Friday, July 27, 2018

Even Leftists who can afford it send their children to Britain's elite private schools

Some bitter but factual thoughts from The Guardian.  The people who went to private schools really do run Britain.  Given the state of government schools, it's no wonder.  The writer is commenting on a book by Verkaik

One notorious posh boy (Boris Johnson, Eton, Oxford) exits Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another (Charterhouse, Oxford) arrives to take over. No surprise there, but the nation, or the 93% of it that did not go to private school, is left wondering again how this crony class of bought privilege and vicious self-interest has managed to hold on to the reins for so long. Not least when – from Balaclava to Brexit – they haven’t run things very well.

Of course, it may be that the grockles and plebs are not very bothered. In his fascinating, enraging polemic, Verkaik touches on one of the strangest aspects of the elite schools and their product’s domination of public life for two and a half centuries: the acquiescence of everyone else. “Public schools have a mesmerising influence over British people,” Verkaik says, echoing George Orwell (Eton) 85 years ago. Verkaik says we are all seduced, not least by the innocent question: “Who doesn’t want the best for their children?” As a parent and a troubled posh boy myself, I understand him.

It’s a leap from that thought, however, to educating your children privately – especially since the cost of an independent day school is more than £250,000 from nursery to sixth form. But the habit is not going away: school rolls have been stable since 2000, around the time Harry Potter turned up at Hogwarts. That is first because the investment is likely to work, in terms of buying access to university and life’s material prizes. More important is that as faith in the state system fails, the better the private one will fare: the one “hangs like a shadow” over the other, an expert in international education policy tells Verkaik.

Sending the children off to private school has long been the most notable hypocrisy of the leftish middle class, and of some of the public schools’ most famous detractors. Nadine Dorries (Halewood Grange Comprehensive), the rightwing Conservative MP whose outburst against “arrogant posh boys” David Cameron (Eton, Oxford) and George Osborne (St Paul’s, Oxford), gives this book its title, sent both her daughters to Ampleforth, where they have learnt “very good manners”. Paul Weller, whose wry bitterness as a member of the excluded class wrote the Jam’s song Eton Rifles, sent his children to public school. Eton might well have taken the little Wellers, I imagine, for about £35,000 a year: among the wiser self-preservation systems of the schools is the fact that they will allow some entry from outside the establishment. Otherwise we would have smashed them to the ground decades ago, wouldn’t we?

Verkaik’s larger theme is the toxification of British public life by the private school system and the injustice and inequality that educational apartheid based on wealth entails. But the blatant theft of public resources is the book’s sharpest point. From the very beginning the institutions – including St Paul’s, Winchester and Eton – have been hijacked by the wealthy, though they were plainly set up to benefit the poor.

Edinburgh’s Fettes college, a 19th-century invention, was built on the money of a merchant, Sir William Fettes, who left his fortune specifically for the education of the city. His executors instead constructed a gothic horror that sits behind high fences, with its great spire thrusting a finger up at the rest of the city. It has a poor record when it comes to sharing facilities or giving means-tested bursaries. Yet, like most, it is a charity: it pays a fraction of ordinary business rates and no VAT. Fettes receives an estimated £1m a year in direct subsidy from the Ministry of Defence, which still pays for much of the education of armed forces officers’ children. Tony Blair is one Fettes alumnus: Verkaik thinks it significant that his administration backed off from years of Labour pledges to sort out the absurd tax advantages the private school business enjoys.

How do we sort this out? Even a Jeremy Corbyn administration will be wary of the best-connected lobby groups in Britain (and of course Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Momentum founder Jon Lansman all did time at various Hogwarts). Besides, with 30% of students from abroad, the public schools are now a significant export industry. In Scotland the SNP, however, has promised to act on the exemption from business rates.

Verkaik’s solution is “slow and peaceful euthanasia”. He would suffocate the schools. Since they cater to just 7% of the population, let quotas be set, so that from their ranks come just 7% of judges (instead of 74%), 7% of senior forces officers (instead of 71%) and so on. Newspapers such as this (the British media is 50% private school-educated) will have to take the same medicine.

My money says private schools will survive: since the second world war successive governments have failed to curtail them in any significant way. As it happens, the departure of Boris Johnson means a Conservative cabinet without a son of Eton for the first time since the 1830s. But that won’t go on long – there are 20 Old Etonian MPs, all Tories. As an Eton school song has it: “Floreat Etona, Floreat, Florebit”. May Eton flourish; she will flourish.


Justice Department Weighs in to Protect Free Speech on Campus

In the face of Orwellian speech codes on campus—and with the help of advocacy groups like Speech First Inc.—college students have been fighting to defend their First Amendment right to free speech.

Now, they can count the Justice Department as one of their strongest allies.

Earlier this year, the University of Michigan passed a policy that could punish students for making their peers feel offended. The Justice Department decided to weigh in, showing just how different the Trump administration is from the one that preceded it.

As Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told students at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the University of Michigan has set an improper “limitation on the right of Michigan students to be able to speak.” So last month, the Justice Department filed a “Statement of Interest” in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Michigan’s speech code. It’s the fourth such document it has filed in the last 12 months in an effort to aggressively defend college students’ free speech rights.

For example, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in a case last year involving Pierce College in Los Angeles. There, free expression is confined to a 616-square-foot “free speech area” (just 0.003 percent of the campus), and even then, students are still required to get prior authorization from campus administrators to enter it.

The Justice Department also criticized Georgia Gwinnett College for permitting speech only in zones that covered just 0.0015 percent of the campus. Even then, no speech is allowed in that “free speech zone” that “disturbs the … comfort of person(s).” In eight years, the Obama Justice Department never once challenged such restrictions.

Hopefully, with the Justice Department now intervening, the courts will finally start striking critical blows to insidious university policies that impose a political orthodoxy on students, and limit their basic First Amendment rights to engage in vigorous debates on contentious issues.

As Sessions noted, “State universities need to be objective and fair. They need to let both people, both sides of an issue, have an opportunity to speak.”

It is not news to most Americans that colleges have been restricting the speech—especially conservative speech—of students, staff, and speakers. Sometimes this suppression comes at the hands of students, such as the rioters at the University of California, Berkeley, who prevented conservatives from giving lectures.

In these instances, school administrators have been disappointingly complicit in condoning such misbehavior and refusing to punish students and faculty who disrupt other speakers.

In other instances, the schools themselves have restricted speech on social and political issues. According to Sessions, the fact that university administrators are supporting “groups who go in deliberately to intimidate, threaten, and block a person’s right to freely discuss an issue is a threat to our freedom, and it’s contrary to the Constitution.

