Friday, June 13, 2014

In the Near Future, Only Very Wealthy Colleges Will Have English Departments

Which will be a good thing, considering that they have now  become simply an outlet for Leftist propaganda

Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments (e.g., English) will be largely extinct—they’ll be as large and vibrant as Classics departments are today, which is to say, not very active at all. Only wealthy institutions will be able to afford the luxury of faculty devoted to studying written and printed text. Communications, rhetoric/composition, and media studies will take English’s place. The change isn’t necessarily an evil to be decried but simply reflects how most people now generate and read narratives and text—they do it on digitally based multimedia platforms.

Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games? Narratives currently live in many different media, and there should be nothing wrong with academics considering them alongside print narratives. Defenders of the traditional curriculum mostly believe students need to read these printed texts if they are to be truly educated, cultured members of our society. That’s the gist of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and many an essay from right- and left-leaning critics alike, including Adam Kirsch’s recent essay “Technology Is Taking Over English Departments.”

The so-called culture war that raged around Bloom’s book through the 1990s amid concern that including the disenfranchised’s voices would dilute (white, European) culture has largely passed, and yet the anxiety about English and the humanities in general lingers. The trouble was never the danger to culture but to print culture. As long as literature departments remain beholden to print culture, to the study and transmission of printed texts, they will continue to fade in relevance and prestige. Period-based (print) literature courses will continue to vanish in favor of disciplines that study and instruct students in contemporary media platforms. We need only to look at how successfully film and television migrated out of literature departments and into departments and schools of their own. If the present trend continues, the same will happen with digital media. This erosion of literature and its associated print culture is really what concerns Kirsch.

Unfortunately the digital humanities (DH) scholars who responded to Kirsch evaded this fairly obvious point in favor of detailing the importance of their research and accompanying (ironically print) book, Digital_Humanities, which Kirsch judged a “jargon-laden manifesto and handbook.” The fact that these scholars choose to explain their digital inquiry sub-field with a print book just underscores the inability of many literature and other humanities Ph.D.s to move beyond the printed book. An open-access PDF exists of that book, but that file is a digital replica of the printed page, and the essays it contains are easily recognizable as the scholarly essays that you'd find in any scholarly collection published in the last 50 or so years.

The Modern Language Association’s (MLA) recent report on the future of doctoral education exhibits a similar tension between the status quo and need for reform. Doctoral students are the future of the academic humanities, and the changes the MLA recommends for their training show how they think the profession at large will (or needs to) evolve. Among the suggestions was a plea for graduate students to learn more technical skills, such as text mining, data visualization, and other very non-humanistic sounding software tools. They recommend this course so that the legions of un- or underemployed Ph.D.s will be more competitive for vestigial tenure-track jobs and, more importantly, for alternative academic careers in archives, libraries, and other domains. But even while recommending that shift, they left in place the dissertation, or the production of a large research-based, book-length monograph. Alternative projects, especially collaborative ones, will likely never pass muster in the humanities as qualifying a graduate student for a Ph.D. And so, the legacy of print is questioned but remains largely untouched.

If the humanities are to survive, if they are not to become as marginal and small as classics departments, they will have to pay more attention to the variety of media narrative now lives in. The overview in Digital_Humanities of the book’s history and development as a tool is an example of that. Another recent essay collection edited by Kate Hayles and Jessica Pressman, Comparative Textual Media, implores humanities scholars to regard print as one of many media they can study. Fortunately it’s a print book, so maybe some of the intended audience will go to the library, check it out, and read it. Such a shift, however, would raise uncomfortable problems for the extant faculty: Why should students then study literature and not media more broadly? Why not pursue communications or design classes instead of composition?

These are all uncomfortable questions that the authors of Digital_Humanities evade in their response to Kirsch, and that evasion no doubt makes people like Kirsch all the more suspicious of them. The assertion that the humanities have always been technological because books are a technology (albeit an old, familiar one) is a bit like claiming industrial era steel factories are just as technological as a blacksmith’s anvil and hammer. Certainly, but the analogy ignores how the automation and massive scale alter workers’ conditions (and employment prospects) and how the economics of mass production affect quality of life. Scholars performing data mining or other computational analyses of massive data sets have a very different relationship to text and cannot perform a hermeneutical study of narratives with those new tools. Indeed, “distant” reading was meant to get away from such the hermeneutic methods the humanities have used until now. The authors of Digital_Humanities admit this (to a degree) but downplay how shocking the change it brings to the humanities disciplines may be.

Whatever the consequences for morals, Western civilization, or humanity itself, there’s no reversing this trend. Kirsch’s vision of the humanities is on the decline, and even if traditionally oriented scholars in the humanities maintain their levees against the digital influx, they’ll eventually fail as the funds flow to these new areas of study.


California teacher tenure rules unconstitutional, deprive students of right to education

Los Angeles - A California judge has ruled that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution. The decision hands teachers' unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

"Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students," Judge Rolf Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. "The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience."

The ruling, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, brings to a close the first chapter of the case, Vergara vs California, in which a group of student plaintiffs argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place.

The teachers' unions said Tuesday that they planned to appeal. A spokesman for the state's attorney general, Kamala Harris, said she was reviewing the ruling with Governor Jerry Brown and state education officials before making a decision on any plans for an appeal.

"We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of American's finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education," said Joshua Pechthalt, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. "There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward."

In the ruling, Judge Treu agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that California's current laws make it impossible to get rid of the system's numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment.

Further, Judge Treu said, the least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students. The situation violates those students' constitutional right to an equal education, he determined.

"All sides to this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important, component of success of a child's in-school educational experience," Judge Treu wrote.

But lawyers for the states and teachers' unions said that overturning such laws would erode necessary protections that stop school administrators from making unfair personnel decisions.


Occidental Expels Student for Rape Under Standard So Low That the Accuser Could Have Been Found Guilty, Too

Does all drunken sex constitute rape? Obviously not, but that's the argument Occidental College administrators must make in their zeal to prosecute a male student for sexual assault—even after police acquitted him.

The student, identified only as "John Doe," had sex with his accuser on September 8th, 2013, according to details of the case obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Both Doe and his accuser had been drinking. By several accounts, the sex was consensual. The accuser sent Doe a text message beforehand asking him if he had a condom. She also texted a friend and clearly announced her intention to have sex with Doe.

After that night, the accuser spoke with several Occidental employees, including Danielle Dirks, an assistant professor of sociology. Dirks told the accuser that Doe "fit the profile of other rapists on campus in that he had a high GPA in high school, was his class valedictorian, was on [a sports team], and was 'from a good family.'"

A week later, the accuser filed a sexual assault report against Doe.

The Los Angeles Police Department determined that both parties had consented to sex and decided not to charge Doe:

 "Witnesses were interviewed and agreed that the victim and suspect were both drunk, however, that they were both willing participants exercising bad judgment …. It would be reasonable for [Doe] to conclude based on their communications and [the accuser’s] actions that, even though she was intoxicated, she could still exercise reasonable judgment."

Occidental College, however, is under pressure to be seen as doing something about sexual assault on campus given the federal investigation into its rape prevention practices, so the college hired attorney Marilou Mirkovich to investigate the matter. Mirkovich concluded that the female student did indeed consent to sex. However, since she was intoxicated, her consent was invalid, according to Mirkovich.

This is a flawed interpretation of Occidental's own policy on consent, which requires students be not merely drunk but actively incapacitated for rape to have occurred, according to FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley.

Indeed, Mirkovich's interpretation makes no sense. If all drunken sex is rape, then Doe and his accuser are both guilty.

