Friday, June 29, 2018

There are good reasons why poor British children struggle in school

Barbara Ellen below has a point about expectations but she misses a lot.  The British class system is rather imprisoning but it is possible to break out of it and move into middle class lives.  Plenty do. They have to change their accent to do so but beyond that the main requirement is brains.

There is good evidence that for a long time now in Britain smart people have been moving into middle and upper class circles -- so that the class continuum is largely now in Britain an IQ continuum.  There are dumb aristocrats but they rapidly become poor aristocrats.

So the poorly performing working class British children are largely that way because they were born that way. Migrant children are the product of different selective pressures.

Are underprivileged migrant schoolchildren just smarter or are they harder workers than other children with similar backgrounds? Or perhaps it’s just that hope hasn’t been drained out of migrant families? Yet.

Schools in deprived areas with a high intake of white, working-class children tend to receive poor Ofsted assessments, while those with a high proportion of migrant children fare significantly better. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, puts this down in part to white, working-class communities suffering the “full brunt of economic dislocation in recent years and, as a result, can lack the aspiration and drive seen in many migrant communities”. Which sounds about right, except that nothing about this seems recent. The very problem is that it’s ingrained.

It seems farcical to pit poor “indigenous” kids against poor migrant kids (they’d have plenty in common – poverty, for one thing). It also barely needs stating that most migrant children would be dealing with many challenges that make their achievements all the more impressive. However, there’s one factor that migrant children might not have to contend with – the generation above them (maybe even two or three generations) being systemically ground down by entrenched lack of opportunity and the prevailing atmosphere of demotivation that this generates.

This could produce two markedly different environments in otherwise economically similar homes. The migrant family (still full of hope about opportunities in Britain) sends the child off to school with the incentivising message: “Work hard, and you’ll get somewhere.” Then there’s the other family, the end product of generations that have seen industry collapse, communities devastated, higher education monetised, apprenticeships disappear. Where are they supposed to find the will or the energy to say to their children: “Work hard and you’ll get somewhere”? Could they be blamed for thinking that it’s a lie?

With this in mind, it’s a miracle that so many disadvantaged families continue to encourage and support their children at school. If some don’t, the reason seems to be rather more complex than “poor Britons don’t give a toss about their kids’ schooling”, when the vast majority do. Far from being uncaring and indifferent, these parents, like their parents before them, could simply be exhausted and demotivated, not to mention ashamed and embarrassed. After all, these are communities that have been practically gaslit by a society that, for all the glaring inequality, has the gall to tell them that it’s all their own fault they didn’t get anywhere.

The result is a deeply embedded hopelessness that migrant families, for all their other challenges, have yet to experience or, indeed, pass on as a toxic inter-generational inheritance. Put bluntly, it could be that deep-rooted despair and cynicism about life chances in the UK hasn’t managed to kick the spirit out of migrants yet. Well done to migrant children for doing well at school; let’s hope that it isn’t bred out of them.


It's Past Time We Tackled U.S. Education Reform

While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been the source of several negative and polarizing news stories since her appointment, there have actually been very few major news items about what the Department of Education is doing.

We have some idea of what the future of the Department will be, given that it is part of a larger Trump Administration plan to consolidate government. The plan, as of now, is to combine Education and Labor into one Cabinet-level department, the Department of Education and the Workforce.

However, supporters of Betsy DeVos – myself included – have not seen much in terms of education policy coming from her office. Things, by and large, appear to be running as they have been, and aside from her rolling back Title IX memoranda for colleges going after sexual assault, there has been little to celebrate.

Frankly, it appears as though the faith we had in DeVos to be a driving force behind education reform was for naught. There has been no major push for any reform, and there appears to be no sign of any push on the horizon.

Congress, controlled by Republicans, has similarly done very little on education despite reform being a part of the Republican Party’s list of goals for years. President Donald Trump hasn’t talked about it, and Republican pundits are so busy discussing the Trump tweet of the moment or pushing back against the latest media critique that they have simply not had the time to address some of the lofty goals that the administration had signaled they would be pursuing.

However, prior to Trump’s candidacy and seemingly-impossible nomination and election, education was considered by many to be the next big issue Americans would have to grapple with. And it should be.

Education, and reforming what education is in America, is the topic of conversation that always gets left for when there seems to be nothing else to talk about, and in treating it that way, it is always left until the last minute, giving us terrible policies like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and encouraging states to accept Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by dangling money in front of them in exchange.

While those policies are no longer in play (NCLB has since been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the CCSS has received major pushback from both the Right and the Left), the mentality that led to them is still firmly in place.

We should be having the conversations. We should be working to improve the education system, public and private, so that we provide our children with the best possible education we can offer them.

That means we have to talk about private school vouchers, school choice, public school funding, free pre-Kindergarten and college, and every other issue in between.

DeVos supporters saw in her a chance to push for greater access to school choice, an issue that appears to be overwhelmingly supported by the American public. A Gallup poll from August 2017 shows that the majority of Republicans and Democrats prefer private schools over public schools. In January, the American Federation For Children released it’s national school choice poll, showing nearly two-thirds of Americans support the idea of school choice.

But, there has been little movement on that front, and given the attention that the President and his administration seem to be paying to higher-profile issues like immigration and tariffs it’s easy to see why: School choice and education reform don’t make for attention-grabbing headlines.

Granted school choice isn’t the only education reform policy on the table, but it is one of the more widely-debated ones, and it’s one of the reforms that government can have a big, public hand in promoting or renouncing, making it incredibly political.

What kinds of reforms can we push that really only require local and state input or are teacher-centric? How about continuing the push for more access to STEM education? How do we accomplish that?

These are the conversations parents should want to see more of if they don’t want to already. One reason the child separation policy disturbed people so much is that it had a decidedly negative impact on children. The same goes for education.

You can make or break a child’s future by giving them or denying them access to the best possible education. Why don’t we focus more on giving them that education and that future?

As a conservative, as a parent, and as an educator, I hope we can start having these discussions. I hope that we can get our politicians to take part – not by playing political games but by actually discussing, debating, and voting on these issues. I hope we can get the Department of Education to be more proactive in seeking and implementing good reforms that benefit our students, not just one type of school over another.

It’s high time we did all of this and more. For our children’s sake.


Australia: Real reason teachers walk away

Unending, deadening, bureaucratic interference with their work

HALF of our teachers are quitting within five years of graduating. We’re at crisis point, and as one teacher explains, it’s not changing.

THOUSANDS of Australian teachers are abandoning their careers every year, leaving our students much worse off. Something is seriously wrong in our education system.

Gabbie Stroud had high hopes walking into her career as a teacher. She was dedicated, and loved working with kids. But over a decade, she was worn down by the system. Below is an extract of her new book, Teacher, showing why it’s more than the daily grind that’s pushing our educators to the brink:

I HAD arrived at school earlier than usual, signing a form at daycare agreeing to pay the extra fifteen bucks for an early drop-off. I needed to prepare an activity for my class. We had been reading Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, and today we were going to search the school for a lost green sheep. It would be a chance for students to get familiar with the layout of the school as well as engaging them in a rich literacy task. Boxes ticked. One day closer to maternity leave.

