Friday, July 29, 2016

The STEM Education Challenge

New, robust partnerships between the public and private sectors are needed today to attract and educate the young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians for tomorrow.

A stem is the main trunk of a plant, and STEM — short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is the main trunk of our economy.

A plant that gets too little water will fail to grow. Unfortunately, that’s also what’s happening to STEM education in our country today.

We’re simply failing to attract and educate a sufficient number of young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. Demand for these workers is growing fast, but our pool of talent isn’t.

The situation is especially perplexing, given that a career in STEM would seem to be highly attractive. Consider:

· Demand for STEM jobs is growing fast. Jobs across all occupations are forecast to increase by only 14 percent between 2010 and 2020. By contrast, jobs in biomedical engineering are expected to increase during that same period by 62 percent. In medical science, jobs are expected to grow during that period by 36 percent. And in systems software development, to grow by 32 percent.

· STEM jobs pay well. The average wage for all STEM occupations in the United States is $85,570. That’s nearly twice the average for all occupations.

· STEM is an equal-opportunity employer. Women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations. They also experience a smaller wage gap relative to men.

Despite these positive benefits, interest in STEM careers is limited. The U.S. government now expects that 2.4 million STEM jobs will remain unfilled by 2018. And only 16 percent of our high-school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. As a result, the STEM job gap does not appear likely to be bridged anytime soon.

A for Effort

However, we can’t blame the STEM challenge on a lack of concern or effort. In fact, a myriad of schools, government bodies, corporations and non-profit organizations have been trying for years to close the STEM gap. They’ve conducted studies, awarded grants, held contests with valuable prizes, even run technology summer camps for inner-city kids. Yet despite all this well-meaning work -- not to mention the literally hundreds of millions of dollars these efforts have collectively cost -- the nation’s STEM gap is expected to be serious.

What’s wrong? We believe many of these efforts, while certainly well-intentioned, have missed the mark. For example, too many of our university business schools still teach the traditional subjects of accounting, finance and economics. Instead, they need to focus on STEM topics such as information technology, cybersecurity and analytics.

But that’s not all. We’re convinced that too much STEM emphasis has been placed on older university students. Instead, we need to capture the interest of students who are much younger --ideally, youngsters in elementary and middle schools. We also need more effective STEM programs that reach out directly to girls and members of minorities, both of whom are disproportionately underrepresented in technical and scientific job markets.

What’s Needed Now

So what’s the solution? We believe what’s needed is a much stronger alliance between our nation’s business leaders and its educators -- and not just at the university and college levels, but also in our K-12 schools.

To be sure, there have been some early and laudable efforts. For example:

· Intel has committed $300 million to STEM education. This supplier of microprocessors and other computing gear is focusing on K-12 and college classes in previously underserved regions.

· Microsoft is this summer offering free workshops at some of its retail stores. These programs, some of which are being offered to children as young as 8 years old, teach kids how to have fun writing software code.

But more is still needed. Otherwise, our schools will continue to operate in a vacuum, and the STEM gap will widen.

Industry executives, educators and philanthropists must solve this issue by working together. Companies need to get involved with their local schools, too. Masergy is helping to lead the way with a new scholarship program that will help students earn STEM-related degrees. Masergy engineers have also volunteered in Plano, TX area schools. With a challenge this big, this stubborn, and this important, we all need to do our part.


Parents Beat Back Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Mandate in Texas Schools

Administrators of a Texas school district changed guidelines for transgender students to involve parents and work with families on a case-by-case basis, after an uproar among parents.

The Fort Worth Independent School District announced the two new pages of guidelines dated July 19 after parents and others had a chance to speak at school board meetings, six public forums, and five meetings of a safety advisory panel, among others.

“The new guidelines place a heavy emphasis on involving parents and trusts students, teachers, and parents to work together to make the right decisions,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said in a prepared statement.

“We are grateful Superintendent Scribner reversed and repealed his illegal transgender directive,” a group of students, parents, and taxpayers called Stand for Fort Worth, said of the change.

The school district, comprised of 143 schools and 87,000 students, said it received comment from 235 individuals, including 119 separate emails.

“The new guidelines reflect what we’ve heard from students and teachers, parents, and pastors,” Scribner said. “Our focus from the beginning has been the safety of all children and that, overwhelmingly, was the concern we heard from our parents and others.”

The previous eight pages of guidelines, approved by Scribner in April, allowed students to use the male or female restroom of their choice and directed school personnel to address a student by the name or gender pronoun he or she prefers, even without permission from a parent or guardian.

“It’s not surprising to see concerned parents in Fort Worth … standing up to school bureaucrats to ensure the safety and privacy interests of their children.” —Roger Severino @Heritage

The Board of Education Trustees oversees the management and policymaking of the Fort Worth school district.

Scribner prepared the original guidelines, “completely done in secret,” and without “all the board members being aware of it, much less having parents having input on the process,” Julia Keyes, a Fort Worth resident and mother of five children, told The Daily Signal.

“It kind of came as a shock,”  Keyes said.

Keyes, a member of Stand for Fort Worth, said parents and others were “outraged” and sent over 2,000 emails to school board members  to hold the superintendent accountable.

“It was really the community that rose up,” Keyes said.

In May, the Obama administration issued a transgender student directive to schools around the nation, threatening to withhold federal funding if schools do not open up restrooms and shower facilities based on a student’s chosen gender identity.

Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal:

Texas and 23 other states have already sued the administration over its lawless edict on school showers, bathrooms, and dorms. So it’s not surprising to see concerned parents in Fort Worth and around the country standing up to school bureaucrats to ensure the safety and privacy interests of their children.

“We feel good about the guidelines as they stand,” Keyes said. “However, trust has been broken with the superintendent.”

In an email to The Daily Signal, Matthew Kacsmaryk, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, said Scribner’s original guidelines overrode rights guaranteed by the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution:

Like its federal counterpart, [Scribner’s directive] was replete with speech codes that violated the free speech clause, shower mandates that violated the free exercise clause, and parent blocks that violated the 14th Amendment rights of parents to the care, custody, and management of their children.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, called for Scribner’s resignation over his unilateral implementation of the original guidelines.

Kacsmaryk said the Fort Worth school district’s original directive “expressly discouraged use of binary terms like ‘boy’ and ‘girl’” and made “no reasonable accommodation for dissenting Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants who adhere to the Book of Genesis and continue to believe that God ‘created them male and female.”

The First Liberty Institute lawyer, who consulted with Keyes and her husband before Scribner backed down, added:  

This is not diversity but displacement, the absolutist imposition of a sexually revolutionized view of the human person without any accommodation for religious dissenters who may have a different view of man and woman, male and female.

The group Stand for Fort Worth said it had “mobilized a bipartisan, multiracial coalition of students, taxpayers, and parents who were initially excluded from the process but whose voices have now been heard.”

The new guidelines say the school district will work with parents to create individual support plans for transgender students to address “the student’s unique needs.”

If the student requests access to an opposite-sex restroom, locker room, or related facility, the campus  administrator, the student and his or her parent or guardian, and guidance counselor will review the request on a case-by-case basis.

The goal will be to create a “safe and supportive environment for students impacted by the accommodation with due recognition of the privacy rights of all students,” the guidelines say.


UK: Stephen Kinnock accused of hiding daughter’s £29,000 a year private education

Labour's "red prince" Stephen Kinnock has been accused of hiding his daughter’s £29,000 a year private education during the selection process for his seat.

In 2014 Mr Kinnock, a Labour MP, told Wales Online that “it is highly misleading to say that our daughter attended a private school” in Denmark.

However it has since emerged that Johanna Kinnock attended Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan, a private sixth form college in south Wales, between 2013 to 2015.

