Friday, September 25, 2015

Seattle School District Concedes to Union, 53,000 Kids Return to School

After a two-week standoff, Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union reached an agreement on a contract, putting an end to a strike that left 53,000 students out of class for six days.

“This agreement signals a new era in bargaining in public education,” Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, said in a press release. “We’ve negotiated a pro-student, pro-parents, pro-educator [anti-taxpayer] agreement.”

Under the agreement, test scores will no longer be tied to teacher evaluations, and salaries will increase 9.5 percent over three years, paid for by the district. Teachers will also receive a 4.8-percent cost-of-living adjustment over two years from the state.

According to the non-profit education news site The Seventy Four, Seattle teachers’ median pay is $60,400, not including benefits, which exceeds the city’s median income of $43,200.

Currently, teachers are paid through a combination of state and district funding. A 2012 state Supreme Court decision mandates that by 2018, the state must pick up the entire tab of teacher salaries.

Teachers in Seattle hadn’t received a cost-of-living raise from the state in in six years. But some say their message on that fact is misleading, because teachers received pay increases in other forms.

“They say the state hasn’t given us a state increase, but they don’t mention the local levies have given pay increases,” said Liv Finne, director of education for the Washington Policy Center, which advocates for charter schools in the state. “They’re only telling half the story.”

Local levies are property taxes raised by school districts.

Some believe that the unions were incentivized to fight for higher salaries in their local districts because it will give them a bargaining chip when they negotiate with the state, as required under the state Supreme Court decision McCleary v. Washington.

By negotiating more money paid for by local levies early on, critics believe that it will be easier for the unions to negotiate higher salaries once the state takes over.

“It’s like a Ponzi scheme,” said Finne, who supports merit-based teacher pay reform. “The more that local levies provide for pay, the more the state is required to pay when they take over.”

Washington’s largest teachers union, the Washington Education Association, which represents the Seattle Educators Association, denied the accusation.

A spokesman told the Seattle Times the union was fighting for “other issues specific to their districts that addressed far more than money.”

Other highlights of the agreement include a guaranteed 30-minute recess for all elementary students, additional staff to reduce workloads and provide student services, the establishment of “race and equity teams” in 30 of the district’s schools, and compensation for a proposal to lengthen the school day by 20 minutes.

According to the Seattle Times, more than 3,000 teachers and school employees voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the three-year contract.

The Seattle Education Association represents 5,000 teachers and employees in the school district.


Attacks on Teachers

By Walter E. Williams

As the new school year begins, you might like to be updated on some school happenings that will no doubt be repeated this academic year. After this update, I have some questions one might ask the black leadership.

The ongoing and escalating assault on primary- and secondary-school teachers is not a pretty sight. Holly Houston is a post-traumatic stress specialist. She counsels teachers in Chicago public schools and reported, "Of the teachers that I have counseled over the years who have been assaulted, 100 percent of them have satisfied diagnostic criteria for PTSD." It's not just big-city schoolteachers traumatized. Dr. Darlyne Nemeth, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said last year, "I have treated many teachers with PTSD, and I am currently following a few of them."

A Philadelphia seventh-grade girl with a history of incidents against her teacher sprayed perfume in the teacher's face after telling her that she smelled "like old white pussy." After telling her classmates "I'm about to kick this bitch's white ass," she shoved the teacher, knocking her to the floor. In 2014, a Philadelphia 68-year-old substitute teacher was knocked out cold by a student ( Earlier that year, two other teachers in the same school were assaulted. By the way, Philadelphia schools employ close to 400 school police officers.

In a school district near St. Louis, teachers have had pepper spray and dog repellant sprayed in their faces. A Baltimore teacher had his jaw broken. In Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. A 325-pound high-school student in Houston knocked out his 66-year-old female teacher ( Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked each day of the 2011-12 school year.

School violence is going to get worse. Last year, the Obama administration sent all the school districts in the country a letter warning them to avoid racial bias when suspending or expelling students. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claimed that racial discrimination in the administration of discipline is "a real problem today. It's not just an issue from 30 or 40 or 50 years ago." Last year, in Washington, D.C., an official of a teachers union tried to explain to a national gathering of black elected officials why white teachers are so problematic for black students, saying they just do not understand black culture. Excuses and calls for leniency will embolden school thugs.

What about student conduct in the 1930s, '40s and '50s? Don't take my word. Ask black congressional representatives, 46 percent of whom were born in the '20s, '30s or '40s. Start off with Reps. John Conyers (86), Charles Rangel (85), Eddie Bernice Johnson (79), Alcee Hastings (79) and Maxine Waters (77). Ask them whether their parents or kin would have tolerated their assaulting and cursing teachers or any other adult. Ask them what would have happened to them had they assaulted or cursed a teacher or adult. Ask whether their parents would have accepted the grossly disrespectful behavior seen among many black youngsters in public places — for example, using foul language and racial epithets. I'd bet the rent money that they won't tell you that their parents would have called for a "timeout." Instead, they will tell you that they would have felt pain in their hind parts. Then ask these leaders why today's blacks should accept behavior that previous generations would not.

The sorry and tragic state of black education and its attendant problems will not be turned around until there's a change in what's acceptable behavior and what's unacceptable behavior. That change must come from within the black community. By the way, it is an idiotic argument to suggest that white teachers are problematic for black students because they don't know the culture. I'm nearly 80 years old, and during my North Philadelphia school years, in schools that were predominantly black, at best there may have been three black teachers.


Ho hum! More Leftist hypocrisy in Britain

Chaotic government schools for the masses but selective schools for the Leftist elite

By Rachel Johnson

Almost all recent developments in the people's party have reminded me of what happened when I turned up at Harriet Harman's summer thrash this year at Labour HQ in a brutalist tower block in Westminster.

Left-wing writer Polly Toynbee (the great-granddaughter of an earl) went for me (the granddaughter of immigrants).

She reminded me – I had deleted this from my memory as I do most unpleasantness – that during a recent debate with her and another Guardianista, George Monbiot, on 'Who Rules Britain?' I'd told the audience that Polly had sent her children to private school. She hadn't liked it.  'You went personal,' she said over the Twiglets, as though my comment was below the belt.

I gibbered my apology – she did have a point, plus I hate it when people are cross – but as we parted, Polly warned me pleasantly that the next time we did an event together, she would go for the jugular, too.

As I revealed in The Spectator several years ago, Tony and Cherie Blair took the credit for sending their children to the London Oratory, a state school, but had them tutored on the side by teachers from top private school Westminster.

Harriet Harman, who did a brilliant job as interim Labour leader (frankly the party should have begged her to stay on), sent her son to a grammar, while former Labour Education Secretary Ruth Kelly sent her son to a private school.

As it happens, I don't blame them for wanting the best education in the world for their offspring, and advantages that other children from less well-off households could not afford. I have done the same myself.

No, what sticks in my craw as a social liberal who believes in market-based capitalism is that comrades-in-arms see no irony at all in the fact that they proclaim their support for Pikettian pre-distribution but also have villas in Umbria and buy their kids grad-pads.

Labour politicians and their supporters are happy to direct an endless stream of contemptuous superiority at the many who don't match their elevated standards of doctrinal purity, but somehow, as soon as they are given opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, they fail to match their deeds to their worthy words.

For the moment, the narrative of the Beige Spring is that all Tories are poverty-denying 'scum' (that will change, of course, when the party realises that it needs to make friends and influence Conservative voters, too).

