Friday, August 04, 2017

Some charter school leaders’ pay far outpaces their public rivals

The median pay package for the top leaders of the 16 charter schools in Boston was $170,000 last year, making most of them among the highest-paid public school officials in Boston, according to a Globe review of payroll data.

One charter school leader, Diana Lam of Conservatory Lab, earned more money than Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang, even though she oversaw a school of just 400 students. Lam, who retired in 2016, collected $275,000 in salary and an additional $23,000 for unused personal time off. Chang received $272,000 in total compensation.

The Globe review offers a rare examination of payroll records at the city’s 16 independently run charter schools — public institutions that are overseen by state education officials and operate as separate government entities from the city.

Consequently, when the city releases its payroll data each year, information about the charter schools is not included. The Globe had to file public records requests with each school earlier this year to gain the information for the 2015-16 school year.

The amount of public money the charter schools collectively spend on all aspects of its operations is huge. During the 2015-16 school year, the state sent about $120 million in state aid earmarked for Boston on a per-student basis to the charter schools, according to the state.

The Globe review revealed other big earners: Roger Harris, executive director and senior adviser at Boston Renaissance in Hyde Park, $210,000; Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Academy in Boston and Lynn, $197,500; Owen Stearns, chief executive Excel Academy in East Boston, $193,000; and Karmala Sherwood, executive director of Helen Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, $190,000.

By contrast, three members of Chang’s Cabinet made more than $160,000 in 2016, according to a Globe review.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Peggy Wiesenberg, an education advocate who scrutinizes charter-school financing and operations. “These are publicly financed schools and the taxpayers are paying multiple, arguably duplicative top-dollar executive salaries. Will the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature wake up when it comes to financial responsibility here?”

The pay deals can have a long-lasting impact on public spending in a state like Massachusetts, where pension payments are based, in part, on an employee’s last three years of pay. Many charter school employees are part of the state pension system.

Both Lam and Harris are now collecting among the largest pension checks for K-12 retirees in the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System: $176,964 a year for Harris and $171,542 for Lam.

But Lam has continued to work. Shortly after retiring from Conservatory Lab last summer, she stepped in as interim head of Lowell Community Charter School, where, according to press reports, she earned $825 a day, and recently finished her duties there.

Charter school officials say the large compensation packages reflect the competitive market for top school leaders and the need for special talent. This is especially true, they say, as many schools have been expanding, which requires school leaders to network and fund-raise, secure properties for new facilities in Boston’s tight real estate market, and manage the growth in students without letting academic achievement slide.

The Globe review found that 80 charter school employees made more than $100,000. Only a handful were teachers.

Charter school leaders say they would like to pay teachers more but the state does not provide them enough money to cover facility costs, forcing them to make up the difference in their operating budgets. The teachers in the independent charters are not unionized.

The average earnings for charter-school teachers, guidance counselors, and other educators who work directly with students were roughly $55,000, according to the Globe review. Average pay for teachers in the Boston school system is about $90,000.

“Everyone I know wants to hire great teachers and pay them as much as possible,” said Shannah Varon, executive director of Boston Collegiate Charter School, who also leads the Boston Charter School Alliance. “I don’t know of any executive director who is trying to pad their paychecks and in doing so is hiring teachers who are green or paying them less.”

The Globe was unable to secure the salaries for top executives at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, because those employees are not on the public payroll. Roxbury Prep contracts with a charter-school management organization, Uncommon Schools, which staffs the top positions.

However, according to Uncommon Schools’ 990 form for fiscal year 2016, Dana Lehman, who served as managing director for Roxbury Prep for most of that year, received a $236,138 salary. Roxbury Prep’s contract with Uncommon Schools for the 2015-16 school year was $1.6 million.

Barbara Martinez, a spokeswoman for Uncommon Schools, said Lehman’s duties went beyond Roxbury Prep, “directly overseeing 11 schools in two states.”

“In addition, she played a critical leadership role across the organization, which serves 18,000 students in 52 schools that help low-income students get to and through college at five times the rate of the national average,” Martinez said in a statement.

Harris, in a brief phone interview, said his compensation package was well-earned and reflected the 42 years he spent in public education. At Renaissance, Harris pulled the school out of state academic probation twice, oversaw its move from downtown to renovated quarters in Hyde Park, and added unusual programs, such as a Mandarin language class and vision and dental care for students.

“I think I should have gotten paid more,” Harris said. “The hours I put in were much more than the hours I was paid. I didn’t take summer vacations.”

Lam defended her compensation package in an e-mail. When she took the job nine years ago, she said she accepted a $100,000 pay cut because it was initially going to be short-term, and she was intrigued by the school’s mission of intertwining music into its curriculum.

But she stayed, and over the years the school’s trustees boosted her pay. During her last three years on the job, her salary grew by $50,000, payroll records show.

“When it came to my compensation, it was the board who took the initiative,” said Lam, who previously worked as a deputy school chancellor for New York City and as superintendent in Chelsea, Providence, and San Antonio. “I did not ask for nor negotiate a three-year contract.”

During her tenure, Lam oversaw the school’s relocation from Brighton to Dorchester, its expansion from an elementary school into a K-8 program, and the addition of high-profile programs like EL Sistema, a popular Venezuelan music education program.

“Diana’s unique talents and experience as an accomplished visionary were essential to establishing the school and were reflected in her compensation,” Gary F. Gut, chairman of the school’s trustees, said.

State officials, who oversee charter schools, do not scrutinize the compensation of charter school employees and have not set any standards or limits for pay. Charter school officials compare the executive director jobs to school superintendents, rather than principals.

Only Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester did not fully comply with the Globe’s request for information, releasing just annualized salaries for its employees.

Meg Campbell, the school’s chief of innovation and strategy, said the school transferred payroll systems last year and was “unable to recover any stipends paid to folks.”

“Neither the executive director nor principal at Codman has ever received any extra compensation,” said Campbell, who served as executive director during the 2015-16 school year, with an annual salary of $160,000.

Karmala Sherwood could not be reached for comment. But the payroll data indicated that Sherwood wore multiple hats because her school was lean on administrators.

Caleb Dolan, who serves as executive director of KIPP’s schools in Boston and Lynn, said his board based his salary on what other charter leaders in the Boston area make and those at other KIPP locations out of state. Dolan’s compensation, which included a $22,500 bonus, is on the payroll of the Lynn school.

“We’ve always tried to keep it fair and tied to the performance of students,” Dolan said.

Benjamin Howe, chairman of the trustees at Excel Academy, said the salary the board set for its CEO, Owen Stearns, the third-highest earner, was fair and reasonable and in the best interests of Excel, which operates four campuses in East Boston and Chelsea. He noted Excel’s strong performance on state standardized tests.


'Victim' girlfriend , 22, blasts USC for expelling her football star boyfriend after he allegedly assaulted HER because she insists it never happened and claims they are still a couple

A University of Southern California football star was kicked out of the private school weeks later for an alleged assault against his girlfriend who claims that it never happened.

Zoe Katz, 22, blasted USC for her boyfriend, Matt Boermeester's expulsion and the Title IX investigation of the 'student-conduct issue' that led to the action.

