was "truly shocking" that that private school educated and aflluent middle-class children still run Britain.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has said that state schools must set their standards "so-high" that they become indistinguishable from the best fee paying schools.

However, Mr Brandt said that middle-class politicians are placing too much focus on education, and often fail to realise the need to make poorer children feel "comfortable" in middle class settings.

He said: "It seems likely that worries about "not fitting in" will be one reason why highly able children from less well-off backgrounds are less likely to apply to the most selective universities.

"It probably contributes to a lack of confidence amongst those who are upwardly mobile as they struggle to adapt to their new social environment with detrimental impact on their ability to reach their potential.

"And the lack of effective networks and advice to help navigate this new alien "middle class world" probably make it more difficult to translate high attainment into success in the professional jobs market."

Mr Brant suggested that visiting different places, watching plays and having varied hobbies can help give working class children "shared cultural experiences" with those from middle-class backgrounds.

He said that young people from working class backgrounds have less "nuance and casualness" in their relationships with other people. They also wear different clothes, eat different food and visit different restaurants.

He said that these factors should not be ignored because of the government's focus on GCSE results and educational attainment.

"One helpful thing would be more awareness of this as a potential issue - it can often be unappreciated by policy makers who mostly come from middle-class professional backgrounds.

"This often means that debate can all too easily assume that if educational inequalities can be reduced and aspirations of young people from working-class backgrounds raised then that alone will be enough to tackle the problem."

Mr Brant who was raised in a £150,000 semi-detached house in Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes went to Aylesbury Grammar School and then on to Cambridge University has worked in as a senior policy advisor for Nick Clegg and held similar policy roles at the Communities Department.

He also served in the Prime Minister's strategy unit under Gordon Brown at the cabinet office that provided policy advice on key government policy priorities.

He now works at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which is chaired by Alan Milburn, the former Labour Health Secretary. The body acts as an official adviser to the Coalition.

Mr Brant said: "Tackling this issue is - of course - difficult and complicated and it is far from clear what an effective response to them would be.

"One helpful thing would be more awareness of this as a potential issue - it can often be unappreciated by policy makers who mostly come from middle-class professional backgrounds.

"This often means that debate can all too easily assume that if educational inequalities can be reduced and aspirations of young people from working-class backgrounds raised then that alone will be enough to tackle the problem.

"Another helpful thing would be developing a better understanding of what is necessary to help tackle these barriers."


Australia:  Curriculum and teacher education review: a necessary evil

The federal department of education and, by extension, the federal minister do not have direct control over any schools, do not employ any teachers and do not provide any essential services to schools. The influence of the federal government on the operation and priorities of schools is largely limited to wielding the carrot and stick of funding. The previous federal government used this approach with a heavy hand.

Current Education Minister Christopher Pyne's strategy is quite different. On funding, he has given schools stability for the next four years while a new, hopefully more fiscally responsible, funding model is developed. He has withdrawn the cumbersome and pointless accountability requirements attached to this funding. The push for school autonomy via the Independent Public Schools policy seems aspirational rather than authoritarian.

While he may have strong ideas about what schools and school systems ought to be doing, Minister Pyne has chosen to focus on the areas where he is most likely to have some impact - curriculum and teacher education. Fortuitously, both are fundamental to education standards in the long term.

The curriculum review is a necessary evil. The ideal scenario would be to have no national curriculum at all, since such a beast will always be politicised and biased in some way, whether it be towards a conservative or a progressive agenda.

Given that we do have a national curriculum, however, it needs to be scrutinised. And, given that the national curriculum is already in use in many schools, and the reviewers' tight time-frame, the review can necessarily seek only to identify the most serious deficiencies in the short-term. Make no mistake, content is critical. What children learn is just as important as how they learn.

The same is true of the teacher education review. Despite dozens of reviews of teacher education and countless surveys over the last decade, which consistently find that new teachers are underprepared to teach after four years at university, little has changed in most education faculties.

When a primary teaching degree has courses with names like 'Supporting Students to Be Environmental Change Agents', you know something has gone very wrong somewhere. Reforming teacher education will be a tough task, but it's difficult to think of a more worthy one.