The son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, claimed that he was talking about his daughter's schooling in Denmark.

He insisted he has "always been open" about his daughter's education in Wales and said in a statement on his website that her time at Atlantic College was "partly funded by a standard Danish state scholarship for students studying abroad".

A blog, "Jac o' The North", has accused Mr Kinnock of failing to reveal in 2014 that his daughter was attending the school.

Mr Kinnock said he was responding at the time to questions about the school in Denmark.

He said: "Shortly before the late March 2014 hustings for the Aberavon Constituency Labour Party MP selection I was asked to clarify whether or not Johanna had attended a private school in Copenhagen.

"I explained that she had spent two years at IJS.  The author of this blog claims that the facts of the matter were somehow being concealed; they were not.

"I was being asked about, and responding to, questions about, the nature of Johanna's education in Denmark, and not about the nature of her education at [Atlantic College]."

A source close to the Aberavon selection contest told BBC Wales Mr Kinnock would not have won the selection if it had been known at the time that Johanna was being privately educated. He said: "It would have changed people's perception, it would have made the difference. There was only one vote in it."


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The end of tuition

Amusing language below:  "ASKING about 15,000 of the very wealthiest individuals to pay a bit more" would certainly be inoffensive -- but I doubt that the author really means that.  "COMPELLING" people to pay more is his real agenda.  Very different

JUST AS surely as the sun rises on Provincetown and sets on Pittsfield, tuition and fees are again rising for students at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts. Students will work more hours, take on more debt, or drop out.

In the past decade, tuition and fees increased by thousands of dollars. This fall, they’ll jump by nearly 7.8 percent at the state universities and 5.8 percent at UMass.

Why? Because the story of the past 20 years has been a downward slope in public spending and an equivalent rise in tuition and fees. State appropriations for public higher education in Massachusetts are down 11 percent from spending levels in 2002, even though UMass, for example, now educates 30,000 more students. Tuition and fees have made up the difference.

Let’s jump off this annual merry-go-round of cuts, tuition hikes, and blame, and instead ask: Why are students paying tuition at all?

A large majority of the country now agree that some form of post-secondary education is essential to life success — not just a better-paying job, but the chance to fulfill one’s abilities and unique contribution. That conclusion is not confined to liberals. Margaret Spellings, secretary of education for George W. Bush, said, “What a high school diploma was in the ’50s is akin, more and more, to at least two years of postsecondary education today.”

Despite this broad consensus, we act as if it were inevitable that public high schools are free, but three months later, students should pay many thousands of dollars and incur huge debt that will follow them into middle age.

Until now. Free public higher education has gone mainstream. It’s not just that President Obama proposed free community college, or that Bernie Sanders made it a cornerstone of his campaign.s Now Hillary Clinton, recognizing how crucial an issue this is to young voters, is going further than any previous party nominee: She has proposed making public colleges and universities free to students from families with incomes below $125,000 — that’s about 80 percent of all households.

It’s unlikely that Clinton will be able to enact her plan unless there are sweeping Democratic gains in Congress. But we don’t need to wait for Congress. Here in Massachusetts, a study by the Budget and Policy Center shows that free higher education at all public colleges and universities could be implemented at a cost of $631 million a year. If we applied a middle-income cap, or made only two years free, the cost would be a good bit less.

The money to do this could come in passage of the state Fair Share Amendment, which has the support of 70 percent of Massachusetts voters. By asking about 15,000 of the very wealthiest individuals to pay a bit more on their yearly income over $1 million, the state would generate close to $2 billion a year, far more than is needed to provide free public higher education to its residents, achieve a strong base for the knowledge economy, and a more educated democracy.


Federal Government Attempts to Keep Regulating Local Schools

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee held an additional hearing about the proposed implementation regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As noted before, the proposed regulations go well beyond the law passed by Congress as the Department of Education (DOEd) continues seeking to meddle in local schools. The testimony of the witnesses highlights the need for public input pushing back on the federal government’s proposed regulations, which include a potential back door route to reimpose Common Core mandates on the states.

At the hearing, Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the main authors of the ESSA, identified four main areas where the proposed rules are in need of serious revisions:

 *  Most importantly, the rules leave open an opportunity for the federal government to reimpose Common Core. Even though the language of the ESSA gives the federal government no power to reject state curriculum standards, the proposed regulations require that a state “provide evidence” that it has adopted challenging curriculum standards. The testimony of Dr. Gail Pletnick, superintendent of a school district in Arizona, specifically notes this loophole, asking: “Does [the regulation] equate to the ability to reject the state developed standards based on someone’s opinion they are not challenging?”

 *  The proposed regulations create what is described as a “summative rating system.” This would require each state to come up with a single rating system for its schools based primarily on scores on federally mandated tests. Nowhere in the ESSA is the department directed to take this action. The bureaucrats have simply made it up.

 *  The proposed rules would result in the return of federal testing mandates. Sen. Alexander noted that “The heart of the new law is the end of federal test-based accountability.” But the rules ignore that intent, effectively making federal tests and standards the yardstick for any school found to be “needing improvement”

 *  The timeline for implementation is far too short, with schools expected to begin complying with the regulations by the 2017-18 school year. However, this timeline is so compressed that it makes it near impossible for states to develop their own new accountability systems, which is the main stated purpose of the ESSA.

The proposed regulations from the DOEd contradict the intent of the ESSA and represent a continuing attempt by the federal government to impose a Washington bureaucrat’s idea of what education should be, instead of leaving education policy decisions where they belong: with states and local school districts.


California’s War on My Religious College and Others

I had a very weird college experience. My memories aren’t of frat parties, of slugging down drinks in games of quarters or beer pong, of losing my voice cheering at big football games, and of hearing how evil Western civilization is in the classroom.

Instead, when I think of my four years at Thomas Aquinas College, I think of drawing Euclidean propositions on a chalkboard, of lively debates about Aristotle’s claims about ethics, of earnest discussions about things as obscure as the nature of being.

I remember how my heels clacked against the marble floor of the campus church, and seeing the California hills rising above the small campus. I recall nights in the women’s dorm when we’d pray the line from the Psalms that “peace be within thy walls” and weekends where, clinking beers in those hills ringing campus, we’d talk about everything from the campus gossip to philosophy.

My liberal arts college, as you might have guessed by now, was certainly religious. Thomas Aquinas College, located about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles in Santa Paula, California, is a Catholic institution and as “out” as you can get about its faith affiliation. There are crucifixes everywhere, a huge church that dominates the small campus, prayers that begin every class.

And now my college, along with other religious colleges, is under attack from California state legislators.

“It’s a direct assault on our First Amendment rights of our free exercise of religion,” says John Quincy Masteller, general counsel for Thomas Aquinas College, of the California legislation known as SB 1146.

What SB 1146 Would Do

The California state Senate already has passed SB 1146, and the state Assembly, which will return from recess Aug. 1, is likely to vote on it in the not-distant future.

The current version of the bill, if passed and signed into law by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown, could significantly affect religious colleges’ financial status if they refused to change their current practices on issues such as marriage and gender identity. As many as 42 higher education institutions in the Golden State could be affected, according to Biola University.

“It’s about making the statement that schools that adhere to the traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality are wrong, are behaving immorally, and need to be punished,” said Greg Baylor, a senior counsel with the religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, speaking at an event hosted by The Heritage Foundation last week. “The state can’t be tainted by an association with these schools.”

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, SB 1146 has three provisions that could particularly affect religious colleges:

1) requires schools to make single-sex facilities available to students based on gender identity,

2) obligates schools providing married housing to make married housing available to same-sex couples, and

3) fails to protect a school’s practice of considering religion in admissions or hiring.

