Friday, August 24, 2018

Shiny new public school expected to turn around poor student performance

They've wasted their money.  It's what's in the heads of the kids that determines educational achievement.  And expecting minority kids to learn computer programming is totally dumb.  I tried to teach university sociology students that with little success.  Only the very bright can learn languages like 'C' -- in its many variations

Natural light filters through the four-story glass and steel building. There are state-of-the-art science labs, a computer center, and a rooftop garden for botany lessons. Even the boiler room can double as a real-world teaching lab for physics.

The $73 million Dearborn 6-12 STEM/Early College Academy — the first newly constructed school for the Boston system in 15 years — is a far cry from the century-old building it replaced in the heart of Roxbury, where young Irish immigrants once learned how to sew, iron clothes, make beds, and clean bathtubs as future maids for the wealthy in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who will hold a ribbon-cutting Thursday afternoon, hopes the school will serve as an inspiring symbol of his pledge to spend $1 billion over 10 years to overhaul the city’s school buildings, roughly half of which were erected before World War II.

And those at the Dearborn, which has struggled academically for many years, hope the new building will represent a fresh start and instill a new sense of confidence and self-worth in their students, many of whom have been touched by violence or endured difficult journeys from their homelands for a new life and greater opportunity in the United States.

The Dearborn and its community partners had pushed for the new building for more than a decade. “This is incredible,” said Natalina Mendes, a sixth-grade teacher, during a break from the first day of training seminars on Wednesday. “Our kids deserve this, and [this building] says they are worth this. . . . This is what we fought for.”

The much-anticipated building has long been the missing piece in the Dearborn’s effort to turn around academic performance, many of the school’s supporters contend.

The state declared the Dearborn “underperforming” in 2010 because of persistently low test scores.

It narrowly averted a state takeover in 2014. The school system hashed out a deal with state education leaders to bring in an outside partner — the Boston Plan for Excellence — to run the school, starting in 2015.

Yet scores remain low on state tests, even in the subjects included in the school’s name — math and science — raising concerns about state receivership again.

Just 12 percent of the Dearborn’s middle-school students met or exceeded expectations on the math exams, and only 2 percent did in science, according to the most recent MCAS scores in 2017. Its 10th-graders fared better, with 51 percent scoring proficient or higher in math and 34 percent doing so in science.

The Dearborn educates some of the most challenging students in the system. Most live in households receiving government assistance, while many are newly arrived immigrants, typically from Cape Verde. Some 43 percent do not speak English fluently.

The challenge will grow greater over the next few years as enrollment expands from 350 last year to 600. About 480 students are currently on the rosters.

Dearborn staff said Wednesday that they are keenly aware it will take more than a building to elevate performance.

“Steel and glass doesn’t make a new school, [but] it gives us opportunity,” said Shelley Olson, principal of the middle-school program, noting the quality of instruction and the sense of community that staff and students build will move the school out of state monitoring.

“Our students deserve to have the same level of education as every student in the city, the state, and the country,” she added.

Students will need only to look out many of the windows, which offer panoramic views of the city’s skyline, including the booming Seaport and the Longwood medical area, to see what job opportunities the city can provide.

The school plans to initially offer three career pathways — computer programming, engineering, and graphic design — and is looking to develop one for health careers.

The 128,000-square-foot building itself should foster a sense of collaboration and professionalism. Students can gather on lime green or yellow couches or stools in the learning commons in the hallways for robotic experiments and other lessons. Classrooms feature computer-interactive white boards and glass walls, allowing passersby in the hallways to peer in.

Wi-Fi is available throughout the building.

Students also can use three-dimensional printers to design objects and can use special laser cutters to create items in a “maker space” or a fabrication lab, a 21st-century twist on the old-school wood shop.

The Dearborn 6-12 STEM/Early College Academy in Roxbury is Boston's first newly constructed school building in 15 years.
But the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, one of the groups that pushed the city a decade ago to construct the school, is raising concern that the Dearborn doesn’t have enough money for key positions, such as a full-time STEM director and IT director. The school began advertising this month for a fabrication lab director and only hired a career pathway director this week.

Consequently, the school doesn’t have a fully developed STEM curriculum.

“It’s really an abomination to have this amazing STEM building and not have adequate staffing,” said the Rev. Burns Stanfield, president of the interfaith organization. “It really sets kids up in this neighborhood for failure.”

The school system defended its commitment to the Dearborn.

“Boston Public Schools is currently working with Boston Plan for Excellence on developing a strengthened STEM curriculum for Dearborn STEM Academy,” the school system said in a statement. “BPS is committed to supporting the development of the STEM curriculum, which includes funding a consultant and providing other items of support.”


University System Plans ‘Full Criminal Investigation’ After Confederate Statue Toppled

The University of North Carolina System is taking action after protesters toppled the statue of a Confederate soldier at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday night.

“Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation,” UNC System Board Chairman Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in a statement Tuesday, adding:

The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff are paramount. And the actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible. We are a nation of laws—and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.