The University of Michigan’s speech code prohibits any speech that a listener considers “bothersome” or “hurtful.” A violation of the code can result in school punishment, including suspension or expulsion. So the most sensitive student on campus effectively can dictate the terms under which other students can speak or, as the case may be, not speak.

If that wasn’t enough, the university has organized so-called “bias response teams” made up of administrators and law enforcement to investigate any student accused of violating the speech code, whether on or off campus—and complaints can be filed anonymously.

Picture that: a team of campus officials and law enforcement officers patroling a college campus to punish speakers who have been accused of offending some student’s sensibilities. That sounds like something out of a TV show about a despotic future society.

Basically, bias response teams are the University of Michigan’s version of the thought police in George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s no wonder students claim they are afraid to speak out about controversial topics like abortion, immigration, or racial politics.

These speech restrictions continue to be implemented because a powerful group of college administrators and leftist elites have a growing contempt for the First Amendment. They simply want to silence anyone who disagrees with their views on politics and culture. They consider all speech they disagree with to be bigoted speech that constitutes real harm—just like physical violence—and should therefore be banned.

Many on the left believe that those who disagree with them on substantive issues have genuinely evil motivations and, therefore, are not entitled to the First Amendment right to disagree.

Speech codes like the one imposed by the University of Michigan, which allow a listener to determine if the speech “feels” offensive, will inevitably be weaponized against those who express disfavored political views.

Indeed, this is exactly why the Justice Department felt the need to intervene. It wrote that Michigan’s law “invites arbitrary, discriminatory, and overzealous enforcement.” It also “does precisely what the First Amendment forbids—it punishes speech merely because of the ‘listeners’ reaction.’”

It’s easier to be indifferent about these speech codes when your own views are the ones being protected. But liberal administrators should ask themselves: What if a pro-life student claimed to be distressed by Planned Parenthood passing out flyers on a campus quad? What if a Christian student felt persecuted by a public debate about the existence of God? Would these students get the same support from the university? Even if they did, it would only prove that a feelings-based approach to free speech creates an endless mess in which no one’s speech is ever fully protected.

Americans of all creeds and political views should fight to oppose these restrictions. They are truly Orwellian and un-American. The university of all places—especially the public university—should be a place where free speech is defended, where open dialogue and intellectual debate ought to be the modus operandi.

This is why the Justice Department said that it could not “stand idly by while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights.” Sessions and the Justice Department should be commended for their readiness to defend our fundamental liberties.

The First Amendment doesn’t lose its power when speech becomes offensive. It was actually written to protect speech that could be perceived as offensive. After all, why do popular speakers need the protection of law? No one threatens their ability to speak.

The Bill of Rights exists to protect the weak from the strong, the minority from the majority, and the unpopular from the popular. The right of the 49 percent to speak out against the 51 percent is what makes us a free country.

When a state school can punish speakers for nothing more than hurting someone’s feelings, the First Amendment has been utterly gutted—and students who are citizens protected by the Constitution have been robbed of their fundamental right to disagree.


Letting kids be kids: Schools remove the cotton wool and encourage pupils to take risks when they play - and the benefits are stunning

Public schools are giving students the opportunity to build resilience by adopting the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

Schools across Perth are letting students zip around on bikes and scooters, slide down ramps in crates and climb trees.

There is believed to be many benefits to the approach, resulting in more focus in the classroom, ABC reports.

Schools that encourage physical activity say that the students are happier and healthier, and are able to play more creatively and cooperatively.

With the current 'obesity epidemic' and children being captivated by screens, schools are hoping to get children out and about on the playground.

Honeywood Primary School in Perth's south has implemented weekly 'Wheels on Wednesday', where students are allowed to bring scooters, bikes and skates to school.

As long as students follow conditions of wearing a helmet and having signed permission from parents, they're allowed to ride around the school grounds during recess and lunch.

Principal of the school Maria Cook said that the program was very popular with both parents and the students.

'We've had kids who hadn't been able to progress past their trainer wheels suddenly being able to go without training wheels, because they get lots of practise just riding around this one-way track,' she said.

Ms Cook believes that teaching the kids to manage some risk is positive and thinks that 'cocooning' them isn't a good idea.

There are also trampolines at the school that they encourage the students to use, allowing them to do flips and tricks.

The program is teaching students to be active and improves their skills while having fun with their friends.

Ms Cook also said that the children head back to class focused and ready to learn due to using lots of energy.

West Greenwood Primary School in Perth's north is another school that has implemented the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

The school has introduced a program called 'Loose Parts', where students have the ability to use their creativity with items such as milk crates, giant wooden spools and timber.

Principal Niel Smith said that nature play is highly important and the school wanted to do something that was 'slightly different and cost effective'.

'We encourage students to be creative, to take risks, to analyse those risks. We've got kids building pulley systems, climbing trees, making swings, see-saws,' he said.

They ensure that the children are being safe by teaching them to analyse risks.

The program has proven to work well, as teachers are seeing an increase in students' cooperative skills, teamwork, sharing and negotiation.

Due to the program keeping children busy, students are less likely to make a fuss complaining about injury and they're becoming more resilient.

He has also opened up a creative space for children with interest in art, creating a mural wall for the kids to create artworks with chalk. 

Researcher from the University of Western Australia, Karen Martin, said that the 'anti-cotton wool' trend is a positive.

She believes that society became too over-protective of young children.

It's important for the children that don't do too much physical activity outside of school to have that active time on the playground during school.

'I think what's happened is we've started to realise that wrapping kids up in cotton wool isn't beneficial for them at all,' Ms Martin said.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

UNSW tops Australian universities in world rankings

This may be of some small help if people want to evalute my past association with Uni NSW, both as a student and as a teacher.  People outside Australia find it hard to rank Australian universities.  Uni NSW started out as a university of technology so that could be misleading, though MIT is a counter-example to that.

UNSW Sydney has swept ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2018, scoring the most subjects ranked first in Australia and the highest number of subjects ranked in the top 100 in the country.

With 38 subjects ranking in the global top 100, 24 in the top 50 and three in the top 10, UNSW continues its climb up the rankings, having the most subjects of all Australian universities in the prestigious league table.

Nine UNSW subjects – Civil Engineering, Finance, Instruments Science & Technology, Library & Information Science, Management, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Remote Sensing and Water Resources – rank first in Australia. This is almost double the number of UNSW subjects ranked first in 2017.

ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects has published the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) by academic subjects since 2009. The rankings assess more than 4000 universities across 54 subjects in natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences, and social sciences.

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Nicholas Fisk felt it was a clean sweep for UNSW Sydney.

“To be top in Australia for subjects ranked first, with the most subjects in the top 100, underscores the depth and breadth of UNSW research.

“These subject rankings are a more tangible reflection of a university’s research strengths than the global ranking, and UNSW is a comprehensive university that demonstrates academic and research excellence. ​I want to pay special tribute to all UNSW's hard working academics on this outstanding result.”

Water Resources is UNSW’s highest ranked subject at 5th in the world, with Mining & Mineral Engineering ranking 7th and Civil Engineering 10th.

Globally, UNSW’s best performing subjects are Water Resources (5th), Mining & Mineral Engineering (7th), Civil Engineering (10th), Finance, Marine/Ocean Engineering and Remote Sensing (all 16th), Atmospheric Science and Oceanography (23rd), Library & Information Science (26th), Law, Hospitality & Tourism Management and Transportation Science & Technology (all 34th), Telecommunication Engineering (38th), Energy Science & Engineering (39th), Earth Sciences (40th), Aerospace Engineering (41st), Instruments Science & Technology (42nd), Environmental Science & Engineering (44th), Mechanical Engineering (45th), Electrical & Electronic Engineering (46th) and Geography (49th).

United States universities continue to dominate the rankings, occupying first place in 35 disciplines, followed by China with nine and the Netherlands with three. The best performing institution in the world is Harvard, taking 17 crowns, ShanghaiRanking said in a release.

The methodology to determine the ranking includes the number of papers published, international collaboration and citation impact. The full methodology can be found here.

 Email from

Free College Classes

Are the high cost and questionable career relevance of much that’s offered in American colleges and universities now sparking a revolution? A few lights on the horizon offer hope. New initiatives are now underway such as the start-up, which offers free college courses. Also, Modern States Education Alliance is helping high-school students get college credit for AP classes. And Walmart is offering its employees classes in supply-chain management at the cost of a dollar a day, while Starbucks and McDonald’s also offer their workers an educational benefit.

In a recent piece at Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Richard K. Vedder makes sense of the trend. In the case of large employers, the developments are motivated by a tight labor market that has made it challenging for companies to hire enough—and retain—good workers. The government should also support the trend, he adds, given the current high levels of state and federal spending.

“In this fiscal environment, privatizing low tuition efforts is highly desirable,” Vedder writes. “State universities were supposed to be cheap, but as they become ever more inefficient and bureaucratic, and as governmental subsidies to them decline as they lose public support, the free college efforts of both private philanthropic groups and profit-making firms like Walmart are a means of assuring that even low-income persons can achieve a college education.”


British Government to fund pay rise for teachers

Teachers are in line for a pay rise of up to £1,366 a year as part of the government’s pay deal for around a million public sector workers.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has confirmed an investment of £508 million to fully fund the deal which means the main pay range for classroom teachers will increase by 3.5 per cent.

Responding to recommendations from the independent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "There are no great schools without great teachers and I want us to recruit and retain brilliant teachers who are fairly rewarded for the vital work they do.

Today we are announcing a fully funded pay rise of up to 3.5% - or between £800 and £1,366 – for classroom teachers on the main pay range, 2% for those on the upper pay range and 1.5% for those in leadership positions.

This will mean that teaching continues to be a competitively rewarded career, and I will continue to work with the profession, Ofsted and the unions on issues like excessive workload, professional development and flexible working, to make sure teaching remains an attractive, fulfilling profession.

Schools will continue to determine how their staff are paid but the increases above will be funded by government with a new teachers’ pay grant – worth £187 million in 2018/19 and £321 million in 2019/20 from the existing Department for Education budget – paid to all schools on top of their core budgets from the National Funding Formula, which has also been confirmed today."

In cash terms, teachers could receive a boost of between £1,184 and £1,366 to their salary, while salaries for new teachers will increase by between £802 and £1003.

The announcement comes as the government announces the biggest pay rise in almost 10 years for around one million public sector workers across Britain – the result of the government’s balanced approach to the economy, reducing debt while investing in public services.

The average gross pay for a teacher in 2017 was £38,700 [$51,000 USD]. The starting salary for a teacher is £22,917 outside of London and £28,660 in inner London. In addition to an annual pay award, many teachers also receive increases from promotions and responsibility allowances.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Many Genes Play a Role in Educational Attainment, Enormous Genetic Study Finds

Finding the genetics of IQ is still in its infancy but results are coming in

In the largest genetics study ever published in a scientific journal, an international team of scientists on Monday identified more than a thousand variations in human genes that influence how long people stay in school.

Educational attainment has attracted great interest from researchers in recent years, because it is linked to many other aspects of people’s lives, including their income as adults, overall health and even life span.

The newly discovered gene variants account for just a fraction of the differences in education observed between groups of people. Environmental influences, which may include family wealth or parental education, together play a bigger role.

Still, scientists have long known that genetic makeup explains some of the differences in time spent in school. Their hope is that the data can be used to gain a better understanding of what educators must do to keep children in school longer.

With a fuller understanding of the influences exerted by genes, scientists think they will be able to better measure what happens when they try to improve a child’s learning environment.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, finds that many of the genetic variations implicated in educational attainment are involved in how neurons communicate in the brain.

A striking number are involved in relaying signals out of neurons and into neighboring ones through connections called synapses.

The findings are based on genetic sequencing of more than 1.1 million people. But the subjects were all white people of European descent. In order to maximize the odds of discovering genetic links, the scientists say they needed a very large, homogeneous sample.

When the team tried to use these genetic variants to explain differences in schooling time among African-Americans, the predictions failed.

The researchers also found that genes don’t have a uniform effect: The influences of the genes varied from country to country. The researchers could not pinpoint the cause of these differences.

But if educators in one country emphasize memory over problem-solving in math classes, for example, then some gene variants may provide a bigger benefit to some students than others, the scientists speculated.

A truly global understanding of these genetic influences will require similarly huge studies of people of other ancestries, the researchers said.

The data cannot be used to predict educational attainment in any particular schoolchild. The researchers cautioned that the genetic patterns are seen only in large groups; in each child, genetics will play only a small role in how long she stays in school.

“It’s not really meaningful for individuals,” said Aysu Okbay, a geneticist at Vrije University in Amsterdam and a co-author of the new study.

The first glimpses of genetic influences on education attainment came in the 1970s. In the era before cheap DNA sequencing, researchers studied families.