In other words, if a student born male decided to identify as female, perhaps without even changing his birth certificate or seeking any kind of hormonal or surgical medical assistance, his religious college could be forced to allow that student to live in the female housing—or face financial consequences.

College administrators could also face problems if they wanted to hire people who shared their beliefs or, believing that marriage could only exist between a man and a woman, say that only male-female married couples could have access to housing for married students.

These are not small issues. The Catholic beliefs of Thomas Aquinas College affect what is taught and how. All of my professors were Catholics, which meant their teaching in class very much included an awareness of and sometimes a discussion of a specific perspective.

While not all of the students were Catholic (and those with different religious viewpoints were treated with respect), it was clear that if you didn’t want your education informed by Catholicism at all, this was the wrong college to go to.

It was also clear that religion was not limited to the classroom. The Catholic faith affected everyday life, the kind of rules and practices the college had. For example, all housing at my college was entirely single-sex, usually two women or two men sharing a room together. Men were allowed in the women’s dorms only in select hours to do basic maintenance, and vice versa. (Since I never worked on maintenance, I never set foot in any of the men’s dorms during my entire four years.)

SB 1146 would also require colleges to disclose it openly if they requested an exemption on religious grounds from the federal government on implementing Title IX, the law that is supposed to ban discrimination on basis of sex but has been twisted to include discrimination on basis of gender identity. None of the religious colleges, to my knowledge, is objecting to that disclosure.

“There are religious institutions in California—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic, all accredited—every one of whom, in accord with all the major religions in the world, believe that gender matters, that maleness and femaleness is not arbitrary, that it’s not interchangeable, that it’s not inconsequential,” John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, said at the same Heritage event where Baylor spoke.

There are California institutions, Jackson added, that believe “marriage matters.”

“I think, quite frankly, for some in California, that’s an embarrassment. And SB 1146 is an attempt to throttle, to silence, to disempower, to marginalize those who hold to those views.”

Colleges Could Face Bleak Financial Future

If SB 1146 passes and religious colleges refuse to change, they face a much harsher financial future.

The likely outcome is that their students who are eligible no longer could receive the significant tuition assistance California offers students who attend private colleges and fulfill certain requirements, including having a 3.0 GPA and a family income below certain levels.

That’s because religious colleges would be unable to tell California they were following certain policies. California requires colleges whose students receive the tuition assistance, called CalGrants, to certify compliance with specific policies.

Already, there is concern about the impact this would have on students. A statement signed by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and others, warned that the bill could hurt Hispanic students in particular:

Members of the Hispanic community would be disproportionately affected by SB 1146 given our community’s longtime commitment toward faith-based education.

This bill would not only diminish religious liberty in California higher education; it would discriminate against minority communities in California.

The loss of CalGrants is no small threat for religious colleges. About 10 percent of Thomas Aquinas College’s 360 students receive the tuition assistance, which can go up to around $9,000 per year. Losing that would mean a 10 percent cut to the college’s financial aid budget.

William Jessup University, a Christian college of about 1,000 undergraduate students with two locations in Northern California, has about 30 percent of its students receiving CalGrants, adding up to about $2 million of the school’s budget.

“We will be faithful to our biblical and religious convictions no matter what the economic consequences,” Jessup’s Jackson said. “However, the fundamental reality is that might mean a reduction in services, it might mean a reduction in programs.”

Thomas Aquinas College is similarly adamant about not changing even if SB 1146 is passed: “The college has always taken a position that we’re not going to jeopardize our Catholic character because of any public funding of any kind,” Masteller said.

I wasn’t eligible for a CalGrant when I went to college. But as a native Californian who grew up in the now-hip Silicon Valley area, I’m stunned that Californians who do meet the eligibility requirements for a CalGrant could now face a choice between attending a college that adheres to their value system and losing thousands of dollars, or going to a secular or more progressive religious college and getting a significant financial boost.

Sure, I knew that being a conservative Catholic didn’t make me part of the mainstream in California, particularly in my family’s San Francisco-dominated liberal enclave. (Our neighbors used to wonder why our family always went to church on Sunday.) But the attitude was largely live and let live. We were the weird churchgoers, that was all.

Now it feels like my state—which I do still think of as my state, despite the seven years that have passed since I lived there—is turning on religious people, changing from an attitude of live and let live to demanding that people bow to the current conventional wisdom on certain values or be punished.

A Life of Faith Isn’t Limited to Within Church Walls

Here’s the crucial point that California state legislators don’t seem to get (or perhaps accept): Religious beliefs affect more than what someone does on Sunday mornings in a place of worship.

“You’re welcome to come, as long as you know we expect you to abide by this moral code, because we’re Catholics,” Masteller said, describing Thomas Aquinas College’s approach to prospective students.

At Thomas Aquinas College, the code of behavior is scarcely limited to matters that would affect LGBT students. In fact, in 1997 the college was sued by a female student who had been expelled, following a disagreement with college officials related to her desire to continue spending nights at her male fiancé’s house, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

A host of other rules—many of which admittedly I would not make rules if I ran a Catholic college myself—existed in part to ensure the college retains its Catholic character, according to my understanding when I was there as a student.

The rules including requiring students to follow a dress code intended in part to promote modesty; banning drinking without permission on campus; limiting internet use (making it harder to watch porn); and enforcing a strict curfew every night. In other words, it’s a fairly equal opportunity, superstrict atmosphere at my alma mater, hardly targeting any particular group.

And it’s an atmosphere that is truly religious. Yes, there were the obvious signs—the big church, the prayers said out loud—but there was also a real earnestness among many students to take seriously what they felt was a call to holiness. Some of my fellow students attended daily Mass. An actual debate among students, just to give you a sense of the spirit of the college, was whether it was OK to study non-theological subjects, like math or literature, in the church, or whether you should be in the church only if you were actually praying.

While we were far from a perfect group of young adults, there was certainly a genuine amount of trying among the students. We talked about what virtue was, and, amid all the usual pettiness and drama of any community’s life, there were plenty of good-faith efforts to be kind, to be charitable, to be understanding.

“I’m not saying people don’t make mistakes, and I’m not saying that there are not challenges; we certainly are fallible people,” Jessup’s Jackson said. “But I want to tell you that the religious institutions in California treat people with dignity and respect because it’s part of our religious conviction.”

Forcing Religious Colleges to Change

In a video released at the end of June, Biola University President Barry H. Corey strikes similar themes, saying the college in Southern California has “zero tolerance for bullying” and strives to be one of the “safe places that demonstrate the love of Christ to all students.”

“Contrary to the simplistic picture painted by SB 1146, institutions like Biola seek to live in harmony with and love the LGBT community,” Corey said in the video. “We want to respect this community’s rights and protect them from discrimination and hate. Not because of the law, but because of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

“We are not asking the LGBT community to change who they are,” he added. “We are simply asking that they do not force us to change who we are either.”

But if SB 1146 becomes law, religious colleges will be forced either to change or tell their students they do not have access to the same funds as their peers in California, just because they want to attend a religious college.

As I’ve acknowledged, my college experience was unusual.

Most teens don’t hear of a college where they can read and discuss Einstein and de Tocqueville, Jane Austen and Kant, and think: Sign me up.

Most teens aren’t interested in how many daily Masses a college offers (for those wondering: three, sometimes four) and being able to have classroom discussions where you can think about the connection between Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s understanding of the relationship of beauty and truth and Thomas Aquinas’s take on it.

But there are some, like me, who are interested in such a college experience.

And California shouldn’t punish them and force them to cough up as much as an additional $36,000 to attend college, just because they think the best college education is informed by a religious perspective. Because that’s discrimination, too: discrimination against people of faith.

