Friday, June 27, 2014

Common Core Controversy: Is U.S. Constitution a ‘Living Document’?

A classroom resource provided by a group founded by three lead writers of the Common Core State Standards teaches 8th graders as fact that the U.S. Constitution is a "living document" and that the nation's founders only considered white males with property as persons under the law.

But leading constitutional scholars challenge both assertions.

Student Achievement Partners’ sample lesson for Linda R. Monk’s Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution is listed as a suggested reading for 8th graders in the official Common Core Standards.

It instructs teachers to have students “investigate an area of debate where the interpretation of an Amendment or amending the Constitution is central to the argument and then debate it in class” in order to “reinforce the concept that the U.S. Constitution is a living document.”

Although this recommended lesson plan assumes as an objective fact that the Constitution is a “living document”, many legal scholars - including Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s longest-serving justice - think otherwise. They argue that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was originally written, according to the founders’ intentions.

At a constitutional symposium hosted by the State Bar of Georgia in March, Scalia defended this originalist interpretation in a speech titled “Interpreting the Constitution: A View from the High Court.”

“The Constitution is not a living organism,” he stated. “It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.”

Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, told that it is erroneous for schools to solely categorize the Constitution as a “living document.”

“The notion of a ‘living document’ is freighted with political controversy. It’s an idea that is invoked by those, usually on the Left, who see the Constitution essentially as an empty vessel to be filled by transient majorities,” Pilon said.

Pilon did state that there are some instances in which the Constitution could be rightly considered a living document, pointing out that the meaning of “cruel and unusual punishment” has changed over time.

“But in far more cases the terms are fairly fixed, even if the judicial interpretations and applications of them may be either correct or mistaken,” Pilon said. “‘Separate but equal’ was always wrong, for example, even if the Court said otherwise in 1896, a decision it corrected in 1954. That correction didn’t make the Constitution a ‘living document.’ It was simply the righting of an erroneous interpretation.”

Brittany Corona, a researcher in domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, told that “there are legal constitutional precedents that will arise to clarify constitutional principles. That’s a very different thing than to say the nature of the document itself is evolving.”

“For American students to be surrounded by rights language and introduced to this concept of a living, evolving document is very dangerous because there’s not a sense of permanency, as far as the foundations upon which our government was created,” she said.

“This is an open door to start pushing back on other things that should be understood with some permanency, such as your right to protect your own life, per the Second Amendment of the Constitution.”

“This is a scary thing,” Corona added. “When you’re looking at the context of the content matter of the Common Core national standards… you’re looking at a complete distortion of civic education as we know it in America.”

“If you don’t have an enlightened citizenry, those who will jealously defend these natural rights that are alike to all men equally, and the Founders understood this, then you’re not going to have a self-governing republic. And the fact that American students per Common Core are going to have a convoluted understanding of the very foundations that make self-government possible, that’s terrifying for the future of America.”

The proposed lesson plan also states that “teachers should look for a logical explanation of the evolution of who has been considered a ‘person’ in the eyes of America over time….noting that at the nation’s founding the creators of the constitution would not ‘have in mind the majority of America’s citizens’ and primarily saw persons as white males with property.”

Pilon told that it is incorrect to teach students that those who could not vote under the original Constitution were not legally considered persons.

“Women were considered persons even though they didn’t have the right to vote,” he said. “One of the privileges of citizenship is the right to vote, but then you have to define it. Seventeen-year-olds don’t have the right to vote, for example. They’re still persons.”

According to its website, Student Achievement Partners is not officially affiliated with the Common Core, though many states provide links to its resources on their Department of Education websites.

One such state, Tennessee, provides a disclaimer on its website saying that the presence of a link is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement.

When asked Ashley Ball, the deputy director of communications for the Tennessee Dept. of Education, if the department’s placement of a link to Student Achievement Partners on its official website signaled to teachers that it had checked and approved these materials for use in Tennessee schools, she declined to comment.


Questions from a Concerned Parent

Mike Adams

A parent wrote to me last week asking for my honest assessment of my university. His reason for writing is that his son is enrolling at UNC-Wilmington in the fall. He directly asked whether I would send my own son to the university where I teach. He also asked some other pointed questions. I thought my answers would make an informative column for parents who are about to send their Christian children to secular universities like UNCW. So here goes. His unedited questions and my responses follow:

1. On a scale of 1 to 100 (1 = Hillsdale College and 100 = UNC Chapel Hill), how liberal would you say UNCW is? Why?

I would say 90. I know of several genuinely conservative professors here at UNCW. That is probably several more than at Chapel Hill. Regardless, most UNCW social science and humanities departments lack even one single conservative voice. So I would give UNCW an “F” on intellectual diversity as opposed to the “F-minus” I would give to UNC-Chapel Hill.

2. How supportive/antagonistic are the faculty at UNCW toward Christianity/Christians?

The support is almost entirely lacking and the antagonism is pervasive. There is, however, variation from one department to the next. Christian students just need to be careful in their selection of general studies requirements as well as general electives. Be very careful when taking courses in philosophy. Try to avoid English, Sociology, and Education altogether. If your son has any questions, send him to my office. I'll make sure he avoids the more outspoken anti-Christian professors.

3. How receptive/antagonistic are the students at UNCW of Christianity/Christians, i.e. are they open to discussing and considering it when engaged by a fellow student?

There is a small but growing Gaystapo on our campus. There are also some very militant feminist students. Two ways to avoid trouble are 1) to live off campus with like-minded roommates (the Resident Assistants, who are themselves students, sometimes facilitate censorship of religious opinions) and 2) avoid taking classes ending with the word "studies." These two measures alone will help avoid many of the more militant students.

4. If you had a son, would you encourage him to attend UNCW (of course, assuming it met his major, personal, etc . . . requirements)?