Monday, March 03, 2014

Strange beliefs on campus

If college students listened to Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, they would receive a better American history education than they are getting from their professors. I recently spoke at Emory University, where one student defended all of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions by invoking the Elastic Clause of the Constitution.

Citing the Elastic Clause could indeed justify a wide range of administration actions, except for one problem – it doesn’t exist.

But you couldn’t tell that to the student at Emory University who came to my speech last week on Obama’s abuses of power. He persisted in defending the actions through the Elastic Clause, as if the be-all, end-all provision was common knowledge.

From the sound of it, the Elastic Clause must be common knowledge in faculty lounges.

The Elastic Clause, he persisted, gives the president the power to address a wide range of issues through executive prerogative. It allowed the government, he said, to adapt to new circumstances unlike the age when the Founders wrote the Constitution.

Of course the Founders did include an “elastic clause” of sorts, namely Article V, which gives the people and the states the power to amend the Constitution.

But he wasn’t speaking of something quite so stiff and formal. He wasn’t referring to something that required broad assent. He was referring the Elastic Clause that allows the president to swiftly respond to needs as they arise – sort of like Mussolini and Mugabe did.

He was serious. He really believed the Elastic Clause was real. But the constitutional literacy of a different student was even worse. With a straight face, she defended the exercise of executive power and the issuance of executive orders as constitutional because of the inaction of Congress.

“It’s part of the Constitution that if the Congress doesn’t act, then the president can issue executive orders to fix something,” was her argument.

Even more frightening, the person saying this is an officer of the campus Democrats. A little totalitarian in training.

Naturally, this was all quite an eye opener. I’m no fool when it comes to the institutional left and their corrosion of the system. But to have a student debate me over a verifiably fictional constitutional provision, to have a student presume I was the one making things up when I said the Elastic Clause didn’t exist – that blazed new territory.

All of this illustrates the dangerous rot occurring on campus, facilitated in large part by the faculty. All signs point to their success. Students are learning the lexicon of the institutional left and producing tragic-comedy like complaining about equality at UCLA, and worse. My appearance at Emory was sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the College Republicans. Recognize that groups like these are fighting an uphill battle on campus. But without them, college campuses would be intellectually monolithic.

The talk at Emory wandered into the small discrete psychological components of tyranny as described brilliantly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. No doubt Mr. Elastic Clause and College Democrat Vice President Edict had never heard of the Nobel Prize winning description of where elastic ideas can lead.

Solzhenitsyn’s great book of the 20th century describes the small ideas of totalitarianism, and the camouflaged embryonic consent that individuals give to tyranny over time. Tyranny isn’t just about gruel with potato peelings day after day and bullets to the back of the head.


Survey: Not All Teachers Toe the Party Line

The annual member survey of the nation’s largest teachers union alternative finds its members support school choice, are relatively wary of Common Core, stand against higher taxes to fund education spending, and support giving teachers access to locked, concealed firearms in school after they've taken a training course.

“Teachers are just like any cross-section of the American public—there’s liberals, there’s conservatives, there’s libertarians,” said Association of American Educators spokeswoman Alexandra Freeze. “I don’t think our members are any more conservative than any other cross-section of the U.S. public.”

AAE surveys its members every year and only supports policies a significant majority endorse. The 2014 survey also found 59 percent support Milwaukee’s vouchers program, 72 percent support Arizona’s education savings accounts, and 69 percent believe national Common Core standards will either have no or an adverse effect on students.

AAE does not collectively bargain, as unions do. Instead, it offers teachers liability insurance and professional support, akin to organizations such as the American Bar Association.

Twenty-one states require teachers to enroll in a union.


Muslim boys’ school in Britain  bans women from applying for job as science teacher

A Muslim boys’ school is facing claims of segregation after advertising for a temporary science teacher but making clear that women need not apply.

The advert published by the outsourcing company Capita requested a “Male Science Teacher” to cover lessons, including some mathematics classes, until the end of the current academic year on a short term contract for up to £150 a day.

Secular campaigners said the advertisement was just the latest in a series of demands for religious customs and practices to be “accommodated” in the education system as a result of giving faith groups the power to run schools.

It follows a storm over allegations that non-Muslim female staff at the Al-Madinah free school in Derby had been forced to wear headscarves in line with strict Islamic practices.

