Friday, December 09, 2016

Australia: More deliberate ignorance from the Left

It's been known for years that PISA results are a pretty good proxy for IQ but Leftists hate anything that contradicts their "all men are equal" fantasy.  So differencres below that are largely reflective of IQ are explained in all sorts of other bullshit ways -- not enough money being spent being the front runner, as usual. 

The two main differences highlighted below are both an example of IQ effects:  East Asians are brighter than we are and poor people and their children are a lot less bright than top earners and their children.  That's why the poor are not top earners. Awful stuff to say, I know, but that is the reality -- and disliking reality won't change it

Most of the remaining variance in educational results is probably due to teaching methods.  Australian classrooms are still very low discipline and permissive and that can have a very depressing effect on educational results.  Bringing back corporal punishment for disruptive students would undoubtedly bring standards back up to what they once were

Another bit of bullshit below is the call for "high quality early childhood education".  Have none of these galahs heard of America's "Head Start" program?  It's been going for many years with nil results.  It's kept going mainly as a child-minding service

Spare a thought for Australia's 15-year-olds. If they don't have enough to contend with, between the immediate demands of Snapchat and a future of robots stealing their jobs, now they have to bear the brunt of a nation's slighted pride.

The latest PISA results are out, and they are not good.
What PISA says about Australian schools

The major global test of student achievement reveals just how far Australian high school students are behind their peers in the world's best performing countries.

The real-life problem-solving skills of Australia's teenagers are declining in the fields of maths, science and reading, according to the global Programme for International Student Assessment that's taken by over half a million 15-year-olds.

Australian students have gone backwards relative to their international peers, but also relative to Australian 15-year-olds in 2000 when PISA started.

This has implications for literally everything, from the way we fund schools, to our future competitiveness in the global innovation economy, to the way we market ourselves as a major exporter of quality higher education to the world.

The data churned out by PISA is rich and deep, and education experts will be wading through it for years to come. Rather like the postmortem of an election, interested parties can slice and dice the data in many ways to find evidence to back their preferred argument.

So the federal education minister Simon Birmingham will quite reasonably point out that at a systemic level we have record levels of funding, but that money hasn't led to improved results.

But Labor, who suspects the government of sophistry to justify not funding the full Gonski, will see confirmation of why it introduced needs-based funding in the first place.

Researchers will point out that the money has often not been going where it would make the most difference.

Some will blame teachers, or the shortage of qualified maths teachers, or the education unions, who themselves will point out that our culture undervalues teachers compared with high-performing countries like Singapore and South Korea. And places a higher burden of paperwork on them.

And some will argue with the ref: questioning the cultural bias or methodology or legitimacy of the test.

One problem with that, though. Countries reasonably comparable to Australia did better than us, like Canada and Ireland. (Even though some are sliding backwards too.)

The international league tables get the headlines – can we really have been beaten in maths by obscure upstarts like Estonia? Poland? Vietnam? And, god help us, New Zealand?

But there's actually a bigger problem than being worse at maths, reading and science than literally all of east Asia.

It's buried in the Results by Student Background part of the report.

If you compare Australian students in the top and bottom quarter by their parents' socio economic background, the bottom 25 per cent are on average three years of schooling behind the top 25 per cent.

That's in all three tested areas in PISA: scientific, mathematical and reading literacy. And it means that a kid born poor, by no fault of their own, is on average getting a far crappier education than a kid born rich. The achievement gap is almost as bad for indigenous kids.

You don't need to smash your PISA results to see that's deeply unfair, and a waste of human potential.

As Dr Sue Thomson from the Australian Council for Education Research points out, we're just not dealing with the equity gap.

"I was quite saddened to look at that data," she said. "There's no difference over 16 years of reading, 13 years of maths – no changes. We are still not attending to those gaps."

So why is this everyone's problem? If you're not moved by the fairness argument, try broad self-interest.

The PISA results deal in averages.

"The deterioration in Australia's performance is because we now have more low performing students and fewer high performing students," as Dr Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies said.

So just leaving the bottom quartile to languish drags the whole system down, and that impacts on everyone.

But there is no future in promoting anti-elitism in the name of egalitarianism, either.

We have to do both: improve Australia's results by lifting the bottom end, as well as the top. An OECD report from 2012 revealed that the world's best-performing education systems actually have both high quality and high equity, or access for all.

As for the top end, most of the states have a gifted and talented education policy, but there's virtually no systemic investment or resources to back it. That needs action. Needs-based funding should extend to the needs of high-potential kids too.

As for the bottom, the evidence suggests two things will make the most difference. Systemic investment in universal high quality early childhood education; and needs-based funding.

So the policy debate circles back to Gonski. A genuine sector-blind, needs-based funding model would distribute government funding by metrics of student need, with additional loading for remote and regional schools, disabled students, indigenous students and low SES students, wherever they are at school.

If there is to be no more money than the government has already committed for school funding, then that means one thing: redistributing the funding available on a more effective and equitable basis.

Easy, right?

But there's logic, and then there's political reality. The school funding debate is at a stalemate.

The country's education ministers have their work cut out for them at COAG next week.


L.A. Public Schools Set Up Hotline and Support Sites for Students Worried About Trump

The Los Angeles Unified School District has launched a hotline and opened up “extended support sites” for students who are worried about a Trump presidency, reports the LA Times.

These new resources will provide students with “emotional support” and help address their “question and concerns about the potential impact on them and their families.”

Superintendent Michelle King notified parents and teachers on Monday via a pre-recorded call:

"Hello. This is Superintendent Michelle King with an important message for the L.A. Unified family.

Although it has been nearly a month since the presidential election, many of our students still have questions and concerns about potential impact on them and their families. As part of our commitment to providing a safe and positive learning environment, we are providing additional resources for our families.

We have opened Extended Support Sites at each of our Local District offices, as well as at the field office of Board President Steve Zimmer. These sites are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, to provide you with emotional support, enrollment and attendance information and referrals to outside resources.

We have also set up a hotline at (866) 742-2273, where you can call with questions and concerns. We invite you to visit for details about these and other resources.
Thank you."

According to the LA Times, L.A. Unified is 74 percent Latino, so students fear discrimination and deportation under Trump.

