Friday, October 27, 2017

Fixing schools means overcoming the education establishment

"How can we, through a variety of efforts, whether it's through technology, innovation or policy, have an equal opportunity for everyone to participate in the future?" Those were the words of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Moe, and it was the central question addressed by Moe and the nation's leading education innovators and thought leaders on the occasion of the Center for Education Reform's 24th anniversary last week. These individuals, diverse in race and ideology, are unified in their focus and their work.

Their conclusion? Education must be rooted in rigor assuring high levels of literacy and numeracy, be broad in scope, personalized, and accessible beyond ZIP codes and traditional schooling lines. "The way to have better outcomes for all kids is to meet them where they are and inspire them," said former D.C. City Councilman and author Kevin Chavous, rather than the current system that requires them to sit still, be directed by teachers still trained the way they were 50 years ago, and not provide them with an education that truly meets their own way and interests in learning.

Former Gov. John Engler, R-Mich., who this month took over the reins as chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which conducts national assessments and publishes "The Nation's Report Card," kicked off the evening's discussion. Engler's biggest concern is with the nation's inadequate reading scores and its multiplier effect on an individual student's long-term growth.

According to its latest assessment of reading levels, only 9 percent of fourth graders reached the level of "advanced" in reading, only 27 percent are proficient, and a combined 64 percent are basic or below basic. That's in fourth grade.

These troubling figures nearly mirror the NAEP scores from two years prior, and they're almost identical when U.S. students are measured in eighth grade (4 percent advanced, 31 percent proficient and 64 percent basic or below basic). In other words, the U.S. education system has flat-lined from year to year and between grades.

Consider that an estimated 40 percent of students will enroll in a two- or four-year college, but more than 60 percent of those students will need remedial courses, and only 59 percent of first-time college students will graduate within six years.

Engler encouraged the education reform community to eliminate the stigma attached to skilled technical and manufacturing jobs, and the pathways to those careers.

For years, the mantra in education was preparing and ensuring every student would enroll in college, but the evidence is clear, both in terms of student debt, remedial rates, and college dropout rates that the nation is failing to ensure that a majority of students will be prepared for education and for life.

While we must work to resolve these issues for young students, we must also address the single biggest issue facing our economy – millions of jobs that don't have workers and workers without the skills and lacking basic literacy necessary for many jobs. The fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy are technical and manufacturing jobs that require high technological literacy, not to mention a wholly different approach to schooling.

A study by Deloitte estimated the U.S. economy will create 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years.

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta told a gathering at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week that an estimated 6.2 million unfilled jobs include a high percentage of skilled manufacturing positions that rely on employees having advanced training and technological know-how that yesterday's manufacturing positions did not require.

As our conversation at CER made evident, more needs to challenge the status quo in order to improve our nation's education system. Doing so requires a relentless pursuit of ensuring that innovation and education opportunity are infused throughout all of education, and that we must provide diverse offerings for students to pursue multiple pathways to master basic subjects and become college or career ready.

Chris Whittle, an education entrepreneur who started the first public-private partnership in education, founded the internationally recognized Avenues Schools and now has launched Whittle School & Studios, said the modern school should help every student master the basics and identify the area(s) every student is good at.

Whittle impressed the importance of helping students achieve their unique long-term goal, and more importantly, the vital role a school can play in enabling a student to succeed for the rest of their life. Whittle added, "If a school can help you find that, that school helps you find something else that's even more important, which is confidence…"

Today, the education system silos students throughout their schooling lives to the detriment to students and our nation's success. Those silos are supported and protected by hundreds of separately regulated and restricted funding streams, processes and rules that mandate arcane behaviors that no longer recognize how students learn, how teachers might better teach, how schools may be constructed, and how technology and knowledge might be better utilized and transmitted.

In the next 24 years, we need to break down these silos. We must move away from the us-versus-them mentality perpetuated by the education establishment (namely, teachers' unions, school board associations, and other entities that profit off the antiquated one-size-fits-all approach to education). The need to eradicate silos doesn't end there. As a country we must also eliminate the mentality that education should be delivered by fixed grade levels, that 8th grade or 12th grade has an objective definition, that primary and secondary education should be separate from post-secondary.

The Center for Education Reform is committed to a future for education that centers on the individual needs of the student, from kindergarten through adult life. This nation must ensure that learners at all levels have what they need to access the American dream. That doesn't require more funding; it requires different approaches that embrace the truly American idea of freedom at the core.


Leftists have had their greatest successes in undermining American values on the nation’s college campuses

Walter E. Williams

Our nation’s leftist progressives have long sought to undermine the American values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Though typical Democrats and Republicans do not have this leftist hate for our nation, they have been willing accomplices in undermining the most basic value the Founding Fathers sought to promote—limited government.

Leftists have had their greatest successes in undermining American values on the nation’s college campuses. Derelict and dishonest college administrators, professors, and boards of trustees have given them carte blanche.

Let’s look at some of it.

Students at the University of Virginia desecrated the statue of Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder. Students at the University of Missouri want Jefferson’s statue gone.

Why? He was a slave owner. Many in the college community supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. They welcomed Sanders’ belief that the United States was founded on “racist principles.”

There have also been calls for the removal of President George Washington’s and President Abraham Lincoln’s statues. Some have called for the renaming of schools that honor Washington, Jefferson, and 11 other slave-owning presidents.

Leftists have called for the renaming of streets named after slave-owning presidents. There have been many leftist calls for the elimination of Columbus Day. Their success at getting Confederate statues taken down has emboldened them.

What goes unappreciated is just why America’s leftists’ movement attacks the Founders. If they can delegitimize the Founders themselves, it goes a long way toward their agenda of delegitimizing the founding principles of our nation.

If the leftists can convince the nation that men such as Washington, Jefferson, and James Madison were good-for-nothing, slave-owning racists, then their ideas can be more easily trashed. We find the greatest assaults on our founding documents on the nation’s college campuses.

The average parent, taxpayer, and donor has absolutely no idea of the bizarre lessons that college professors are teaching students.

Professor Adam Kotsko of Shimer College teaches, “Whether or not your individual ancestors owned slaves, you as a white person have benefitted from slavery and are complicit in it.”

Micah Johnson, a research assistant and graduate student instructor in the University of Florida’s Department of Sociology and Criminology and Law, teaches that the American notion of patriotism is “drenched in whiteness” and that patriotism implies that black people are “un-American.”

These types of attacks on American values have reached one of our most prestigious institutions of higher learning—the U.S. Military Academy.

The administration at West Point knew of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone’s disqualifying insubordination at the academy, extremist political views, and regulation-breaking online activity. Proof has surfaced that West Point leadership knew as early as 2015 that Rapone was an avowed communist and held Marxist anti-American beliefs.

One of his Facebook posts read, “F— this country and its false freedom.” Despite Rapone’s conduct and demonstrated hatred of our nation, the U.S. Military Academy’s administration saw fit to allow Rapone to graduate in 2016.

But the rot at our premier military academy goes beyond the traitorous ideas of Rapone’s. That was revealed in an open letter written by retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Heffington, once a professor of history at West Point.