“Around 9:20 p.m. Monday night, a group from among an estimated crowd of 250 protesters brought down the Confederate Monument on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” UNC Chapel Hill said in an official statement in an email to The Daily Signal.

The statue of the Confederate soldier is known as Silent Sam.

One person has been arrested for “concealing one’s face during a public rally and resisting arrest,” according to Jeni Cook, a spokesperson for the Office of University Communications.

An article on the University of North Carolina’s grad school website describes the statue this way:

Erected in 1913, in remembrance of ‘the sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865,’ the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam stands on McCorkle place, the University’s upper quad, facing Franklin Street. The monument was given to the University by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909. More than 1000 University men fought in the Civil War. At least 40 percent of the students enlisted, a record not equaled by any other institution, North or South. Sam is silent because he carries no ammunition and cannot fire his gun.

“Last night’s actions were dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured,” the university’s statement continued. “We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage.”

The statue toppling is meant to be “smashing white supremacy” at UNC, according to Maya Little, who is charged with vandalism for an April protest and also faces an Honor Court hearing. Little’s remarks were reported by the Associated Press.


Changing the rules for Australian working women

 IEU represents more than 30,000 teachers, principals and support staff in Catholic and independent schools, early childhood centres and post secondary colleges in NSW and ACT

The rules for working women are broken, with women earning less than men on average, ending up with less superannuation, being more likely to be in casual or part time work, bearing the brunt of caring responsibilities and less likely to be in leadership positions. [Rubbish!  The difference has nothing to do with rules.  It has to do with the different choices women make

The IEUA NSW/ACT Branch will challenge and discuss these norms at its 2018 Women’s Conference on 24 August, which will highlight how these issues impact on the teaching profession.

One example of such inequity being challenged by the IEUA is the Equal Remuneration Order case before the Fair Work Commission to remedy wages for early childhood teachers.

The case argues that early childhood teachers receive lower salaries because they are in a female dominated profession. [Rubbish.  They are paid less because they are doing work that any woman could do]

Keynote speaker Naomi Steer, founding director of UNHCR will discuss her work supporting girls and women globally, and how improving the lives of women improves societies as a while.

Ros McLennan, General Secretary, Queensland Council of Unions and a former teacher, will explore what it takes personally, industrially and politically to champion women in leadership positions and support working women more broadly.

“We need to change the rules to ensure the professional experience of colleagues includes secure work, fair pay workforce rights that can be enforced and more power for working people rather than big business,” McLennan said.

Via email from  Sue Osborne (02) 8202 8900

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Can We Help Students Avoid Making Bad College Decisions?

Remember Occupy Wall Street? Hordes of young people, mostly college graduates with a load of debt and no job, protested against their “oppression” and demanded that the government do something do relieve them of their poor decisions.

Would some of them, at least, have had a successful path if they had gone to a different school or chosen a different major? Probably so.

In today’s Martin Center essay, Jenna Robinson writes about a new plan at the Department of Education to eliminate the Obama-era “gainful employment” regulations aimed at sketchy for-profit schools and replace it with a program of publicizing student debt to earnings data for students at all colleges. The data would be published on the Department’s College Scorecard site.

“This level of transparency could help students make better decisions about their college education. But it is not clear that students will change their behavior with the new information, as some state transparency efforts have shown,” Robinson writes.

Much more useful that this information at the institutional level would be to provide it at the major level — i.e., how do students at a school do depending on what course of study they pursued. How do accounting majors compare with sociology majors, for example?

The University of North Carolina system does accumulate such data. Robinson picked one popular major (psychology) and then looked at the results for majors at ten of the UNC institutions. At only two, NC State and Elizabeth City, was the ratio of debt to earnings under 8 percent. Students contemplating a psych major might think again if they had this information.

If major-level data like that were available nationally, it could help quite a few students steer clear of majors that might seem fun and easy at the time, but which are apt to be debt-traps in the long-run.

Nevertheless, Robinson isn’t terribly optimistic that such information would make a lot of difference:

However, it’s likely that many students will continue to have expectations and make decisions that do not align with market reality. In many states, including North Carolina, excellent data on graduates’ salaries and employment rates are already available. Universities already disclose graduation and retention rates, default rates, and average debt levels annually to the Department of Education, which makes them available on various websites.

In sum, the Education Department’s new approach is certainly a good step, but just a single, small one


Teens Already Forgot How To Write. Now They Don’t Read

If you’re an aspiring writer thinking about penning a novel aimed at the YA (young adult) market, you may want to consider looking into a new line of work. A new report from the American Psychological Association reveals that teenagers simply aren’t reading all that much anymore.

That probably won’t come as too much of a shock if you know any teens and see how they are constantly focused on their phones (along with most adults these days), but it’s even worse than you may have imagined. Not only is the reading of dead-tree printed material way, way down, but the kids aren’t even reading digital e-books for pleasure in very large numbers. Reading anything longer than a text message or Facebook status update, it seems, is simply too much of a chore.

A third of U.S. teenagers haven’t read a book for pleasure in at least a year, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA). And it’s not because they’re too busy watching TV.

