Friday, February 03, 2017

New system for ranking universities

I don't quite see the point of it.  What's so good about "internationalness"? I would have thought that it impeded learning.  There was a Chinese law lecturer at my alma mater -- the University of Qld -- a few years ago who had to be sent on leave because the students couldn't understand a word of his "English"

Australia has achieved stellar ­results in a new league table of universities which has inverted the world order by ranking US institutions as also-rans.

Five Australian institutions claimed top-25 places in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the most international universities, a new measure that takes account of the proportion of international staff and students and the strength of international reputations and cross-border ­research collaborations.

Australian National University claimed seventh spot, sandwiched between British heavyweights Oxford and Cambridge at sixth and eighth. Other local highlights included the universities of NSW (14th), Melbourne (18th), Monash (21st) and Sydney (24th). The table’s upper ranks are dominated by institutions in Britain, Australia and small trading hubs where English is widely spoken. Swiss institutions ETH Zurich and the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne claimed the top two places, followed by the University of Hong Kong and National University of Singapore.

The top 20 also includes institutions in Canada and France, but none in the US. Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed 22nd space, followed by Harvard (33rd), Stanford (36th) and Princeton (37th). All four are in the top 10 of university rankings.

Analysts say the league table, compiled before the Trump presidency, is a sign of things to come as the US’s inward-looking stand isolates it from global talent pools. Britain’s international standing is also set to fall because of onerous visa settings and the withdrawal from the EU, and Australia is well placed to capitalise, they say.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt, an American-born Nobel laureate, credited an external focus “built into our DNA” for the university’s success.

“We want to be able to bring expertise and knowledge from around the world to answer the big questions,” Professor Schmidt said. “We go after the best people. We’re in elite company and that gives us opportunities to go out and build on our strengths.”

Analyses have found that the average distance between collaborating researchers has more than quadrupled since 1980, and studies are now mostly cited in countries where they were not undertaken.

“It is simply not possible to achieve high levels of excellence without being open to the world,” ETH Zurich president Lino Guzzella said. “I know of no top university that does not have a substantial percentage of its ­faculty, students and workforce that are international.”

Malaysian-born Hoe Tan said there were 32 nationalities in ANU’s research school of physics, where he is deputy head. He said his own field of nanotechnology was “very internationalised”, with foreign collaborations boosting results and the prospects of ­commercialisation.

“Not only does it help in terms of research, but also in terms of the students’ experience,” ­Professor Tan said.

Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor Phil Baty said the US and Britain were sending out “powerful messages that are likely to deter international talent”.

“Australia is one of the key ­nations best placed to capitalise and bolster the overall performance of its universities,” he said.

Professor Schmidt said Australia’s international outlook helped counterbalance the “meagre resources” allocated to its universities. He said that while US institutions had far more resources their domestic focus worked against them.


High school from hell: Teachers have been BANNED from punishing students at school where mass brawls and dozens of arrests are now a part of every day life

In the midst of another graphic video of a brutal fight between teens at a Mississippi high school going viral, one teacher and a former student from have revealed how the bureaucracy apparently helps the regular mass brawls continue.

New policies at Terry High School in Hinds County 'deter teachers' at the school from punishing children who are involved in violent fights, one teacher, who did not want to be publicly identified, told WLBT.

The educator's comments come after the school was the scene of another vicious brawl on Monday that was caught on camera.

Officials say the most recent fight at the high school was a continuance of a brawl that happened on Friday during a basketball game. 

Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason said the students involved in the altercation used to go to school together in Jackson, before transferring.

All six of the teens involved in the fight on Monday were arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Former Terry High student, Melody Thompson, said that she had been involved in a fight while attending the school, but it was quickly broken up.

'I'll be honest, I was even in a fight in that cafeteria, and they immediately shut it down and we were in the principle's office within 30 seconds,' Thompson told WLBT.

But now Thompson said things have dramatically changed since she went to the school and not for the better. 

'They can't just send them to the office and have them written up or have them taken care of or go to detention,' Thompson stated.

'Like the teachers have to be there to monitor them for detention, they have to do the paperwork, and it's creating a workload that the teachers can't keep up with.'

Officials with the Hinds County School District say the high school has programs in place to offer session on bullying prevention and conflict resolution. 

However, another violent fight that occurred at the high school in September involved students who traded blows with staff members.

That brawl, which was also caught on video, apparently brought up long standing concerns among parents in regards to how their children are being punished by the school.

The shocking video from the September 2 fight shows a student repeatedly striking a school resource officer who was attempting to break-up a fight between two students, district officials told WJTV.

The dramatic 10-second clip also shows another school employee trying to intervene and protect the school resource officer by removing a student from the brawl.

Officials with the school district at the time said the employees followed the policy.

However, Danny Jones said he disagrees, as his 16-year-old daughter was arrested after she apparently tried to end the fight which was between other girls. 