"Both parties would be guilty of sexually assaulting one another," Shibley told me in a phone interview.

Occidental is only holding Doe responsible, however. He was found guilty and expelled.

The college denied Doe's appeal. He has since filed a lawsuit against the college and reached out to FIRE for help. FIRE sent Occidental a letter outlining the group's concerns that Doe's due process rights were severely violated.

"Right now we are waiting from a response from Occidental," said Shibley.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hate-filled history professors

A violent loathing of America rules among them. As a non-American historian, I am at ease with the view that America should be seen from a cosmopolitan or international perspective.  But I still view the USA as the most generous nation the world has ever seen

Every generation should remember the ultimate sacrifice made by those allied warriors who fought to liberate Europe not enslave it.

Recently, Cal Thomas, in what has become a journalistic ritual, bemoaned the loss of knowledge about American history in a column titled “D-Day=Dumb Day for Many.” This historical occasion was the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. Thomas cited a study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni that showed only 70 percent of recent college graduates knew that D-Day occurred during World War II. This and other dismal statistics revealing historical ignorance were attributed to the fact that very few colleges require survey courses on American history.

But Thomas, and others similarly concerned, might be surprised to learn that not only is American history being overlooked, but that a movement among many history professors has been underway to eliminate the very category of “American history,” and even the idea of the United States as a legitimate nation. While attending the annual conference of the Organization of American Historians, I learned about such “reframing of history.”

The OAH claims to be “the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history,” but its members seem to have a limited view and that is of the United States as an overwhelmingly oppressive, unjust – and illegitimate – nation.

This year’s conference theme, “Crossing Borders,” focused on slavery and segregation in the past, and on supposed persecution of “immigrants” (illegal aliens) in the present. Assumptions reigned among the panels I sat in on: ACORN was good, objections to forced busing for school integration were bad, the 1964 presidential election that allowed Lyndon Johnson to institute metastasizing federal programs was a positive counterforce to the election of Richard Nixon and the rise of the “right-wing.” The Plenary Session, “Remembering and Reassessing the Mississippi Summer Project” included activists from that summer of 1964, Dorie Ladner, Rita Bender, and Charles E. Cobb, singing praises to Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden, John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Noam Chomsky, and Frantz Fannon. In the sprawling vendors area, publishers plied books for high school and college, including the graphic adaptation of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire, Eric Foner’s Who Owns History?, and paeans to Margaret Sanger, Mother Jones, Hugo Chavez, and Earth Day.

The strategies for teaching to the new A.P. U.S. History exam, discussed in one panel, were in keeping with the conference’s theme. But the genesis for such anti-Americanism became apparent in another session called “Internationalizing American History: Assessment and Future Directions”; it focused on the deliberate effort to teach American history from a “cosmopolitan” perspective, with that meaning incorporating the views of foreigners who do not believe in the legitimacy of this nation. At that session, I heard the phrase “what used to be called” prefacing “Early American History,” “the American Revolution,” and the “creation of the American republic.” The promotion of Common Core as presumably “internationally benchmarked” is no coincidence: historians have been working on imposing the “cosmopolitan” perspectives of history, a specific aspect of Common Core criticized by George Will.

The Prevailing View

Panelist Jane Kamensky of Brandeis University started off by declaring that American history needs to be “rescued from not only the national but from the nationalist framework” and that we must study a “diasporic” revolution involving “freedom struggles against imperial masters” of indigenous peoples.

Johann Neem of Western Washington University dissented by offering Hegelian theories about particularity and relationships as an argument for retaining the category of “nation.” He noted that works of the eighteenth-and-nineteenth-centuries are filled with “tolerance” for diversity, even though our national identity is mostly white Protestant. Neem is author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts.

The next panelist, Kristin Hoganson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, challenged the idea that American history should be a national history. She cited three books that reveal how “partial” our histories have been: Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States & the Philippines, and Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State. Apparently, no history of “what used to be called the United States” is complete without a reference to occupation, imperialism, blood, and empire. Hoganson gave credit to Thomas Bender (New York University), the commentator on the panel, for making a “powerful case” for the “need for more transimperial history,” with his book, Rethinking American History in a Global Age.

Kiran Klaus Patel of Maastricht University in the Netherlands suggested a more European, “transnational” approach to the study of American history, and destabilizing boundaries. Fortunately, to him, in the 1980s and 1990s cultural history transformed all of history, including diplomatic history.

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu of The Ohio State University, where she has a joint appointment in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, asserted that there is need for more “global, gendered analysis,” for example, of how women opposed the Vietnam War, the subject of her second book, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era. Her first book was Dr. Mom Chung of the Fair-Haired Bastards: The Life of a Wartime Celebrity.

Thomas Bender, considered the founder of the “transnational turn,” approvingly asserted, “The panel has embraced the international historiographical approach”– “except for one skeptic on the panel” (Neem). Bender suggested pushing students in the new direction of “entanglement with the planet, people, and nations,” requiring them to learn foreign languages like Arabic and Chinese. Jobs in the future, he said, will be in history that transcends the idea of “American history.”

The History of the Transnational Turn of History

I was shocked that history professors would want to eliminate American history as such. But then I learned that this “transnational” effort began in 1996. Under the direction of Bender, the Organization of American Historians and New York University’s International Center for Advanced Studies jointly established the Project on Internationalizing the Study of American History. They then met in Villa La Pietra, New York University’s Center in Florence, Italy, in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

According to “The LaPietra Report,” the historians spent the first year at the Villa planning, then the next discussing “the theoretical issues that attended the project’s reconsideration of the assumptions that determined the temporal and spatial scales of conventional national historical narratives.” The third conference resulted in “exemplary” essays “probing either particular themes or reframing conventional historical movements or periods from a more international perspective.” The final meeting, in 2000, put attention on the “practical implications of the intellectual agenda.”

The Practical Implications

The practical implications include a “reframing of American history” in college and in K-12 education.

Such reframing includes preparing “globally competent citizens,” the aim of Common Core. The as-yet voluntary “College, Career, and Civic Life (c3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards” replace knowledge about American history with activism and follow those set for college in the Department of Education’s 2012 report, “A Crucible Moment” (roundly criticized by the National Association of Scholars in a special issue of Academic Questions). Replacing factual questions of traditional “national historical narratives” are loaded questions, as high school, and even younger, students are asked to evaluate primary and secondary sources, think “critically” and “deeply,” and “grasp the relevance of widening the lens of social analysis.”

It is no wonder that History Literacy rates continue to plummet.

Unlike the vast majority of professors at OAH, Robert Paquette, Hamilton College History Professor who co-founded the independent Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, teaches his students “that the United States was founded on the principles of limited government, voluntary exchange, respect for private property, and civil freedom.” In a recent SeeThruED article, he criticized the neglect of American history, noting that not one of the eleven New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools requires that undergraduates attend a single course in American history and “a substantial majority of these eleven elite colleges do not even require of their majors in history as many as one American history course.”

Paquette warns, “The United States cannot survive as a nation if the traditions and principles that made it cohere as a prosperous and distinctive country are distorted and marginalized.”

Cal Thomas makes a similar point in his column, remarking poignantly about the World War II veterans visiting the beaches of Normandy, probably for the last time in their lives: “if they could have foreseen what America would become and how little their descendents know, or care, about their sacrifice, would they have done what they did?”

But student ignorance is the aim of professors and teachers meeting at conferences that we pay for in taxes and tuition. While the Greatest Generation remembered D-Day, influential professors spent summers in an Italian villa discussing how to destroy the very idea of the United States in history classes. And then they congratulated themselves at a conference in Atlanta in 2014.