Heffington’s letter exposed widespread corruption, cheating, and falling standards at the academy to which the administration has turned a blind, politically correct eye.

In response to Heffington’s widely circulated letter, the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., released a standard bureaucratic letter saying the administration will address the concerns raised in Heffington’s letter about falling standards.

It will also investigate the revelations that it not only managed to graduate Rapone but also sent him on to Army battlefield units, thus enabling him to spread his anti-American ideas.

The American people need to stop being sheeple and put a halt to the undermining of our nation taking place in our institutions of higher learning.



The Answer to Failing Schools? Give Students ‘Backpacks Full of Cash’

Imagine you are Jeanne Allen—who joined me recently on “Common Ground”—and you’re a longtime educational reformer, and you’ve coined this phrase, “backpacks full of cash.”

And the phrase is catching on because it truly captures an exciting idea in American education—the notion that, instead of appropriating giant sums to school systems, we, in effect, give each child a backpack full of cash to spend on education as their parents see fit.

The money in the backpack goes to the school the parents choose. If public schools performed well, parents could send their students—and the accompanying backpacks full of cash—to them.

If private or public charter or specialized or virtual or home school environments best suited students’ interests, the money would go to them.

Imagine how excited she must have been when producers putting together an education documentary five years ago contacted her about the phrase and its meaning.

Finally, imagine what it must feel like to be Allen now. That film is now being released, and rather than a balanced treatment of a variety of approaches, it is a hatchet job on her idea.

The trailer makes this clear, opening with a succession of speakers from the film.

“This ‘backpack full of cash’ is about privatizing, not improving, public education,” says one. “It’s an opportunity on islands of privilege amidst a sea of inequity,” says another. “There is no high-quality research that shows that this is a good method of teaching and learning,” says a third.

Better, they say, to spend more on public schools.

Not only that, but Matt Damon, whom she used to really like, is the narrator.

Damon isn’t telling us his story of his public school experience—a high-income public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a favorite with people from Harvard.

Not surprisingly, he can’t seem to find this experience today in California and sends his own kids to private schools. It sounds like he thinks that the rest of us just need to work a little harder and spend much more on our public schools as they stand.

That’s the part that gets to Johnny Taylor, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, who joined Allen and me on the show. He should know, his fund helps 300,000 African-American students go to college every year.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, test—widely regarded as the nation’s report card—found last year that two-thirds of American kids are not grade-level proficient in any subject. Not math. Not civics. Not reading, history, or geography.

Among immigrants and minorities, the numbers are even worse. In the D.C. school system, which has the second-highest per-student expenditure in the country, only 17 percent of black, brown, and Latino eighth-graders were doing math or English on grade level.

That’s 1 in 6, which is about the rate nationwide for minority student achievement.

Taylor draws on his experience working for media innovator Barry Diller. Taylor explains, “Education is an industry that refuses to innovate. And that’s my rub. Let’s not pretend that all of our public schools are working wonderfully. Why can’t we want to be better?”

But we have an educational establishment—with Damon as its spokesman—that seems more concerned with preserving teachers unions’ prerogatives than improving schools.

Allen says she believes Damon is educable on this.

So let’s try a thought experiment that might persuade him. What if Hollywood were run like schools? Wouldn’t that mean a monopoly with a central studio that controlled all movie making?

Would Damon be OK with making the same amount of money per picture as the worst actors in Hollywood, the way the worst and best teachers are paid the same?

Would there be color or even sound in movies? Both were expensive gambles taken by smaller studios to give them a competitive edge over larger rivals.

It’s not that everything is broken in public schools. It’s that, if two-thirds of America’s kids are not proficient in any subject, we can’t be closed to attempts at innovation.

And we can’t let Damon or Hollywood or teachers unions stand in the way.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cambridge University caves in to student's campaign to replace white authors with black writers

Cambridge University’s English Literature professors will be forced to replace white authors with black writers, under new proposals put forward by academic staff following student demands to “decolonise” the curriculum.

 For the first time, lecturers and tutors will have to “ensure the presence” of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) writers on their course, under plans discussed by the English Faculty’s Teaching Forum.

The move follows an open letter, penned by Lola Olufemi, Cambridge University Student Union’s women’s officer and signed by over 100 students, titled “Decolonising the English Faculty”. 

“For too long, teaching English at Cambridge has encouraged a ‘traditional’ and ‘canonical’ approach that elevates white male authors at the expense of all others,” the letter said.


University of Wisconsin-Madison Students Protest Abraham Lincoln Statue Because ‘He Owned Slaves’

There’s a common quote, frequently attributed to G.K. Chesterton: “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.”

In our modern context, this should be rephrased a bit: “Don’t try to pull down a statue if you have no idea who or what the statue was really about.”

During a 2016 Columbus Day protest conducted by Wunk Sheek, a Native American student organization, activists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus hosted a “die-in” at Bascom Hall, near a statue of President Abraham Lincoln.

According to The Daily Cardinal, a campus newspaper, the protest ended with the group hanging a sign on the Lincoln monument that said “#DecolonizeOurCampus.”

The activist group is now demanding a disclaimer be put up saying Lincoln was complicit in the murder of Native Americans.

Why would they be so angry about Lincoln?

“Everyone thinks of Lincoln as the great, you know, freer of slaves, but let’s be real: He owned slaves, and as natives, we want people to know that he ordered the execution of native men,” said one of the protesters.

“Just to have him here at the top of Bascom is just really belittling.”

This claim from the protester is patently false. The Great Emancipator grew up in poverty and never owned slaves.

Not only that, but his debates with fellow Illinois statesman Stephen A. Douglas offer some of the clearest reasons for why the institution of slavery violated the American creed.

Lincoln saved the union and brought about the end of slavery. Period.

In fairness to the activists, Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg also made the mistake of saying Lincoln owned slaves last year.

Wisconsin educators, it appears you have some work to do. This is a basic fact that most Americans should learn before graduating high school, let alone while attending an institution of higher learning.

But beyond that basic ignorance, simply stating the fact that U.S. soldiers executed Sioux Indians while Lincoln was president doesn’t begin to do justice to what was a very complex situation in the middle of the Civil War.

During the war, Minnesota was in a state of chaos due to soldiers abandoning their posts and armies moving east to join the main war effort. On top of that, the Office of Indian Affairs was mired in corruption that was exacerbated by wartime negligence.

As a result, money promised to the Sioux tribe in Minnesota in exchange for its land wasn’t coming through, and many of its people starved.

This led to a bloody uprising called the “Dakota War,” which the U.S. government eventually put down.

Over 300 Sioux were sentenced to death for connection to the rebellion. Lincoln saw this as extreme, however, and pardoned all but 38 of the alleged perpetrators, whom he believed were guilty of the worst crimes such as rape and murder.

It was the largest mass hanging in American history, but it could have been much worse if not for Lincoln’s compassion. He believed that the Sioux were getting a raw deal, but needed to ensure peace on America’s borders in a time when the future of the United States was seriously in question.

