Friday, November 21, 2014

UK: School marked down for being 'too white'

The delightful pupils concerned

Ofsted was accused of “political correctness” today after downgrading a top rural primary school for effectively being too English.

The education watchdog faced a backlash from MPs and parents following the decision to penalise Middle Rasen primary in Lincolnshire for not having enough back or Asian pupils.

In a report, inspectors said the school was “not yet outstanding” because pupils’ cultural development was limited by a “lack of first-hand experience of the diverse make up of modern British society”.

The move followed a shake-up of Ofsted inspections introduced in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham to impose hard-line Muslim values in state schools.

Schools are now told to place fundamental British values at the heart of the timetable including mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

But the reforms have already been criticised for having a knock-on effect on faith schools and those dominated by pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Last month, it was claimed that a small Christian school in the Home Counties had been penalised after failing to other invite faith leaders, such as imams, in to lead assemblies.

Commenting on the latest case, Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he had written to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, “objecting strenuously to the new so-called 'equality' regulations she is implementing in schools”.

He added: “This is political correctness gone mad. Middle Rasen primary school is an outstanding school by any standards…

“Multiculturalism is an irrelevance in Lincolnshire with its low number of ethnic minorities, who are already welcomed and well-integrated into our local communities, as they should be."

The community primary school, which is based in the picturesque rural town of Market Rasen, has just 104 pupils aged four to 11.  It was handed a “satisfactory” rating during its last inspection in December 2012.

The latest report upgraded the school to “good” – the second highest mark – for making significant improvements, with staff creating an “environment in which learning flourishes".

But the primary missed out on the outstanding grade for occasionally failing to set difficult work and giving staff few opportunities to improve their skills. In a key move, it was also downgraded for limiting pupils’ “first-hand experience” of modern society.

The report said: "The large majority of pupils are white British. Very few are from other ethnic groups, and currently no pupils speak English as an additional language.

"The school needs to extend pupils' understanding of the cultural diversity of modern British Society by creating opportunities for them to have first-hand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds beyond the immediate vicinity.”

The school is now attempting to strike up a partnership with an inner city school to address the concerns.

Melonie Brunton, the head teacher, said school trips usually involved visits to the countryside, taking in farms and zoos, but it had recently focused on outings to a mosque and factory.

Ofsted’s comments were criticised by parents.  Jodie Miller, 35, whose six-year-old daughter attends the school, said: "We are a small rural community in Lincolnshire, there just aren't many children here from different backgrounds.

"The staff can't just wander the streets forcing people to come and attend.”

Benjamin Bannan, 33, a father-of-two, added: "It’s outrageous that a British school can be punished for being too British. It just doesn't make sense at all.  "We would welcome people from different cultures with open arms I'm sure - but there just aren't any ethnic minorities around here."

Reverend Charles Patrick, who was head of the governors at the time of the report, said: "This is a rural area, like 80 per cent of the country, we don't have many non-white residents.  "Perhaps it would be a different matter if we were in the middle of London or Manchester or something."

Ofsted denied that it was downgraded for one reason.  “The report highlights a small number of areas where the school should look to improve,” a spokesman said. “It was not denied an outstanding judgement solely because of pupils’ cultural development.

“All schools must teach pupils about fundamental British values including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That way they will be prepared for the future wherever they go.”


Obama’s Undisciplined School Discipline Reforms

Keeping kids safe at school should go hand in hand with ensuring high-quality academics. The U.S. Department of Education’s record on both fronts has been poor at best.

During the No Child Left Behind era of George W. Bush, parents were supposed to have an Unsafe School Choice Option. Partisan politics and perverse incentives combined to ensure that fewer than 50 schools nationwide ever met Byzantine definitions of an unsafe school each year—so kids most at risk stayed stuck.

Flash forward to the Obama Administration, and things aren’t much better. Under the recently announced Now Is the Time plan, the U.S. Department of Education is throwing some $70 million at schools nationwide, in the coming year alone, for stricter background checks for gun purchases, banning military-style assault weapons, and adding more counselors and resource officers, as well as mental health officials to intervene with troubled youth sooner. Essentially, more government social workers and fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding private citizens are supposed to help keep kids safe at school.

But the politics don’t stop there. In 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced his plans to investigate school districts’ discipline policies through the lens of disparate impact theory. In a nutshell, because students from some minority backgrounds are, overall, disciplined at higher rates than non-minority students, schools or districts must be discriminating against students—regardless of the individual students’ actual behavior. (For a great review, see the Federalist Society’s analysis and background resources here.) As explained in a 2011 briefing report prepared by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:

The Department’s that statistically disparate results create a presumption of discrimination that must be rebutted by the school or district with evidence that the school or district has a legitimate educational justification and that there are no equally effective alternative policies that would achieve the school’s educational goals. (p. 1)

What this disparate impact policy shift means is that once the U.S. Department of Education identifies disparate discipline rates based on Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the burden of proof shifts to the school district or school to justify its disciplinary actions.

To be sure, government-run schools are not the beacons of equality they purport to be. In fact, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reported that it handled a record-breaking number of complaints from 2009 through 2012 compared to any previous four-year period, nearly 29,000 (pp. 6-7). More than half of those complaints (54 percent) concerned students with disabilities. Research has long shown that minority and non-native speaking students are disproportionately identified as learning disabled. The OCR also reports that it handled a significant number of complaints in which minority students denied equal access to high-quality educational opportunities (pp. 26-28).

So it should come as no surprise that minority students—African-Americans in particular—are disciplined differently. According to the OCR:

African-American students represent 18 percent of students in the 2009–10 CRDC sample but 35 percent of students suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of the students arrested on public-school grounds. Hispanic students are one-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled than their white counterparts. Additionally, in districts that showed at least one expulsion under zero-tolerance policies, African-Americans represent 19 percent of enrollment but 33 percent of the students expelled. ...

In fiscal years 2009 through 2012, OCR launched 20 proactive investigations in schools with significant racial disparities in discipline based on data from the most recent CRDC. Additionally, during the last four years, OCR received more than 1,250 complaints brought by parents, students or other concerned individuals about possible civil rights violations involving school discipline systems. (pp. 28-29)

But the “solutions” proposed by federal education bureaucrats simply perpetuate racial discrimination. As Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Minneapolis Public Schools have adopted racial quotas in discipline to settle an investigation by Obama’s diversity cops for alleged discrimination. So much for equal protection under the Constitution.

Ending a two-year probe by Education Department’s office for civil rights, Minneapolis has agreed to stop suspending black students for infractions that would still get whites suspended.

Every suspension of an African American must now be reviewed by the superintendent, according to the federal agreement.

Instead of being punished, unruly black kids will be put into “restorative talking circles,” where teachers will examine their own “cultural misunderstandings.”

White kids who act up won’t get off so easy. ...

“I and all of my staff will start to review all nonviolent suspensions of students of color—especially black boys—to understand why they’re being suspended so we can help intervene with teachers,” explained MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who is running the new “equity policy” through something called the Office of Black Male Student Achievement.

If you think that sounds a bit racist, you’re not alone. ...

But the Obama regime, which sees racism behind every corner, blames biased teachers and administrators for the disparity—even though Johnson is black.

Minneapolis is just the latest target of the regime’s war on school discipline. The Education Department has aggressively investigated several other major school districts across the country for what it thinks are too many suspensions of black students.