I want to believe that my state isn’t there, that the legislators aren’t serious about singling out people of faith for discrimination like this.  But I don’t know.

In our conversation, Masteller was blunt about what he sees as the objectives of SB 1146’s proponents. “They want to wipe religion out of the public square.”


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

PRIVATE SCHOOLS, PAINFUL SECRETS: The unexpected price of reporting abuse: retaliation

When a small boarding school in the Berkshires discovered that a music teacher was having a sexual relationship with a female student, administrators responded in a way many parents would applaud: They fired him.

But Buxton School officials took another step as well. They asked the teenager to leave.

Just weeks before graduation in 1982, 18-year-old Erika Schickel was told that her continued presence would make others at the school uncomfortable. That included the teacher’s girlfriend, who worked there.

Buxton officials unceremoniously sent Schickel a diploma in the mail and included her picture in the yearbook only at the insistence of indignant friends.

"The top priority for the school was to get rid of me,” said Schickel, who remembers boarding the bus in Williamstown to leave, heartbroken and confused. "I walked around in a daze for years, so torn up and destroyed. I had made that my home and my family.”

The Globe Spotlight Team, in its ongoing investigation of abuses at New England private schools, found at least 15 instances of apparent retaliation against students who were sexually exploited by staffers or against employees who raised concerns about alleged sexual abuse and harassment. Some cases date back decades, while others are quite recent. But all of them are still raw for the people who felt the backlash.

The retribution, they say, came in various forms, including abusers lashing out at their accusers or enlisting other students to ostracize them, and administrators punishing or expelling students who complained of being victimized. At Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Waterbury, Conn., a fifth-grader who told officials a teacher had sexually assaulted her repeatedly in the early 1970s was forced to kneel and recite the "Hail Mary” prayer to atone, according to a 2010 lawsuit that was later settled.

Many of these retaliation allegations surfaced after the Globe first reported in December about a sexual abuse scandal at St. George’s School in Rhode Island, where lawyers for victims say they have received credible allegations that nearly 50 alumni were sexually abused. Since then, at least 22 private schools in New England have launched investigations into sexual misconduct by staffers, many sparked by the Globe’s reporting.

The troubles go way beyond St. George’s. Since a May investigation by the Spotlight Team found 67 private schools in New England that had been touched by allegations of sexual misconduct by staffers over the past 25 years, scores of additional private school alumni and students have contacted the Globe to tell their stories. The count now stands at more than 100 schools, where more than 300 former students say they faced sexual abuse or harassment.

Many of these cases were not reported to authorities at the time, and the doubting, shaming, and alleged arbitrary punishment of some who report abuse may partly explain why. This pattern of reticence is consistent with a 2004 national study that found only 6 to 10 percent of students abused by educators report it to someone who can do something about it.

Retaliation cases can be ambiguous and tricky to prove. Abusers often seek out students with issues — such as family problems or learning disabilities — that make them insecure and more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Then, after their victimization, children and teenagers who suffer sexual abuse sometimes act out disruptively or develop substance abuse or psychological problems. That can lead schools to take disciplinary action against them for violations of school rules.

Particularly difficult are cases involving older teens, who may feel they are in consensual relationships with school staffers and may be of legal age.

Although some states, such as Connecticut, make it a crime for an educator to have sexual contact with a student regardless of age, many others do not. In Massachusetts, it’s not illegal for an educator to have sex with a student, as long as the student is at least 16 and the relationship is considered consensual.

Even if the relationship is not a crime, schools still assume a duty to protect students from exploitation by staff members. But some institutions, the Globe review found, have responded to allegations of sexual exploitation by cracking down on the students, as if they were the wrongdoers.

A former student at the Emma Willard School in upstate New York recently went public with allegations that the school forced her to leave in 1998 after the 18-year-old — who had been having a sexual relationship with her soccer coach and history teacher — told officials the educator had gagged, bound, and raped her. A spokeswoman said the school fired the teacher that year and has hired a firm to investigate the allegations, which officials there take "very seriously."

Many private schools do have policies for staffers that strictly prohibit sexual contact with students. The standard for schools should be unambiguous, said Peter Upham, executive director of The Association of Boarding Schools.

"For a teacher, coach, or other school employee to have sexual contact with a high school student, even if the student is legally of the ‘age of consent,’ is an egregious breach," he said.

Upham said his group condemns retaliation against anyone who brings a good-faith allegation of educator misconduct.

"When directed against an abuse survivor, retaliation re-injures the victim," Upham added. "When directed against a witness or other knowledgeable party, retaliation creates a new victim and suppresses future reporting of concerns.”

Students and school staff have both felt the pain of reprisals for reporting abuse. But it is the young who often bear the brunt: In 13 of the 15 cases reviewed by the Spotlight Team, the alleged retaliation was toward students.

In November 1994, officials at the Forman School in Litchfield, Conn., discovered that a married teacher, Susie Stiles, was having sex with a 16-year-old junior at Stiles’ apartment on campus. The headmaster of the school, which specializes in teaching students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, promptly fired Stiles and ordered her to stay away from the teenager. The school did not report her to police, though it was and is illegal in the state for a teacher to have sex with a student.

The teenager was distraught over the ousting of his teacher, according to the student’s parents. The boy ran away from school and, after a confrontation with police, was placed on suicide watch at a local hospital. When the teenager returned to Forman, things only got worse. Classmates taunted him, and the boy felt Stiles’ husband, also a teacher at Forman, glared at him every time they crossed paths, according to the student’s father, Michael, who requested that only his first name be used to protect his son’s identity.

The junior began getting into fights, including one with a student who had teased him about Stiles, Michael said. Just a month after Stiles was fired, records show, a school disciplinary board voted 3-to-2 to expel the junior.

When Michael picked up his son, he found the boy’s belongings dumped in trash bags in the hallway.

"They didn’t try to control the situation there,” Michael said. "Rather than see that he was a victim and should be treated as such, instead they were treating him as if he were the problem. They decided to wash their hands of him.”

Forman officials today say that an administrator who had agreed to monitor the boy after he was released from the hospital saw no signs of retaliation. "It was all pretty awkward,” Stiles’ now ex-husband told the Globe, but added, "The idea that I glared at him is absurd.”

The school now acknowledges that police should have been alerted about the abuse.

After the teenager was expelled from school — and against the wishes of his parents — the student followed Stiles and lived with her for a time in West Virginia, where she had moved and continued teaching. Stiles abruptly resigned from Jefferson County schools in February 1997. She told the Globe she decided not to teach any longer. Jefferson County school officials declined to comment on the terms of her departure.

Stiles, who now works with rescued animals and has changed her name, said in a phone interview that she was abused by a family member as a child and was going through a "difficult period” when she was at Forman, including struggles with alcohol.

"It was horrible,” she said, recalling the problems her former student faced at Forman after their relationship was discovered. "I would never intentionally hurt anyone.”


Conventional Wisdom on Education?

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week has showcased plenty of hoopla and boilerplate rhetoric – some of it apparently plagiarized – but provided little enlightenment on key themes such as education. On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and New Jersey governor Chris Christie bypassed the subject completely. Not so Donald Trump Jr., son of the Republican nominee, who is not running for office.

"Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class, now they’re stalled on the ground floor,” he told the conventioneers. "They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers.” According to the nominee’s son, the reason other countries are besting the U.S. is that in other nations, "They let parents choose where they send their own children to school. It’s called competition. It’s called the free market.” In other countries, "They let parents choose where they send their own children to school. It’s called competition. It’s called the free market.” Trump Jr. said the free market is "what the other party fears,” and "They want to run everything, top-down from Washington. They tell us they’re the experts and they know what’s best.”