It’s amazing that Lincoln acted at all in this matter, given that the nation was gripped by a bloody civil war more deadly than all of our other wars combined.

As Matt Vespa wrote in Townhall, “It’s not one of our nation’s best moments, but Lincoln was also fighting a much more existential threat to the country[:] an army from the southern states that at the time … was winning the American Civil War.”

It’s silly to judge Lincoln’s actions without some understanding of the circumstances of the time. But this is generally what has sustained the iconoclast statue movement.

Figures of our past are dehumanized, their actions put in a vacuum, only to be narrowly judged by the increasingly absurd, ever-evolving standards of our time.

This is why it was such a short jump from attacking statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Lincoln, even though these men stood on opposite sides of the conflict that shook our nation and decided what we would become in the centuries that followed.

The anti-statue crusade thrives on shallow 21st-century moralizing—the privilege of the prosperous and comfortable, far removed from the suffering and difficulties of earlier times—coupled with the sheer ignorance of a generation that has little understanding of the basic facts of our history.

But the iconoclasts do not just see Confederates or Christopher Columbus or Lincoln as problematic. The movement is about more than these individuals. It’s an attempt to delegitimize and erase the very foundation of our civilization, which to them, is irreparably flawed.


Australia: Productivity Commission report highlights tensions between university research and teaching

An old issue that grinds on

THE obsession with research at universities is helping to create an oversupply of graduates in certain areas and potentially bad outcomes for students and taxpayers.

That’s according to a Productivity Commission report, Shifting the Dial, released Tuesday which set out a broad agenda for reform spanning health, schools, universities, transport and energy.

It noted that universities were being encouraged to churn out students in “high-margin courses”, which are cheap to teach but have high fees, so they can funnel more money into research.

This risks creating an oversupply of graduates, wastes both students and taxpayers money, and could ultimately affect Australia’s productivity and economic growth.

“Many university staff are more interested in, and rewarded for, conducting research,” the report said.

This is due partly due to its importance of research in international rankings as well as the culture in universities that gives prestige to research and sees teaching-focused positions as a “low-pay, low-progression and low-value career pathway”.

“Teaching therefore plays second fiddle to research, with consequences for student satisfaction, teaching quality and graduate outcomes,” the report noted.

The commission found that student fees that should be used for teaching, were instead being directed towards research and this was undermining student outcomes and teaching quality.

About 80 per cent of teaching-only staff at universities in 2015 were working as casual employees, and many teachers were part-time workers who were themselves students.

“It seems likely that a system where a significant share of the teaching is provided by junior staff with limited long-term teaching interest will not generate the best educational outcomes for students,” the report said.

It noted that the use of money for teaching to cross-subsidise research was also creating an oversupply of certain graduates and there was evidence this was already happening.

One study found nearly 45 per cent of recent law graduates who were employed were actually working in clerical, sales and service occupations.

On the flip side, universities may also be discouraged from providing more student places for “low-margin” or loss-making areas that can create an undersupply of graduates in essential professions including dentistry, veterinary science, health sciences and engineering.

While the commission has not made any recommendations because it acknowledged the complexity of the system and did not want to create unintended adverse outcomes, it did suggest options that should be considered.

It said one solution could be to change government funding so that it more closely reflected expected teaching costs, and the public and private benefits.

“For example, disciplines with a high degree of personal benefits and limited positive spillovers (such as a degree in finance) could require students to pay most (or even all) of the cost of tuition,” the report said.

However, it said this would need to be offset by other changes to how research was funded.

It has also supported the Federal Government’s plans to introduce a form of performance-contingent funding from 2019, which would make 7.5 per cent of funding contingent on the university’s teaching performance.

The exact design of this plan is still being developed but the commission said this was a “step in the right direction, although there are a range of challenges with making this approach fair and effective”.

The commission was also sceptical about the benefits of the Turnbull Government’s plan to lower the income threshold that students need to start paying off their HELP debts.

Instead it believes outstanding HELP debts could be collected from deceased estates from those aged over 60 years and potentially only from estates worth over a certain amount.

This would also allow HELP debts to be recovered from the increasing number of students aged 65 years or over, who are accessing these loans but are less likely to pay them off.

Other suggestions from the commission include relaxing restrictions on the use of the term “university” so that institutions don’t have to do both teaching and research to qualify.

The commission believes this could be dropped to encourage some institutions to focus on teaching.

It said universities should also assess students carefully to ensure they start the right course and are more likely to finish it.

The commission found there was a link between how high a student’s Australia Tertiary Admission Rank was and whether they were likely to drop out of uni before finishing their degree.

Students with an ATAR above 95 had an annual attrition rate of less than 5 per cent in 2014 but this jumped to about 20 per cent for those whose score was between 50 and 59.

Similarly nearly 40 per cent of those with an ATAR between 50 and 59 had left uni without a degree after nine years, while just 4 per cent of students with an ATAR above 95 had done so.

However, the commission noted the ATAR score was just one reason why students quit and others include the student’s motivation levels, financial security and personal or health-related factors.

Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s leading research intensive universities that account for two-thirds of all research funding to universities, is supportive of the commission’s findings.

“The Productivity Commission rightly questions how we do our job, how we use our funding and our focus,” Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson told “We would expect no less.

“It has therefore been particularly pleasing to concentrate on the substance of the report and find that the Commission is in agreement with the Go8’s consistent advocacy push for an end to the current dysfunctional and distorted funding model for research, and to our call for an independent review of how the sector is financially structured, and on our outcomes.”



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A national teachers' union's war machine is on the move in Colorado

Interesting that Leftists were once all in favour of "reform".  In the case below, Leftists are going all out to resist reform while Republicans want to bust open a corrupt and incompetent system that is not delivering good education.

For months, one of America’s most important fights over parental choice in education has been raging on suburban street corners, in school gymnasiums, and in voters’ mailboxes in Douglas County, Colorado. Now, the nature of the race has been irrevocably altered in its final weeks by the full-scale deployment of a national teaching union’s political war machine.

As the county’s Nov. 7 school board election rapidly approaches, the nation’s second-largest national teachers union has thrown down the gauntlet in a bid to strangle parental choice. With two slates of candidates vying for four open seats on the district’s seven-member board of education, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington, D.C., pumped $300,000 into the race in early October.

Newly filed reports appear to indicate that the union’s investment has now doubled to $600,000. Combined with at least $100,000 in dark money, these contributions equate to a nuclear-level show of national political force in a suburban Colorado community.

Ironically, the four anti-choice and anti-reform candidates supported by the tidal wave of national union cash have repeatedly assured Douglas County voters that they represent the “grassroots” of the county. Calling themselves the “Community Slate,” they have decried outside money and influence and sought to paint the opposing, pro-school-choice “Elevate Douglas County” candidates as the beneficiaries of deep-pocketed out-of-state interests. They cast themselves as the David to the pro-school-choice slate’s Goliath.

Campaign finance disclosures show that Elevate Douglas County candidates have indeed received some support from organizations and individuals outside Douglas County. However, the vast majority of that support originated in Colorado, and it is dwarfed by the sheer scale of the union’s spending.