I would not. Given the current leadership in the Dean of Students Office, I would probably avoid the university altogether. If the university manages to replace the Dean of Students (and most of the administrators in the Division of Student Affairs) in the near future I will reassess my position. Under the current regime, however, I would not send my son to UNCW to join a fraternity (or any other student group) and risk being subjecting to the sort of arbitrary decision-making that characterizes the current campus judicial process. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is among the most arbitrary, capricious, and unjust systems in the entire nation. We have already gone to the North Carolina legislature twice to remedy abuses of student rights that originated here at UNCW. Thankfully, the Republican majority has put an end to civil rights abuses previously neglected when the Democrats were in control in Raleigh.

5. Which Christian group(s) on campus would you encourage your son to join and why?

Cru. These guys have become hopelessly politically correct. I would join Cru and pressure them to start doing something meaningful on campus. For the most part, they chalk sidewalks and have pizza parties. I would suggest going to Cru meetings and passing out pictures of aborted babies an asking them when they are going to join a real crusade against a real injustice. Crusading for pizza gets old, especially while so many babies are being conceived and aborted within the so-called Christian student community.

6. Which secular group(s) on campus would you encourage your son to join and why?

Join the atheist club and ask really difficult questions.

7. What careers do Criminology students from UNCW normally pursue? How is the job market for these types of jobs?

They often pursue careers in local, state, and federal law enforcement. There are also opportunities to work as probation officers, which is not a bad job if you land a federal position. The market is decent and relatively stable in this general area of employment. Hence, I think Criminology is a much better major than Sociology, although the two are closely related.

8. On a scale of 1 to 100 (1 = Free Market/Capitalism and 100 = Socialistic/Communistic), how would you describe the Cameron School of Business’ “world/business view”? Why?

The Cameron School of Business is very free market oriented. In fact, it is the best school on campus. For example, our Economics and Finance Department is loaded with conservatives of a very high caliber. If I had a son who insisted on going to UNCW, I would only consent if he agreed to major in Economics, Finance, Accounting, Management or some other major in the Cameron School.

9. Do you have any students you mentor at UNCW (outside of your professional Criminology role)? If yes, (if you are comfortable sharing this) what does this look like on a weekly basis?

A couple. Some are dissatisfied with their current advisors and come to me for additional life advice. We meet occasionally but not on any formal time schedule.

10. What are some good churches in the area that you would recommend as a local church for students?

I attend Port City Community Church. Their college ministry, which is called Overflow, is excellent. I wish the sermons in the regular service would focus more on Scripture and less on pop psychology and self-improvement. But, then again, no church is perfect. In fact, if I found a perfect church and joined it then it wouldn't be perfect anymore.

In closing, I just want to reassure you that a Christian student can survive - even in a school as messed up as UNCW - as long as he does at least two things to make the road easier. First, he has to avoid taking classes within the overtly anti-Christian majors like Sociology and English. Second, he has to keep attending church. Most importantly, make sure he takes a trip to a well-grounded Christian worldview camp after his freshman year (see After all, ideas do have consequences. And refining one's worldview is a lifelong adventure.


Nasty British school bureaucracy again

Terminally ill mother is forced to do two school runs after council refused to let her send her two sons to the same school - because they live 100ft out of the catchment area

A mother who is dying from cancer begged her council to let both her sons attend the same primary school - but had her request denied because she lives 100ft outside of the catchment area.

Michelle Amey, who was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2008 which has since spread all over her body, fears her family will struggle to cope with the strain of doing two school runs every day.

Her eldest son, nine-year-old Charlie, already attends Mudeford Junior School in Christchurch, Dorset.

Her younger son George, six, currently attends the attached infants' school, but despite appeals to Dorset County Council he will not be allowed to move.

Instead he will be forced to attend Somerford Primary School, which is even further away from the family's home in the town.

Mrs Amey and her husband Stuart, who are both 37, faced a gruelling appeals process from the council, who asked invasive questions about her cancer treatment and made Mr Amey feel as if he were 'on trial' for questioning their decision.

Mrs Amey fears the boys' 'extremely close' relationship will be but under strain if the two are separated.

She said: 'George and Charlie support each other, they’re there for each other a lot.

'They’re aware of my illness and symptoms and are very sensitive at the moment. I can’t face putting George in another school. He would be devastated.'

Mrs Amey claims the council’s ‘rules are rules’ attitude forced her to struggle on buses and on foot to do two separate school runs as her health deteriorated.

She fell ill shortly after George was born in 2008 and doctors confirmed a mole on her leg was malignant melanoma.

The deadly skin cancer spread to her groin and she required surgery and radiotherapy to bring the disease under control.

But the cancer has now spread to her brain, kidneys, lungs, liver and lymph nodes and since falling ill she has had four brain tumours removed, which means she cannot drive.

An appeal hearing with an independent panel dashed Mrs Amey’s hopes of her ‘extremely close’ boys being able to attend the same junior school.

She said: 'They made Stuart feel like he was under investigation, they were asking a lot about my health.

'When Stuart told them I’d received treatment for brain tumours, they would ask: "well what treatment exactly are you talking about?".

'They were extremely intrusive. He felt a bit like he was on trial - their attitude was really awful and it was basically rules are rules. It was like talking to a brick wall.’

Mr and Mrs Amey plan to write to Education Secretary Michael Gove, whom they will ask to intervene and allow their sons to attend school together.

Mrs Amey said: 'We’re hoping we can get the decision overturned. George is constantly asking whether we’ve got him a place at the junior school.

'His friends have had trial days and he’s missed out and with this on top of my illness, he’s very tearful.

'It’s just very, very difficult. I am fighting for my life but I am determined to fight for the boys to be together.

'Sometimes I can’t walk, I have severe joint pain and nausea - the symptoms are similar to chemotherapy.

'I don’t know when they are going to strike so the boys are like my little carers. They’ve had to grow up a bit quickly which is quite sad.'