On coloured paper I had drawn and laminated sheep — a blue sheep, a red sheep, a yellow sheep, an orange sheep — and I was dotting them around the school. One had been taped to the underside of the slippery dip. Another had been pinned to the tuckshop menu board. I would deliver a couple to classrooms as well. The green sheep himself, a plush soft toy, would be waiting for us in the Principal’s office. The Principal seemed bemused by the entire activity, but had agreed to play along.

I hustled into Gretel’s class and explained the activity while she started up the bank of computers against the back wall of her classroom. “Sounds great,” she said, never looking up. “Sit it on my desk and when you bring your class down to find it. I’ll do the whole shocked and surprised routine.”

“Thanks.” I dropped off the orange sheep and lumbered out the door. I glanced at my watch. Twenty minutes until show time. One sheep left to deposit.

“Hey, Lana.” I knocked on her door, but didn’t wait for her welcome. “Can I please leave this sheep in here with you? And then later this morning I’ll come down with the Kindies?”

“I can’t do this,” Lana said, and for a moment I thought she was talking about my activity.

“Okay.” I took a step backwards. “I can ask someone else.” There was something about her face I didn’t recognise, even though I’d been teaching with her for years. But then it clicked and I did recognise it and I was terrified. It was stress. And defeat. And possibly desperation. All brought to life on the pale, frowning face of my long-time colleague and friend.

“No,” she said and slumped forward in her seat. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.” She shoved at the paperwork in front of her. “None of it!” She shook her head.

I moved towards her, abandoning the red sheep and putting my arm around her shoulders. Outside a child shouted, Too bad, so sad! and there was the tattoo of school shoes across the concrete.

“I know, it’s so exhausting,” I said, rubbing my hand across her back. “Let’s just take a minute and have a cry and then we’ll get our s**t together, hey?”

“No,” she said. Her stare was defiant. “I can’t do it anymore.” Tears started streaming and I felt panic grip me. I glanced at my watch. Fifteen minutes.

I’ve got to get her together. I need another teacher in here, but I don’t want to leave her. S**t! She’s got car keys in her hands. She is really sobbing. This isn’t a brief breakdown, this is something else.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” I said with a voice that was warm and confident and reassuring. It was my teacher voice — Lana had one too — but she looked at me in the same way a little one does when they’ve spilled an entire tub of yoghurt down their front. “I’m going to call Pip because her class goes to the library this morning and she’ll come and take your class. So we can stop worrying about that.”

Lana looked at me, nodded, and asked for some tissues. I found the box and passed them to her.

“Then I’m going to ring the Principal. I’m going to tell him to get a relief teacher for your class for the rest of the day.”

She nodded again. “Thanks,” she whispered. “You’re probably just really tired,” I said and squeezed her arm.

“No!” Her voice was loud. Wild. “This isn’t tired! This is something else. This is … This is … I can’t do this anymore.” New tears came and she leaned over her desk, over the books and the papers and the laptop and the awards and the stickers, and sobbed.

I made the phone calls and our teaching community rallied. Madge offered to take my class for a bit and I sat with Lana until she had stopped sobbing and shaking. “I’m so sorry,” she was saying. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

The Principal came to her room, sat beside her and found his teacher voice, too. He talked about stress leave and mental health and going home right now and not to worry — we would sort out the details later.

“I’m sorry,” Lana said again. “It’s okay,” he said. “And don’t apologise. Happens to the best of us.”

I found her bag and phone and I watched her go, bent over and frail like someone sick, very sick, about to die.

That’s me, I thought. That’s going to happen to me. And the baby rolled inside, uncomfortable under my skin.


“I can’t believe it,” I said. We were in the library after school, waiting for the staff meeting to begin, debriefing about Lana and wondering how she was feeling now.

“I mean, Lana’s so steady and calm and bombproof. She never seems stressed or frazzled. You never see her busting someone’s arse at the photocopier because she’s left things to the last minute and needs to jump the queue.”

“Appearances can be deceiving,” Jule said. “We all wear stress in different ways,” added Madge. “She’ll come good,” the Principal said. “Eventually.”

“You reckon?” I could still see her face — that was the face of a teacher having a breakdown.  “I’ve seen it before,” he said. “Plenty of times.”

Something about the way he said it, that nonchalant, casual manner, made me feel like exploding all over the room. I wanted to see my body fly against the walls in wet, red, meaty splatters. I closed my eyes for a moment, wondered at this anger that kept flaring inside me. Then, I took a breath and asked, “So what are we doing about it?”

He shrugged, opened his diary. “Nothing we can do. Okay — let’s start this meeting. First up, funding cuts.”


“Are you okay?” I was lurching out of my car, willing my body to move faster to get to my friend, to hold her and hug her.

Lana nodded and watched me, framed in her doorway. She was in trackies and uggies, and her face was bare. “I’ve never seen you in trackies,” I said.

“Or without make-up, probably,” she said. She tried to force a laugh, but it turned to a sob, and I stood there and hugged her as close as I could with the buffer of a baby between us. “Thanks for coming around,” she said, ushering me inside.

“I’m worried about you,” I said. About me, I thought.

“It’s stress,” she said simply, flicking on the kettle and pulling mugs from the cupboard. “I’ve seen the doctor; even saw a psychologist today. I just can’t seem to find a way to make my work and my life manageable.”

I nodded, watching as she moved about her kitchen. There was a weariness to her, like she was just out of hospital and recovering from surgery.

“Let me,” I said and took her place in the kitchen, making tea and finding biscuits.

“I mean, I’ve got some hormonal stuff that needs sorting out,” she said. “At my age, that’s pretty normal. But I just can’t see how I’m meant to go on being a teacher for another 20 years. I think about those professional teaching standards coming in and I just think, When am I going to get those done?”

“I try not to think about them,” I said. “Or the national curriculum.”

“Oh, my God,” Lana said. “That as well. I’m a teacher with over 25 years of experience, but these past few years none of that seems good enough. I’ve got to learn this new teaching technique and integrate new technology and promote the school at this thing on the weekend and help that student manage his emotions …” She sniffed. “I just wonder where it’s all going to end?”

“Me too,” I agreed.

“I bet you’re getting excited about the baby.”

“Yeah,” I said, touching my belly. “Probably for all the wrong reasons though.”

“Maternity leave?”

“Yep,” I admitted.

“I get it,” she said. “I get it.”

I stayed until Lana’s husband came home from work, watched as they embraced and she found fresh tears. Driving home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just had a glimpse of my future. This baby would buy me time away from the classroom, but then what? I would have to return and continue the battle, slogging it out day after day with big dark shadows of standardisation lurking over my head.

Part of me felt like sobbing, just like Lana.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Now 21 Hillsdale schools

Hillsdale College is a selective, top-ranked college in Michigan, known for the classical liberal arts and for its independence from government funding

Here at Hillsdale, we think it’s time to stop complaining about the decline of American K-12 education. Instead, it is time to fix it.

If you know a child in elementary or high school, chances are high that he or she is not getting the kind of education that prepares them for good and useful citizenship. And nothing is more critical to the future of liberty than how we educate our children.

For decades, so-called “progressives” have systematically undermined American K-12 education—which was once world-class. Tried and true methods are rejected. Truth is denied. History is badly taught. And here are the sad results:

Plummeting knowledge in everything from math to history
Record rates of depression, violence, drug use, and teen pregnancy Ignorance of, and even disdain for, the values critical to informed patriotism and free government

Since 1844, the mission of Hillsdale College has been to offer the kind of collegiate education needed to preserve “the blessings of civil and religious liberty.” And now it is working to return excellence to American K-12 education through its Barney Charter School Initiative.