'She was trying to be a good citizen and break up the fight. And it went bad from there. They started fighting and she had to fight back. The principal told us one thing but when it's time to go to court, he says something totally different,' Jones told WJTV days after the incident.

The father said he and his wife were upset with how the school handled the situation.

'He said that since she told she had been fighting she was part of the fight. He put her in there and said she was part of a group fight,' Jones said.

Charges against the teenager were eventually dropped, but she was suspended from the school.

In addition, back during the 2015 school year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were 31 arrests at the school.  

'That's a 400% increase of school based arrests over the past three years. And those arrests were by and large for willful disobedience or other subjectively defined offenses,' Lydia Wright, with the SPLC, told WJTV.

'Students weren't getting arrested for bringing weapons to school. Students weren't getting arrested for drugs on campus.

'Students were being arrested for typical adolescent misbehavior.'

The SPLC sent the school district a letter roughly a year requesting that the code of conduct be revised, but it's unclear if that change was made.  


Scotland: Education system is `failing poor pupils in all schools'

Researchers warned that the Scottish government was on course to miss a target for 20 per cent of new university entrants to come from the 20 per cent most deprived communities by 2030

The school a child from a poor background attends makes little difference to their chances of attending university.

The assumption that pupils from deprived areas become more motivated if they are educated with aspirational peers from richer backgrounds is misjudged, experts have found.

The University of Glasgow has warned that tens of thousands of youngsters are being written off and "disenfranchised from aspiration" because efforts to increase participation in higher education are focused on schools where fewer pupils go on to attend university.

The report's authors claim that the present policy means that poorer pupils who attend more academically successful institutions are generally ignored. A disparity in academic success based on background is also far more stark in schools where large numbers progress to university.


Thursday, February 02, 2017

Ethical dilemmas in the Trump era

The student made the swastika out of tape on a piece of paper and propped it against a recycling bin in a Stoughton High School classroom just before Thanksgiving.

What happened next underscores the difficult terrain educators face as they confront the increase in racist and anti-Semitic incidents since the November election. Three teachers, frustrated by a lack of clear guidelines for dealing with such a sensitive issue, responded in sharply different ways. One talked about the swastika in class. Another spoke to a student about it. And a third withdrew a college recommendation for the student who created the swastika.

But in the end, the teachers themselves, as well as some students, were disciplined.

Heightened tensions are forcing teachers and administrators to grapple with abhorrent actions few say they are prepared to confront. Students who mimic the behavior or speech of President Trump, particularly his rhetoric from the divisive campaign, may violate a school district's or state's antibullying laws. Parents from differing political perspectives may have competing views about what constitutes acceptable speech or behavior.

And teachers often lack guidelines for addressing these volatile situations, said Meira Levinson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who specializes in educational ethics. "There is no one, clear, right answer for what to do," said Levinson, who is a former middle school teacher in the Atlanta and Boston public schools.

"How we deal with something we read as hate or bullying - although we often see that as the only question - that's only the first question," Levinson said. "So much of this is how do we deal with people's competing responses to the same incident, without having them snowball into further incidents."

Levinson and a team of graduate students recently launched teaching guides that use case studies - contentious situations school leaders have faced - to help teachers, parents, and administrators consider different perspectives and discuss ways a school might approach situations.

The presidential election has had a profoundly negative effect on some schools and students, according to a recent nationwide survey of more than 10,000 educators by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama organization that tracks hate and bias incidents. The poll, while not scientific, is believed to be the largest survey of educators about the election.

Two-thirds of those surveyed reported that administrators have been "responsive," but four out of 10 don't believe their schools have adequate action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.

Half of those surveyed said they were hesitant to discuss the election in class because of heightened emotions. Some principals have told teachers to refrain from discussing or addressing the election in any way, the center found.

In Stoughton, several high school teachers urged administrators to speak out after the swastika incident in late November, according to the Stoughton Teachers Association. A girl, who is Jewish and who witnessed the incident, had asked the boy to remove the swastika. He did, but made an offensive remark.

The teachers asked administrators to send a letter home to parents explaining what happened, similar to the action taken in nearby Milton after several swastikas were discovered in the bathrooms of a middle school in December.

"By not discussing this with the entire community, parents were denied an opportunity to discuss this at the dinner table with their kids," said John Gunning, Stoughton Teachers Association president.

Frustrated by the inaction, the teachers took matters into their own hands.

The two teachers who spoke about the incident with students received letters of reprimand in their files, and the teacher who rescinded her letter of recommendation for the student who had made the swastika was suspended for 20 days without pay. She began serving that suspension Thursday, according to the union.

But administrators continued to remain mum, despite a statement by the union at a school committee meeting Tuesday and repeated inquiries from the Globe.