Obama Pits Indebted Students Against "Millionaires"

 President Barack Obama, framing the student loan argument on Saturday, said Congress has a choice: “Protect young people from crushing debt, or protect tax breaks for millionaires.”

In his Saturday radio address, Obama announced his intention to “keep doing whatever I can without Congress” to help “responsible” young people pay off their student loans.

He noted that Senate Democrats are working on a bill that would help more young people refinance their student loans at a lower rate.

“And we'd pay for it by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.

“That's the choice that your representatives in Congress will make in the coming weeks – protect young people from crushing debt, or protect tax breaks for millionaires. And while Congress decides what it's going to do, I will keep doing whatever I can without Congress to help responsible young people pay off their loans - including new action I will take this week.”

On Monday, Obama was announcing the expansion of a program that lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in student loan payments.

Right now, the “Pay As You Earn” program is available only to those who started borrowing after October 2007 and kept borrowing after October 2011. Obama plans to allow those who borrowed earlier to participate, potentially extending the benefit to millions more borrowers, the Associated Press reported.

Obama on Saturday noted that over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled; and the average undergraduate who borrows for college ends up owing almost $30,000.

“And I've heard from too many young people who are frustrated that they've done everything they were supposed to do -- and now they're paying the price.”

Obama promised that, “as long as I hold this office, I'll keep fighting to give more young people the chance to earn their own piece of the American Dream.”


Opposition to Common Core Mounts As Two More States Pull Out

Oklahoma and South Carolina have now joined Indiana in rejecting the controversial Common Core Standards in favor of new state-developed education standards.

Meanwhile, legislation to take down Common Core is now pending in 18 states, including a Missouri bill that has passed the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Jay Nixon’s (D-MO) signature.

Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) signed a bill Thursday completely removing Oklahoma from the Common Core Standards, which were developed and copyrighted in 2009 by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers as a set of national education standards.

They were released in 2010 and adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

“Federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards,” Gov. Fallin, an initial supporter of the standards and current chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), said in a statement.

The new Oklahoma legislation requires that the State Board of Education develop “college and career ready standards” to replace Common Core standards by the 2017-2018 school year. Until then, Oklahoma will return to the Priority Academic Student Skills standards in place prior to the state’s initial adoption of the Common Core.

Section 4 of the bill also requires that all subject matter standards and revisions adopted by the State Board of Education be subject to legislative review and adopted by a joint resolution of the state legislature.

The new law Gov. Nikki Haley quietly signed May 30th in South Carolina requires a state review and revision of her state’s Common Core standards by the 2015-2016 school year.The state will continue to use Common Core standards until then.

The law provides that “state content standards may not be revised, adopted, or implemented without approval by the Education Oversight Committee and the General Assembly.”

Megan Winburn, a legislative assistant to state Rep. Jason Nelson, co-author of the Oklahoma bill, pointed out some differences between the two laws, noting that South Carolina’s would likely fall short of Common Core opponents' expectations.

It’s “a way to keep the grassroots quiet for a year,” she told

“They say that South Carolina repealed Common Core and that is just not true. They just put a hold on fully implementing the standards and they’re just reviewing the process,” she said.

“We are literally gutting it from law and returning to our old state standards and tests so that is a big deal. We will not be doing any form of Common Core for the next two years.”

Emmett McGroarty, education director of the American Principles Project (APP), told that he thought South Carolina’s revision would result in better standards that were markedly different from the Common Core, but it was not a “done deal.” Maintaining them would “require vigilance on the part of parents and activists,” he said.

The provisions in both the Oklahoma and South Carolina laws requiring the approval of content standards by the state legislature will ensure that the states do not re-adopt Common Core standards under a different name without a say from legislators, which is what many say happened in Indiana. The new state-specific standards there later drew criticism from both sides for their similarity to the rejected Common Core.

Michael Brickman, national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that supports the Common Core, told that he believes this recent pushback against Common Core standards is due to the fact that they have become “politicized.”

Many people have rightly questioned “something that the Obama administration was supporting from Washington,” he said, “ but the reality is these standards were developed by states and ultimately they’re better standards than the vast majority of states had in place before.”

"Oklahoma is throwing away years of teachers working to implement these standards. Now there will be two years of chaos before Oklahoma adopts another set of standards. Of course the state has the right to do so, even if it's bad for Oklahoma's kids," agreed Michael Petrili, Fordham's executive vice president, in a statement to

But McGroarty said that Common Core “really locks children into an inferior education as compared to what parents want for their children, as compared to what’s necessary to enter competitive four-year colleges and universities.”

He called South Carolina and Oklahoma’s rejection of the Common Core “a great leap forward for the national movement of parents and citizens reclaiming control over education policy-making.”

“I think it marks one of the most significant pushbacks, victories against federal overreach and the power and influence of special interests ever in the history of the republic,” he added. “I think it will inspire moms and other citizens across the country and I think we’ve reached the tipping point.”

“What legislators and governors are starting to realize is that the era of citizens and parents not being engaged in education policy is rapidly coming to a close,” he concluded.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Florida to School Districts: No More Biometric Scanning of Our Kids

Florida became the first state in the U.S. to ban the scanning of students for biometric information when Gov. Rick Scott signed the Education Data Privacy Act into law May 12th

The sweeping new privacy law prohibits any K-12 institutions from “collecting or retaining information regarding the political affiliation, voting history, religious affiliation, or biometric information of a student, parent, or sibling of a student.”

Examples of biometric information include fingerprint scans, palm scans, retina or iris scans, facial geometry scans, and voiceprints.

The new law allows a grace period of one academic year for schools currently using palm scanners for meal programs, but all other collection of biometric data must stop immediately.

State Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), who introduced the bill, says she became concerned last year when she found out that Polk County was scanning children’s irises before allowing them onto the school bus.

Polk County did not notify parents or ask for their consent before instituting this practice, according to Hukill. She said she later found out that Pinellas County was scanning children’s palms in the lunch line in order to speed up the process.

“My issue is not how easy it is for the lunchroom worker. I appreciate their job and I appreciate what they do. That’s no reason to give up a kid’s privacy,” Hukill said.

Hukill says she was shocked when she first heard about the school districts’ biometric scanning of young children.

“Nobody even knew about it. I never knew about it. I didn’t believe it when I heard it. I'm like everyone else,” she told "What are you talking about? This can't happen."

“I’m a former teacher,” Hukill continued. “You’re telling me you can’t get a kid on a bus without scanning their iris? Really? You can’t give them a grilled cheese sandwich without scanning their veins? I don’t think so. I don't think so.”

"And then you know what, the privacy issues are very, very important. And one of the other big issues is that we will be desensitizing generations of children into giving up their private information for basically no reason," she said.

“I think it’s an overreach,” Hukill added. “There’s no reason for school districts to not be able to perform the task they’ve been able to do for decades. And why in the world would someone get it into their head to start collecting biometric information? These are not adults. This is not commerce.”

“Government has no business collecting biometric data on children. Absolutely no business,” she stated.

“We start with kids at five years old and say ‘put your face here'," describing the scanner as "looking like a pair of binoculars."

"They have no idea," she pointed out.

Hukill also stressed the risk of identity theft that comes with collecting students' biometric information and the unique problems this practice poses.

“Barring something physically happening or you dying, you cannot change this kind of information,” she said. “People tell me that it [biometric information] can’t be stolen. Really? Tell that to the White House. People have been able to pierce the White House, the CIA, the FBI, Target, everyone. This stuff can always be stolen.”

Florida is not the only state that has collected biometric information within its school system. Hukill mentioned that there are at least 15 to 20 other states that engage in this practice, but said that none of them had been successful so far in banning it despite efforts in other state legislatures to do so.