Mr Amey used to work in investment banking, but gave his job up after his wife’s diagnosis.

He now works for The Honeypot Children’s Charity, allowing him more flexible hours to help take care of his wife and children.

Mrs Amey said: ‘Stuart is brilliant. He carries all the weight on his shoulders and tries to be strong all the time but it does get to him.

'The whole thing is so unnecessary, it’s just extra stress and pressure.'

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: 'While we are unable to comment on individual cases, we can confirm that there was a recent appeals committee which reviewed several cases.

'The county council presented its case that Mudeford Junior School cannot take more than 33 children in each of its Year 3 classes entering in September 2014.

'Each family at the appeal presented their case for exceptional circumstances.

'The panel reviewed and made the decision that this particular case has been dealt with by Dorset County Council appropriately.

'We have been very sympathetic to this case. Those involved have gone beyond what is required to assist and support the family and we will continue to work with them.'


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Liberals Furious over SC Law to Teach the Constitution in Schools

The Republican controlled legislature in South Carolina recently infuriated liberal groups by insisting that state universities teach students about the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents.

The SC House of Representatives had recently cut funding for two state universities that had required students to read homosexual-themed books. This month, a revised budget restored the funding.

But the renewed funding had strings attached. The new budget stipulated that the money was to be used "for instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals."

The debate began in March when Rep. Gary Smith (R-Simpsonville) introduced the legislation to deduct $52,000 from the budget of the College of Charleston and $17,142 University of South Carolina over the two school's reading requirements.

"The College of Charleston assigned a book called Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which is about a lesbian woman and her relationship with her father who she one day learns is gay too," the University Herald website reported in March. "South Carolina Upstate assigned a freshmen course to read "Out Loud: the Best of Rainbow Radio, which is a collection of stories from the state's first radio show targeted for a homosexual audience."

Critics of the legislation said that Republicans were attacking academic freedom.

As a compromise, State Republicans added a provision for schools that have a mandatory reading schedule to provide an alternative in case required books conflict with a student's religious tenets.

Governor Nikki Haley decided not to challenge the budget plans but said she didn't necessarily fully agree with it, either. In a statement, Haley said that she "didn't want to interject ourselves into" the deliberations.

"I don't believe legislators should micromanage our boards. They elect board members, so if they want to beat up on them, go for it... but to go in there and micromanage books being read, I think that's out of our purview," Haley said.

Several Democrats attempted to amend the budget to reverse the cuts but their attempts failed.


The Education Establishment's Success

By Walter E. Williams

Many view America's education as a failure, but in at least one important way, it's been a success — a success in dumbing down the nation so that we fall easy prey to charlatans, hustlers and quacks. You say, "Williams, that's insulting! Explain yourself." OK, let's start with a question or two.

Are you for or against global warming, later renamed climate change and more recently renamed climate disruption? Environmentalists have renamed it because they don't want to look silly in the face of cooling temperatures. About 650 million years ago, the Earth was frozen from pole to pole, a period scientists call Snowball Earth. The Earth is no longer frozen from pole to pole. There must have been global warming, and it cannot be blamed on humans.

Throughout the Earth's history, we've had both ice ages and higher temperatures when CO2 emissions were 10 times higher than they are today. There's one immutable fact about climate. It changes, and mankind can't do anything about it. Only idiocy would conclude that mankind's capacity to change the climate is more powerful than the forces of nature.

During Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, his slogans were about hope and change. At the time, I asked people whether they were for or against change. Most often, I received a blank stare, whereupon I reminded them that change is a fact of life. Nonetheless, when candidate Obama uttered "hope and change," it was received with thunderous applause. There was also thunderous applause when Obama promised, "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Only a deranged environmental wacko and duped people could believe that a non-god can change ocean depths.

Americans fall easy prey to charlatans of all stripes because of the education establishment's success in dumbing down the nation. Nowhere has this dumbing down been more successful than it has in creating a historical amnesia. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote in "The Disuniting of America": "History is to the nation ... as memory is to the individual. As an individual deprived of memory becomes disoriented and lost, not knowing where he has been or where he is going, so a nation denied a conception of its past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future."

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests students in grades four, eight and 12 on several broad subject areas every few years. Just 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of 12th-graders were at grade-level proficiency in American history in the 2010 exams. Because students don't learn American history, they learn little about our founding principles and they fail to learn why America is an exceptional nation. But that's a part of the progressive/liberal agenda. If Americans knew and understood our founding principles and values, special interest groups and politicians couldn't run roughshod over our liberties.

But it's not just K-12 students who are ignorant of our history. In a 1990 survey — and there's been no improvement since — almost half of college seniors couldn't locate the Civil War within the correct half-century. More recently, 60 percent of American adults couldn't name the president who ordered the dropping of the first atomic bomb, and over 20 percent didn't know where — or even whether — the atomic bomb had been used.

The same people didn't know who America's enemies were during World War II (Germany, Japan and Italy). In a civics survey, more American teenagers were able to name The Three Stooges (Larry, Moe and Curly) than the three branches of the federal government (executive, legislative and judicial). A third of the people who were asked the origin of the statement "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" responded by saying it's from our Bill of Rights, when it's actually from "The Communist Manifesto."

I'd say that the education establishment has been successful beyond its wildest dreams in reducing Americans' ability to think and therefore causing them to have little knowledge of or love for our founding principles.


Australia: Schools ditch jargon for plain English in student reports

SCHOOLS have begun ditching jargon from student reports ahead of new rules forcing them to be written in plain English.

The switch aims to make the documents easier for parents to decipher and more ­personal.

All schools will have to ­follow suit next year.

Sale’s Guthridge Primary School is among those banishing confusing language in semester reports, to be distributed at most schools this week.

Principal Sue Burnett said she had personally read reports for all 364 students wearing her "mum’s hat” to ensure they were easy to understand.

