Friday, December 19, 2014

Schools show Progressivism as the Religion It Is

The principal arena in the battle for the nation’s soul is once again being co-opted by the American Left. Acalanes High School (AHS) in Lafayette, California, determined that ninth graders should be taught sex-ed – without parents' prior knowledge, no less – by Planned Parenthood.

“They are very concerned,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit legal organization assisting outraged parents to whom he referred. “Planned Parenthood is not exactly the best when it comes to putting young people first. They get more grants from the promiscuity of children. The material they have provided was material that mirrored their agenda.”

The most pernicious piece of that material is a chart depicting the so-called “Genderbred Person,” which comes from a book entitled, “The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender,” written by comedian and social justice advocate Sam Killerman. It is an effort to sow as much sexual confusion as possible in the minds of children by challenging the notion that one’s identity should not be reduced to male or female. Instead, students are told they can mentally identify themselves as “woman, man, two-spirit, genderqueer or genderless,” sexually express themselves as “butch, femme, androgynous, gender neutral, or hyper-masculine,” and biologically identify themselves as “male, female, intersex, female self ID, or male self ID.”

It gets worse. Students were also given a leaflet entitled “Sex Check! Are You Ready for Sex?” It asks students whether they are “ready for sex” and includes a checklist of materials such as condoms and water-based lubricants, and it also prompts them to consider whether they are capable of handling infections or pregnancy. Another worksheet prepares them for giving and getting consent for sex, posing questions such as “Do you want to go back to my place?” and “Is it OK if I take my pants off?”

According to PJI, parents began raising concerns following student reports of disturbing behavior during a sex-ed class. In a press release, the institute said, “Students reported that instructors threw a model of female reproductive organs at a student and that the instruction left them feeling pressured to have sex.”

The school defended its actions, characterizing the instruction as “age appropriate using objective and medically accurate information.” It further defended the worksheet as something that will “set the stage for age appropriate student thought, reflection and discussion regarding the complexity of the decision,” while arguing the Genderbred Person is used “to prompt student thought and engage students in discussion regarding the components of sexual identity.”

Baloney. Last year the American Life League (ALL) submitted ads to The New York Times and The Washington Post to raise public awareness about Planned Parenthood’s sex education curriculum. Those ads featured actual images from that curriculum for children as young as 10. Both papers rejected the images as “too graphic” and “shocking” for adult readers.

Too shocking for adults but OK for young teens?

Dacus spells out the implications. “What is happening in Lafayette should be a wake-up call to parents about what Planned Parenthood and some school districts want to teach our kids,” he contends. “I would challenge anyone to read some of these materials and try to defend their use with 13- and 14-year-olds.”

Parents collected 100 signatures on a petition in an effort raise community awareness about what is going on at AHS, and PJL sent AHS a letter expressing “serious concerns” about the legality of the program. “We firmly believe some of this program is illegal,” Dacus added, “and the district has a lot more explaining to do.”

What is occurring in this case is an integral part of the leftist agenda that has reached the apex of insanity in the Golden State. In 2013, Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown signed AB1266, allowing transgender students “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.

Hence, one is whoever one wants to be, regardless of biological reality.

Keep this all in mind as we consider the story of Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn, an Army chaplain punished for including religious materials and quoting from the Bible during a suicide-prevention training session with the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion. “You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side,” Col. David Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Ft. Benning, Georgia, wrote in an official Letter of Concern. Fivecoat warned Lawhorn to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

Now, back to the state of California and AHS, we add to the mix Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, McHugh contends that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and “policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”

Some people believe McHugh is spot on. Others believe the Genderbred Person, which posits a diametrically opposed viewpoint, is accurate. Furthermore, according to the Intersex Society of North America, transgendered people are those “who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the ‘wrong body.’”

In other words, believing one is transgender requires an act of faith. Faith is an integral part of religion – and the endorsement of religion is prohibited in public schools.

It is time the leftist indoctrination of children that includes a highly debatable tenet of sexuality – along with a host of other propaganda passed along as irrefutable fact – be given the same scrutiny and be subject to the same limitations as leftists subject Christianity. The alternative is what we have now: a viewpoint labeled “secular humanism” completely protected from rebuttal by opposing viewpoints. That’s not education. That’s brainwashing, and it’s time Americans recognized it as such – and put a stop to it.


UK: Are apprenticeships best? Graduates faced with high student debt and poor earning prospects would be better off skipping university, report says

The earning power generated by some university courses is so low and student debt so high that pupils would be better off choosing apprenticeships, new research suggested today(THUR).

Findings showed sharp variations in the graduate earnings premium depending on the university and course chosen.

With student debt now averaging £44,000, industry apprenticeships would be a ‘better deal’ for many pupils than costly degrees, according to the charity behind the study.

The Sutton Trust said some youngsters ‘may be better earning and learning on good apprenticeships than on a degree course with poor prospects’.

The claim came as the trust published a new study showing that students who go to Oxford and Cambridge enjoy starting salaries £7,600 higher than counterparts who go to so-called ‘new’ universities.

The Oxbridge premium drops only marginally to £4,760 when the prior A-level grades of students and their social background are taken into account.

Differences by degree subject were found to be even larger, with medicine and dentistry graduates attracting starting salaries £12,200 higher than those who studied design and creative arts.

Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chairman, said the research showed that ‘not all degrees are created equal’.

The figures underlined the ‘importance of choosing the right degree and course’.

He said: ‘It may not surprise anyone that an Oxbridge graduate on average commands a higher salary than someone from a newer university, but a £7,500 (42 per cent) difference which only falls to just under £5,000 allowing for social background and prior attainment is a bigger difference than many might have expected.

And he added: ‘With debts of £44,000 on average, returns from some degrees may mean going into a good apprenticeship offers a better deal for many students.’

Sir Peter went on: ‘We need to look honestly at the extent to which some young people may be better earning and learning on good apprenticeships than on a degree course with poor prospects.’

He called for ‘many more high level apprenticeships for that to be a real option’.

The research used official data to examine the differences in the starting salaries of recent graduates and their earnings three-and-a-half years after finishing their studies.

It found that the average starting salary for a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge was around £25,600 - £7,600 higher than the equivalent wage for students who went to a ‘new’ university created after 1992.

The Oxbridge earnings premium compared with other, more established universities was smaller but still apparent.  Oxbridge graduates earned £3,300 more than their counterparts who attended other highly-selective British universities, it emerged. After allowing for their previous achievement and background, Oxbridge graduates still took home £4,760 more than fellow students who went to new universities – and £2,500 more than graduates of other top institutions.

The subjects with the highest earnings premium emerged as medicine and dentistry, engineering and technology, economics, computer science and education.  The lowest salaries were earned by graduates in psychology, English, design and creative arts, biological sciences and history and philosophy.

In a further finding, more evidence was uncovered of the earnings premium enjoyed by private school pupils.

They earned starting salaries £1,350 higher than counterparts from state schools with the same degree from the same university.

Other than this, university tended to act as a ‘social leveller’. Graduates from different backgrounds tended to do equally well after graduation.

Sir Peter said there was ‘no link’ between the cost of a degree and its later value in the job market.  He added: ‘This new research shows how important it is that we enable low and middle income students with the ability to go to Oxbridge and other elite universities to fulfil their potential.

‘With your chances of going to a top university nearly 10 times higher if you come from a rich rather than a poor neighbourhood, it is vital that we redouble our efforts to improve access to these institutions.’

Under reforms in 2012, maximum tuition fees tripled to £9,000-a-year and the available Government-backed loans rose accordingly.

A real interest rate was also applied for the first time and graduates must start repaying once their annual incomes reach £21,000.

Previous research has shown that 73 per cent of graduates will still be paying back their student loans after 30 years.  They will take so long to repay their university loans they will qualify for their debts to be written off after three decades – when most will be at least 52.