The stark contrast of the Community Slate’s grassroots narrative with the revelation that these candidates are themselves backed by big money from Washington, D.C., has landed like a bomb in Douglas County, which now finds itself exposed to the full fury of the union’s national war machine. That machine is daily bombarding residents with an unprecedented level of political artillery attacking candidates in favor of parental choice and supporting the union’s chosen four.

Backlash to the deployment of full-scale national political warfare in suburbia has been intense. For example, the Douglas County GOP issued a scathing statement condemning the Community Slate’s deception and endorsing the four Republican candidates running as part of the Elevate Douglas County slate.

Yet many who watch school board races in Colorado are not surprised. A similar strategy of obfuscation was utilized during a heated school board recall election in neighboring Jefferson County in 2015. There, activists working to unseat three conservative school board members repeatedly denied union involvement and framed their effort as exclusively “parent led.” It wasn’t until after these activists won the election that voters discovered the truth: Teachers unions provided 99.9 percent of the primary recall front group’s funding. This time, voters discovered large-scale union involvement as mail-in ballots arrived on their kitchen tables.

The 2017 Douglas County School District Board of Education race was always destined to be one of the most closely watched in the nation. The outcome of the race will decide the fate of a critical constitutional case that could throw open the doors of opportunity for students nationwide by invalidating the use of archaic, discriminatory Blaine Amendments to hobble publicly funded scholarship programs that allow K-12 students to attend nonpublic schools. Community Slate candidates have indicated that they intend to end this litigation — litigation one of their own running mates started in 2011 — prior to final resolution if elected.

The union’s heavy investment in Douglas County illustrates that AFT, whose president recently issued the outrageously inaccurate statement that parental choice programs are “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” understands the stakes in Douglas County. And it is willing to do whatever it takes to halt the advance of educational freedom.

The fight over Blaine may be the centerpiece of this year’s Douglas County school board race, but it is far from the only issue. Approximately 20 percent of the district’s students attend public charter schools. Though the union-backed candidates have tried to thread the political needle on charter schools, many charter leaders and parents worry about what a 7-0 majority backed by AFT might mean for their schools. Those concerns are not unfounded. AFT is a notoriously militant opponent of charter school expansion, which the organization’s president has called a “coordinated national effort to decimate public schools.”

AFT’s Colorado chapter likely also sees this election as a lifeline. The Douglas County school board ended its collective bargaining agreement with a local affiliate of AFT in 2012. Reinstituting a union contract in the county would net millions in annual revenue for the Colorado chapter of the union — revenue that could stave off the encroaching monopoly of the National Education Association in Colorado.

It is not yet clear what the final outcome of the Douglas County school board race will be. But as national political forces collide with parental choice supporters in suburban America, the stakes could not be higher. And the county will never be the same.



Labour MP attacks university where one in three colleges failed to admit a black British student with A-levels in 2015

So why is that bad?  What is gained by pushing blacks into situations where they will be out of their depths?  The distribution of IQ among blacks indicates that very few will be capable of an elite education.  So there will be too few of them to have one or two in every elite school

Nearly one in three Oxford colleges failed to admit a single black British A-level student in 2015, with the university accused of “social apartheid” over its admissions policies by the former education minister David Lammy.

The data shows that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a place to a black British pupil with A-levels in 2015, the first time the university has released such figures since 2010. Oriel College only offered one place to a black British A-level student in six years.

Similar data released by Cambridge revealed that six colleges there failed to admit any black British A-level students in the same year.

Lammy first requested the ethnicity data from Oxford and Cambridge in 2016. While Cambridge provided it immediately, Oxford finally released it on Thursday after it was informed that the Guardian was preparing a story.

As part of a set of data released by the two universities that also revealed a stark regional and socio-economic divide in their intake, the figures showed that just 1.5% of all offers from the two universities to UK A-level students went to black British candidates.

Lammy said the figures showed that many colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge failed to reflect the UK’s population, and called into question the universities’ claims to national standing.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain,” Lammy said.

The figures are the first to update the embarrassing data published in 2010 – after freedom of information requests by Lammy – that revealed Merton College, Oxford had not offered a single place to a black British student for five years.

While the new data represents an improvement from before 2009 – when 21 Oxbridge colleges offered no places to black students, compared to 16 in 2015 – the figures suggest that elite colleges still struggle to recruit black British school pupils, especially from state schools.

A handful of black British students – an average of 3.5 each year between 2010 and 2015 – who do not have A-levels gain places at Oxford. In most cases they come from independent schools that enter their pupils for alternative exams such as the international baccalaureate.

The new figures also show that some parts of the country – especially disadvantaged regions of Wales and the north-west of England – have largely missed out on efforts by the two universities to widen their admissions base and admit students from outside the south of England.

Only three Oxford colleges and six Cambridge colleges made at least one offer of an undergraduate place to a black British A-level student in each of the six years between 2010 and 2015.

Oriel College, Oxford, made just one offer to a black British A-level student in the same period. Data released by Oxford after the Guardian’s inquiries showed three further black students with other qualifications were offered places at Oriel.

“Difficult questions have to be asked, including whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds,” said Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham and the first black Briton to attend Harvard Law School.

Lammy noted that “there are almost 400 black students getting three As at A-level or better every year,” yet few of them are attracted to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. Around 3% of the British population identified as black in the last UK census.

In response, a spokesperson for Oxford said rectifying the probem would be “a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society – including from leading universities like Oxford – to address serious inequalities”.

Oxford said students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds made up 15.9% of its 2016 UK undergraduate intake, up from 14.5% in 2015, and that offers to black students had more than doubled since 2010. Those figures include British Asian students and other minorities.

“We’re also working with organisations such as Target Oxbridge and the newly formed Oxford black alumni network, to show talented young black people that they can fit in and thrive at a university like Oxford. All of this shows real progress and is something we want to improve on further,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Cambridge said that its admissions decisions were made on academic considerations alone, while spending £5m a year on access measures including work with black and minority ethnic school pupils.

“The greatest barrier to participation at selective universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is low attainment at school. We assess the achievements of these students in their full context to ensure that students with great academic potential are identified,” the spokesperson said.

“Widening participation further will require government, schools, universities, charities, parents and students to work closely together. We will continue to work hard with all parties to raise aspirations and attainment to improve access to higher education.”

The data emerged after a long-running tussle between Lammy and Oxford, with Oxford refusing to publish detailed breakdowns of its admissions decisions by ethnic group despite repeated requests, including a direct approach by Lammy to Oxford’s vice-chancellor.

Lammy’s initial request for the ethnicity data last year was refused by Oxford, despite Cambridge supplying the breakdown of offers and applications and Oxford itself having produced the same data in 2010.

The former education minister – who has campaigned for years over widening access to top universities – remained unhappy that Oxford refused to release detailed figures showing offers to British students of Caribbean and African descent. The earlier data obtained by Lammy showed that only one black Briton of Caribbean descent had been accepted as an undergraduate at Oxford in 2009.