There have also been concerns that girls at other Islamic schools are being required to wear full veils as well as questions over segregation in classes.

Capita argued that the exclusion of women could be legally justified but the advert was later withdrawn after a warning from the Department for Education over the need to comply with equality law.

The National Secular Society said it had been alerted to the advertisement by a female science teacher who had been looking for work in the Leicester area.

Among requirements listed for the job are a good knowledge of the national curriculum and an ability to plan “innovative and engaging lessons”.

The advert describes the school simply as an Islamic School for Boys in Leicester without specifying which school.  Capita refused to confirm the name of the school claiming it was to “protect their confidentiality”.

But it follows a similar advertisement placed by the Madani Boys School in Leicester last month for the post of “Male Technician” in the IT department.

Capita insisted that the male-only requirement was legal under the Equality Act, which allows employers an opt-out from sex discrimination rules in specific circumstances.  “These provisions are referred to as occupational requirements and they create exceptions that allow an employer to act in a way that would otherwise be discriminatory,” a spokeswoman said.

“Capita Education Resourcing is committed to equal opportunities both as an employer, and as an agency for the recruitment and placement of educational staff.”

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Schools must comply with equality law.  "We asked Leicester City Council to raise this with the school and the advert has now been withdrawn.”

Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the NSS said: “Being male isn't a genuine occupational requirement for a science teacher in a state school. Any attempt to try and make it so is unjustifiable.

“The Government's encouragement of schools run by religious groups will bring with it increasing demands for religious customs and practices to be accommodated within our education system.

“If religious demands to discriminate and segregate along gender lines are accommodated, teachers of the 'wrong sex' will be disadvantaged and children in such schools are unlikely to be adequately prepared for life as equal citizens in a liberal democracy – which should be one of the fundamental aims of education policy.

“For some religious groups, it is clear that the primary goal of state education should be to instill parents' religious beliefs in children.

“Equality must not be sacrificed in the rush to satisfy their demands.”


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Conservative USC alums fight on over FCC newsroom survey

The Federal Communications Commission's decision to shelve plans for a study of how media newsrooms work has tamped down outrage from some conservative quarters but some alumni from a prominent participating university are still in an uproar.

The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism was one of two institutes of higher learning the FCC commissioned to conduct a study of how media organizations gather and report the news. The other school was the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Several members of USC's Washington, D.C. alumni community, which includes prominent conservative attorneys, nonprofit leaders, politicians and journalists, want answers on why their alma mater was involved in a project critics fear could have been used to place new controls on the nation's newsrooms, and quell free speech.

USC, a large private school located in Los Angeles that is No. 23 on U.S. News & World Report's undergraduate school ranking list, was traditionally known as politically conservative, especially in the West Coast's mainly liberal academic world. In recent years, however, the campus has been changing as the school’s rising rankings and rigorous admissions policies attracted students of all political stripes.

The alumni are also voicing deep concerns about whether USC's relatively new president, Max Nikias, is deliberately trying to change its conservative reputation by involving the university in more liberal-oriented studies and programs. Nikias became president in 2010.

“The University of Southern California has transitioned from a place of higher education to a far left policy-setting organization,” said Richard Manning, a vice president at Americans for Limited Government, who graduated from USC in 1981 and served as president of the university's D.C. alumni club in the early 1990s.

“The latest reports that the School of Journalism was involved in the FCC intrusion into the reporting and editorial decisions of individual news outlets reveals just how much the University has lost its way from its original mission.

“President Max Nikias should be fired over this alone,” he continued, “but when you consider previous decisions to become a shill for the Affordable Care Act to the entertainment industry, there is no case to be made for his retention.”

Manning was referring to a $500,000 grant USC's Norman Lear Center Hollywood, Health & Society program received last fall from the California Endowment, a health-oriented nonprofit financed by the insurance industry. Critics say the money will be used to promote Obamacare in film and television, in a manner similar to product-placement marketing techniques for consumer brands.

Another former president of USC's D.C. alumni club, who requested anonymity, said the university's decisions to wade into more liberal territory is causing him to rethink his yearly financial commitment.

“I give the university money every year – and it absolutely will affect my decision this year,” the USC graduate said. He said the FCC study and the Norman Lear Center grant are projects that are “pretty contrary to what USC ought to be involved in” – especially if the FCC survey was going to to be used to try to control what the media should cover.