Katz has even hired attorney Kerry L. Steigerwalt in an effort to clear Boermeester's name and she is still dating him.

She issued a lengthy statement that described what she claims to be 'horrible and unjust' treatment that they have received from officials at the college.

In her statement, Katz said the nightmare began in February when they were on campus together roughhousing.

She said that one part of that entailed him pushing her against a wall, and that their interaction was witnessed by at least one person.

A report of the matter eventually reached USC's Title IX office and she was called in as part of an investigation where she said that they were just playing around.  

'When I told the truth about Matt, in repeated interrogations, I was stereotyped and was told I must be a 'battered' woman, and that made me feel demeaned and absurdly profiled,' Katz says.

'I understand that domestic violence is a terrible problem, but in no way does that apply to Matt and me.'  Katz added that she has 'never been abused, assaulted or otherwise mistreated by Matt.'

She also went on to characterize Boermeester, whose field goal clinched the school's Rose Bowl win in January, as an 'incredible person.'

'Nothing happened that warranted an investigation, much less the unfair, biased and drawn-out process that we have been forced to endure quietly,' Katz says.

The 23-year-old football player has not been charged with any criminal offense or arrested.

It's unclear if authorities were even contacted about the incident. 

After the Title IX investigation concluded, Boermeester's suspension was turned into him being expelled from the school. Even though Katz objected that he did anything wrong and consistently proclaimed that he was innocent.

But the college is standing by the Title IX investigation and the 'multiple witness' accounts.  

'Student disciplinary records are confidential,' the university said in a statement. 'If the students involved waived their confidentiality rights, the university will offer a detailed response.'


Princeton University allows students to select from SIX gender identities

Princeton University is now allowing its students to select from six genders.  The online student services interface, which is called TigerHub, lets students choose from one or more of the following genders: 'Cisgender,' 'Genderqueer/gender non-conform[ing],' 'Trans/transgender,' 'Man,' 'Woman,' and 'Other'.

'Students use TigerHub to provide the University with personal information on a confidential basis,' a university spokesman told Fox News.

'This information includes emergency contacts, their preferred name, and, if they wish to provide it in response to an optional question, the gender with which they identify.'

Cisgender: is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.

Genderqueer/gender non-conform[ing]: is a term for people who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

The optional form, entitled 'Update Gender Identity,' was recently added to TigerHub when an update was done, Campus Reform reported.

Students at the prestigious Ivy League school can also select to be both female and male.

Making the selection on TigerHub is not a requirement by the school.

The online form reads: 'You may select multiple gender identities. Your gender identity is confidential and is not generally available.'

The private school isn't  alone in the move to allow students several gender options.

Roughly 50 colleges or university allow students to select their genders without medical intervention or documentation, the Washington Post reported.

The University of Michigan even allows students the option of creating their own designated pronouns. 


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Report: Justice Department Will Target Affirmative Action

Trump administration plans to investigate and sue colleges and universities over admissions practices

A bombshell report in The New York Times Tuesday night revealed that the U.S. Justice Department plans to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies in admissions.

The Times cited an internal announcement to the Justice Department's civil rights division that seeks lawyers for a project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

For supporters of affirmative action in college admissions, the news was a shock. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the admissions policies of the University of Texas at Austin, which include consideration of race and ethnicity. Many college leaders feared, prior to the decision coming down, that affirmative action was endangered. But the decision -- just three years after another Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action -- assured many that colleges could continue to consider race in admissions.

Critics of affirmative action have never abandoned their hope that the Supreme Court might some day revisit the issue, and a new lawsuit was filed against UT just weeks ago. But the backing of the U.S. Justice Department could give that movement new strength.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action, told the Times he welcomed the new campaign by the Justice Department. "The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” he said.

Advocates for diversity in higher education told Inside Higher Ed via email that they were concerned by the Justice Department's apparent new campaign.

Dan Losen, a lawyer who is director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that he found the Justice Department's action deeply distressing.

"This is another example of how the administration is dismantling the Department of Justice, turning core constitutional protections upside down and the concept of remedying discrimination on its head," he said. "What do you expect from a president that makes openly bigoted remarks about Mexican-American judges, has boasted about assaulting women, has a history of engaging in racially discriminatory housing practices and is fighting to ban entrants to our country based on their religious background? Make no mistake, the Trump administration's positions are consistent with his bigoted statements and historical track record. Further, he hired Jeff Sessions to run the DOJ despite Sessions's own horrible track record on civil rights, and over the objections of every known civil rights group and nearly half the Senate."

Indeed, when the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity urged the U.S. Senate to oppose the nomination of Sessions as attorney general, it cited -- among other things -- a comment he made in 1997 about affirmative action. At the time, he said of affirmative action, "I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race."

The diversity group's letter said Sessions's view distorts affirmative action in implying that colleges are accepting or rejecting candidates based on race alone. Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the association, said that she saw Tuesday's announcement as "tragic," adding that "it is our hope that this turnabout will not have a chilling effect on collegiate programs that have been supported by the Supreme Court."

Michael A. Olivas, director of director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, said that "Mr. Trump's record in higher education is hardly exemplary, and his unfortunate rhetoric on racial relations has convinced many whites that they have been disadvantaged by people of color--despite all the evidence to the contrary." As for the law, he said that the Supreme Court "has ruled that modest uses of affirmative action are allowable, and that is the law of the land."

Art Coleman, managing partner of Education Counsel and the author of numerous briefs defending affirmative action in higher education, said the Justice Department shift "has the potential to be very significant." But he also noted via email that "we have strong, affirming (including recent) U.S. Supreme Court cases that embrace higher education’s diversity goals and limited race-conscious measures designed to help advance those goals. So, this is counter to recent court trends."

Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University at Newark and co-editor of Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (Princeton University Press), said, "We need to keep our focus on cultivating the diverse talent in our country -- we can't be a prosperous democracy and leave the growing talent pool on the sidelines. Let's not get distracted from our social responsibility by efforts to pit groups -- we all need opportunity and we all depend on each other's talent."

And Stella M. Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University who has written extensively about inequality in American education, said that the Justice Department should be looking elsewhere.

"We know two key findings from educational research over the last 10 years in regard to this issue: 1) an overreliance on test scores as the key predictor of college success is a tenuous and often ineffective strategy; and 2) there are positive educational benefits of diversity to all students that extend beyond the classroom," she said. "As the nation continues to diversify at unprecedented levels and becomes more globally connected and interdependent, keeping the principle of the positive educational benefits of a diverse student body/college campus is one of the most certain strategies for ensuring the nation stays at the top of their social and economic prosperity levels. It would be more helpful to put more civil rights emphasis in examining issues of inequality in the nation’s K-12 public system, which have long-term effects on college success outcomes. This would increase the opportunity levels of all students -- from the poorest of white students in addition to other underrepresented minority students."

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, said that the Supreme Court decision last year provided "a strong reaffirmative of carefully limited consideration of race as one among a number of factors in admitting students to selective colleges seeking the realize the extensively proven benefits of diversity."