As Education Week noted, despite the speech, RNC delegates were "totally in the dark about what Trump stands for when it comes to K-12 policy.” The candidate is on record that "Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall,” and that teacher unions "take a strong stand against school choice.” He also said last year: "I may cut Department of Education.”

Ronald Reagan and other Republicans failed to cut the department and it has grown in power, with a budget of nearly $70 billion, up $1.3 billion over 2016. The federal department also deploys an armed enforcement division. For a wider assessment of federal education policy see Vicki Alger’s Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.


Fort Worth Schools Modify Transgender Policy to Include Parental Oversight

The Fort Worth Independent School District in Texas has altered its policy dealing with transgender students to include parents in decisions made for their children who attend the public schools.

"The primary difference is these guidelines focus on parent communication,” School Superintendent Kent Scribner said on Wednesday as reported by a local CBS affiliate. "Parent rights and responsibilities.”

As reported earlier, the guidance issued in June put students’ privacy over parental involvement in decisions, including what bathroom a transgender student could choose to use and whether the decision to "transition” to the gender the student prefers was made known to parents.

Parents and others were reportedly outraged at the guidance, and at the request of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion on the policy following its release.

"Far from creating a partnership between parents, educators, and administrators regarding their children’s education, the guidelines relegate parents to a subordinate status, receiving information only on a need-to-know basis,’” Paxton said.

"Limiting parents' access to information in this way impairs their ability to ‘actively participate,’” the opinion stated, referencing Chapter 26 of the state’s Education Code.

The Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday that the changes reflect what was heard from concerned parents and others and also a change was made as it refers participation in athletics based on established rules.

"The new guidelines reflect what we've heard from students and teachers, parents and pastors," Scribner said in a statement published in part in the paper. "Our focus from the beginning has been the safety of all children and that, overwhelmingly, was the concern we heard from our parents and others."  

"Transgender students and their parents must now contact a school administrator or counselor to request a meeting to discuss their unique circumstances,” the article stated. "Any accommodations — including the access to restrooms or locker rooms — will be determined on a case-by-case basis based upon individual needs and school facilities.

"When students are separated by gender for facilities or activities, transgender children may participate according to their individual support plan,” the article stated. "However, high school sports sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League must adhere to that league's rules, which uses the birth certificate to determine gender.”

In a statement, Paxton praised the changes.

"I applaud the Fort Worth Independent School District for revising its guideline to ensure it complies with state law and my recent attorney general opinion,” the statement said. "This guideline now allows school officials to consider the needs of students and their families on a case-by-case basis while considering the health and safety of all students.

"Unfortunately, the Obama administration disagrees with allowing school officials to make common-sense, case-by-case choices,” said Paxton, referring to guidance issued by the Department of Justice earlier this year in response to a law in North Carolina requiring students to use the bathrooms and other facilities based on the sex on their birth certificate.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

UK: The NUS turns its back on Jewish students. Again

The governing body of the National Union of Students (NUS), the National Executive Committee (NEC), met this week to discuss matters that have arisen since the national conference in April and the election of controversial president Malia Bouattia.

Her election sparked a national debate about the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism on the left and gave rise to several disaffiliation referenda in universities nationwide. Since her election, four universities have disaffiliated from the NUS. One of the disaffiliators’ key concerns was Bouattia’s views, especially on Jewish issues. She once described the University of Birmingham (a campus with a large Jewish community) as a ‘Zionist outpost’ and has complained about ‘mainstream Zionist-led media outlets’. She was also involved in the scrapping of an NUS motion to condemn ISIS. At NUS national conference this year, there was applause for speeches against a motion to commemorate the Holocaust.

On the agenda at Monday’s NEC meeting was a motion saying that ‘Anti-Semitism on campus is rising’. Unfortunately, however, the NUS apportions blame for this anti-Semitism, not to those on the student left who use ‘Zio’ as an insult and speak of Zionist-led conspiracies, but to the EU referendum. After specifically identifying anti-Semitism as a problem on campus, the motion goes on to say that ‘in the wake of the EU referendum, racism in all its forms is rising and it is vital that NUS provides leadership in tackling racism’. ‘It is a top priority for the NUS to unite all students to root out [the] evils of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism’, it says.

Even worse, in its final form the motion removed the ability of Jewish students to choose a representative on the Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism committee (ARAF). The resolution passed, with a deciding vote from Bouattia herself, creating a situation where the ARAF committee is now appointed by the NEC of the NUS, rather than being chosen by students from the groups it is meant to represent. The Union of Jewish Students responded with a statement pointing out that it is now ‘down to NEC to elect the ARAF committee and therefore to decide on behalf of Jewish students who represents them. This decision is undemocratic and excludes the 8,500 Jewish students we represent. It was no surprise that the NUS president, Malia Bouattia, who had the deciding vote, once again showed that she has absolutely no interest in defending Jewish students’ interests by voting to remove the ability of Jewish students to shape for themselves the student movements’ fight against racism and fascism.’

The NUS’s chequered history with Jewish students was brought to the fore when Bouattia became president. But it stretches far back, most notably in the NUS’s preoccupation with Israel, which has led to some bizarre decisions. From the No Platforming of Zionist speakers to the shutting down of pro-Israel meetings to the NEC’s motion last year to boycott Coca-Cola over its apparent ties to Zionism, student leaders have had a strange and worrying take on Jewish issues for a long time.

The latest developments will lead many to wonder why the NUS, which so often paints itself as progressive, has a blind spot when it comes to Jewish students. In other areas of their liberation programme, the NUS has a dedicated Black Students’ Officer, Disabled Students’ Officer, two LGBTQ+ Officers, and a Women’s Officer, each heading up sizeable teams. And yet even as the NUS officially recognises that anti-Semitism is a growing problem on campus, it decides to take away Jewish students’ ability to choose their one representative on the ARAF committee.

After her election, Bouattia responded to her critics by saying: ‘One of the most important steps is to meet with everyone, to talk about these concerns, to heal the divisions.’ This week suggests that students are still right to lack confidence in her leadership and in the idea that the NUS is an institution capable of representing all of its members.


Calling the cops on kids: the hunt for playground racism hits a new low

The hunt for hate is getting out of hand. This week police figures revealed that 138 incidents of racial or religious abuse, committed by children under the age of 10, were reported in England and Wales last year. One case, in Manchester, involved a three-year-old, who was said to have caused ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ to his ‘victim’.

Let’s get one thing straight: children cannot really be accused of racism. By investigating children for racial abuse, the police are granting children a level of political agency that they simply do not possess. If they sometimes utter racist speech, it’s most likely because they’ve regurgitated it from films, TV, song lyrics, or perhaps their parents. Children do not see the world through the racially tinted lenses that some adults do.

The focus on rooting out racist, homophobic or sexist kids has been a feature of education for more than a decade. And it is completely detached from reality. Playgrounds are not ridden with prejudice. Young children often use language that adults finds offensive or problematic. Often because they don’t know any better. It’s adults’ job to guide them in their development, not criminalise them.

This obsession with policing children’s speech is extremely damaging. Before they have learned freely to consider the world and express themselves, children are being taught to watch their words and see those of a different skin colour as different to them. The increased involvement of the police is even more worrying. We commit a great disservice to children if we allow them to be branded racists and harassers before they’re even out of primary school.

There is also a clear risk of children being used as a political weapon. It is a shameless practice, but it is all too common. A panic is created by a shock statistic, a policy or initiative is launched, and said statistic is used to bat away any criticism of it. After Brexit, we have already seen many politicians and commentators exploiting the alleged spike in post-Brexit hate to serve their own political ends. If we’re not careful, they will do the same with schools, too.