The district has already voted to make its schools “safe zones” for illegal immigrants. Its policy states that employees must receive permission from the district before allowing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents onto L.A. Unified campuses.


Monash University raises over $200 million in US market in "Green" bonds

This is certainly extraordinary.  Borrowing a lot of money that you may never have to pay back -- because you can "roll over" the debt -- must certainly be superficially attractive but it means that a lot of money will be spent on paying interest -- money that could be used for other things. One would have thought that taxpayer funds given to a university would be spent on buildings, teaching and services only -- without a slice being cut off to pay international financiers. 

But that is what Monash has done.  In order to have the money now, they have agreed to have less of it for their own use. And  because of the immediacy of their thinking, Leftists like borrowing.  They seem incapable of imagining either the past or the future so a loan seems like free money to them.  And the Daniel Andrews government that agreed to this is nothing if not Leftist

What makes the bond "green" is a little unclear.  The money will actually be spent on new buildings.  But perhaps the buildings will have the sort of impractical frills that Greenies like --   Pink batts everywhere and a windmill on top of every building?

In a world first, Monash University has raised A$218 million through a climate bond issued in the US private placement market to fund further sustainable development projects across its campus network.

Monash is the first university in the world to raise funds by issuing a climate bond.

The University’s historic achievement in raising development funds in this way follows its success in 2014 when it became the first Australian tertiary institution to raise debt capital in the US private placement market. The proceeds from the University’s issue were used to construct award-winning student residential buildings at the Clayton Campus.

The climate bond was certified by the 'Climate Bond Initiative' (CBI) and a Green Bond assessment [accreditation] from Moody's Investor Services. The University structured the bond to provide the market with investment options in US and Australian dollars over 15 years, 17.5 years or 20 years.

The President and Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, Professor Margaret Gardner AO said the University’s long-term debt raising initiatives, approved by the Treasurer of the State of Victoria, have provided Monash with secure and cost effective access to development capital.

Professor Gardner said the success of the Climate Bond Initiative reflects Monash as a global University. The funds would add to the university’s transition to net zero emissions.

“As a truly international university, Monash has a responsibility to provide strong and visionary leadership on sustainable development. We want our campus network to be exemplars of environmental, social and economic best practice,” Professor Gardner said.

Monash University has an annual operating revenue of more than $2 billion and its total assets are valued at $3.7 billion.

David Pitt, Monash’s Chief Financial Officer said the University was delighted with the outcome of the financing.

“The Monash issue was very well received by the investor community reflecting the University’s high credit quality based on its standing in international markets.  This was a great collaborative effort with Commonwealth Bank Australia receiving in excess of A$900 million of investor bids for the issue,” Mr Pitt said.

Professor Gardner said Monash’s investment in sustainable development had been prioritised in the University’s new environmental, social and governance policy statement.

“Monash has a sustainability plan that will include a target date for net zero emissions to be announced next year,” Professor Gardner said.

Over the next two years, Monash University will allocate capital raised through the Climate Bond to a portfolio of projects that achieve certification in accordance with the standards of the Global Climate Bond Initiative.

Development projects at Monash to benefit from the climate bond funding will include:

A major new learning and teaching building targeting 5 Star Green Star Certification at the Clayton campus $180 million
Caulfield campus library redevelopment $43.4 million
Solar panel installation $6.6 million
External LED lighting project $3.5 million.

A requirement for issuing Climate Bonds is the capital raised must be spent on projects that achieve measurable sustainability outcomes in line with the global Net Zero Emissions by 2050 target.

The University will outline progress on the Climate Bond projects in its annual report.

Monash was advised on the financing by DTW Capital Solutions.

Press release from Leigh Funston ( on behalf of Monash U.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Muslim schools in Britain are a bad idea

A new report on social integration exposes how religious education perpetuates division and prejudice

Theresa May is the latest in a long line of politicians who have promised to lead a “One Nation” government, yet according to Dame Louise Casey’s report on integration, published yesterday, Britain is more divided than ever. After the Brexit vote revealed a country split from top to bottom by class, age and education, her inquiry found a shocking rise in communities segregated along ethnic or religious lines. Parts of Blackburn, Birmingham, Burnley and Bradford are now between 70 per cent and 85 per cent Muslim. More than half of black and Asian students are in schools with a majority of ethnic minority pupils as people increasingly live parallel lives.

Government attempts to boost integration have amounted to little more than “saris, samosas and steel drums for the well-intentioned”, Dame Louise concludes. Too many public institutions have gone so far to accommodate diversity that they have “ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”. In some communities, women are suffering appalling misogyny and abuse that goes unnoticed by the authorities. There is, the report warns, a downward spiral of “segregation, deprivation and social exclusion” that is being exploited by extremists – both Islamists and those on the far right. This is not just about social solidarity, it is also about national security.

Ministers yesterday welcomed the Casey review and promised to consider its recommendations. Yet the government is committed to policies that will only entrench segregation in the bit of the public sector that should do most to promote integration – the education system. The prime minister has said that she wants to increase the number of faith schools and “confidently promote them”. In order to boost their role, she has promised to remove the 50 per cent cap on the proportion of pupils that new religious free schools can recruit on the basis of faith. The aim is to encourage diversity of provision, but the change will surely also deepen divisions at a time when religion is the source of so much tension and concern.

Nobody would ever support hospitals, or trains, run on religious grounds so it seems bizarre to promote sectarianism in schools
According to the Casey report, 55 per cent of people in this country believe there is a “fundamental clash” between Islam and UK values, and 46 per cent of Muslims feel that their faith makes it difficult for them to be accepted. The Government should be doing everything it can to encourage children from different backgrounds to mix rather than creating faith-based ghettos. Pupils will learn far more about tolerance and respect by meeting those of other colours and creeds in the playground than through any number of Britishness lessons.

Mrs May wants to give choice to parents, and argues that faith schools are more likely than other schools to be rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. David Cameron, Tony Blair and Michael Gove are among the politicians who have sent their children to high-achieving Christian schools. But the truth is that most parents like these schools for their results rather than their religion and their academic success is based more on covert social selection than faith.