The schools founded under Hillsdale’s guidance emphasize three things that have gone missing: Rigorous classical education. Moral character formation. And deep civic knowledge.

Despite fierce opposition in many locations, Hillsdale-affiliated K-12 charter schools are succeeding and growing. There are currently 21 of these schools operating in nine different states, with more schools opening each year.

The battle over American K-12 education is the battle over America’s future. It is a battle we can win and it is a battle we must win

Via email from

Growing Public Employee Benefits to Force School Cuts

 By and large, Americans support spending more money on public education and schools.

That general rule of thumb comes, however, with a caveat. Americans expect that when they give public schools more money, this will help to fund the education of their children and to support programs that promote their children’s development, such as athletics or the arts.

What they don’t expect is for the money they give to be siphoned off in ways that will either never show up in a classroom or that will never benefit their children.

But sadly, that’s exactly what is happening at school districts around the country, because of the increasing cost of public employee benefits. The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times recently weighed in on the worsening fiscal state of the L.A. Unified School District, where health care and pension benefits provided to the school district’s teachers, administrators, and employees are projected to drive the district into insolvency:

If it needed any more prodding about the looming budget pitfalls, the Los Angeles Unified School District certainly got it this week. An analysis by the nonprofit journalism organization CALmatters showed that the cost of L.A. Unified’s employee benefits has been growing faster than its base funding for five years. And a report by an outside task force put the district’s dilemma in blunt terms:

“L.A. Unified is facing a structural budget deficit which threatens its long-term viability and its ability to deliver basic education programs. The District’s own forecasts show it will have exhausted its reserve fund balance by 2020-21, will have a budget deficit of $400 million in 2020-21, and therefore be insolvent.”

The report noted that the district’s pension contributions will rise dramatically in coming years. And for the report’s ultimate shocker, there’s this: Within 13 years, the district’s healthcare and pension costs will eat up more than half its annual budget.

That grim fiscal scenario is already diminishing the quality of education in L.A.’s public schools when compared to school districts around the country that have similar student demographics according to CALMatters’ report:

According to these data, L.A. Unified’s salaries and health costs per teacher are higher, even when they are adjusted for cost of living, and it provides less instructional time.

L.A.’s Unified School District is providing a raw deal to Los Angeles’s taxpaying families, who are paying more for public school employees but getting less public education for their children in return.

The saddest part of the editorial is the revelation that the public school employees are fighting any fiscally responsible reform of their benefits and appear to be counting on getting bailed out by California’s cash-strapped state government, which has public employee pension funding problems that are already causing cutbacks in public services.

Without serious reform to put public school districts like L.A. Unified on a fiscally sustainable path, expect taxpayers around the country to confront similar situations, over and over again.


British Teachers 'upskirted' and 'downbloused' by pupils in class, union warns

Female teachers are being "upskirted" and "downbloused" by pupils in class and schools are failing to properly protect staff, a union has warned.

Teaching unions are reporting an increase in teenagers taking photographs under teachers' skirts or down their tops.

Images taken covertly are later emerging on social media platforms such as Snapchat, they have reported, with some victims later suffering depression.

Sion Amlyn, of the NASUWT union, said women teachers were not being protected properly.

He said: "Quite disturbingly there's an increase in the practice of upskirting or downblousing by pupils on teachers and that has a detrimental affect on the wellbeing of our members. "They suffer from depression, they don't want to go back to work again and in our mind, more needs to be done to tackle this kind of practice.

"Schools are trying. There are mechanisms in schools to tackle this, but I don't think they are being used properly or adequately."

The union said that almost one in five teachers (19 per cent) claimed to have had "adverse" comments made about them by pupils and parents on social media.

There is currently no law against upskirting in England and Wales - with victims only able to seek justice under other laws.

Prime Minister Theresa May is intending to bring in a new law later this year that would see anyone guilty of upskirting facing a potential two-year jail term.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The true mission of the lawsuit against Harvard

Boston's ALEX BEAM is advocating racism below.  Compared to other forms of racism, affirmative action is the big gorilla.  It's amazing how brazen the Left are in their obsession with race

Alex does however slip a little bit of news into his article:  Harvard has recently started to admit more Asians.  Apparently they are feeling the heat.  Discriminating against a minority is pretty obnoxious

Harvard should probably encourage more admissions from India. Southern Indians in particular are often quite dark and also quite bright. The amazing Indian Mars shot was the work of South Indian engineers. And Harvard's wealth is so great that poor Indians could be supported. So when the bigots at Harvard look out their windows they would see a satisfying expanse of black skin -- perhaps enough to give them erections

Students for Fair Admissions couldn’t care less about Asian-American students. The true mission of SFFA and its president, Edward Blum, is to end all race preferences, not just in university admissions but also in politics and in the workplace.

Asian-Americans, a confected category that lumps in third-generation students of Indian heritage, many from prosperous families, with the children of Vietnamese boat people in Dorchester, generally fare well in elite university admissions. But for Blum, they are a useful tool in his broad-based anti-affirmative action crusade. His real targets are African-American and Latino students, for whom most affirmative action programs are designed.

Blum, a successful investment adviser, is not a gadfly litigant. He has shepherded cases to the Supreme Court, where he has won some and lost some. If his anti-Harvard lawsuit succeeds — a big if — black and Latino admissions across the country will plummet, redounding to the advantage of, well, everyone who isn’t black or brown.

Suing Harvard is cynical in the extreme. Harvard, one of the very few US colleges rich enough to afford “need-blind” admissions — meaning it can admit or reject students without considering their ability to pay the huge tuition bills — has recently increased Asian-American admissions. Present and past administrations actually care about admitting a “diverse” student body. But if Blum’s front groups sued Houston’s St. Thomas University, that wouldn’t generate the headlines that keep SFFA in the public eye, and keep its donor base motivated.

Harvard, naturally, doesn’t want pop-up pressure groups nor a federal judge telling it whom it can and cannot admit. It claims it needs to protect its admissions “trade secrets,” but it really wants to keep admitting exactly whom it pleases. That means a hefty dollop of future doctors, Supreme Court justices, captains of industry, and NFL quarterbacks, but also legacy dunderheads, i.e., the grandsons and granddaughters of the family names that bedeck its libraries, buildings, and residential halls.

I’m sure another “trade secret” Harvard doesn’t want aired out in court is their pay-to-play admission policy. (Details of its shadowy, legacy-friendly, “Z-list” for marginal admission candidates have already surfaced in connection with the SFFA suit.) Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, a convicted felon, gave Harvard $2.5 million to ease his son’s admissions path, according to Daniel Golden’s 2006 book “The Price of Admission.” “There was no way anybody in the school thought [Kushner] would on the merits get into Harvard,” according to a former official at Kushner’s New Jersey private school. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.”

Charles Kushner may have overpaid. In 2015, hacked Sony Pictures e-mails revealed how then-chairman Michael Lynton “was finalizing a gift of rare photographs to Harvard’s Fogg Museum worth several hundred thousand dollars,” and simultaneously donating $1 million to Brown University while his daughter was considering applying to both schools. Brown admitted her to the class of 2019. Brown said Lynton’s dealings with its advancement office had “no connection or involvement in the admission process.”