Tories may well indeed be ghastly – full of bounders and bores – but at least they don't advertise their moral CVs for all to admire. In fact, they often do the opposite.

When my brother Boris was asked about the cost of a pint of milk, he joked that he hadn't a clue, but he DID know the price of a bottle of champagne.

Tories may be scum in the eyes of all the red-flag-flying Bollinger Bolsheviks, but at least no one could accuse us of being hypocritical scum.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

A split-brain report from Boston

Don't you like those hopeful first two paragraphs below?  How wonderful that one of America's biggest problems is on its way to a solution!  PROBLEM:  The rest of the article goes into the details and they show no systematic movement in educational attainment at all. There are both losses and gains. It was just a random walk.  The first two paragraphs are just wishful thinking, to put it politely. 

Looking at the detail behind headlines and conclusions generally is a dreadful habit that I have had for decades.  It sure was enlightening in reading the guff below.  I have often found that Leftists conclude what they want to conclude, regardless of what their data show. The article below is just another example of that. It's almost like their brains were split into two halves that don't communicate with one-another

And note that we are looking at a dumbed-down test here. See the last two paragraphs below. Even on dumbed-down criteria blacks are still way behind

Black and Hispanic students made some progress this year in closing a troubling gap with white students in academic achievement, state officials said Monday as they released statewide results from MCAS tests taken in the spring.

The racial divide narrowed in many grades in both English and math scores for black students and in math for Hispanics in most grades this year, state data show. For students of all races, MCAS scores showed gains in 11 of 17 tests administered this spring, compared with 2014.

In English, black students’ scores drew closer to scores of white students this year in most grades, but the gap between black and white students remained the same in third grade and grew by 2 percentage points in seventh grade.

Hispanic students gained ground in English scores for grades 4, 8, and 10, but saw the gap grow in grades 5 through 7 and remain the same in Grade 3. In most grades, math scores improved for Hispanic students.

Looking back further, the MCAS results showed that the greatest change for minority students was in 10th-grade English, where the gap between scores for black students and their white peers has narrowed 19 percentage points since 2007, when MCAS became required for all students in grades 3 to 8.

For Hispanic students, the gap in English scores is now 18 points smaller since 2007.

In math scores, Hispanic students in the third grade jumped 11 percentage points closer to their white peers.

The most dramatic gain in math scores among black students occurred in fourth grade, where the gap in performance narrowed by 8 percentage points since 2007.

About 88 percent of 10th-grade students met the minimum MCAS requirements to earn a high school diploma, the same percentage that met that threshold for the past two years.

When the requirement took effect 11 years ago, just 68 percent of students were successful on their first try.


'There Is No God but Allah'? School Accused of Islamic Indoctrination

Maury County, Tennessee, is in the heart of the Bible Belt. So it’s understandable why the local church ladies got all shook up when they discovered that school children had been forced to declare, “There is no God but Allah.”

Seventh graders at Spring Hill Middle School spent three weeks covering Islam in a Social Studies class — enraging some parents who say the lessons crossed the line into indoctrination and proselytization.  “I am not pleased that my 12-year-old was taught the Islamic conversion prayer,” parent Brandee Porterfield told me.

Joy Ellis was a bit fired up, too. She discovered the Islamic lessons after examining her daughter’s class work.  “I was very angry that my child, my Christian child, was made to profess that Allah was the only God,” she told me.

According to the lessons, students were instructed to write the “Shahada” – “There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Students also learned the five pillars of Islam.

“That was crossing the line between teaching the culture and teaching them the Islamic faith,” Porterfield told me. “This is not teaching. This is indoctrination.”

Could you imagine the outcry from liberal activists if the students had been forced to write “Jesus is Lord'?

Porterfield said she does not have a problem with the school teaching Islam — so long as it gives other major religions equal time. But that did not happen.

"They told me they would not be teaching Christianity,” she said. “Because they only taught this one faith — to me that is state-sponsored prayer in schools.”

Ellis said it appears the school is advancing a pro-Muslim agenda. “It tells me they are trying to convert my children to being Muslim,” she said.

School officials defended the lessons and disputed some of the allegations from the irate moms and dads.  “We are not trying to convert,” Dr. Jan Hanvey, the district’s middle school supervisor, told the Columbia Daily Herald.

Hanvey said the curriculum has been in place for more than 30 years. She also disputed the allegations that the Islamic religion was taught for three weeks, telling the newspaper they spent three weeks talking about the geography, culture, economics and government surrounding the religion.

So what about other religions, like Christianity? Buddism? Judaisim?

Hanvey said the chapter on Christianity was “put off” until a later date. She told the Daily Herald by the end of the school year the students will have studied other faiths.

Porterfield told me she spoke with her daughter’s teacher and was told a very different story.  “She said they would not be covering it because Christianity is not in the school standards,” Porterfield said.

Porterfield and Ellis also took issue with the “white-washing” of the Islamic faith. There were no discussions about extremists slaughtering Christians and Jews. There were no chapters on the extremists beheading people.  “The textbook is a very cleaned up version of Islam,” Porterfield said.

Hanvey told the local newspaper that modern events have caused “fear” of Islam, going so far as to compare it to how Japanese people were treated after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Well, Dr. Hanvey, flying jetliners into skyscrapers in the name of Allah tends to cause folks to be a bit fearful.

I’ve been documenting the rise of Islam in American public school classrooms for a number of years. There’s a chapter dedicated to it in my last book, “God Less America.”

The Islamic faith is being accommodated while the Christian faith is being marginalized. If you need proof, just consider this:

A few weeks ago, a Mississippi high school marching band was ordered not to play “How Great Thou Art” during a half time show. And yet just a few states away public school children are learning the Islamic profession of faith.

I wonder what the Islamic term is for double-standard?


Campus rape panic: scaring women away from university

Why is the government collaborating in this dangerous myth?

From the panics around Satanic abuse and video nasties to paedophile rings and online trolling, the British establishment’s willingness to link arms with moral crusaders – and wreck lives in the process – never ceases to stagger. But the announcement that the Conservative government is to launch an inquiry into sexual harassment and assault on university campuses really takes the biscuit. A panic, whipped up by 19-year-old gender-studies students from Hampstead, has now been given official sanction.

Business secretary Sajid Javid ordered the review, calling on university heads to lead a taskforce to investigate the problem and draw up a code of practice to bring about ‘cultural change’. ‘Nobody should be put off going to university because of fears about their safety. If my children choose that path, I would expect my daughter to be as safe as my son on any campus in this country’, he said.

He continued: ‘This taskforce will ensure that universities have a plan to stamp out violence against women and provide a safe environment for all their students. We do not tolerate this behaviour in any part of society and I’m not prepared to let it take place on university campuses unchecked.’

One detail Javid’s speech missed out was that the alleged rise in sexual violence on Britain’s campuses, the alleged emergence of a toxic ‘lad culture’ that is leading more and more undergrad men to defile helpless young women, is a complete and utter crock.

The basis for this panic, that has incensed many a blue-haired women’s officer over the past few years, is a series of heavily discredited reports and surveys from the National Union of Students (NUS). The most often cited report is Hidden Marks, which claimed that one in seven female students has experienced a ‘serious physical or sexual assault’ and one in four experienced ‘unwanted sexual contact’.