According to a recent report from the independent Education Policy Institute, faith schools take a lower proportion of the poorest children than other schools – 12.1 per cent of their pupils are on free school meals, a measure of deprivation, compared with 18 per cent in secular schools. After adjusting for social selection the pupils in faith schools do “little or no better than in non-faith schools”, the research found. As with grammar schools, Mrs May, the vicar’s daughter, seems to be basing policy on her own experience and preconceptions rather than the evidence – with potentially dire consequences for integration. If she wants to improve standards she should focus on encouraging better teaching and discipline in schools rather than allowing more religious institutions. Although the Casey review concludes that it would be “disproportionate” to abolish all faith schools – which provide a third of state education in this country – it is a mistake to expand them at a time of growing cultural divides.

Despite repeated warnings, the Government has also failed to clamp down on unregistered faith schools, where pupils are taught in often squalid and dangerous conditions with no checks on their safety or education. Ofsted is investigating more than 150 potentially illegal schools, which it regards as the “tip of the iceberg” and there are fears that these underground institutions are being used to radicalise Muslim children.

Nobody knows how many pupils are falling through gaps in the system – a 2014 study put the number of registered home education children in England at 27,292 but the Casey report says the unregistered number is “thought to be several multiples of this”. Councils have a duty to ensure the safety of all children – whether they are in state schools or being privately educated – so it is shocking that potentially thousands of pupils appear to be disappearing into an educational black hole. Although the Department for Education is consulting on what to do about children who drop out of school, it has no plan to deal with those who never register in the first place. The Casey review found worrying signs of a shadow society growing up in some areas with people living in a parallel universe of community-run health care, policing and education and so invisible to the state.

Dame Louise argues that the law that allows parents to educate their children at home has failed to keep up with the realities of a modern world in which youngsters are being siphoned out of the mainstream system. According to the 1996 Education Act, parents are responsible for providing an “efficient” and “suitable” education for their children – but there is no legal definition of “suitable”. Instead, the Department for Education guidance, based on a 1985 judicial review case, defines “suitable” as an education that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole”. As Dame Louise points out this is completely “contrary to efforts on integration and building cohesive communities which are based on shared values”.

As Britain becomes more secular, it is time to separate education and faith. Nobody would ever support hospitals, or trains, run on religious grounds so it seems bizarre to promote sectarianism in schools. In 2010, Peter Robinson, the then first minister of Northern Ireland described the segregation between Protestants and Catholics as a “benign form of apartheid”. The danger is that a similarly divided education system is developing in some parts of England now. There is nothing One Nation about faith schools.


U.S. now ranks near the bottom among 35 industrialized nations in math

The math achievement of American high school students in 2015 fell for the second time in a row on a major international benchmark, pushing the United States down to the bottom half of 72 nations and regions around the world who participate in the international test, known as the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA.  Among the 35 industrialized nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. now ranks 31st.

Both reading and science scores were steady, with U.S. students scoring near the international average in both subjects.

“We really are doing a lot worse in math than we are in science and reading,” said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, who had early access to the PISA results, which were released to the public on Tuesday.

Carr emphasized that the 2015 PISA results showed that students across the board, from bottom to middle to top performers, were doing worse in math. It wasn’t just one segment of students who brought the national average down.

“We need to take a strong look at ourselves in mathematics, particularly since we’re beginning to see a downward trend across assessments,” Carr said.

Related: Everyone aspires to be Finland, but this country beats them in two out of three subjects

The weak math performance echoed the results of a second national exam, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), on which 4th and 8th graders also posted lower math scores on the 2015 test.

The PISA test is administered every three years around the world to measure what 15-year-old students know in math, reading and science before the end of compulsory schooling. In the United States, it’s primarily taken by 10th graders. The U.S. has never been a strong performer globally, but has generally scored near the average since the test began in 2000.  In 2012 math scores deteriorated a few points. Now, with the 2015 results in, it’s a clear downward trend.

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, which administers the PISA exam, said that math has always been the most difficult subject for American students. Even students in Massachusetts, one of the top performing states in the nation, do no better than average globally, Schleicher noted.

In an online briefing for journalists, he said that higher performing nations structure their math curriculum differently, teaching fewer topics, but in greater depth. They also teach math topics in a sequential order, Schleicher explained, asking students to master one topic at a time, rather than cycling back to the same concept year after year.

“Students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United States, but as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex parts of a problem, they have difficulties,” he said.

The timing of these results comes just a few years after the Common Core standards were adopted in most U.S. states. But Schleicher, who is a proponent of the new standards, said that it’s still “too early to judge” if they’re working. He pointed out that implementation had only just begun in 2015 and that many years of Common Core-aligned instruction will need to pass before it reaches 15-year-olds.

Related: Is universal preschool the answer? Britain says ‘yes’

“What I would says is that the Common Core concept is quite well aligned with what we see in many high performing education systems,” said Schleicher. “Of the things that the United States has recently done, probably that [Common Core] has one of the greatest promise, in my judgment, but we can’t prove it.”

Schleicher pointed to two silver linings for the United States. In science, the achievement gap between rich and poor is closing, albeit not by enough yet to raise the overall score of the whole nation. And second, even though only a small portion of U.S. students hit the most advanced level on the science test, the country is large enough that it still produces 300,000 high-performing 15-year olds in the subject. Among the four regions in China that currently participate in the PISA test (Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong), a higher percentage of test-takers hit the advanced level, but that still produces fewer top science students — roughly 180,000.

The U.S. actually improved its rankings in reading and science, because other nations did worse and slipped in status. Among the 60 nations and regions that took the PISA test in both 2012 and 2015, the U.S. ranked 15th in reading and 18th in science, up three notches in each subject, despite the fact that U.S. achievement didn’t improve.

One of the nations that slipped considerably was Finland, which had been a beacon to education reformers for its strong results in previous years.


Australian high school students are two years behind the world's best performing countries - and have got worse at maths, science and reading

Australian high school students are two years behind their top international counterparts, a report shows.

Students aged 15 in Australia have not just slipped compared to their international peers, but have actually gotten worse at maths, science and reading, the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed.

When compared to teenagers in Singapore, local students were found to be about one-and-a-half years behind in science, one year behind in reading, and two-and-a-third years behind in maths.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham acknowledged Australia's performance was slipping in the three-yearly report, released on Tuesday night.

'Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard,' Senator Birmingham said.

'We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here.'