The core issue raised by the SFFA lawsuit is relatively simple: In what many airily proclaim to be a “post-racial” world, should black- and brown-skinned college applicants still benefit from affirmative action? Blum, who declines to discuss the case, and his outriders say no. So far, America’s major universities and the Supreme Court say yes.

It’s possible this case could reach a Donald Trump-fashioned Supreme Court in three years, and — anything could happen.


Popularity of UK among business students climbs after Brexit

Survey suggests Britain’s exit from EU may not be as damaging to higher education as feared

The popularity of the UK among business students has improved since the country voted to leave the EU, a global survey has found, suggesting that Brexit will not be as damaging to Britain’s higher education sector as some have feared.

The UK was second only to the US as the most popular place to study among the 1,211 students, from 74 countries, who were interviewed by Carrington Crisp, an education research group.

But while the proportion saying they would pick a business school in the US slipped to 62 per cent in 2018 compared with 67 per cent last year, the UK rose in popularity, with 52 per cent choosing it as a potential destination this year, against 44 per cent in 2017.

The findings suggest that a country’s reputation as a place to study rests on more than its political leadership or perceived economic stability, said Andrew Crisp, chief executive of Carrington Crisp.

International students are turning to the UK as a “less bad” alternative to the US, he added, saying: “The US is less popular, hence people turn to other English-speaking countries.”

The UK may have also benefited from the perception that it is cheaper after sterling dropped in value after Britain’s referendum on EU membership in 2016, according to Mr Crisp.

However, the UK should not be complacent about its reputation with international students, said Anne Kiem, chief executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, which counts 120 UK institutions among its members.

Visa restrictions on overseas students hoping to work in the UK after graduation had greatly damaged the UK’s standing in certain countries, particularly India, she added.

When asked which countries were the most welcoming in terms of student visas, the respondents to the Carrington Crisp survey placed the UK in fifth place behind Ireland, Germany, France and Canada.

The US was in 11th place, with only 30 per cent stating that it had an easy visa system.

“[Britain] should be encouraging people to come, not trying to frighten them off,” said Ms Kiem, adding that despite recent changes to the UK visa regime to allow more health professionals from outside the EU to work in Britain, international students were still included by the government in its calculation of net migration.

“It is hard to see the consistency in that,” she said.

The government has a goal of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” each year.


How universities can beat the cheats by finding 'fingerprints' in their essays

The telltale signs of a cheat could be lurking in a comma or a seemingly innocuous double space after a full stop.

As universities grapple with a rise in contract cheating – which involves students outsourcing their assessments – technology is clamping down on the unethical practice by monitoring students' unique writing styles.

The software, which has been created by US-based company Turnitin and will be launched later this year, is being developed and tested at Australian institutions including Deakin University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong and the University of Queensland.

Forensic linguists – the experts who scrutinise ransom notes and suspicious wills – helped identify 70 different factors that feed into a person’s unique writing style.

These include the use of commas, parentheses and dashes, how they list examples and whether they double space after a full stop.

Turnitin vice-president of product management Bill Loller is reluctant to go into more detail, because he’s concerned it could lead to contract cheating websites modifying their essays to escape scrutiny.

“There are unique fingerprints around writing,” Mr Loller said.  “It's very unique in that it doesn't vary across your writing, whatever you do, you always do.”

The cheating detection software also calculates a student’s readability score and compares this with previous essays they have submitted.

Machine-learning algorithms determine whether students are writing at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. Their writing style, content, vocabulary variety and sentence complexity is assessed, and if there is a significant difference between two essays submitted by the same student, alarm bells start ringing.

“These give away whether the document has been written by the same person,” Mr Loller explained.

The software also helps university staff scrutinise the metadata of essays to pick up anomalies.

Mr Loller said his company decided to tackle contract cheating after receiving a visit from Australian university representatives in the wake of the MyMaster scandal uncovered by Fairfax Media in 2014.

That investigation revealed that thousands of students had paid up to $1000 for a Sydney company to write their university essays and assignments and sit online tests.

Mr Loller said contract cheating was a lot more nuanced and difficult to prove than plagiarism, which his company had previously focused on.

“Teachers and tutors have this gut instinct that something isn’t right when they see a paper but they don’t know what to do. They might talk to a student and a student might wave their hands and say, 'I did it, or I was a little off and had a drink the night before.' But it is really hard to prove and it is time consuming.”

In some cases, it has taken university staff up to 40 hours to prove one case of contract cheating.

While the new technology doesn’t conclusively say whether a student has engaged in contract cheating, it provides university staff with a detailed report on the likelihood of cheating and may recommend further investigation.

University of South Australia plagiarism expert Tracey Bretag tested the technology with essays her university had already deemed to be examples of contract cheating. The technology was useful in identifying them.

Dr Bretag's research found that 6 per cent of Australian students had engaged in cheating. This included obtaining an assignment to submit as their own, giving or receiving exam assistance and engaging in exam impersonation.

She said the new tool was “potentially very useful” but some students would always find a way around it. She said cheating students were inserting white Hebrew characters, invisible to the naked eye, into essays in an attempt to dupe plagiarism software.

“People who want to cheat are always going to find a way to cheat. We can't stamp it out 100 per cent,” she sad. “If we keep putting in place a lot of things to show we do care about this, we will reduce their ability, they will think 'this is getting hard'.”


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trump wants to merge the US education and labor departments. It isn’t a terrible idea

For decades, Republicans have attempted, and failed, to abolish the US Department of Education. Former president Ronald Reagan was the first to try to take an axe to it in 1981, just two years after it was established by his democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter in 1979. Last year, House Republicans tried again.

Now the Trump administration has announced the latest idea to kill the agency, this time by merging it with the Department of Labor. As first reported by Education Week, the plan is part of the White House’s goal to shrink the federal government by eliminating what it considers inefficient or unwanted programs. Education professionals, already traumatized by the hostile approach of education secretary Betsy DeVos, are reacting with understandable horror.

But there are reasons why merging the departments, or at least some of their functions, makes sense. One of the biggest challenges facing the US is remaining economically competitive in the decades, and centuries, to come. Aligning the two departments charged with developing the workforce under a shared vision and direction could help fix what so far has been a scattershot and ineffective approach.

There are lots of reasons to be wary, however. If Trump’s ambition is simply to reduce spending, it’s hard to imagine any merger would be engineered to protect and enhance the critical role of both departments. The timing is also suspicious. A pledge to merge the Department of Education out of existence would be a gift to conservatives a day after Trump was accused of caving into liberal protests over his administration’s hardline policy of separating families detained at the US-Mexico border. But that doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t have merit, given the extraordinary need for the US to cohere around an educational strategy that prepares its citizens for an uncertain future.

It’s no secret that the US education system isn’t producing workers who can fill the jobs of today, much less tomorrow. In a PwC survey of 104 CEOs (pdf), 32% said they were “extremely concerned” about not being able to find workers with the necessary skills.

A landmark 2007 study commissioned by Congress and produced by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine issued a dark warning that the advantages in science and technology the US had enjoyed since World War II were under threat.

Although many people assume that the United States will always be a world leader in science and technology, this may not continue to be the case inasmuch as great minds and ideas exist throughout the world. We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost—and the difficulty of recovering a lead once lost, if indeed it can be regained at all.