They too have “reformed” their discipline codes to get the race-baiting educrats off their backs and safeguard their federal funding.

Closer to home, several California school districts are already in the throes of the Obama Administration’s discipline “reforms” and are having to contend with the ensuing chaos. As IBD continues:

Take San Diego. Just weeks after adopting similar racial discipline quotas, San Diego public schools have witnessed an explosion of violent assaults.

At its premier charter school, Lincoln High, students report daily fights now, mostly involving black kids. In the past month, there have been several arrests, including one involving a butcher knife, according to local reports. Victims have been hauled off by ambulance.

This result mirrors spikes in student crime in Los Angeles after the school superintendent followed federal orders to reduce suspensions of African-Americans.

“Last week I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at an urban Los Angeles Unified School District school said. “The black student told me to ‘back off, bitch.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, bitch, and you and no one can make me.’”

Complained another LAUSD teacher: “We now have a ‘restorative justice’ counselor, but we still have the same problems. Kids aren’t even suspended for fights or drugs.”

Violence is still a problem in Oakland, Calif., schools after officials substituted counseling for suspensions on similar orders from the Obama regime.

If you think Obama is a lame duck and that his executive actions are meaningless, think again. His policies have dangerous consequences.

Rather than pursue yet another failed federal “solution,” parents should be empowered to enroll their children in any school they wish. Parental choice—far more than any government mandate—would introduce powerful incentives to ensure all students are disciplined fairly. If not, parents would be free to take their children—and their associated education funding—to schools that did.

Having to compete for students and funding would also make schools prioritize order and discipline instead of the feds’ latest fad-for-cash scheme.

Expanding parental choice, not federal overreach, is a far more effective approach to combat racially motivated discipline practices, and it wouldn’t compound existing racism with yet more racism.


The Federal Student Loan Racket

Since 2008, roughly $1 out of every $10 new dollars borrowed by the U.S. government through the end of its 2014 fiscal year has gone to fund the Federal Direct Student Loan program, which lends the money borrowed by Uncle Sam to college students at over double the interest rate that the U.S. government is charged by its lenders.

Federal borrowing for the sake of making student loans accounts for over $700 billion of the more than $7 trillion increase in the total public debt outstanding over that time. How much money do you think that the U.S. federal government is making from running that racket?

Earlier this year, the General Accounting Office (GAO) looked at the income that the U.S. Treasury was raking in as a result of its Direct Loans program for students for the federal government’s 2007 through 2012 fiscal years, when it originated a reported $454 billion in student loans. The GAO found that the U.S. federal government netted a profit of $66 billion.

We should note that well over 95% of this activity occurred after 2008, corresponding to President Obama’s tenure in office and the federal government’s effective takeover of the student loan industry from the private sector during that time.

Personal finance guru Suze Orman has some thoughts about the federal government’s profiteering:

If one were to ask me what I think is the most dangerous threat to our economy, the answer is very simple: student loans.

As I write this, we have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt. About 10 million federal students loans are taken out annually, and then there are the insanely dangerous private student loans on top of that staggering number.

And while 6.7 million borrowers in repayment mode are delinquent, the sad fact is that many lenders aren’t exactly incentivized to work with borrowers. Unlike all other forms of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Moreover, lenders can garnish wages and even Social Security benefits to get repaid. A new report by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau details just how bad the situation is for private loan borrowers. (From Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, the agency handled about 5,300 private student loan complaints, an increase of nearly 38 percent from the previous year.)

And private student loans aren’t the only problem. Do you know that from 2007 to 2012, the government made $66 billion in profit on federal student loans? We can all debate how our government should generate revenue to support federal spending programs, but doing it on the backs of young adults who need an education to compete in the increasingly competitive global workforce is just appalling.

Orman doesn’t make the connection that borrowers who owe money to the federal government for student loans are even more disadvantaged than those who took out loans with private lenders, because the federal government is even less responsive. And because there is no limit on how long a debt owed to the federal government can be collected, it has even less incentive to work with borrowers.

Perhaps the most effective way to resolve this issue would be simply to make all student loans fully dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings once more, whether originated by private lenders or by the federal government. That way, the people who need real and permanent relief from their student debts, regardless of who their lender might be, could get it.

Faced with the risk of losing massive amounts of money because of the bad decisions it made in getting into the business of making direct student loans in the first place, the federal government might then have an adequate incentive to adopt a more fiscally sound approach to its direct lending racket by getting out of it.

And that would go a very long way toward eliminating the federal government’s hidden budget deficit.


UK: Get textbooks back in class, schools are told: Minister says teachers must end reliance on worksheets and the internet during lessons

Ministers will today urge schools to bring back traditional textbooks to end a growing reliance on worksheets and the internet.

They will say that an ‘anti-textbook ethos’ has contributed to England’s slide in international rankings of pupils’ performance in key academic subjects.

In a speech to the Publishers Association, School Reform Minister Nick Gibb will call on all schools – both primary and secondary – to reintroduce good quality textbooks in most subjects.

He will complain that teachers too often neglect textbooks in favour of producing worksheets or ‘endlessly trawling the internet’ for suitable material for their lessons.

Mr Gibb will also highlight new research from exams body Cambridge Assessment which shows that teachers in top-performing countries are significantly more likely to use textbooks than in England.

The research ‘should rightly send shockwaves through the education system and the publishing industry,’ Mr Gibb will say.

In Finland, 95 per cent of maths teachers use a textbook as a basis for lessons and in Singapore, the figure is 70 per cent.  In contrast, only 10 per cent of maths teachers in England use a textbook for their core teaching – and only four per cent in science.

‘In the controversial search for the reasons why a range of key nations have improved their systems so dramatically and so quickly, the role of high quality textbooks has been seriously neglected,’ Mr Gibb will say.

‘Well-focused, forensic study of these nations highlights the extent to which good teaching and high academic standards are strongly associated with adequate provision and widespread use of high quality textbooks.’ And he will say: ‘Once again England has fallen behind.’

Mr Gibb will suggest that teacher trainers and researchers, rather than teachers themselves, are responsible for the marginalisation of textbooks.

He will also lay down a challenge to educational publishers to drive up the quality of textbooks in England. ‘All the evidence shows that high quality textbooks are good for teachers, students and parents,’ he will say.

‘For teachers, well-structured textbooks reduce workload and the perpetual ritual of producing worksheets; for students, knowledge-rich textbooks mean they can read beyond the confines of the exam syllabus and using textbooks helps to develop those all-important scholarship skills; and for parents, textbooks are a guide to what their children are being taught in school.

‘I would like to see all schools, both primary and secondary, using high quality textbooks in most academic subjects, bringing us closer to the norm in high performing countries.’


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Upset Mom Finds Herself Contacting the News After Reading the Answers on Her Son’s Islam Worksheet

A mother in Union County, North Carolina, told WJZY-TV that her son, a freshman at Porter Ridge High School, brought home a worksheet on Islam containing some questionable answers. She was upset enough over the assignment that she contacted the school and her local news station after reviewing the material.

The sentence that bothered the mom the most stated, “Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

It should be noted that school officials have yet to provide a completed version of the worksheet to the news outlet. Though it appears that the high school has not disputed the content, the answers were filled in by the student and seemingly have yet to be verified as 100 percent correct.

“If you are going to do it, let’s do it right,” the mother told WJYZ-TV. “I really feel there is a spin on this.”