The report, drawn from a self-selecting survey of 2,058 students, is deeply misleading. The conflation of physical and sexual assault lumps together two entirely different problems – with no explanation as to whether the ‘slapping and hair-pulling’, which was by far the most common type of physical incident, occurred in an abusive bloke’s dorm room or a kick-out-time cat fight.

What’s more, the ‘unwanted sexual contact’, which made up the bulk of the sexual-assault stats, included ‘unwanted kissing’ and ‘touching through clothes’. It speaks volumes that, across all forms of sexual assault measured in the survey, 65 per cent of respondents ‘didn’t think [their experience] was serious enough to report’. Getting gropey in the club isn’t on, but most young women clearly think it warrants a slap rather than a spot on the sex offenders’ register.

Hidden Marks pulled two neat tricks. First, it conflated a range of incidents in order to inflate the stats. And second, it repackaged behaviour that is at best ungentlemanly and at worst a bit pervy as serious crimes. Over two thirds of respondents claimed they had been submitted to verbal and non-verbal harassment, which including ‘wolf whistling, catcalling and sexual noises’, as well as ‘sexual comments that made them feel uncomfortable’. If clumsy come-ons were nickable offences, we’d all be in trouble.

But Hidden Marks is not just about sexual assault – it’s been used to push a tinpot student politico agenda. The NUS’s follow-up report into lad culture, That’s What She Said, recommended zero-tolerance policies on ‘banter’ and ‘sexual comments’, consent workshops aimed at sports teams, and the banning of anything that might be seen to objectify women. The fresh-faced feminists pushing the campus ‘rape culture’ panic interpret everything from ‘Pimps and hos’ club nights to the odd ‘alright, love?’ as a kind of cosmic act of misogyny – something that will lead, inevitably, to yet more sexual violence.

This worldview is insane. But it’s one that has, for years, bent the ear of the establishment. As US civil-liberties lawyer Nadine Strossen points out in her book Defending Pornography, American anti-sex feminists of the Eighties and Nineties influenced legal and workplace standards so that sexual expression became conflated with sexual harassment and violence. In one case that followed, an English professor was brought up on sexual-harassment charges for making a joke about a vibrator in class.

This bad influence lingers. Last year, President Obama launched a taskforce to investigate sexual assault on US campuses, stating soberly: ‘It is estimated that one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there – one in five.’ This infamous statistic, hewn from a 2007 study of just two colleges, is so discredited that even its authors have told everyone to calm down. ‘There are caveats that make it inappropriate to use the one-in-five number’, they wrote, in an article for Time.

Rape on campus is a problem – but a mercifully small one. A 2014 report by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics suggested that 6.1 female students per thousand will experience rape or sexual assault at college. And, as spiked’s Joanna Williams has pointed out, official statistics suggest that, on average, four women per UK university will suffer rape during her studies. In both the UK and the US, non-students are far more likely to be attacked than students. That’s not to say rape on campus is trivial. When it occurs it must be dealt with, compassionately and through the courts. But this overblown crusade is distorting the problem and trivialising rape in the process.

So, why are governments going along with it? Anyone who’s ever debated a rape-culture feminist will know they’re hardly masters of persuasion. Instead, it seems that politicians, ever-hungry for a moral panic to which they might hitch themselves, are giving official approval to toxic and divisive ideas for the sake of appearing morally virtuous. The result is a culture, on campus and beyond, that is diminishing women as it demonises men.

We need to stop ceding the moral highground to scaremongerers and gutless opportunists. The crusade against campus sexual assault isn’t helping women; it’s hemming them in and rehabilitating the sort of Victorian stereotypes, about vulnerable women and lascivious men, that were for so long used to frighten women away from public life. If Sajid Javid wants his daughter to feel confident enough to go to university, he should stop collaborating in this dangerous myth.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Time for a real free-speech fightback

Cameron’s anti-extremism strategy could have been ghostwritten by the radical students

Next week will mark the next stage in David Cameron’s long-running strategy to protect freedom and democracy from Islamist radicals by effectively bumping them off himself. From Monday, higher-education institutions in the UK will be legally required to implement policies to vet extremist speakers, stop gender segregation in meetings and introduce policies to protect – that is, spy on – students ‘at risk from radicalisation’.

In a speech to his extremism taskforce yesterday, Cameron named and shamed universities – including King’s College, Queen Mary and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) – expressing concern that, by his count, 70 events featuring so-called hate preachers had taken place in the last year alone. Those universities that do not comply with the new regime will be reported to the Higher Education Funding Council and hit with a court order.

‘It is not about oppressing free speech or stifling academic freedom’, said Cameron, ‘it is about making sure that radical views and ideas are not given the oxygen they need to flourish’. It was a familiar riff on one of the most insidious clichés of our time: ‘I believe in free speech, but…’ Because, make no mistake, it doesn’t matter how many qualifications Dave puts on it, or how many times ministers tell us radical views don’t qualify for rational debate, this is the state actively restricting what students can hear, can say and, ultimately, can think. Universities, supposed bastions of free speech and open discourse, will be subject to binding and stringent state censorship.

We all saw this coming. In his headline counter-terror speech in July, Cameron announced a raft of new measures aimed at tackling so-called radicalisation, including beefing up Ofcom’s powers to take action against broadcasters that give airtime to Islamist nutcases and calling on telecoms companies to release data on our online activity. At first, the Home Office was calling on universities to ban extremists outright. However, this slippery new substitute will have much the same effect – reinforcing a risk-averse culture within universities that will make booking dodgy speakers, Islamist or not, near enough impossible.

Since coming to power in 2010, Cameron has taken the illiberal legacy of New Labour even further. For over a decade, Islamist groups and ideas have been banned by law, and the Prevent strategy, under which universities are obliged to co-operate with counter-terror authorities and allow the surveillance of their students, has been eating away at the liberal values universities are meant to uphold. Now, the wishy-washy provisions of Prevent have been recast as a legal duty, and the definition of what constitutes extremist speech has been watered down. Where, previously, Islamists would have to directly incite violence and terror in order to face censorship, now even ‘non-violent extremism’ – that is, espousing views aligned with those of terrorists – can and will be snuffed out.

The new measures have rightly sparked outrage among HE organisations and students’ unions. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said ‘universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of our civilised society’. Meanwhile the National Union of Students (NUS) has opposed the measures on the grounds that they would ‘further criminalise Muslims and black people and pose a ‘significant threat to civil liberties and freedom of speech on campuses’. While students’ unions, as private bodies, will not be subject to the new requirements, the NUS is committed to pushing for their repeal.

Now, having long campaigned for unfettered free speech on campus, you might think that we at spiked would be heartened by this response. But you’d be wrong. This limp press-released backlash is not so much ‘too little, too late’ as it is outrageously hypocritical. The only reason the government can so brazenly clamp down on free speech on campus now is because universities and students’ unions have already perfected the art.

Universities were censoring Islamist speakers long before these measures even surfaced. Islamist scholar Haitham al-Haddad was banned from speaking at the University of Kent in March. In November last year, the University of East London called off an event featuring Islamist Imran Mansur. And, for all their caterwauling about demonising Muslims, students’ unions have long been at it, too. In 2013, a tour of universities organised by Muslim cleric Ismail Mufti Ismail Menk was called off after students’ unions expressed concern about his comments calling homosexuality ‘filthy’.