The research, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, points to the continuing dominance of digital media among teenagers. Teen use of traditional media — such as books, magazines and television — has dropped off, while time spent texting, scrolling through social media and using other forms of digital media continues to increase, the survey says.

To reach their conclusions, APA researchers analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future study, an ongoing annual survey of around 50,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The study included survey responses from 1976 to 2016.

While it may seem like a sliver of good news, there is at least an increase in consumption of “audio books.” Rather than reading the material, younger people increasingly would prefer to put in their earbuds and have someone read the book to them instead. Podcasts also continue to be popular for non-video entertainment as well as news consumption.

Shouldn’t we be more worried about that? The act of reading, even if it’s on a screen, is a specific way of taking in information. Reading comprehension has always been an important aspect of the educational process. And like any other skill, when you stop using it, the skill atrophies.

The same applies to the ability to employ handwriting. Going back to 2013 we saw instruction in cursive writing fall off the requirements for students in 41 states. Even block printing isn’t emphasized very much. The focus is on the ability to use a keyboard. That’s certainly a requirement for most office jobs these days and computer skills are vital, but handwriting is built into our psyche. It’s a treasure which was once reserved for the elite (in the middle ages) but was eventually drilled into everyone. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

First we stopped writing and now we’re apparently losing track of the importance of reading. If the day comes when a solar flare or some other type of electromagnetic burst wipes out our technology for a generation, we’re going to be in hot water. And apparently, most of the younger survivors won’t even be able to spell hot water or read the instructions on how to boil it.


College-bound? The fees could end up being a big surprise

It’s turned into something of a summertime ritual: decoding the college bill.

Colleges and universities across the country sent out their invoices in recent weeks for the upcoming school year. Beyond traditional tuition, room, and meal costs itemized in the statements, institutions have tacked on a dizzying array of fees over the years, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of earning a degree and often leaving students and their families confused about why the final tab is higher than they expected.

The pile-on can be overwhelming: There’s the athletic center fee and the mentoring fee, a capital projects fee and a library fee. And, oh, don’t forget about the technology fee.

Fees help colleges shore up their budgets, pay for in-demand amenities such as state-of-the-art gyms, and spread out costs more fairly, by charging extra to students who use certain services or equipment.

But the ultimate result is that even families who have done their homework before their children commit to colleges can find surprises lurking among the line-item charges, said Shannon Vasconcelos, director of college finance at College Coach, a Watertown advising firm.

“It’s very confusing . . . what’s on there and if it should be there,” Vasconcelos said. “They can feel nickeled-and-dimed a little bit.”

In some cases, savvy families can get a fee or two waived — but many of them are mandatory.

Some fees kick in even before the first class begins (mandatory two- or three-day orientations that can cost more than $500) and don’t ease until students collect their diplomas (graduation fees to cover the costs of the rental facility, cap and gown, and printing costs, from $25 and to more than $200).

Science majors are charged hundreds of dollars in lab fees, and aspiring filmmakers must pay extra for studio time. Boston University automatically bills for a $130 Sports Pass, reminding students that cheering on the home team is a cornerstone of college life and to “make the most of your Boston University experience. Be excited, be passionate, be a fan!” (The pass entitles students entry to over 70 games, a value of $600, the university notes.)

At New England College, a small, rural school in New Hampshire, students who need more one-on-one mentoring can pay $4,600 a year extra.

BU officials say that students can opt out of the Sports Pass once they get their bills. New England College officials said the mentoring program is an optional service that has about 80 students enrolled and that helps increase the retention rate of participants.

Some fees are universal, such as for health insurance (yearly premiums can cost as much as $3,000) while others are more obscure and tied to a particular college (students at the University of Northern Colorado voted a few years ago for a mandatory LEAF fee — for Leadership for Environmental Action Fund — of $20 annually to support environmentally sustainable projects).

Consumers may think of fees as add-ons, but at many institutions they support fairly basic needs.

Fitchburg State University charges undergraduates a capital projects fee of $1,470 annually that helps pay for new buildings and campus structural improvements, including dining halls and athletic fields.

And some financial aid programs, such as tuition-specific scholarships, don’t cover these fees, forcing students to pay for them out-of-pocket or through loans.

“If you have 10 or 20 fees, all of sudden you feel like you’re opening your telephone bill,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor at Seton Hall University who has studied student fees.

From 2000 to 2017, fees at public universities increased by more than 100 percent, while tuition increased by 80 percent, Kelchen found.

Fees now make up about 21 percent of what colleges collect in tuition and fees annually, he said.

Why this increasing reliance on fees? At public colleges and universities, decreasing taxpayer support and a reluctance to draw controversy by raising tuition have turned fees into a crucial financial spigot, Kelchen said.

In Massachusetts, tuition at state and community colleges has remained flat for nearly a decade, while fees have skyrocketed.

That’s why at Fitchburg State the annual cost of tuition is $970, but the university fee, which covers administrative, facilities, and academic expenses is $7,500. The total cost to attend Fitchburg State for Massachusetts residents is about $21,300, still lower than at many private colleges.