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous so her child isn’t singled out at school, said officials didn’t provide a clear answer when she asked if Christianity is being taught in the same fashion.

A spokesman at the Islamic Center for Charlotte told the news station that schools shouldn’t teach that Muslims’ faith is automatically stronger than that of Christians.


One Nation Under Godlessness not Looking Good

By Michelle Malkin

Cheating. Bullying. Cybersexting. Hazing. Molestation. Suicide. Drug abuse. Murder. Scanning the headlines of the latest scandals in America’s schools, it’s quite clear that the problem is not that there’s too much God in students' lives.  The problem is that there isn’t nearly enough of Him.

With the malfunction of moral seatbelts and the erosion of moral guardrails, too many kids have turned to a pantheon of false gods, crutches and palliatives. They’re obsessed with “Slender Man” and “Vampire Diaries.” Alex from Target’s hair and Rihanna’s tattoos. Overpriced basketball sneakers and underdressed reality stars. Choking games and YouTube games. Gossip and hookups. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.

It’s all about selfies over self-control, blurred lines over bright lines.

In a metastatic youth culture of soullessness and rootlessness, the idea of high school teens voluntarily using their free time to pray and sing hymns is not just a breath of fresh air. It’s salvation.

But leave it to secularists run amok to punish faithful young followers of Christ.

Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a religious freedom lawsuit against Pine Creek High School here in my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs. Chase Windebank, a senior at the District 20 school, had been convening an informal prayer group for the past three years “in a quiet area to sing Christian religious songs, pray, and to discuss issues of the day from a religious perspective.”

Windebank and his friends weren’t disrupting classroom time. They shared their Christian faith during an open period earned by high-achieving students. Other kids used the time to play on their phones, eat snacks, get fresh air outside, or schedule meetings for a wide variety of both official and unofficial school clubs.

A Pine Creek choir teacher had given permission to Windebank and his fellow worshipers to meet in an empty music practice room. No complaints ever ensued from other students or faculty. For three years, the group encountered no problems, according to ADF’s complaint. But in late September, Windebank was summoned to the assistant principal’s office and ordered to stop praying because of “the separation of church and state.”

The school singled out the young man of faith’s harmless activities and banned members of his group from discussing current issues of the day from a religious perspective during an open period in an unobtrusive meeting place.

As Todd Starnes of Fox News, who broke the story of the lawsuit last week, lamented: “Public school administrators and their lawyers have succeeded in suppressing and oppressing the Christian voice at Pine Creek High School.”

It defies common sense that in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs, home to a vibrant faith community and leading evangelical organizations, students would be reprimanded and deprived of basic constitutional rights. As a letter from local parents to the school district decried: “To what benefit does it serve a school to limit the ability for a student to pray with their friends, fellowship with their friends, or discuss daily events from a Christian perspective? It is obvious that School District 20 is taking a freedom FROM religion perspective, not a freedom OF religion perspective.”

Think about it: If the high-schoolers gathered in the cafeteria to listen to Billboard magazine’s No. 1 pop hit “Habits (Stay High)” – “You’re gone and I gotta stay high/ all the time/ to keep you off my mind” – school officials would have no issue.

If they lounged in a courtyard to joke about the latest girl-fight videos or off-color joke memes posted on Vine, no problem.  If they discussed the latest “Walking Dead” episode or napped in the library? All good.  But singing “Amazing Grace” and studying scripture? This subversion must be stopped!

How did we get here? And in Colorado Springs, of all places – not Berkeley or Boulder or Boston? Blame cowardice, ignorance and politically correct bureaucrats pledging allegiance to one nation, under godlessness, without religious liberty, and the occult of extreme secularism for all.


Kids Don’t Eat Much of "Healthy" School Lunches

Healthier lunches have become available in schools across the nation.  But students aren’t eating them.  According to a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, “Nearly 6 in 10 [students] put a vegetable on their tray, but only a quarter actually eat even a single bite.”

The researchers observed the eating habits of 274 children in 10 New York City public schools. The students were in kindergarten through second grade.

According to the press release, researchers “watched to see whether each of the six-through-eight-year-olds chose a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat milk and/or a lean protein, taking before and after photos of the trays.” They discovered:

"While 75 percent of the kids chose the lean protein (the entrée), only 58 percent chose a fruit and 59 percent chose a vegetable. And among those who put the various types of food on their trays, only 75 percent took even a single bite of the protein, while only 24 percent ate a bite of their vegetables."

Researchers also noted that there are several factors that influenced how much food the students ate, such as the presence or absence of their teacher, the noise level in the cafeteria, the length of the lunch period and even the size the pieces of food had been cut into.

“We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it,” said Susan Gross, a research associate at Johns Hopkins. “But our research shows that is not necessarily so.”

According to Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation:

"This study simply supports what school nutrition officials have been saying.  There’s major food waste.  It’s difficult to conclude that a law called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a success when the kids are hungry—you can’t be healthy if you are hungry all the time.  Getting the kids to eat should first and foremost be the primary concern.

However, the entire debate surrounding the new school nutrition standards often misses a fundamental question.  Do we need federal bureaucrats and Michelle Obama to dictate how kids should eat through this program, or should parents, possibly along with local governments, make decisions regarding nutrition?  Specifically, it is a question of whether we respect federal bureaucrats and their one-size-fits-all approach more than parents who know the best interests of their children."


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wisconsin School Refused Veterans Day Ceremony Over Firearms

 For the first year, a local veterans group will not be holding a Veterans Day program at the Eau Claire area school district, the decision was because of a disagreement over firearms.

The Patriotic Council says it will not be able to teach younger generations about the sacrifices veterans have made this year because the organization isn't able to properly do so.

There are several different reasons cited, but one of the main concerns focuses around firearms on school grounds.

Vice President of the Patriotic Council, Kaye Olsen says, “Now as the last few years have gone on, with the school shootings and everything, it's getting harder to do our veterans programs like we want to.”

Olsen says with the recent school shootings, guns on school grounds have become an issue, but that also means hurting what she says is a meaningful tradition.

“It's really hard to tell the veterans they're not allowed to bring those rifles in,” says Olsen. “Which, the only purpose is, to honor our flag and our country and to teach the kids.”

The Eau Claire school district says while it wishes to honor the memory and sacrifice of veterans on Veterans Day, it's become more difficult to do so.

"We like to honor the veterans; we bring them in on a regular basis,” says Tim Libham, the Executive Director of Administration with the district. “There are just some conditions that we have to adhere to and the shooting of guns, even with blanks, is something we don't feel is appropriate given society, and the concerns that we have and that the community has, on school premises.”

Leibham says the district wants to accommodate the programs but has to keep the well-being of the students and their families in mind as well

Leibham says, “We'd had family and students that were uneasy, even with blanks being fired on school premise.”

But, Olsen says when it comes to firing the 21-gun salute during the program, there shouldn't be limitations. She says, “I was hoping maybe we could find a compromise, but when it comes to the weapons, there was no compromise.”

Olsen says the Patriotic Council will hold a Veterans Day program at the west side Burger King instead of at an area school on Veterans Day

She says there will be a wreath laying, taps and a 21-gun salute starting around 10:30am


UK: School governor told to resign 'because he had joined Ukip'

A school’s head of governors has claimed he was told to step down by the headteacher after she discovered he had joined Ukip.

Mike Ward has alleged Sue Whelan demanded that he resign from his role at Eskdale School in Whitby, North Yorkshire, because his new party's policies were against the ethos of the school.

Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, has called for a full public inquiry into his claims, suggesting the school is guilty of “discrimination, pure and simple”.

In a letter to his local newspaper, the Scarborough councillor said he was invited to a meeting with Mrs Whelan after his switch to Ukip was reported in local media.

At the meeting, the headteacher allegedly demanded his resignation, saying Mr Ward's political beliefs meant he could not continue to lead the school’s governing body.

Mr Ward, who has been a governor at Eksdale for eight years, said: “I was astonished as politics had never played a part in my time as a Governor but after some soul searching over the weekend and not wishing to cause the school any further issues I tendered my resignation which she accepted.

The councillor claimed he was informed of the school's views two days after switching sides at Scarborough Town Hall, where he had previously sat as an independent.

He said: "I am neither extremist or racist. I have always been independent, strongly advocating change.

"Ukip is fully committed to putting residents, their wishes and needs, first."

Adding he doesn't "want to make any political gains", Mr Ward said the "pupils must come first" at the school, which Ofsted inspectors said earlier this year requires improvement, having previously ruled it outstanding.

The school, which caters for pupils aged from 11 to 14, is now understood to have launched an internal investigation after a complaint was raised by a member of the public.

Nigel Farage, Ukip party leader, called for Mr Ward to be reinstated, despite his resignation.

He said: "It’s atrocious that Cllr Mike Ward a long standing, conscientious and dedicated School Governor has been forced to resign as a Governor of Eskdale School, a school he deeply cares for, just because he is a member of Ukip.

"Mike is a decent and honourable man who has always had the interests of the school and the wider community at the forefront of his mind and it is absolutely disgraceful that he has been treated in this way.

"This is discrimination pure and simple and I find it astounding that the head teacher has taken it upon herself to oust him. Questions need to be asked about why this has happened.

"In the meantime I stand with Mike and I can only hope the school sees sense and reinstates him."

Mr Ward has been a school governor at Eskdale for eight years and chairman for the last five. He also taught for two years at a school in nearby Filey.

Headteacher Sue Whelan has declined to comment, but a school spokesman said a statement would be released on Monday.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said: "We understand that the governing body is taking this complaint seriously and will respond to the complainant."


'British values' drive in schools undermines Christianity, says Church

Nicky Morgan’s drive to promote British values in schools undermines Christian teaching and is potentially dangerous, divisive and undemocratic, the Church of England has warned.

The Education Secretary was accused of adopting a ‘narrow’ set of values following the Trojan Horse scandal, ignoring Christian concepts such as ‘loving one’s neighbour’.

The Church, which is responsible for teaching about one million English children, fears Mrs Morgan’s definition of Britishness could be used too narrowly to test whether individuals are ‘safe’ and ‘loyal’ citizens.

It also criticised the use of Ofsted inspectors to ‘police’ the teaching of equality and diversity.

The comments come in response to rules, drawn up by former education secretary Michael Gove, intended to prevent Muslim extremism in schools, following claims of a plot to take over governing bodies in Birmingham.

Schools must ‘actively promote’ British values such as democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, individual liberty and the rule of law.

But complaints have been made that, in efforts to prevent religious extremism, the rules are having ‘disturbing consequences’ for moderate faith schools.

It emerged last month that a small Christian primary school in Reading was warned it could face closure for failing to invite imams and other religious leaders to take assemblies.

Trinity Christian School was told by Ofsted it was not adequately ensuring the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’ of pupils.

Its governors claim the school’s aims are being undermined and that it will be prevented in future from ‘teaching in accordance with our Christian foundation’.

The Church has accused Mrs Morgan of giving herself and her successors ‘very wide powers’ and ‘closing down’ public debate.

In what is likely to be seen as a reference to developments such as new gay marriage laws, it said rapid changes in society had been ‘unsettling’ for many.

The Church’s chief education officer, the Rev Nigel Genders, warned against ‘rejecting all forms of religion from our schools’.

He said, in an online essay this week, Church schools had never ‘been about indoctrination or recruitment’ but that extremism thrived if religion was ‘banished to dark corners’.

‘We wholeheartedly support the idea of schools being required to promote the values of tolerance and respect for those coming at things from a different perspective,’ Mr Genders wrote.

‘However, “British values” cannot be allowed to become a test … of whether somebody in a community is “safe” or “loyal”.’ He said changes in ‘equality and diversity’ in recent years remain ‘in many ways unresolved’ and some groups had found them ‘unsettling’.

Mr Genders added that policing the changes with ‘an ever increasing inspection regime’ would not increase public confidence in them.

In the Church’s response to the rules, it said the Coalition’s definition of British values was too narrow, ignoring Christian themes.

‘We are concerned that British values should emanate from a broad public conversation and not from the Secretary of State,’ the document warned.

‘By assuming the power to decide what reasonable or unreasonable behaviour is … [Mrs Morgan] would be taking very wide powers for herself and her successors and closing down the broader public debate.’

It described the ‘British values test’ as a ‘negative and divisive’ way define national identity.


Virginia High School Reverses Decision, Allows Pro-Life Club to Start Immediately

After nearly two months of debate, confusion and legal pressure, a Virginia high school student finally won the right to start a pro-life club at her school, effective immediately.

Courtland High School granted Madison Sutherland, a senior, the right to start the club after initially banning the group for a host of reasons, including an alleged incomplete application and the club’s lack of a relationship to the school’s curriculum, according to a news release from Students for Life of America.

After the school’s principal, Larry Marks, repeatedly hindered Sutherland’s efforts to start the club, the high school student enlisted the help of the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, previously reported. The law firm sent Marks a demand letter last week requesting he reverse his initial decision and allow Sutherland to start her club.

Marks eventually agreed to allow the group, but not until next year – well after Sutherland and her fellow pro-life senior students would have graduated. But on Friday, Marks appeared to rethink the decision and requested that the Spotsylvania County School Board grant Sutherland permission to begin meeting with her fellow pro-life students immediately.

Citing “unique circumstances” in their official response, the school board agreed to allow the club.

“I am so excited that the school granted my request to start the pro-life club immediately,” Sutherland said in the news release, adding she plans to use the club “to educate my peers on alternatives to abortion, attend the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., and support expectant mothers through a local pregnancy resource center.”

Students for Life of America called the school’s decision a “huge win” for Sutherland and the pro-life movement.

“This is a huge victory for Maddie and should encourage any pro-life student to fight for the right to start a pro-life club at their school,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.

“High school pro-life clubs are often where the first fires of pro-life activism are lit and Maddie will have the opportunity now to educate her peers on the pro-life position on abortion. Maddie is a great example of courage for standing up for her pro-life beliefs and fighting to protect the rights of the preborn.”

“Just as students don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates, high school seniors don’t lose their First Amendment rights simply because they’re in their last year of school,” said Jocelyn Floyd, an attorney with the Thomas More Society.

“While we’re saddened that it took legal intervention to get the school to act, we’re thrilled that the school has now explicitly acknowledged their commitment to free speech ideals and protected Maddie and her fellow seniors’ core First Amendment rights to speak about life on campus at Courtland High School,” Floyd added.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back to Redistributing Teachers

When the Obama administration began writing its own laws under the guise of No Child Left Behind waivers in 2011, it snuck into the thousands of pages of bureaucratese a requirement for “teacher equity.” Now, the administration has reminded states it wasn’t joking.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education wrote states a letter demanding they submit “teacher equity plans” to the feds by next June.