These are not only isolated examples – this censorious attitude is ingrained in university and students’ union policy. For the sake of avoiding bad PR, universities have long maintained speaker-vetting procedures – ironically termed Free Speech Policies – which work to block controversial, be they left, right, Islamic or otherwise. And, lest we forget, the NUS’s longstanding No Platform policy, originally designed to keep out the far-right, bans Hizb-ut-Tahrir – an Islamist group that even the Home Office has not proscribed.

In all the reactions yesterday, the statement from Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, was perhaps the most telling. ‘Universities have… engaged with the government’s Prevent strategy for a number of years’, she said. ‘All universities have protocols and procedures that have to be satisfied before external speakers are given the green light to speak at a campus event.’ Dandridge didn’t challenge the new proposals, seemingly because she recognized they were already more-or-less enforced.

Still, particular scorn must be reserved for students’ unions. While the risk-averse policies of universities have long been open to abuse, it is students’ unions that have done the most to popularise the illiberal logic the government is now adopting. Over the past few years, censorious student activism has hit new and ridiculous heights. Take one look at the NUS-led clampdown on lad culture – which recently received government approval – and you can see where Dave has been getting his ideas from. SU bans on rugby teams, lads’ mags and pop songs, all in the name of protecting women from offence and dunderheaded men from coming under the influence of a mythical ‘rape culture’, chime perfectly with Cameron’s insistence that we should clamp down, not only on terrorist views, but on those ‘intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish’. He may as well have called it terror culture.


Head b*tch struck off

A headteacher who shunned a vulnerable girl at risk of being targeted by paedophiles, has been banned from the classroom for life.

Vanessa Jukes was said to have turned her back on the teenager after branding her a trouble-maker at High Well School in Barnsley, Yorkshire.

This was despite the girl confiding in another member of staff that she only felt safe once behind the school's gates.

The 55-year-old also ordered staff to fake entries on a national attendance database to improve targets, the hearing heard.

Now Jukes has been struck off the professional register by the Secretary of State Education, following a recommendation by a panel from the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

Jukes had 38 pupils in her care while headteacher at High Wells School, which caters for students with severe emotional, social and behavioural difficulties.

The panel heard that she came to regard the girl, known only as Pupil A, as a nuisance after a classroom incident and cancelled the taxi she needed to get to and from school.

The girl was on the child protection register and the hearing was told there were 'sexual exploitation concerns in relation to her.

A parent support adviser told the tribunal 'Pupil A had told her that she felt safest when she was in school'.

The adviser attended regular local authority meetings concerning Pupil A and underlined to the headteacher the importance for the child to be at school.

Jukes agreed, until an incident which took place in December 2011.

The panel were shown a memo, which read: 'I have cancelled taxi UFN.' They understood 'UFN' to mean until further notice.

The headteacher then emailed a colleague: 'If mum rings - we will say need a meeting - but not to rush one. Don't want her in this week at least!'

Jukes was said to have claimed that the girl was at no greater risk, despite the support adviser arguing to the contrary.   

'The lack of any provision caused by the cancellation of the taxi meant Pupil A had too much time on her hands,' the report said.  'This would make her more vulnerable because of her need for attention of any kind.'

The hearing was told that Juke also warned staff of 'consequences' if pupil attendance was not over a 'certain percentage.'

She even told an administration officer to 'mark as present within the school' one boy who had been missing from home for two weeks.

The admin officer also said that Ms Jukes instructed her 'to enter incorrect data relating to exclusion days and totals onto the Governors Report for November 2011'.

She started keeping her own notes about what was being told to change and kept copies in case they were ever needed as evidence, the tribunal  was told.

Jukes, who was appointed Head in June 2010, was suspended in December 2011 and fired in June 2013.

She won an unfair dismissal case but the tribunal also ruled there was a 40 per cent chance the sacking would have been in order if proper procedures had been followed.

Jukes was not present or represented at the hearing which took place in Coventry.

Paul Heathcote, acting on behalf of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, said: 'Ms Jukes’ actions are a serious departure from the standards expected of a teacher and her behaviour had the potential to seriously affect the education and well-being of pupils.

'The panel has also found Ms Jukes’ behaviour to be dishonest.

'She has shown no insight and there is nothing to suggest her actions were anything other than deliberate.

'There is no evidence that she was acting under duress.'


Happy Birthday, US Department of Education...Now Go Away

Next month marks the 36th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education.

Proponents insisted that such a department would improve federal education spending efficiency as well as student achievement. Opponents countered that there is scant (if any) evidence that increasing federal control over education would achieve either.

Turns out, they were right.

Focusing on just elementary and secondary education, on-budget federal education appropriations increased more than 490 percent in real terms between fiscal years 1965 and 2014, from $13.5 billion to $80.1 billion.

Meanwhile, elementary and secondary enrollment increased by about only 30 percent over the same period, from 42.2 million students to 55 million students (see here and here).

If the U.S. Department of Education had, in fact, lived up to its stated purpose of improving the productivity of federal education spending, then we should see a substantial increase in student performance after its establishment.

But we haven’t.

The longest-running nationally representative math and reading assessment of American students is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. Long-term trend results in both subjects are reported on a scale of 0 – 500. Students who score a 300 or above can solve moderately complex problems in math and understand relatively complicated reading materials.

Long-term trend math performance of 17-year-olds in NAEP math has increased only slightly since the early 1970s, from 52 percent of students scoring at 300 or above to 60 percent in 2012 (the latest year results are available), an improvement of just over 15 percent.

Long-term trend NAEP reading performance of 17-year-olds has remained flat since 1978 (the earliest year data are available in this subject), with just 39 percent of 17-year-olds scoring at 300 or above then and in 2012.

Per-pupil expenditures now exceed $12,000 on average nationwide, with the federal government kicking in around 10 percent of that amount.

So it appears the U.S. Department of Education has done little if anything to improve the bang-for-buck ratio with regard to federal education spending and student achievement.

But it’s also worth considering how much the actual department is costing taxpayers in terms of administrative expenses and overhead. According to the education department’s 2015 Salaries and Expenses Overview:

    The Department’s programs and responsibilities have grown substantially over the past decade. There has been landmark legislation affecting the very core of the Department’s business. From elementary and secondary education reform to the transition to 100 percent direct lending, the past decade has seen a steady and significant growth in Department workload (p. Y-4).

The average education department staff salary exceeds $100,000 jumping to nearly $170,000 on average for senior and executive level staff. In all, the education department requested salary and expense discretionary funding of nearly $2.1 billion in 2015, an increase of nearly $305 million (9 percent) from 2014 (pp. Y and Y-10).

Back in 1866, when the idea of a national education department was first being debated in Congress, opponent Rep. Samuel J. Randall of Pennsylvania predicted that it would amount to:

    ...a bureau at an extravagant rate of pay, and an undue number of clerks collecting statistics . . . [that] does not propose to teach a single child . . . its a, b, c’s.

Nearly 150 years of federal interference in education is enough. As US Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) noted in Conscience of a Conservative in 1960:

    ...the federal government has no funds except those it extracts from the taxpayers who reside in the various States. The money that the federal government pays to State X for education has been taken from the citizens of State X in federal taxes and comes back to them, minus the Washington brokerage fee".

It’s time to end the US Department of Education and put the real education experts back in charge of education funding: students’ parents.