“I have been pressuring the University of Oxford to publish this data for over a year and they have only begrudgingly decided to partially publish it now,” Lammy said, calling the university’s decision “defensive” and “evasive”.

“While I am pleased that Oxford has backed down to avoid further embarrassment, I am disappointed that the university has combined all black people together into one group – why should they be the only institution that doesn’t break down data properly when you need granularity to understand different ethnic groups?”

Oxford responded that it had offered to publish the limited data – aggregating black students into a single category – last year. “We made an offer to Mr Lammy in September 2016 to provide data about offers made to black and white candidates by college in each year. To break the information down further would allow the specific ethnic background of some individual students to be identified,” the university said.

“This is not information the Data Protection Act allows us to disclose without the consent of the student.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Lammy said: “I just don’t think the universities fully understand what they’re doing. Oxford spent £10m on this and what we’ve seen over the last decade... is we’ve gone backwards on social class, we’ve made no progress on north/south divide and we’ve made little progress on race.”

He went on: “We have a huge chasm between a child in Salford last year, no offers at all, a child in Middlesborough - two offers to a child in Middlesborough in six years and children in the London borough of Richmond or Barnet for whom the success rate is considerable.

“Many more children coming from London and the south east, the children of bankers, judges, making their way to Oxbridge but children in our housing estates even if they get three As they’re not able to get in.”

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford University, told the programme: “We see a very different picture. If you look at the data correctly and properly, you’ll find poor students who get three As or more are more likely to get into Oxford than if you’re a more well off student. It’s a question of proportion more than looking at the raw numbers.”


British graduates are too 'socially conscious' to become bankers, Teach First boss claims

Good if youthful idealism can sometimes be funneled into something useful.  I don't think there will be any shortage of recruits in the finance industry, however. 

Ambitious graduates are no longer interested in pursuing careers in banking because they are too “socially conscious”, the outgoing head of Britain's biggest graduate recruiter has said.

Since the financial crash, lucrative graduate schemes in the city have lost their allure as big pay packets alone now fail to motivate young people, according to the founder of Teach First.

The charity recruits ambitious graduates and after minimal training, parachutes them into tough inner city schools where they are tasked with raising aspiration among some of the most deprived children in the country.

Brett Wigdortz, who set up Teach First in 2002, said that the charity has grown in popularity due to a change in attitudes among young people. "I really think it has come about through the social change that millennials want to make," he said.

"We have really tapped into something that people want to make a difference and to help improve the lives of children. That has become a more popular thing for graduates to do than just to focus on just money.

"We showed there was a huge demand for socially conscious gradate jobs."

Mr Wigdortz said that it prior to he financial crash of 2008, a large proportion of graduates from top universities were attracted to careers in finance.

"Ten to 15 years ago, there was a large part of graduates that felt if you're smart you need to go into banking," he said. "Too much talent was being sucked into one sector.

"Now things are more balanced. We saw that there was an untapped resource that graduates who really wanted to make a difference."

Teach First has been the biggest graduate recruiter for the past three years, with over 1,400 graduates each year sent to teach in deprived schools. The vast majority - around 70 per cent - of recruits are from the elite Russel Group universities. 

"The whole idea that the UK's top talent is going into teaching in lower income schools is a huge achievement," he said. "We are about a fifth of teachers in low income schools."

A number of similar graduate schemes have been set up - often by Teach First alumni - to attract high achieving graduates into front line roles in social services, prisons and the police.

"I think it is a really positive development that you see lots of graduates who want to make a difference," Mr Wigdortz said.

Mr Wigdortz, who will step down this week after running Teach First for 15 years, said that the British education has undergone a major transformation. "The system has a higher expectation of lower-income children," he said.

"Andrew Adonis and Michael Gove helped to make that change. 15 years ago I visited a number of schools where headteachers would say stuff like 'You can't expect too much of them' or 'If I keep them off the street that is a success'. That was a common belief 15 years ago.

"The system is not fair, there are still a lot of children out there not getting what they deserve but it is better."


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Progressives Push Universities to Aid Illegals, not American Youth

Winnie Stachelberg does not look a very happy soul.  You can see the Leftist anger in her

The Democratic Party’s leading think-tank, the Center for American Progress, is working with illegal aliens and amnesty advocates to encourage colleges and universities to admit and fund more illegal aliens in place of young Americans.

More than 320,000 young illegals have already enrolled in colleges, and “our colleges and universities play a vital role in creating an environment where these young [illegal alien] people can learn, grow and graduate in peace,” said Winnie Stachelberg, a top official at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She spoke Wednesday at a D.C. event, declaring:

"We’ve gathered here today because we understand the enormous stakes to protect the nearly 800,000 dreamers whose lives have been endangered by Donald Trump"

She touted CAP’S “Generation Project” initiative, which is designed to help illegal aliens get into U.S. colleges and universities. The initiative tells colleges and universities to “support every dreamer and every undocumented student,” to provide campus housing and financial aid to illegals, and to bar campus police from helping to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. CAP is also helping student organizations support illegals at college, she said, adding:

"This kind of leadership will be a huge part of our nation’s push to strengthen protection for dreamers and for all undocumented students. And it will take all of us, outside advocates, school administrators, and campus activists, to let Congress know that it can’t wait to pass the Dream Act"

Laura Emiko Soltis, executive director of the “underground” Freedom University in Atlanta, Georgia, said the U.S. government should recognize that illegal aliens have a right to a taxpayer-funded education at American colleges. “This is a human right,” Soltis said. “This is a basic human right that’s not recognized in the United States.”

The CAP discussion did not address how putting illegal aliens in college displaces young Americans seeking a college education. The panel, which included illegal aliens, also did not say how the illegal population — 11 million at least — affects American students and employees.

According to federal data from the National Center for Education Statistics, millions of young American men are missing out on college:

"In fall 2017, some 20.4 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities, constituting an increase of about 5.1 million since fall 2000.

Females are expected to account for the majority of college and university students in fall 2017: about 11.5 million females will attend in fall 2017, compared with 8.9 million males. Also, more students are expected to attend full time (an estimated 12.6 million students) than part time (about 7.8 million students)

Some 7.0 million students will attend 2-year institutions and 13.4 million will attend 4-year institutions in fall 2017 …

For the 2015–16 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was $16,757 at public institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,776 at private for-profit institutions. Charges for tuition and required fees averaged $6,613 at public institutions, $31,411 at private nonprofit institutions, and $14,195 at private for-profit institutions"

A 2013 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) described the impact of mass immigration on young Americans:

    "Business lobbyists are constantly calling for an increase in immigration and guest worker programs because increasing the number of job seekers benefits employers by creating an endless pool of cheap labor … Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, powerful lobbying groups have been able to stymie any real effort to secure the borders and enforce immigration laws on the interior. Accordingly, the balance of economic power has tilted overwhelmingly in favor of employers. Wages have not kept pace with worker productivity, and have not increased in line with soaring corporate profits.