Identical twins, who share the same set of genes, tended to have more similar track records in school than did fraternal twins, researchers found. Later studies that compared siblings to half-siblings, or to siblings adopted into different families, also confirmed a modest genetic influence.

In the early 2000s, a few social scientists tried to confirm links between particular genes and schooling, but their efforts largely failed. One of the most important reasons was the small size of their studies.

In 2011, Daniel J. Benjamin, a behavioral economist at the University of Southern California, and his colleagues launched a large-scale expedition into human DNA. They formed the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium to bring together information on thousands of subjects.

The researchers piggybacked their educational research on medical research. When people volunteer for a genetic study on, say, blood pressure, they often fill out questionnaires about various aspects of their lives. One of the most common questions is how much education they’ve had.

By 2016, Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues had studied nearly 300,000 people and had linked 71 gene variants to education. But then two major developments in DNA testing helped the team greatly expand their research.

Recently, a genetic database called UK Biobank was launched in Britain. Some 442,183 of those genetic profiles were added to the consortium’s study. And after 23andMe scientists began sharing information about customers who volunteer to be part of scientific research, the team included 365,538 of those profiles.

Studying the DNA of these people, Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues found a number of genetic variations that were unusually common in people who finished a lot of school, and others that were more common in people who left school early.

Often, the scientists weren’t able to rule out chance as the explanation. But 1,271 of these variants were linked so tightly to schooling that they could not be dismissed.

Still, the association between each gene variant and education was very weak. When the researchers compared groups of people with or without a particular variant, their average time in school differed only by days.

The researchers scanned the DNA surrounding these influential variants and found an intriguing pattern.

“They’re not just randomly scattered around the genome,” said James J. Lee, a behavioral geneticist at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the new study.

The variants are linked to genes active in the brain, helping neurons to form connections. A key to educational attainment may not be how quickly information is acquired, but how quickly it can be shared between various regions.

“Maybe it’s not about how fast a signal can zip along a cable,” Dr. Lee said. “It’s about the complexity of the connections between point A and B.”

But the genetic links suggest another, perhaps stranger possibility: Some variants linked to education work not in the brains of students, but in the people they inherited the variants from — their parents.

By somehow shaping the behavior of parents, these variants may alter the environments in which children grow up in a way that helps or impinges on time spent in school.

Based on their findings, Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues figured out how to calculate a genetic “score” for educational success. The more variants linked to staying in school longer, the higher an individual’s score.

The researchers calculated a score for a group of 4,775 Americans, ranking them into five groups. The researchers found that 12 percent of people in the lowest fifth finished college. Among people in the top fifth, 57 percent finished college.

A similar result emerged when the scientists looked at how many people in each group had to repeat a grade in school. In the lowest fifth, 29 percent did, while in the top fifth, only 8 percent did.

But when Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues calculated scores for African-Americans, it failed to predict how well different groups had done in school. One likely reason is that genetic markers aren’t reliable guides to how genes influence traits in different populations.

Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues hope to grow their study to 2 million people or more, and expect to find thousands more genes linked to education.

He and other researchers plan to carry out other studies on behavior based on gene profiles of one million people or more.

Indeed, the latest study is just the newest in what promises to be a tide of huge genetic studies. Research on insomnia based on 1.3 million people, for example, was posted to an open access website earlier this year. A number of similar studies, each involving over a million people, are moving toward publication.

“It’s all going to happen really fast,” said Dr. Benjamin.


Jewish school in UK criticised for redacting 'bare wrists' from books

A state-funded Jewish faith school has been classed as inadequate after Ofsted inspectors found teachers and school governors heavily censoring books and pictures, deleting references to reproduction and child protection helpline contact details.

The inspection of Yesodey Hatorah senior girls’ school, a voluntary-aided school catering to the Orthodox Chasidic Jewish community in north London, revealed that the “vast majority of texts” in the school library had been censored or redacted, while inspectors were told by staff that the school would not allow pupils to visit the Tate Modern.

The report said large sections of GCSE English textbooks had been deemed as inappropriate by staff and removed or redacted.

“In addition, texts such as Sherlock Holmes have had sections of text redacted. In science, pupils are not permitted to study animal or human reproduction, and other areas such as global warming are restricted. Leaders do not fulfil their statutory duty to provide sex and relationships education,” the inspectors reported.

In the library, “staff had systematically gone through every book to blank out any bare skin on ankles, wrists or necks”, the inspectors found.

The school’s leaders “were unable to explain the origin of the detailed policy on redaction, or who decides what is redacted in texts across the school”.

The report’s conclusions, which came despite findings that pupils were happy and safe at the school, drew an angry response from the chair of governors, who accused Ofsted of having a “secularist agenda” that put faith schools in an impossible position.

Jewish leaders have previously complained that Ofsted has targeted Jewish faith schools, with a number of independent Orthodox Jewish schools being described as inadequate or deregulated, resulting in their probable closure.

Although inspectors found the school’s policies were supported by parents, Ofsted was highly critical of the lack of careers advice provided for pupils and for potential safeguarding issues.

“Leaders deliberately restrict pupils’ access to advice and guidance about how to keep safe in the world, including the redaction of helpline numbers from books. This prevents pupils protecting themselves, because they are unable to seek independent, confidential advice if required,” the report said.

During the inspection the school agreed to display NSPCC helpline numbers in the pupils’ toilets.

Inspectors noted that “pupils have no opportunity to compete in inter-school sport, participate in events or visit universities”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “This report raises significant concerns. The regional schools commissioner will work with Yesodey Hatorah and its governors to find an appropriate solution to ensure rapid improvement. This includes the potential academisation of the school.”

Yesodey Hatorah is the latest state faith school to fall foul of new regulations requiring pupils to be prepared for life in Britain, including respect for other faiths and ethnic groups, introduced after the 2014 panic over majority-Muslim state schools in Birmingham.

The Ofsted visit was sparked after Humanists UK, a secular campaigning group, published details of the school’s censored textbooks this year, including removing a reference to homosexuality from a section on Nazi beliefs.

A private Chasidic boys school in Stamford Hill, Getters Talmud Torah, was deregistered by the DfE this year, after inspectors found the school failed to teach any secular subjects other than maths and English.

Yesodey Hatorah’s leadership had previously dismissed the redactions as part of a long-established policy to “protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents’ wishes and religious beliefs”.