Education savings accounts (ESAs) for K-12 students first enacted in Arizona in 2011, and four more states since then, would be a much better way to ensure funding goes to students and the educational services they need instead of a pricey DC bureaucracy.

The ESA concept is simple. All the program and administrative overhead funding we now send to the US Department of Education should instead be deposited into student ESAs. With those funds parents could purchase the educational services and materials they think are best for their children, and any leftover funds would remain in students’ ESAs for future expenses, such as college tuition.

Importantly, ESAs are fiscally accountable because quarterly expense reports (with receipts) from parents and ongoing audits help ensure funds are not misspent.

Ultimately, parents know and love their children best, not the feds. They, not some far-off government bureaucracy, should be in charge of their children’s education.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Australia: Stop turning schools into training centres

The teacher below makes a very good case for a broad High School education.  I certainly benefited greatly from one in the traditional school system of long ago.  I came out with a knowledge of two foreign languages, Chaucer, Tennyson, Schubert and Bach, to mention just a few of the things I am so glad about.

As I was writing this I felt transformed by the wonderful music I was listening to at the same time: JS Bach's St Matthew Passion - sung by the Thomanerchor Leipzig (Video with subtitles).  A great pinnacle of Christian music sung by a wonderful choir of German young people. The Thomanerchor, the choir of the Thomaskirche, was founded in 1212 and is one of the oldest and most famous boys' choirs in Germany.

But I learned useful bits about Physics, Chemistry and mathematics too.  And I still became a useful employee.  I ended up teaching statistics and computer programming at university level!  But it is the poetry and classical music that is continually running through my head that gives me unfailing pleasure

But the author below fails to address the problem of how to get good teachers of the humanities. My view is that enthusiasm for your subject is the sine qua non of a good teacher, regardless of the subject.  There are even mathematics teachers who make their pupils enthusiastic about mathematics. My son was so enthused.

But are there enough teachers of humanities subjects who can  enthuse their students?  Obviously not, I think.  So once again we have a case for large class sizes so that the talents of the limited number of enthusiastic teachers can be maximally spread around.  With the aid of class assistants, large classes should rarely be a problem.  So, in my view, the fad for small class sizes is the biggest enemy of a humanities education for all

Going by the language that politicians and their advisers use these days to discuss education policy, you would think teachers are answerable to the business community.

Consider the terminology in the Australian Labor Party’s ‘New Directions’ paper, released in the lead-up to the federal ALP victory in 2007, and you get a fairly clear idea of where the government intended to take education. The paper identified ‘productivity growth’ and ‘human-capital investment’ as ‘the critical link’ to ‘long-term prosperity’, concluding that ‘if Australia is to turn its productivity performance around as well as enhance workforce participation, the Australian economy needs an education revolution in the quantity of our investment in human capital and quality of the outcomes that the education system delivers’.

As Stephen J Ball points out in his book, The Education Debate, the ‘New Directions’ paper collapsed the social and economic purposes of Australian education ‘into a single overriding emphasis on policymaking for economic competitiveness’. This suggests that the so-called ‘education revolution’ had more to do with strengthening Australia’s economic future than radical pedagogical reform and development.

If the current government is dedicated to strengthening education, it needs to establish a clear understanding of teachers’ roles in schools. Do schools need teachers who stimulate curiosity and inspire life-long learning? Or is it ‘trainers’ they need – people who skill-up children for the labour market? If the language Australian principals and school leaders use these days is anything to go by, it’s probably the latter.

Pick up an education policy or ‘school business plan’ and you’re bound to encounter terms that belong in a corporate manual. Attend a staff-development session in an Australian state school and you’re likely to hear reference to the school’s ‘strategic-planning initiative’, and the need to ‘build on maximum capacity’ and ‘value add’. There will also be talk of ‘targets’ and ‘benchmarks’, as well as the need for increased ‘market share’.

All of this suggests that schools are becoming more like businesses that trade in skilled human capital, than places of learning. Put simply, schools are becoming little more than training centres that procure compliant and attentive candidates for the workplace, and lessons are becoming little more than training sessions for the job market.

The American philosopher Sidney Hook wrote that ‘everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not their methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’ Most of us remember a teacher who had a significant influence on us. Mine was my English teacher. He would enter the classroom with nothing more than the prescribed novel, a stick of chalk, a mellifluous voice and a good story. And with these basic tools he would draw every member of the class into a world of wonder.

It was not easy. But his methods were simple: no jargon, no hackneyed phrases and certainly no corporate language. Just good stories, with which he was able to stimulate thinking and discussion about life’s big questions. I know it’s an old-fashioned notion, but he made learning enjoyable.

As an English and philosophy teacher, my students often ask me how reading a novel written more than 100 years ago, or studying an ancient civilisation, will help them get a job. I say: ‘It’s not meant to. Not everything we do in life, and indeed school, is geared to material gain.’ Forming relationships, engaging in interesting conversation, sharing stories, reading books, inventing, creating and labouring over things you love – all are valuable in themselves. Pleasure is a sufficient reward, and it certainly can’t be measured by a standardised test or exam.

But, sadly, there is very little time for this kind of learning in a curriculum geared to government targets and benchmarks. And there’s hardly any time for students to tinker, make mistakes, pull apart, dissect, rebuild and make serendipitous discoveries.

Informative as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are, they can’t tell us everything about the quality of schools. These are crude instruments that don’t take into account the complexities of education. Yet they are gaining increasing prominence in Australian schools. Excessive reliance on National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results, test scores and league tables has diminished the teacher’s role, narrowed the curriculum and substituted real teaching for training kids up for tests.

Any ‘training facilitator’ can impart lower-order rote skills, which require little more than memorising information and conducting simple operations. But, unlike a trainer or an online module where students (or should I say clients?) are required to read, memorise and click to submit, a teacher releases the creative energy that all children possess and fans the flames of curiosity. Teachers help kids make sense of a world that is becoming increasingly complex and confusing. And they help students make sense of the torrent of information the internet spews out, by providing them with something a search engine never can: understanding.

Good teachers enter the profession because they are good communicators, not ventriloquists for technocrats and business leaders. If you want teachers to kill enthusiasm for learning, then tell them to conduct their lessons like a corporate trainer, preferably with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. Kids lose interest and disengage the moment a teacher stops teaching and begins to train, as many teachers are instructed to do, particularly when it comes to lifting NAPLAN scores.

Here is a revolutionary idea: why not place an embargo on corporate speak in schools? If education analysts are to have a meaningful discussion on advancing education, then why not use meaningful language instead of vapid corporate terminology that would make anyone, let alone a teacher, glaze over?

Schools do not need ‘improvement strategies’ prepared by a consultancy agency; they need teachers, those who have been entrusted by society to teach children to live well. After all, it is the students who will judge teachers, not politicians, economists, business managers or captains of industry.


Contrast in Seattle: Public School Teachers Go on Strike as 'Unconstitutional' Charter School Teachers Remain at Work

As charter school teachers in Seattle are showing up to work despite a court’s ruling their schools unconstitutional, public school teachers in the city are on strike, leaving 53,000 students at home for the first few days of the 2015-16 school year.

“There’s a big irony here right now in Seattle,” said Liv Finne, director of Education for the Washington Policy Center, which advocates for charter schools in the state. “The teachers are on strike in the traditional schools—there’s nobody going to school. Yet, the three charter schools that are in Seattle are open for business.”