On Friday, Stoughton's superintendent, Marguerite Rizzi, who told the school committee Tuesday that she was unaware of more than one incident involving a swastika in her school, sent a two-page e-mail to parents describing two incidents.

In the second instance, which also occurred in late November, an image of a swastika was prominently displayed in a group chat involving several students on their phones.

The statement said that students involved in both incidents were disciplined but makes no mention of actions taken against teachers.

Rizzi's statement said police had been consulted and it was determined the actions were not hate crimes or hate speech.

"We at the Stoughton Public Schools are all committed to eradicating hate speech, and have no tolerance for racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or any other kind of bigotry or discrimination," the statement said.

Rizzi chastised, but did not name, people whom she said were inaccurately portraying the incidents, and said that created a lost opportunity "to teach our children . . . the importance of forgiveness."

She also said the Anti-Defamation League came to the school Thursday for a training session "to help us refocus on the aims of strengthening our safe, tolerant, peaceful, and thriving diverse community."

But one parent who saw a swastika on her son's phone in late November during the student group chat was horrified he had participated in that chat, and upset that school leaders did not act sooner. The woman asked that her name not be used because she is worried her son will face retaliation.

"I grabbed my son and said, `Honey, what's going on?' He said they took it down, it's just a joke. And I said, `This is not OK. It's not a joke,'?" she said.

The woman said her 17-year-old son is not biased or hateful. But she worries that he and his friends seem to have little understanding of the pain a swastika, long a powerful symbol of Nazi atrocities, evokes for so many.

"I don't know what the solution is," she said. "These kids just don't realize the severity of it."


Universities Cave to Snowflakes

By Walter E. Williams

One wonders just how far spineless college administrators will go when it comes to caving in to the demands of campus snowflakes. For those unfamiliar with the term "snowflakes," it is increasingly being used to characterize college students easily traumatized by criticism and politically incorrect phrases. They demand safe spaces and trigger warnings so as not to be upset by views that challenge their own. Snowflakes feel as though they must be protected against words, events and deeds that do not fully conform to their extremely limited, narrow-minded beliefs built on sheer delusion. This might explain their behavior in the wake of Donald Trump's trouncing of Hillary Clinton.

Generosity demands that we forgive these precious snowflakes and hope that they grow up. The real problem is with people assumed to be grown-ups - college professors and administrators who tolerate and give aid and comfort to our aberrant youth. Let's look at tiny samples of it.

To help avoid microaggressions, the University of North Carolina administration posted a notice urging staff and faculty members to avoid phrases such as "husband/boyfriend," which they claim is heteronormative, and "Christmas vacation," which "minimizes non-Christian spiritual rituals."

This winter, the Oregon State University administration will treat its students to a new class that promises to teach them about how blacks have historically resisted white supremacists. Professor Dwaine Plaza, one of three instructors for the course, said the idea was inspired by Trump's election, which he fears will take the country back to the 1960s.

The University of Maryland is hosting a series of postelection lectures on how a "commitment to white supremacy" gave Trump momentum and blaming "white America's spiritual depravity" for his rise to power. One of the topics will be "Make America White Again? The Racial Reasoning of American Nationalism."

At Pomona College, posters giving instructions on "how to be a (better) white ally" and stating that all white people are racist were put in the dorm rooms of new students.

Ned Staebler, Wayne State University's vice president for economic development, i.e., fundraising, declared that President Trump is a Nazi and his supporters are comfortable with bigotry. He said, "I'll say flatly that many of the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump did so because of his bigotry."

In response to a claim by Ben Carson - Trump's pick to be secretary of housing and urban development - that people have the right to display Confederate flags on private property, University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler tweeted, "If only there was a 'coon of the year' award." Previously, Butler informed us that God is a "white racist" and Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, was a "blood sacrifice."

Wake Forest University faculty and administration seek to make the university a sanctuary campus. Campus security will refuse to follow federal laws and will stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from pursuing criminals if they come onto Wake Forest property. This is nothing less than nullification of federal law. While liberals support nullification of federal immigration law, I wonder how they would respond to cities nullifying laws enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Snowflake indulgence has been fostered by the education establishment and, more recently, by federal law. One of the most popular features of Obamacare is its provision that children can remain on their parents' health care plan until they are 26 years old. That promotes prolonged adolescence, sparing the necessity for youngsters to get out on their own.

Some have criticized my lack of sympathy for snowflakes in the wake of their emotional trauma resulting from Trump's defeat of Clinton. Here's my question to you: How much sympathy would you have for those 18- to 24-year-olds who are in the military if they conducted themselves - on aircraft carriers, in nuclear submarines and in special forces - just as college snowflakes did in the wake of the Trump victory?


Why Millennials Could Become the School Choice Generation

When advocates make clear that school choice is about liberating kids from their zip codes, the message resonates.

Millennials could become the school choice generation—but advocates still have a lot of work to do.