But after the latest report, Theo Bibelman, Yesodey Hatorah’s chair of governors, said: “We were appalled at the way the Ofsted inspectors treated our staff and students and we have made that clear. It seems that unless we agree with the secularist agenda of Ofsted [in] London we cannot comply with their inspection criteria,” Bibelman said.

“This inspection was never about us, it is about Ofsted using their unfettered powers to try to force faith schools to comply with their agenda or fail.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Faith schools are entirely at liberty to teach the tenets of their faith on social issues. However, they must also comply with the law and ensure that pupils are properly prepared for life in modern Britain. The vast majority of faith schools see no tension in doing this.”

The school was also unhappy that Ofsted appeared sceptical of Yesodey Hatorah’s record of above-average results in GCSE exams.

Inspectors noted that “the majority of teachers are unqualified and many are inexperienced” and said that for some year groups “restricted curriculum, redaction of texts and pupils’ limited access to information hinder their learning and progress”.

Inspectors also criticised poor handwriting and incomplete work, as well as a lack of progress in spelling, punctuation and grammar. “Examination results reflect higher standards than those seen in books,” the report stated.


Australia: All public schools will be FORCED to offer girls the option to wear pants instead of skirts as part of a 'new modern makeover' of uniform policy

Girls will be offered the option to wear pants or shorts instead of skirts and dresses at every public school as part of a statewide 'modern makeover' of uniform policy.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes this week scrapped a 24-page school uniform document in favour of a new two-page policy, The Daily Telegraph reported.

While it had previously been at a school's discretion to allow girls to choose their uniform, the new policy will make it mandatory to offer a shorts or pants option.    

'Parents asked for a better policy and I am proud to provide one. It is important to remember families need to have access to the most affordable uniforms possible,' Mr Stokes said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian supported the move, noting that in her school days there was no uniform option for girls. 'The new modern makeover makes uniforms practical and comfortable for students, with affordability for parents front and centre,' Ms Berejiklian said.

The move brings the state's uniform policy in line with Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia - and promises to protect working families against rising costs. Queensland schoolgirls will be offered the choice to wear pants or shorts from 2019.

'In today's day and age, there should be no reason why shorts and pants aren't made part of the school formal uniform,' the state's Education Minister Grace Grace told ABC radio earlier this year.

That move followed the decision in September which declared girls at all Victoria state schools would no longer be forced to wear dresses and skirts.

Education Minister James Merlino said at the time the changes made 'common sense' and that schools had to provide options 'as far as practicable'.

'It's a relatively minor change to ensure that our expectation is that every school does provide the option of shorts and pants for girls,' Mr Merlino told 3AW.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Modern" teaching methods are too clever by half

Meta-analysis of 50yrs of research shows that traditional teaching methods, 'direct instruction,' with daily checks & regular testing have significant positive effects on student achievement. How much $$ has been wasted when the olds knew what they were doing all along?

The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research

Jean Stockard et al.


Quantitative mixed models were used to examine literature published from 1966 through 2016 on the effectiveness of Direct Instruction. Analyses were based on 328 studies involving 413 study designs and almost 4,000 effects.

Results are reported for the total set and subareas regarding reading, math, language, spelling, and multiple or other academic subjects; ability measures; affective outcomes; teacher and parent views; and single-subject designs.

All of the estimated effects were positive and all were statistically significant except results from metaregressions involving affective outcomes.

Characteristics of the publications, methodology, and sample were not systematically related to effect estimates.

 Effects showed little decline during maintenance, and effects for academic subjects were greater when students had more exposure to the programs.

Estimated effects were educationally significant, moderate to large when using the traditional psychological benchmarks, and similar in magnitude to effect sizes that reflect performance gaps between more and less advantaged students.

Review of Educational Research

No-nonsense school orders pupils to be completely SILENT between lessons – and sees a HUGE improvement in behaviour

The Albany School in Havering, East London claims to be transforming pupils’ behaviour by asking them not to speak

A STATE school has become the first in the country to instigate total silence between lessons - and has seen a HUGE improvement in their pupils' behaviour.

The old-fashioned rules at The Albany School in Hornchurch mean students must walk in an orderly line between lessons in complete silence and queue on the playground three times a day - also in silence - before heading to lessons.

The no-nonsense East London school claims to be transforming pupils’ behaviour by asking them not to speak.

And Year Ten students, who are studying for their GCSEs, have been told that they must stay an extra hour after school four days a week to work without speaking from September.

Headteacher Val Masson said she decided to revive stricter methods of teaching and said that after introducing her silent rules, the number of pupils in isolation for poor behaviour halved in just a month.

She said: "We wanted a calm and academic atmosphere like a high-end institution."  She continued: “It encourages a no raised voices environment. I don’t agree with raising voices to children and usually staff only need to do that if there is a lot of noise."

As part of the new regime students from Years Seven, Eight and Nine are made to queue silently in the playground three times a day - before school, and after morning and lunch break.

Mrs Masson, 51, said: “Students have three minutes to queue and they line up in their form group. “When the second bell goes, they’re expected to fall silent.

“Then a senior staff member or a head of year, including myself, will encourage them to enjoy and get the most out of their next lesson. We take the time to praise them for high standards of things like uniform and punctuality.”

Mrs Masson said the scheme was “divisive” when it was first suggested in meetings with other members of staff, but she says staff have noticed a marked improvement in how calm many of their 900 pupils are.

She added: “We’ve seen far fewer lessons starting late... Now they’re beginning on average three minutes earlier. If you multiply that, it’s 15 minutes extra teaching a day."

“When students don’t settle, we have a relocation system that sees them sent to another classroom to settle down. That system has almost reduced to zero... That's because a lot of distraction was happening at the beginning of the lessons.”

And it was the success of the scheme that spurred on Mrs Masson to push the boundaries by asking Year Ten students to stay an hour later from next year to do their work in silence.


Senior High school English courses drastically dumbed down in Queensland


ENGLISH students will study DJ playlists and street art in a new senior high school syllabus branded "edutainment". Online games, as well as websites set up by tattoo artists, are listed as "texts" in the new Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) guidelines, starting next year.

Year 11 and Year 12 students will not even have to read any books in Essential English - a basic course for students who plan to work straight after high school. While mainstream English students will study Shakespeare and Australian novels, the Essential English students can watch YouTube videos and logs, analyse SMS text messages or interpret Twitter or Facebook posts instead.

The curriculum defines designers, digital storytellers and vlog creators as "writers", along with novelists, poets and playwrights. The "texts" students can study include "non-verbal or visual communication", including street art and apps.