In the end, the obsession with racist kids speaks to the desperation of anti-racism campaigners. Now struggling to find explicit racism in society, they look for ‘unthinking’ racism, ‘hidden’ racism – and racism among children. They claim they want to root out future hatemongers, but in reality this only benefits anti-racist charities in desperate need of things to do. Having slain the big dragons, they turn their attention to small, irrelevant issues – like children using slurs in the playground. We can’t let the police get in on the act, too.


Science or advocacy?

Students are learning energy and climate change advocacy, not climate science

David R. Legates

For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate change advocacy as a surrogate for becoming climate science literate. This makes them easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today.

Earth’s climate probably is the most complicated non-living system one can study, because it naturally integrates astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, hydrology, oceanography and cryology, and also includes human behavior by both responding to and affecting human activities. Current concerns over climate change have further pushed climate science to the forefront of scientific inquiry.

What should we be teaching college students?

At the very least, a student should be able to identify and describe the basic processes that cause Earth’s climate to vary from poles to equator, from coasts to the center of continents, from the Dead Sea or Death Valley depression to the top of Mount Everest or Denali. A still more literate student would understand how the oceans, biosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere – driven by energy from the sun – all work in constantly changing combinations to produce our very complicated climate.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s definition of climate science literacy raises the question of whether climatology is even a science. It defines climate science literacy as “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.”

How can students understand and put into perspective their influence on the Earth’s climate if they don’t understand the myriad of processes that affect our climate? If they don’t understand the complexity of climate itself? If they are told only human aspects matter? And if they don’t understand these processes, how can they possibly comprehend how climate influences them and society in general?

Worse still, many of our colleges are working against scientific literacy for students.

At the University of Delaware, the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) defines the distinction between weather and climate by stating that “climate is measured over hundreds or thousands of years,” and defining climate as “average weather.” That presupposes that climate is static, or should be, and that climate change is unordinary in our lifetime and, by implication, undesirable.

Climate, however, is not static. It is highly variable, on timescales from years to millennia – for reasons that include, but certainly are not limited to, human activity.

This Delaware-Maryland program identifies rising concentrations of greenhouse gases – most notably carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – as the only reason why temperatures have risen about 0.6°C (1.1º F) over the last century and will supposedly continue to rise over the next century. Students are then instructed to save energy, calculate their carbon footprint, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Mastering these concepts, they are told, leads to “climate science literacy.” It does not.

In the past, I have been invited to speak at three different universities during their semester-long and college-wide focus on climate science literacy. At all three, two movies were required viewing by all students, to assist them in becoming climate science literate: Al Gore’s biased version of climate science, An Inconvenient Truth, and the 2004 climate science fiction disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow.

This past spring, the University of Delaware sponsored an Environmental Film Festival featuring six films. Among them only An Inconvenient Truth touched at all on the science behind climate change, albeit in such a highly flawed way that in Britain, students must be warned about its bias. The other films were activist-oriented and included movies that are admittedly science fiction or focus on “climate change solutions.”

For these films, university faculty members were selected to moderate discussions. We have a large College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment, from which agreeable, scientifically knowledgeable faculty could have been chosen. Instead, discussion of An Inconvenient Truth was led by a professor of philosophy, and one movie – a documentary on climate change “solutions” that argues solutions are pertinent irrespective of the science – was moderated by a civil engineer.

Discussion of the remaining four films was led by faculty from history, English and journalism. Clearly, there was little interest in the substance of the science.

Many fundamentals of climate science are absent from university efforts to promote climate science literacy. For example, students seldom learn that the most important chemical compound with respect to the Earth’s climate is not carbon dioxide, but water. Water influences almost every aspect of the Earth’s energy balance, because it is so prevalent, because it appears in solid, liquid and gas form in substantial quantities, and because energy is transferred by the water’s mobility and when it changes its physical state. Since precipitation varies considerably from year to year, changes in water availability substantially affect our climate every year.

Hearing about water, however, doesn’t set off alarms like carbon dioxide does.

Contributing to the increased focus on climate change advocacy is the pressure placed on faculty members who do not sign on to the advocacy bandwagon. The University of Delaware has played the role of activist and used FOIA requests to attempt to intimidate me because I have spoken out about climate change alarmism. In my article published in Academic Questions, “The University vs. Academic Freedom,” I discuss the university’s willingness to go along with Greenpeace in its quest for my documents and emails pertaining to my research.

Much grant money and fame, power and influence, are to be had for those who follow the advocates’ game plan. By contrast, the penalties for not going along with alarmist positions are quite severe.

For example, one of the films shown at the University of Delaware’s film festival presents those who disagree with climate change extremism as pundits for hire who misrepresent themselves as a scientific authority. Young faculty members are sent a very pointed message: adopt the advocacy position – or else.

Making matters worse, consider Senate Bill 3074. Introduced into the U.S. Senate on June 16 of this year, it authorizes the establishment of a national climate change education program. Once again, the emphasis is on teaching energy and climate advocacy, rather than teaching science and increasing scientific knowledge and comprehension.

The director of the National Center for Science Education commented that the bill was designed to “[equip] students with the knowledge and knowhow required for them to flourish in a warming world.” Unfortunately, it will do little to educate them regarding climate science.

I fear that our climate science curriculum has been co-opted, to satisfy the climate change fear-mongering agenda that pervades our society today. Instead of teaching the science behind Earth’s climate, advocates have taken the initiative to convert it to a social agenda of environmental activism.

Climatology, unfortunately, has been transformed into a social and political science. There is nothing wrong with either of those “sciences,” of course. But the flaws underpinning climate science advocacy are masked by “concern for the environment,” when climate is no longer treated as a physical science.

Climate science must return to being a real science and not simply a vehicle to promote advocacy talking points. When that happens, students will find that scientific facts are the real “inconvenient truths.”

Via email

Monday, July 25, 2016

California Soon to Be First State to Teach LGBT History in Public Schools

The California State Board of Education has unanimously voted to implement a 2011 state law signed by Governor Jerry Brown that mandates including LGBT history in public school curriculums as early as second grade.

Last Thursday, the board adopted the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which will include “the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and people with disabilities to the history of California and the United States,” according to a press release issued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Peter Tira, an information officer for the California Department of Education, told that this new policy will go into effect immediately across elementary, middle and high school social science and history classes.

However, teachers will have to attend several workshops to learn how to include these topics in their lessons.

The board’s goal is to have the curriculum changes in place by the start of the 2016-2017 school year, Tira said. He added that there is a 2017 deadline for school textbooks to include the LGBT content.

California is the first state in the nation to include LGBT history in its public school curriculum, according to Equality California.

Discussions and lessons in the new curriculum will include different family structures, gender roles, California’s role in LGBT history, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in 2015.

“The adoption of this Framework today is an important part of our instructional program,” said board president Michael Kirst.

“Hundreds of people representing broad perspectives contributed to the development of this important tool for teachers and classrooms. The new Framework will help guide classroom instruction at each grade level and will be used with other instructional resources to ensure all students have a broad understanding of history,” Kirst continued.

In addition to LGBT history, the Framework also mandates the inclusion of other minority group history in public school curriculums, such as the “comfort women” in World War II, the Bataan Death March and the battle of Manila, the Armenian Genocide, and discrimination faced by Sikh Americans.

"This is a priority when fewer than three out of 10 kids in California public schools are taught to read proficiently?" asked Randy Thomasson, president of, a pro-family group.

"This anti-family sexual engineering demonstrates how government-controlled schools have replaced academics with political correctness," Thomasson said in a statement.