Also, most Massachusetts public higher education institutions are allowed to keep their fee revenue on campus, while they must turn tuition money over to the state, providing another incentive to leave tuition untouched but raise fees. According to state higher education officials, the governor’s budget has called for a study on whether seven state universities and 15 community colleges should be able to keep tuition money, but the proposal failed to win legislative support the past two years.

Private colleges may face less political pressure to keep tuition flat, but they aren’t immune from fee creep, as they try to lure students with lower tuition.

“It’s easier to get a new fee than increase tuition in some cases,” Kelchen said. “Pay close attention to fees as well as tuition.”

That’s what Bruce Brumberg of Newton was doing when he saw that the bill Cornell University had sent for his son included about $2,800 for health insurance.

Colleges require students to have health insurance that covers medical care at facilities near the campus, so most will automatically bill students and expect them to fill out forms to opt out.

His son is covered under the family’s plan, and Brumberg didn’t want the college plan, but it took him several attempts last month and additional paperwork from his own insurance company before the university waived the fee, he said.

Costs such as health insurance aren’t always broken out on the traditional admissions pages that students and parents check when researching institutions, Brumberg said.

“There have to be better forms of communication, so at least parents who are looking at college costs are aware of it,” he said.

It can be an even greater challenge for first-generation students who are navigating the college process for the first time, and often on their own, said Thalia Pena, a college affordability adviser with uAspire, a Boston-based organization that works with low-income students.

Many are receiving a flood of e-mails and paperwork from colleges over the summer, and unless the documents are clearly marked, the fees can be easily overlooked, Pena said.

She recently worked with a student who didn’t realize until the end of her first year that she could waive the more than $1,000 cost of the college’s health insurance because she was already covered under her family’s plan, Pena said.

“It would have made a more manageable bill, if she had caught that,” Pena said. “It was money that could have been used for something else.”

About 10 percent of undergraduate students report buying the university’s health insurance, according to a 2017 survey by the American College Health Association, a trade group.

If students or families don’t understand why they’re being charged a certain fee, it is worth asking the college’s finance office and checking if it can be waived, said Vasconcelos, with College Coach.

But Vasconcelos warns that it’s unlikely colleges will scrap many fees.

“Once a fee is implemented, somebody is counting on the money,” she said. “It’s hard to get rid of it.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A debt-free college degree? It’s possible

My husband and I have been sneaking high fives because, come this fall, all three of our children will be in college. And, here’s the sweetest part: They’re all going to school with no debt.

We don’t come from money. We didn’t inherit cash because a relative died. There were no lottery winnings or strike-it-rich stock picks.

My husband and I were raised in low-income households. We’re first-generation college graduates. But as important as college was in pushing us up economically, we felt strongly about avoiding student loans for our children. Debt is a cuss word in our house.

Yet, I understand that, for many families, our pact of no student loans may not be realistic. There’s not enough money left over after the necessities to save for college. I get it that they see no other way than to take out loans.

Mass. students borrowing more to attend public universities

Once upon a time in Massachusetts, students looking for an affordable path to earning a college degree turned to the state’s public colleges and universities.

Read: You got into college. Congratulations! Here’s the bill

But right now I’m appealing to the folks who have more than enough and whose children are still young. You know you earn too much, like we do, to qualify for need-based aid. And despite your hoping, it’s not guaranteed that your child will get a full ride to college based on merit.

You can experience what it’s like to get the college-account statement at the end of the summer and not have to sweat about where the money is coming from to pay it. You have time on your side.

You don’t have to be crazy rich to send your children to college debt-free. Here’s how we did it:

We lived well below our means. My husband and I are first-generation career professionals — he’s a manager in the federal government. As our income rose, we didn’t sacrifice saving for college (or our retirement) by elevating our lifestyle. We didn’t stretch our budget to get into the biggest house the bank said we could afford. We didn’t sink a lot of money into upgrading to new cars. We limited our eating out. We didn’t use shopping as a form of entertainment.

We used a tax-advantaged savings vehicle. Our first child was born in 1995, and two years later the 529 plan was created. We could set up an account, maintain ownership, and reap tax-free earnings as long as the money was used for qualified educational expenses.

When we started investing for college, our older daughter was 5, our son was 2, and we had a baby girl.

With $7,500 we pulled out of savings, we set up three 529 plans, putting $2,500 in each account to start.

We were dogmatic about saving. Using a college-savings calculator offered by Vanguard, we figured we would have just enough for a state school if we put away a little over $200 a month for each child. (For the oldest, since we started later than we should have, we made a one-time lump-sum contribution a few years after opening her account.)

After that, however, for the last 18 years we stuck to the calculated contributions for all three kids, never missing any payments. In fact, to make it easy for us, the 529 contributions were automatically withdrawn from our account twice a month.

We invested for growth. We knew the cost of college was increasing faster than inflation, so we couldn’t park money in a simple savings account.

Within the 529 plans we used age-based portfolios, which meant in the early years the money was invested aggressively (more stocks than bonds), and our investments became more conservative (shifting to more bonds and cash) as the children got closer to starting college.

By the way, as soon as they were old enough, the kids got summer jobs and were required to save their earnings to cover their books and most of their personal expenses.