According to a survey released by EdChoice in October, millennials are more in favor of many kinds of school choice reform—charter schools, voucher programs—than older Americans, but only when they are educated about these programs.

As I wrote in October:

Overall, 63 percent of millennial respondents were in favor of charter schools, and just 19 percent were opposed. The national average was 59 percent and 23 percent. This means that millennials were actually slightly more pro-charter than the average, though the difference is within the survey's margin of error.

That should be reason enough for school choice reformers to cheer, though some caution is still warranted: millennials held initially hostile views toward vouchers—just 33 percent supported them. But the survey asked the question twice: after it explained what vouchers were, support for them rose to 61 percent.

These results don't surprise me, because school choice reflects an important philosophy of millennials: that people deserve more choice and control over their own lives. Of course the generation that thinks Facebook should list 58 different gender options wouldn't be content with a non-choice paradigm for U.S. schools. Compared to older Americans, millennials are less likely to feel bound to follow tradition and stick to a set plan—they're more likely to move across the country, think outside the two-party system, and get their news from something other than cable. They're also more skeptical of the idea that the government restrictions on immigration are justified.

Philosophically, immigration is a lot like school choice. It's wrong for the government to force people to confine their activities to the place where they were born, and it's similarly wrong for the government to force kids to attend the school associated with the place where they were born.

When advocates make clear that school choice is about liberating kids from their zip codes, the message resonates with millennials.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Teacher Stages Mock Assassination of Trump

A Texas high school art teacher has been placed on administrative leave after video surfaced showing her “shooting” President Donald Trump inside a classroom while screaming, “Die!” The Secret Service field office in Irving tells me it is aware of the incident but declined further comment. The teacher, at W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, posted the video to her Instagram account along with the following message: “Watching the #inauguration in my classroom like…#no #stop #denial #squirtgun #hypocrisy #powerless #saveusall #teachthembetter #atleastitsfriday.”

Voices can be heard in the background, but the school district would not say if students witnessed the teacher’s disturbing demonstration. The Inauguration Day video has since been removed, but several prominent conservative websites managed to save a copy. Video of the inauguration was being broadcast inside the classroom on a whiteboard. The video shows the teacher lunging at President Trump and firing the squirt gun numerous times while shouting, “Die!” It is disturbing, to say the least.

Dallas Independent School District seems to be taking the matter quite seriously. “Today, we were made aware of a social media posting being circulated involving a teacher at W. H. Adamson High School,” a district spokesperson told me. “The teacher has been placed on administrative leave and the district has opened an investigation. This is a personnel matter and as such we cannot comment.” I wonder which offense the school district finds worst: a faux assassination or a teacher using a squirt gun on school property.

Since the 2016 presidential election, liberal educators across the fruited plain have gone slap crazy. Some teachers have even turned their classrooms into breeding grounds for anti-Trump propaganda, going so far as to portray the commander in chief as a modern-day Adolf Hitler. And I lost count of the number of educators who refused to broadcast the inauguration ceremony over fears that some fragile snowflake might take offense.

But what happened in Dallas is yet another example of how our public schools have been turned into social engineering petri dishes festering with rancorous rhetoric and hate. What kind of a person would stage a faux assassination attempt in, of all places, Dallas? It’s simply repulsive. Let’s hope Dallas ISD can muster the moral courage to take swift action to rebuke this teacher and send a message that this kind of hate has no place in a public school classroom.


UK: Introducing more selection in schools is not only the smart thing to do – it's what parents demand

By MARY CURNOCK COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF UCAS. (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities)

Customer Logic is one of our values at UCAS.  I know this isn’t going to make me popular, but if you apply customer logic to the grammar school debate, it can start to sound more, well, logical.

Customer logic is about seeing things through the eyes of the customer.  In this case, parents of bright kids and the bright kids themselves.  Bringing up my three children in East Acton in the 90s and early 2000s, I was fortunate to be able to buy them an education that I knew would allow them to flourish to the best of their abilities.  Although I often thought about creating an uprising of other middle-class parents to take our children out of fee-paying schools en masse to enter them into state schools, it never got beyond fantasy.  The truth was, we all wanted our children to be educated in schools that would stretch them, follow a traditional academic curriculum, and where behavioural norms are respected.


Outrage after Australian high school students were asked to analyse EMOJIS in national exams instead of classic literature

Concerns have been raised over new NAPLAN online exams asking high school students to examine SMS chat using emojis instead of classic literature.

The Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority this week posted new public demonstration 'mini-tests' as they prepare students to transition to online testing.

But one of the questions, which asks Year 9 students to analyse a text message conversation about a drama teacher's facial hair, has been slammed by the education industry.
A sample of new NAPLAN online exams asking high school students to examine SMS chat using emojis

A sample of new NAPLAN online exams asking high school students to examine SMS chat using emojis

NAPLAN is an annual test undertaken each year by students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, covering basic skills in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy.