But he also noted that the Supreme Court in a series of decisions has affirmed that right when colleges document that they have considered a range of ways to promote diversity and have evidence that some consideration of race in admissions is needed for that goal.

Said Orfield: "Colleges need to document and carefully justify their programs and the University of Texas and the University of Michigan did so successfully. For the moment this is basically a politically motivated effort to throw send in the gears and frighten colleges to end something the huge majority of selective universities believe to be a basic educational need."


Education Dept. Hits Reset on Process to Choose Student-Loan Servicer

The Education Department will cancel its current competition to select a company to service the billions of dollars in student loans it issues, and will start over, the department announced late Tuesday.

“The FSA Student Loan Program represents the equivalent of being the largest special-purpose consumer bank in the world,” said A. Wayne Johnson, chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid office, in a news release announcing the move. “To improve customer service, we will take the best ideas and capabilities available and put them to work for Americans with student loans,” he continued. “The result will be a significantly better experience for students — our customers — and meaningful benefits for the American taxpayer.” Existing loan-servicing contracts are set to expire in 2019.

Tuesday’s announcement came just hours after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation that would have required the department to cancel the competition and barred it from choosing a single servicer to handle its student loans. The announcement from the department, however, does not mean that possibility is off the table.

The department’s move in May to choose a single servicer for student loans drew the ire of lawmakers, consumer advocates, and industry groups, who feared it would create a situation in which a servicer “too big to fail” would dominate the sector and benefit neither taxpayers nor borrowers.

“By starting afresh and pursuing a truly modern loan-servicing environment, we have a chance to turn what was a good plan into a great one,” said the education secretary, Betsy DeVos.


'An extraordinary attempt to cook the figures': Sex therapist rubbishes reports of a rape culture at Australian universities

You'd have to be a chump to believe the hopelesly biased Australian Human Rights Commission

An Australian sex therapist has rubbished claims there was a 'rape culture' at universities across Australia.  Speaking to Andrew Bolt on The Bolt Report on Tuesday night, Bettina Arndt said the figures were 'cooked'.

The Human Rights Commission released a report on Tuesday suggesting 51 per cent of Australian university students were sexually harassed last year.

Ms Arndt said the figures were manipulated and exaggerated the issue.  'If we're talking about being stared at in a way you don't like, I mean it's not so surprising,' she said.

'These are self-selected students who've been encouraged to fill in this survey by a campaign that's lasted for years trying to persuade people there's a rape crisis on campus.'

Ms Arndt, author of The Sex Diaries, said the results did more to disprove there was a rape culture. 'These people who object to being stared at - what most people regard as a very mild form of harassment – they failed dismally to produce any evidence of a rape culture on campus,' she said.

'I think it's a wonderful news story Andrew.'

The sex therapist and clinical psychologist said 'there's been an extraordinary attempt to cook the figures in any way they can'.

The 'Change the Course' Australian Human Rights Commission survey released figures claiming 'women are almost twice as likely as men to be harassed and more than three times as likely to be assaulted'.

The survey was commissioned by Universites Australia after claims institutions were covering up victims' claims. Results came from more than 30,000 students across 39 universities.

Students from the Canberra university participated in a protest after the results were released, wearing black masking tape across their faces and holding banners.  


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Harvard looks to Bowdoin as model in eradicating frats, but its decision had mixed results

This "dilemma" that Harvard is facing should be no dilemma at all.  What gives Harvard the right to interfere in the private lives of its students?  There is no such right but they have arrogated it to themselves anyway.  Might is right, apparently.

It is perhaps notable that the Harvard boss is Drew Faust. In literature, Faust sold his soul to the Devil. Ms Faust seems to have done likewise.  There is no evidence of a systematic ethical system in her thinking. 

Her thinking seems to be at the absolutely primitive level of:  "Young men get drunk and behave badly.  That should stop". She is a new Canute if she thinks she can indeed stop it. Maybe she should be exported to run a Muslim college somewhere.  They don't drink.  But whether they treat women better is a relevant question

I think she should be grateful for her campus of normal, robust,  healthy males.  That they don't fit submissively into a Puritan straitjacket is probably a strength not a weakness.  Women have been coping with their men for centuries without Leftist assistance.  There are always grievances but grievances are the price of opportunity

When Robert Edwards became president of Bowdoin College in 1990, he had an open mind about fraternities. He had attended Princeton and belonged to Colonial, one of the university’s exclusive eating clubs. But as he built his reputation at the elite liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine, he began to have his doubts.

Edwards ultimately shut down all the fraternities at Bowdoin in 1997. Twenty years later, Harvard University is attempting a similar feat. A Harvard committee has pointed to Bowdoin as a model for eradicating final clubs, fraternities, and sororities from campus social life.

Harvard administrators share some of Edwards’s concerns. He did not like the heavy drinking or the way some members seemed to disrupt classes. Although the fraternities were coeducational, some treated women like second-class citizens.

Finally something tragic pushed Edwards over the edge: A student from another college died at a Chi Delta Phi party on Bowdoin’s campus. The 20-year-old fell three stories while trying to climb onto the roof.

“I thought that my future and the future of the college would have a lot to do with whether or not fraternities persisted,” Edwards said in an interview. “We had a really rather terrifying piece of evidence that this was not the sort of combination of institutions that could persist if we wanted to be a certain kind of place.”

But Bowdoin’s experience should also serve as a caution: Students and alumni say the elimination of fraternities hasn’t wiped out drinking and parties, just driven them off campus.

And former fraternity members say the school has lost the deep sense of community the fraternities had cultivated over more than a century.

“Fraternities become easy scapegoats to allow administrators to make it look like they’re doing something,” said Thomas Clark, who was a sophomore the year the decision to close the fraternities was revealed.

The former Bowdoin president said he is glad his school wrestled with this problem 20 years ago rather than today. Harvard has experienced major resistance not only from the clubs and their alumni but also from civil liberties advocates, who say the school is big-footing into students’ private lives.

“The political atmospheres then were less strident than they are now,” Edwards said.

There was plenty of objection at Bowdoin, too. The fraternity that most strongly resisted was the oldest of the eight, Alpha Delta Phi, a nerdy club whose members read literature aloud to one another each night before dessert.

The fraternity’s members felt at home there. The chapter gave women equal membership status and accepted minorities and LGBT students who felt otherwise out of place at the well-to-do, mostly white college.

“It shattered a lot of us because we felt like it was a rejection of our family,” said Clark, who was president of Alpha Delta Phi the year it closed.

In those days, Alpha Delta Phi’s two-story brick house on Maine Street had a fireplace always crackling and squishy couches donated by parents. Members quoted “Star Wars” and amused one another with comic-book references. At one point the presidents of both the college Democrats and the Republicans lived in the house. “Which made for great dinner conversations,” Clark said.

Similarly at Harvard, not all final clubs are prone to a party culture, and some organizations say they have been unfairly lumped into a category where they do not belong.

When Bowdoin administrators announced the decision to ban fraternities, Alpha Delta Phi members took chalk to the outside of the house and left a message for the administration: “Alpha Delta Phi Will Never Die.”