We didn’t view in-state schools as a backup plan. Our children weren’t limited to where they could apply to college. However, we made it clear they couldn’t take out any loans and we weren’t going to either.

Our youngest is an incoming freshman at Towson University in Baltimore. She wants to be a special-education teacher. As she was applying to colleges, she told us that she didn’t see the point of spending all that money to go out of state when there were so many good colleges in Maryland that could train her to be a teacher.

Our son is returning to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County as a junior math major. And our oldest completes her social-work graduate program next May at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. A year and a half ago, she graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park. She wants to go into therapy helping troubled children.

We recently attended the new-student orientation at Towson. And when the administrators got to the financial-aid session, the discussion was dominated by questions concerning student loans. I teared up. I was just so grateful. It felt incredibly liberating to be free from that worry.


Medical students are skipping class in droves — and making lectures increasingly obsolete

The future doctors of America cut class. Not to gossip in the bathroom or flirt behind the bleachers. They skip to learn — at twice the speed.

Some medical students follow along with class remotely, watching sped-up recordings of their professors at home, in their pajamas. Others rarely tune in. At one school, attendance is so bad that a Nobel laureate recently lectured to mostly empty seats.

Nationally, nearly one-quarter of second-year medical students reported last year that they “almost never” attended class during their first two, preclinical years, a 5 percent increase from 2015.

The AWOL students highlight increasing dissatisfaction and anxiety that there’s a mismatch between what they’re taught in class during those years and what they’re expected to know — or how they’re tested — on national licensing exams. Despite paying nearly $60,000 a year in tuition, medical students are turning to unsanctioned online resources to prepare for Step 1, the make-or-break test typically taken at the end of the preclinical years.

Related: NYU says it will cover tuition for all its medical students — both now and in the future
These self-guided med students are akin to a group of American tourists wandering through Tokyo without a map. Like a tour guide hired on the street, the online learning tools — including memory aids, videos, and online quizzes — can enhance the educational journey, or send the students down a dead end.

Lawrence Wang, a third-year M.D.-Ph.D. student at the University of California, San Diego, and the National Institutes of Health, said he relied heavily on these resources during his first two years of medical school.

“There were times that I didn’t go to a single class, and then I’d get to the actual exam and it would be my first time seeing the professor,” he said. “Especially, when Step was coming up, I pretty much completely focused on studying outside materials.”

Wang isn’t alone. According to 2017 data from the Association for American Medical Colleges, 1 in 4 preclinical students watches educational videos — like those on YouTube — on a daily basis. And according to two video developers, tens of thousands of medical students subscribe to their products — one of which costs $250 for two years, the other $370 for one year.

Leaders in medical education have begun to scramble. Some medical schools, like Harvard, have done away with lectures for the most part. Instead of spending hours in an auditorium, Harvard students learn the course content at home and then apply the knowledge in mandatory small group sessions.

Other institutions, like Johns Hopkins, are moving in the same direction, but have yet to make a full switch. Hopkins cut down on lectures and boosted sessions that require active student participation. Preclinical lecture attendance hovers around 30 to 40 percent, according to Dr. Nancy Hueppchen, associate dean for curriculum.

For many students, she said, licensing exam prep begins on day one of medical school: “They have this parallel curriculum going along with what we’re teaching them.”

Step 1, an eight-hour multiple choice test, is a big deal. Performance on the exam, though it’s taken before most students even begin training in a hospital, heavily influences which medical specialties they can eventually pursue after school and at what hospitals they can pursue them.

With medical schools grading pass-fail, the Step 1 score is an increasingly significant piece of information that’s used to sort through residency applications, Hueppchen said. When she took the exam, it was only used as a pass-fail test. Today, residency programs rely on the score more heavily; students and faculty suspect that it’s used as a cutoff for making admissions decisions.

Ryan Carlson, a third-year M.D.-Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, said that his school focused on teaching “what they thought was important for a physician to know.” But medical students have to know more than what is relevant to a practicing clinician to succeed on Step. The exam focuses on rare diseases and other minutiae, said Carlson, who now tutors for the test.

Hueppchen acknowledged that students at Hopkins and elsewhere “express some distrust that they’re getting everything they need — or that we’re being meticulous in pointing out what they need — to study for and excel on the Step 1 exam.”


US College Scraps Math and Physics Majors for Unclear Reasons

A Maryland college scrapped math and physics majors Wednesday to cut costs, but denied that it did so out of financial need.

Goucher College described its move to phase out math, physics, music, Russian studies, and four others as part of an “academic revitalization,” The Washington Post reported. The private school has slightly fewer than 1,500 students.

“A small college can’t just keep adding majors,” Goucher President Jose Bowen told The Baltimore Sun. “Sometimes we need to move resources from one to another and subtract too.”

The president reassured alumni that the school does not face financial ruin, citing an A-minus bond rating it received from Standard & Poor’s in a Wednesday email.

“Student interests change, partly in response to how the world changes,” Bowen said. “One-hundred years ago, Goucher (like most colleges) offered (or even required) Latin, Greek and theology courses, and there were no computer science or environmental studies courses.”