Australia is above the OECD average, but sits equal 10th in science, equal 12th in reading and equal 20th in maths out of 72 countries, according to analysis by the Australian Council for Educational Research, which reports on the study.

'The PISA results are showing that we are getting worse at preparing our students for the everyday challenges of adult life in the 21st century,' the council's Sue Thomson told AAP.

Dr Thomson says there is an issue with the teaching of maths and science in Australia. 'TIMSS has shown that and now PISA has shown it again,' she said.

'Other countries are getting better than we are and we're not even just standing still in this one, we're falling behind as well.'

More than half-a-million 15-year-olds complete the test worldwide, aimed at measuring how well they use their knowledge to meet real-life challenges, with more than 14,000 Australian students taking part.

The 2015 test, which focused on science, asked students about issues such as migratory bird patterns, running in hot weather and sustainable fish farming.

The PISA results come on the back of last week's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showing Australian students still middle of the pack after 20 years of testing.

After sitting behind the likes of Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the TIMSS, Australia was outperformed by Finland in all three PISA areas, Vietnam in Science and Slovenia, again, in maths.

Singapore was the highest performer across the board.

'I don't think there is any good news stories out of it because all of the gaps that we measure have continued to have just stayed,' Dr Thomson said.

A more detailed national report will be released early next year.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Teacher unions smarting after many members vote for Trump

Two weeks after Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election, the USA’s teachers unions are wondering what happened to their chosen candidate — and how so many of their members could have voted for her opponent.

Despite early and eager endorsements of Clinton by both unions, the nation’s school teachers and other school workers contributed substantially to Trump’s Nov. 8 win.

How substantially? About one in five American Federation of Teachers (AFT) members who cast a ballot voted for Trump, the union’s leader estimated. Among the larger National Education Association (NEA), which comprises more than 3 million members, more than one in three who voted did so for the billionaire developer, early data show.

AFT President Randi Weingarten, whose union represents about 1.6 million teachers and other workers, said some of the reason for Clinton's defeat was timing — and perhaps sexism.

"Frankly I was always concerned about whether the country was ready to have a female president," she said. "There was an intensity of hatred that male political figures never get. So I think we’re never really going to understand it."

Most of the USA’s largest labor unions endorsed Clinton as early as 2015, including NEA, AFT, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Despite the support, Clinton won union households nationwide by just eight percentage points, exit polls show: 51% to Trump’s 43%.

Clinton carried white, college-educated women, but just barely: 51% to 45%. Among white women without a college degree, Trump won resoundingly: 63% to Clinton’s 34%.

In that sense, teachers, who at last count were about 82% white and 76% female, actually outperformed other groups when it came to their support for Clinton.

Weingarten last week said internal figures show that Clinton earned about 80% of her members' votes, in spite of a "very effective" effort to disparage the former secretary of state’s character.

At NEA, an aggressive member-to-member campaign and strategic political effort actually did get out the vote for Clinton, officials said: As late as last September, nearly 60% of its members identified as "Republicans or independents." At the time, Clinton’s NEA support stood at just 58%. By Election Day, it rose to 65%.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, a former Utah teacher, said that despite Clinton’s loss, the union engaged members in "record levels of activism," supporting down-ballot candidates and initiatives "important to students and working families."

Among other efforts, unions defeated a well-funded charter school expansion effort in Massachusetts and helped ensure the continuation of a tax hike to fund education in California.

NEA's state and national political directors met in Nashville last weekend to figure out what comes next, and educators nationwide are waiting to find out who President-elect Trump names as education secretary.

On Wednesday, school voucher advocate Betsy DeVos said in a tweet that she would work with Trump to "make American education great again."

In a statement, García said NEA will "listen closely" as Trump lays out his education vision. "We haven’t heard any specifics from the incoming administration about education policies, so we can’t speculate further," she said.

In an interview, Weingarten said she had "no regrets — absolutely no regrets" about the union’s endorsement of Clinton, adding that Democratic runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders "was never tested or vetted by anyone, and frankly we have no idea whether he would have actually been able to get through this crucible … either."

She added that Clinton "has spent her life fighting for families and children — and that’s what we spend our life fighting for. Were there mistakes she made? Of course. Were there mistakes we made? Of course. But she is someone who for 30 years has been in the service of the public and incredibly qualified."


When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools

There are more restrictions to professional freedom in the United States, and the educators find the school day overly rigid

"I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life," Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. "I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don't recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland."

Chartouni, who is a Canadian citizen through marriage, moved from Finland to Florida with her family in 2014, due in part to her husband’s employment situation. After struggling to maintain an income and ultimately dropping out of an ESL teacher-training program, a school in Tennessee contacted her this past spring about a job opening. Shortly thereafter, Chartouni had the equivalent of a full-time teaching load as a foreign-language teacher at two public high schools in the Volunteer State, and her Finnish-Canadian family moved again. (Chartouni holds a master’s degree in foreign-language teaching from Finland’s University of Jyväskylä.)

In Tennessee, Chartouni has encountered a different teaching environment from the one she was used to in her Nordic homeland—one in which she feels like she’s "under a microscope." She’s adjusting to relatively frequent observations and evaluations of her teaching, something she never experienced in her home country. (A principal or an administrator in Finland, Chartouni noted, may briefly observe a teacher’s lesson, but not on a regular basis.)

Already this autumn, she’s had a couple of visitors in her American classroom: a representative of a nearby university, where she’s completing studies to receive a local teaching license, and her "professional learning community" coach. A district administrator will come to visit her classroom, too. According to Chartouni, these three evaluators will make a few unexpected visits throughout this school year.

Chartouni misses that feeling of being trusted as a professional in Finland. There, after receiving her teaching timetable at the start of each school year, she would be given the freedom to prepare curriculum-aligned lessons, which matched her preferences and teaching style. "I wanted to do my best all the time," she said, "because they trusted my skills and abilities." I encountered something similar when I moved to Finland from the U.S., where I started my teaching career.

According to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, teacher autonomy is positively associated with teachers’ job satisfaction and retention. And while most U.S. public-school teachers report a moderate amount of control in the classroom, many say they have little autonomy. In fact, the percentage of U.S. public-school teachers who perceive low autonomy in the classroom grew from 18 percent in the 2003-04 school year to 26 percent in the 2011-12 school year. In general, U.S. public-school teachers report that they have the least amount of control over two particular areas of teaching: "selecting textbooks and other classroom materials" and "selecting content, topics, and skills to be taught."