The study recommended significant investments in education spending and teacher training to improve outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and math. But if anything, the outlook has only worsened since the study was released. The US spends more per student than any other industrialized country, yet its pupils rank in the middle of the pack.

While automation and robots are helping to answer the skills shortage for industry, their adoption is creating further disruption for lower-skilled US workers. There is already a growing crisis of unemployed blue-collar men displaced by technology and international competition. A 2017 McKinsey report (pdf) suggests that without massive investments in re-training, the US could face widespread unemployment and wage depression.

While training has been the purview of the education system, re-training has traditionally fallen to industry, unions, or arrangements cobbled together by local and state job boards and colleges, with results that are mixed at best.

The coming problem is too big for half measures. It’s increasingly clear that a comprehensive national strategy is required, and it needs coordination at the top. Merging the departments of education and labor isn’t the only way to accomplish that goal, but it’s not an idea that should be rejected out of hand, either.

Of course, any merger proposal will need approval from Congress, and given the appropriate skepticism about the administration and its aims, it seems unlikely to give it. It may, however, start a necessary conversation about the future of America’s workforce.


Open Letter to School Boards Everywhere: Stop Renaming Your Schools After Obama

It was bad enough that pretty much within seconds of Barack Obama winning the presidency there seemed to be a rush to rename schools to honor the newly elected first black president. According to Wikipedia, eighteen schools in fourteen states have so far been named or renamed in honor of the 44th president. According to another Wikipedia article (which is incomplete and out-of-date) Obama already has enough schools named after him to rival John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson.

The latest school to jump on the Obama bandwagon is the  J. E. B. Stuart Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. This week, the school board voted 6-1 to rename the predominantly African-American school named after a Confederate general Barack Obama Elementary School.

When the school board first voted to rename the school, seven options were up for consideration, five of which were named for people. Of the five people considered, all but Obama were local figures, including Oliver Hill, a civil rights attorney who played a significant role in ending “separate but equal”; Barbara Johns, a civil rights leader; Albert Norrell, a long-time educator from a family of educators in Richmond for over a century; and Henry Marsh, another civil rights leader and the first African-American mayor of Richmond. Anyone of these would have been a more fitting and deserving individual to have a school named after them. This community clearly values the contributions of civil rights leaders who have had a positive impact on African-Americans, yet they honored a man whose “positive” impact on African-Americans is largely symbolic, and whose actual impact has been negative. In fact, Barack Obama was perhaps the worst president for African-Americans since Lyndon B. Johnson.

Obama’s election had been seen as a watershed moment in our nation’s history—a post-racial America is what his admirers said we’d have if he was elected. But, a majority of Americans recognize that despite Obama being the first black president, race relations took a huge step back on his watch. Instead of being a symbol of empowerment of black America, Obama reinforced racial animus by supporting Black Lives Matter, selectively enforcing laws on a racial basis, and by often falsely assuming racial motives in high-profile cases of police being accused of excessive force. By doing this, Obama deliberately exacerbated tensions between black communities and law enforcement, causing a huge spike in cop killings.

The Obama economy wasn’t easy for America, but it was disproportionately more difficult for black Americans. The Obama “recovery” was the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression but black Americans saw an even slower recovery than the country as a whole. The Trump economy has done more to lift black America than the Obama economy ever did.

Obama also gave credence to the falsehood that racism motivated his critics, even claiming that he was a victim of racism while in office. Obama’s former senior advisor David Axelrod even said, "It's indisputable that there was a ferocity to the opposition and a lack of respect to him that was a function of race.” Almost any policy disagreement with Obama was met with the play of the race card against his opposition. If the race card wasn’t played by Obama, then it was a member of his administration, Democrats in Congress, Hollywood, or the media.

Obama’s record as president is also hardly deserving of praise. Obama’s spending spree, beginning with the 2009 stimulus, did little for the economy, but added more debt than all his predecessors combined. The Obama economy was plagued with high unemployment, high gas prices, stagnant wages, a decline of entrepreneurship, record poverty, record food stamp usage and much more he wouldn’t want credit for. His foreign policy milestones read like a list of blunders: the Libyan intervention, Iran, Syria, Egypt, the Arab Spring, Israel, the Russian reset, losing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the rise of ISIS.

Contrary to popular belief, Obama’s presidency was plagued by over thirty scandals—many of which would have seen another president impeached. Naming a school after this man is as insulting as awarding him a Nobel Peace Prize despite having done nothing to earn it.

Which brings me back to my point that Obama’s presidency (and legacy) will always be remembered more fondly than it ever deserves to be, not because of any actual positive accomplishment but because of what his election symbolized. The election of the first black president was no small thing, but it was wasted on a man who used his unique status to divide the country instead of unite it. By the time he left office the world was a far more dangerous place than it was before Obama took office.

Whether it’s a school board choosing to honor Obama by naming a school after him, a municipality naming a street for him, or a state honoring him with a holiday… it doesn’t matter, they all honor a failed, corrupt presidency. It sends a terrible message to the students at these schools, who have far better role models whose contributions positively impacted the African-American community and the country as a whole.


Australia needs more private universities

More private universities would introduce diversity into higher education

Pressure is building to allow more private universities into the higher education sector, as the industry begins to rationalise.

Private providers and industry experts say it's time to open up the university sector which has 39 publicly funded universities but only four that are private.

Government data shows three of the four private universities ranked highest on a survey of overall student experience last year. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey showed the top three also scored above 90 per cent on a ranking of overall educational experience, where the industry average was 78.4 per cent.

Professor of economics and dean of business at Alphacrucis​ College – a private higher education provider in Sydney – Paul Oslington, says the biggest barrier to new private universities is a hostile public policy environment.

And writing in today's Australian Financial Review, Professor Oslington says the public universities are strongly averse to competition from entrants.

"Public universities have campaigned against government funding for students choosing private higher education, even when degrees are accredited by the same body and according to the same standards as degrees offered by the public universities."

Ground shifting

The comments come as the ground shifts under public universities, with Adelaide University and the University of South Australia beginning merger talks, and after the debacle when a public university turned down a multimillion-dollar philanthropic donation from the Ramsay Centre on grounds of autonomy.

National sector leader, education, at consultants KPMG and a former university vice-chancellor, Stephen Parker, says there are restrictions on new entrants to the uni business that protect quality. But they are also prohibiting diversity.

Professor Parker said the sector had reached a size where it warranted reform. "We can't do anything to prejudice our global reputation. But the time has come to carefully free up the system."

He said in the face of disruption the time had come for the uni sector to focus on diversity. New higher education providers, with different business models could offer courses in specialised fields.

Apart from the four private universities (Bond, Notre Dame, University of Divinity and Torrens University) there are more than 140 non-university higher education providers, including religious, business and performing arts colleges.

National education leader at consultants PwC, David Sacks, said the public/private divide was a distraction. Public unis are required to do research, have comprehensive offerings and operate on a big scale.

Private providers are smaller and have the freedom to follow a particular mission and specialise. If government changed the settings the result would be more diversity in higher education.

He said the choice was whether Australia wanted more sustainability by keeping the uni system as it is or whether the settings could be changed to drive growth.