“I think we’re just starting to become aware that it is an issue,” Hukill said. “When people hear about it, they are absolutely shocked.”


So when will being 'white British' become a crime?

By Richard Littlejohn

Inspectors have criticised a rural school in Devon for being insufficiently ‘diverse’. Although they concede that Payhembury Primary is a ‘happy place’, it has been denied an ‘outstanding’ rating because all 68 pupils are of ‘white British heritage’.

Well, they would be. Small villages in Devon tend not to be melting pots of multiculturalism. In fact, outside the big cities, most people in Britain are of ‘white British heritage’ even though the mass immigration of the past 15 years is changing that demographic rapidly.

Parents have been told that they must pay £35 to send their children on a ‘sleep-over’ at a school in Isleworth, West London, where three-quarters of pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Headteacher Penny Hammett wrote: ‘The purpose of this trip is to build up a relationship with a school in a very different community to ours. This will enable our children to gain a better understanding of multicultural Britain, which was identified in our last Ofsted as being an area for development.

‘Through our topics, visitors and discussions we have been developing multicultural awareness in both Britain and throughout the world, but this visit will help us to experience in real life a school where there is a wide mix of children with different ethnic backgrounds and almost 50 per cent of the children do not have English as their first language.’

The Rev Cate Edmonds, chairman of the governors at Payhembury, said: ‘We are fairly mono-cultural as an area in Devon and we don’t want children growing up thinking the whole world is full of trees and cows.’

But one mother objected: ‘I’m astounded by this idea. Just because the children go to a small school in the country does not mean they aren’t aware of people with different-coloured skin to them. It’s very patronising — and for the school they are visiting, too.’

Let me make it absolutely clear before the usual excitable suspects start bouncing up and down screaming ‘racism’ that it’s commendable for kids to learn about different cultures.

Exchange visits for schoolchildren have been going on since the Sixties, initially introduced to help them develop their foreign language skills.

I’m fortunate to live in a part of North London where friends and neighbours from all kinds of ethnic and religious backgrounds rub along well together.

Even 25 years ago, my children’s school photo looked as if it had been plucked straight from the pages of a United Colors of Benetton catalogue. But I despise the officially sanctioned cult of separate development masquerading as multiculturalism.

Just as it is appalling that Muslim children in the Midlands are being taught that all white women are prostitutes and Western values are dangerous, so it is only right and proper that pupils growing up in the Devon countryside are made aware of the wider world outside their immediate vicinity.

No, what bothers me about all this is the language being used and the element of compulsion — as well as the frankly sinister revelation that a school can be marked down by Ofsted not because of the standard of education it provides but because there are too few black and brown faces in the playground.

Why should a school be penalised because its pupils are from a ‘white British heritage’ background?

It all smacks of Labour’s deliberate policy of opening the immigration floodgates to ‘rub the Right’s noses in diversity’. And although the trip is voluntary, you know perfectly well that any parent who protests and refuses to cough up £35 will be categorised as a knuckle-scraping Neanderthal.

In some schools in London, the roll call is similarly mono-cultural, but 100 per cent Muslim rather than exclusively C of E. Are devout Islamic parents in Tower Hamlets going to be told they must fork  out £35 for their children to be sent on a sleep-over in Devon so they can meet people of a ‘white British heritage’ and learn all about the Anglican faith?

What do you think?

If country folk wish to visit the inner city, they are free to do so — and vice versa. But the State is obsessed with ‘celebrating diversity’, our new officially-enforced religion.

We are quite capable of celebrating anything we like, thanks very much, without Government intervention.

Millions of pounds are frittered away each year nagging, cajoling and compelling us to embrace different cultures. Great effort goes into persuading people from an immigrant background to make more use of the British countryside.

For instance, a few years ago the Environment Agency announced that fishing was horribly white, male and middle-aged. It decided to splash out £100,000 to attract more women and ethnic minorities to the riverbank.

To demonstrate the Government’s commitment, a pilot scheme was launched in Swansea, which involved taking Muslim women and children to a lake and teaching them to fish for trout.

It was headed by Nica Pritchard, the international president of the Ladies’ Fly Fishing Association, who said: ‘A couple of hours out in the countryside and you come back a new woman. If you could just see their faces when we’re teaching them, you’d know we’re really on to something.’

Talk about patronising. It made them sound like special needs children. But what struck me about the accompanying picture of these poor women was that they were forced to wear goggles over their traditional Islamic headscarves on the insistence of elf’n’safety officials.

You couldn’t make it up.

Let’s hope the children of Devon have a whale of a time in Isleworth. They should make the most of it before possession of a ‘white British heritage’ is made a criminal offence.


Minister Gove strikes a blow for British values

This was the day the Cabinet spat over hostile media briefings paled into insignificance, as the true nature and scale of the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal emerged in horrifying detail.

What has this country come to, when children at supposedly secular British state schools are indoctrinated into a ‘narrow, faith-based ideology’ inspired by an extremist interpretation of Islam?

How have we reached a point where non-Muslim pupils can be excluded from publicly-funded school trips to Saudi Arabia… or where taxpayers’ money is hijacked to set up an Islamist madrassa within a non-faith academy…?

Or where girls are segregated from boys in class, and taught to see themselves as inferior citizens… music lessons and Christmas celebrations are banned...  visiting speakers preach holy war... and teachers encourage pupils to refer to Western women as ‘white prostitutes’…?

Anyone who wondered why young Britons go off to Syria to fight for the enemies of our peaceful and tolerant way of life should wonder no longer.

What is clear from yesterday’s reports is that this ruthless campaign to change the ethos and culture of our schools is no overnight development under the Coalition, as Labour’s Tristram Hunt suggested in the Commons yesterday.

It has been going on for years, as successive governments, council administrations – and, yes, Ofsted inspectors – turned a blind eye, too terrified of offending politically correct sensibilities to raise the alarm.

As Education Secretary Michael Gove stressed yesterday, the exposure of a conspiracy by a fanatical minority must be no occasion to attack Islam itself, or the millions of peaceful and patriotic Muslims who contribute so much to this country, and whose values are exemplary.

Nor should it be seized upon by the Left as an excuse to attack faith schools. Indeed, some teach responsible citizenship in ways that put many secular schools to shame.

But it must surely be the moment for politicians and officials to wake up to the perils of cultural separatism, advocated for so long by the Left in the name of human rights and multiculturalism.

Yesterday, Mr Gove struck the first blows for integration, threatening to withdraw funding from extremist schools, introduce spot-checks by Ofsted (why haven’t they been authorised before?) and to sack governors and staff who promote hostility to our way of life. He can’t act too soon.

As for his pledge to put ‘British values’ at the heart of every school’s ethos, what a disturbing reflection on our nation – in the week of the D-Day commemorations – that so many consider it controversial.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Common Core Is Corporate Welfare for Textbook Giants

Opponents of Common Core have plenty of ammunition by now: The standards erode local autonomy, are costly to implement, and some experts dispute their rigor.

But an underexplored aspect of this problematic national education reform is the massive financial incentive that certain textbook and standardized test companies have to keep the U.S. on board with it. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss provided a good example of Common Core's crony corporatist side in a recent article.

There are two large, multi-state partnerships tasked with implementing Core-aligned standardized tests, and one of them—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—recently invited curriculum companies to compete for the contract to design the tests. Textbook giant Pearson won the contract, surprising no one. Pearson, a British company, is the largest publisher of education materials in the world.

A PARCC press release described the selection of Pearson as the result of a "competitive bidding process." But it's hard to tell whether the process was truly competitive, given that Pearson was the only company to even submit a bid.