One in five British children refuse free school meals: 300,000 four to seven-year-olds fail to take up free lunch amid concerns over quality

One in five children in some areas are shunning Nick Clegg's free school meals in favour of packed lunches, official figures reveal today.

Almost 300,000 four to seven-year-olds across the country are failing to claim their free meal amid concerns over the quality of lunches at some schools.

Take-up varies across areas and is as low as 81.5 per cent in the south east, according to a census of schools in October being released today.

The survey is the first indication of the impact of the Deputy Prime Minister's cherished £1billion policy of serving free meals to pupils in the first three years of primary school.

Take-up was expected to be 87 per cent but only three out of 10 English regions reached this level – the north east, the north west and inner London.

Across the country, 85 per cent of pupils claimed their free lunch – some 1.64million.  But 285,490 pupils – more than one in seven – preferred to take in their own packed lunch. The figure also includes an unknown number of pupils who were absent on census day.

Take-up was lowest in the south east, followed by the east of England, where 82.8 per cent took a free meal and the east midlands, where the figure was 82.9 per cent.

Ministers recently announced extra funding for kitchen renovations to help more schools cook hot meals on the premises instead of transporting them in.  Documents linked to the announcement reveal that some schools are transporting in at least 250 hot meals every day.

Meanwhile a row broke out in Birmingham earlier this term after reception pupils at some schools were revealed to have been offered just one chicken nugget at lunchtime, while Year One pupils got two.

The take-up figures emerged as Mr Clegg was challenged by academics who analysed the impact of free meals in two areas which ran a trial scheme of universal provision.

Mr Clegg has repeatedly hailed the trials – in Newham and Durham – as evidence that his policy will produce a range of specific benefits.

However the researchers – from the Institute for Fiscal Studies - said he was wrong to claim that healthy hot lunches can be better at raising pupils` results than many literacy and numeracy initiatives.

And they warned against assuming that results from the pilot schemes would be repeated across the country.

Senior Researcher Ellen Greaves said: 'We did find that offering free school meals to all pupils in primary schools lead to higher take-up of school meals, and improvements in…test results.

'On average, pupils in the pilot areas made between four and eight weeks' more progress over the two year pilot than similar pupils in comparison areas. But it is not clear from this evidence that these positive outcomes will be repeated in the roll out of free school meals to all infant pupils across the country.'

She added that the team 'found no evidence of significant differences in behaviour, health or nutrition'.

Steve Higgins, professor of education at Durham University, said the evidence for the scheme was 'very weak'.

But Mr Clegg was bullish yesterday as he visited a school in London to help with Christmas cooking.  'Well over a million and a half infants are enjoying a school meal at lunchtime, giving them a better start to afternoon lessons and a healthy boost for their first years in school,' he said.

'The other good news for families is that this saves them up to £400 per child a year on the cost of a packed lunch.

'The naysayers about this policy can eat their hats, and all the leftover sprouts.'

He insisted that only one per cent of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards that currently apply to school food.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is Challenging ‘Rape Culture’ Claims an Idea Too Dangerous for University Students?

By Wendy McElroy 

Colleges across America are in political uproar over new federal policies on how to conduct campus rape hearings. Feminists and the left-leaning demand a halt to the “rape culture” which they claim has caused an “epidemic” of campus assault. Civil libertarians and conservatives see an hysteria that could ruin young lives by stripping away due process from accused students.

On November 18, I entered this melee by speaking at a Janus Forum event at Brown University. My counterpart was the politically correct feminist Jessica Valenti. At Valenti’s request and to my surprise, armed security guards were conspicuously present. Apparently, some students also feared an eruption of violence but informed the administration, rather than Janus, of their concern.

Eruptions arrived before the event, which was on a Tuesday. On the preceding Friday, Brown President Christina Paxson circulated a campus-wide email in which she disagreed with me by name. Specifically, Paxton rejected the argument that “sexual assault is the work of small numbers of predatory individuals whose behaviors are impervious to the culture and values of their communities.”

This misstates my argument. I acknowledge a person’s culture and values influence behavior. What Paxson and I disagree upon is whether North America is a “rape culture.” I agree with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) which is the largest and most influential anti-sexual violent organization in America; it is hardly a voice of conservatism. On February 28, RAINN sent a 16-page letter to a newly formed White House task force that had the mission of reforming and standardizing campus rape hearings. RAINN stated,

    "There has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming ’rape culture’ for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campus. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important not to lose sight of the simple fact: rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions of a small percentage of the community to commit a violent crime."

RAINN argued that a focus on the “rape culture” made it more difficult to prevent sexual violence because it “removed the focus from the individual at fault” and seemed to mitigate personal responsibility.

Paxson’s email expressed concern that my views on sexual assault could “trigger” memories in rape survivors or make them feel devalued. Accordingly, a “safe place” was set up for attending students who were traumatized as well as for those who did not attend but felt endangered by the existence of such a debate. The “BWell Safe Space” offered on-site peer counselors and a staff to provide support. Paxson also outlined an eleventh-hour “direct alternative event” that was schedule for the same time as the Janus one: a lecture entitled “Research on Rape Culture” by Lindsay Orchowski, assistant professor of psychiatry.

Through a Brown Daily Herald (Nov. 17) column, The Janus Forum responded, “We believe the alternative event promoted by the an important event....Unfortunately, it was deliberately planned as an alternative to our own, forcing students to choose between two events, both of which we believe are worthy of their time. By endorsing Orchowski’s event, Paxson has denounced ours.” The next day, the Editorial Page Board of the Herald called for the Orchowski event to be “moved to a different time or repeated” so students could benefit from both events. Ultimately, both events were made available on line.

Against this backdrop, I arrived at Brown at the arranged time. I do not travel with electronic devices, which invite the TSA to trifle with my privacy. Thus, I did not receive alerting emails and was blissfully ignorant of how dangerous a woman I am.

Saloman 203 was the site of debate and I am told it is largest hall at Brown. It was filled. My presentation was first. The opening was intended to defuse a common attack on women who question the “rape culture”:

    "I am going to open in an unconventional manner with some personal background. I’ve experienced a great deal of violence in my life. When I was 16 years old, I ran away from home and lived on the streets. I was raped, and brutally so. Then and now, I do not blame the culture. I blame the man who attacked me.

    I’ve had reason in my life to blame several specific men for violence. For example, as a result of domestic violence when I was a young woman, I experienced a hemorrhage in the center of vision of my right eye. I am legally blind in that eye. Every morning I wake up, I am reminded of violence against women because I now see only half the world because of it. Again, I don’t blame men or the culture; I blame one specific man. Most men I know would have put themselves at risk to protect me.

    I bring up my background because my presentation may upset some people. And I look forward to a productive exchange...But please do not tell me that I do not understand the importance or pain of violence against women or that I trivialize rape. Such accusations are commonplace when a woman disagrees with the feminist orthodoxy and they shut down the one thing that is most needed: a real dialogue."

I divided what remained of my 20 to 25 minutes between discussing “the rape culture” and the conduct of campus rape hearings.

The Rape Culture

I deny it exists in North America. First, I defined the term and then pointed to a society embodying it. A rape culture is one in which the act of rape is so widely accepted as to be a cultural norm or defining feature. Rape is a core assumption of the society. Certain areas of Afghanistan are examples. Women are married against their will; they are arrested after being raped; they are murdered with impunity for men’s honor. North America does not resemble such a culture.

Second, I focused on a key statistic upon which the claims of a rape culture on campus are based; namely, 8 percent of college men have either attempted or successfully raped. I traced its roots to the book Body Wars by the clinical psychologist Margo Maine and did forensics on how Maine derived the data. (Much the same process is described in a National Post article entitled “Is there an epidemic of ’rape culture’ at Canadian universities?” I used the Maine statistic as an example of how investigation of “rape culture” claims usually reveals biased studies, badly flawed methodology or simply the absence of any evidence.