“That's kind of crazy – I assume the quest for the almighty dollar is pushing this. Times are tight and you can't get earmarks out of Congress anymore and so they're trying to find money anywhere they can,” said the USC graduate.

Boyd Rutherford, a 1990 graduate of USC's Gould School of Law who is currently running for lieutenant governor in Maryland, was more nuanced in his criticism, saying news of the university's involvement immediately drew his concern but that he would need to find out if the school knew how the FCC would use the information before he condemned it outright.

“It is disappointing if the university knew what the intent of the FCC was – if the intent was to go into newsrooms and ask questions – but we don't know what the FCC wanted to do with it,” he said.

The stated goal of the FCC survey was to determine if the “critical information needs” of the public are being met by modern media outlets. Democrats at the agency say they aren't planning to place any limits on press freedom or make a case for re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated that broadcasters provide equal time to both sides of a debate from 1949 to 1987.

After news about the FCC survey first broke, the Washington Examiner's Byron York reported that the goal of the newsroom survey may have been different than originally believed - perhaps part of an effort to gather information for a new government campaign to increase minority ownership of the nation's media outlets.

One of the project's key advocates, York notes, is Mignon Clyburn, an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner who last year served as the agency's acting chair. Clyburn is also the daughter of Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant House minority leader and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

A USC spokeswoman side-stepped questions from the Examiner about how much the university knew about the FCC's intent, pointing to a statement it posted on the Annenberg School's website Tuesday.

Titled “USC Annenberg Position on Fact-Based Media Policy Research,” the statement said the school is proud that it won an open competition by the FCC “to lead a prominent group of scholars from top universities in conducting a literature review (of approximately 500 scholarly articles) regarding 'critical information needs' of the American public.”

“Our purpose was to provide and encourage fact-based, nonpartisan and rigorous analysis in support of policy-making at a time of sweeping changes in the media and in American society,” the school said in a six-paragraph statement.

It said the findings are helping the FCC meet its statutory mandate of issuing a triennial report to Congress about “the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small businesses from competing in the media marketplace, and pursue policies that eliminate those barriers.”

“The literature review was the extent of USC Annenberg's involvement in the project,” the school added.

The spokeswoman also pointed to a Feb. 16 New York Times article about the grant to the USC Norman Lear Center that quoted its director as trying to push back against the notion that money would be used to fund pro-Obamacare propaganda. The Center recently held a Writers Guild of America East forum on the Affordable Care Act's place in comedy and drama.

“This is such a contentious issue – no one's pretending there will not be bitter on-screen clashes and disagreement as in life,” Center director Martin Kaplan told the Times.

But the article noted that the panel discussion did not include vocal Obamacare opponents. Instead, it was moderated by Kaplan, along with Writers Guild president Michael Winship, the Center for Public Integrity's Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive, and Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It's lineups like those that have some USC alums fighting mad and taking shots at Nikias, as they recall what they regard as "the good old days" under previous USC President Steven Sample.

“I'm shocked and disappointed that USC keeps getting its name dragged through the mud for doing the bidding of the most outrageous Obama administration proposals,” said the Institute for Energy Research's Thomas Pyle, a USC alum. “This certainly didn't happen when Steven Sample was at the helm.”


National Takeover of School Curriculum

Many people said ho-hum when President Barack Obama threatened to change any law with his pen or phone, and even use that power to personally alter Obamacare and the welfare law, and to "legislate" the Dream Act that Congress refused to pass. But Americans are rising up by the tens of thousands to stop Common Core, which is the current attempt to compel all U.S. children to be taught the same material and not other things parents might think important.

Ever since Congress began pouring federal tax dollars into public schools, parents have been solicitous to have Congress write into law a prohibition against the federal government writing curriculum or lesson plans, or imposing a uniform national curriculum. Parents want those decisions made at the local level by local school boards, which are, or should be, subject to the watchful eyes of local citizens and parents.

Parents are supported in this view by the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government no power over education. Here is some of the repetitive language included in federal school appropriation laws.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the first federal attempt to regulate and finance schools, stated: "Nothing in this act" shall authorize any federal official to "mandate, direct, or control" school curriculum. The 1970 General Education Provisions Act stipulates that "no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any" federal agency or official "to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction or selection of instructional materials by any" school system.