Bowen said a faculty team approved the cuts and the plan would allow Goucher to transfer resources away from disciplines that had decreasing enrollments and toward those that were sparking more interest.

But alumni who obtained degrees in the majors to be eliminated, as well as other community members, were not appeased. “How could mathematics be on the cutting block?” former Goucher math professor Robert Lewand said to The Post. “I don’t think Goucher can any longer be called a liberal arts college in the traditional sense of that term.”

“My math degree enabled me to weather the entire Great Recession really, really well,” Goucher graduate Ben Lawrence said, noting that it his major enabled him to find a job as a Baltimore math teacher.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” fellow math graduate Shana Lieberman told The Post, noting that while her class did not have many math majors, “we were the little engine that could.”

The Maryland school is not the only one to cut STEM fields to save money. Seven Texas universities scrapped their physics programs from 2010 to 2018. Bachelor degrees in that field, as well as marketing, economic and finance, fell by the wayside at the University of the District of Columbia in 2013.

“The decision to phase out some majors and minors was not based exclusively on student interest,” Bowen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Internal Review Team also examined the overall health of the programs, reviewing both quantitative and qualitative data about each major and minor. … We did not look at salary data for jobs in various fields.”

“Thirty three academic majors were too many to be sustained by a college the size of Goucher,” the president noted. “By phasing out the least viable programs, we will be able to strengthen the 25 that remain and invest in new programs that are in line with evolving student interests. We believe this is an opportunity for existing programs to come together in new configurations that speak in exciting ways to Goucher College’s ideals of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and international studies.”


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Prominent 'lesbian feminist' NYU professor, 66, being sued for harassment DENIES sexually assaulting her student, 34, and claims the messages she sent him were 'gay-coded'

The prominent female New York University professor being sued by a former male student who has accused her of sexual harassment said that her relationship with him was not sexual and that the affectionate emails they exchanged were just 'gay-coded' correspondence.

Professor Avita Ronell, 66, a world-renowned professor of German and comparative literature, released a statement on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed against her this week by former student and advisee, Nimrod Reitman, 34. [Well named?]

In the lawsuit, Reitman said he was subjected to unwanted kissing and groping, and he said he received many messages that made him uncomfortable. [How awful for the petal]

Ronell denied having any sexual contact with her former student and said their emails contained 'exaggerated expressions of tenderness' because they are both gay, not because she was sexually harassing him.

She also said her messages were reciprocated. In her statement, she included several purported excerpts of their emails, in which she alleges Reitman referred to her as 'beloved and special one,' ''Baby' and 'Sweet Beloved.'

Ronell said their emails were usually related to their working relationship, though they often contained 'literary allusions' and 'poetic runs.'

Reitman, who received a doctorate from NYU in 2015, said the professor created 'a fictitious romantic relationship' and sabotaged his efforts to get a teaching position.

He also is suing the university, alleging administrators failed to take action after he told a vice provost about the misconduct while still a student. He is seeking unspecified damages.

The university opened an investigation last summer shortly after Reitman, who is married to a man, made a formal complaint.

NYU's Title IX office concluded that Reitman was sexually harassed and suspended the professor for a year and stipulated that any future meetings with students be supervised. It cleared her of allegations that her actions amounted to sexual assault. It said it did not believe that filing a lawsuit against it 'would be warranted or just.'

In the lawsuit, Reitman accuses the professor of demanding he address her in 'over-the-top, effusive language, including that he constantly express his love for her, and his failure to do so would result in Ronell angrily reprimanding him and refusing to work with him.'

Ronell said she uses the same type of flowery language in her emails with many others. She said that Reitman reciprocated this language to her while simultaneously telling others she was a 'witch,' ''evil' and a 'monster.' Ronell said the lawsuit is really about 'the inability of Reitman to find a job,' and not sexual.

Ronell has had a successful career as an author, chair of Philosophy at the European Graduate School and was recently given the award of Chevalier of Arts and Letters by the French government. Her students have gone on to teach at leading research institutions in the US, France and Germany.

Earlier in August, Ronell told the New York Times that, 'Our communications - which Reitman now claims constituted sexual harassment - were between two adults, a gay man and a queer woman, who share an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for florid and campy communications arising from our common academic backgrounds and sensibilities.'


College of St. Joseph in Vermont is put on probation because of financial woes

The College of St. Joseph, a small liberal arts school in Rutland, Vt., that has considered closure because of financial difficulties, has been placed on probation by regional accreditors, the accrediting agency announced Wednesday.

The school is just one of many small, private colleges in New England struggling to meet costs as tuition dollars remain a shrinking source of revenue and enrollment declines.

After Mount Ida College, a small, private school in Newton, closed abruptly in May, the regional accreditors have been more watchful of such schools and are exploring ways to better problems before schools close.

The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges voted to place the school on probation for not meeting standards for financial health. Probation lasts up to two years, during which the commission will monitor the school’s conditions. The vote came on June 28, and the accrediting agency made the decision public Wednesday.