Campus Rape Hearings

I opened, “rape is a criminal matter that should be handled by the police not bureaucrats and students.” Nevertheless, there is an extreme political push for campus hearings that water down the due process rights of an accused who is almost always male.

Arguably, the federal push began in April 2011 when the Department of Education told campuses to comply with a new standard for adjudicating sexual assault if they wished to receive federal funds. The new standard deprived an accused of such legal protections as the presence of counsel and the right to cross examine an accuser. The criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” (99 percent certainty) was replaced by the civil standard of “a preponderance of the evidence” (51 percent certainty). A student could be found guilty of rape by the same standard of evidence used by traffic courts to adjudicate parking tickets.

A common rejoinder is that hearings are not legal proceedings. But the hearings actually operate in a legal gray zone. For example, the last campaign from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault includes improving cooperation with the police. Increasingly, the testimony an accused gives without due process can be turned over for use by the police and courts.

Moreover, the hearings impose penalties as draconian as a court. A student can be expelled with the word “rapist” permanently in his file. He may be tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no ability to obtain a license to practice his chosen profession. Many unlicensed professions will shun him as well. What university of quality will accept him? His reputation and belief in justice may be damaged beyond repair.

Having academics, university bureaucrats, and students adjudicate a criminal matter makes no sense. The hearings will not benefit genuine rape victims who are better served by reporting crime to the police. But the hearings will ruin the lives of innocent men, and do so in the name of justice.


How Savings Accounts Are Providing a Tailor-Made Education for Students

Kami Cothrun was a frustrated public school teacher when she decided to open a school of her own. She “saw a need” and decided to act.  What started out as a small endeavor with just six students has blossomed into three Arizona campuses with 200 special-needs students.

    “I really wanted to offer something different to families,” says the founder of Pieceful Solutions.  How did she do it?

“I’d heard a lot of struggles from families—things that they wished could be changed, things they wished public schools would do,” Cothrun told The Daily Signal. “I took all of that information and created Pieceful Solutions. And so, really, just to offer something, bigger, better, different is really kind of my philosophy.”

Cothrun also credits Education Savings Accounts for playing a role in the success and growth of Pieceful Solutions.

A tailor-made education

In Arizona, qualifying families can get the state’s share of a student’s per pupil amount deposited into a savings account. Parents are then given a debit card loaded with these funds. They can individually select the educational products, services and resources they consider appropriate for their child.

“Education Savings Accounts are empowering parents to completely customize their children’s educational experience,” said Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education at The Heritage Foundation. “Families are able to construct a tailor-made educational experience for their children by virtue of the fact that they can direct every dollar in their child’s ESA.”

That’s exactly what’s happening at Pieceful Solutions.

The school was created in 2008 to help children with autism and other disabilities. It takes a different approach from public schools, utilizing innovative teaching techniques to improve learning.

Frustrated with ‘bureaucracy’

Cothrun, who has a bachelor’s degree in speech and language and a master’s in special education, taught in Mesa, Ariz., public schools for five years but became frustrated with the “bureaucracy” as she tried to teach students with special needs.

That led her to start a new K-12 school—the first in Arizona specifically for autism. Today, she serves as the school’s executive director.

“I was struggling with the bureaucracy of a public school district,” said Cothrun. “I really wanted to offer something different to families.”

Shortly after it was founded in 2008 with six students, Cothrun began seeking ways she could help her fledgling school grow.

“Growing the school was tough,” she said. “Starting off with six students, obviously that’s not enough to fund a teacher and to pay for the light bill.”

Cothrun had a second mortgage on her home and borrowed money. She “did whatever I could to basically keep the doors open knowing that at some point it would be worth it.”

The growth of Education Savings Accounts

A year after she opened the school, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s voucher program for special-needs students was unconstitutional. The setback for school-choice advocates actually paved the way for Education Savings Acccounts, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law in 2011 and have withstood court challenges from teachers unions.

Unlike a voucher—which the state would pay directly to a private or religious school—Education Savings Accounts put parents in complete control of the money.

Cothrun said that Education Savings Accounts gave her the freedom to provide more for her students and their families. Today, Pieceful Solutions offers classes such as “karate, yoga, music therapy, cooking, lots and lots of speech and language, small class sizes and a high student-teacher ratio.”

“It has allowed me, as the founder of the school, to be able to offer our program to so many more families,” Cothrun said. “When I first started Pieceful Solutions six years ago, ESA didn’t exist and so for families to afford a private education, it was rare. It was nearly impossible.

“With the ESA, these families can get the specific individualized education that their child needs using the dollars straight for the school,” she said.


Common Core Doesn't Make the Grade

It’s one thing to experience “buyer’s remorse” when the product is something you can return easily, from new clothes to a set of high-end speakers. It’s another when you’re talking about your state’s educational standards.

Yet more and more states are finding that there’s simply no living with Common Core. Parents, teachers, students and lawmakers have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the federally backed standards – and more and more of them are taking action.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for example, once backed Common Core, saying in 2012 that he expected it to “raise expectations for every child.” By this summer, however, he was pulling his state out of the program. He insisted it was sold falsely to states as voluntary standards and that he was the victim of a “bait and switch.”

That is the crux of the criticism against Common Core – that the federal government got recession-strapped states to sign on by offering more than $4 billion in grants and waivers under the Race to the Top program. Many lawmakers were eager to sign on – at first. Now they are worried about losing those waivers if they drop Common Core.

That concern even led Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, to propose legislation that would “prohibit the federal government from mandating, incentivizing or coercing states to adopt the Common Core state standards or any other specific academic standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or programs of instruction.”

So far, 19 states have made significant efforts to push back against Common Core. Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana have exited the standards, and others appear poised to do likewise.

Who can blame them? The more teachers and parents see of Common Core, the less they like it.

Math problems that used to be solved in two or three easy steps now take a dozen or more, and with no discernible advantage – unless the point is to make things more complex. “In the real world,” one engineer father said of the mathematics homework his son brought home, “simplification is valued over complication.”

When it comes to reading, Common Core inexplicably junks many of the classic works of fiction that have long prepared students to think critically. In their place are “informational texts” that will cause college readiness to decrease, said professor Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Education.

The main problem is that Common Core exemplifies a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is toxic in the world of education. No matter how well-meaning some bureaucrats in Washington may be, they can’t prescribe standards that will work perfectly in every school of every district of every state. What works in Peoria, Illinois, may not work in Portland, Oregon.

“Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington,” education researcher Lindsey Burke writes. “It is the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to students: local school leaders and parents.”

That, in fact, is the solution. What’s needed here is parent-directed education. We need school choice, which allows families to select the academic setting that’s right for them. That might be the local public school, a nearby private school or home school.

Such an approach is understandably appealing to frustrated families, many of whom have embraced school choice programs. The number taking advantage of options such as vouchers, tuition tax credit programs and education savings accounts has gone from fewer than 50,000 in 2000 to more than 300,000 today.

We don’t need questionable universal standards handed down to us from Mount Olympus. Choice in education should be our standard. Common Core restricts choice and simply doesn’t make the grade.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Presidential Hopefuls Eye School Choice Expansions

Immediately after a rousing re-election that made him a hot candidate for president in 2016, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced his policy priorities for his second term: Repealing Common Core and expanding school choice.

Not to be outdone, this week Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who also has been exploring a presidential run and would find Walker a tough cookie to munch, announced his priorities for the legislative session that opens this January. They include expanding Indiana’s statewide voucher program, which has grown into the nation’s largest in just three years, and growing the state’s tax credit scholarship program.

Although Wisconsin has the nation’s oldest school voucher program, Indiana’s is better. It reaches more students and, while it has many highly prescriptive curriculum and testing mandates, it regulates less than Wisconsin’s program (which isn’t surprising, given that an anti-choice state superintendent controls Wisconsin’s program). Walker’s version of “choice” includes adding even higher regulatory burdens for private schools and increasing choice almost painfully slowly – at least, according to his spokeswoman.