At the time, Nessa Burns Reifsnyder was the alumni president of the fraternity, and she began organizing. Alpha Delta Phi members worked with alumni who were attorneys and got the house appraised. Bowdoin paid them for it, and the fraternity used part of the proceeds to create a fund that still pays for literary programs at the college.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but we are determined to stay identified as who we are,” Reifsnyder said in a phone interview.

A photo of the Bowdoin Alpha Delta Phi members for the 1998 college yearbook. Thomas Clark is seen standing on the railing on the left.

Members still gather twice a year on campus. On New Year’s Eve, they ring in the new year in their former house with their spouses and children.

Bowdoin’s decision at the time was part of a trend across New England. Middlebury College banned fraternities in 1990; Colby College and Amherst did so in 1984. Williams College was one of the first, in 1962.

A spokesman for Bowdoin said that even though Harvard cited the college as a model, no one from Harvard contacted Bowdoin for information. Administrators were perplexed to read about their college in the news.

“Our decision was based on what was right at the time for Bowdoin and not necessarily relevant to what other colleges and universities face today,” college spokesman Scott Hood wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.

Hood said the decision did not hurt fund-raising. The school exceeded its goal for the campaign that happened as the decision was announced. The college’s endowment has soared since then, from $374 million in 1997 to $1.3 billion last year.

Bowdoin now owns all of the former fraternity houses except three that have been torn down. One is the admissions office and the rest are part of the college’s house system, the school’s attempt to recreate the community that the fraternities had afforded.

The houses are voluntary, and students apply to live in them their sophomore year. The application is complex, and not everyone is admitted.

Students eat in a central dining hall, but those who belong to a house are expected to plan social events there. They can organize parties that serve alcohol if they register with the school.

Raisa Tolchinsky, who graduated this spring, said she met some of her closest college friends in her house, people she would have otherwise never encountered. The college administration aggressively tries to keep the houses diverse, she said, and forbids hazing.

But the new system hasn’t eradicated frat-party behavior, she said; students just take such behavior off-campus, to private parties in apartments.

“It was interesting being in a system that was trying so hard to avoid these things, and yet there was still the same tendencies,” she said.

Former members said that the elimination of fraternities also meant the loss of some intangibles. One of the biggest losses, they said, was the network of alumni that helped them navigate Bowdoin and the years after.

Edwards, the former president, knows that. He knew his decision would have downsides, and he knew some alumni would never forgive him.

But he thinks he did the right thing.

“I felt that the need of the college was so great that the perspective of the alumni was probably secondary to the realities that we were confronting,” he said.


Student contracts will sign away trust

Jo Johnson, the UK universities minister, has recently announced a proposal to introduce student contracts to protect students. Such a contract would both encourage students to work hard, and enable them to pursue legal action against the university if tuition was ‘poor’.

Student contracts are nothing new. When I worked in special education they were called ‘learning contracts’, and used for students with behavioural problems in an attempt to specify exactly what behaviours were expected. This was an exceptional process for those few who could not, for a variety of reasons, be trusted to understand or follow norms of behaviour.

But then, as government policymakers and university managers became obsessed with behaviour problems (and would not trust teachers to deal with them), learning contracts began to crop up throughout the education system. In universities, they most often appear as general ‘charters’ of what students can expect from the university, and what the university expects from them. There are already many contracts for students with disabilities and for those on professional courses.

Some universities already require contractual agreements even at doctoral level. Students and their supervisors are often expected to set ‘objectives’ after each tutorial and sign them. This is largely down to the ideological domination of behaviourist theories of learning in universities, where each programme has a telephone directory list of ‘learning objectives’ and ‘learning outcomes’. Students are often asked to state the ‘aims and objectives’ of their study before they begin.

Many academics are so committed to this form of groupthink that they actively support contracting, and fear their students. They are keen to turn them into trainees who can be controlled. Johnson will encourage more institutional fear by sending out the message that lecturers must make their students happy, or face a court case. Universities will be stricken with institutional fear of legal action from students who don’t get the grades or the degree class they expected. Degrees will become receipts for fees paid.

Student contracts are an explicit expression of mistrust in both students and lecturers. Introducing them will not only create more bureaucracy, by requiring the endless signing and recording of contracts as well as the monitoring of teaching, it will also destroy the epistemological relationship that defines the university.

Turning any relationship between students and academics into a contractual one undermines the learning process. Acquiring and expanding knowledge is an unpredictable, challenging and demanding challenge for students and academics. It can lead to intellectual conflict and passionate disagreement. That is why there must be that unique trust between students and academics. Johnson’s attempt to smooth this process out will break that relationship and fossilise learning, making the pursuit of new knowledge impossible.

If the Office for Students requires universities to introduce student contracts, the university as we knew it is over.


Could Irish change cause ripples elsewhere?

The Irish education system is experiencing huge shifts. The entire structure of primary teaching is in overhaul while practical assessment is being trialled for the first time at secondary level. More students are opting for the optional gap year before completing their final years of school, and some gain exposure to science in a working, real-world context early-on as a result. The value of continued study in science appears to be appreciated as applications to study science subjects at university in Ireland have increased for the first time in 5 years.

For some of the same reasons the education system is changing, Ireland is actively encouraging more students to study at home. After many years of emigration, Irish teachers are also set to remain instead of looking for opportunities abroad after the Irish government recently announced a large increase in recruitment.

Ireland has been one of the largest suppliers of English speaking students and teachers to the UK, so will changes have knock-on effects elsewhere?

The recent STEM Education Review Group report recommended sweeping changes to STEM education throughout the Irish system, from teacher training to primary school students.

Some motivation for the reforms came from the first ever survey of the Irish public’s perceptions and awareness of STEM in society in 2015. Worryingly, half of those surveyed said they were put off science and maths by their experience of STEM during their school years. The ‘Science in Ireland Barometer’, commissioned by the state agency Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), also reported that half of the participants felt uninformed and 71% felt STEM was too specialised to understand.

This is significantly higher than in comparable countries such as New Zealand. However, 92% did agree with the statement, ‘young people’s interest in science, engineering and technology is essential for our future prosperity’.

One of the biggest changes to the Irish science and chemistry curricula is a move away from exam-only assessment for the first time, following the UK system and others.

However, the proposed Leaving Cert (equivalent to A-level) chemistry specifications have been shelved a number of times with various models for practical assessment debated. The confirmation of trials in some schools this coming year has been met with great interest from teachers and other educators, but questions remain about the logistics of carrying out practical assessment with little or no school technicians. In stark contrast to the UK system, the majority of Irish secondary schools do not have laboratory technicians.

More HERE 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

UK: Scaring school children won’t keep them safe

Even though it’s almost 20 years ago now, I still vividly remember the moment when the young woman pulled back her sleeve and showed me the scar. The whole terrifying story was written there, just below the elbow.

On 8 July 1996, nursery teacher Lisa Potts and her group of four-year-olds were enjoying a teddy bears’ picnic in the playground of St Luke’s school in Wolverhampton, when a man vaulted the hedge and began slashing at them with a machete. Seven people, including three children, were injured as a result.