The Lawsuit Against Charter Schools

Funding for Washington’s nine charter schools was abruptly cut off on Sept. 4—just days before some schools were set to open—when the state’s Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.  We’ll respect your inbox and keep you informed.

Siding with the teachers unions and other organizations bringing the suit, the justices found “charter schools are not common schools” because they are run by independent operators instead of locally elected school boards, as the state’s Constitution requires.

“It’s really disheartening,” Hong-nhi Do, a 27-year-old 5th and 6th grade learning specialist at Rainier Prep charter school told The Daily Signal. “I think people are choosing politics over kids and families.”

Despite the ruling—and the future of their jobs at stake—Do and her fellow charter educators arrived to school this week, opening their doors to the 1,300 students they serve. In order to do so, they secured a $14 million private donation that will get them through the school year.

“All of our teachers are showing up,” Do said. “Every single one of us is fighting so hard and wants to do whatever it takes to keep our school open.”

After funding for the 2014-15 school year runs out, no one knows what will happen. Charter school operators, along with state lawmakers, are scrambling to figure that out.

One school, Seattle’s Summit Sierra High School, got creative in order to stay open, and had its 120 students fill out forms for homeschooling, the Seattle Pi reported.

The Strike

The charter school ruling coincided with a strike that shut down schools for Seattle’s 53,000 public school students. The strike came after negotiations failed between the Seattle Educators Association and the Seattle School Board.

“Schools will be closed until further notice,” Seattle Public Schools states on its website.

Public school teachers have a variety of demands, including, a “substantial” pay raise, compensation for an additional 20 minutes of instructional time for students, “fair” evaluations and “workload relief.”

According to the non-profit education news site The Seventy Four, Seattle teachers’ median pay is $60,400, not including benefits, which exceeds the city’s median income of $43,200.

The Daily Signal reached out to the union for further explanation of its demands, but they did not reply.

The Conflict

The Seattle Educators Association feeds into the Washington Education Association, which was one of the organizations behind the charter school lawsuit. Ties between the union and the nine Supreme Court justices raised questions after the charter schools ruling came down.

“It’s the worst instance of machine-politics and kids have to be the causality of it,” Derrell Bradford, a Democrat who serves as executive director of NYCAN, told The Daily Signal.

    You have a statewide referendum—it went to the voters and the voters said yes, you’ve got judges who are elected—who are bankrolled by the Washington Education Association, so they’re bought and paid for—who give a ruling based on local control and local elected governance that actually circumvents the local governance of the people because they had a statewide referendum.

Voters in Washington approved a charter school law in 2012, which allowed for the creation of up to 40 charter schools.

According to Finne, director of Education for the Washington Policy Center, four out of the nine Supreme Court justices received the maximum campaign contributions from the Washington Education Association union in 2014.

    Justice Mary I. Yu – $1,900 from Washington Education Association Political Action Committee.

    Justice Mary E. Fairhurst – $1,900 from Washington Education Association.

    Justice Charles W. Johnson – $1,900 from Washington Education Association Political Action Committee.

    Justice Debra L. Stephens – $1,900 from Washington Education Association Political Action Committee.

In 2012, the three remaining justices received maximum political contributions from the same union.

    Justice Susan J. Owens – $1,800 from Washington Education Association.

    Justice Stephen C. Gonzalez – $1,800 from Washington Education Association Political Action Committee.

    Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud – $1,800 from Washington Education Association Political Action Committee.

In Washington, Supreme Court justices must run for office. Although they are prohibited from soliciting donations, their campaigns may receive them, so long as they abide by the guidelines.

“This is just the natural result of the leadership we’ve had,” Finne said.

A Fight for Control

The dueling situations, Bradford said, “really show you what these people want. And it’s not local control—it’s their control and their control only.” He added:

    On one hand, [the unions] are saying, ‘We need elected school boards, we’ve got to have elected governance, and charter schools circumvent that.’ On the other hand, when they can’t get the deal they want from the elected governance they have, they strike and leave 53,000 kids in the lurch. They don’t want elected governance, they want their governance and when they can kill the competition, the next thing they do is jack up the price. That just hasn’t been, can’t be, and won’t be the best thing for every kid. It’s okay for some kids, but it’s not the best thing for every kid.

A spokesperson for Washington’s Supreme Court declined to comment on allegations surrounding union influence on the nine justices. On Friday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his plans to ask the court to reconsider its decision. The ruling, he said, “also unnecessarily calls into question the constitutionality of a wide range of other state educational programs.”

Programs like Running Start and Washington State Skills Centers provide career and technical education to high school students via state funds, but aren’t controlled by locally elected school boards. For this reason, critics feel the justices targeted charter schools for political purposes.

For some Do, a teacher at Rainier Prep, the situation hits close to home. Do grew up in the same town her charter school is located, and says she “knows what the public schools were like.”

“I have a lot of friends in the area who are now incarcerated or wish they got more out of their education here,” she said. “To see us not be able to accept something that is new and innovative is really disheartening.”


UK: Extra help for poorer students to get jobs: Working class graduates to be given special consideration to try and improves social mobility in professions such as law

Working-class graduates will be given special consideration for jobs at leading firms above affluent applicants.  The move aims to improve social mobility in professions dominated by privately educated graduates, such as law and accountancy.

Bosses said the approach, called ‘contextual recruitment’, could revolutionise the search for staff – but education experts have warned against ‘social engineering’.

From next month, employers will be able to see applicants’ GCSE and A-level grades in relation to the overall performance of their school.

They can then spot applicants whose exam scores look average but are outstanding compared to their classmates. Whether candidates had free school meals or were the first person in their family to go to university are also being included on applications.

Recruits from poorer backgrounds can be ‘flagged up’ and normal A-level requirements could be reduced.

Law firms including Ashurst and Baker & McKenzie have piloted the scheme, which will be used by up to 20 companies. It allows them to access exam results of 3,500 schools and 2.5million postcodes.

Raphael Mokades, of recruitment agency Rare, which designed the system, said: ‘Often the most remarkable candidates don’t shine when firms are sifting through thousands of applications.

‘They might not have done relevant work experience, or climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. But they might have got AAA from a school where the average grades are DDE, while working 20 hours a week in Primark.’

Emma Young, of Ashurst, said the data had helped the firm spot exceptional applicants who may previously have fallen in the ‘average middle’.

Sarah Gregory, of Baker & McKenzie, where thousands of graduates apply for 30 positions each year, said: ‘It has the potential to revolutionise the way we recruit. It will introduce a level playing field.’

Education charity The Sutton Trust has previously revealed five elite schools send more pupils to Oxbridge than two-thirds of the entire state sector.

But Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: ‘There’s an element of social engineering here because they’re responding to pressure from people like The Sutton Trust that has been taken up by politicians.

‘The emphasis should be on identifying untapped talent, not saying for moral reasons you’ve got to take someone who went to university having had free school meals.’


Monday, September 21, 2015

A Socialist gets a hearing at Liberty University

It was a unique moment. In an era in which politicians don’t interact with people who disagree with them, Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Liberty University Monday to speak to an audience that is highly unlikely to give him votes.

The open socialist took the podium before a crowd of, in the words of Liberty, “North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students,” at an institution that is a bastion of the evangelical Right.