“[Walker] wants to ensure there is capacity for expansion, so it may be a limited expansion,” she told USA Today. “In addition, he wants any expansion to include an accountability bill for all schools receiving state funds.” Historically, what Walker means by “accountability” is “requiring private schools to judge students and teachers exactly the same way as public schools do by enrolling all into the same centrally managed data and grading system.”

Pence’s default setting is also to trust bureaucracy, rather than parents, to judge schools. His proposal depends partly on the state’s A–F school grading system for public and private voucher schools, which, like Wisconsin’s, judges schools against centrally managed curriculum, testing, and teacher evaluation mandates. Given the row over former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s intervention to artificially increase the grades of schools he preferred, Pence should recognize grading systems that depend on bureaucrats can never be as effective as market-based mechanisms that depend on the free choices of individuals.

Still, of the two vague proposals that as yet have no bills attached, Pence’s is better. It builds upon a better system set in motion by his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, and it is appropriately assertive with an education reform that research has proven effective. It’s also a gutsier move for a man who doesn’t have a triumphal story to tell about a hard-won policy of his own making for low- and middle-income families.

Often, a focus on the next election makes it less likely present concerns will be addressed effectively. But when politicians, like education systems, must compete, they do improve.


Ivy League Professor Praises White People Who Are ‘Ready To Commit Race Suicide’ After Ferguson

Russell Rickford, an assistant history professor at Cornell University, urged white students to commit “race suicide” on Wednesday night in response to the death of Michael Brown and the recent riots in Ferguson, Mo.

The event at which Rickford spoke was called “Ferguson: The Next Steps,” according to Campus Reform.

A staffer for The Cornell Review, the Ivy League school’s conservative student rag, recorded the event.

The Ivy League professor suggested that “treason to whiteness” is a necessary step to salvage humanity.

“There’s still a slender minority of white folks, a very slender, but a slender minority of white folks, that are ready to commit race suicide,” Rickford told the audience, near the end of his remarks. “Which is to say, they are ready to reject corrupt skin privileges. They’re ready to perform treason to whiteness, as an expression of their loyalty to humanity.”

Rickford, who grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., also suggested that the police are “mercenaries for the corporations and the rich” and go out of their way to kill black people.

“We attempt to negotiate with a system that has demonstrated time and time again its utter disdain for the sanctity of black lives,” he pontificates at the 8:32 mark of the video below. “Not only its disdain, but its deep commitment to the slaughtering of black and brown people.”

He alleges that black Americans are suffering from “genocide” and many black Americans are complicit in the act.

“The petite bourgeoisie, including black and brown folks stands [sic] on the sidelines mumbling, asking white supremacy to please crack fewer hits,” he bloviates.

“The statement ‘fuck the police’ is one of the most astute, honest and meaningful responses to the events in Ferguson,” Rickford tells the audience at the 12:11 mark. “Fuck authoritarianism and white supremacy. This is uncompromising politics, the politics of resistance.”

He calls “poor black and brown people” “the primary victims of American capitalism.”

Rickford earned a graduate degree from Columbia University, a school with an endowment of $9.2 billion (which is roughly equal to the nominal gross domestic product of the country of Laos).

He has written a laudatory biography of Betty Shabazz, who was married to Malcolm X.

Casey Breznick, the editor in chief of the Cornell Review, discussed Rickford’s remarks with Campus Reform after the event.

Rickford and people who believe what he believes “are operating within a totally different paradigm of thought,” Breznick wrote in an email. “They view the world in terms of race and class.” “[I]ndividual rights are nonexistent to them,” Breznick added.

Rickford has a history of incendiary statements.  Back in January, at Dartmouth, the professor called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “a tool of the far-right imperialists to appease people"


UK: More than 750 primary schools failing to give pupils a good grounding in reading, writing and arithmetic

More than 750 schools are failing to give pupils a good grounding in the Three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic.

A child's chance of getting a good primary education still varies markedly depending on where they live, official statistics showed today.

Ministers insisted it was the result of tougher targets to improve the quality of lessons in England, and stressed that the gap between poorer pupils and their classmates is narrowing.

In some areas of England, the vast majority of youngsters gain a Level 4 - the standard expected of 11-year-olds in the Three Rs. But in other areas, up to three in 10 fail to reach this target.

Overall, the proportion of primaries failing to ensure pupils reach a good standard in three Rs has remained static this year, despite schools facing tougher Government targets.

More than 700 schools in England are considered below the floor standard, the same proportion as last year, according to a Government analysis of data used to create primary school league tables.

Schools minister David Laws said the findings show schools have 'raised their game', but warned there are still too many areas with 'simply unacceptable' levels of attainment for poorer pupils.

Schools that fail to meet the benchmark - based on national curriculum test results at age 11 and pupil progress - are considered under-performing and at risk of being turned into an academy, or taken over by a different sponsor or trust if they already have academy status.

The Department for Education's analysis shows wide variations across the country, with no schools under-performing in some areas while in others, significant proportions are below the Government's target. In one area, more than a quarter of primaries are considered to be under the threshold.

Under the Government's tougher standards, schools must ensure at least 65 per cent of 11-year-olds reach Level 4 - the standard expected of the age group - in reading, writing and maths, and meet national averages in pupil progress.

Children working at Level 4 are considered able to spell, use joined-up handwriting, are beginning to use complex sentences, can calculate simple fractions and percentages and can multiply and divide whole numbers by 10 and 100.

Overall, 768 schools failed to meet the floor standard this year, compared with 767 last year, the DfE said.

The new rankings are based on the performance of around 16,000 primaries in national curriculum tests - known as Sats - in reading and maths, as well as teacher assessments of pupils' writing skills.

The results also show the top primary school again this year, based on average points score, was Fox Primary School in Kensington and Chelsea, west London.

Overall, 79 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved the expected standard in all three areas this year, up three percentage points


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Parents Fight Back Against Teachers Union Suing Nation’s Largest School Choice Program

Teachers’ unions in Florida continue to threaten the educational opportunity of thousands of the state’s most vulnerable children.

But there is some good news: Last week, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds III granted parents of these children the right to intervene on behalf of their children’s scholarships, which are awarded through the corporate tuition tax credit scholarship program.

“All three [of my] children are excelling academically and socially in their respective schools under the scholarships,” said Cheryl Joseph, a mother of three scholarship recipients and one of 15 parents who were granted a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Cheryl, like the other parents who filed, will not be able to send her children to their chosen school without the scholarship funding.

In August, the Florida Education Association and allies—including the Florida School Boards Association, the PTA, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and others—filed two lawsuits challenging the state’s 13-year-old Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship program.

The first suit claimed that the scholarship violates the “no aid” clause and the “uniform public schools” clause of the state’s constitution by allowing students to take the aid to private schools, some with religious affiliation.

The second lawsuit argued that the expansion of the scholarship program by lawmakers in June violated legislative procedure because it didn’t pass as a standalone measure; rather, the legislation included a variety of education-related topics—including the passage of Florida’s first education savings account program. However, this lawsuit was dismissed by Leon County circuit court judge Charles Francis in September.

The court found that the unions did not have standing to challenge the law, freeing nearly 1,000 students to begin using their education saving account school choice option (Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts in Florida) and allowing the Tax Credit Scholarship eligibility to expand.

Despite this win for educational choice, the unions continue their attack on Florida’s popular Tax Credit Scholarship option by opposing parents of scholarship students’ motion to intervene and the state’s motion to dismiss.

Enacted in 2001, the tax credit scholarships have enabled nearly 400,000 Florida students to attend a school of choice. This year businesses contributed $357.8 million to non-profit groups providing scholarships to 68,761 children to attend a private school of choice—most of whom are low-income minority children. Eligible children are from households with incomes of no more that 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

Under the recently expanded tuition tax credit scholarship program, families at 260 percent of the federal poverty line, or $62,010 for a household of four, will be eligible for partial scholarships during the 2016-17 school year.