It could have been much worse. Lisa put her arm in the way to defend her class. I’ll never forget how she described to me calmly hurrying the children inside while trying to hide from them her almost-severed arm. And we’d do well to contrast Lisa, who was given the George Medal for her bravery, with those in education today.

In the wake of this year’s terrorist attacks and the Grenfell tragedy, staff at universities, schools and colleges have been receiving training in what to do in emergency situations. This has included cases of fire, even though schools are already required to have termly fire drills, and weapons incidents, even though school shootings in the UK are incredibly rare. Aggressive parents and, bizarrely, animal attacks are also being covered.

Now the NASUWT teaching union has ramped up the panic even further, calling on the government to roll out a coordinated strategy for lockdowns in schools.

To show what a lockdown might look like, a BBC TV crew visited Reinwood Junior School in Huddersfield. Tannoys relayed pre-recorded messages while pupils hid under tables and their teachers drew the blinds and switched off the lights. It looked like something from of the days of US Cold War paranoia.

What do headteachers think they will achieve by taking on the role of Panicker-in-Chief? Don’t they realise children can’t learn anything when they live in a climate of fear?

As we all know, attacks on schools are incredibly rare. Entering a modern school involves buzzer-controlled locked gates, double-entry reception areas and a Checkpoint Charlie-style security-clearance regime, backed up by CCTV and specialist security staff. Most corridors these days have swipe-pass doors and all staff wear photo-ID. Visitors are not even permitted to go to the toilet unaccompanied. It is also now routine for local police officers to pop in and walk around the building.

In short, our schools are safer than they ever have been, and the emergency services respond to the merest suggestion of an incident. A few bottles of nitric acid happened to leak at my school last month, and within minutes four fire engines, an ambulance and a dedicated crisis-management specialist turned up.

The likelihood of a serious, life-threatening situation involving school children is remote. The real danger here is of unwittingly teaching children that hiding in the dark is just part of life. We aren’t working to keep them safe, we’re inviting them into our worst nightmares.

As a teacher, I take my duty to protect my children very seriously. And while we’ll never be able to eliminate all dangers, we should be prepared to step up to ensure their safety. But we shouldn’t treat these things as routine. Rather, we should hope that, in those most grave and unlikely of circumstances, we’d show some of the bravery of Lisa Potts.


Betsy DeVos is right about Title IX

Campus sexual-assault investigations are deeply unjust

Campus sexual assault is back in the news. Last week, Betsy DeVos, the US secretary of education, came under fire for suggesting that federal law related to campus sexual violence needed to be reformed. Part of the outrage was due to the fact that, as well as meeting with anti-rape activists, DeVos reportedly met with some men’s rights groups who had been known to publish pictures of complainants online, calling them false accusers.

DeVos’ comments were focused on the use of a federal law known as Title IX. Title IX forms the basis of campus investigations into sexual-assault allegations in the US, which often begin after the police conclude there is insufficient evidence to progress a criminal investigation. Title IX has been criticised for creating kangaroo courts on campus that undermine due process. DeVos did not spell out specific plans but did say this was an area that the Department of Education was ‘not getting right’.

She has since been accused of failing to understand the extent of the campus rape problem. Critics point to FBI statistics which suggest only between two and 10 per cent of sexual-assault cases involve false allegations, and that Title IX enables victims to find redress where the criminal-justice system has failed. But these campaigners get it the wrong way around: Title IX has long worked to undermine justice, not deliver it.

Title IX, of the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programmes or publicly funded institutions. Over the years, this has come to encompass investigating cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In 2011, the Office for Civil Rights, within the Obama administration’s Education Department, informed colleges that they should deploy a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard in campus sexual-assault hearings.

This dramatically lowered the burden of proof in these cases. If, under this standard, it is considered that there is more than a 50 per cent chance that a defendant is guilty, then he or she is guilty. These investigations are undertaken by university administrators, and lack the ordinary due-process protections which would be granted to a defendant in a criminal case. And a guilty verdict can come with huge consequences. If a student is expelled following a Title IX investigation, it will forever be on his or her permanent record.

There have been some seriously disturbing cases. In one, at the University of Kentucky, a Title IX proceeding began after two students had drunken sex, and a third student complained that the young woman was too drunk to give consent. This third party was not a witness to what actually happened. The two students concerned had been completely cordial with one another and had spent another night together later on. But following the third party’s complaint, the male student was suspended and had his college grant rescinded. In another case, at Boston College, a student was expelled for sexually assaulting a fellow student on a casino boat party, even though he was completely exonerated by a police investigation.

Given cases like these, how could anyone disagree that Title IX is broken? It has spawned a Kafkaesque network of campus courts that bulldoze the rights of defendants. We should remember that these cases often involve allegations of serious criminality. The idea that young defendants can be branded guilty based on an unfair investigation and a lowered standard of proof should concern anyone who cares about delivering genuine justice in these cases.

What’s more, these cases are far more complicated than campaigners would like to make out. The FBI’s statistics, that only between two and 10 per cent of sexual-assault allegations are untrue, actually refer to allegations that are provably untrue. Cases can be just as hard to prove untrue as they can be to corroborate. The idea that we should be relaxed about Title IX investigations, because so few allegations are provably false, is misleading and unjust. Throwing around simple statistics helps no one.

So good on Betsy DeVos. It’s time for a serious discussion about Title IX, and the injustices that have flowed from it.


Australia: Christmas cards and the word 'Jesus' could be BANNED in schoolyards in a bid to increase religious inclusiveness

The Queensland government are moving to ban Christian references from school events and playgrounds in sweeping changes to education practices.

The Department of Education have conducted a review into the system and educating students about religion.

Officials are concerned non-religious children are being exposed to and forced to immerse themselves in Christianity, with even references to Jesus to be banned from the schoolyard, The Australian reported.

The Department of Education's report stated the responsibility of the school 'to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in Religious Instruction are evangelising to students who do not.'

'This could adversely affect the school's ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive ­environment,' the report earlier this year stated.

Examples of evangelising, as explained in the report, including sharing Christmas cards themed with Jesus' birth and life, making bracelets to share 'the good news about Jesus' and making ornaments to give to each other.

Education Minister Kate Jones promised to clampdown on religious practices, and Christian groups are becoming increasingly concerned at the government's agenda to remove their influence from schools.

Neil Foster, a religion and law professor, told The Australian the government's changes are 'deeply concerning' and 'possibly illegal'.

Independent Studies research fellow Peter Kurti said it was a 'massive assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion' and believes the government's fears are a total overreaction.

'I don't think that children have the maturity to comprehend let alone evangelise.' 


Monday, July 31, 2017

If conservatives have a low opinion of American higher education, it's because our elite academic institutions have strayed from their core principles and mission

In the past few years, the closing of the academic mind has become hard to ignore. When a Republican presidential candidate's name chalked on a sidewalk is cause for student protest, "bias response team" investigations, or even calls to the police, universities are clearly not embracing robust dialogue. When faculty are disciplined for critiquing university-sponsored anti-bias training, it's evident that only certain views are deemed permissible. So Pew's new study showing that conservative support for higher education has plummeted was noteworthy but hardly surprising. Pew reported that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of conservative Republicans say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, while 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans agree.