    Americans with lower levels of education and job skills have been hardest hit. many workers in the construction, landscaping, and service industries have been pushed out of the labor force. the H-1B and L visa programs have also suppressed wages in the tech industry and caused many Americans with degrees in those fields to seek employment in non-related occupations. Economic indicators show little promise for substantial recovery in the foreseeable future"

Overall, the federal government is helping companies import several hundred thousand of white-collar workers each year via legal immigration routes, plus the various visa-worker programs, such as the H-1B and OPT programs. The program increases the supply of labor and depresses salaries paid to white-collar Americans. For example, a recent job report by Forrester Research Inc. shows that information-technology experts gained only a 2.2 percent annual salary gain from 2011 to 2018.

Soltis, the executive director at Freedom University said her school for illegal immigrants is based on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights because education is a universal human right. “[It’s] the idea that all people have inherent rights and dignity by virtue of their humanity,” Soltis said, adding that all courses are free. “Not what side of a manmade border they may have been born on or may have crossed in their lifetime, but that they have that inherent dignity.”

“At Freedom University we teach a universal human rights framework so that students don’t think that they are outside the law or that they don’t have rights, which impacts their sense of basic human dignity and worth,” said Soltis, who wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with FU Georgia.

Soltis cited several articles in the UN document that state it is a universal human right to have an education, employment, housing, food, and clothing.

CAP, in fact, is pushing for much more than the protection of DACA students on college campuses.

“In the wake of the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, conversations on how student organizers can work with school administrators to implement policies that are supportive of both DACAmented and undocumented students are more important than ever,” the release on the event said. “Beyond the sanctuary campus movement, we must start talking about the role institutional leaders and campus organizers have in drumming up support for the passage of a clean Dream Act while at the same time working to implement school policies that will support those students who will not be protected or supported by such legislation.”

This push by the liberal think tank comes as Congress debates whether to pass legislation to give amnesty and an eventual pathway to citizenship to more than 800,000 illegal alien youth that is currently protected by DACA.


Trump pledges $200M to boost STEM programs

Ivanka Trump will be in Detroit on Tuesday, joining Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert to promote STEM education and a significant pledge from the private sector to boost computer science education.

The White House announced her visit on the same day President Trump signed a presidential memorandum that directs Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, to steer $200 million in funding Congress has already approved to expand STEM and computer science education in U.S. schools.

Ivanka Trump said too many of the nation's K-12 and postsecondary schools lack access to high-quality STEM education.

"Our goal is for every student across our country, from our rural communities to our inner cities, to have access to the education they need to thrive in our modern economy," Ivanka Trump said, according to the transcript of a media call.

"In our guidance to the Department of Education, we are asking that these programs be designed with gender and racial diversity in mind," Ivanka Trump said on the call. "The administration also recognizes and commends the private sector for their leadership in this space, and is leveraging their expertise to jump-start these programs and inspire the next generation of programmers and innovators."

Trump cited a recent Gallup poll that found 60% of K-12 principals surveyed reported having a single computer science course in their schools. She also cited statistics that show the percent of women in the   computer science workforce  declined from 35.3% in 1990 to 22.2% in 2016, "even though women represent 47% of the overall U.S. labor force."

Reed Cordish, assistant to the president, said the $200 million is "a significant investment that does not require additional legislation."

"It references the need to prioritize the recruitment and training of teachers so that we can ensure that our students are receiving the skills and education that they need to compete in today's economy," Cordish said. "And it also references that technology is always evolving and advancing, and that this must be a continued focus for the administration and for the country."

The $200 million isn't new money. A senior administration official said during the call that the president is simply directing the federal department "to prioritize high-quality STEM and computer science. The funding has already been appropriated by Congress, and it's up to the administration to set its priorities, which this president is doing."


Universities must rediscover the passion for knowledge

General-education courses make learning a tick-box exercise

It’s up to universities to produce well-rounded students, but when courses are forced upon students, they end up doing the opposite. In the US, as it is everywhere, there are more and more students who go to university without a clue of what they want to do with their life. After graduation, many more end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their degree. When they start university, they are forced to sit through a series of subjects they have no interest in because it is said this will help guide them into their career. But these compulsory general-education courses have become pure academic profit-seeking. Instead of swaying students into a career path, they have led to increased apathy and confusion among students.

As tuition fees continue to increase, many students put their university experience on hold to complete their general-education courses at junior colleges instead. Those who do choose to enter into a four-year school immediately often have to endure a series of courses that add no additional value to their course path. For me, on a journalism course, my first-year classes in algebra and art history did nothing to enhance my skills. They just got me in more debt.

Universities have become far less about the enjoyment of learning and far more about their own financial survival – and this is taking its toll on students. I’ve watched many of my classmates switch back and forth between degrees - they wonder which they should aim for or whether the university route was right for them at all. Having students continue to pay for courses that may or may not help them further adds to the confusion. And that confusion doesn’t end when they graduate. It’s rare these days to come across someone who works in the field they went to school for.

Most of my classmates are enthusiastic about the courses that relate to their degree, but often resent the general-education classes they are forced into. Students, including me, often end up spending only a small fraction of time on coursework that does not relate to their chosen subject. These courses are wasted money that feed the ubiquitous disinterest on campus.

At most US universities, you progress down the path to a degree by fulfilling a list of general-education courses that come in limited options. Even in my last year, I’m still paying for classes that don’t benefit my course route except for ticking the box in my degree qualifications. There were several classes I wanted to take that held my interest, but I was unable to because they would not fit the criteria for my degree. Instead, I had to pick whichever classes that were not already full, and which would get me the credits I needed. Many of the courses I was required to take I had already studied before entering university, rendering them redundant and repetitive.

The emphasis on using university solely to get a job after graduating is leading to a major disinterest in actual learning and a decrease in motivation among students. When I tell people about my goals to graduate with Latin honours, I’m often told to save the effort as it won’t matter in the end. As long as I have a degree, I’ll be able to get a job. We’ve lost the ability to foster excellence, hard work and promote the value of education. There has been an increase in the ‘Cs get degrees’ notion, and the tendency to put in only enough effort to make a minimum grade. It is destroying the privilege of having the opportunity to go to university.

General-education courses feed this tick-box culture, while giving students less opportunity to study things that actually interest them. Education stops being enjoyable the second choice is taken away. Students should be able to decide freely what they want to learn instead of being shoved into classes in which they do nothing but surf the internet the whole period. We should be able to enjoy the material that is being covered and learn from it, rather than making minimal effort to pass and gaining nothing from the class itself.

Academic institutions have abandoned the passion for knowledge. Degrees should be earned, not sold. And universities should provide you with the opportunity to learn what you really want to. Instead, they are perpetuating a culture of apathy and putting students under unnecessary financial burden.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Women in science ask fewer questions than men, according to new research

The explanation for the finding can only be speculative but let me add a different speculation to the ones below.  It seems to me that women are more conforming and less original than men.  So they have less to ask questions about

Stereotypes suggest that women love to talk, with some studies even finding that women say three times as much as men. But, new research from a team from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, shows there is an exception to this rule: professional STEM events, which could be indicative of the wider problem of gender inequality in the field.