One assignment task is "an explanation of a DJ's playlist that has been designed for a function or event". Another is "selling or explicating a website designed to enhance the public image of a popular text producer". "Text producers can include, but are not limited to: tattoo artists, authors, film and theatre directors, photographers, musicians, hair and make-up artists, and graphic designers," the document states.

Students will also be taught how to write job applications and resumes, and study work-place signage and work-related legislation. QCAA chief executive Chris Rider said the syllabus "suggests study topics about aspects of popular culture that students will find engaging and relate to".

State Education Minister Grace Grace said the new syllabus had been designed by experts for the needs of vocational students. Education academic and former teacher Kevin Donnelly yesterday criticised the new Queensland syllabus as "edutainment".

Not online.  From p.3 of the "Courier Mail", 21 July, 2018

Monday, July 23, 2018

Australia: Simple solution to STEM teacher shortage

Both ideas put forward below have great merit but they do not exhaust the possibilities.  Another idea is to make teaching into more attractive work than it is today.  It seems fairly likely that a fair percentage of mathematically talented people are fairly nerdy types and they would be very much pushed away by the boisterous and occasionally violent classrooms that greet government school teachers today.  Almost all teachers report problems with indiscipline and it is a major reason reported for teacher turnover.

So it is a problem generally, not only for maths teachers and solving it in general would help bring back mathematical enthusiasts who have been deterred from teaching in the first place.

And both the source and the solution for indiscipline are historically as clear as day.  Leftist ideas that forbid physical punishment are the
fons et origo of contemporary problems. The few disciplinary options that are now available to head teachers are plainly insufficient.  The orderly classrooms of yesteryear are now rare.  As a result, education for all is now regularly disrupted.  As usual, Leftist ideas have proved destructive.

So physical punishment needs to be an option again.  It was until recently.  I remember it myself. So it can clearly be an option again. It would require a revised legal framework but it would substantially fix education, including STEM education

Faced with the shortage of qualified teachers for science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects, the federal government recently announced its intention of solving this problem - but it is a state and territory issue.

Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist, delivered an excellent speech last week extolling the importance of teaching rigorous content knowledge in STEM subjects. He identified the problem of many student arriving at university to study STEM-related degrees without the necessary foundations. Clearly, we need to improve the quality of maths and science teaching across the school system.

But it is difficult to attract science and maths graduates to the teaching profession. Approximately 20% of Years 7-10 science and maths teachers in Australia do not have any university qualification in their subjects.

One straightforward idea to encourage STEM graduates to become teachers - which CIS has been advocating for many years - is to allow differential, market-driven pay rates for teachers depending on the demand for qualified teachers in their subjects.

This isn't like the simplistic `pay all teachers more' or `introduce performance-based pay' solutions.

Rather, teacher salaries should be higher or lower depending on whether there is an oversupply or undersupply of teachers in the subject. For example, if there is an oversupply of history teachers and an undersupply of science teachers, then schools should be able to pay science teachers relatively more.

While this might seem an absolute no-brainer, it is surprisingly controversial. Education unions tend to oppose differential pay rates, which helps explain why we continue to have set teacher salaries that only vary with experience and expertise, and not with subject area. As long as this is the case, it is very hard to see an end to Australia's STEM woes.

The truth is maths, engineering, and science graduates tend to be in demand by many employers, and so they have to forgo relatively high-paying jobs to go into teaching.

Another impediment for STEM graduates becoming teachers is that they must take two years off paid work to do a Master of Teaching. Until recently, it was possible to do a one-year Graduate Diploma of Education instead.

The benefits of a Masters compared to a Diploma are arguable - and university teacher education degrees often don't equip teaching graduates with evidence-based practices. So it is hard to argue that STEM graduates should have to do a further two years of full-time study to become qualified teachers.

Introducing differential teacher pay rates for STEM teachers won't solve the problem overnight, but there seem to be few other viable options.


Time to Junk Racial Quotas in Higher Education

“It’s time for enlightened America to hit reset on affirmative action once and for all,” writes Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter in The American Interest. By affirmative action, of course, he means the racial quotas and preferences that most selective college and university admissions departments employ.

“The reason America can never truly come together in understanding racial preferences is not benighted racism rearing its head as always,” he goes on. “It’s because the rationales simply no longer make any damned sense.” Forty years ago, they were arguably needed to reverse anti-black discrimination. Today, beneficiaries tend to come from upscale households or immigrant families never subject to discrimination here.

The weakness of the case in favor of racial quotas and preferences — which are literally racial discrimination, otherwise banned by the 14th Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act — is illustrated in a Washington Post column by the thoughtful liberal Charles Lane subtitled “why restart the war?”

Lane doesn’t bother to defend this form of racial discrimination as a good thing. He just says that Donald Trump doesn’t oppose it and most of his voters don’t particularly care about it. On this issue, unlike many others, he’s ready to accept Trump’s and his followers’ priorities.

His equally thoughtful colleague Megan McArdle, assuming that ending quotas would reduce black and Hispanic numbers at selective schools, adds a curious defense of the status quo: “Elite institutions that systematically and markedly differ from the general population create a gaping social wound that never heals.” Really?

Our four most recent presidents, like eight of their predecessors, earned degrees at Harvard University or Yale University (both for George W. Bush). Our history has been far less blighted than Asia’s or Europe’s by resentment at or persecution of what Yale Law professor Amy Chua calls “market-dominant minorities.” Americans don’t much mind people of unusual ethnicity earning success by merit, whether in the National Basketball Association or in Nobel Prizes.

But pushing the case against racial quotas and preferences is the increasingly glaring contest between elite institutional practice and constitutional principle. “Governmental use of race must have a logical end point,” then-Justice Sandra O'Connor wrote Grutter v. Bollinger, allowing racial preferences at the University of Michigan Law School. “We expect that 25?years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today,” That was in 2003. Ten years left to go.

It may come sooner. Earlier this month, the Trump administration Education and Justice Departments withdrew six possibly illegal guidance letters issued to colleges and universities by their Obama administration predecessors, encouraging racial discrimination in admissions.

Harvard faces a lawsuit from Asian-American plaintiffs charging it with racial discrimination against Asian-Americans similar to its 1920s to 1950s discrimination against Jews. Discovery has revealed that Asian-American applicants with high test scores, grades and extracurriculars are regularly rated low on “positive personality.” Not the kind we want in our country club.

For me, the clinching argument against racial discrimination in admissions is not how it hurts Asians or, to a much lesser extent, whites, but how it hurts the intended beneficiaries. As Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor showed in their 2012 book “Mismatch,” and as subsequent research has confirmed, black and Hispanic students who are less well-prepared than their schoolmates tend to struggle with instruction pitched to others more advanced, and are more likely to shun science and tech courses and drop out without degrees.