    These results have prompted predictable head-shaking and defensiveness on the part of college and university officials. The most revealing response was offered up in the Chronicle of Higher Education by the respected Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. After noting just how problematic it is for higher education and for the nation that colleges and universities are seen as partisan institutions, Hartle explained why it is that higher education has lost favor on the Right.

    Hint: It's not because conservative speakers have been disinvited, shouted down, and assaulted by campus mobs. Nor is it because of institutions' repressive speech codes, seemingly adopted to stymie any opinions that run afoul of regnant notions of political correctness. Nor is it even because of an overwhelmingly progressive professoriate, comprising too many faculty members who've confused proselytizing for pedagogy.

    Nope. As Hartle sees it, Republicans' darkening view of colleges and universities is less the fault of higher education than of irrational, right-wing pathologies. For one, he asserts that Republicans don't understand higher education's economic value; for another, he argues that the "conservative echo chamber" gins up controversies for its own selfish purposes. But the heart of the issue, as Hartle sees it, is that conservatives have turned against facts:
        "There also is a broader issue confronting higher education that is much harder to tackle: the changing views of truth. Logic, the disinterested search for truth, rigorous scientific research, and empirical verification have been at the heart of higher-education institutions in the modern era. But today, for many citizens, feelings outweigh facts."

    That's certainly one way of putting things. Here's another way: The problem is not that conservatives have lost faith in the mission of the university, but that too many universities have discarded their sacred commitments to dialogue and truth in favor of ideological crusades.

    Indeed, the mandarins of the academy now openly spout Orwellian arguments for speech suppression based entirely on feelings. Earlier this month, Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett penned a piece for the New York Times titled "When Is Speech Violence?" that claimed the mantle of "science" to argue for campus speech restrictions. Before that, an April Times op-ed by NYU's vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, "What `Snowflakes' Get Right About Free Speech," justified censorship on the grounds that subjective emotions should be privileged "over reason and argument," and that "[freedom of speech] means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community." Disappointingly, the author never quite got around to specifying just who will determine the criteria for this "balancing."

        "Continuous research by our best scientists is the key to American scientific leadership and true national security. This indispensable work may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumors, gossip, and vilification. Such an atmosphere is un-American. It is the climate of a totalitarian country in which scientists are expected to change their theories to match changes in the police state's propaganda line. . . . Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth".

    The 1974 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale, known as the "Woodward Report" and later adopted as a model for institutions across the nation, proclaimed:

        "The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable."

    In 2005, Hartle's own organization - representing nearly 1,800 college and university presidents and executives of related associations - drafted and endorsed the "Statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities." It held that "intellectual pluralism and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education," that "colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas," and that "neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions."

    Contra Mr. Hartle, today's universities - rife with speech codes, "scientific" defenses of speech suppression, and faculties that speak in one voice on seminal issues ranging from race relations to immigration policy - have failed to adhere to their professed ideals or even to his organization's own standards. It's true that there are plenty, on the Left and the Right, who sometimes prefer dogma to science. Colleges and universities, however, are supposed to offer a corrective to such thinking; they're not supposed to be a party to it. The sad truth is that conservatives are right to look askance at higher education in 2017. Too many of our most esteemed academic institutions have drifted from their historic mission - and that's their fault, not ours.


The Next GOP Populist Will Win by Attacking American Higher Education

I want to make a prediction: The next successful Republican politician will rally the Right by making America's universities his punching bag - and the universities will prove even more vulnerable to that politician's attacks than the media were to Donald Trump's.

    A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that Republican opinion of the nation's higher-education system has deteriorated remarkably in a very short time. In 2015, 58 percent of Republicans thought that colleges and universities had a positive effect on the country; an only slightly larger share of Democrats, 65 percent, agreed. Just two years later, the numbers are dramatically different: Only 36 percent of Republicans view colleges positively, compared to 72 percent of Democrats. A whopping 58 percent of Republicans think that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.

Now imagine what could happen to that number if a Republican presidential nominee tweeted every day and gave speeches around the country attacking our colleges. Imagine how many more Republicans would come to view the nation's academic enclaves negatively if their party's standard-bearer complained daily about the indoctrination of our children, the ceaseless rise in tuition costs that bleeds regular folks dry, the decline in pedagogical rigor, the political bias, the lies. Imagine what would happen if such a politician branded universities as the "enemy of the American people."

Post-Trump, the Republican party will likely be disunited. Voters and politicians will wonder what the party stands for anymore. Is it pro- or anti-military intervention? Pro- or anti-free markets? Culturally conservative or vulgar? The GOP will need a message around which to coalesce. More precisely, it will need an enemy. Republican voters may disagree on policy and principle, but they can agree on whom they don't like:

Radical professors, race-obsessed provocateurs, gender-studies grifters, anti-Israel fanatics, weak-kneed administrators, disgusting libertines, angry feminists, and illiberal student protesters.

    Conservatives can get on board with this critique. They have long railed against the liberal bias of colleges and its effect on America's young. They might get uncomfortable when the critique gets extreme, of course, but the extreme version of the message is not meant for them. It will hammer the same themes as before but excite populists with different terms. "Radical professors" will become "anti-American" or "Communist." "Racial provocateurs" will become "anti-white racists."

    In short, everyone will hear what he or she needs to, and respond accordingly. The alt-right will cheer. Conservative thinkers will write treatises on the pernicious influence of radical intellectuals and call for a new type of American university. Policy wonks will cite studies demonstrating the decline in intellectual diversity on American campuses, drawing up plans to lower tuition or expand technical education while noting responsibly that universities are not for everyone. Each story about silly student protesters and each intimation of a speech code will spark a thousand "hot takes," a Fox News interview, and comment from public officials. Populists will decry the "end of free speech."

    These blows will land for three reasons: 1) They're partially true; 2) universities and the Left are in denial about their truth; and 3) Republican voters have been primed to believe them.

    American higher-education is incredibly screwed up. Only its most servile apologists will deny that. For one, it's a bubble. Tuition prices never stop rising, far outpacing inflation, even as the services rendered seem to have deteriorated. Exorbitant tuition imposes an immense strain on parents, who often must reshape their lives around paying college bills, and on students, many of whom struggle under the burden of student debt for years after graduation.

    Moreover, to what does all that tuition really entitle a student, anyway? The elimination of core curricula in the '80s and '90s has destroyed the foundation of American liberal-arts education. The "studies" majors have themselves drawn students in without being able to offer a promise of real erudition or substantial job prospects. Many disciplines have shifted dramatically toward the study of race, gender, and class.

    The bias is undeniable: Left-wing professors and students predominate, while conservative thought is often ignored, sometimes marginalized, and occasionally forbidden by oppressive speech codes or threatening mobs. Political correctness and identity politics rule many campus student groups. And college life reliably promises socialization into progressive ideas and sexual mores, as well as a confrontation with the most relaxed attitudes toward drinking and drugs.