Now, another corporation is alleging that the process was unfairly biased toward Pearson from the start, according to Education Week:

A protest of the contract was made by the nonprofit corporation American Institutes for Research, which alleged that that the bidding process conducted by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was biased in favor of Pearson and that is why AIR did not submit a bid which it otherwise would have done, Education Week reported. The protest was made to officials in New Mexico who were serving as a representative of PARCC in making the call for proposals from companies to win the contract.

Judge Sarah M. Singleton of the Santa Fe First Judicial District issued a ruling last week putting the Pearson contract on hold while officials reviewed the contract bidding process.

Keep in mind that the contract is worth so much money that officials haven't even attached a formal price tag. Instead, they have used the phrase "unprecedented in scale."

Common Core's most fervent defenders might not see the problem with any of this. They might even say it's a good thing that the biggest testing company on the planet is the one designing the exams for Common Core.

But it certainly undermines the notion that this is a "bottom up" education reform when state and federal lawmakers are colluding with mega corporations to dictate the tests to local school districts. Students in some states are already serving as guinea pigs for the new testing regime.

Keep in mind that many teachers will need to be retrained so that they can prepare their students to pass the Core–aligned tests. Schools across the country will have to purchase new computers before they are even logistically capable of administering the tests. Taxpayers are going to feel the pain, and Pearson is going to reap the profits.


Groundbreaking Louisiana School Choice Bill Would Rescue Kids From 'F' Schools

After a pivotal vote in the legislature, Louisiana is now set to become the first state to extend school choice to all students trapped in failing public schools. Education reformers just have to wait for Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature.

Today, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 61, known as the Louisiana Public School Choice Act. If signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal, the bill would allow parents of students in schools graded "D" or "F"to enroll their child in any public school that is graded "C" or above, beginning in the 2014–2015 school year. Parents throughout the state would no longer be limited by arbitrary school district lines that force their children to attend failing schools.

Louisiana has already made a name for itself as the Silicon Valley of education reform with the state's Recovery School District (RSD)—the first all-charter school district in the nation, where kids enroll in the public charter school of their choice. Signing Senate Bill 61 into law would further move the needle for school choice, making Louisiana the first state to enact a statewide open enrollment policy.

In 2003 then-Governor Kathleen Blanco signed Act 9 into law, giving the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) the legal authority to take over failing schools and place them in the newly created state-run Recovery School District. After Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the state in 2005, the threshold for what constituted a "failing school" was lowered, giving BESE even greater jurisdiction to move more failing schools into the RSD.

New Orleans Parish was the district most impacted by the new law, and 114 chronically low-performing schools were shifted into the RSD to be taken over by non-profit and charter school providers. Only 17 schools remained under the control of the Orleans Parish School Board—an education authority overseeing abysmally underperforming schools and suffering from a long record of fraud and corruption that yielded several FBI criminal indictments.

Since then, the Orleans Parish School Board has reduced the number of employees in its central office from 1,300 before hurricane Katrina to only 60, allowing more money to flow directly to schools.

New Orleans now has the largest concentration of charter school students in the nation: Over 90 percent of students attend a public charter school of their choice. And as of 2013, New Orleans implemented citywide open enrollment for both traditional public and charter schools operating under the RSD and Orleans Parish School Board using a single computerized system called OneApp.

The district has shown tremendous gains in academic performance and the percentage of students enrolled in "F" schools has improved from nearly 75 percent in the 2004-2005 school year to only 2 percent this past school year.

Just last week, the RSD closed the last traditional public school under its jurisdiction, making it the first all-charter district in the nation. That means Louisiana is the first state to have a school district with open enrollment where money follows the children to the schools of their choice, and schools have complete autonomy over how they operate. In exchange, schools are accountable to the needs of students and parents.

Signing the Louisiana Public School Choice Act into law would allow traditional public schools to have the same open enrollment policies as public charter schools. Also, state and federal dollars would follow eligible students to the school system that they choose, creating an incentive for schools to attract these students and the money following them.

Louisiana has been a national leader for school choice, and the academic results in places like New Orleans have proven that these policies work. If Senate Bill 61 is signed into law—which seems very likely, given Jindal's support for the issue—it will further expand options for children and families and empower parents to choose the educational experience that best suits their children's needs.


Trojan Horse: plan for 'no-notice' school inspections in Britain

Schools are to face no-notice inspections after it emerged that those at the centre of the alleged Trojan Horse plot put on "hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity" to fool regulators.

David Cameron will order Ofsted to consider lightning inspections of all schools in the future as part of a “robust response” to allegations that Islamic extremists infiltrated schools in Birmingham.

The Government believes changes are needed after it was revealed that some schools at the centre of the affair suddenly staged lessons and assemblies on Christianity to give a false impression of religious harmony.

In further measures, Ofsted will announce that all schools will be forced to promote a “broad and balanced” education to prepare pupils for life as British citizens.

The requirement will see schools branded as inadequate for failing to provide access to a rounded timetable covering sex education, music, sport, citizenship and a full religious education syllabus.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, will also confirm that inspectors will maintain a regular presence in Birmingham schools and file reports directly to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary to prevent any repeat of the allegations.

The plans will be unveiled as the education watchdog publishes reports into emergency inspections of 21 schools at the heart of the so-called Trojan Horse plot to promote a strict Islamist agenda in classrooms across the city.

Concerns unearthed by Ofsted are believed to include axing parts of the curriculum, poor governance, evidence of homophobia, the segregation of boys and girls, a bar on sex education and the use of unsuitable religious speakers in assemblies.

It is understood that six schools will be placed in special measures in a move that could result in their governing bodies being sacked and replaced with new leadership teams. A further nine schools will be deemed to “require improvement”.

Michael Gove is believed to considering banning teachers and governors linked to extremist activities from all schools.

Mr Cameron is due to call a special meeting of the Government’s Extremism Taskforce to discuss the implications arising from the review.

Speaking before Ofsted’s report, the Prime Minister said: "Protecting our children is one of the first duties of Government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response.

“The Education Secretary will now ask Sir Michael Wilshaw to look into allowing any school to be inspected at no notice, stopping schools having the opportunity to cover up activities which have no place in our society.”

Ofsted’s emergency inspections were carried out with just 30 minutes’ notice as opposed to one or two days the last time schools were visited – when many were rated outstanding or good.

Alongside the Ofsted reports, the Government will also publish separate findings from an Education Funding Agency probe into two schools – Park View and Oldknow Academy.

In the Oldknow report, officials will reveal a catalogue of “hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity”.

The report will say that staff had been “instructed to add Christianity to learning because of our visit”, with two teachers revealing that an “assembly [on Easter and Christianity] had also been put on especially for our benefit”. A timetabled literacy lessons was also switched for an RE lesson on Christianity.

Ofsted typically warn schools of an inspection the day before an official visit.

But Mr Gove will now write to the watchdog, asking it to examine the practicalities of allowing any school to be subjected to “lightning” inspections.

He said evidence uncovered in Birmingham “clearly indicates that schools have used the notice they have been given of inspections to evade proper scrutiny”, adding: “Our children need to be protected in schools, kept safe from the dangers of extremism and guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. This change will help provide parents with the reassurance they need.”

In a further key move, Ofsted will outline plans to place a “broad and balanced” education at the centre of all inspections.

The requirement already exists but will be dramatically elevated in future inspections, placing it on an equal footing with four other key judgments covering teaching, behaviour, leadership and pupils’ achievement.

The move reflects concerns that many Birmingham schools were failing to provide pupils with a fully rounded education.