Technical language from the curriculum had gradually crept into teacher feedback, with some feeling obliged to use the terminology, she said.  "It’s basically trying to get away from that," Mrs Burnett said.

"Basically a parent just wants to know, can their child read and write, what are they like at maths, are they well behaved, are they trying hard.”

Park Orchards Primary School principal Georgina Daniel, whose school sent new plain-English reports home last Friday, said feedback from parents had been positive.

Many had raised concern reports were too complex during a recent survey.

"We did some analysis and review of the reports with staff with a view to trying to reduce jargon and educational words that teachers understand but parents may not,” Mrs Daniel said.

"Parents have really responded to the fact the reports really convey meaningful information about their child’s achievements.”

New guidelines, drafted by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, will next year require school reports to be written in plain English and gradings made simpler.

"We want to make sure parents and families can understand what their child is learning and how they are progressing, through simple, flexible, individually focused reports," Education Minister Martin Dixon said.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Too smart for school? Parents threaten to remove seven-year-old from classroom in row over his short back-and-sides haircut... the style that EVERY boy once had

A row over a seven-year-old's smart haircut has become so heated that his parents have threatened to remove him from school.

Regan Bradley, a pupil at St Brigid's RC Primary School in Manchester, upset the authorities by getting his hair styled with short sides and a combover - a style that wasn't uncommon in the much stricter schools of the 1950s.

He has been threatened with increasingly severe 'behaviour sanctions' if the style is not changed - even though the cut does not obviously breach any school rules.

According to St Brigid's guidelines, tramlines, mohicans and gel are banned - along with anything deemed 'distracting'.

Julie Miles, the headteacher of St Brigid's, threatened to drag the Bradley family into a meeting with the chair of the school governors over the controversial cut.

But Regan's parents - beautician Kelly, 28, and father Peter- insist the style is 'just a normal haircut'.

Ms Bradley said: 'Mrs Miles is saying his hair doesn’t comply with policy. But I don’t understand why and we’re not cutting it. 'It’s becoming so bad I’m thinking of taking him out.'

Mr Bradley added: 'They are saying it needs to be the same length all over, but that’s a bowl cut and we’re not doing that.

'It is our decision how Regan has his hair, we are his parents, so it is unfair to keep picking on him.'

Mrs Miles said: 'Regan is a lovely little boy who is liked by all the staff and who always wants to do his best.

'Our uniform and appearance policy - which is linked to our behaviour policy - provides parents with clear guidelines on what is acceptable in terms of hair styles and what isn't.

'Rules are applied fairly and consistently throughout the school and are not bent for individual children.'



A proposal to ban homework in one central Swedish town is causing a fiery debate.

Members of the city council of Hallstahammar discussed the advantages of abolishing homework in schools at a meeting Monday, the British newspaper The Independent reported. 

Members of a Left Party called Vänsterpartiet contend teachers should teach all necessary lessons in the classroom, and not have to assign students extra work. 

"Students shouldn’t have to take home their work and burden their parents with it," Christina Aspenryd, chairman of Hallstahammar's children and education board, told Swedish news site, The Local.

"When the students come home they should be free to do what they like," Aspenryd added.

Aspenryd pointed out that students would still have the option to do school work at home, but teachers would not assign homework. Another issue is working parents who may not have time to assist kids at home.  

"We are aware that children have very different situations at home," Aspenryd explained. "Some parents are not able to help their children. It’s better that all children get help in the classroom."

Sweden has a reputation for its liberal approach to education but Education Minister Jan Björklund of the Liberal People’s Party slammed the idea, saying homework should not be an issue for town councils to determine.

“If this proposal is passed, I will take the initiative to change school laws so that cities will not be able to butt in and affect this kind of pedagogical decision,” Björklund said according to The Local, citing Swedish wire service TT News.

Aspenryd said the proposal will be explored further this fall, to determine what resources would be necessary to make changes. "We might need to make the school day a bit longer, for instance," she said.


Mother says she's prepared to go to prison after school refuses her son, 9, permission to attend her weekday wedding ceremony

Petty bureaucracy

A mother has declared that she will risk a prison sentence for letting her son miss three days of school to attend her wedding.

Clare Whitelegg is furious that her nine-year-old son’s primary school refused her request for him to take time off lessons to watch her marry her police officer fiancé Andy McLeary.

The school argued that the wedding did not warrant time off because it could not be classed as ‘exceptional circumstances’.

But Miss Whitelegg, 30, who works for the police as a call handler, has pulled her son, Riley Bryant, out of lessons regardless.

She and Mr McLeary, 37, who live in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, are due to marry in her home town of Newquay, Cornwall, later today.

She insists she will refuse to pay any penalty notices imposed on her by Clive Church of England School near Shrewsbury and is prepared to face prosecution.

Sanctions that can be imposed on the parents of truanting children include a three-month jail sentence or a fine of £2,500.

The row follows a crackdown on term-time absence which removed heads’ discretion to grant up to ten days’ holiday a year.

Education Secretary Michael Gove tightened the rules from last September to prevent unnecessary disruption to children’s education.

He ordered heads to stop granting permission for term-time holidays unless families could show ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as a family bereavement.

But Miss Whitelegg, who had Riley in a previous relationship, said: ‘It’s absolutely bonkers that the school have banned my son from attending my wedding.  ‘If I had gone along with the school’s ruling then there would be no wedding because I can’t leave a nine-year-old home alone for three days.

'Andy and I both work full-time and this is the only time we could get off work.

‘Riley is an excellent pupil. The school isn’t even holding normal lessons this week anyway because it’s sports week.’

Schools and local councils can issue £120 spot fines if pupils are absent during term-time, although they are £60 if paid within 28 days. Parents who fail to pay the penalty notices face prosecution by the council.

Miss Whitelegg, who like her fiancé works for West Mercia Police, added: ‘I am fully prepared to go to court and I will refuse to pay any fine. If it means going to prison then so be it.’