"Parents with moral values must rescue their children by exiting the government schools for the safe havens of homeschooling and solid church schools" to "escape the mental molestation of 10 state school sexual indoctrination laws teaching sexual lies to impressionable boys and girls," he said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D). (AP photo)

Gov. Brown signed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act into law in 2011, which added “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society” to his state's existing Education Code.

The bill, which went into effect in January 2012, required the inclusion of LGBT history in the curriculum. However, it took years of public debate and a number of revisions to reach a final decision on what that history would include.

According to the Associated Press, budget cuts, competing educational priorities and attempts to overturn the law contributed to its long implementation timeline.

“People are passionate about the way they are portrayed in history,” Torlakson said. “We are glad so many people and groups participated in our lengthy public comment and review process.”

The Pacific Justice Institute drafted a referendum to stop the law from going into effect, but failed to reach the required amount of signatures, according to a 2011 press release.


Schoolboys wear skirts in protest at shorts ban

It's been very hot in Britain lately

Four UK schoolboys found a creative way to stay cool after they were told sports shorts were not part of their uniform – turning to the girls’ uniform rules and wearing skirts instead.

The four Year 9 students from Longhill High School in Rottingdean, East Sussex, were part of a group who were reprimanded for wearing shorts instead of pants to school last Tuesday.

Head teacher Kate Williams said the school had “high standards regarding uniform” and would not condone the rules being “challenged”.

After finding a potential loophole, the boys attended school on Thursday wearing skirts that were part of the girls’ official uniform.

Michael Parker, 14, told The Argus “boys should be able to wear shorts in extreme weather, in the summer”.

His mother Angela Parker told the newspaper the group’s parents were “fully in support of them”.

“I think what the headmistress is doing is discrimination and I’m extremely proud of Michael and his fellow protesters,” she said.

“It’s taken a heck of a lot for teenage boys to go to school wearing skirts.”

The boys vowed to continue their protest the following day, which was the last day of term.

Their story has been highlighted by several media outlets around the world, and they were praised on the Today show’s Sunday Jury this morning.

Sunday Jury guest and radio broadcaster John Stanley said he thought the protest was “fantastic”.

“As long as this doesn’t get looped into the Safe School’s argument...” he said.

Another guest, journalist Tracey Spicer, said it opened up a wider debate about uniforms.

“Girls are often lauded for what are traditionally ‘male’ things, I think it’s great these boys are wearing skirts and not feeling ashamed,” she said.


Australia:  Changes to Senior High School exam in NSW -- including greater focus on Indigenous Australians

There is a vast amount of important things to learn about in  world history -- so why waste time studying Aboriginal history?  They are of no importance to anyone but themselves

The Board of Studies is overhauling the curriculum for Higher School Certificate (HSC) students in NSW, placing a greater focus on Australia and Aboriginal leaders in history, and significantly changing maths and English courses.

President of the Board of Studies Tom Alegounarias said in English courses, the recent tradition of comparing classic texts to modern adaptations will be dropped to allow for a return to a single-text focus.

"We never abandoned the canon but what we did have was frames through which students could study a text, so 'journeys' or 'belongings' were overarching concepts that would be used to create a reference point for kids to help them engage with a text," he said.

"That's seen to be a bit limiting now."

Mr Alegounarias said from now on, he wanted students to have the freedom to focus on "what makes a quality text".

"That may vary from book to book; if it's the subtlety and wit of Jane Austen, then that should be the focus," he said.

In history, there would be a greater emphasis on Australia including Indigenous leaders such as Eddie Mabo and Charles Perkins.

"Those are options for case studies at the beginning of Year 11 where we're introducing to students how to study history," Mr Alegounarias said.

"They're not the central focus of the changes; the central focus is that World War II becomes a core mandatory unit for all."

Maths scaling system to change

The board's president said the scaling system would change for maths students.

"We're creating what we call a common scale, that is we're ensuring that each level of course is on a hierarchy of difficulty and by the time you get to extension two these are really brilliant students," Mr Alegounarias said.

"We're giving them the opportunity to stretch themselves further - it's becoming slightly more complex."

State Opposition spokesman Jihad Dib said he did not think the changes were as significant as they sounded.

"This is what contemporary society would expect - the evolution of the HSC to meet the modern needs of society," he said.

But he questioned the thinking behind dropping the comparative approach in Year 12 English, one that for many years has seen thousands of students study Jane Austen's Emma alongside the 1995 film Clueless.

"In English, I don't think it's such a problem to be able to study the difference between time and place and to compare and contrast," he said.

The former high school principal is also wary of changes to scaling for maths students.

"We have to be careful so we don't set kids up to fail and ask them to choose subjects that they think will get them a better HSC mark regardless of whether they're capable in that subject or not," Mr Dib said.

Earlier this week, the State Government announced that from 2020, students would not be able to get their HSC without first meeting minimum standards of literacy and numeracy.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Amid Complaints From Parents, Virginia School Board Pauses New Transgender Policy

After facing significant resistance from parents, a school board in Northern Virginia has decided to temporarily suspend the implementation of new regulations for accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students.

“Fairfax County Public Schools will keep handling transgender student matters with privacy and dignity in the way they always have…case-by-case, which is exactly what we wanted them to do in the first place,” Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz told The Daily Signal.

The decision, announced in a press release Tuesday, came after the Fairfax County Public School Board held an “extensive” closed-door meeting to discuss new guidelines that the school board quietly released on July 1.

The guidelines, which would allow transgender and gender nonconforming students to use locker rooms, bathrooms, and other sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity, caused a rift among parents in the affluent Virginia suburb.

The Fairfax County School Board voted in May 2015 to include gender identity under the district’s nondiscrimination policy. While the policy will remain in effect, regulations clarifying how the policy will apply to showers, locker rooms, sports teams, and other areas is temporarily on hold.

“While the regulation is temporarily on hold, Policy 1450 remains in effect, and the board remains committed to this policy of nondiscrimination,” school board Chair Sandy Evans said in a press release. “Consistent with the policy, and current practice, FCPS continues to accommodate the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students in a way that protects the dignity and privacy of all students.”

The issue of accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students gained national attention in May, when the Obama administration issued a directive requiring public schools allow transgender students access to the facilities that align with their gender identity.

Nearly two dozen states are challenging that directive in a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

Jeremy Tedesco, a senior attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who is involved in a number of lawsuits regarding the transgender issue in public school districts, said the decision by the Fairfax school board to delay implementation should send a message to school districts nationwide.

“Schools think they have no choice,” he said of the pressure to implement gender identity policies. “They feel like they have to do this.” Now, he said,

    "Schools ought to look at this and say, ‘If Fairfax is even putting this on hold’—and they were one of the first ones out of the gate saying, ‘We have to do this, the federal government’s forcing us to do this and schools don’t really have a choice,’—we do have a choice".

Supporters of the regulations in Fairfax County said they were necessary to protect transgender and gender nonconforming students from being bullied and discriminated against. The guidelines, they argued, would make the Fairfax County public schools more welcoming to students of all backgrounds.

Opponents felt the guidelines were being forced upon families with little to no public discussion. They worried how the new regulations would affect nontransgender students, and said the school board was evading answering their questions.

For these parents, the decision to delay the new policy was a welcomed announcement. But having lost a great deal of trust with some school board members, they celebrated with skepticism.

“While it appears that the Fairfax County School Board’s decision to ‘temporarily put on hold’ the review of the proposed transgender regulations is a victory, in reality it simply allows the board more time to strategize on how to continue to push their liberal agenda forward,” said Bethany Kozma, a Fairfax County mother of three.

In announcing the decision to delay the regulations, the board said that it needs “additional time to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the regulation, including a case now pending before the Supreme Court on this topic.”