"If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career."
Marc Tucker, the president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, suggested to me that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which he called "the inauguration of [America’s] accountability movement," significantly affected how U.S. public-school teachers perceived their level of autonomy. According to Tucker, NCLB embodied the first concerted "effort by officials in the United States to hold teachers accountable for student performance on a wide-scale."

Given the significant investment in education programs that served America’s underprivileged children, Tucker explained that U.S. policymakers had grown exasperated by "the lack of return" (evidenced by mediocre student achievement on nationwide assessments). Under NCLB, America’s public schools needed to make adequate yearly progress, decided in large part by student performance on state standardized tests, or face serious consequences, such as school closures. For U.S. officials like George W. Bush, this kind of test-based accountability could be framed as a simple matter of social justice, an effort to give all of the nation’s children access to decent schools with quality teachers; that virtuous sentiment can be heard in his declaration to address "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

But as NCLB aimed to hold schools more accountable and U.S. public-school educators felt squeezed to prepare students for state standardized tests, it appeared to encourage a push for more standardization in the nation’s classrooms in teaching guides, student textbooks, and so forth—and, ultimately, many U.S. teachers perceived a diminution of autonomy. (Today, that law has since been replaced, but the NCES report on teacher autonomy suggests that limited flexibility in the classroom is still felt by a large number of teachers, as America’s test-based accountability movement continues to exist.)

* * *

As a public-school educator in Tennessee, Chartouni is seeing how some accountability measures—ones that are unobserved in Finnish schools—have reduced her level of professional freedom. For example, she and her U.S. colleagues must refer to rubrics and lesson-plan templates to prepare effective lessons. "Everything needs to be written down," Chartouni said. "It is a great habit," she recognized, but she had developed her own routine over a decade of teaching in Finland, in which she’d craft a brief plan and then make sensible adjustments during a class period. "I can’t do it that way here because it would look like I hadn't planned anything," she said.

According to Chartouni, even the beginning of each lesson is prescribed. "Students need to get busy with bell work immediately when they step into your classroom," she said. "They have five minutes to go from one location to another, [and] they have seven periods of intensive teaching." So, occasionally, Chartouni decides to assign easy bell work as she greets her exhausted students: "sit down, relax, and breathe." (In Finland, students and teachers typically have a 15-minute break built-into every classroom hour.)

With only a couple months of teaching under her belt, Chartouni wonders whether she wants to remain in the teaching profession in America. "If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career," she admitted. "I am already looking into other options."


Public School District Suspends 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and "Huckleberry Finn' After Parent Complains

Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia has temporarily suspended study of the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn after a parent filed a complaint that the classic literature contained "racial slurs".

During a November 15 school board meeting, Marie Rothstein-Williams said that her biracial son, who is in high school, struggled to get through a page that contained multiple racial slurs.

"I keep hearing 'This is a classic, this is a classic,' she said. "I understand this is a literature classic, but at some point I feel the children will not or do not truly get the classic part, the literature part — which I'm not disputing, this is great literature — but there is so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that.

"Right now, we are a nation divided as it is," she continued. "I teach my son he is the best of both worlds, and I do not want him to feel otherwise....It's not just even a black and white thing. ...There's other literature they can use....

"So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they're not acceptable, by no means."

Rothstein-Williams’ complaint will be filed as a "Request for Reconsideration of Learning Resources" under the school district’s policy manual. "The material will then be reviewed by a committee that will consist of the principal, the library media specialist, the classroom teacher (if involved), a parent and/or student, and the complainant."

The committee will then make a final recommendation to the principal and superintendent to either continue to use or withdraw the novels in question from the curriculum.

The Accomack County School’s Policy Manual also states that all materials cited in the complaint must be suspended until a final determination is made. The complainant may appeal the committee’s decision.

However, not all parents agreed with the school district’s decision to suspend study of the classic novels, which explore issues surrounding race in America.

"Everybody’s read it… it didn’t change a difference in my views at all," Catherine Glaser, a Accomack County resident, told WAVY-TV. "I’d like my son to read those books… my daughter’s mixed, and I don’t have a problem with it. I love those books."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird was written in 1960 by Harper Lee, who passed away in February, The main character, a lawyer named Atticus Finch, is picked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been falsely accused of raping a young white women in a town in the Deep South, leading to Finch being despised by other whites in the community.

The plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was written by Mark Twain in 1885, revolves around the central character, Huck, and an escaped slave, Jim, who travel down the Mississippi River together in a raft.

An analysis of the novel describes Jim as "a noble human being and a loyal friend,"  the "only real adult in the novel, and the only one who provides a positive, respectable example for Huck to follow."


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

U.S. Education Secretary to schools: Stop hitting, paddling students

The usual "one-size-fits-all Leftist nonsense.  Most students can be reached without corporal punishment but for some it takes corporal punishment to divert them from foolish behaviour

U.S. Education Secretary John King is urging school districts nationwide to stop hitting and paddling students, saying corporal punishment is “harmful, ineffective, and often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities.”

In a “dear colleague” letter being issued Tuesday, King asks educators to “eliminate this practice from your schools, and instead promote supportive, effective disciplinary measures.

“The use of corporal punishment can hinder the creation of a positive school climate by focusing on punitive measures to address student misbehavior rather than positive behavioral interventions and supports,” King writes. “Corporal punishment also teaches students that physical force is an acceptable means of solving problems, undermining efforts to promote nonviolent techniques for conflict resolution."

Recent research suggests that more than 160,000 children in 19 states are potential victims of corporal punishment in schools each year, with African-American children in a few southern school districts about 50% more likely than white students to be smacked or paddled by a school worker.

The prevalence of corporal punishment in schools has been steadily dropping since the 1970s, according to findings published last month by the Society for Research in Child Development, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group.

Half of states banned school corporal punishment between 1974 and 1994, but since then, researchers say, only a handful more states have followed suit.

University of Texas researcher Elizabeth Gershoff and a colleague found that 19 states still allow public school personnel to use corporal punishment, from preschool to high school. The states are all in the south or west: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

In his letter, King says that more than one-third of students subject to corporal punishment in schools during the 2013-2014 academic year were black, though black students make up just 16% of public school student population.