The reading test for 14 and 15-year-old students asks the students whether the word 'mo' refers to Mr Grigg's moustache in an image of the screenshot conversation containing emojis - the smiley faces used in electronic messages.

An ACAA spokeswoman was defiant against the controversy, saying the tests show a range of questions 'from traditional to contemporary.'

They said the exam analyses 'various types of other media texts, such as newspapers and film.'

'Test items need to be as relevant and engaging for students as possible. As a result, test developers include a range of passage types, from text messages to more traditional ‘literature-type’ passages.

'The SMS question is a very simple item, however, based on data to date we expect that it would challenge about 10% of Year 9 students.” 

However the exam has been slammed by education industry figures who believe it has over simplified the curriculum.

Jennifer Buckingham, the Centre for Independent studies, told Daily Mail Australia the question was a troubling reflection of current literacy levels. ‘It certainly represents a very basic level of comprehension. It would be on the lower end of the range, she said.

She said it would only have been included in the demonstration if students in the vetting process had answered incorrectly.

‘It’s a reflection of current literacy levels, and it is troubling this is the standard across the board.’


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One liberal's view about education

I have ZERO sympathy for people who run up huge college debts. As in "none". College -get this!- isn't that expensive if you humble yourself and go the community college route for the first two years (all states have them) and then the university partnership for the remaining two, I bet you could've saved like 75%. But Americans are hyper-entitled and everybody thinks they're the one entitled to a super-expensive private education because, "Like all my friends are going there and stuff."

I especially have no sympathy for people who study programs that have no marketability or who went to a private university and then acted stunned when Social Worker Degree #12 from Duke didn't get the kind of market pay required to cover the $195,000 debt. Surprise! Nobody cares where you went to school for that and good luck getting a job with that degree.

The vast, VAST majority (>95%) will never need a really elite university degree. Most companies don't give a shit that you went to Stanford or Harvard. Some do, and maybe you're that super-special snowflake. Great. But most of us need community college #348 + their local state university partnership.

Now, I do believe that your first two years (community college) should be covered by the US government because an Associate's Degree is the new 12 year high school diploma - it's the very basic you need to enter the work force. The remaining two should be offset by choosing an in-demand field with good GPA and attendance OR a committment to two years of service to your country/state/community afterwards.


Only 2 Miles, but a Planet Away

Just over 2 miles from the U.S. Capitol lives Kariah Butler, a 10-year-old girl being raised by a single mom. Looking for a way out of the neighborhood public school, which last year graduated less than 50 percent of its class, Kariah’s mother signed her up for the federal school voucher program.

Called the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, it launched in 2004 to serve low-income students in the nation’s capital by awarding them vouchers to attend a private school of their choice. Spending a fraction per student compared to public schools, this school choice program has increased graduation rates by 21 percentage points.

Under the new Republican-led administration, school choice advocates are hopeful that efforts like the D.C Opportunity Scholarship Program won’t just survive, but perhaps even expand. On Thursday, President Donald Trump lent his support to the movement and issued an official proclamation declaring Jan. 22-28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

The Daily Signal traveled to the Anacostia section of Washington to meet Kariah and see what life is like over the bridge, where school choice is helping, one child at a time.


Ohio State Students To Study White Privilege, Microaggressions

White privilege and microaggressions are on the academic menu this spring at Ohio State University.

The College Fix reports that the school is offering a course to students that will enable them to identify such highly debatable phenomenon in their lives and to “develop an understanding of major social justice concepts.”

Students can enjoy a reading list that encompasses such works as: “Waking up White: What it means to accept your legacy, for better and worse,” “The Arab Woman and I” and “Memoirs of a Gay Fraternity Brother.”

Anyone questioning the viability or popularity of such studies should know that the course is one way to fulfill the university’s requirement to compete a “diversity” module before graduation.

The university that offered students a “safe space” to cope with inauguration day is inaugurating its own identity politics curriculum that will focus on social justice themes and train students to “identify microaggressions,” recognize “systems of power and privilege” and assess how best to promote diversity and inclusion at school and in the workplace. It will also discuss the importance of “global citizenship” in Trump America.

“Crossing Identity Boundaries” aims to expand students’ “self-awareness” and help them develop “dialogue skills.”

Because the course qualifies as part of mandatory diversity requirement, the university is already ensuring that it will run throughout the academic year.

Students will be required to bring some of their work home by participating in “implicit bias tests,” and keeping a journal that records incidents of “power/privilege in your life.” Tolerance levels will really be evaluated by tests that ask Christians how it would feel to be a Muslim or suggesting that men imagine themselves as women and “reflecting on how this new identity would have impacted your day.”

The microaggressions group presentation is a critical part of the course.