That case involves another Virginia school board in Gloucester County, which is fighting to keep bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers segregated by biological sex. The plaintiff involved is a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male.

On July 13, lawyers for the school board asked the Supreme Court to block Grimm from using the men’s facilities until the court decides whether to hear the case.

“Depriving parents of any say over whether their children should be exposed to members of the opposite biological sex, possibly in a state of full or complete undress, in intimate settings deprives parents of their right to direct the education and upbringing of their children,” attorneys for the school board wrote.

Grimm’s attorney, Josh Block from the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement to Fox News that it was “sad that the school board members and their lawyers have so little regard for the impact their misguided actions are having on a real teenager’s life.”

In addition to letting the legal cases play out, the Fairfax County School Board said it plans to also address the community’s questions regarding the regulations.

“Prior to any implementation, or formal adoption of the regulation, the board will provide additional information and further opportunity for public comment on this important topic,” a press release reads.

Kozma, a Fairfax County parent who is fighting this issue both locally and nationally, said she “sincerely” hopes the board will hold true to its word.

“I sincerely hope they do what they say and actually listen to the parents and citizens who are concerned for their children’s safety, security, and privacy,” she said.


How many non-teachers does a school district need?

Since 1950, public schools all across America have added staff at a rapid rate—much faster than their increases in students.

Sure, there have been some increases in lead teachers that resulted in large declines in class sizes. However, there were even greater increases in the hiring of administrators and all other staff over these six-plus decades.

Given the prior exclusions of special needs students from public schools and other historic inequities within the public education system, perhaps these dramatic staffing increases were warranted in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, the 1980s, and into the 1990s.

But, these increases in staffing—especially in administrators and others who are not teachers—are still going on all around the country, including in the District of Columbia.

According to data that the District of Columbia Public Schools submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, the District’s public schools experienced a 3.1 percent decline in its student population between the 1993-94 and 2013-14 school years. Despite this decline in students, D.C. Public Schools increased its staffing by 7.7 percent (all increases are in full-time equivalents).

Who were these new D.C. Public Schools staff?  Well, the teaching force declined by 1.1 percent over this period.

While the number of students and teachers were declining, D.C. Public Schools increased its employment of administrators and all other staff (all those who were not lead teachers) by a whopping 19.3 percent.

Put differently, as shown on the chart below, while the number of students they served was declining, D.C. public schools increased administrators and others who are not lead teachers by almost 20 percent.

For historical context, this tremendous increase in D.C. Public Schools staff who are not lead teachers since 1993 came after a decades-long staffing surge, where both teachers and especially administrators and other employees were added at rates far above increases in students.

This staffing surge may give us insight into why D.C. Public Schools have the highest per-pupil revenue in the country, at $29,400 per student per year.

The long-term bloat of public school staff in the District of Columbia shows that parents across the country need innovative and more effective ways to control education spending for their children, instead of letting the school district continue to fritter it away with hiring non-lead-teachers. As researcher Matthew Ladner has documented, those students who choose to attend private school instead of the struggling public schools in D.C. get far less money to spend on their education:

    "From an equity standpoint, it is difficult to justify the District’s school finance system. The system routinely provides $29,000 for high-income students attending regular public schools. It provides $14,000 for high-income students attending charter schools but only a maximum of $8,381 for some low-income students who would like to attend a private school system that improves the chances for graduation by approximately 21 percentage points".

Ladner concluded, “Instead of attempting to restructure or ‘reform’ [D.C. Public Schools], policymakers should free District parents to reform education from the bottom up.”

Students in the nation’s capital would be much better served by empowering them with control over their share of education funding through a system of universal education savings accounts Through this option, parents would receive a portion of the funds spent on their child in the traditional public school system, and could then use those funds to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers, including private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, and host of other products.

Instead of financing bloat and relegating students to schools that might not be meeting their unique learning needs, a system of universal education savings accounts in the District would empower families to match learning options to their children’s unique needs, and enable them to allocate existing resources better.

As economist Milton Friedman explained, the public school bureaucracy, by its very nature, engages in what he called category four spending—the worst type of spending—whereby someone spends somebody else’s money on somebody else. That is, public schools spend somebody else’s money (taxpayer dollars) on somebody else’s kids.

As Jason Bedrick and one of us (Lindsey) explain:

    "Public-school officials, like all government bureaucrats, primarily engage in the worst kind of spending: They spend other people’s money on children who are not their own. As competent and well-meaning as they may be, their incentives to economize and maximize value are simply not as strong as those of parents spending their own money on their own children…. Though education savings accounts are still taxpayer funded, the way they are structured makes for a dynamic closer to the one involved in spending your own money on your own children: Parents still insist on the best quality education but have more incentive to find a bargain".

That mindset helps explain why D.C. is spending so much on administrative positions in recent years: D.C. bureaucrats don’t have the same urgency parents do to make sure each child receives the best education possible, and that the financial resources used are spent to maximize the child’s education.

Administrative bloat over time in the District is just one more indicator that a K-12 education financing system that funds the child – not school systems – can better serve students and taxpayers.


Australia: Schools in crisis as student numbers explode

The inevitable result of high levels of immigration

The Education Department's key formula for predicting student growth has been slammed as wildly inaccurate, with several schools already doubling their projected demand for 2031.

Nearly half of inner-city schools assessed by the department have already surpassed their projected demand this year, a Fairfax Media analysis has found.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, academics and parents who have been forced out of the city in pursuit of public schools, have criticised the department for lax planning in the wake of exploding student numbers.

Demand for 38 schools was forecast in a series of school planning reviews for the municipality of Banyule, the suburbs of Preston and Docklands, and their surrounding areas. These documents have served as a blueprint for the provision of new schools.

The student boom has proven so great that 10 schools have already surpassed their projected demand for 2031, some by hundreds of students.

These projections relate to the number of state school students within a school's catchment area, but do not take into account that a large number of students travel to attend a school outside their zone.

Michelle Styles, spokeswoman for lobby group City Schools 4 City Kids, has accused the department of underestimating enrolments in a bid to hose down pressure for new schools.

She said forecasting growth based on the number of students within a zone was unrealistic, and only served to shadow booming demand.

"Of course it is not only the the immediate local families that are going to attend those schools," she said.

"Parents often travel in towards the city to drop their children off at schools ... for example, a new school in Ferrars Street in South Melbourne is not only going to serve Ferrars Street, it will serve demands from anywhere, including families travelling from outside of the city."

The City of Melbourne is facing the most severe schools shortage among inner-city municipalities, and is set to experience a 62.9 per cent increase in school-aged children in the next decade – or almost 7500 extra students.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Docklands urgently needed a state school, and cautioned the department against relying on the private school sector to accommodate growth.

"Haileybury College opened a large campus in King Street …. what does that tell us about what they see regarding population projections in the inner-city?"

Grattan Institute's Peter Goss said the department's key data set should project growth across a broad region rather than single school zones.

"Looking at each school in isolation or each school zone in isolation is flawed ... the overall picture of growth is the right way to look at it."

Department spokesman Steve Tolley said the organisation's preferred forecasting model "minimises the fluctuations" in enrolments resulting from school choice.

However, he said the department also takes multiple factors into consideration when planning new schools, including how many students outside of the zone may wish to enrol.

Docklands parents Neeti and Alok Chouraria are moving to Williams Landing, near Laverton, due to the absence of a local government school. They are one of seven local families they know who have abandoned the Docklands for this reason.

The couple work in the Docklands and have enjoyed sending their three-year-old child to a child care centre nearby.

"There is space for hundreds of thousands of apartments but for some reason, we can't find the space for a school. It's really very sad ... we both loved living in the city."