In March, Ted Cruz stood up before this same crowd — convocation at Liberty is mandatory — and announced his bid for presidency. It’s not exactly Bernie’s target audience.

Sanders tried to bridge the chasm by appealing to the values and morals held by Christian conservatives. “There is no justice,” Sanders told the students. But when it comes to family values and social justice, Sanders points to the lack of federally mandated paid maternity leave as “appalling.” A typical student at Liberty might say abortion or the defense of traditional marriage are more pressing issues.

“I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you, and that we disagree on those issues,” Sanders' prepared remarks said. “I get that. But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.”

For the Socialist Democrat (but we repeat ourselves), the question of justice boiled down to economic disparity. There are billions upon billions of dollars in the U.S. possessed by the richest of the rich, he told the students. Meanwhile, children go to bed hungry. To the Left, it’s up to the government to “rectify” this.

And in support for his populist ideas, Sanders cited the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 as evidence for massive redistribution of wealth. Of course, Jesus wasn’t preaching to the Romans, but rather to his own disciples — individuals, not government.

“Bernie is right about a lot,” first-year Liberty law student Eli McGowan wrote on Facebook. “He addresses a lot of the fatal flaws in the GOP and in our corporatistic nation. Unfortunately, his answers aren’t the ones we need. But beware GOP, because he’s touching a nerve you can’t, because you’ve lost your heart.”

In laying out his vision for a just, moral and good society, Sanders showed why he is dangerous for the country. While the Leftmedia have danced around the issue, Red State’s Dan Spencer notes, “Sanders is, you know, an unabashed and self-admitted Socialist.” His redistributionist policy proposals will cost the nation a staggering $18 trillion over the next 10 years, The Wall Street Journal estimates.

Sanders called the estimate “significantly exaggerated,” primarily because the Journal used another politicians' single-payer health care bill as a substitute. But the price tag has to be in the ballpark of what it would take to institute his policies.

And where do you think that $18 trillion will come from? Sanders' biggest campaign promise is to rob the rich to pay the poor. He’s just following the template laid out by noted socialist George Bernard Shaw: “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

While the candidate has progressive plans for the country, Sanders believes the country’s foundation is rotten. He told Liberty that our economy was “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everyone else.” And during a Q&A session after his speech, Sanders declared America was built on “racist principles.” We trust Liberty students are able to see that for the barnyard excrement that it is.

Meanwhile, when does the next conservative politician make an argument for the value of Liberty before an audience hostile to his or her policy stances? Oh, that’s right — leftists who run colleges and universities often won’t let conservatives address their students. And when they do, the speaker is drowned out by obnoxious protesters. That’s because the Left despises the kind of free speech on display this week at Liberty.

Sanders demonstrated a kind of ethos in a politician that’s rare in this season’s political lineup — the willingness to approach the other side. Likewise, Liberty University deserves congratulations for offering the podium to the opposition. Conservatives should seek more opportunities to advocate for values held by people across the partisan divide, universal values of justice, peace and Liberty.


Former Govs. Schwarzenegger, Wilson Call for Change to Teacher Tenure Laws

Former California Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe have submitted a court filing arguing that California’s teacher tenure laws enable incompetent teachers to keep their jobs, hurting some of the state’s neediest students.

In a filing to the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Tribe and lawyers for Wilson and Schwarzenegger argue that it is “nearly impossible to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms” because of California state laws.

California’s tenure laws allow a school to fire a teacher for any reason during the first two years of employment. After that it is required to show of “good cause” before an independent panel for dismissals. Schools must also dismiss the least-experienced teachers first during layoffs, but make exceptions for newer teachers whose specialized training and experience meet their district’s needs. A 2005 California ballot initiative that would increase the time a teacher could be fired from two years to five was voted down by 55 pervent.

The appeals court is reviewing a June 2014 ruling by Rolf Treu, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles, declaring the tenure and seniority laws unconstitutional. Treu found the laws violate the right of students to educational equality and “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students,” who are more likely to be taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers. It was the first such ruling by any state in the nation.

Attorney General Kamala Harris and teachers’ unions appealed the ruling, arguing that the tenure laws protect teachers against arbitrary firings and that neither the judge nor the nine student plaintiffs in the suit had presented evidence that the laws harm students or shield incompetent teachers. The court has not yet scheduled a hearing in the case.

Wednesday's legal brief argues that education is a fundamental right, one that is endangered when bad teachers are given tenure: “The statues at issue impair this fundamental and foundational right by blindly prioritizing the job security of teachers, regardless of their competence, over the educational needs, interests, and rights of California school children – rights that belong to every child in the State, but that matter to none quite so much as they matter to those for whom a quality public education is the exclusive path to the American Dream.”

The brief concluded that the current tenure review period is too short for principals to make “informed tenure decisions” and “inevitably results in grossly ineffective teachers receiving tenure.


Australia: Phonics, faith and coding for primary school kids

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught in schools in a slimmed-down national curriculum that focuses on phonics to -improve children's reading.

History and geography have been scrapped as stand-alone subjects, in a back-to-basics return to traditional teaching.

But 21st-century computer coding will be taught in primary school, starting in Year 5, in the new curriculum endorsed by Australia's education ministers yesterday.

Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, -National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of "individua-ls and groups" to Australian society will no longer -include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia's connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum.

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught for the first time, in lessons on "how Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society". Teachers will instruct students that Australia's democratic system of government is based on the Westminster system, although specific references to the monarchy, parliaments and courts have been removed from the curriculum.

For the first time, children in Years 1 and 2 will be taught to "practise strategies they can use when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe".

Students in Years 7 and 8 will be taught to "communicate their own and others' health concerns".

But education ministers agreed yesterday to change the curriculum again, to introduce teaching of "respectful relationships".

Teachers will also be given training to identify students who might be victims of family violence.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones, who proposed the domestic violence strategy, said a recent spate of violence against women showed that children needed to be taught about respectful relationships at school.

"We believe there's a real oppor-tunity in the health and physical education curriculum in regards to teaching about respectful relationships, to reduce domestic violence and give young people a greater understanding of gender equality," she told The Weekend Australian after the phone hook-up yesterday.

"We also want to provide teachers with additional support in recognising signs of family violence."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the changes would resolve "overcrowding" in the primary school curriculum, boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia's history.

He said state and territory ministers would develop a national strategy to get more students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school.

Ministers yesterday endorsed a digital technologies curriculum, that will start teaching students about computer coding in Year 5, and have them programming by Year 7.

But Ms Jones said the states and territories had not agreed to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school. "Even if we wanted to, we don't have the teachers to do that in Queensland right now," Ms Jones said.

A national curriculum for languages - Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese - was signed off by ministers yesterday.

They also endorsed historic reforms to teacher education, prepared by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

From next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

Universities will also be forced to publish the academic and other "backdoor" requirements for entry to teaching degrees, to raise standards in the teaching profession.

AITSL chairman John Hattie - who took part in the ministerial meeting - said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine.

"We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you're dumb you can't be a teacher," he told The Weekend Australian.

"We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them."

Mr Pyne said he was "abso-lutely delighted" the states and territories had backed the reforms, which have been driven by the federal and NSW governments.

"The national literacy and numeracy test will provide greater employer and community confid-ence that beginning teachers enter-ing our schools have the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to carry out the intellectual demands of teaching," he said.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Author-ity chief executive Robert Randall said the new curriculum would give teachers more time to teach the basics of maths, literacy, science- and history in primary school.