According to the syllabus, students must “find at least 12 examples of microaggressions using at least 3 different types of social media (e.g., Yik Yak, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest). Explain who the target of the microaggression is and why your group believes it is an example of a negative remark. Provide an example of how you might respond to such a comment.”

The point of all this is for students to “evaluate the impact that power and privilege have within social media,” a syllabus states. Grades are assigned on the basis of “quality of microaggresion chosen (do they clearly articulate why they are microaggressions and which group is targeted” and “quality of response (did they address the microaggression in an appropriate and meaningful way?)”


Monday, January 30, 2017

Australia: Young Sikh boy, five, forced to change schools because he was not allowed to wear his turban to class

I think highly of Sikhs.  They successfully withstood the Muslims for 1,000 years.  So I see this ban as ignorant if it is based on religious prejudice.  It may however be a matter of uniform policy.  If one exception to the policy is allowed, it may undermine the whole policy -- producing exception requests on all sorts of grounds

A five-year-old boy has been forced to change schools because he was not allowed to wear a turban that was part of this religion.

Sidhak Singh Arora really wanted to attend Melton Christian College in Melbourne's north-west. But his patka, a turban for young Sikh boys with long hair, was an issue.

His father, Sagardeep Singh Arora, said it was unfortunate his son could not attend the best school in Melton.  'I really feel bad, and disappointed, because I thought this is a modern society, how can a kid not go to the school of his choice, just because he is wearing a religious clothing?,' he told SBS News.

'My son really wanted to go to that school. 'This is one of the best schools over there, I say the best school in the Melton area.'

The boy's father said the patka, which he puts on his son's head every morning, wasn't a fashion accessory. 'You have to keep your hair covered all the time,' he said.  'It's not like a fashion, or accessory for us, it's like a basic principle of our religion.'

The boy's family has taken his case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the school principal declined to comment. A hearing date has been scheduled for April.  


For-profit colleges vindicated

Hated by the Left and attacked by Obama, they deliver for poor students

In a recent working paper, Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, and Danny Yagan of the Equality of Opportunity Project investigate how different US colleges perform according to a metric that is of deep sociological interest: How many of their students came from families in the bottom quintile of the income distribution, yet managed to enter the top quintile by their early 30s? That is, which colleges and universities combined relatively broad access to underprivileged students with high rates of intergenerational mobility?

This analysis produces fascinating rankings of institutions of higher education, and a new number of enlightening figures. The first picture reproduced below (Figure V.A in the paper) gives a sense of the central findings. There is a strong relationship between access and success: Schools that admit fewer students from the bottom quintile see more of those students enter the top quintile. The blue dots in the top left of the figure are the Ivies plus a few other highly selective colleges. They admit very few students from poor households, but half or more of them make it to the top quintile of the income distribution.

Chetty et al. define a metric that quantifies this trade-off: the so-called Mobility Rate. This rate is the product of the Success Rate (on the Y axis, the percentage of students among those that come from the bottom quintile who make it to the top quintile) and Access (on the X axis, the percentage of students who come from the bottom quintile). The product of the two, then, is the overall percentage of all students who come from the bottom quintile and make it to the top quintile.

There will always be outliers, and attempts to replicate them may well become fruitless exercises in wishful thinking. Instead, the paper offers a more reliable path forward.

This mobility rate varies from school to school – the curves in the figure above connect schools with the same rate. What the authors take away from this picture is that there are schools which have the same success rate, but very different levels of access. They believe that the colleges that deserve more study – or perhaps even imitation! – are the outliers that combine a given success rate with a particularly high level of access.

It is not clear that this is the best lesson to learn from the paper. There will always be outliers, and attempts to replicate them may well become fruitless exercises in wishful thinking. Instead, the paper offers a more reliable path forward, in Figure V.D.

What this figure shows is that there is an entire category of schools that deliver high success rates for a given level of access: for-profit colleges. While the authors do not highlight this finding, it turns out that these often vilified institutions outperform both public colleges and private non-profit colleges. This difference isn’t smaller either: the mobility rate at for-profits is some 25% higher than at other colleges. This is a stunning discovery that surely merits more attention from researchers and policymakers alike.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Scotland: Climbdown on testing `risks ruining school reform'

Leftist hatred of testing at work

An architect of an education project that Nicola Sturgeon promised to emulate has said an SNP climbdown on school testing risks fatally undermining the first minister's mission to drive up standards in Scotland's schools.

Professor David Woods, who was senior adviser to the London Challenge - credited with drastically narrowing the attainment gap between rich and poor in the UK capital - said its vital reforms were based on "robust, national data sets".

He questioned whether government concessions following pressure from unions and opposition MSPs, which mean that raw data will be kept secret, would deliver on the requirement.

Accusing teachers and unions of "fighting shy of accountability", he said: "You can't improve a system without knowing where the best and worst schools are."