    Nor do universities themselves recognize the validity and potency of their critics' charges. In covering the Pew survey, InsideHigherEd laid blame for the shift in Republican attitudes at the feet of "perceived liberal orthodoxy and political correctness in higher education." This is typical of how these discussions go. There are only "perceived" problems. The evidence of how fields have drastically changed and how the professoriate has drifted radically leftward since the 1990s is ignored.

    Does this sort of denialism sound familiar? If so, it is likely because the media made the same arguments for years when they were accused of liberal bias. Conservatives were always either "making it up" or they weren't, but bias was just unavoidable. "Reality has a well-known liberal bias," joked Stephen Colbert. "On the liberal bias of facts," read the headline on one Paul Krugman column in the New York Times.

    By refusing to own up to their own bias and weaknesses, the media didn't make their critics disappear; they only angered and empowered them, making themselves more vulnerable to attack. Trump took advantage of that vulnerability by proving he could strike at the media harder than anyone else ever had. A lifelong Democrat and buffoon, he proved his bona fides to Republican voters by waging war on mainstream journalists.

    The educational establishment makes the same mistake but expects a different result, while its left-wing allies cheer it on. Anytime conservatives criticize the academy, they are laughed out of the room. "America hits peak anti-intellectualism" is how Salon interpreted the Pew survey. The Washington Post called David Gelernter, the groundbreaking Yale computer scientist and writer, "fiercely anti-intellectual" for his comments on the Left's dominance of academia.

    By burying their heads in the sand, universities allow the viewpoint disparities on their campuses to grow worse. Defenses by supercilious left-wingers may protect the schools for now, but they will ultimately make the academy into a juicier target for right-of-center populists. When a clever or merely loud politician finally puts the college system in his sights, the Right will be ready.

    It already is, in fact - has been for years.

    In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr. published God and Man at Yale. His central accusation against the university was this:

    The institution that derives its moral and financial support from Christian individualists . . . addresses itself to the task of persuading the sons of these supporters to be atheistic socialists.

    In 1987, Allan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind. In his telling,

the universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements, and did so in large measure because they thought those movements possessed a moral truth superior to any the university could provide. Commitment was understood to be profounder than science, passion than reason, history than nature, the young than the old.

    The universities, the Right has long insisted, have abandoned the West. The canon wars of the 1980s and 1990s, during which core curricula and Western-civilization programs were dismissed as "ethnocentric," only solidified this impression.

    Since then, every conservative publication worth its salt has raced to expose the latest campus outrage. In the Internet era, whole websites have sprouted up to document protests and speech codes, delusions and demands. Fox News devotes valuable coverage to university issues; Tucker Carlson grills campus protesters live on national television. The drama at Middlebury over Charles Murray became a national controversy. More outrages are sure to follow.

    It's not hard to see the breaking point of these campus wars on the horizon: the first time a politician dares to make higher-education into a national campaign issue. Before Trump, the media's "anti-intellectual" label might have scared politicians, but it doesn't any longer. Trump's assault on the media has irreparably damaged its credibility, reducing its claims of expertise and knowledge to fodder for right-wing voters' laughter.

    The next Trump, then, will play to the worst fears of parents by going after colleges and universities. In doing so, he will unite the best, the worst, and all the other elements of the Right. They will be primed to hear the critique, which will be partially or even largely correct. The next Steve Bannon will seek to "overthrow" the university system from behind the scenes. And the universities, like the media before them, will walk right into the trap, while the Left rejects potential voters as deplorable ignoramuses.

    Can you see it yet?


Australia: Our students and teachers deserve better

Jennifer Buckingham

I had the privilege of travelling to England to speak with some of the world’s best researchers on how children learn to read, and to observe how high-performing schools use this research to get all children reading.

There is no longer any serious debate in England about the need for explicit phonics instruction in early reading instruction. In fact, it is mandatory for all English primary schools to teach synthetic phonics — a method of instruction that systematically shows children the connection between spoken and written language, and how to use the English alphabetic code to read and spell.

The quality of synthetic phonics instruction is still uneven. Not all teachers have sufficient depth of knowledge and expertise yet. Nonetheless, there is evidence via the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check (PSC) that instruction has improved. In the first year of the national PSC in 2012, 58% of Year 1 students achieved the expected standard. In 2016, 81% of students achieved the standard.

England’s progress in implementing effective early reading instruction was accelerated by the ‘Rose Review’ of early reading by Sir Jim Rose, published in 2006. It strongly endorsed the ‘Simple View of Reading’– a conceptual model which emphasises the importance of both decoding (word reading accuracy) and comprehension — and found that synthetic phonics was the most effective method of instruction, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with language difficulties.

The Simple View model is strongly supported by research from multiple disciplines. UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb was influenced by this research and has relentlessly pursued the adoption of effective reading instruction, firmly believing that reading is key to educational success and social mobility.

Australia had its own review of the teaching of reading — the National Inquiry into Teaching Literacy (NITL) — the report of which was published in 2005. Its findings were remarkably similar to the Rose Review.

Yet it has had very little impact on reading instruction in Australia. Instead of citing the recent scientific research of Professors Maggie Snowling, Kate Nation, Anne Castles, or Charles Hulme, our Australian literacy academics drag out the outdated, unsubstantiated socio-theoretical views of Ken Goodman and Stephen Krashen.

Australia has many outstanding teachers of reading, but they are too often swimming upstream against poor quality reading programs and policy. Australian teachers and students deserve better.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Marxist group disbands because members were too rich, white

A Marxist student group at Swarthmore College disbanded itself earlier this year after realizing that its members were too rich and too white to be real commies.

A farewell letter from a former member complains that the group's founders where "entirely white, with the exception of one person of color," and that none of them came from "low-income and/or working class backgrounds."

A Marxist student group at Swarthmore College disbanded itself earlier this year after realizing that its members were too rich and too white to be real commies.

According to screenshots confidentially provided to Campus Reform by an individual with access to the group’s private Facebook page, the demise of the Swarthmore Anti-Capitalist Collective (SACC) came in the wake of a farewell letter from a member who had decided the group could never be an effective proponent of “unproblematized anticapitalist politics” due to its “history of abuse, racism, and even classism.”

“From my understanding SACC disbanded because they realized the makeup and tactics of their group was at odds with their espoused principles,” Swarthmore Conservative Society President Gilbert Guerra told Campus Reform. “Their main support base was middle-upper class white kids who enjoy jogging.”

The farewell letter corroborates Guerra’s understanding, asserting that “SACC’s fundamental failure” was that “at its formation, it was made up of entirely white, with the exception of one person of color*, students,” and to make matters worse, “not one of [the founding members] are from low-income and/or working class backgrounds.”

Arguing that “low-income people of color should never be an afterthought in a group whose politics supposedly focus on their liberation,” the author then went on to accuse SACC of having a “history of abuse, racism, and even classism that was never adequately addressed or recognized despite constantly being brought up as an issue.”

The screenshots provided to Campus Reform do not include dates, but the SACC Facebook page suggests that the group may have folded at some point in late-March or April. The page has seen no activity since March 26, prior to which posts had been added on a fairly regular basis.