Mr Sacks said anything that made the sector more student-outcome focused was welcome. He noted the government's performance-based funding due to start in 2020 was about outcomes not inputs and that was well intended.

Bond University on the Queensland Gold Coast is a non-profit, private uni and offers degrees in four subjects: design, law, business and health sciences. A typical business degree costs $100,000. The academic year begins in the third week of January, runs over three semesters and ends in mid-December. Most public unis offer two 13-week semesters; start in February and end in early November.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said higher education was a diverse market and any new entrants should meet the "high standard we've set".

"It's one of the reasons there are now three times as many non-university higher education providers as there are universities in Australia and they continue to attract strong enrolment growth," he said.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Follow the Money: Why Do Universities Oppose the Higher Education Bill?

When 39 university associations send an open letter to Congress expressing “grave reservations” about proposed legislation, you can be sure that money is involved. No matter how they describe their concern about students, our colleges and universities have spent money at a pace well above inflation for decades, and they have raised tuition and fees in tandem. The federal student loan program has been their “enabler,” so they want to keep the money flowing.

New buildings, new stadiums, fitness centers, luxury apartments, a “lazy river” at Louisiana State University, climbing walls at Notre Dame and Rutgers, and a $120 million refurbishing of a student center at North Carolina State—these are increasingly typical at schools that older alumni remember as spare, even spartan.

The universities’ letter, sent in February, was sponsored by the American Council on Education. It attempted to derail the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act). Lobbying continues as the House of Representatives comes closer to bringing the bill to a vote.

The Council’s letter claimed that the bill would “reduce federal aid to students by nearly $15 billion” and would leave “all students worse off.” It cited the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as the source. This claim is misleading, however. CBO, which estimates the costs of proposed legislation, said the bill would reduce direct spending on student loans by $14.6 billion from now to 2027, but it would also “authorize the appropriation of $112 billon over the 2018-2022 period and $210.4 billion over the 2018-2027 period.” The largest part of those authorized increases (which means increases at the discretion of Congress) would come from changes in Pell grants. Pell grants arenotloans and are designed to increase access for low-income students—something that universities usually mouth great support for.

What seems to stress out the universities is that the automatic spigot of money they have been getting from student loans may flow less freely. And there’s a good reason: Students are borrowing money to attend school, and yet 40 percent fail to graduate, even after six years. Student debt is now around $1.4 trillion.

Students who drop out face loan payments that they can’t handle—and are often surprised because no one had explained to them how much they would have to pay. While many successful students can handle their loans, those who quit suffer twice: They owe money; but without appropriate education, many can’t get a good job to pay their debt. These students would have been better off if they had taken practical non-college postsecondary schooling.

Making students aware of the costs of a four-year degree and of alternative educational opportunities is one goal of the legislation. “Businesses and industries are desperate for skilled employees,” said U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who sponsored the bill, in a recent interview. Foxx wants public policy to use the term “postsecondary education,” not “higher education,” because a bachelor’s degree is not the only route to success. “We want to see more Americans get the education they need to enter the workforce,” Foxx added.

The bill aims at helping people, not universities. That means overturning many of the assumptions that have operated for years. One is that college is the only way to success. Another is that loans are the best way to college.

PROSPER would remove many of the hoary accretions that have developed since the Higher Education Act was first authorized in 1965. For example, the bill allows Pell grants to be used for short-term education programs, far better for many students than trying to get a bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree.

The bill adds a Pell bonus for swift completion of courses, simplifies the loan application process, and reduces the dizzying array of loan programs. It protects religious freedom on campus. It increases universities’ transparency about the success of their programs. It requires due process for those accused of sexual assault. It does away with the discriminatory Public Service Loan Program, which gives special repayment treatment to those who go into the government or “public service” organizations. The bill endorses the use of competency-based educational progress as an alternative to the traditional credit-hour model.

There are many other changes because the bill represents a complete rethinking of the federal role in higher education. One provision tightens up the requirement for higher education institutions to return to the federal government a portion of students’ loans if the students fail to complete courses. “We are asking for a sense of responsibility on the part of both the student and the institution,” Foxx said. “Under this bill, institutions have to pay back some of the debt if students drop out.”

And most universities don’t like that.


Hate Speech and Intolerance at University of Delaware

Paul Driessen

University of Delaware students, faculty, administrators and trustees must truthfully answer a simple, but important question: Would this conduct have been ignored or excused if the targets had been Muslim?

A recent article by the editor-in-chief of the school’s student newspaper proclaimed “Green Dragon slayer for hire, in a geography department near you: To members of the Cornwall Alliance, environmentalists are satanic ‘Green Dragons,’ sent from the bowels of hell to threaten world order and harm the needy.” 

Caleb Owens’ article links tenured UDel geography and climatology professor David Legates and his Christian faith to “far-right American evangelicals,” fossil fuel funding and an “anti-environmentalist group,” the Cornwall Alliance. Legates is a “listed speaker and trusted affiliate” of the Alliance, it says.

The article relies heavily on Iliff School of Theology sociology professor Antony Alumkal, whose book Owens asserts “charts the long and complicated relationship between science and the American Christian evangelical movement, examining the intra-religious tensions that have accompanied various strands of science denial, including the intelligent design and anti-environmental movements.”

Expanding on this, Owens falsely claims “far-right American evangelicals have been responsible for some of the most radical opposition to scientific positions regarding topics such as climate change and evolution, working in close tandem with secular free-market idealogues.” [sic]

“To find religious justification for their activity,” he says, “Christian anti-environmentalists” and groups like Cornwall “claim a specific literal interpretation of Genesis, finding free market justification in passages that describe God giving humans unrestricted reign over [the] earth. According to the interpretation, God granted humans dominion over the planet and the license to exert power over earth’s resources. From here, environmentalist attempts to regulate fossil fuel use, for instance, stand contrary to man’s God-given destiny.”

Underscoring his bias and intolerance, a cartoon accompanying the article depicts a cute, frightened green dragon carrying a “recycle” placard being attacked by members of a Christian mob dressed in nineteenth century garb straight out of a Frankenstein movie, and brandishing a cross, torch and pitchfork.

In his imagined coup de grace, Owens claims that “groups like” Cornwall have received “indirect” funding from fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon Mobil – and “government officials and climate activist groups have questioned Legates’ funding and motivations, possibly traceable to fossil fuel industries.”

Owens didn’t even give his target organization its proper name, and clearly didn’t review its actual policy and religious positions. I’ve co-authored articles with Professor Legates and know him, the organization, Cornwall founder and national spokesman Calvin Beisner, and many of its staff and advisors very well.

First off, it’s the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Those final four words underscore what this fine organization is, what it stands for – and how disingenuous Owens’ article is.

In no way does Cornwall or anyone affiliated with it promote or condone “unrestricted reign” over our Earth or a license to exploit its resources without legal or regulatory constraints. They hold that people are integral and rightful inheritors and stewards of our planet, with a God-given right to utilize its energy and other resources to nourish and sustain humanity – responsibly, for this and future generations.

“Godly dominion,” Beisner explains, “means enhancing the fruitfulness, beauty and safety of the Earth, to the glory of God and benefit of our neighbors and humanity. Because humans are imperfect, and some take impermissible advantage of opportunities, government rules against fraud, theft, violence, pollution, and harm to other people’s health and property are necessary and proper restrictions on our dominion.”