Mary Lucas, head teacher at Clive school, said: ‘The school will only authorise leave in exceptional circumstances.

‘On June 16, 2014 we received an application for a pupil leave of absence from June 23 to 25. I would have been happy to talk to the parents about this request if they had come to see me.’


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LA: Jindal seeks to block Common Core tests

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took steps Wednesday to block the use of tests tied to the Common Core education standards, a move that puts him at odds with state legislative, education and business leaders but one that could help the likely 2016 presidential candidate with tea party supporters and conservative voters.

Top Louisiana education officials said the Republican governor overstepped his authority and they intend to go ahead and roll out the standards and the testing tied to them.

Jindal once supported Common Core, but reversed his stance earlier this year. He says federal officials are using the English and math standards adopted by most states as a method for wresting education control from local officials.

"Common Core's become a one-size-fits-all program that simply doesn't make sense for our state," Jindal said at a news conference.

The standards, adopted by more than 40 states, are a grade-by-grade benchmark of what students should learn in English and math. They were developed by states, allowing states to compare their students' performance.

Supporters of Common Core say the standards promote critical thinking and raise expectations for students, better preparing them for college and careers.

Criticism has grown as the Obama administration encouraged states to use the standards, leading to charges that the Common Core is an effort to nationalize education and remove authority over content and curriculum from local control.

But unlike in other states where Republican leaders have yanked the multi-state education standards from public school classrooms, Jindal lacks support from state lawmakers. And Jindal's stance pits him against his own hand-picked education superintendent.

Both the Louisiana Legislature and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support the standards.

Jindal's executive authority is limited, so he sought to strike at tests from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers that are linked to the standards, as a backdoor way to get Louisiana out of Common Core.

"This does get us out of Common Core, because Common Core to my mind is defined by the test," the governor said.

He also said he'll ask lawmakers next year to revisit the debate and adopt state-specific education standards that he's asking the education department and state education board to develop.

"We are completely committed to high standards for our students here in Louisiana. You can certainly have high standards without giving up control of our educational system to the federal government," Jindal said.

But whether the governor's announcement will stop any state education plans remained in question Wednesday.

"He doesn't have the authority that he's articulating that he has," said Chas Roemer, chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, usually a Jindal ally.

Among a series of anti-Common Core actions, Jindal issued an executive order requiring a competitive bid process for public school standardized tests and sent a letter to the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers saying the state isn't planning to use its tests.

The Department of Education and the education board planned to use the Common Core-related testing for students in third- through eighth-grades, but the tests haven't yet been purchased for the upcoming school year.

Jindal said the tests in question appear to be the most expensive available, so he's confident they couldn't be chosen in competitive bidding when Louisiana law requires the state to choose the lowest bidder.

But Superintendent of Education John White and Roemer said the governor's executive order won't change the roll-out of Common Core in classrooms or the use of the standardized test, called PARCC.

"We're planning on going ahead and implementing the plan that's in accordance with state law and with what we've been doing for four years," White said.

White said his department can buy test questions under an existing contract with an outside vendor. The Jindal administration responded by saying it would suspend that contract.

White said his lawyers are researching the issue and what happens next.

"We'll have to figure out what the legal options are," he said.


Soaring pension costs devour school budgets in California

The revised budget unveiled in May by California Gov. Jerry Brown seeks to increase the amount of money that public school districts and their teachers would pay into the teacher pension fund going forward. The legislature must approve a budget by June 15 or legislators forfeit their pay until a budget is passed.

The amount that school districts would pay into the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) would jump from 8.25 percent of teachers’ salaries to 19.1 percent, based on the governor’s budget plan. Rates would ramp up to the full 19.1 percent over a seven-year period.

Teachers’ contributions to CalSTRS would also increase, from 8 percent of their salaries to 10.25 percent, and take three years to reach the 10.25 percent rate. The State of California—meaning state taxpayers—would also pay more into CalSTRS.

For Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), for example, the district’s share of pension costs would rise from $3.9 million to $9.6 million by 2020, according to the district’s chief business officer, Robert Clark. This would be nearly a 150 percent increase in just six years.

Alameda’s teachers would also be expected to increase their pension contributions, about $500 to $600 a month, depending on each teacher’s salary. But according to one news report, the teacher union president in Alameda, Audrey Hyman, insists “school districts should increase teachers’ compensation to help them meet their rising pension costs if the proposal is approved by lawmakers.”

In other words, union officials want the school district to pay for the teachers’ share of any future pension-cost increases, not the teachers themselves who will benefit from the pensions. This perk, known as “pension pick-up,” is unfair and encourages teachers to “shoot for the moon” when lobbying for higher pension benefits because they know they won’t be stuck paying any of the additional cost. Chicago’s budget has suffered greatly from this “go for broke” teacher response.

All of the additional money needed by AUSD and its teachers for CalSTRS will be grabbed from other parts of the budget. Alameda parents need to realize that if their local school building is crumbling and classrooms are starved for resources, generous teacher pensions are a major cause, swallowing up money that would otherwise fund classroom instruction. This diversion of money to pensions will happen in school districts across the state.

Long term, state taxpayers should not be forced to contribute anything into CalSTRS. Public school teachers are hired by school districts. They are employees of those school districts. They are not state employees. And teachers negotiate pay and benefits with school districts. State taxpayers are not seated at the bargaining table.

It is immoral to make state taxpayers backfill CalSTRS’ deficits. Long term, state taxpayers should be relieved of any obligation to fund public teacher pensions. School districts and teachers should fund their own pensions. Gov. Brown and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office have each made statements generally supportive of this change.

A serious reassessment of California’s public employee pension systems is long overdue. If changes are not made, schools and other public services will continue to suffer as more money is poured into pensions, leaving less money for traditional public services such as police, firefighters, libraries, roads, and schools.