“Though disappointing news, this should not come as a surprise to anyone, given how open we have been about our financial struggles,” said Jennifer Scott, who became the school’s seventh president in June.

New England’s smallest colleges are struggling

A Globe review of federal data shows that many small, private colleges in the region are struggling to meet expenses as their tuition revenue has declined.

On Sunday, the Globe reported that at more than half of the 75 smallest private colleges in the region tuition revenue is failing to keep up with expenses.

The College of St. Joseph, and many others like, it, have turned increasingly to tuition discounting to entice students to enroll, but that happens to the detriment of their own bottom line.

Tuition covered 91 percent of operating expenses at the College of St. Joseph in 2012 but just 58 percent of expenses in 2016, according to a Globe analysis of federal financial data about small colleges in New England. During that same time period, expenses per student grew.

The College of St. Joseph revealed in April that it was considering closure, the Rutland Herald reported at the time.

Larry Jensen, the president at that time, cited declining enrollment as well as the failure of a planned physician assistant program, which was abandoned in 2016 after it was denied accreditation, according to the Rutland Herald. But the school had pulled $2.5 million from its then $5 million endowment to try to launch that program.

Scott, the current president, was not available for an interview Wednesday, according to a school spokeswoman. In the press release, however, she called the probation a “turning point” for the school and said it will use the opportunity to review its practices and strengthen the school.

“The administration, faculty and staff, and board of trustees are unified in our goal to ensure the best outcome for our students,” she said in the release.

College of St. Joseph officials are set to meet again with the commission in November to present the school’s turn-around plan to achieve financial health in two years’ time.

The school plans to reduce expenses, diversify revenue, seek financial support from local businesses and banks, develop new enrollment strategies, revitalize its fund-raising efforts, and increase its partnerships with other entities in the community, the release said.

It also plans to begin a two-year capital campaign to raise $3.5 million by June 2020.

If the school does not meet the requirements after two years, its accreditation will be revoked, meaning it will no longer be eligible to receive federal funds. Students who attend a college that is not accredited are not eligible to receive federal student loans.

There are nine standards that schools must meet to remain accredited. College of St. Joseph did not meet the standard that concerns financial resources.

The school must demonstrate it has sufficient human, financial, physical, and technological resources to support its mission. It must demonstrate that it has the financial capacity to graduate its entering class, show that it administers its resources in an ethical manner, and demonstrate adequate internal controls.


Are Australia's private schools worth the price tag?

There are private schools everywhere in Australia, so they are a very popular and widely used educational option -- particularly for High School. The Federal government subsidizes them so they are affordable to many.

The article below covers a fair range of the factors that influence judgments of schools but it only hints at the big factor.  The single largest factor in educational achievement is without a doubt IQ.  It correlates about .7 with educational attainment.  Nothing else comes close. And it is student IQ that makes a school.

High IQ goes with a lot of other favourable things so high IQ kids will have fewer behavior problems and the greater ease of teaching them will attract teachers.  And that means that private schools usually have many applicants for a teaching position. So they can pick and choose the best. My son's private High School had two keen mathematics teachers of the male persuasion, a great rarity. So in a typical example of the injustice in all life, the best students get the best teachers.  How can such a school go wrong?

So the important question is where is a school in the IQ stakes?  The lower the average IQ of the students, the lower will be the outcomes that the school produces. Ideally, you should send your kid to the school with the highest average IQ that he can cope with.

But IQ is a generally forbidden topic. In my time long ago schools did IQ tests regularly in order to stream their students -- but there would be a huge outcry if that were done today.  I went to a large State school in a regional city and clearly benefited from streaming.  There was only a small "academic" stream but I was placed in it.  And I got an education that suited my interests and teachers who knew how to teach the subjects concerned. I also had friends with whom I could have wide-ranging conversations.

But because of the lack of IQ testing these days, we have a harder time making choices.  In some States, particularly NSW. there are still a number of selective school, where admission to the High school depends on final overall marks in grade school.  Only high achievers get in. And because school marks and IQ are correlated, those schools have a student body with substantially higher average IQs than the norm,

And how good are their results?  Very good.  Some of them even produce higher marks than top private schools. James Ruse Agricultural High School is a legendary example of that.  Their very severe selection procedures ensure that most of their students are of Chinese or Indian heritage so they have a double advantage.  They get Asian diligence as well as high IQ in their students.  So they produce a large number of the top students in the State.

And it is these selective schools that Leftists talk about when they make comparisons with the results from private schools.  They pretend that ALL state schools have such high potential.  But they do not. I hate the cliche, but I have got to say that they are comparing apples and oranges.  A true comparison would be to compare AVERAGE state and private school results.  That would show private schooling in a very favourable light.

Private schools do of course have selection criteria but just the ability to pay is the main criterion.  And it is a good academic criterion as well as a financial one. That is because, as Charles Murray showed decades ago, income and IQ are strongly correlated. Income is not a bad proxy for IQ. Smart people tend to do better at getting rich than dim people do.