Sunday, January 29, 2017

US attorney investigates Brookline private school over allegations it barred disabled child

Why should parents be allowed to push their problems onto someone else?  And why does a private school not have discretion over whom it admits?

At their home in Brookline, Dawn Oates cuddled with her daughter Harper, who born with a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic. Harper, 5, was denied a spot last year at the Park School.

The US attorney's office is investigating the Park School, a prestigious private academy in Brookline, after a family alleged their child was denied admission solely because she is disabled.

Five-year-old Harper Oates was born with a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic. But when doctors tested Harper's development as a toddler, they found her limitations were mainly confined to mobility. Cognitively, Harper was found to be one to two years ahead of her peers.

As a result, Dawn and Justin Oates expected their youngest child would go to the Park School, a 129-year-old institution with students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, just like her 6-year-old twin siblings. Just like her father did before them. But school officials denied Harper a spot early last year, calling the decision "extremely difficult."

"The school engaged in an open, good-faith discussion with the Oates family about how Harper could thrive and have an enriching and fulfilling academic experience," the school said in a statement to The Boston Globe. "After much careful and thoughtful deliberation, however, serious concerns remained that the Park School could not meet Harper's educational needs.

"While we appreciated that the family offered to provide certain accommodations, the school concluded that Harper required additional accommodations that would have fundamentally altered our educational model."

The US attorney's office contacted the Oates family last fall after learning from a third party that the school allegedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office, confirmed that her agency has opened an investigation.

The Oates family said they wanted to enroll Harper in the Park School to give her - a child with a catastrophic injury - the best possible opportunities.  "I'm not looking for easy, I'm just looking for possible," Dawn Oates said. "This kid needs to be in the community. . . . She needs to do things that a typical kid would do."

Dawn Oates said the family reminded Park School staff more than once that Harper didn't need the school to provide special accommodations.

The family pays for a full-time aide, who provides Harper with one-on-one assistance at all times, including while she's at school. They maintain there were flaws in the admissions process at the Park School and say they were encouraged to take advantage of public school services in Brookline.

In its statement to the Globe, Park School officials denied discriminating "on the basis of disabilities or any other status protected by applicable law in the administration of its educational, admissions, and other policies and programs."

Private schools are covered under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits outright discrimination on the basis of disability, according to Stan Eichner, director of litigation at the Disability Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of Massachusetts residents with disabilities. Though private schools are allowed to set up programs focusing on specific needs or disabilities, they can't "categorically exclude a student because the person would require extra staffing or a modification of their rules or policies," he said.

Instead, Eichner said a school would need to show that such a modification was an "undue burden or would fundamentally alter how they operate."

"You can't say, `You have a disability, we're not going to let you in,' " Eichner said. "In discrimination law generally, it's rare that people say some overt statement like that. . . . Instead, they might say something like, `You didn't qualify.' "

Dawn Oates, who served on the school's diversity committee, said she made clear at the time that she intended to enroll Harper when her daughter was old enough for prekindergarten.

In a letter to the family sent early last year, the former head of school, Michael Robinson, stood by the decision. He said the school concluded Harper would benefit from an educational environment that included occupational and physical therapists as well as speech-language pathologists "who are available to provide services in conjunction with special-education teachers familiar with the adaptive technology that Harper will need to be able to use independently."

"These type of services, curricula, and individuals are not available at Park, as our teachers are not trained to use the types of personal, adaptive technologies that Harper would require throughout the school day. Our offering such a curriculum would require the school to fundamentally alter our educational model, an adjustment we are not required or equipped to make."

The family applied to another Brookline private school, Dexter Southfield, less than a mile away from the Park School. The acceptance letter for Harper came speedily. A letter from Sarah Powers, director of admissions at Dexter Southfield, praised Harper.

"The Admissions Committee was impressed by Harper's academic readiness and personal qualities and believes Harper will contribute positively to the Dexter Southfield community," the letter read.

At the bottom was a handwritten note from Powers, "You have a smart, endearing little girl. Thank you for sharing Harper with us!"

At the end of the 2016 school year, the family pulled their two other children out of the Park School. Robinson stepped down as head of school and was replaced by Cynthia Harmon.

The Oates family said they set up a meeting with Harmon in August 2016. They didn't want any other family to go through what they did, Dawn Oates said.

Initially, rather than pursuing legal action, the family made several specific requests, modeled on the settlement of a similar case involving a private Milwaukee school found to have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Oates family asked Harmon to add a disability nondiscrimination policy to the school's website, to make the playground accessible to students with disabilities, and to dismiss the school's admissions director. The Oateses said Harmon told them she would be in touch within a month. They said they filed a complaint online with the Department of Education when they said she didn't respond by that deadline.

Dawn Oates said the US attorney's office reached out to the family shortly after that.