Park View – currently rated “outstanding” – will be put into special measures alongside two other schools that form part of the Park View Educational Trust: Golden Hillock secondary school and Nansen primary.

Oldknow Academy, Saltley secondary school and Alston primary – which was already in special measures – will also be branded inadequate.

A report into Park View will say that it is failing to raise pupils’ awareness of extremism, vet external speakers, promote sex education and protect staff from intimidation by governors.

It says children have limited understanding of the arts, different cultures and other religious beliefs.

"This, together with their superficial understanding of how to stay safe and awareness of life in different parts of the United Kingdom, mean that students are not well prepared for life in wider society," the report says.

Golden Hillock will be criticised because pupils’ “understanding of other religions is scant” and RE classes focus primarily on Islam.

It also says the school is "not doing enough to mitigate against cultural isolation" and this "could leave students vulnerable to the risk of marginalisation from wider British society and the associated risks which could include radicalisation."

Saltley, which is currently rated “good” by Ofsted, will be criticised for weaknesses in safeguarding and questionable budget decisions, including hiring private investigators to go through staff emails.

The new report says: "Governors have not adopted policy and procedure to allow them to check carefully that students are safe. They … do not see any need to engage with external agencies to make sure students are safe from and aware of the risks of radicalisation and extremism."

The EFA report into Oldknow will claim that Christmas events were cancelled and taxpayer's cash was used to subsidise a school trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, from which non-Muslims were excluded.

Some nine other schools will be told they “require improvement”.

But many schools will be largely exonerated from the affair, including three that published their reports last week.

Ninestiles School was praised for its "culture of inclusion, equal opportunity and individual responsibility is at the core of this academy, which helps promote community cohesion".

Small Heath School was said to be outstanding for leadership and management, with Ofsted adding: "A major strength of the school is that students value the differences between people of different beliefs, race and backgrounds.”

A report into Washwood Heath Academy said pupils "know about risks related to religious extremism" and are taught to respect "the things that make people different such as sexual orientation".

Many schools criticised by Ofsted are now believed to be considering legal action.

In a statement last week, Park View Educational Trust criticised the Golden Hillock report, saying it “mischaracterises the school”, adding that it was “now challenging it through the appropriate legal channels”.

Oldknow is also considering a legal challenge to the inspection process.


Monday, June 09, 2014

How Finnish Education Really Works

It is highly selective at all levels.  And selectivity SHOULD yield higher performance

… American reformers have been smitten with the Finnish school system for a couple of years now, but they have not really fully understood that it is NOT what they think it is, nor will it magically cure what ails American schools. And, being that I am Finnish (duo citizen w/ USA); have a mother who taught English & German in Finland; have HKI U professor cousins whose kids are in Finnish schools; I feel that I can burst the Common Core bubble by telling all of you some truths about the Finnish system that those annoying American reformers chose to ignore as they now try to push CC to the American public. …

Well, these are some of the things that CC fans have ignored as to how the Finns use their education core standards which are supposed to be adapted by US public schools:

1. PISA is taken in 9th grade, around the time students (students start school at 7) are 15 turning 16. At the end of 9th grade, surprise, Finnish students are entitled to receive a HS diploma, and many graduate, move on with their lives. 80 % continue to business schools, Votech community college-like places, nursing schools, industrial schools, trade schools. All free of tuition. Teaching, however, requires the rigorous Bac HS for 3 more years, and then you pray that you are accepted to a 6-year university program after that.

2. ONLY 20% of Finnish students move on to the intensive baccalaureate 3-year program for which they have to take a test- that would be the equivalent of scoring 1300 out of 1600 SAT. One simply will not get ACCEPTED to the national universities without being in this percentile. University of Helsinki and Aalto only accept the top 10%. Most students in that very small group (17-19 year olds) are confident enough to continue for the baccalaureate diploma, since they have passed ALL the tests that will ALLOW them to enter the Bac program in the first place.

In the Helsinki area there are roughly 10 HS. For each one, a student must take an exam to see if they get into their favorite one…normally, one picks 3…and of course, their district HS, if they are not accepted to the any of the other, favored ones. Currently, the most popular one is completely taught in English, and only the top 3% get in there. Of course, it is the STEM HS (similar to Stuyvesant) in Tapiola, a suburb of Hk. Many American ex-pats’ kids go there…and Asians/other foreigners whose parents are working in the tech sector in Finland.

3. Starting in 7th grade, there IS tracking, at least in the Finnish metropolitan areas. Finns believe strongly in letting their best minds move quicker faster…children are considered a national resource, so the country believes in supporting the top students/most academically gifted from falling off the rails because of boredom/crappy parents/crappy home life. Even the best hockey players go to their “own HS” in Lahti since Finland knows that they will become future multi-million dollar NHL players and come home to Finland as the top 1% taxpayers. Finnish people are loathe to leave Finland….at least forever.

4. Not only do Finnish kids have to read books in Finnish, but Swedish is also required…and English, starting in 2nd grade. Most of the immigrant/refugee kids can be exempt from Swedish, but they must learn Finnish or they will not succeed in the country. If their English is good (better than Finnish), there are “English only” High Schools where they can springboard to universities in UK or USA…which is fairly common. I know several non-ethnic Finns, immigrant students that are at Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc.

5. Curriculum is not dumbed-down, nor is it unrealistically hard for students who just can’t master the content. Skilled teachers do a fair amount of differentiation, and parents have no say as to who gets to be in the “higher track,” or not, since every child has to hit certain bench marks. There is far less parental involvement and no sports. Teachers are free to teach, no annoying parents meddling, and, this is accepted as status quo.

Some work is done together as a group in the classroom, some is harder for the more capable students…and no one argues that this is not fair. There is plenty of pull-out programs for the students who are struggling with content, particularly the newer immigrants. Also, every week the same content is taught (with different levels of rigor) in every Finnish school but the teachers are completely entitled to deliver the content in a method of their choosing. This is why the quality of teachers is so high and why their education is long and laborious – why they are respected.

6. Special needs kids have separate schools – the Finns have not figured a way to realistically, in their opinion, integrate SN children. In some cases, a high-functioning student who is autistic is integrated, and possibly attending a top HS & later, university.

7. Finnish students more or less, must know what kind of student they are/what they are interested in/what are they good at by 15-16. All males upon turning 18 must serve in the army or navy, where they get another chance to do some soul-searching. It is not imperative or socially more acceptable to go and get that university education as opposed to wanting to be a plumber. Career choices are numerous, and, it is not considered negative to end your secondary HS education after 9th grade. I have many friends who are ship’s captains, nurses, small business owners, marina managers, equine managers, bakers, potters, fire fighters, nuclear power plant technicians, professional snowboarders who were loathe to enter that rigorous 3 year HS Bac education, even if they could have, academically.

Finland believes that students develop an innate sense of themselves and what kind of career they want from their K-9 years. And, proof of that is that everyone seems happy in that cold, northern country, and, the population is increasing every 10 years. And, yes, there are plenty of millionaires and well to do with their yachts and water-front homes. It is not some kind of socialist, snowy wasteland. They do pay more taxes than Americans, but they don’t have to worry about tuition for any type of post secondary school education; they have universal healthcare and the fastest internet in the world, great infrastructure. Beckham had all his knee surgeries there.