He also notes that boys overall, as well as students with disabilities, were more likely to be punished physically: boys represented about 80% of corporal punishment victims, and in nearly all of the states where the practice is permitted, students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment at higher rates than students without them.

“These data and disparities shock the conscience,” King wrote.


Speaker Ryan: Education Should Be Decentralized; ‘Reform Should be About Results’

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he supports decentralizing education, adding that reform should be focused on results, not the “arrogant, paternalistic notion” that Washington knows best.

“Education reform should be about results. What educates kids, today’s kids, not tomorrow’s kids, the best,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Ryan’s comments were in response to a question by a reporter asking if the speaker had any reservations regarding the public charter school model favored by Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Dept. of Education . 

“Open it up so we can have different competitive models - choice, charter, public, everything in between - and let that be done in the states,” Ryan responded.

“That’s something that we all feel very passionately about.”

Ryan noted that he supports reverting federal control back to the states because parents, state and local governments are better able to decide what is best for their children.

"I’m a parent. I care about my kids' education and I’m going to send them to the best school that I can,” Ryan said. “Parents can be trusted to do this. Who cares more about your kid than you do?

“So I do believe that in this debate becomes sort of an arrogant, paternalistic notion that Washington somehow knows better or best on how your children should get educated. I think parents know best and care the most.

"And so that is why we so deeply believe in not just decentralizing power, but [in sending] decision-making back to the states, and then opening up competition."


Candy canes banned for Christmas under Tasmanian Primary School's healthy eating policy

A Tasmanian primary school has banned students from including candy canes and similar treats with their Christmas cards this year.

Bellerive Primary School announced a new healthy eating policy on its school association Facebook page on Wednesday. Under the policy, birthday cakes would also be banned from next year in favour of healthy options.

Reactions at the school have been mixed. Parent Ian Green said the school's healthy eating policy had gone too far. "They are depriving kids of being kids," he said.

"They're not going to get obese because they have a cupcake, they're not going to fall over and have a heart attack because they have a candy cane at Christmas."

Another parent Kirsty Shaw said parents had not been consulted.  "I think the school community is a little bit sick and tired of being told what we can and what we can't feed our children," she said.

But not all parents disagree with the ban. Charrhara Harma said it was a good idea. "Yeah that's good because junk is not good for children," she said.

Student James Overton could see both sides of the argument. "It's not really good for your health, but no because people like them and they don't really want them to be banned from school," he said.

The Education Department has distanced itself from the decision.  It said its policy Move Well, Eat Well encouraged the wider school community to support limiting "occasional" foods. In a statement, the state's Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff urged the school to reconsider.

The Bellerive Primary School Association and the school's principal declined to comment.

Tasmania School Canteen Association executive officer Julie Dunbabbin said she believed eventually all schools would ban confectionery.

She said many schools were trying to address the issue of children being exposed to too many cakes due to classmates birthdays. She said cakes could be healthy if baked the right way. "We certainly promote the more healthier version, the ones with less sugar and saturated fat," she said.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Jobs needed, not student loan forgiveness

President Barack Obama has decided to leave a lasting impression before he exists office. Obama has put in place a student debt forgiveness program which only helps few while costing all excessively. Now as costs of tuition continue to soar, the Obama legacy on higher education reform will clearly be one of economic distress and government overreach.

Thanks to Obama, the federal government is on track to forgive at least $108 billion in student loan debt in the coming years according to the Government Accountability Office. Which, is what happens when the economy does not produce jobs for college graduates because it has been slowing down for 16 years, not growing above 4 percent since 2000. Graduates go for loan forgiveness, because the jobs that there are do not pay for the loans.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Josh Mitchell, the most generous repayment plans are capped at 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. He continues to note that, “Congress approved the plans in the 1990s and 2000s, and President Barack Obama has used executive actions to extend the most-generous terms to millions of borrowers.”

This has caused the number of students borrowing to skyrocket over the last three years, resulting in a collective debt of $355 billion. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates $137 billion will not be repaid.

The GAO also criticized the Department of Education’s accounting practices, noting that its costs could be off by billions of dollars. These figures also do not include future loans or outstanding interest on current loans which will accrue over time.

However, the financial burden which taxpayers will ensue will only get worse with the further implementation of this program. As explained in a Wall Street Journal editorial in July 2015, each year which had growth in federal student aid for higher education, also saw a rise in tuition prices. This is a surprisingly understandable trend.

The more the federal government has been willing to give, the more schools have been willing to charge.

Consistently since 1987 every time the federal government has raised financial assistance, Universities have raised costs. Not only do colleges increase costs knowing financial aid will act as a cushion, but with the increase in students entering the University there is a necessity for more classrooms and resources, driving up costs significantly.

Finally, the Obama plan does not even provide adequate relief for all those in need, for private sector workers their forgiven amount would be taxed as ordinary income. However, for government workers and those who work for non-profits forgiven debt is listed as tax free income.

Either everyone’s loan forgiveness should tax-free, or nobody’s should be. Government employees and non-profit workers are nothing special, no offense.

The idea of debt-forgiveness is not entirely partisan. Even President-elect Donald Trump has proposed settling payments at 12.5 percent of income and forgiving balances after 15 years. It is Obama’s expansion of current plans and new taxation codes which makes the plan economically unsustainable.

For young Americans with college degrees but who can now not find jobs in the slow-growth economy, they cannot afford to pay off their loans. To them, a student in debt a relief plan sounds amazing. But for a country in debt, this agenda is not the greatest good for the American people. The real solution is not student loan forgiveness, but for the economy to get moving again with robust growth and creating jobs. The government can help that along by reducing the cost of doing business here.

And stop telling every American they need a college education when not every job requires one. Otherwise, as universities raise prices the government will be forced to forgive more and more, eventually it is possible higher education will take home mortgages place as highest household liability. Then, even the people who need to go to school for their chosen vocation won’t be able to afford it.