The problem: Research shows poor and minority children are typically taught by less-experienced and lower-quality teachers. This is in large part one outgrowth of allowing unions to dictate teacher hiring policies. Union contracts give teachers who have remained in a particular school district longer the ability to “bump” new teachers out of preferred teaching spots (of course, teaching in tough schools is not as attractive as the alternatives). Union contracts also bar school districts from paying teachers different salaries for taking on harder work--such as teaching math or science, or working in worse environments.

Don’t expect states to propose right-to-work laws or ending teacher tenure as solutions to the problem of poor kids getting worse teachers. Do expect them to conduct a sort of endless tax- laundering scheme, whereby taxpayers send the federal government money, it sends the money to state departments of education along with mandates such as “teacher equity plans,” and state departments shuffle paperwork back to the feds after paying the salaries of people who are apparently happy to spend their lives writing impotent, thousand-page sketches of La-La Land.

If this were all an exercise in bureaucracy, taxpayers would be a bit poorer but otherwise none the worse. If and when state plans for redistributing teachers include coercion and manipulation, as government schemes tend to be, however, expect the unintended consequences of monopoly education to intensify. Watch for plans where state officials, rather than local school districts, assign teachers to schools; where teachers aim for mediocrity instead of excellence because excellence gets them reassigned to schools where they don’t want to teach; and where poor children are treated like hot potatoes.

This is what happens when central planners keep tightening their ratchets to impede and distort even more personal choices rather than allowing individuals to freely align their choices with others’ within a free-enterprise system. In that environment, teachers who choose harder work would be rewarded, which would draw excellent teachers who love a challenge right where they’re needed without any need for filtering tax dollars through bureaucrats’ hands or pushing teachers around. What a concept.


English junior school teaching 'disastrous': Education system leaves some areas of England without a single teenager passing key exams

The education system has left some areas of England without a single teenager passing key GCSEs, shock new figures show.

Some of the worst pockets of low achievement – where no pupil has managed to achieve grade Cs in maths, English and three other subjects – are in the seaside towns of Deal in Kent and Bideford, Devon. Others are close to the academic centres of Oxford and Cambridge.

The achievement of five grade Cs including English and maths is considered a key indicator of educational performance.

The findings came from the Department for Education, which studied small geographical areas each consisting of just a handful of streets, and about 1,500 people.

The data revealed there were 24 underachieving neighbourhoods, including Burley in Leeds; Wallsend in Tyneside; Salford, Greater Manchester; Banbury, Oxfordshire; and Waterbeach, near Cambridge.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Our education system is failing children who are most in need. This is inexcusable and disastrous.’

Physical education in the state sector is ‘a joke’, with children getting just nine minutes of proper exercise in a typical 45-minute lesson, according to a new study.

Researchers fitted motion sensors to 100 13-year-old girls and found that they were only active enough to work up a sweat for one minute in every five during gym classes.

Dr Richard Weiler, a consultant in sports and exercise medicine, said: ‘PE provision in state schools is generally awful.  ‘Policymakers haven’t got a clue what is going on – PE is not high on their list. It’s just a joke.’


UK: Minister tells schools to copy China - and ditch trendy teaching for 'chalk and talk'

Schools are being urged to go back to ‘chalk and talk’ teaching that was once widespread in Britain – in order to reproduce the success the traditional methods now have in China.

Education Minister Nick Gibb said having a teacher speak to the class as a whole from the front was much more effective than children working on their own – the method which has become dominant in schools over the past 40 years.

Mr Gibb’s intervention, which will infuriate many in the educational establishment, follows a Government scheme in which more than 70 maths teachers from British primaries went to Shanghai to study the teaching styles of their Chinese counterparts.

Researchers have found that children in China achieve marks in maths up to 30 per cent higher than English pupils of the same age.

In ‘whole class’ teaching, which was common in this country until the 1950s, the teacher instructs all the pupils together by using a blackboard, or its equivalent, while testing the children with questions.

But progressive educationalists argued this was too authoritarian, and instead promoted the ‘child-centred’ approach that has been prevalent in primary schools since then. Under this system, pupils are encouraged to ‘discover’ knowledge by themselves, working at their own speed or in small groups, with the teacher offering them support.

Mr Gibb told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I would like to see schools across the country adopt whole class teaching methods, particularly in maths and science. Research shows it is significantly more effective than other methods that concentrate more on personalised learning.’

He said Shanghai schools topped international league tables, with 15-year-olds there three years ahead of their English counterparts in maths.

Mr Gibb added: ‘In Shanghai primary schools, whole class teaching with all pupils taking part in question and answer sessions is key to their success. All their pupils are taught the same curriculum and all are expected to reach the same high standard.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘English education was overtaken with progressive ideas in recent decades, which held it was better for children to learn by themselves and at their own pace.  ‘This was clearly madness, and it has taken 40 years to realise this.

‘The trouble with the trendy methods is that the children are left to their own devices, including chatting to their friends, while the teacher is elsewhere. It is a very inefficient use of time and resources.’

Mr Gibb’s comments have been backed by recent research, which concluded that the success of pupils in the Far East is largely down to teaching methods.

Maths tests taken by 562 nine and ten-year-olds in classrooms in Southampton and Nanjing in China found that the Chinese pupils scored between 20 and 30 per cent higher than the English youngsters.

Researchers also used video to analyse what was going on in lessons and found that in the Chinese classrooms – where pupils sit in rows of desks facing the front – ‘whole class interaction’ was being used 72 per cent of the time, compared with only 24 per cent in England.

By contrast, the classes in England, where pupils are often grouped in clusters of desks, spent nearly half – 47 per cent – of their time in ‘individual or group work’, compared with 28 per cent in China.

The research, by Zhenzhen Miao and Professor David Reynolds of the University of Southampton, concluded: ‘Effective teachers spent longer time on interacting with the whole class rather than with individuals/groups or leaving pupils to independent seatwork.’

Prof Reynolds said he was disappointed that more schools were not increasing their use of the ‘whole class’ approach as it would improve results in most subjects.


Ohio Moves Closer to Common Core Repeal

Ohio is on its way to becoming the latest state to ditch Common Core education standards. A bill that would block the state from implementing the standards, along with any aligned curriculum, was approved by the Rules and Reference Committee in the State House earlier this month and is ready to be brought to a vote.

So far, six states have either partially or completely withdrawn from Common Core standards or the accompanying testing requirements. Ohio would be the seventh, and a decisive blow for education freedom.

H.B. 597 calls for a rejection of any federal control of education, and the implementation of state standards by a state education committee. These standards will then have to be reviewed and approved by lawmakers, ensuring that no unelected bureaucrat gets to unilaterally control local education choices. This means that education in Ohio will be more locally controlled, with greater input from parents, teachers, local school boards, and communities who can let their representatives know what they want out of the school system. This would be a vast improvement over a central bureaucracy that sets school standards from the remote Department of Education n Washington, D.C. 400 miles away.

While Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, supports Common Core, he said he would be open to listening to alternative ideas, so long as school quality is not compromised.

“I just want to have high standards,” the governor said, “and I want to make sure we maintain local control so local school boards and local parents are the ones that design the curriculum to meet the standards. We need high standards. We don’t need interference from Columbus or Washington to get this done. It should be done locally.”