Close half of Britain's universities, leading academic says

Half of universities should be closed as part of sweeping reforms to Britain’s “messy, muddled” higher education system, according to a leading academic.

Sir Roderick Floud, the former president of Universities UK, said Britain had “too many universities” and institutions in cities such as London, Leeds, Oxford and Sheffield should be closed or merged.

The existing system of higher education was “unnecessary and inefficient” because large numbers of universities are “trying to do too many things at once”, he said.

Sir Roderick also suggested that elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge should focus on research and stop recruiting undergraduates altogether – affecting well over 6,000 students a year who are currently enrolled at the two ancient institutions.

The comments were made before a valedictory lecture today to Gresham College, London, where he has been provost for the last six years.

Britain has more than 150 universities, higher education colleges and specialist conservatoires.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, has actually signalled an expansion in numbers by saying he wants to create dozens of new campuses in higher education “cold spots” over the coming years.

The Coalition has also granted a number of small private colleges official university status and pledged to allow more institutions to use the prestigious title.

But critics have claimed that too many school-leavers are being pushed into taking degree courses when alternative routes such as on-the-job training would be more appropriate.

Writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Sir Roderick said Britain had created a "messy, muddled non-system of higher education".

“I believe that we have too many universities, that they are trying to do too many different things, and that the way we fund their research is fundamentally flawed,” he said.

“We don’t need two or more universities in each of our major cities, glowering at each other and competing to attract the attentions of businesses and local authorities.

“Why does Leeds or Sheffield or Oxford, for example, need two vice-chancellors, registrars or groups of governors?

“In London, the situation is even more bizarre, with some 40 universities within the M25 and more arriving by the day. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has remained supine in the face of evidence that all this is unnecessary and inefficient.”

Sir Roderick, the former vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, criticised the fact that universities now attempt to “do too many things at once”.

This included research, organising conferences, catering, offering careers advice, investing in the stock market, maintaining historic buildings, financing start-up companies, developing science parks, promoting sport and even running bus services.

He insisted there was a “strong argument for specialisation”, insisting that some universities “could concentrate entirely on postgraduate education”.

Sir Roderick said top universities needed to make “better use of the best researchers who are already, in many places, concentrating on master’s and PhD students and leaving undergraduate teaching to junior staff”.

The comments will be seen as reference to Oxford and Cambridge which already rely on large numbers of PhD students to lead seminars.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Even Among Democratic Lawmakers, Support Grows for School Choice

Only 8,700 students rely on Louisiana’s state public scholarship program to attend the school of their choice today, but the state’s lawmakers worked this session to expand options for additional children.

The state legislature passed three school-choice bills pass this year, including a new public school choice program and modifications to existing programs. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, is expected to sign them all.

One of the measures fully funds the state’s growing voucher program, which allows students in poorly performing schools to use state funding to attend private schools. Another expands flexibility in the voucher and tuition rebate scholarship programs. The third allows students in failing public schools to move to more successful schools nearby under certain conditions.

“I really think support for the scholarship program is growing,” said Stephanie Malin, communications associate for Louisiana Federation for Children, a project of the American Federation for Children. “We’ve had bipartisan support in the House and Senate but more Democratic support in the Senate this year.”

A good example of this increased Democratic support is the third measure, introduced by State Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat from Bogalusa. The state assigns A-F grades to each school, based on a variety of performance factors. Under Nevers’ legislation, students at schools that receive Ds or Fs and whose families cannot afford to move or pay for private schools can transfer to nearby schools that received higher grades.

Democrats supported this approach, according to some, because it keeps public money in traditional public schools but addresses the problem of children trapped in persistently failing schools.

“I do believe we ought to give more options to parents whose kids are in schools that aren’t performing well,” said Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, who handled the bill on the House floor. “I also believe that when we do that, we ought to be trying to keep the money in the public schools in Louisiana, because that’s what we’re primarily responsible for.”

Under the bill, students can switch schools only if the transfer follows the school systems’ various policies. Receiving districts must agree to participate and must have space available before students can transfer into them.

Edwards stressed the importance of making the A-F system as fair as possible. “But at the end of the day, it is our accountability system, and everybody understands A, B, C, D or F,” he said. “If under our system a school is going to have a D or an F, to the extent possible, those parents of those students in the D or F schools should have a choice.”


Rise of the super-size British primary schools: 100,000 pupils crammed into classes bigger than legal limit

The number of young children being squeezed into oversized classes has soared four-fold amid a growing crisis over primary school places.

Yet despite the huge rise in demand driven by a baby boom and immigration the number of state primaries increased by just four last year.

It means nearly 100,000 pupils aged five to seven are being crowded into classes that are bigger than the legal limit of 30. This is four times as many as six years ago.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has overseen a boom in the number of children being taught in illegally large classes of more than 30

Experts say this hampers children’s education because they receive less one-on-one attention.

And the number of so-called titan primary schools – which educate at least 800 pupils – rose to 77 from 58 last year.

Some of these are failing schools which have been forced to expand even though they are struggling to maintain standards.

Labour made it illegal for schools to have more than 30 pupils in infant classes except in exceptional circumstances, such as a child being admitted on appeal.

But the Coalition relaxed the rules. A pupil census released yesterday showed how 93,345 five to seven-year-olds are being taught in classes of 31 or more, or 5.9 per cent. In 2008, the figure was just 24,760.

Of those classes bigger than 30, most were classed as ‘lawfully large’ because extra pupils were allowed in for permitted reasons. But the number of ‘unlawfully large’ classes has doubled in a year. Some 17,270 pupils are being taught in illegally large groups – up from 7,125 last year and 4,280 in 2007.

The Department for Education figures showed that the primary school population grew by 2.5 per cent in a year to 4,416,710.

Despite the burgeoning population, the total number of state primary schools in England grew by just four last year – from 16,784 to 16,788.