I know this is really wordy, but I felt like stating all this since American reformers ignore the plain truth that not every student is the same/has the same motivation/same level of acuity/same interests. And, this is NO ONE’S fault. It is a shame that all I ever hear from Common Core supporters (particularly by Ivy League graduated journalists and reformers) is that every student in America can supposedly do the level of work that a student bound to a Caltech/MIT/Stanford does. That everyone is special/everyone is equally creative/artistic/intelligent is not true and should be obvious to people. If this was the case, one would think that reformers would question the very validity of a Noble Laureate: did they “game” their research? Did they receive sneaky, expensive test prep to get into their initial undergraduate university? Were they from a perceived affluent family, so were thus, privileged over others? Are they really intellectually superior in their field? Is there work somehow fraudulent?

Expecting all students to excel like all top % students world-wide, can not be willed somehow. And, I do think the point that a previous commenter made (if CC fails, it proves that current American teachers are crappy) about the nefarious intentions of the reformers is a valid one.


Middle class children from the best-performing British schools should miss out on top universities, says government study

Universities should discriminate against applicants from private schools, grammars and high-performing comprehensives, Government-funded research has suggested.

The controversial study reccomends that universities should lower their entry requirements for pupils from non-selective and poor-performing state schools because they show more ‘potential’, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

These students are ‘significantly’ more likely to graduate with a first or 2.1 in their degree than peers from private or high-achieving state schools who gained similar results at GCSE and A-level, the study of millions of school-leavers found.

They are also less likely to drop out of their degree courses part-way through.

The researchers, led by Dr Claire Crawford, claim that selective schools may be better at drawing out good results from their pupils - a so-called ‘teaching effect’.

They say that university entry grades should be lowered for pupils at comprehensives, particularly schools where pupils make poor progress, ‘in order to equalise the potential of all students being admitted to university’.

The study – published yesterday by his own department – will disturb Education Secretary Michael Gove who has warned that attempts to skew university admissions policies give weak schools an excuse to avoid improvement.

In contrast, his colleagues at the Department for Business, David Willetts and Vince Cable, have urged universities to go further in introducing so-called ‘contextual’ admissions.

But in a further finding, the study suggested that many costly initiatives aimed at encouraging less privileged youngsters to apply to university may have been wasted because they came too late in their school career.

Efforts should instead be focused on encouraging pupils to choose appropriate GCSE subjects at 14 and boosting their achievement in them at 16.

Universities are likely to use the study to justify schemes that involve making lower offers to pupils from certain schools or groups or giving them places ahead of more advantaged applicants.

Growing numbers of universities are adopting such policies but the research claims that ‘more could be done’.

But critics claim the policies risk crude ‘social engineering’ and detract from attempts to boost academic standards in state schools.

The new study will also add to confusion since separate research earlier this year claimed that those with top grades – mainly As at A_level – stood roughly the same chance of gaining a good degree regardless of whether they attended a state or private school.

Only students with slightly lower grades – Bs and Cs – were more likely to do well at university if they came from a state school, according to findings from the Higher Education Funding Council.

It also suggested that ‘contextual’ admissions policies which take into account the average performance of an applicant’s school are flawed.

The performance of a school – whether high or low-achieving – was said to make little difference to a pupil’s chances of achieving a first or 2.1 at university.

However in her report, Dr Crawford, a researcher at the IFS and assistant professor of economics at Warwick University, said universities ‘may wish to take into account a measure of school value-added’ – how much progress it helps pupils to make – ‘or school performance…when making their admissions offers’.

The report said it could not recommend ‘specific changes that should be made to the entry offers of particular universities’.

But it added: ‘These results provide suggestive evidence that universities may wish to consider lowering their entry requirements for pupils from non-selective or low-value-added state schools (relative to pupils from selective or high-value-added state schools, or independent schools) in order to equalise the potential of students being admitted from these different types of school.’

It said pupils from state grammars should be ‘excluded from receiving these lower offers’.

According to the research, which tracked millions of school-leavers over several years, those from selective private or state schools or comprehensives with low numbers of pupils on free school meals are ‘significantly more likely to drop out, significantly less likely to complete their degree and significantly less likely to graduate with a first or a 2.1’ than their counterparts with similar results in non-selective or lower-performing schools.

Among pupils with similar grades, pupils from selective independent schools were 6.4 percentage points less likely to complete their degree and 10.3 percentage points less likely to graduate with a first or 2.1.

‘Those from non-selective or low-value-added state schools could be regarded as having higher “potential” than those from selective or high-value-added state schools or independent schools’, the report said.

It suggested that private and selective schools ‘may be better at producing good grades at GCSE for their pupils than others, meaning that a pupil of given ability will obtain higher grades at a selective school than a non-selective community school’.

But it added that such schools may be preparing their pupils poorly for university study.

‘While independent or selective schools might be very successful at preparing students for GCSE and A-level (and equivalent) exams, they may be less good at preparing students for independent study at university,’ it said. And pigs might fly


Radical Islam in British secular schools: now the shocking truth emerges

"Students' understanding of the arts, different cultures and other beliefs are limited." That's one of the complaints about Birmingham schools made by Ofsted in their leaked report. It sounds like a relatively mild criticism.

Not so. What the Trojan Horse scandal has revealed is that leaders of the Muslim community in Birmingham have been creating a Wahhabi-inspired counterculture in secular, not faith, schools.

Put simply, the interpretation of Islam that's sweeping through the Muslim world, thanks to Saudi money, seeks to deprive children of any exposure to the arts, which it condemns as idolatrous. Even listening to music is haram, forbidden. The underlying teaching is that the arts, by seeking to create beauty, blaspheme by detracting attention from the only source of true beauty, Allah, which can be appreciated only in the natural world he created.

The imposition of this ideology on Muslim cultures is a tragedy – for them. But secular state schools in Birmingham are not part of Muslim culture, and their ghettoisation under the years of Labour government is a scandal.

To be clear about this: primary school children in certain non-faith schools are not taught music because Islamic fundamentalists have been able to manipulate the system.

Finally, Ofsted has begun to discover what's going on. I very much doubt whether it would have done so if anyone other than Michael Gove – who is not an Islamophobe but is definitely a veteran opponent of creeping Islamism – were Secretary of State for Education.

I expect plenty of controversy in the days to come, as the Ofsted report is published and its implications sink in. The BBC will try to dampen it down. We mustn't let that happen.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

UK: Graduates fill 20% of low-skilled jobs as university boom leaves huge numbers over-qualified

One in five workers in low-skilled jobs now hold degrees, a report published today warns.

The growing number of workers who are over-qualified for their role is largely the result of a huge expansion in university education, according to centre-left think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Its report, Winning the Global Race, casts serious doubt on the Government’s drive to boost  economic growth by encouraging more young people to study for degrees.

The IPPR says the ‘number of high-skilled jobs has not kept pace with the rate at which workers are becoming more highly qualified’.

This means the huge rise in the number of graduates has not been matched by the number of professional, graduate-level jobs, leaving many forced to work in roles for which they are highly over-qualified.

School-leavers would in fact be better prepared for the job market by doing an apprenticeship instead of racking up huge debts at university, the report says.

While the number of graduate roles are falling, there will be an expansion in the number of medium- and low-skilled jobs which rely on vocational qualifications over the next decade.

The IPPR claims the notion that future job opportunities will be concentrated in high-skilled graduate positions has been ‘overplayed’.

Researchers analysed data from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Office for National Statistics. They estimate that by 2022, just over a third of all jobs created will be in high-skilled occupations requiring qualifications such as degrees.

There will be an additional 3.6million jobs in medium-skilled occupations, including ‘associate professional’ roles in health care, trades and public services.

All these industries employ high numbers of people with vocational qualifications equivalent to A-level or above, or those who have done apprenticeships.

In low-skilled sectors, there will be an additional 5.7million jobs in sales, customer service, secretarial work, trades, administration and machine operation – which tend to require GCSEs, ‘Level 2’ NVQs or BTECs. However, around 20 per cent of workers in this sector are currently qualified to foundation degree level or above.