The union suit implies that taxpayers are forced to support parochial education through public funds, but this is not the way tax credit scholarships work.

“Scholarship Tax Credit laws are privately administered programs that rely on the voluntary contributions of corporate taxpayers who receive tax credits in return. As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, these funds never become public funds because they do not ‘come into the tax collector’s hands,’” writes Cato Institute education policy analyst Jason Bedrick.

In the case of Florida, private corporate donations— not public funds— make up the funding for the scholarships. Businesses receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to non-profits that administer the scholarship.

A similar suit was filed by the teachers union in New Hampshire last year. But in August, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously upheld the tax credit scholarship, ruling that the plaintiffs did not have standing because the scholarships were funded through private contributions and could not prove any individual harm caused by the scholarships.

The Florida scholarships allow the most economically disadvantaged children to choose an educational environment that best meets their needs. According to Step Up for Students, the non-profit administering the scholarships, 54 percent of the scholarship children are from single-parent households and have an average household income of $24,067.

These children are succeeding with their scholarships. Research conducted by Dr. David Figlio in 2011 found that students enrolled in the scholarship program performed slightly better than their peers in reading and math achievement levels. Other research suggests that the public schools in Florida are improving because of increased competition from the state’s various school choice options.

It is a disappointment that teachers union heads continue to threaten the educational opportunity of Florida’s most disadvantaged students, despite evidence suggesting academic improvement for students in the program and in traditional public schools. The court was right to grant parents of scholarship students the right to intervene in the suit—it is their children’s future that is at stake.


Are College Women Crying Wolf?

We’ve been told repeatedly by Barack Obama and others in his truth-challenged administration that one in five college women across the nation will be the victim of sexual assault. One in five. Congress is working on legislation to address the issue. Magazine articles and books are written with the narrative as background. But is the story true?

Earlier this week we told you about all the trouble caused by a phony Rolling Stone rape exposé. Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely interviewed a woman named Jackie, who, as it turns out, falsely accused members of a University of Virginia fraternity of gang-raping her at a party. While the magazine has backtracked on most of the account, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan did not relent on a suspension of all fraternity activities for the remainder of the semester and winter break. Sullivan still considers sexual violence among the “most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today.”

This Rolling Stone hit piece came hot on the heels of HBO celebrity Lena Dunham’s autobiographical claim that she was raped by a “mustachioed campus Republican named Barry” during her days at Oberlin College. Her book publisher later walked back the story when the alleged perpetrator cried foul and lawyered up.

So one has to ask why these stories fall into the “fake but accurate” school of journalism. We think it’s because they fit so neatly into the prevailing progressive narrative of women as sexual victims. As the tale is told, predatory males (for example, of the Duke lacrosse team) go to college to drink, party and prey upon college women. Therefore, to question (read: to seriously investigate) any allegation is to be, in the parlance of feminists, a “rape apologist.”

Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and too often women don’t report it. But the Obama administration’s now-engrained statistic is bogus, and it does damage not only to the fight against real sexual assault on campus but also to the perception we have of college men in general.

This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics – part of Eric Holder’s Justice Department – released a new survey that scrutinized nearly two decades' worth of crime statistics and revealed that the oft-repeated one-in-five tale grossly overstated the true statistical likelihood of such an occurrence. Instead of 20%, the actual figure came out to be 0.61%. So the narrative that college is unsafe for women simply falls apart under the light of investigation. In fact, the college campus is actually slightly safer than the “outside world” off-campus, where the figure was 0.76%.

These statistics don’t settle the debate, however. Some women never report their assault, and some guilty men get away with it. Yet to point out that the narrative is false is to become a pariah. Just ask political analyst George Will about his experience in questioning the one-in-five stat earlier this year. The ironclad narrative defense has also led to the loss of due process for male students, as federal rules are encouraging colleges to adopt a lower standard – simple “preponderance of the evidence” – to adjudicate on-campus sexual assault allegations.

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes: “Because campuses provide victims with a lower standard of proof, utilize definitions of consent that effectively flip the burden of proof onto the accused, and prohibit cross examinations, complainants are predictably steered away from the criminal justice system until it is often too late to initiate an effective law enforcement response.”

Again, just because the narrative is incorrect doesn’t mean we should do less for those who are victims. But the evidence clearly shows that males on a college campus, even those in fraternities, should not automatically be looked upon with suspicion as potential rapists. Leftists hurt their own cause when they fail to remember the tale of the girl who cried wolf.


UK: Christmas 'cancelled' in bid to get children into top private schools

Getting your kid into a good school is a major challenge in Britain

Pushy parents are ruining Christmas by signing children up for “wall-to-wall cramming” over the festive season to get them into top private schools, according to a tutoring expert.

Some children are being enrolled in revision courses lasting up to six hours a day over the Christmas holidays in preparation for January entrance exams, it was claimed.

Will Orr-Ewing, director of Keystone Tutors, said the timing of tests for many schools – just after the New Year – was putting mounting pressure on children “at a time when everyone else is letting their hair down”.

He called for assessments for private day schools to be put back until February to give 10- and 11-year-olds a proper break.

It comes amid a surge in demand for places at the most sought after schools, particularly in London and the South East, with as many as 10 pupils chasing each place.

Mr Orr-Ewing said: “More and more providers are offering Christmas holiday tuition.

“Targeted, limited tuition can be exactly what some students need. But the idea that signing up children for wall-to-wall cramming before the turkey has had a chance to get cold is a bit over the top and is counterproductive.

“Putting children under maximum stress, especially at a time when everyone else is letting their hair down, doesn’t help them learn, rather the reverse.”

In the past, many tutoring companies closed down over Christmas because of lack of demand.  But the rush for places at leading day schools has led to an increase in the number of organisations running tailored courses in preparation for tests in January. Many schools test pupils for places for 11-year-olds and 13-year-olds starting in September.

Keystone itself runs two-day “Christmas revision” courses in maths, English, Latin and science this week.

But some others run courses on Christmas and New Year week itself, with sessions lasting up to six hours a day being advertised online.

Mr Orr-Ewing called for exams to be delayed, adding: “There is no reason that I can see why they have to be held in the first week of January. Admissions aren’t decided until the middle of February. Surely it would be possible to delay them a few weeks.”

Sarah Knollys, headmistress of Glendower Preparatory School, west London, said: “I have heard that some London tutors are offering revision courses over the Christmas holidays and even during the week between Christmas and New Year and find this quite shocking.

“I think it is a terrible shame that parents feel so pressurized that they want to keep a high intensity study programme going throughout Christmas for their children.

“If the entrance exams could be delayed by a week or two at the start of the year it really would let the children enjoy a proper, well-deserved Christmas break.”


UK pupils need to do more homework to catch up with students in the Far East

British pupils lag behind their counterparts in the Far East because they spend considerably less time doing homework, a new analysis suggests.

International research spanning 65 countries shows a clear link between time spent on homework and higher academic performance.

Teenagers who put in the most homework hours tended to do better in an international maths test, according to the study, which is one of the biggest ever carried out into homework patterns.

It also revealed that British 15-year-olds complete a fraction of the homework of peers in East Asian nations which regularly take top spots in international maths rankings.

British teenagers spend 4.9 hours a week doing homework – substantially less than the 13.8 clocked up by counterparts in Shanghai, China.

The city, the biggest in China, came first in last year’s international table of teenagers’ maths performance in 65 countries and regions produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which also carried out the homework study.

In Singapore, which came second in the table, average homework hours are 9.4, while in Hong Kong, which came third, pupils put in six hours.

Britain – whose homework hours are the same as the international average - came an undistinguished 26th in the table, which is based on results in the so-called PISA test (Programme for International Student Assessment), given to 15-year-olds in participating countries every three years.

The study also found that Britain has one of the highest totals of pupils who do no homework at all.

And the country has one of the largest gaps between pupils from middle-class and disadvantaged backgrounds in the amount of homework time clocked up.