Princeton University's Non-Sanctuary Sanctuary Campus

Christopher Eisgruber, the president of Princeton University, recently sent out a letter urging Donald Trump to continue Barack Obama’s immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). That’s essentially the cleverly named “Dreamers” Act, which never received congressional approval. Eisgruber defended DACA as “a wise, humane and beneficial policy.” That’s arguable, but Obama’s lawlessness in enacting it was neither wise nor beneficial. In the letter, Eisgruber sought to walk the line of both supporting illegal immigrant students while at the same time supporting Rule of Law. Good luck with that.

Eisgruber stated that he was motivated to write the letter in response to some who had “asked Princeton to declare itself a ‘sanctuary campus.’” He responded in the letter by stating, “Immigration lawyers with whom we have consulted have told us that this concept has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.”

While stating that Princeton would not declare itself a “sanctuary campus,” he also made it clear that the school would seek to protect the privacy of all its students, and that it would do everything in its power to accommodate those DACA students. However, Eisgruber also noted that the university was not “beyond the law’s reach.”

So, the bottom lines is that Princeton University will not declare itself a “sanctuary campus,” yet in many ways it will essentially behave as one. The university’s passive-aggressive behavior is to choose a policy of non-enforcement while at the same time not seeking to prevent the federal government from enforcing it. Those in the ivory tower evidently like to have their cake and eat it too.


Setting the Record Straight on Detroit Charter Schools

The nomination of school choice supporter Betsy DeVos for the post of education secretary has reignited a lively debate over the impact of school choice and student-centered education financing.

One case in point is a piece by Douglas Harris, who last Friday took to the pages of the The New York Times.

In his piece, Harris singled out Detroit’s charter school initiative as “the biggest school reform disaster in the country.” Citing one “well-regarded study,” Harris argued that “Detroit’s charter schools performed at about the same dismal level as its traditional public schools.”

The study to which Harris was referring—a study on charter school performance in Michigan conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)—was actually far more positive toward the Detroit charter environment than the Times piece would have one believe.

It is hardly a “disaster,” with, as Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, some 47 percent of charter schools in Detroit significantly outperforming traditional public schools in reading.

As the conclusion of the CREDO study explains:

Based on the findings presented here, the typical student in Michigan charter schools gains more learning in a year than his TPS counterparts, amounting to about two months of additional gains in reading and math. These positive patterns are even more pronounced in Detroit, where historically student academic performance has been poor. These outcomes are consistent with the result that charter schools have significantly better results than TPS [traditional public schools] for minority students who are in poverty.

Neerav Kingsland, who writes about choice and charters, also parsed the data from the CREDO study to better understand the performance of Detroit’s charter sector compared to Denver’s.

He found that Detroit charter schools performed better than Denver charter schools when compared to their local public school counterparts, with Detroit’s charter schools having twice the impact (0.070**) on reading scores as Denver’s charter schools (0.036**).

Moreover, Kingsland notes that almost all of Detroit’s charter schools (96 percent) performed better than or equal to their traditional public school counterparts in the area of reading. Kingsland provides an important caveat: that “Denver’s traditional schools are probably better than Detroit’s traditional schools, which brings the Denver charter effect down.”

But importantly, he writes, “given that parents in Detroit can’t enroll their children in schools in Denver, we should not decry a charter sector that is providing families better options than what they would otherwise have access to.”

In The New York Times piece, Harris goes on to reference New Orleans’ school choice system, which offers both charter school options and vouchers for private education—relevant points for Harris, since the secretary-designate is also a voucher proponent.

He references an important study by Jonathan Mills, Anna Egalite, and Patrick Wolf, published in conjunction with the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas and Harris’ own organization, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

That study found that voucher recipients in New Orleans performed worse in mathematics after attending private schools. Harris identifies this as “exactly the opposite” of what came from the New Orleans charter reforms.

First, there are important differences between Detroit’s charter sector and that of New Orleans. New Orleans’ school system was completely leveled by Hurricane Katrina, and the charter sector that emerged in its wake was practically built up from scratch. By contrast, Detroit’s charter sector has had to operate within a larger entrenched public school system.

But more importantly, the negative findings regarding the private school choice program in New Orleans may be due to uniquely strict regulations that have not existed in any other private school choice program.

In this hyper-regulated environment, just 31 of the 84 private schools in New Orleans chose to participate in the voucher program, leaving thousands of dollars in scholarship money per student on the table.

When researchers asked why these private schools did not participate in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), the primary reason private school leaders gave was fear of future regulations. Moreover, those that did participate were already experiencing enrollment declines prior to entering the scholarship program.

As Jonathan Butcher and I noted, “the schools that chose to enroll in the LSP—and incur the litany of state regulations in the process—were those schools that were already struggling, as evidenced by declining enrollment before program entry.”

Heavy-handed government regulations, all in the name of “accountability,” are likely to blame for hindering the potential of private school choice in New Orleans.

Finally, it is worth noting that there is a general disconnect between test scores and later life outcomes. It is highly reductionistic to measure the success of charter and other schools solely on the basis of student outcomes on state assessments.

Jay Greene at the University of Arkansas identified 10 rigorous evaluations of the impact of charter and private school choice programs on later life outcomes.

Greene found that some schools have large impacts on test score gains but have no real impact on later life outcomes. Other schools have no impact on test score gains, but end up having large impacts on later life outcomes. As Greene explains:

… the No Excuses charter model that is currently the darling of the ed reform movement and that New York Times columnists have declared as the only type of ‘Schools that Work’ tend not to fare nearly as well in later outcomes as they do on test scores.  Meanwhile, the unfashionable private choice schools and mom-and-pop charters seem to do much better on later life outcomes than at changing test scores. I don’t highlight this pattern as proof that we should shy away from No Excuses charters. I only mention it to suggest ways in which over-relying on test scores and declaring with confidence that we know what works and what doesn’t can lead to big policy mistakes.

Context is important. Choice and charters continue to be welcome escape hatches for students across the country.

The secretary-designate has been a champion of school choice for years, and for good reason: Choice enables families to match learning options to their children’s unique learning needs, and is a far better way to allocate education funding.

Contra The New York Times, it is not the variety of school options in Detroit that has been a disaster. On the contrary, these options have been a vital lifeline for thousands of students. A monopolized, government-run school system has been the problem.