The report says: ‘The emphasis on general university degrees may be producing more graduates than are required in some sectors of the labour market.

‘A fifth of workers in low-skilled occupations hold a higher education qualification, prompting fears their skills are not being properly used in the workplace.

‘There is also a danger that this might be “bumping down” other workers in the labour market.’

The Edge Foundation, which  promotes vocational learning and commissioned the report, said nine of the ten most in-demand occupations of the future will require vocational skills.

These include roles in caring and personal services, such as care workers and dental nurses, as well as health and social care positions such as social workers.


Teachers ban parents from attending school sports day in case it leads to a 'Hillsborough-style crush' on playing field

Teachers have banned parents from attending a school sports day in case it leads to a 'Hillsborough-style crush' on the playing field, it has been claimed.

The bizarre ruling was enforced at Glapton Academy primary school in Clifton, Nottinghamshire, this week.

Headteacher Ruth Ellis wrote to parents telling them they were not invited to next month’s event, which includes the traditional egg and spoon race, because of 'rising pupil numbers'.

The school claimed an increase in the number of parents wanting to cheer on their children could cause a crush on the playing fields.

Some parents even say they were told the school implemented the ban in order to 'avoid another Hillsborough'.

The newsletter to parents sent on Monday stated: 'Thursday 3rd July is planned for sports day.

'Unfortunately, due to rising pupil numbers, we will not be able to invite parents to sports day this year.'

Yesterday, furious parents blasted the decision branding it 'health and safety gone mad'.

David Elliott, 35, whose six-year-old son attends the school, said: 'This is bonkers. Simple as that.

'We got a letter from school saying parents would not be invited to this year’s sports day.

'I rang the school up and spoke to someone who said it was because of health and safety.

'I asked what that meant and the woman said it was because there were more pupils at the school and therefore more potential parents coming on sports day.

'When I asked what the school was afraid might happen she said there was a potential for a crush. I said "what like Hillsborough?" sort of as a joke, and she said "yes".'

'I was gobsmacked. I’ve never heard anything do ridiculous in my life.'

Other parents threatened to boycott the sports day on July 3 in protest at the ban.

Vicky Samson, 32, whose two children Elliott, 11, and Daisy-May, five, go to the school, said: 'I’m not happy about this at all.

'If we can’t watch, then my children will not be taking part in the sports day.

'My son is in Year 6, so it will be his last sports day - I really want to see him compete.

'The sports day is held on a massive field as well and it’s never full.

'They manage to cram all the parents into a school hall, but apparently we won’t be able to watch on the huge field.'

Lisa Darby, 32, whose six-year-old daughter Libby is in Year 1, added: 'I was absolutely fuming when I read the letter.

'Sports day should be a family event and parents should be able to share their child’s excitement at taking part in all the races.

'It’s also a big part of growing up - I remember having my parents there at every sports day when I was a child.  'They even used to take part in things like the egg-and-spoon race.'

Ms Darby said she was allowed to attend every sports day when her older daughter Chloe, 13, was a pupil at the school.  She added: 'It just seems really unfair on Libby now, that she can’t have her mum and dad there like Chloe did.

'I just can’t understand the decision. It seems a big enough sports field to me and I don’t think there are more pupils there than last year.'

Manda Wilkinson, 26, said her son Logan, eight, was upset to learn his parents wouldn’t be able to cheer him on.  She said: 'I find it disgusting that the school aren’t giving us the choice over whether we want to come or not.

'When you’re a working parent, it’s hard to get involved in school life, so you have to take every opportunity you can.  'Are they going to stop us watching the Christmas plays next?'

The primary school, which only became an academy in January 2013, was rated 'good' by Ofsted in their last inspection in June last year.

Inspectors reported that the school - which caters for boys and girls aged between 3-11 - had 318 pupils on the roll, an increase from 284 who attended in 2010.

The teachers’ union NASUWT also hit out at Glapton Academy, blaming their new status for the decision.

Neil Lawrence, secretary of the union in Nottingham, said: 'The decision to ban parents from sports day is another example of the loss of control the community feels when a local school becomes an academy and withdraws from local authority control.

Roger Steel, Conservative Nottingham City Councillor for the Clifton North ward, added: 'It’s traditional that parents attend sports days and I can’t see any logic behind restricting them.

'There’s a benefit to both the children and the parents, who are proud to see their youngsters getting fit through sport.'

The Association for Physical Education has also criticised the school’s decision.  Spokesman Eileen Marchant said: 'Schools always have reasons for making decisions but it’s a shame this school hasn’t made public its reasons.

'Parents always enjoy going to school sports days and it’s important to have them there to encourage the children.

'So much investment has been put into primary schools through the Government’s PE and school sport premium.

'One of the things schools are expected to do with this is increase competitive opportunities for children. Sports day would be an ideal opportunity to showcase how they are achieving this.'

However, Nick Ydlibi, chairman of governors, said: 'No parent has contacted the school to comment on the matter of us being 'unable to invite' parents to our sports day this year.

'Safeguarding our children is our main priority. We feel that due to the rise in pupil numbers along with the close proximity of current major road and tram works a lot of strangers are in and around our school locality.

'Because of this it would be extremely difficult for us to guarantee the safety of our children at an outdoor event with open gates; this is why this year, this very difficult decision has had to be made.

'Our school offers parents lots of opportunities to come to special indoor events, such as Glapton’s Got Talent, our Art Gallery, and Show Time events which are happening in June and July.'


Nursery offers place to toddler but rejects twin sister because 'she lives too far away' (even though they live in the same house)

A nursery has offered a place to a toddler but rejected her twin sister because 'she lives too far away' even though they live in the same house.

Selma Abbey, 32, a beauty therapist, of Martens Avenue in Bexley, London, applied for two places at Hurst Primary School in nearby Dorchester Avenue for three-year-old twins Leya and Ella in January.

Their sister Ayla, five, already attends the school which is about two miles from their family home.

However, on May 17 Mrs Abbey received a letter from Bexley Council informing her Ella’s application had been unsuccessful because the family’s home is too far away from the school.

The mother-of-three has since been told that although the council made a mistake there is nothing that can be done to secure Ella a place.

The girls now face being separated.

She said: 'Apparently the current issue is staff ratios.

'There’s no appeal system so the only thing I’m clinging on to now is the hope that another family
rejects their offer.

'Even though none of this is the school’s fault, they’ll have to clean up this mess.

'They’ve made calls to the council on my behalf without me even asking them to, and they’ve expressed their outrage which was kind.

'I’m now wondering if the only way out is to reject Leya’s place and write a late application to a separate school, which I absolutely do not want to do.

'I can’t physically be in two places at once during school run time.'

The twins currently attend Tweenies pre-school at Bexleyheath which starts at 9.15am, allowing Mrs to drop off Ayla at school beforehand.

A spokesman for Bexley Council said: 'We are very sorry for the distress that this mistake has caused.

'This year we received more than 1,694 nursery applications and 3,078 primary applications.

'Unfortunately the volume of these applications can sometimes mean an error occurs.'

Bexley Council says the majority of applications for primary school places are decided on home to school distance, except for faith schools.

Parents are advised to be realistic and include the closest school to their home address when deciding on the preferences to list on the application form.

This will increase the likelihood of the council being able to o ffer a local school, although there is no guarantee of this.

Hurst Primary School was turned into an Academy in 2013.

Since the MailOnline contacted Bexley Council this morning, the local authority has now offered Ella a place at the nursery and has apologised once again for the error.