"We've strengthened the focus on the basics and put in detail about phonics in the early years because of its importance to devel-oping young people's reading ability," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Randall said the existing curriculum had so much detail that "teachers were feeling they had to do everything".

"It's important to be able to focus on the content and teach it in depth - we don't want cramming," he said.

"This gives teachers the flexibility to identify what young people- need to know about, and what they're interested in."

Mr Randall said the new curriculum had a greater focus on Western civilisation.

"Historically, the influence of the Christian church has been important," he said.

Mr Randall said that refer-ences to indigenous culture, envir-onmental sustainability and Asia - which are included throughout the existing curriculum, including in maths - had been cut back to "where they naturally fit", with an emphasis on history, geography and art.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Credentialism and its outcomes

In the 20 years during which I was an active academic researcher, I was repeatedly appalled by the low intellectual standards that I found in papers by colleagues.  They repeatedly ignored basic scientific caution and, all too often, concluded what they wanted to conclude, regardless of what their data actually showed.  I got a couple of papers a year published in the academic journals pointing that sort of thing out. See here

I have no background in climatology and only the most basic background in physics and chemistry -- but even from that low starting point I have often found that in climate-related articles there are the most glaring follies too.  One instance is attributing the high surface temperature of Venus to a "runaway greenhouse effect" -- when that temperature is perfectly well explained by basic adiabatics -- as the outcome of the pressure exerted by the huge Venusian atmosphere.  And just basic logic seems often to be overlooked.  So I have always suspected that climate science is just as impoverished intellectually as science in the fields that I am more familiar with.

And an exquitiste demonstration of that has just been put up by Willis Eschenbach.  He takes a climate paper from a most prestigious academic journal -- "Nature" -- and tears it to very small shreds.  "Nature" is of course a great temple of global warming.  I have done some pretty savage shredding of other people's papers in my time but the comprehensive shredding by Eschenbach leaves me way behind.  It is a classic. 

So how come?  How come science is often so unscientific?  Credentialism plays an obvious part.  The number of years of formal education that a person gets on average has been steadily climbing for many years.  Teachers, for instance, once learnt their job as apprentices but now a four-year degree is normally required.  And the inevitable outcome of credentialism is a great expansion of the higher education sector.  All those degree-hungry people have to be taught. And the teachers concerned have to earn their stripes.  To prove yourself as an academic you need to do research and get the results published in some respectable outlet.

But all men are not equal and those who are capable of rigorous scientific thinking is apparently few.  The sort of article that I and Eschenbach find absurd is the product of the credentialled but incapable.  There are just far too many academics around who are not up to the job.  But they are needed because there are so many students to be taught.

Is there a solution?  I think there is.  But it will be as unpopular as it is simple.  Student loans and grants should be given only to those who can be shown to be in the top 5% of IQ.  Some people who fail such a test will still be able to enroll if they can self-fund but the overall effect should be a large reduction in student numbers.  And with fewer students to be taught, universities can be more selective about the teachers they hire.  And better selected teachers should do better conceived and executed research -- JR

Dumb school authorities could not tell a clock from a bomb

The kid's science teacher told them it was a clock but they still insisted on making assholes of themselves.  I guess it made them feel like big men -- and too bad about the kid.  It's typical of the over-reactions that one often sees in schools these days.  This one got big attention only because the kid was Muslim

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.

“The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,” Boyd said, describing the incident as a “naive accident.”

Asked if the teen’s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.

“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” he said. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”

The chief touted the “outstanding relationship” he’s had with the Muslim community in Irving. He said he talked to members of the Muslim community this morning and plans to meet with Ahmed's father later today.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference outside the family’s home, Ahmed’s father said he’s proud of his son and wowed by his skills.

“He fixed my phone, my car, my computer,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said. “He is a very smart, brilliant kid.”

Mohamed said he’s lived in America for 30 years, but this was a new experience for him.

“That is not America,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said of his son’s humiliation after being handcuffed in front of his classmates.

But Mohamed said he’s also been touched by the outpouring of support for his son.  “What is happening is touching the heart of everyone with children,” he said. “And that is America.”


Ahmed Mohamed Wasn’t the First: 9 Other Times Schools Treated Students Like Criminals

As school policies have gotten stricter, students in schools across the United States have been disciplined for things like playing make-believe games. (Photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)
Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student in Irving, Texas, made headlines yesterday after local authorities arrested him for bringing a homemade clock to his high school.

According to news reports, the teen showed his creation to an English teacher before being taken out of school in handcuffs. 

But Mohamed is not the first student to face the unintended backlash of zero-tolerance policies at schools in the United States. Here are nine other instances in recent years where students were treated like criminals for seemingly innocuous behavior:

1. A Pennsylvania kindergartner was suspended for talking about shooting her Hello Kitty bubble gun while waiting in line for the bus in January 2013. According to reports, the bubble gun was not with her at the time. When pressed to explain why she brought up the gun, the little girl told a professional counselor that one of her friends likes Hello Kitty. Due to her young age, the girl’s suspension was cut down to two days.  

2. In September of 2014, an 11-year-old boy was suspended from his Virginia school for 364 days after having a leaf that resembled marijuana in his backpack. As the Daily Signal previously reported, the school knew the leaf was not marijuana, but still suspended the boy. He was charged with marijuana possession in a juvenile court. Months after the fact, the charges were dropped after the leaf field-tested negative for marijuana three times.

3. A 15-year-old boy was convicted of disorderly conduct, a step down from possible felony wiretapping charges, after recording seven minutes of audio on his school-issued iPad in 2014 during a math class at his Pennsylvania high school. He wanted to use the recording as evidence that he was being bullied at school. The alleged bullies were not investigated, while the boy was kicked out of his special-needs math class.

4. 18-year-old Jordan Wiser spent 13 days in jail and faced felony charges for possession of a weapon for carrying a pocket knife in an EMT vest which was stored in a car parked on school property in Ohio. The knife was said to be in violation of school policy. A first responder and certified emergency vehicle operator, Wiser had the knife in his vest in case he needed to cut through seat belts in the line of duty.

5. Tenth-grade-student Da’von Shaw from Ohio had planned to conduct a healthy breakfast demonstration for his speech class by packing craisins, an apple, and a knife to cut the apple in his school bag. But upon seeing the knife, Shaw’s teacher immediately confiscated the utensil. Shaw was reportedly suspended from school for five days, and received a suspension letter that charged him with bringing a weapon to school.

6. In Texas, nine-year-old Aiden Steward was suspended for making a terrorist threat after bringing a ring to class and telling another boy the “magic” ring could make him disappear. As it turned out, the boy had just seen the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

7. Alex Evans, a seven-year-old from Colorado, found himself suspended from school after throwing an imaginary grenade into a sandbox filled with pretend evil forces. The second grader said he was trying to be a hero to “rescue the world” from make-believe bad guys.

8. In Maryland, a seven-year-old second-grader was suspended after chewing a Pop-Tart breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun. It was reported that he had said, “Look, I made a gun.” 

9. 13-year-old Kyle Bradford faced detention for sharing his lunch at school in California. After seeing a friend unhappy with his own cheese sandwich, Bradford gave his classmate his chicken burrito. The school had a policy in place to prevent students from exchanging meals. “I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage,” Bradford told news affiliate KRCR-TV.