The 1979 law that created the Department of Education forbids it to exercise "any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum" or "program of instruction" of any school system. The amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act reiterates that no Education Department funds "may be used ... to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in" grades K-12.

Despite all those emphatic words, Obama's Department of Education, headed by an alumnus of the Chicago Democratic machine and other leftists, seeks to mold the minds of all our children into supporters of big government. Their vehicle to accomplish this is Common Core, which is artfully designed to impose de facto national uniformity while complying with all explicit federal prohibitions.

The mechanism of control is the tests all students must take, which will be written by the people who created Common Core. If students haven't studied a curriculum "aligned" with Common Core, they will have a hard time passing the tests required for a high school diploma and entry into college.

As explained by education researcher and author Darcy Pattison, the Common Core gang in 1996 gathered a cozy group of rich big businessmen, six governors and a few other politicians, and founded an organization called Achieve Inc. Working backward from the 12th grade down to kindergarten, this eventually morphed into the Common Core State Standards.

Achieve Inc. started implementation of Common Core with 13 states, but a national curriculum was still the goal, and a congressional debate about that would have been a political risk. So the Common Core advocates bypassed most elected officials and went straight to each state's Department of Education, and by 2009, 35 state curriculums had aligned with Common Core.

Common Core advocates then announced that "standards" had been developed "in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts ... to prepare our children for college and the workforce." By 2011, 45 states had signed up, even though the final draft of the standards was not yet available and had never been field-tested.

Still careful to skirt the laws barring federal control of curriculum, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used federal funds to bait the states to align with Common Core by offering grants from the federally funded Race to the Top program.

The Common Core promoters, whose goal is a national curriculum for all U.S. children despite laws prohibiting the government from requiring it, used the clever device of copyrighting the standards by a nongovernment organization, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This enables Common Core advocates to force uniform national standards while claiming that the laws prohibiting federal control of curriculum are not violated.

No one may copy or reprint the standards without permission, and states that sign on to Common Core may not change or modify the standards. The license agreement that states must sign in order to use Common Core states: "NGA/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards."


Australia:  NSW Government resists Commonwealth push for independent government funded schools

Different approaches to giving schools more independence

New South Wales is resisting any further embrace of the Federal Government's new $70 million Independent Public Schools initiative.

The reforms, launched earlier this month, include a goal of 25 per cent, or approximately 1500 existing public schools to become Independent Public Schools by 2017.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said on Sunday that he had letters from every state and territory, except South Australia, wanting to be part of the program.

But NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says his state has already substantially gone down the road of school autonomy and is not planning to go any further.

"We've made it clear and New South Wales has gone substantially down the road of increased school autonomy. Public schools in NSW will manage 70 per cent of their budget up from the current 10 per cent," he said.

"So we have gone substantially down the road of school autonomy, New South Wales has done a lot.

"The Commonwealth have got their views and I have met with Christopher Pyne to talk about where our reforms actually meet the kinds of changes that he would like to see and we continue those negotiations."

He says it is powerful for public schools to be part of a system and he does not want that to change with more autonomy.

"You have got to have a balance between the power of principals to make decisions about their schools but also keeping the power of a system in place, " he said.

Mr Pyne says NSW wants to be part of the independent schools program and he will continue to work with Mr Piccoli.

"I'll be working with him to develop the kind of autonomy in schools that we both think is of an advantage to students, particularly, in bringing about good outcomes for students," he said.

Mr Pyne has denied there are any tensions between himself and the NSW Education Minister saying he feels "very positive toward Adrian Piccoli".

Political lobbying

The Federal Education Minister has urged MPs to talk to parents and teachers to encourage schools in their communities to become independent public schools.

Mr Piccoli says he does not have a problem with federal MPs lobbying schools.  "Federal MPs are entitled to write to their local schools," he said.

But the the Director-General of Education and Communities Dr Michele Bruniges has taken issue and written to the state's public school principals.

" NSW public schools operate as part of a school system. Individual schools are therefore unable to enter into any such arrangement with the Commonwealth government," she wrote.  "Any discussions about independent public schools will be conducted at a departmental level."