Dr. Rebecca Horne, a Brookline pediatrician, began taking care of Harper when she was 10 months old. She agreed with the family's decision to take Harper to another school.

"People may look at her and see just a kid in a wheelchair who is very limited from a physical standpoint," Horne said. "Of course she needs accommodations to meet her physical and medical needs, but she also needs to be in a classroom setting with peers and teachers who will stimulate and challenge her cognitive and communication abilities."

Harper lived at a hospital for the first six months of her life. Horne remembers when the little girl started playing pretend. Harper couldn't pick up the toys herself, but she could narrate the story she imagined and direct someone else who was playing with her.

"Before she was speaking, she used her eyes to indicate choices," Horne said. "She's always been very personable and interactive, even before she could talk."


UK: Roman Catholic School sparks row after telling parents of four-year-old Muslim girl she cannot wear a headscarf in lessons

A Roman Catholic School has found itself at the centre of a social media storm after telling parents of a four-year-old Muslim girl she should not wear the hijab to school.

St Clare's School in Handsworth, has a strict uniform policy, including no headwear or scarf and asked parents of the girl to respect it.

The row has now divided senior councillors and women's rights activists who have been locked in a row over Facebook and Twitter.

But her father called on Birmingham City Council's Labour cabinet member for equalities Waseem Zaffar to intervene causing the row to erupt.

Councillor Zaffar wrote that he had met with the head teacher and told her the ban on the scarf was against the equalities act. He added: 'I'm insisting this matter is addressed asap with a change of policy.'

But his cabinet colleague Coun Majid Mahmood (Hodge Hill) countered that as a faith school St Clare's is 'maybe within its rights to insist upon a particular dress code,' just as a Muslim faith school 'may require girls to wear headscarves'.

Dr Mashuq Ally, a former head of equalities for Birmingham City Council, agreed that there is no religious requirement for girls of infant school age to wear the hijab.

He also pointed out that a faith school is allowed to set its own uniform policy and exempt from discrimination legislation.

Where there are demographic changes which lead to a significant number of Muslim children attending a Christian school, then the parents should ask the school governors to consider changing the uniform policy he explained.

He added: 'I also would have thought a Muslim parent would have thought very carefully about sending their child to a Roman Catholic school and considered the uniform policy.

'This should have all been discussed between school and parent, not been dragged into the public and political arena.'

Campaigner Gina Khan attacked Councillor Zaffar on Twitter, accusing him of backing male parents who enforce the hijab on little girls as a means of control.

She said: 'Hijab isn't compulsory for a child in Islam, but patriarchal biradari power used to control Muslim school girls.'

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children, families and schools, said: 'Each school's governing body is responsible for the creation and implementation of its own uniform policy.

'However, the local authority is supporting the school to ensure its policy is appropriate, in line with legal requirements, and we are engaging with all schools to remind them of their responsibilities when it comes to setting school uniform policies.'


President Trump Calls for "Renewed Commitment To Expanding School Choice"

Whatever negative you can say about President Donald Trump (which is plenty!), he has been unwavering and full-throated in his support for increasing school choice for K-12 students and their parents.

His controversial Education Secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, is an activist in the school-choice movement and now Trump has issued the first-ever presidential proclamation recognizing National School Choice Week (NSCW). Now in its seventh year, NSCW runs through January 28 this year and involves over 21,000 events in all 50 states the celebrate school choice in all its forms. Go here for more information and to find events happening near you.

Trump's proclamation begins by noting "too many of our children are stuck in schools that do not provide...[a great education]." "By expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family," it continues, "we can help make sure every child has an equal shot at achieving the American Dream."

By most accounts, about 3 million students attend charter schools, which are publicly funded indpendent schools that receive a portion of the typical per-pupil funding of traditional public schools and operate with greater autonomy. The first charter school law was passed about 25 years ago in Minnesota and now most states have some version of them. Other popular forms of school choice include home schooling, private and publicly funded voucher programs, and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which operate like Health Savings Accounts, giving families varying amounts of money to spend on their children's educational needs.

Last summer in a widely viewed segment, HBO's John Oliver glibly and inaccurately attacked charters as largely unregulated scams. Such dismissals are possible only if one doesn't bother to look at the large and growing body of research that shows charters, which educate a majority of children in school districts such as New Orleans and Detroit, produce better results especially for urban, low-income students. Education researchers such as Jay P. Greene at the University of Arkansas argue that despite only currently teaching about 6 percent of the country's 55 million K-12 students, school choice has "reached escape velocity" because the same demand for increasing personalization and individualization that we prize in our commercial lives is making itself known in the educational sphere. (Click here for Reason's podcast with Greene about why the benefits of school choice extend far beyond test scores and academics).

Andrew Campanella, the head of National School Week, notes that the president joins a unanimous U.S. Senate, 29 governors, and over 700 city and county officials in celebrating NSCW.