Official figures have already shown how more than 50,000 extra places have been provided in failing and under-performing schools as councils struggle to cope with demand.

More than a fifth of extra places generated between 2010 and 2013 are in schools rated by Ofsted as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’. In some areas, the proportion is as high as two-thirds.

The equivalent of 500 extra primary schools are estimated to be needed within three years to avert a serious shortage of places.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘The rise in the number of primary age pupils has been known about for a long time; the Government has simply not done enough to look at where those school places are going to be needed and to provide the resources and spaces for them.’

Labour education spokesman Tristram Hunt said: ‘David Cameron and Michael Gove promised small schools with smaller class sizes. Yet in Government their decisions have meant thousands more children are being crammed into overcrowded classes, threatening school standards.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘The average infant class size is up only marginally, from 27.3 to 27.4. However we recognise the significant pressure on school places.

‘That is why we are giving local authorities £5billion to spend on new school places.’

’The spokesman added: ‘The figures also include school mergers and closures of poorly attended primary schools. We have created 35 new primary and eight all-through free schools since January 2013, creating an extra 21,500 places.’

    The population of state grammars has reached a  35-year high of 162,630, up from 161,480 last year. The boom came as fee-paying schools saw a small decline in numbers of around 700.


Awesome: Christian University Doesn't Have to Comply With HHS Mandate

Colorado Christian University has won an important case against the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate. Instead of CCU being forced to provide employees and students abortifacients, a federal judge in Denver has ruled that the school can retain its religious freedom. It's a significant decision, and one that the Supreme Court will surely keep in mind as it prepares to decide on the high profile Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case.

The Becket Fund, a non-profit, public interest law firm who represented CCU in its lawsuit, emailed LifeNews the good news:

    "In a carefully reasoned opinion, the court ruled that the Health and Human Services Mandate, which would have forced CCU to include drugs like Plan B (the “morning after” pill) and ella (the “week after” pill) in its health care plan, infringes the University’s freedom of religion. The court noted that “[i]f CCU refused to provide health insurance coverage for its employees,” or “did not include the coverages required by the Mandate, CCU would be subject to significant – if not ruinous – financial penalties.” The court then concluded that this pressure on CCU to violate its religious beliefs violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."

As to why offering employees and students contraception would violate their religious freedom, CCU explained it best:

    "Specifically, CCU challenges the requirement that the group health plans for employees of CCU and for CCU students or, in the alternative, another entity, provide cover age for drugs, devices, procedures, or related education and counseling that may destroy human life after fertilization of the egg of a mother and either before or after the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus of its mother. CCU contends that any participation by them in the implementation of this required coverage imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of its religious beliefs and violates its rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)".

Had CCU lost the case, the school would have been fined millions of dollars annually starting July 1 for refusing to comply with the mandate. Instead, the university can keep its money - and its religious conscience

Maybe, just maybe, CCU's victory is a preface to Hobby Lobby's happy ending.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

After Denying Promotion to Conservative Prof, UNC Must Pay His $700K Legal Tab

A criminology professor who successfully sued the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) for denying him a promotion because of his conservative and Christian views has been awarded over $700,000 in legal fees.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard ruled that UNCW must pay Prof. Mike Adams' attorneys' fees after a jury concluded in March that the university had unfairly discriminated against him.

But since UNCW is a state university, North Carolina taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

“It’s time for the university to feel some of the financial pinch that its choices have created,” Alliance Defending Freedom litigation staff counsel Travis Barham, who represented Adams, told

“I am sorry that the taxpayers of North Carolina could end up being on the hook for this. That is sad, but that’s where the taxpayers of North Carolina should be standing up and demanding accountability from their state government officials and demanding that UNC-Wilmington and the UNC system at large mend its ways and stop wasting taxpayer money in the way that they have by defending grossly illegal actions,” Barham added.

The university has filed an appeal of the verdict that it unfairly retaliated against Adams because of his conservative speech. It is unclear whether it will also appeal the legal fees ruling, which it called "excessive" in a statement to

Adams began teaching sociology and criminology at UNCW in 1993 and was given tenure in 1998 after his promotion to associate professor.

In 2006, he was denied a promotion to full professor despite an impressive record of achievement, including being named Faculty Member of the Year twice in his first seven years at UNCW, according to Barham.

An atheist and a liberal when he was first hired as a faculty member at UNCW, Adams converted to Christianity in 2000 and became a conservative a few years after he began teaching there.

He has been a vocal critic of the diversity movement in higher education and lectured in favor of First Amendment rights on college campuses. In doing so, he gained national recognition, appearing on TV shows like Hannity, The O’Reilly Factor, and Glenn Beck.

In March, a jury ruled that Adams’ outspokenness about his conservative and Christian beliefs, particularly his columns on, had been a “substantial or motivating factor” in the university’s decision to deny him promotion.

The university was subsequently ordered to promote him to full professor and give him over $50,000 in back pay.


New rules 'could bar conservative Muslims from being school trustees' in Britain

Some Muslims could be effectively excluded from becoming trustees or governors of new academies and free schools under rules introduced by the Education Secretary Michael Gove in response to the "Trojan horse" controversy, community leaders have warned.

The Department for Education has inserted new clauses into the model funding agreement for academies stipulating that its governors should demonstrate "fundamental British values", and giving the Education Secretary powers to close schools if they do not comply.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told the Guardian that the new rule would make it very difficult to become a school governor if conservative Muslim beliefs were deemed to be incompatible with "British values", and that it put too much power in the secretary of state's hands to define those values.

The document is the first written definition of the "British values" by the Department for Education that Mr Gove said all schools should be promoting in the wake of the Trojan Horse row over allegations of Muslim extremism in Birmingham schools.

It says that schools must promote British values of respect for the law, democracy, equality and tolerance of different faiths and religious and other beliefs.