The case for racial quotas and preferences rests heavily on the notion of “disparate impact” enunciated by the Supreme Court in the 1971 case Griggs v. Duke Power Co. The justices, familiar then with how Southern segregationists dissembled and disguised racial discrimination, ruled that differences between whites’ and blacks’ performance on seemingly race-neutral tests is evidence of illicit discrimination.

Similarly, as McArdle notes, segregation imposed by state law and sanctioned violence was still familiar when the Supreme Court allowed racially discriminatory admissions for “diversity” in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978. That was 40 years go.

The fact is that a society as diverse and dynamic as America always has been and will have disparate impact of all kinds, sometimes the result of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, more often the result of diverse interests, traditions, goals and skills. Trying to get the racial and ethnic balance in every occupational and educational group reflective of the total population is a fool’s errand.

Racial quotas and preferences have fostered a culture of dishonesty in higher education. Time to junk them and just be fair.


UK: Report on religion in schools 'an attack on Catholicism'

The Catholic Education Service (CES) and the Bishop with special responsibility for religious education have reacted with outrage at a new pamphlet calling for urgent reform of religion in schools in England and Wales, written by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Professor Linda Woodhead and launched at the House of Commons on 17 July.

Entitled 'A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools' the 31-page booklet of recommendations is a bid to update the laws governing religion in schools from the Education Act of 1944 and bring them into line with Britain’s current religious and cultural landscape in which a majority of people say they have no religion.

However, a CES spokesperson said they are “not happy” and described the pamphlet as “a direct attack on the Catholic Church” and “a fundamental attack on religious liberty.”

Of particular concern to the CES is the call for a national syllabus for RE, which the authors say should be determined nationally and not locally to “raise the academic standard of religious education” and stop schools regarding good teaching of RE as “an irksome appendage to the rest of school life”. They also advise the name of the subject could be changed to “Religion, Beliefs and Values”. The CES, which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference to support Catholic education, said this will result in RE being taught as “an exclusively sociological subject” and will mean “the Anglican state dictating their version of Catholicism.”

“It will also strip the Bishops of their right to set the curriculum – it’s incredibly misguided”, continued the CES spokesperson.

Bishop of Leeds, Marcus Stock, who is also on the committee for education and formation with special responsibility for religious Education, told the Tablet that the recommendations are “unacceptable for two reasons".

"Firstly, that the State can impose a national RE curriculum, which would dictate what the Church is required to teach in Catholic schools. Secondly, the curriculum they suggest contains no theological content, which is at the core of Catholic RE,” he said.

He continued: “We accept there is a need to improve RE in all schools and Catholic teachers and academics have been actively contributing to this discussion, producing suggestions that would work within the plurality in our country’s schools sector, allowing for all schools to choose between RE as a theological discipline and Religious Studies as a sociological discipline.”

“Catholic schools are the most successful providers of Religious Education in the country. This is because we take it seriously as a rigorous, theological academic subject. However, rather than look at the sector that does it the best they have opted for a reductionist approach which is exclusively sociological and has no consensus amongst RE professionals.”

In terms of faith schools, the pamphlet says Catholic and other faith schools should still be able to give priority to children of faith first “where possible” with the caveat that the admissions policy and school ethos are transparent. It added that they should make greater attempts to “promote inclusivity” and that “churches and other bodies should make strong and continued progress in reducing the numbers of their schools where faith is a criterion for admission.”

The CES spokesperson said: “There’s no appetite for getting rid of faith schools as they produce great results. They can’t shut them down but this is a backhanded way of taking the Catholic out of Catholic schools.”

The pamphlet follows the authors’ original document – 'A New Settlement – Religion and Belief in Schools in 2015'. It incorporates further research and debate carried out by the Westminster Faith Debates and the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Research programme supported by Lancaster University.

The CES said: “We made it clear when they were compiling the report that we were not happy [with what its authors were suggesting]. They have launched this in full knowledge it would be unacceptable to us”.

Professor Linda Woodhead said: “Following the launch we will be  carrying out more research on the state of religion in schools, and seeking the widest possible support for the needed changes amongst government and across the faith communities and other key constituencies.”


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Michelle Malkin: Boston University's Fake-O-Nomics Darling

The annual list price to attend Boston University — including tuition, fees, room and board — currently rounds out to $70,000. To acquire a degree in economics from this tony institution of higher learning, an undergrad must complete courses in calculus, microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis, empirical economics, statistics and assorted electives.

Four years, 52 credits and nearly $300,000 later, the school promises that BU economics majors will depart "with a firm understanding of core microeconomic and macroeconomic theory" and the "empirical skills that are essential to applying economic reasoning in our increasingly data-driven world."

How, then, to explain the abject economic illiteracy of meteoric media darling and democratic socialist "political rock star" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The 28-year-old BU alumna graduated with an economics and international relations degree in 2011. She calls herself a "nerd" and bragged about her academic credentials, tweeting earlier this month:

"How many other House Democrats have a degree in Economics like I do? Trying to find who out here is going to be in the Gini Coefficient Appreciation Squad."

The upstart New York congressional candidate has been hailed by pundits, newspapers and pols as "sharp," "smart" and "extraordinary." BU's Associate Provost and Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore gushed that Ocasio-Cortez is "brilliant — she is boldly curious and always present. She makes me think and could always see multiple sides of any issue. ... I can't wait to see what happens when her time truly comes."

But when the time came to put her BU economics education to work, Ocasio-Cortez flunked. On PBS last week, she asserted that "unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs." Moreover, the erudite B.A. holder in economics posited, "unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their kids."

Egad. This nonsense needs more unpacking than a cross-country Mayflower moving truck.

The unemployment rate, which stands at a historically low 4 percent, is calculated by extrapolating and dividing the number of people out of work by the total number of individuals in the American work force.

If you have one job, two jobs, three jobs or more, you don't count as unemployed. Whether you are working 40 hours or 80 hours or 120 hours a week, if you're working, that has no effect on the unemployment rate, either. The number of workers moonlighting and the number of hours they moonlight have zero, zip and nada effect on the unemployment rate.

Ocasio-Cortez's claim that "everyone has two jobs" is more fake-o-nomics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of Americans holding down multiple jobs is less than 5 percent and has been declining for nearly 30 years. Pew Research adds that both "in terms of raw numbers and as a share of all employed people, fewer Americans are working more than one job than in the mid-1990s."