Campus Reform reached out to other former SACC members for their take on the group’s disbandment, but none were willing to comment.

Guerra agreed strongly with the letter-writer’s assessment that SACC was ineffective, telling Campus Reform that “SACC didn’t do anything noteworthy during their existence,” and had little impact on campus discourse.

“If anything,” he said, “I think the legacy of that particular group will turn out to be motivating some apathetic students to become involved in the Conservative Society.”

As for the future of Marxist groups on campus—which the SACC letter optimistically predicted would provide a “future for anti-capitalist organizing on this campus”—Guerra said that he expects there will be a “new Maoist group on campus in the fall,” but didn’t seem terribly concerned about its prospects.

Saying that such a group is “a foregone conclusion” because there are many leftist students at Swarthmore who want to actively “resist during the Trump Presidency,” Guerra noted that the only question now “is whether this new group will be any more sustainable that [sic] the past couple of leftist groups that have splintered and fizzled out.”


Lawmakers hope to undo English-only education in Mass.

Another Leftist attempt at disruption.  Perish the thought that Hispanics might asssimilate

Fifteen years after Massachusetts voters pushed bilingual education out of most public schools, lawmakers are on the verge of allowing school systems to teach students academic subjects in their own languages if they’re not yet fluent in English.

The changes could affect more than 90,000 Massachusetts students classified as “English language learners,” a steadily growing portion that now represents nearly 10 percent of the state’s public-school enrollment.

Lawmakers are responding to growing calls from educators, parents, students, and immigrant-rights advocates who argue that the requirement voters approved in 2002 to teach all academic classes to non-native speakers in English is harming their classroom performance.

For many advocates, the issue boils down to a simple question: How can you expect students to learn complex concepts in math, science, and other subjects when they don’t even yet know how to speak, read, or understand English?

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes Thursday. The House approved a similar measure last month, 151 to 2.

“This is an important move by the Legislature to correct a wrong,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico, an Everett Democrat. “Kids are falling through the cracks and are not getting the education they need.”

Supporters of the measures are optimistic that bilingual education, in which students can learn academic subjects in their native tongue while gaining English fluency, can be a regular feature again in Massachusetts schools. Some advocates say they don’t necessarily favor one version of the bill over the other.

“We just want a bill that passes that gives kids a better chance,” said Marion Davis, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “Schools and parents should be able to work together and decide what is the best approach for each student.”

Brendan Moss, a spokesman for Governor Charlie Baker, said Baker has not taken a position yet on the bills but will carefully review any legislation that reaches his desk.

Massachusetts schools have been struggling for years to boost the performance of students who lack fluency in English — a population that has nearly doubled over the past 15 years as more immigrant families settle in the state. On average, students lacking English fluency have among the lowest standardized test scores and graduation rates.

But some students overcome those dismal statistics. In Boston, for instance, many high school valedictorians each year are immigrant students.

Many educators, advocates, and families blame the so-called English-only law for the low achievement of most students who aren’t yet fluent. They argue the law is too restrictive, creating a one-size-fits-all approach to a population of students with vastly different academic needs and fluency levels in English.

On one end of the spectrum, some students who are classified as English-language learners were born in the United States in immigrant households where English is not the primary language, but those students may have gained some understanding of it from relatives who speak English or from TV or neighbors.

On the other end of the spectrum, students themselves may have arrived in the country with no knowledge of English. Some may not even have had any formal schooling for several years and could be suffering trauma from war, political strife, or natural disasters in their home countries.

Under current law, school systems must teach all courses in English and can use a student’s native language only occasionally to check for understanding. The law provides some exceptions, such as allowing dual-language programs in which English-speaking students and non-native students learn each other’s languages.

But students lacking English fluency also performed poorly under bilingual education, prompting voters in part in 2002 to dismantle that program and replace it with what is officially known as “structured English immersion.”

Rosalie Pedalino Porter, a former bilingual education director for the Newton schools who supported the ballot question, said she thinks it would be a mistake to bring back bilingual education wholesale.

“I do not believe there is any problem with the law as it is written,” said Porter, who is chairwoman of ProEnglish, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for laws that make English the official language. “Any changes to that law is going to be harmful to children.”

DiDomenico said he expects the Senate will pass the bill Thursday. He noted that the Senate passed a similar bill last year, and so did the House, but the votes came at the end of the legislative session and time ran out for a compromise.

This time, he said, the two chambers will have up to a year to iron out their differences.

The main difference between the two bills is the amount of flexibility given to school systems. The House measure would loosen current requirements for school systems to seek waivers to the English-only rule, while the Senate bill would abolish the waivers and instead give school systems a choice of specific programs, including English immersion and bilingual education.

Adding urgency for a compromise is a desire among lawmakers to make Massachusetts more welcoming at a time when President Trump’s administration has tightened immigration rules and Trump himself has continued anti-immigrant rhetoric.

And the growing presence of English-language learners in school systems across the state makes it tough for policy makers to ignore, some academic experts said.


Australia. Powerful ‘after rape’ pics show university problem (?)

I don't quite see why pictures of young women holding signs is "powerful". Given the pro-female bias in the educational system, I doubt that the story is true.  University culture from top down is pro-female so the claim that universities have a rape culture and even cover up rapes on campus could not be true per-se, but making the claim fits perfectly with university feminist mentality. It is an example of feminist detachment from reality and a needing to see things in a negative way, even the opposite of how they really are.

So the women with signs are just attention-seeking, more likely. 

And as we see from many British court cases, false rape cries are common so --  in that context -- at least initial skepticism displays proper caution.  Many innocent men have had their lives ruined by false accusations -- even after being exonerated

RAPE survivors and other university students have launched a powerful social media campaign to expose how Australian universities have mishandled rape and sexual assault complaints.

Holding messages condemning university inaction and cover-up, the survivors and other students are photographed holding signs calling out their institutions.

“My university punishes plagiarism more harshly than rape” wrote one student from the University of Sydney.

“I was sued for defamation for speaking out against a college covering up rape” wrote another. has confirmed the woman’s claims.

End Rape On Campus Australia, along with myself, designed the campaign to ensure that the voices and views of students are not sidelined next week, when a national report into rape at universities is released by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

After all, it’s often all too easy to forget that behind every statistic there lies a real person.

All too often, the temptation is to reduce sexual assault survivors to mere numbers without recognising the horror and complexity of each survivor’s story.
Students’ powerful plea to #EndRapeOnCampus

University students pose with signs in support of the End Rape on Campus campaign.

By putting a face on the issue, we not only humanise students’ stories, but importantly, it makes it much more difficult for universities to dismiss concerns via damage control strategies aimed at whitewashing the issue and protecting their own reputations.

And some of the stories we have heard at End Rape On Campus are absolutely harrowing.

One rape survivor called out her head of college for disbelieving her when she reported her rape to him.

“This does not sound like a boy who just raped a girl” the head of college allegedly remarked.

As for me, having spent a solid year reporting on sexual assault and rape at Australian universities — including revealing cases where staff members have raped students — the message I most want to send to all survivors next week is a very simple one:

I believe you. It’s not your fault. You’re not alone.

We’ve got your backs.