In new research published in PLOS ONE, the scientists studied question-asking behaviour at a large international conference. The conference, the 2015 International Congress for Conservation Biology, had a clear code of conduct for its 2000 attendees, which promoted equality and prohibited any form of discrimination.

The team observed 31 sessions across the four day conference, counting how many questions were asked and whether men or women were asking them. Accounting for the number of men and women in the audience, the findings show that male attendees asked 80% more questions than female attendees. The same pattern was also found in younger researchers, suggesting that it is not simply due to senior researchers, a large proportion of whom are men, asking all of the questions.

The researchers note that the recognised and ongoing issues of gender inequality in STEM fields and the wider world may be affecting female scientists' confidence and willingness to speak publically. Another interpretation may be that women are more assured in their expertise and do not feel the need to ask as many questions. However, asking questions at conferences is a visible activity that may increase the profile of the questioners. Therefore, regardless of the reason for the gender differences, the fact they exist may be another factor in favour of men in the competitive academic arena.

The study includes a reputational model that evaluates the factors that affect professional standing within the scientific community. While these include tangibles such as the number of articles published, and your academic position, they also include social reputation, which is more linked to appearance and public profile, and therefore potentially more prone to discrimination and stereotyping.

Dr Amy Hinsley, the paper's lead-author and a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford's Department of Zoology, said: "Previous research has shown that men are more likely to be invited to speak at conferences, which is likely to lead to them having a higher social reputation than their female peers. If women feel that they are low status, and have suffered discrimination and bias throughout their career then they may be less likely to participate in public discussions, which will in turn affect their scientific reputation. This negative feedback loop can affect women and men, but the evidence in this study suggests that women are affected more."

The researchers feel strongly that the study should be used as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and inspire discussion about why it is happening.

Dr Alison Johnston, senior author of the study, said: "We want our research to inspire conference organisers to encourage participation among all attendees. For example, questions over Twitter or other creative solutions could be tested. Session chairs could also be encouraged to pick participants that represent the gender in the audience. However, these patterns of behaviour we observed are only a symptom of the bigger issue. Addressing this alone will not solve the problem. We should continue to research and investigate the underlying causes, so we can implement actions that change the bigger picture for women in science. If we are to level the playing field for women in STEM the complex issue of gender inequality has to stay on the agenda."


How 'Teach for America,' Once Focused on Improving Education, Lost Its Way

It started out as a bold idea. It was going to take some of America's best and brightest, convince them to work as a teacher for just two years with some of the kids most in need of quality education and positive role models, and begin the process of radically changing the face of public education. Teach for America started out as a radical idea that tipped over the apple cart of traditional education -- but now? Now it's just another mouthpiece for leftist education rhetoric.

In remaking itself, TFA has subtly downgraded the principles that had won it allies across the spectrum. George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Chris Christie, and Meg Whitman are a few of the Republicans who championed TFA. The group attracted such boldface names, and hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the largest American firms and philanthropies, because it stood for a simple but powerful idea: that teacher quality is the decisive factor in the educational outcomes produced by schools.
Judging by its interventions in recent debates, it isn’t all that clear that senior TFA executives still believe this.

These days, TFA’s voice on charters, accountability, and curricular rigor is decidedly muffled. Such education-reform essentials have been eclipsed in TFA’s discourse by immigration, policing, “queer” and transgender-identity issues, and other left-wing causes. TFA’s message seems to be that until numerous other social ills are cured—until immigration is less restricted, policing becomes more gentle, and poverty is eliminated—an excellent education will elude the poor. That was the status-quo defeatism TFA originally set out to challenge.


Today’s Teach for America is a different story. TFA’s leaders have now fully enlisted the organization in the culture war—to the detriment of its mission and the high-minded civic sensibility that used to animate its work.

This has been most visible in TFA’s response to the 2016 election. TFA chief executive Elisa Villanueva Beard, who took over from Kopp four years ago, doesn’t bother to mask either her progressivism or her revulsion at the new administration. When, a couple of weeks after the election, the president-elect announced his choice of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, Beard’s response was swift and cold.

A November 23 TFA news release began by decrying Trump’s “indisputably hostile and racially charged campaign” and called on DeVos to uphold “diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.” The statement went on to outline 11 TFA demands. Topping the litany was protection of the previous administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which granted legal status to certain illegal immigrants brought into the country as children. Then came the identity-politics checklist: “SAFE classrooms for LGBTQ youth and teachers,” “safe classrooms for students and teachers with disabilities,” “safe classrooms for Muslim students and teachers,” “culturally responsive teaching,” and so on.

The whole thing is an interesting, yet depressing, read. Yet it was somewhat inevitable.

Any group dedicated to education will invariably find itself going down the same path unless the group actively works against it from the beginning. Leftists view education as their sole domain, and they want no one but fellow travelers stepping into their protected waters.

Teach for America failed in one important way. In created no requirement to maintain distance from the political education establishment. Instead, they have become allies of the teacher's unions that had mucked up the American educational system so badly. Leftists will invariably look at any group that touches their turf as land destined to be conquered.

That's what happened with Teach for America, and it'll happen with any other group that comes along.


How to get the most out of school reform

Blaise Joseph writes from Australia:

The focus of education policy must shift from 'more money' to instead investing in cost-effective, evidence-based practices. This is the purpose of the government's 'Gonski 2.0' review, but what does the evidence suggest schools should be investing in?
Give teachers fewer classes and more time outside the classroom.

Australian teachers typically spend an hour more teaching each day compared to the high-achieving countries. This means teachers have less time to plan, refine, and review their lessons, which have significant effects on teaching quality.

Early literacy and numeracy. Intervention to help underachieving students is most effective in early primary years. Teachers' education degrees do not equip them with the language knowledge necessary to effectively teach reading, and phonics instruction is not consistently taught well. Therefore, primary school teachers would be helped by attending professional development to improve reading instruction.

Classroom management training for teachers. Australia has high levels of classroom misbehaviour compared to the top-performing countries. Teacher education degrees do not consistently provide evidence-based practices to prepare teachers to handle misbehaviour. Teachers would benefit from attending professional development to learn and foster evidence-based classroom management techniques.

These investments would not have to cost the taxpayer more. For example, professional development in reading instruction and managing the classroom could be prioritised over less important training, and giving teachers fewer classes could be offset by increasing class sizes.

While theoretically smaller classes should facilitate better teaching, many recent studies indicate reducing class sizes has limited -- and inconsistent -- positive effects. Australia's class sizes are much smaller than several top-performing countries.

Technology is another common school investment not supported by evidence. Australian schools use technology significantly more than most of the OECD, but this hasn't stopped the decline in our literacy and numeracy results.

We must bring evidence back to the forefront of school spending; otherwise, the extra $23.5 billion of Gonski 2.0 funding will fail to improve student outcomes, letting down both students and taxpayers.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Florida: Libertarian student says college is suppressing her speech

A libertarian student says she has repeatedly had her First Amendment rights suppressed by Flagler College in a free speech battle that has been going on for several months.

Administrators recently told Kelli Huck that she could not roll a free speech ball around campus without being sponsored by an official student group.