As for starving children, government statistics show that hunger has dropped to its lowest levels in a decade as unemployment and food inflation have declined. Federal food stamp usage has also plunged to historic lows.

Instead of hitting the books, Ocasio-Cortez appears to have spent most of her college days pounding the social justice pavement. The Boston Globe reports approvingly that she "was active at BU in organizations that empower minorities," including a stint as president of Alianza Latina, BU's largest Latin American student organization, and as a student ambassador at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, "which aims to foster inclusiveness among students of all backgrounds."

Ms. Diversity-ConArtista may be able to blow hot air about Gini coefficients while tweeting anti-capitalist platitudes. But the numbers don't lie. She's everything that's wrong with overpriced liberal ivory towers, radical identity politics and left-wing media ideologues pining for their next savior.


Betsy DeVos Should Get Feds Out of School Discipline Policy, Withdraw Obama-Era Guidance

Sometimes in a compromise, both sides walk away unhappy.

That’s exactly what would happen if the Trump administration accepts a compromise measure on school discipline policy proposed by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The proposal is a non-starter, particularly for those who value local control over federal overreach.

Here’s what’s at stake.

In 2014, the Obama administration issued a “Dear Colleague” letter on school safety and student discipline that represented a significant executive overreach. That letter should be rescinded, but some advocacy groups want it to remain in place.

The letter tells schools they may not discipline minority students at higher rates than their peers, even if the school’s policies are “facially neutral” with regard to race.

No reasonable person thinks students should be punished for the color of their skin, and fortunately, federal civil rights laws support common sense here. But this guidance document goes much further. It says the Office for Civil Rights will proactively investigate school districts to root out policies that suspend or expel minority students at higher rates than white students, an effect called “disparate impact.” Even if such discipline is warranted, the letter warns that the Office for Civil Rights will come calling:

Schools … violate federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies and practices that, although not adopted with the intent to discriminate, nonetheless have an unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race.

Advocates of this federal guidance say it’s necessary because of ongoing discrimination against minority students. “The federal government has an important role to play in upholding students’ civil rights and can do so without stifling important local autonomy,” says a recent coalition letter in favor of the guidance.

No doubt, the federal government should uphold civil rights law as it currently exists. But the 2014 letter goes beyond that. The federal government went so far as to tell schools how to discipline students and how to design school safety rules.

As Heritage Foundation research explains, the 2014 letter contains an appendix that micromanages school codes of conduct. The letter outlines restorative justice practices, saying schools should sign memoranda of agreement with law enforcement to limit student interaction with police, and tells schools to use suspension and expulsion as a last resort.

It’s noteworthy that ideas such as this were spearheaded in 2013 by school officials in Broward County, Florida, and did not prevent the tragic massacre in February 2018. The Obama administration cited Broward County as a model for the policy, which was then implemented in dozens of school districts across the country.

The Fordham Institute suggests doing away with the “disparate impact” portion of the document. It argues that Washington should keep all the directives about best practices in school safety plans and the threats of investigation, but rescind the section on schools implementing “facially neutral policies” that have discriminatory effects.

Yet this still assumes that federal regulators know more about maintaining order in a classroom than school personnel.

To keep students of all backgrounds safe and create an effective learning environment, a teacher must be able to remove a student from class if the circumstances call for it—regardless of the student’s race. Not doing so jeopardizes the safety of all students in a classroom.

Officials in Washington should return to teachers and school leaders the freedom to maintain order in schools without fear of federal reprisal.

After the Parkland massacre, the White House asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to lead a commission that would consider rescinding the 2014 letter. DeVos can leave her mark on school safety by returning to teachers and school leaders the freedom to make decisions about student discipline.

The Fordham Institute admits getting rid of the “disparate impact” portion of the letter “won’t make either side entirely happy.” Yet neither side should be happy, because such a compromise would leave Washington’s heavy-handed directives in place.

DeVos should remind Washington of its limited role and leave student welfare and school operations to those who know their schools best: parents, teachers, and principals.


Australia: Teachers are being encouraged to show LGBT movies to students to increase 'diversity' - as 'concerned' education expert warns schools will have to be 'very careful'

Teachers have been encouraged to show LGBT movies to students as a measure to increase diversity in the classroom.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation released a list of approved films which feature lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) themes deemed 'appropriate to study in class'.

Films include Love, Simon, Gayby Baby, Pride, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Battle of the Sexes, according to the NSW Teachers Federation.

Some of the selected movies, including The Danish Girl and Perks of Being a Wallflower, are classified mature (M) and are advised for audiences older than 15-years.

However, Gayby Baby, Pride and Battle of the Sexes are classified under Parental Guidance (PG).

'There is now an array of films available with LGBTIQ characters and research indicates that when students see themselves in the content studied in class, they are more likely to be engaged and feel part of the school community and culture,' the organisation wrote online.

'This has positive implications for LGBTIQ students' wellbeing and educational outcomes. It also provides non LGBTIQ students with a broader range of experience and can assist with empathy and understanding of others.'

None of the films are prescribed under the NSW curriculum, but the federation said teachers are encouraged to use the movies so students can learn to 'connect and collaborate with a diverse group of people'.

Love, Simon, which was released earlier this year, focuses on issues of identity, consent, respectful relationships and cyber-bullying.

It features a gay male lead character.

The 'bold' film has been described as a 'poignant, coming of age teenage movie with a difference', however, 'not suitable for younger viewers', according to the Australian Council on Children and the Media.

The council president Elizabeth Handsley said while it was possible to show adult themed movies in classrooms, it is a 'concern'.

None of the films (The Danish Girl, left, and Battle of the Sexes, right) are prescribed under the NSW curriculum but the federation said teachers are encouraged to use the movies so students can learn to 'connect and collaborate with a diverse group of people'

'It is an interesting proposition to be showing M films in schools: that would concern me as it has the tendency of undermining the classification message,' Professor Handsley told The Australian.

'You need to be very careful doing so in a school setting ... where there's a whole range of students with a range of maturity levels and background experiences.'

The NSW Education Department spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia schools were required to acknowledge the diverse views held by parents and the community about what was suitable for students to study.

'Parents have the right to remove their children from any school activity or NSW curriculum learning that they are concerned about,' the spokesperson said.

'Films or TV programs rated M or M15+ may be shown to some students in circumstances where the material is determined by the principal to be age-appropriate and contributing materially to learning under the NSW curriculum.'

The department said principals had to inform parents about the content of an activity beforehand.