Such talk is encouraging, because Common Core is fundamentally not local, imposing same standards all across the country regardless of the individual needs of different states or school districts. If Governor Kasich is sincere in his words, then there should be no reason for him not to sign the bill when it makes it to his desk.

Any Ohioan concerned about their children’s schooling, and the future of education in their state, should contact their representative and demand that H.R. 597 be brought to a vote in the State House as soon as possible.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Public High School Aborts Pro-Life Club

The Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, sent a demand letter Tuesday to a public high school principal in Virginia after he refused to grant Madison Sutherland, a senior at the school, permission to start a pro-life club on campus.

"As there is no legally acceptable reason to reject Ms. Sutherland's application, we request that you reverse your decision and promptly approve Ms. Sutherland's request to establish, publicize, and actively run a pro-life student group at Courtland High School," said the Thomas More Society's letter.

"Should Courtland High School persist in its violation of the EAA [federal Equal Access Act] and Ms. Sutherland's First Amendment rights, we are prepared to pursue the matter in court," it said.

According to the law firm’s news release, Larry Marks, the principal at Courtland High School in Fredericksburg, Va., continually denied high school senior Madison Sutherland’s efforts to start a pro-life club, even after she filed all the necessary paperwork and found a faculty adviser to sponsor the group.

Sutherland had first voiced her desire to start the group on Sept. 23 and filed the paperwork the school required to start the club--including identifying a faculty adviser and submitting a club constitution.

“Abortion is the greatest violation of human rights in our time and I believe the pro-life message deserves a voice at my school,” Sutherland explained in the news release.

On Oct. 10, well past the 10-day window Marks had to decide whether to allow the club, the school sent Sutherland a letter saying Marks had denied her group, because it did not “bear a clear relationship to the regular school curriculum,” and because she had not included by-laws with her proposed constitution, according to Sutherland’s attorneys.

But according to the school’s club application forms, it is not a requirement that a new on-campus club have a relationship to the school’s curriculum, the Thomas More Society said. On top of that, several other clubs at Courtland High School don’t have a curriculum-related purpose--including an equestrian club, and environmental club and a multicultural group, the law firm added.

“As for the proposed club’s alleged lack of any link to the school curriculum, the application form itself concedes that the supposed requirement is not applicable to all groups--instead it asks students to explain the link ‘if applicable,’” the law firm stated. “Selectively enforcing this ‘requirement’ against Maddie and her group is obvious discrimination.”

On Oct. 24, Sutherland re-submitted her application, including proposed by-laws. More than two weeks later, she approached Marks again to ask about her club’s progress.

“Mr. Marks further delayed giving approval for the club, telling her only that he would call her back to his office sometime this week to ‘fix things,’” the law firm explained.

Having done all the necessary work, Sutherland was at a loss as to why Marks wouldn’t approve the group.

“Even though I had found a faculty advisor for our pro-life club and submitted all the necessary paperwork that the school required, Mr. Marks wouldn’t approve our pro-life club,” Sutherland said.

Marks did not return’s phone calls seeking a comment.

Sutherland’s attorneys claim the school’s prohibition of a pro-life group is a violation of pro-life students’ constitutional rights.

“Public schools have a duty to treat all student groups equally,” Jocelyn Floyd, a lawyer at the Thomas More Society, said in the news release. “By denying Maddie’s pro-life group on the grounds that it is not tied to the school’s curriculum, while allowing other non-curricular groups such as an equestrian club and lacrosse club, Courtland High School is violating their students’ First Amendment rights.”

“Maddie and her fellow students have the constitutional right to express their pro-life views,” the firm continued. “As the Supreme Court has consistently emphasized, students do not lose their constitutionally-protected freedom of speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate.”

The Thomas More Society has sent Marks a letter requesting that he rescind his earlier decision to deny the club and allow Sutherland and fellow pro-life students to begin meeting at the school.


Minneapolis Adopts Unconstitutional Racial Quotas in School Discipline

Given a choice between following the law, and doing what a bureaucrat with power over them wants, many people will do what the bureaucrat wants, and ignore the law. That seems to be the lesson of the Minneapolis school system’s decision to adopt race-based school discipline.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that “Minneapolis public school officials are making dramatic changes to their discipline practices by requiring the superintendent’s office to review all suspensions of students of color.” The Minneapolis school system will require prior review before “every proposed suspension of black, Hispanic or American Indian students” can occur, which means the superintendent may “take those suspensions back to” those recommending a suspension to “probe and ask questions.”

Meanwhile, suspensions of white and Asian students will occur without any impediment or scrutiny from the superintendent. This differential treatment is as unconstitutional as giving blacks two opportunities to pass their driving test, and Asians only one opportunity.

This is part of a larger push by the Minneapolis schools to impose racial quotas on suspensions, reportedly to resolve an investigation by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Minnesota Public Radio reports that “MPS must aggressively reduce the disproportionality between black and brown students and their white peers every year for the next four years. This will begin with a 25 percent reduction in disproportionality by the end of this school year; 50 percent by 2016; 75 percent by 2017; and 100 percent by 2018.” Some other school districts investigated by the Education Department have also adopted such “targeted reductions” by race.

Such racial-percentage rules violate the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous ruling in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 538 (7th Cir. 1997), which struck down as a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause a rule that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline.” That court ruling also explicitly rejected the argument that such a rule is permissible to prevent disparate impact. I discuss the unconstitutionality of such rules, and why they are based on multiple misinterpretations of Title VI, at greater length in The Daily Caller, at this link.

Reason magazine says that “The new policy is the result of negotiations between MPS and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.” If that’s true, that doesn’t make it any less unconstitutional: The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work, cannot order schools to violate constitutional rights. The courts made this clear in 1978 when they ruled that the Office for Civil Rights had violated the First Amendment by pressuring the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board into kicking out the Ku Klux Klan because of its racist views. (See Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board). And in White v. Lee (2000), a federal appeals court allowed individual federal civil-rights officials to be sued for interpreting the Fair Housing Act in a way that violated the Constitution.

But in the real world, what school districts care about most is what the Education Department wants, not what’s constitutional. The amount of money a school district would have to pay in damages to a suspended white or Asian student who proves he was treated worse than a similarly situated black student is probably pocket change compared to the millions of dollars a school district court would lose if the Education Department decided to cut off its federal funds for a supposed violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.


Unschooling made me a libertarian

Elizabeth Tate

When I think about my personal journey to where I am today, there’s no exact time that stands out as the “Eureka, I’m a libertarian!” moment. I don’t remember any sudden lightbulbs going off. I don’t remember the day I first thought poorly of the government, either. It’s always seemed to be things I knew and believed. I might have just been a libertarian straight out of the womb. If I go back to my childhood and think about the reasons I may be in Students For Liberty today, only one thing stands out:

I was homeschooled.

More accurately, I was unschooled. Unschooling is simply the idea that compulsory schooling, indoor activity, and standardized testing are ineffective methods for helping a child to grow and learn. As Ben Hewitt wrote in his article Unschooling: The Case for Setting Your Kids Into the Wild. “I want the freedom for them to be children. No one can teach them that.” The primary purpose of unschooling is giving children the freedom to be a child, while also giving a greater freedom of choice for both caregivers and children. By being unschooled I was truly free to grow and learn at my own pace. My parents were free to choose how I was raised and what they felt was appropriate for me throughout my life. Unschooling got me used to having freedom of choice, and it’s truly why I’m a libertarian today.