Months earlier, however, student government rejected her request to start a YAL chapter based on opposition to YAL's "political agenda."

A libertarian student has repeatedly had her First Amendment rights suppressed by Flagler College in a free speech battle that has been going on for several months.

Most recently, student Kelli Huck was prevented from holding a free-speech ball demonstration on campus because she had failed to register the event ten days in advance.

"I wanted to let Flagler students exercise their right to free speech, but the man is keeping me down."   

“You didn’t reserve the space ten days prior to an event with a recognized student organization,” an unidentified administrator informed Huck, suggesting that she “team up with another group that kind of shares the same views,” particularly recommending the Student Government Association (SGA).

However, as Huck responds in a video of the encounter, the SGA has actually denied Huck’s request for official recognition of her Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, thus preventing her from reserving space in the first place.

In fact, Campus Reform reported in March that Flagler’s administration threatened to cancel the same demonstration after the student government denied YAL’s recognition for a second time, accusing the group of “trending towards one certain political agenda.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) later sent two letters to the school, urging SGA and the administration to reverse course.

“Unfortunately, the threat to freedom of speech posed by the SGA’s actions has cascaded into yet another violation of Flagler students’ expressive rights, as YAL’s unrecognized status has now been used as a basis to deny its members the right to engage in expressive activity in the outdoor areas of campus,” FIRE wrote in a March letter. “The actions of both the SGA and the Flagler College administration violate the college’s stated commitment to freedom of expression and must be reversed immediately.”

Huck, however, has yet to be granted official recognition, remarking in a recent Facebook post that just wanted to “advocate civil and economic liberties.”

“I wanted to let Flagler students exercise their right to free speech, but the man is keeping me down,” she wrote. “I got asked to leave campus after having my third free speech ball. [It’s] ridiculous when I just want to advocate civil and economic liberties.”


Time to End Obama-Era DOE Suspension Discrimination

New study shows that poverty and disability are the biggest factors for student suspension, not race

Recall in 2014 Barack Obama’s Education Department instituted a policy aimed at “equalizing” suspension rates between white and black students. As the Associated Press reported at the time, “Black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in school, but almost half of the students suspended more than once.” In instituting the new nationwide policy Obama’s DOE argued that it was needed in order to “dismantle what is commonly named the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’” In fact, the policy was race-based at its heart, with the DOE communicating that it would interpret the “disparate impact” of disciplinary suspensions by race as discriminatory even if there was no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

A 2015 poll showed that 59% of teachers were opposed to the new policy guidelines. (We’re guessing the other 41% were 10% true believers and 31% too afraid to speak up.) And the reason was obvious, as one teacher explained, “There’s nothing going to happen, and the kids know it. It’s hard to keep order in a classroom when the kids know there is no consequence to misbehavior.” As any teacher knows, it’s not a student’s race that gets them in trouble, rather it’s their misbehavior.

Now a study of the policy’s impact on the state of Wisconsin has recently been released. The study reveals that overall school suspension rates have declined, but the highest percentage of suspension rate decline by race was, interestingly, among white children. The study also found that the factors of poverty and disability had the greatest impact on suspension rates, not racial background.

Will Flanders, the study’s author, stated, “I think what we see is that the factors that are impacting suspension rates differ at the district level. We see some districts where maybe there is a racial factor. We see other districts where poverty and disability seem to be the driver.” Flanders argued that the Obama-era policy should be rescinded, saying, “We really shouldn’t be instituting a national policy that we need to be focused on disparate impact, that we should be reducing suspension. What instead we should do is encourage the ‘dear colleague’ [Obama policy] letter to be reversed, and to restore to the school districts themselves, and to the states, the power in determining what policies work best for their school district.” Imagine that.


What These 2 Ohio Lawmakers Are Doing to Kill Colleges’ Censorship

The storm of censorship on college campuses continues to swirl around the country.

In just the past two weeks, students in Texas sought to shout down an invited speaker, and Oregon students silenced their own college president.

But on college campuses and in state legislatures, defenders of free speech are pushing back. With some adjustment, a new proposal in Ohio looks promising.

Last week, Ohio lawmakers assigned a bill to committee to help preserve free speech on Ohio’s public college campuses. Sponsored by state Reps. Wesley Goodman, R-Cardington, and Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, the proposal prohibits state-funded schools from disinviting campus lecturers based on the content of their expression.

The proposal maintains that public colleges and universities must commit themselves to being bastions of free speech:

It is not the proper role of a state institution of higher education to shield individuals from expression protected by the United States … including, without limitation, ideas and opinions that the institution finds unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.

The Goodman-Brenner bill draws on ideas from the Goldwater Institute’s Campus Free Speech Act, which serves as a legislative template for state lawmakers to use in protecting free expression on public college campuses.

The Goldwater model, designed with Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, says that state universities should allow anyone who is lawfully present on a public campus to demonstrate or protest in public areas, like sidewalks and spaces outside of buildings.

It also says colleges should make clear during freshman orientation that they are in favor of free speech and eliminate restrictive speech codes and so-called “free speech zones” on campus.

North Carolina lawmakers passed a law this summer based on the Goldwater model, and two weeks ago, the Wisconsin state university system governing board voted in favor of similar policies.

State representatives in Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Tennessee, and Virginia have considered similar legislation this year.

Recent activity in courts of law demonstrates that the threat to free speech on Ohio college campuses is real. In 2012, a federal court struck down portions of the University of Cincinnati’s speech code, arguing that the school’s restriction of protests to free speech zones violated the First Amendment.

Today, Ohio State University has a restrictive speech code in the form of a “Bias Assessment and Response Team.” This part of the school’s code allows individuals to anonymously accuse others of “bias acts,” which are defined as acts that “contribute to creating an unsafe, negative, or unwelcome environment.”

Campus officials can pursue investigations based on these anonymous tips.

More than 200 colleges and universities across the country have bias response teams. Their activities are both ridiculous and frightening.

Earlier this year, the University of Arizona announced it would pay students for secretly reporting on their peers. (The university later removed the job posting and said it would change the title of the position after media reports criticized the school’s actions.)

The University of Michigan announced a new position to coordinate the school’s bias response team activities, which included “cultural appropriation prevention activities.” That job listing has also since been removed.

The Ohio proposal begins to address restrictive speech codes like this, but it is missing key provisions meant to stop free speech violations. Legislators should include consequences, including suspension and expulsion, for individuals that block others from expressing their ideas.

Such measures date back to at least the 1970s, when a Yale University commission recommended sanctioning students for violating the First Amendment.

The Goldwater model includes language to accomplish this, along with due process protections for those accused of violating someone else’s free speech. It is vital that these provisions be included along with sanctions.

Students who are accused of materially and substantially infringing on other people’s rights to free expression should be informed of the charges against them, given adequate notice of when hearings on their case will be held, and given the ability to find representation.

Free speech is the cornerstone of a free and civilized society. It should not be controversial, especially on college campus.

State lawmakers and university officials should protect all students’ rights to express themselves. They shouldn’t have to wait until the rumblings of censorship are at their door for policymakers to act.