The OECD concluded that spending more time on homework could influence the results of individual pupils and schools. The benefit to pupils of attending a school which sets lots of homework could equate to six months of schooling, the research suggested.

But the OECD was unable to say that adopting more homework as a national policy would drive up a country’s performance in the rankings.  It said that other factors – such as the quality of teaching – were likely to be more crucial to the achievement of a country as a whole.

The study said: ‘The amount of time students spend doing homework is related to their individual performance in Pisa and to their school’s Pisa performance: students who spend more time doing homework tend to score higher in PISA, as do their schools.

But it added: ‘While the amount of homework assigned is associated with mathematics performance among students and schools, other factors are more important in determining the performance of school systems as a whole.

‘The average number of hours that students spend on homework or other study set by teachers tends to be unrelated to the school system’s overall performance.

‘This implies that other factors, such as the quality of instruction and how schools are organised, have a greater impact on a school system’s overall performance.’

This may explain why Finland, which came 12th in the maths table, sets the lowest level of weekly homework among countries studied, at just 2.8 hours.

Experts said, however, the implications for individual pupils were clear. ‘These findings should finally silence sceptics who have argued that homework is bad for youngsters, causing stress and division in families,’ said Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham.

‘Homework is clearly very important to reinforce lessons that are learnt at school. It is worrying that in this country there are lots of 15-year-olds who are not doing any homework at all,’ he told the Sunday Times.

‘It is a failure of schools if they are not setting and enforcing homework. The best schools set it, mark it and hand it back quickly and make a fuss if it isn’t done.’

He suggested that 15-year-olds should be doing 1.5 hours a night of homework, five nights a week.

‘That gives young people time to size up the problem and put in the effort, check it and then have some time to develop their hobbies later in the evening,’ he said.

The research will add to intense debate about the role of homework amid claims by some contributors to parenting website that it should be banned, at least in primary school.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, said she wanted to see schools doing more to lean on pupils to complete their homework instead of expecting parents to police it.

‘If schools are serious about homework parents will support it, but it should not all be left to parents to make it happen. Where parents get really frustrated is where they feel they are battling alone to enforce it,’ she said.

The study prompted the OECD to call on schools to offer classrooms where pupils could work after school and help parents motivate children to finish their homework before surfing the web.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD education director, said: ‘One good way to make sure that homework doesn’t perpetuate differences in performance that are related to students’ socio-economic status is for schools and teachers to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework.

‘This could involve providing facilities at school so that disadvantaged students have a quiet, comfortable place to work, and/or offering to help parents motivate their children to finish their homework before going out with friends or surfing the web. The homework still has to get done; but maybe students and their parents will find it a little less troublesome.’


Monday, December 15, 2014

UK: Want to give your son a decent education? Get him locked up: Ofsted report rates youth prison better than hundreds of schools

Teenagers behind bars are getting a better education than thousands of pupils in ordinary schools, according to official watchdogs.

Inmates at a Young Offenders’ Institution in the North-West received ‘outstanding’ teaching and English and maths scores were ‘above the national average’, inspectors found. Behaviour was also described as ‘very good’.

It is the first time a YOI has had such a glowing assessment. Ofsted and HM Inspector of Prisons said the standard of education in YOI Hindley near Wigan was ‘as good, if not better’ than many children receive in schools and colleges.

Critics said it showed how pupils in state schools were being let down by a lack of discipline in the classroom.

Chris McGovern, a former Ofsted inspector who chairs the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Well done to the Young Offender Institution but what an indictment of the education system in England if it can produce better teaching than schools.’

He said the YOI would probably have a better ratio of teachers to pupils than regular schools, but that the key difference would probably be in discipline.

‘There will be a much greater emphasis on good order. Chaos reigns in many classrooms – restoring order would have the biggest impact on raising standards in our schools. Teachers need to be re-trained in class control methods.’

Ofsted rated all aspects of learning, skills and work at Hindley as ‘good’.

The report said the quality of some teaching was ‘outstanding’, with teachers having ‘high aspirations’ for their charges while poor behaviour was ‘isolated’. Inmates could gain vocational qualifications in bricklaying and plastering, gain ‘valuable fork-lift truck driving licences’ and get experience in garden maintenance.

Thirteen of the boys in the YOI achieved 26 GCSEs between them, and there was ‘outstanding’ work created in art and bricklaying. The inmates have access to a football and rugby field, a weights room and sports hall, with some taking part in PE five times a week.

Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, wrote that the teaching ‘motivated boys who had been failed by the ordinary school system’.

When contacted by the MoS, the prisons inspectorate said Hindley was being compared with poorly performing schools nationwide, not those nearby in Wigan.

Local Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue said: ‘I think all children deserve a good education and am pleased it is provided both for local children and those within the YOI.’

The local authority said its schools had recently received glowing Ofsted reports.


More Folly from the Department of Education

The Obama administration has launched a two-front war on the nation’s school children: It’s attacking school choice programs and also imposing new disciplinary standards that are making schools less safe. So argues Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, who is completing a massive book that amounts to a report card of the federal Department of Education.

Alger has documented the administration’s undermining of school choice elsewhere. In a new article for National Review, she reveals disciplinary policies that the Department of Education has been pursuing since 2010. The problem it’s trying to address stems from racial disparities in student-suspension rates. For example, nearly half of the public-school students with multiple suspensions are African-Americans, according to the department’s Office of Civil Rights. About such disparities, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan concludes that certain schools and districts are guilty of discriminating against the suspended students. His solution? Put a limit on multiple suspensions and send the teachers to cultural-sensitivity training workshops.

Several California public-school districts are now reaping the consequences of imposing limits on student suspensions: they are seeing more students act up. Alger notes that a better approach would have been for policymakers to expand parental choice programs. “Rather than compounding racism with more racism, let parents who feel their children have been treated unfairly move them to other schools,” she writes. “If Washington is going to browbeat school districts into looking the other way when black and Hispanic students commit serious offenses, the least we can do is provide parents with an escape route.”


Legislation Lets States Cut Ties Between Common Core and Federal Grants

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has drafted legislation to prohibit the federal government from “mandating, incentivizing or coercing” states to adopt the national education standards known as Common Core, The Daily Signal has learned.

The intent of Vitter’s bill is to enable states to more easily exit the national standards, which more and more parents and educators have come to oppose, by voiding requirements attached to previously issued waivers from federal law.

States likely could retain their waivers from the law, called No Child Left Behind, even if they chose to pull out of Common Core.

Opponents have criticized the Obama administration for “incentivizing” states to sign on to the Common Core standards by offering $4.35 billion in grants and waivers under its “Race to the Top” program.

Of his bill, Vitter, a former supporter of Common Core, told The Daily Signal:

I’ve fought tooth and nail for local control of education and against the enormous growth of federal power under President Obama. That includes prohibiting the federal government from mandating, coercing or bribing states to adopt Common Core or its equivalent.

Vitter quietly filed his legislation, the Local Control of Education Act, as a standalone bill last week but intends to propose it as an amendment to the spending bill that Congress must pass this week.

The bill aims to “prohibit the federal government from mandating, incentivizing or coercing states to adopt the Common Core state standards or any other specific academic standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or programs of instruction.”

Vitter, who intends to run for Louisiana governor in 2015, changed his position on the Common Core standards. Four months ago, in an interview with C-SPAN, the Republican lawmaker said he “strongly supports” the standards.

 Of his reversal, Vitter said in a Dec. 1 press release:

"After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers and others since then, I don’t believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in and success I’m committed to if we stay in Common Core. Instead, I think we should get out of Common Core/PARCC and establish an equally or more rigorous Louisiana system of standards and testing."

PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a group of states working to develop a set of assessments in math and English to measure whether students from kindergarten through 12th grade are on track to succeed in college and career.

Vitter joins Louisiana’s current governor, fellow Republican Bobby Jindal, in challenging Common Core.