Firstly, my academic freedom was invaluable. I never felt pressure to “match up” to what kids my age were doing, no matter if I was “behind” or “ahead.” Likewise, my younger brother was never expected to be exactly where I was when he reached the same age. We were allowed to be on separate paths, without one of us being deemed any smarter than the other. In high school I read Shakespeare and comic books equally. As a child, I built forts and learned everything I know about dinosaurs. I got to take Spanish for eight years starting in 4th grade, when most of my schooled friends only got two years (at most) in high school. This total freedom to choose my interests, with the occasional guidance of parents and teachers, shaped me intrinsically. I won’t settle for less than loving what I do.

Secondly, it taught me the power of community. Homeschool groups were very common in my hometown of Matthews, North Carolina.  These groups served a variety of purposes. They were socialization and friend-making opportunities, given that we weren’t shoved into a building with a few hundred other kids every day. They were also educational opportunities, where a parent with a specific skill set or area of expertise would teach us something. I took Spanish, art, speech and debate, chemistry, biology, and choir through these groups. It was participated in voluntarily, incredibly useful, and gave me an appreciation for coming together for common goals.

Thirdly, the realities of my body were never denied. When I was in middle school, North Carolina public schools still taught abstinence-only sex education. The law was changed in 2009 to require scientifically accurate and comprehensive sex  ed, but had I been in that system I would have been in a flawed class that leads to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies, and little impact on overall attitudes. Luckily, I wasn’t. My parents, including my nurse father, gave me accurate, age-appropriate, and useful sex education that allowed me to make informed and responsible choices later in life. My parents had total freedom in deciding when and how I would learn these things, without the state dictating the terms.

Finally, I learned to appreciate every single one of these choices. So many people I know were never able to choose to learn about what they loved, or only got to learn so much before the passion was curtailed in order to stay with the curriculum. So many people never felt an actual community of learning around them. So many people never got to educate their own children. I’ve come to expect freedom of choice in every aspect of my life, from what classes I take in college to what transportation system I use, from how I distribute my work to the gender of the person I may someday marry. We all deserve to enjoy these choices.


How Online Education Can Save Conservatism

Education, business, and government leaders are gathering this week in Washington, DC to discuss the future of American education at the Thought Leader Summit (held from Nov. 10–13), an event held as a part of the National Education Initiative. Among the many topics that will be discussed is the advancement of online education, a technological gift that could save conservatism in America.

It comes as no surprise to liberty-focused Americans that U.S. education is rife with liberalism. Teachers colleges and teachers unions have worked tirelessly to ensure that school systems across the country are stocked with educators that reject traditional free-market and liberty-focused curricula.

Instead of a fair treatment of history, civics, and economics, liberals utilize “learning” materials, such as one history textbook used in South Carolina that suggests former President Ronald Reagan was sexist, that fabricate the truth to fit their own leftwing agenda.

Teachers and professors don’t even bother hiding their bias. One survey released by UCLA in 2012 shows that more than 62 percent of college professors identify as being either “far left” or “liberal,” while less than 12 percent claim to be “far right” or “conservative.” With results like these, how can conservative parents ever feel comfortable sending their kids off to local public schools or to costly colleges?

The obvious answer is for parents to send children to private schools that embrace personal responsibility and liberty or to start homeschooling. In both situations, however, time, funding, and the teaching ability of the parent may stand in the way as nearly insurmountable obstacles. This is where the advancement of online education could save the day.

In “Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well,” a new book by Heartland Institute Chairman Herbert J. Walberg and Heartland President Joseph Bast, the authors present the incredible technological advancements that have occurred over the past decade in online education and how these advancements can be used to improve education.

According to Walberg and Bast, “Digital learning stands on its own or adds great blended value because it can adapt to the capacity and speed of individual learners, provide minute-by-minute feedback on learning progress, and provide rewards suitable for individual learners. It is similar to an imaginary inexhaustible, highly skilled tutor.”

Walberg and Bast say that highly successful private and charter schools have taken advantage of this new technology, and the results have been quite astounding. The much-talked-about Rocketship schools, for instance, have produced unmatched test results and student achievement by combining traditional models of instruction alongside digital, personalized instruction.

There’s simply no reason why conservatives cannot take advantage of these models to produce their own liberty-focused curricula that can be used in private schools, homeschools, and in colleges across the nation. No longer is it necessary for parents to become education experts to provide their children with a quality education that embraces liberty.

Some conservatives have already started taking advantage of digital learning to advance the cause of liberty. Perhaps the most famous case is the free, not-for-credit massive online open-enrollment program at Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college based in Michigan who envisions itself as “a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.”

Other programs, like Liberty University’s Online Academy, are designed specifically for private schools and homeschools and are geared toward providing a more foundational education compared to the college courses at Hillsdale.

Although many of the education experts and public servants attending the Thought Leader Summit this week are interested in improving American education, few of them embrace the classical liberalism espoused by the Founding Fathers. It’s up to conservatives, Tea Party groups, private schools that espouse liberty, and homeschools to build educational systems that promote the values that built America. Technology has made the once-reasonable excuses of cost, location, and time no longer applicable.

With some hard work and innovative thinking, conservatives now have the opportunity to combat the liberal tide that has swept across the country’s education system over the past 50 years.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

UK: Heads attack union rep strike: Disgust at support for militant teacher battling to keep her job

Twelve secondary school heads voiced their ‘disgust’ yesterday at strikes in support of a militant teacher battling to keep her job as a full-time union official.

As teachers walked out in defence of Julie Davies, the heads accused the National Union of Teachers of ‘making children pay’ for a personal dispute.

Mrs Davies, who is paid £45,900 a year, has not taught since 2000 when she became a full-time NUT rep. She has been suspended after heads accused her of ‘confrontation’ and encouraging ‘a climate of mistrust’.

They refused to continue to fund her union work but Mrs Davies is leading two-day strikes in protest, initially targeting Fortismere and Highgate Wood schools in north London.

In letter to the council leader signed by 11 colleagues, Dame Joan McVittie, head of Woodside High, accused the NUT of ‘retaliation against the children’.

She said: ‘The current strikes, and further proposed strikes, will cause great damage to the education of young people in both of these schools and I have no doubt that other schools will be affected.’

The letter added: ‘I am disgusted by the response of the NUT: instead of negotiating with the employer, it has chosen to strike in selected schools, thereby damaging the life chances of vulnerable young people in this authority.

‘It cannot be right that children should be made to pay for a dispute that is essentially between a union official and her employer, the local authority.’

Teachers at the two schools will walk out again with ballots planned at two more schools – Hornsey School for Girls and Parkview.

A petition calling on NUT general secretary Christine Blower to step in and end the strike had attracted nearly 200 signatures last night.

One mother-of-two in her 40s whose children are at Fortismere, said the strike had been ‘disruptive’.

‘I'm self-employed so it's been difficult to get on with my work with the children at home,’ she said.  'I worry that this may set a precedent for the future.  'Why does she think she can disrupt all the kids in their schooling just because she feels the rules don't apply to her?  'I don't see why the kids have to be dragged into this.  'It beggars belief and it's tantamount to blackmail. She's blackmailing the council.

'It's wrong and she's showing no sign of backing down. She seems determined she's going to win this no matter what - and at the expense of the children.  'I'm so frustrated about this, it really annoys me.’