Nor is Cornwall anti-environment or anti-environmental groups, though it is decidedly against extremist forms of environmentalism. Cornwall’s DVD lecture series “Resisting the Green Dragon” makes that distinction and, as Beisner notes, clearly and persuasively explains that “much radical environmentalism is indeed an alternative to the Christian religion, is thus acceptably termed ‘pagan’ in its nature-focused views. It also often does indeed strive to establish a powerful, dominant one-world government.”

The “Green Dragon” DVD series prompted the title for the Owens article, and some of its misguided criticisms. In his own Dragon lecture, Legates says segments of the scientific community improperly engage in “post-normal science,” altering or distorting facts to advance political goals. Owens suggests that this is not happening and claims Legates is in denial about human-caused climate change.

However, even Dr. Mike Hulme, a former member of the IPCC and University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (and an evangelical Christian), said post-normal science focuses on “the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy makers” – rather than on what should be an honest, transparent, evidence-based scientific method. Hulme called the IPCC “a classic example.”

Moreover, like numerous other scientists, Legates has explicitly affirmed that climate change is frequent and recurring, and people play a role, especially at local levels but even on global scales. What he denies is that carbon dioxide emissions are the primary driver and that it is or is likely to become catastrophic.

All this puts Cornwall at odds with political activist groups that use sustainability and climate change to justify their positions against fossil fuels and economic development. All people, Cornwall says, should have responsible access to resources needed to maintain or improve their health and wellbeing.

It is especially immoral to tell Earth’s most destitute, diseased, malnourished, energy-deprived countries and families that they can improve their ghastly situations only at the margins. Or only to the extent that they can do so only with renewable energy – and without fossil fuels, genetically engineered crops like Golden Rice, insecticides to combat disease-carrying insects, and other technologies that wealthier nations have used to give billions of people living standards that few could even dream of a century ago.

Caring, ethical students, universities, environmental groups and people of faith do not politicize or pervert “sustainable development” concepts in ways that ignore the needs of current generations. They do not say people living today must refrain from using natural resources, based on completely unpredictable raw material requirements of completely unpredictable, constantly evolving future technologies. They do not seek to protect people from exaggerated future dangers that exist mostly in bald assertions, questionable science and computer models – while perpetuating dangers that are very real, even lethal, right now. 

They do not condemn fossil fuel, nuclear and even hydroelectric energy, while promoting energy that is land-intensive, destructive to wildlife and habitats, expensive, weather dependent, unpredictable, sporadic, and completely inadequate to power modern industrialized economies, lift people out of poverty – or even manufacture more wind, solar and biofuel installations.

These principles put David Legates and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation firmly on the side of humanity, evidence-based science, and mainstream environmental and Christian thinking.

Finally, as to funding, Legates and Beisner have told me neither they nor Cornwall ever received “one dime” from any fossil fuel company. Owens’ slick, crafty suggestions that they did could have meant he has a job waiting for him at MSNBC – except that the claims are libelous, especially in the context of the headline claim that Legates is “for hire” by Cornwall or an oil company. (Meanwhile, six progressive-climate alarmist religious groups received over $3 million in nine years from liberal foundations, some of which have clear financial stakes in renewable energy policies. Why is there no problem with that?)

The University of Delaware cannot let this biased, deceitful hate speech go unchallenged – especially in an official campus newspaper, housed in a UDel building, and funded by Delaware taxpayers.

Imagine the outrage it would have generated if the professor’s conservative, environmental and climate views were rooted in the Koran and his Muslim faith. Or its cartoon had featured a woman in a hijab and a bearded man waving a banner emblazoned with a star inside a crescent moon.

And it’s not just the double standards. This is yet another attempt to intimidate and silence unwelcome voices on campuses. It has to end – and be replaced by open, robust, respectful, tolerant free speech for all.


King's College racism row: Some students support professor

Zoe Strimpel says: "Among other things, the don was enraged and felt racially insulted that the porters had insisted on calling her “Madam”, as they do all women, rather than “Doctor”, as she’d demanded.

To certain friends and I, however, it seemed highly likely that the porters’ surliness was less racism and more a natural response to an obnoxious, arrogant and imperious member of the intellectual elite telling them what to do."

Cambridge University students have rallied behind an academic who said racism at one college is "widespread".

Priyamvada Gopal claimed porters at King's College frequently "hassled" non-white staff and students at the gates, amounting to "racial profiling".

Since posting about the issue, current and former students have said they had similar experiences.

A university spokeswoman said it "abhors racism" but its investigation found no wrongdoing by staff.

The lecturer hit the headlines earlier this week when she said porters at King's had repeatedly refused to use her academic title of "Dr" and had spoken to her in a harsh and sarcastic tone.

She described the incident as a "small issue" but said it was "symptomatic of a wider problem" at the university.

"They will let white people walk through unimpeded but demand ID cards from people who are not white," she said.

"We had two students who came crying late to class because they were hassled at the gates of King's and I've never had a white student who's had this problem."

"Do I have 100% proof that it is racism? No. But one can only look at the fact people of colour are carded frequently or asked more questions frequently."

The academic, who specialises in post-colonial literature, announced in a Twitter post that she would be be refusing to supervise any students at the college in protest.

Among the many messages of support for her on Twitter, one former King's student said: "The porters liked to throw their weight around when they suspected someone shouldn't be allowed through the gates, but inevitably that suspicion didn't fall equally."

Another said: "If King's College is to be a 'dynamic & diverse community' it must take Dr Gopal's concerns seriously."

Several posts were from people from ethnic minorities who said they had experienced similar treatment: "I was constantly stopped by Cambridge porters to show my ID, to explain where I was going."

The role of university porters includes controlling entry to buildings and often maintenance and other administrative tasks.

A spokeswoman for the University of Cambridge said: "King's prides itself on being an inclusive and tolerant place, where students and staff of all backgrounds can feel secure, so we will always act swiftly and proportionately to remedy any wrongdoing.

"The college abhors racism or discrimination of any kind and would seek to stamp it out wherever it might be found.

"However, having conducted a thorough investigation of the events of Monday, we have found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff.

"Approximately 700,000 people pass through King's every year, and we receive fewer than three complaints annually.

"We have reviewed all complaints over the past three years and confirm that, where we have found our staff to be at fault, we have taken action."


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mass: The importance of investing in early education and care

Pre-school teachers are poorly paid in many jurisdictions.  It seems to be seen as a job "anyone can do". Below is a plea that they should be paid more.  It is rather light on evidence that more money would improve teaching

The benefits of accessible, affordable, and quality early education and care are significant, lasting, and critical to addressing some of the Commonwealth’s most entrenched issues. A successful early-education and care system allows parents, in particular working mothers, to be fully productive and active participants in the workforce, provides caregivers and educators with high-quality employment opportunities, and begins the formal education and development of our children and future workforce. In addition to these immediate benefits, investments in the system will compound over time. With targeted investments in our early-education professionals, and the subsequent improvement in the quality of care, we can begin to address the root causes associated with persistent problems such as the achievement gap and income inequality and ensure continued economic success in the Commonwealth.