In June, Jindal bypassed the state legislature and issued a series of executive orders withdrawing Louisiana from Common Core and all federally subsidized standardized tests.

Jindal also filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education alleging that the U.S. Department of Education, under President Obama, used the $4.35 billion grant program and waiver policy to trap states in a federal “scheme” to nationalize school curriculum.

Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education teamed with a group of parents to challenge the legal groundwork for that lawsuit. In filing a countersuit against the governor, they left the status of Common Core in Louisiana murky.

Meanwhile, Louisiana continues to use PARCC, the federally funded Common Core testing and assessments group.

Stafford Palmieri, assistant chief of staff to Jindal, told The Daily Signal:

"The federal government’s actions are in violation of the Constitution and federal law, which is why we filed a lawsuit to fight Common Core in federal court. We also joined our state legislators in a state court suit against Common Core, and we will work next legislative session to create high Louisiana standards that are best for our children and keep education left to local control."

Vitter, with his eye on Jindal’s job, wants to see states be eligible for federal grants regardless of whether they signed on to Common Core.

Lindsey M. Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman fellow in education policy, said Louisiana is home to some of the most innovative school choice options in the country. For  parents there, she said, “retaining control of education decisions is critically important for ensuring that type of innovation and customization can continue in the future.”

Burke added:

"National standards and tests are a threat to the welcome proliferation of school choice, which Louisiana has been a big player in advancing in recent years."

Michael Brickman, national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank that supports Common Core, said he “absolutely agrees” with efforts to separate federal funds from implementation—although most of the Race to the Top grants have been distributed.

In a telephone interview, Brickman said:

"The federal government should not be in this business of incentivizing standards, but just because the federal government is incentivizing them doesn’t mean they’re bad—anymore than charter schools are bad, which were incentivized in the exact same grants. Nobody’s saying we should stop having charter schools just because the federal government is incentivizing them."

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers first developed the idea of Common Core standards in 2009 as a way to boost education standards across the board. In the years since, parents, politicians and political organizations have become deeply divided on how the standards and tests are implemented in their states.

In addition to Louisiana, three states—Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina—acted to pull out of Common Core this year. More than a dozen others either have exited or downgraded their involvement with the assessment component.

Critics argue the adoption of Common Core surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to political organizations and bureaucrats in Washington. They say the standards are not likely to improve student performance in comparison to other nations.

Champions argue that Common Core sets better education standards without dictating curriculum. They say states are free to opt in or out, or make adjustments as they see fit.

“Louisiana has the option to change the Common Core if it wishes,” Fordham Institute’s Brickman says. “Other states have made changes to Common Core or opted not to use the standards at all.”

But Palmieri, who has been deeply involved in Jindal’s education battle in Louisiana, dismissed as a “smokescreen” the narrative that Common Core is simply academic standards. She told The Daily Signal:

"Curriculum is the product of standards and assessments—and educators know that what’s tested is what’s taught. And what’s tested is controlled by the federally funded testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, and states held hostage by federal grants like Race to the Top. The bottom line is that Common Core is about controlling curriculum. These are big government elitists that believe they know better than parents and local school boards".

With reading proficiency in the early grades at a dismal 23 percent in Louisiana, the debate over Common Core standards is likely to persist as a top issue in the race for governor.

Regaining local control of education is essential, Vitter said:

In Louisiana, we need a system in place that truly prepares our children to be successful in higher education and the workplace that is as or more rigorous than Common Core.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mark LeVine Unhinged on Facebook

by Cinnamon Stillwell

There is an old saying that profanity is the attempt of a weak mind to express itself forcibly.  At that rate, UC Irvine has one professor with a very weak mind -- JR

The emotional and intellectual infant himself

UC Irvine history professor Mark LeVine, who recently suffered a meltdown after being called "anti-Israeli," has since proven the point by posting this profanity-laden, unhinged rant on Facebook:

"People like Carey Nelson and other "machers" [Yiddish for a self-important person] in the American Jewish community get up in arms about BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions]. Well, Cary Nelson and the rest of you: F— you. Call me uncivil, but still, f— you. F— all of you who want to make arguments about civility and how Israel wants peace when this is what Israel does, it's "mowing the lawn" and "defending" freedom. This is, in no uncertain terms, genocide. If you want to argue about it, come to Gaza with me. Come look at Palestinians in the eye and talk about how uncivil Steven Salaita is and how you are in fact a "critic" of Israel. There is only one criticism of Israel that is relevant: It is a state grown, funded, and feeding off the destruction of another people. It is not legitimate. It must be dismantled, the same way that the other racist, psychopathic states across the region must be dismantled. And everyone who enables it is morally complicit in its crimes, including you."

LeVine was commenting on a photograph from French freelance photographer Anne Paq, who, according to her bio, has been "based in Palestine since 2003," and who specializes in the sort of emotionally-charged—and, all too often, staged or manipulated—imagery regularly employed by Hamas and others to demonize Israel in the international media. Paq's photograph certainly elicited that reaction in LeVine, who, one can safely assume, would be quick to "dismantle" the allegedly illegitimate nation of Israel long before he gets to the other unnamed "racist, psychopathic states."

LeVine's primary target is Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and past president of the American Association of University Professors. Nelson has been an outspoken opponent of BDS, including co-editing the recently published book of essays, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel. His principled defense of academic freedom has not gone over well with BDS supporters such as LeVine, who signed an August, 2014 letter calling on Middle East studies scholars and librarians to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Accordingly, at the annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) convention last month, members voted overwhelmingly in favor a resolution that sets the stage for MESA to adopt BDS in 2015.

In his diatribe, LeVine alludes to Nelson's public support of UIUC's decision to withdraw an offer of tenured professorship to former Virginia Tech University English professor Steven Salaita. UIUC made its choice based on Salaita's atrocious academic record and inflammatory, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Twitter posts, which went far beyond incivility, the charge leveled at the time by some of his critics.

As LeVine demonstrates with his ad nauseam repetition of "uncivil" and "civility," the terms have become rallying cries both for Salaita's defenders and for the now-famous ex-academic himself, who, speaking on the "Scholars Under Attack" panel at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association in November, made this inane proclamation:

"Civility is the language of genocide. It's inherently a deeply violent word. It's a word whose connotations can be seen as nothing if not as racist."

Indeed, Salaita has become a cause célèbre in academia, even warranting his own panel at the recent MESA convention, at which he was hailed as a hero and a martyr. LeVine sees him as a victim of nefarious forces, ludicrously blaming his "dehiring" on the "wrath of pro-Israel conservatives in the United States." Lost amidst the pity party is the fact that Salaita's "scholarship" was never up to the task. As Michael Rubin, writing for Commentary, put it:

"The scandal isn't so much that the University of Illinois rescinded its preliminary tenure offer after learning about Salaita's incitement on twitter; rather, it's that he was seriously considered in the first place."

It's not difficult to ascertain why LeVine would defend Salaita: both of them embody the activist academic that has overtaken the field of Middle East studies; both are incredibly thin-skinned; both are prone to posting juvenile, profanity-riddled rants on social media; and both, LeVine's disingenuous protestations notwithstanding, are unambiguously anti-Israel.

Nor is it a mystery as to why LeVine would accuse Nelson of being "morally complicit" in Israel's purported "crimes," given that he sees those who "enable" the nation simply by supporting its existence to be responsible for (an imaginary) "genocide."

With his immature, petulant, and hateful outbursts, LeVine has shown his true face. When hotheaded advocates take the place of objective scholars, this is the result. And it isn't pretty.


Why These Teachers Quit Their Jobs. Hint: Common Core

There’s a national discussion going on about Common Core educational standards. Polls continue to show that most Americans oppose Common Core. Support is also dropping among teachers. Some educators have actually resigned because of the problems associated with Common Core.

Here are a few examples:

Susan Sluyter:  A veteran Kindergarten teacher in Cambridge Public Schools resigned last year due to the increased focus on standardized testing.

I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children. I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced. I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.