Creating new schooling alternatives that empower families and children is imperative, and a worthy cause that must not be abandoned.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

British school apologises to a Christian teaching assistant who was made to feel 'like a criminal' after she told a 14-year-old student she did not agree with same sex relationships

A school has apologised to a black Christian teaching assistant it had issued her with a written warning after she told an autistic pupil she disapproved of same-sex relationships.

Victoria Allen, 51, also said she did not like the way the biblical rainbow symbol had been adopted as an emblem of gay pride.

After receiving the warning, she threatened to take Brannel School in St Austell, Cornwall, to tribunal over the matter.

But on Monday the dispute was settled out of court.  

The 14-year-old boy had interrupted an English lesson to ask her opinion on same-sex marriage.

When she gave her 'personal opinion' on the issue, the boy said he did not feel offended, but agreed when a teacher suggested he felt uneasy about the incident.

She was then given the written warning for not following the school's equal opportunities policies.

After a complaint by the boy's mother, the school launched formal disciplinary action in September.

Both parties yesterday spent the day behind closed doors at Bodmin Magistrates' Court thrashing out an agreement.

A joint statement said head teacher Andy Edmonds 'recognised Victoria Allen's right to share her Christian beliefs with students and has apologised for any upset she may have felt during the disciplinary process'.

Outside court, Ms Allen said she was made to 'feel like a criminal' for sharing her 'personal, Biblical beliefs'.

She added: 'If a child asks my personal opinion, I feel I should give it.'

However Ms Allen, a widow with three children, admitted staff should share 'balanced views'.

Libby Powell of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mrs Allens' claim, said: 'Vicky was asked a question about her personal opinion.

'We know that there are lots of people who disagree with the Biblical view of marriage and they are free to disagree.

'What we want to say is that there has to be space for the other point of view Vicky's point of view to be there as well.'

Ms Allen attends a Pentecostal church and joined the school in 2011.

In her job as a high-level teaching assistant she helps children with a range of educational difficulties. 


DeVos: Great Pick for Education Secretary

Star Parker

If the teachers unions are outraged by Donald Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos as the new secretary of education, our president-elect must have made a good choice.

The two major unions are beside themselves that Trump picked school-choice advocate and activist DeVos, who chairs the American Federation for Children, an organization that fights for school choice, with a focus on low-income communities.

The National Education Association’s press release says DeVos supports “failed schemes, like vouchers” and “a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize, and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”

According to the American Federation of Teachers, the appointment shows that Trump’s administration will focus on “privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education in America.”

But the school-choice movement, where Betsy DeVos has been an activist and leader for years, is not about any of this. It is about what the teachers unions hate the most: freedom.

It is about an outrageous idea that parents should have the power and freedom to decide where and how to educate their children.

Freedom is what I thought defined our country, the secret sauce that made, and makes, America great. It is crazy that in something as fundamental as education we have so little of it. And for those with the least power, the poor, parents are totally locked into failing schools controlled by bureaucrats and unions.

If giving parents education choice was a bad idea, why do so many want it?

Thirty years ago, school-choice programs didn’t exist. Today, according to the organization EdChoice, around 400,000 children attend private schools in 29 states with help from some type of public funding — vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, more than a million children are on waiting lists to be accepted in charter schools. Yes, the charter schools that Hillary Clinton criticized during the presidential campaign to cozy favor with the teachers unions.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that Betsy DeVos “uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda.”

This is laughable, coming from a union official.

The two teachers unions spent in the 2016 election cycle $33,623,843 on political contributions and $3,077,849 on lobbying to advance their special-interest agenda.

Every agenda is, of course, special interest. Betsy DeVos' special interest is advancing freedom by bringing education opportunities to poor children. The unions' special interest is keeping a stranglehold on public schools and looking out for their members and their left-wing agenda.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a high school teacher in 2014 was $56,310, with the average in the highest 10 percent at $88,910.

The Center for Union Facts shows that there are 198 employees at the American Federations of Teachers with compensation over $100,000, with president Weingarten standing at $543,150.

Regarding the claim that school-choice programs drain funds from public schools, American Enterprise Institute scholar Gerard Robinson, former commissioner for education in Florida and secretary of education for Virginia, reports that inflation-adjusted spending on education since the end of World War II has increased 663 percent, with virtually no change in reading and math scores since 1992.

In 2016 the Department of Education will spend $79 billion, up 67 percent from 2000.

A headline on the National Education Association website says, “Transgender students thrive in supportive schools.” Can you imagine the NEA worrying about Christian children getting biblical values?

Parents should be free to choose a school embracing transgender values or Christian values. It should be up to them, not unions or bureaucrats.

Having known Betsy DeVos for years, I am confident that unions will find their fears justified, and that our new secretary of education will provide leadership to significantly improve education in our country by bringing freedom and choice to families.


Leftist educators not concerned by the poor results that they have delivered in Australian schools

The latest international maths and science results suggest that Australia is a slow learner when it comes to improving school performance. Our mean maths and science scores in the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS2015) are the same as they were when TIMSS started 20 years ago.

It’s not just the Asian ‘tiger economies’ that are beating us: England, the USA, Ireland, Russia and Kazakhstan have also improved in the last decade and are now doing significantly better than we are. Australia has dropped down the international rankings to the middle of the pack.

At the same time as the TIMSS results were released, several hundred education academics were in Melbourne at the conference of the Australian Association of Research in Education — our peak educational research body. Given that the downward trend in test results has been apparent for some time, it might be expected that the education academy would be hell-bent on seeking out the best ways to teach maths and science so we don’t end up with a third-world economy.

The pre-occupation of the academy is apparently focussed elsewhere, if the presentation topics at the conference are an indication. They included such critically important subjects as ‘Thinking and doing research on female bodies differently – ‘listening’ to moving bodies’, ‘Nietzsche on aesthetics, educators and education’, and ‘Meet the phallic lecturer: Early career research in a neoliberal imaginary’. Among the several hundred presentations, 14 titles contained the word ‘maths’ or ‘mathematics’, while 10 contained the word ‘neoliberal’, and 18 contained the word ‘gender’.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), which leads the TIMSS study in Australia, described the results as a ‘wake up call’. The fact is, the alarm about maths and science (and reading) went off a decade ago. We keep hitting the snooze button while other countries stopped crying into their pillows over neoliberal conspiracies, rolled out of bed, and got on with it.