Meanwhile a father in his 40s whose children attend Highgate Wood school said: 'We are just concerned about our children's education. They're being used for a political issue which is nothing to do with them.

'A single Union rep should not have the power to call strikes relating to their own personal issues.  'For the sake of our kids and our sanity please get on and resolve this now.'

Schools in Haringey currently pool their funds to pay Mrs Davies’ wages but many heads are unwilling to continue the arrangement.

Groups representing both primary and secondary heads have written to Haringey Council warning that they will refuse to continue contributing to the fund amid concerns over the conduct of the local NUT branch.

The letter from local secondary heads said: ‘Secondary school head teachers have found, and continue to find, that Ms Davies' preferred approach and working style is one of confrontation and obfuscation.

‘Our combined experience is that she seeks to encourage a climate of mistrust, often involving the airing of her personal critiques of individual head teachers, rather than seeking to develop effective communication channels or relationships based on trust and openness.’

Another letter, from a ‘significant number of primary head teachers’, stated: ‘It is our view that it is simply not feasible to do so whilst current union working practices exist.’

Mrs Davies was suspended in July over the concerns expressed by heads as well as other allegations, including that she sent a tweet spreading news about a Haringey mayor ‘abusing’ her position and also that she fired off a rude email to a councillor after food waste was not collected in her street.

The council’s investigation into the claims is ongoing.


Two More States Eye Repeal of Common Core

On the heels of Republican victories last week, attempts to replace Common Core with homegrown standards are resurfacing in states across the nation.

Most prominently, elected officials in Wisconsin and Ohio are spearheading efforts to reclaim more control of education.

On Nov. 5, the day after the midterm elections, an Ohio House committee passed a bill to repeal the Common Core standards.

Although officials on both sides doubt the bill will garner enough support to pass by the end of the year, they are hopeful the legislature will take up the issue in 2015.

But to be safe, Common Core supporters such as state Rep. Gerry Stebelton, R-Lancaster, say they will double down on efforts to defeat the repeal bill.  “It deserved to die,” said Stebelton of the bill. “It has no merit.”

In Wisconsin, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Thursday changes to Common Core are definitely on next year’s agenda, according to the Associated Press.

Even though Fitzgerald wouldn’t offer specifics, his plan to re-examine Common Core aligns with that of Gov. Scott Walker, who won his re-election bid campaigning on a platform of expanding school choice, among other issues.

Walker, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, made it clear this July he wants to repeal the Common Core standards.

“Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin,” he said in a statement.

Wisconsin voted in 2011 to adopt the educational standards in math and English, but now, support is dwindling.

“Fitzgerald’s remarks show that education policy is a priority for Wisconsin, and that Common Core will continue to drive the debate in the coming months,” said Lindsey M. Burke, a Heritage Foundation expert on education policy.

Developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core was incentivized by the Obama administration with $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants and waivers for states that signed on.

Already this year, four states—Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana—withdrew from the national standards and tests, and more than a dozen others either have exited or downgraded their involvement with the assessment component.

“More and more states are now seriously considering the next steps on Common Core, and the best way forward for them to reclaim control of education content,” said Burke, adding:

States like Oklahoma and South Carolina have demonstrated that it is possible to withdraw from these national standards and tests, and to take the opportunity to craft quality standards that are homegrown and reflective of state and local priorities.


America's Education Crisis

An educational crisis has struck Minneapolis' public schools: Black students have a tenfold higher chance of suspension or expulsion than white students. And superintendent Bernadeia Johnson wants to “disrupt that in any way that I can.”

Her solution: refusing to suspend black and Hispanic students. “The only way I can think [to solve the disparity] is to take those suspensions back to the individuals and try and probe and ask questions,” Johnson explained. Johnson will work with the Department of Education, which originally brought the disparity to light. Now, Johnson will have to review every potential suspension of a non-white, non-Asian student. “Changing the trajectory for our students of color is a moral and ethical imperative, and our actions must be drastically different to achieve our goal of closing the achievement gap by 2020,” Johnson stated.

Black and Hispanic students in Minneapolis represent 60.3 percent of the student body. Just 15 percent of teachers are non-white. This has led to pressure to oust some white teachers in favor of minority teachers. But Minnesota has some of the highest-performing students in the nation: Overall, 70 percent of fourth-graders read at or above grade level, as opposed to 34 percent of students nationally; for eighth-graders, 82 percent of students score above grade level, as opposed to 43 percent nationally.

The big problem: Black and Hispanic students score extraordinarily low when compared to white students. Is that because the teachers somehow teach better to white and Asian students? Or is the problem with the students?

The students in Minnesota are not an exception. Male black, Hispanic and Native-American students in every state in America lead male students of other ethnicities in suspensions. That’s not due to some inherent disadvantage attached to race, of course.

It’s because black, Hispanic and Native-American children are disproportionately likely to live with single mothers. And children living with single mothers misbehave more often than those living with fathers. A study from Great Britain of 14,000 children showed that children were twice as likely to manifest behavioral problems by the age of 7 than those raised by their natural parents. Those numbers continue to diverge as children grow older.

But instead of dealing with the obvious problem, the government insists that the problem, somehow, lies in the strictness of the Minneapolis public schools. That’s inane. School discipline in Asia far outstrips discipline in the United States. .

The left in America believes that overlooking actual solutions in favor of happy talk about institutional racism helps minority students. It achieves precisely the opposite, making light of misbehavior and destroying the chances for better education for those who seek to gain it.

They get suspended more often because they misbehave more often.

The achievement gap will never be closed, so long as school districts across the country punish good students, reward bad ones and let political correctness trump educational necessity.


Suburban D.C. School Board Eliminates All Religious References to School Holidays

By a vote of 7-1, the Montgomery County (Md.) School Board voted  Tuesday to strip the public school calendar of all references to religion after Muslim groups mounted more than a year-long campaign to get Eid al-adha and Eid ul-Fitr added as a days off for students.

The majority of board members voted to remove all references to religion, resulting in the 2015 school calendar referencing Dec. 24, 25, 28, 29 and 31 as “Winter Break” without noting that school is closed on Dec. 25 for Christmas. Next year, March 25, 28, 29, 30 and 31 will be “Spring Break,” without any reference to Easter.

“It is about equity,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski told after the vote. “I felt that we needed to look at this issue in a more comprehensive way and in a way that works for all members of our community.

“I made the motion because if we are closing for operational reasons then there should be no need to make reference to religion,” Smondrowski said. “That is the most equitable solution that I could see while recognizing that we need to be seriously addressing the criteria for how these things are decided in the future.”

The issue came to a head this calendar year when the Muslim holy day Eid al-Adha and Jewish holiday Yom Kippur both fell on Oct. 4. School Superintendent Joshua Starr suggested that the Jewish holiday not be named but that schools continue to be closed on that date. Schools also are closed from the Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashanah.

But Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which launched the Equality 4 Eid Coalition to lobby for Muslim holidays to be included on the school calendar, said they opposed the idea.

“That’s something that we are not in favor of,” Chaudry told before the vote was taken. “It makes absolutely no sense to us that they would want to remove the Jewish holidays from the calendar, and we respect the fact that there are a substantial number of our Jewish friends and neighbors in the community in Montgomery County who also wish to observe their holidays.”

Chaudry said the coalition did not want to remove other religious observances but to add Muslim holy days as days off for students.

In the end, the board voted to remove all mention of religious observances from the public schools calendar.