The "Trojan horse" row, fuelled by allegations of Islamist infiltration into Birmingham schools, involved four academies in the city which were deemed to have failed to instil British values into pupils, and were placed in special measures prior to having their funding cancelled and leadership replaced.

Following the controversy, Mr Gove announced that schools will in future be required to promote "British values", including equality between genders and tolerance of other faiths.

The document, obtained by the Guardian, sets out the practical implementation of that announcement.

The new clauses come in revisions to the funding agreement between academies or free schools and the DfE – a contract that is the legal basis of the relationship between an academy and the government. The new wording will apply to all free schools and academies opening or schools converting to academy status.

Under the existing legal agreement the education secretary was only able to cut off a school's funding if there had been "a serious breakdown in the way the academy is managed or governed" or if the DfE regarded a governor as "not a suitable person".

But the department's new rules enable the education secretary to close the school or dismiss its governors if he thinks that any member of the academy trust is "unsuitable" because of "relevant conduct", defined as anything "aimed at undermining the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs".

A spokesman for the MCB said the danger was that the new clause allowed the Education Secretary to decide who was or was not an extremist based on his own views, and would penalise law-abiding Muslims who wanted to take part in public life.

Talha Ahmad, a senior member of the MCB, told the Guardian: "As a matter of principle, to have so much power vested in one hand is wrong. But then to have powers over an area over which there is no consensus is, frankly speaking, quite dangerous."

A DfE spokesperson said: "There is absolutely no bar to Muslims becoming school governors. We want a diverse range of people, of all faiths and none, to serve on governing bodies."


Why Britain's state schools do so badly at sport: Teachers are 'unwilling' says Ofsted Chief

A third of Britain's medallists in the recent (London) Olympics came from private schools, even though such schools are attended by only 7% of the population

A ‘disproportionately high number’ of athletes and sports stars are privately educated amid the dire state of competitive sport in state schools, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, will today warn that too many pupils are being let down by head teachers who ‘treat competitive sport with suspicion or as an optional extra’.

Not enough state schools are ‘developing the talents of the next generation of Mo Farahs’ and this lack of sporting participation is ‘cementing the social inequality that holds our nation back’.

Children are being hampered by teachers unwilling to run teams, sports taught at a ‘superficial level’ and ‘limited facilities’ such as a lack of playing fields and all-weather playing surfaces.

Sir Michael will call on the Government to do more to enable competitive sport to thrive in the state sector.

Ofsted launched an in-depth assessment of competitive school sport after it emerged that 41 per cent of UK medallists at London 2012 were privately educated.

The watchdog investigated the school backgrounds of English athletes who compete at Olympic and Paralympic standard and also at the highest levels in football, rugby union, hockey, netball and cricket.

It found ‘unacceptable discrepancies’ between the proportion of pupils attending state schools and how well they were represented in elite sport.

Despite state schools educating up to 93 per cent of the population, they only produce about a third of top sportspeople across a range of disciplines, the new analysis found.

Forty-five per cent of hockey players, 54 per cent of the rowing team and 73 per cent of the equestrian team competing at the London 2012 Olympics were privately educated.

In the Rugby Union English Premiership, 61 per cent of players have attended an independent school.

Cricket and hockey also have an ‘over-representation’ of independent-schooled players in their national leagues while football is the ‘most demographically representative’ sport.

Ninety-four per cent of English footballers competing in the Premier League have been educated at state schools.

Sir Michael will tell the Festival of Education conference at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire, today: ‘It simply can’t be right that state educated athletes are so woefully under-represented in our elite sports.

‘Heads who treat competitive sport with suspicion or as an optional extra are not only denying youngsters the clear dividends that come with encouraging them to compete, they are also cementing the social inequality that holds our nation back.’

Ofsted also visited 35 state schools and academies and 10 independent schools. It surveyed the views of more than 500 head teachers and 1,000 11 to 18-year-olds.

As a result, the watchdog concluded that competitive sport ‘remains optional in the vast majority of state schools’.

Only half of the young people surveyed reported that they ‘regularly’ played sport in school against their peers or versus other schools. Just 40 per cent said they regularly played sport outside of school.

Among the head teachers surveyed, only 13 per cent said they expected all students to take part in competitive sport. A few indicated that no pupils were expected to participate.

...Only half of the young people surveyed reported that they ‘regularly’ played sport in school against their peers or versus other schools. Just 40 per cent said they regularly played sport outside of school

Ofsted’s report, Going the Extra Mile, said that the quality of competitive sport in state schools was ‘very mixed’. In many schools it ‘was average at best and in a significant number it was weak’.

Only 15 out of 35 state schools played high quality competitive sport regularly and were successful in regional and national schools’ competitions.

The best schools’ competitive sport was flourishing because it was valued and seen as a key part of the culture and ethos. Teachers gave up their time to help organise activities and run teams.

The report says: ‘In too many of the other maintained schools and academies we visited, students had few opportunities to excel in competitive sport because it was not seen as a priority.  ‘It was undervalued by school leaders, who were not investing in it.

‘They did not have enough teachers willing to organise activities and run teams and were unable to provide enough time to coach or play high quality sport.

‘Without the ‘enthusiasts’ and ‘organisers’ – the people on the ground to run school sport – these schools struggled to help students compete regularly or excel.’

These schools were less likely to be rated good or outstanding and typically had lower levels of academic achievement than those state schools that offered high quality competitive sport.

Staff focused time on getting pupils involved in PE instead of high quality competitive sport.

Standards of performance were ‘often low’, with independent schools dominating some sports because they ‘play to a higher standard.’

Sir Michael will insist today that ‘high school fees and large playing fields are not a pre-requisite to success’.

He said: ‘If all schools follow the example of the best identified in this report, there is no reason why more pupils from state funded schools can’t be batting for England at the Ashes or scoring a winning try in the next Six Nations.’