The economic and societal advantages of a high-quality early-education and care system, which are multifaceted and multigenerational, rely on a skilled and dedicated workforce. Research indicates that children who receive high-quality care are more likely to pursue and persist through higher education and find gainful employment. Additionally, parents are far more committed to, and productive in, their jobs when they know that their children are receiving high-quality care, and that the care can have a valuable long-term impact on their child’s future. In particular, access to quality care allows more mothers to remain in the workforce and continue to advance in their careers. The impacts are felt more broadly as fewer public resources are needed for future interventions to compensate for a lack of early skill-building and its associated benefits.

To achieve these long-term benefits, the Legislature has an opportunity to build on the investment of public and private stakeholders. Through substantial grants and provider rate increases, the state has started to significantly strengthen early-education services and programs. It has also leveraged federal dollars to establish new preschool classrooms and programs.

However, barriers to expanding access and enhancing quality of education and care continue to hinder progress. Specifically, professionals in this sector tend to be under-supported both financially and professionally. The substandard compensation of early educators has led to high turnover, which adversely impacts the quality of care. An average salary for an early educator ranges from $22,000 to $27,000, compared with $40,000 for an entry-level public school teacher. Not only is that salary unsustainable, but the lack of clear career pathways discourages professionals from seeking out additional education. While we in the business community commend the state for its dedication in this area, the Commonwealth can do more to address these issues.

The state House of Representatives has proposed a comprehensive and targeted early-education and care package that works to address many of the challenges facing the sector’s workforce. Most notably, House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposes increasing the provider rate by $20 million and dedicating $8.5 million to establishing workforce- and professional-development programs with the state’s community colleges. These proposals will help to elevate the early-education and care profession by offering a livable wage and the opportunity to build the skills that are necessary for a long-term career in the field.

As the House and Senate work to finalize their budget recommendations for fiscal year 2019, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership encourages the Conference Committee to adopt he House proposals. Be assured, the return on this investment will minimize the need for the Legislature to spend additional time and money in the future, since these solutions target the underlying cause of many entrenched problems. The Legislature has the opportunity to demonstrate its continued commitment to our children, families, and the early educators who provide the quality care that cultivates an inclusive and productive economy.


Mom seeks punishment for principal who she believes is responsible for daughter’s suicide

FOR AN entire school year, a 12-year-old girl endured merciless bullying online and in the hallways by cruel classmates whose taunts included, “When are you going to kill yourself?”

Mallory Grossman’s mother made “numerous” complaints to administrators at the New Jersey middle school, but they did nothing to help her daughter, she claimed to The Post.

On June 14, 2017, Mallory killed herself in the family’s Rockaway home. Her parents on Tuesday filed a wrongful-death civil case against the principal, Rockaway Township, its board of education and several other school officials in Morris County Superior Court.

“The story isn’t about Mallory. It’s about everybody’s Mallory. It’s about everybody’s niece and their nephew and their grandchildren,’’ her mum Dianne Grossman said.

She said principal Alfonso Gonnella, specifically, has “blood on his hands”.

On the last day of her daughter’s life, Mrs Grossman went with Mallory to talk to Mr Gonnella in a last-ditch attempt to get help for her child, court papers say.

During the three-hour meeting, the principal handed a poker chip to the pre-teen cheerleader and gymnast. He then directed the girl to inscribe her initials on the token and asked her: “Are you all in?”

Mallory was “humiliated,’’ the papers say.

Mr Gonnella “lacked any suggestions to punish the offenders, but instead, placed the bulk of the responsibility on Mallory to rectify the situation,’’ the papers say. “His bright solution to nine months of bullying is a poker chip? And to have her write her initials and date it and to ask her if she’s all in? And hours later she goes home and dies?” Ms Grossman said.

Mallory’s father, Seth Grossman, was the one who “discovered his daughter Mallory minutes after she attempted suicide and was present during her last moments of life,” the shattered parents’ say.

Mrs Grossman said that meeting followed a full school year of cruel texts and Snapchat messages from other students.

One girl coldly asked, “When are you going to kill yourself?’’ in front of other classmates — just weeks before the suicide.

Another bully, identified in court papers by the initials A.B., took a surreptitious photo of Mallory by herself, then texted it to her with the caption “You have no friends,” the papers say.

In another instance, an unidentified student sent a similar photo to classmates via Snapchat with the caption “U have no friends” and “Poor Mal”, court papers state.

Her mum pleaded with school officials to intervene “numerous” times during the 2016-17 school year, but the educators’ tone-deaf responses only made things worse, court papers say.
'I keep waiting for her to come home … like she's away at camp … I just miss my Mal.'

When the parents once complained about bullying in the lunch room, the school suggested their daughter eat in a guidance counsellor’s office — “further isolating Mallory from the student body,” the papers say.

Another time, administrators had Mallory and her tormentors “hug each other” rather than actually discipline anyone.

School officials advised the family not to file a formal complaint under New Jersey’s Harassment Intimidation and Anti-Bullying policy, the papers say.

The family’s lawyer, Bruce Nagel, added, “We are hopeful that the filing of this lawsuit will bring national awareness to the epidemic of cyber-bullying and that we do not have to attend any more funerals of students who have been the victims.’’

Dianne Grossman said her death is “a perpetual sadness you have to learn to live with’’.

The Rockaway Township Board of Education did not return a request for comment. Mr Gonnella did not return calls or emails from The Post.


Proposed Australian education reforms are naive

Gonski had no professional knowledge of education. He's a lawyer and a businessman. He got his job because he was a good networker --  so his recommendations were just an idealistic fantasy

The sequel is generally worse than the original movie. The same could be said of the ‘Gonski 2’ review into Australian schools.

Despite a one-year process, hundreds of submissions, and a cost to the taxpayer of at least $700,000 (not including the eight-person government secretariat), the review came up with wide-sweeping, general recommendations that don’t offer useful guidance for the school system.

As we outline in a policy paper released this week, the review also failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra $24.5 billion of taxpayer money for schools over the next 10 years should be used. There is practically no discussion of the cost-effectiveness of the recommendations.

And the review’s most significant recommendations face substantial implementation challenges and aren’t supported by rigorous evidence.

A key focus of the review is growth in learning — recommending a new online continuous assessment tool — as opposed to an age-based or year-based curriculum. This seems impractical, and many teachers have expressed concerns about the teacher time involved in frequent individual student assessment.

In addition, there is no evidence that such an assessment tool would have a positive impact on student achievement. The idea of creating ‘learning progressions’ for the entire curriculum has no support in academic literature. And there is no evidence supporting the implementation of such a broad-ranging assessment tool — the report offers no examples to show that such an expensive and time-intensive reform would be effective. If implemented nationally, it would be a lengthy and costly experiment, with Australian teachers and students as the guinea pigs.

If this recommendation is to be adopted, it should proceed only after a careful trial of the online assessment system in a sample of schools, to determine the efficacy of the approach and lessons for implementation.

Almost as problematic is the report’s recommendation to establish a national education evidence institute (which now has bi-partisan support at the federal level). In theory, a new body like this has merit. But there are obvious risks — like becoming politicised and being too focussed on pleasing stakeholders — that aren’t adequately addressed by the review.

If such a body is to be established, then it should have high standards of evidence and commission outside experts to conduct evidence reviews on important topics in their fields, similar to medical research institutes.

The Gonski 2 recommendations should be approached with great caution. They are potentially expensive and disruptive to the work of teachers and the lives of students, and have little or no evidence basis — a recipe for educational disaster.