Pauline Hawkins: A Colorado English Teacher who has been teaching for 11 years resigned after becoming frustrated in part because of Common Core standards. She writes in her resignation letter:

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher - I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.

Stuart Harper: A high school physics teacher in Utah has resigned because Common Core greatly reduces teachers’ flexibility in the classroom.

Second, is the lack of control over the core’s content at the federal level. I have no control in Washington DC, and very little in Salt Lake. I would prefer having the control at the county level, where I can have a say, but that is another subject for another time. How any educator in their right mind can surrender control of what they are supposed to teach to some network of desk bureaucrats thousands of miles away from their classroom is beyond me. It is the height of insanity.

Elizabeth Natale: A Connecticut middle school English teacher has considered resigning because Common Core has hurt students and teachers.

Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children. The Common Core standards require teachers to march lockstep in arming students with "21st-century skills." In English, emphasis on technology and nonfiction reading makes it more important for students to prepare an electronic presentation on how to make a paper airplane than to learn about moral dilemmas from Natalie Babbitt's beloved novel "Tuck Everlasting."

Brian Polet: A public charter school president in Michigan has resigned because Common Core is a “lousy educational model.”

This copy-written, corporate-driven education model has been developed by non-teachers and edu-crats from Washington to Lansing to the detriment of students, parents, taxpayers and local school boards. Without control of curriculum and a limited control of budgets, CC (Common Core) has effectively removed local control from parents and put it the hands of ESPs, the Dept. of Ed and state boards.

It's a shame that teachers are losing control as a result of Common Core. We need to get rid of these one-size-fits-all federal educational standards and allow teachers to meet the needs of all learners in their classroom.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Double standard over sex allegations

No parent wants to consider the travesty that when he sends his 18-year-old daughter to college, she could be vulnerable to sexual assault. But in the increasingly punitive atmosphere surrounding sexual-assault allegations, he should also fear sending his 18-year-old son to campus, where he may be falsely accused of rape.

The national media are deeply feminist. Their default position is the presumption that "the victim" is the female accuser. Some pundits have even argued in national newspapers that the accuser should be "automatically believed."

This is a serious problem for the left. First, they are the ones who have been exquisitely sensitive about the presumption of innocence for communists, radical Muslim terrorists and violent thugs like Willie Horton. Second, they have forcefully extolled that female accusers of sexual assault are to be automatically disbelieved if they are accusing Bill Clinton or other powerful Democrats. These allegations and any attempt to discuss them or verify them are considered "witch hunts" and "McCarthyism."

In mid-November, all the networks lunged when Rolling Stone magazine published a horrific account of an alleged gang rape in September 2012 by seven men at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. The word "alleged" wasn't used by Rolling Stone. There was a presumption of guilt. The reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was celebrated.

The story's subheadline told us that "Jackie was just starting her freshman year at the University of Virginia when she was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tried to hold them accountable, a whole new kind of abuse began". Jackie was led to the scene of the crime by "Drew," a frat brother she worked with at the college swimming pool.

Within hours of this tilted story's publication, Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity where the alleged assault took place, was vandalized, with "UVA Center for Rape Studies" spray-painted on the outside.

It took time for the facts to catch up to Rolling Stone, but when they did, they were devastating.

The fraternity and newspapers like the Washington Post began to tear the story apart. There was no party at Phi Kappa Psi on the date in question. There was no fall pledge drive, as reported (those occur in the spring). There was no frat member who worked at the swimming pool. Erdely made no attempt to contact the accused (anonymous) men who were presumed guilty. Soon, even the "rape advocates" who championed Jackie's courage in speaking out were expressing regret that her story kept changing.

To their credit, the same networks that charged right in and reported the Rolling Stone story (with 11-plus minutes of coverage scolding the University of Virginia's unawareness and inaction) turned around and reported the story fell apart. But who had been the abuser in this scenario?

The national media's discredit came in accepting Rolling Stone sight unseen in the first place. This is not the way these "watchdogs" handled Juanita Broaddrick's charge of rape against President Clinton in 1999. Even after NBC's Lisa Myers nailed down particulars establishing that Clinton and Broaddrick were in the same hotel on the same day in 1978, with witnesses who vouchsafed her tortured condition, the networks all but ignored the accuser and her story.

When the Rolling Stone account collapsed, the media put their stress on the tragedy for the accusers, and not for the accused. There was no soundbite of outrage in the aftermath for the injustice done to UVA or the fraternity, both having been so demonized by the media.

Just as in the Michael Brown case, the media's reaction carried the odor of "Heads we win, tails you lose." Facts were irrelevant. The liberal media never lose their halo as the sympathetic guardians of the public good, no matter how wrong — painfully, harmfully wrong — they are.


Australia: Conservative Federal government to cut university support; fund theological colleges

And the religion-hating Left are ropeable -- though funding Madrassas would be OK

Taxpayers would subsidise the training of priests and other religious workers at private colleges for the first time under the Abbott government's proposed higher education reforms. 

As well as deregulating university fees and cutting university funding by 20 per cent, the government's proposed higher education package extends federal funding to students at private universities, TAFES and associate degree programs.

Religious teaching, training and vocational institutes would be eligible for a share of $820 million in new Commonwealth funding over three years.

Labor and the Greens attacked the policy, saying it breaches the separation of Church and State. Earlier this year the government controversially announced it would provide $244 million for a new school chaplaincy scheme but would remove the option for schools to hire secular welfare workers.

In correspondence with voters, Family First Senator Bob Day has singled out funding for faith-based training institutes to explain his support for the government's reforms.

Eleven theological colleges are currently accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to provide courses designed to prepare students to enter religious ministries.

Institutes such as the Sydney College of Divinity, Brisbane's Christian Heritage College and the Perth Bible College, which currently charge students full fees, would be eligible for an estimated $4214 funding a year each student under the reforms.

The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, which offers course units including "Theology and Practice of Natural Family Planning" and "Marriage in the Catholic Tradition", would also be eligible for federal support.

The institute says on its website its mission is "promote marriage and the family for the good of the whole Church and the wider community".

The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne requires all trainee priests to receive theological training at Ridley College or the Trinity College Theological School, both of which would likely be eligible to offer Commonwealth Supported Places under the government's changes.

Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr said: "This raises serious questions about relationship between Church and State. The Church has traditionally funded the training of its own personnel."

Mr Carr said there was a difference between federal funding for theoretically-focused religious studies courses and courses designed to prepare graduates for the priesthood.

Greens higher education spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said: "Mr Pyne has gone one step further than robbing Peter to pay Paul – he is attempting to rob Australia's public and secular university system to pay private, religious colleges.

"Courses that Mr Pyne wants to extend funding to include those teaching prescriptive Christian ideology on sexuality and marriage – is this really the best use of the higher education budget?"

On its core values page on its website the Perth Bible College says, "We believe in the urgent need to reach our broken world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to train men and women to be effective servants for God."

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said courses offered by private colleges would have to be approved by the independent regulator to gain access to federal funding.

"Consistent with current practice, the government will not distinguish between faith‑based and secular higher education institutions for registration and funding purposes," the spokesman said.

Family First Senator Bob Day said, in a letter to a member of the general public, that it is unfair that public universities receive federal funding but religious colleges and other private providers do not.

"The Government's proposals … reduce the subsidies given to universities, while for the first time addressing inequity by providing significant subsidies for non-universities (but still less than universities)," he wrote. "Some of these non-universities that will receive funding for the first time - if this Bill passes - are faith-based training, teaching, theological and vocational institutions."

University of Divinity Vice-Chancellor Peter Sherlock declined to comment, but in a recent Senate submission the private university said federal funding would bring down course fees for its students.

The government's reforms were voted down by the Senate this week but will return to Parliament, with some amendments, next year.

Figures released on Thursday by the Universities Admissions Centre showed a slight increase in year 12 applications on last year despite claims of vastly increased fees under a deregulated system.