So private schools will almost always have a student body that is smarter than average, though not as smart as a highly selective State school.  Which brings us to the question, is there ANYTHING ELSE that private schools do which contributes to pupil achievement?  We don't know for certain.  To answer that, we would have to find a State selective school where the student IQ was at the same average level as a private school and compare the results.  To my knowledge, that comparison has not been done.  The horror of talking about IQ probably forbids it.

There is however one result which ALL schools tend to produce:  The friends you make at school tend to be the main body of your friends for the rest of your life.  And their sisters are the ones you will most likely marry.  So attending a private school should be TREMENDOUSLY helpful in that regard. If the kids you went to school with were the progeny of judges and lawyers, for instance, your entry to lucrative employment in the legal profession would undoubtedly be greatly eased.  And marrying one of their sisters would get you a wife who was a social asset in your life.  Is it any wonder that "The people you associate with" is one of the most common reasons people give for sending their kids to private schools?

Broadly speaking, choosing a school is not a process you can use trial and error to improve on. Most families don’t want to move their kids around a lot of different schools. So how do you get a sense of how good a school is from the outside? University entrance results are one obvious place to start, and high-fee schools tend to sell hard on their high marks.

But if you’re only interested in academic achievement, the results from most of the 30-odd Australian studies since 2000 suggest that private schools are no better at progressing students’ learning than state schools, once you’ve controlled for socioeconomic background. That’s also been the case for Australia’s results in the past three Pisa tests, the OECD’s international comparison test for student learning.

“On average private schools superficially appear to achieve higher student outcomes,” concedes education researcher and public schools advocate Trevor Cobbold. “But public schools enrol the vast majority of disadvantaged students … and this is what largely accounts for differences in school outcomes.”

The Grattan Institute’s yet-to-be released study of five years of Naplan results contrasted students’ progress between Naplan tests rather than the raw scores, because it says that is the best measure of what value a school is adding. Comparing like with like schools by socioeconomic background across sectors, it found there is no significant learning advantage conferred by private schools.

Researcher Peter Goss says, “it’s a pretty clear finding that the differences in progress between the three sectors are just not there, on Naplan. So if parents are choosing their sector based on Naplan results, then they kind of miss the point.”

The academic excellence of high-fee schools might owe more to a virtuous circle or feedback loop, rather than anything particularly unique to the school’s teaching and learning. Those schools are also in a position to lure bright students with scholarships. It’s like the (probably apocryphal) comment a senior figure at Harvard University in the US reportedly made to a private audience of overseas educators, in explaining the secret to the university’s global prestige. “It’s simple. We choose the best people, we don’t fuck them up, and we take all the credit.”

Naplan is a narrow benchmark, and data available for research comparing school outcomes is very limited. There is, for example, some research to suggest that public school kids do better at university than private school kids with the same Atar. The researchers say this may reflect the ability of some private schools to maximise tertiary entrance scores for their students, who revert to “underlying ability” once they’ve left.

But none of it can answer the question for an individual child: is your child going to do better at one school or another?

The old school tie

Don’t look to the dismal science for help. Whatever it is, paying high fees for private school is not an economically rational decision, says Sean Leaver, a behavioural economist specialising in education choices. He compares it to a luxury consumption decision, like buying a top-end BMW over a good cheap Toyota. Both will get you there.

“As an investment? Clearly no,” he says. “There’s no real benefit from attending a private school compared to a public school once you take into account that private schools skim the best kids and screen the worst kids out.”

“The big question for me, with my parent hat on,” says the Grattan Institute’s Peter Goss, “is what is the school going to contribute to helping my children grow up healthy, happy, having choices in life and being prepared and set up to succeed in those choices? … I just don’t think we gather that data. So … everything else is a bit of a proxy.”

So why are so many families – more than 50% of students in Sydney and Melbourne attend non-government schools – choosing to pay for private schools? In a measure of the sensitivity around the issue, Guardian Australia found it difficult to find parents willing to speak publicly about why they chose private schooling for their children. It might be a mark of status within private school communities, but in the public arena, very few want to articulate the reasons.

Many talk in private about the stress of paying high fees, but don’t want to go on the record about their private financial decisions. Likewise, most private school principals approached by Guardian Australia declined the invitation to talk about what private schools offer in exchange for their fees.

“I talk to people a lot about this,” says Philip Heath, the principal of Barker College in Sydney’s north-west. “A lot of kids come here at year 10 having been in very good government schools before they come here. So it’s a discretionary spend; so what’s driving that decision?”

Barker is a co-ed independent Anglican day and boarding school that was founded in 1890. Year 12 costs $32,000. Including its Indigenous school, Darkinjung Barker, near Wyong, it has about 2,200 students.

“I reckon there are probably four key things,” Heath says. “[The first is] broadly cultural and spiritual allegiances … that’s ethics and values; where their families are from.

“The second would be they are seeking an individualisation of experience … so teacher connection, discipline, access to opportunities, flexibility of the structure to adapt to that child’s interests or needs.

“Third would be the ability to influence school policy and practice at a local level … and to participate more in decision making.

“The fourth one, that’s not popular to talk about, would be aspirations for academic and social engagement, lifelong friendships … Improperly expressed it would be ‘the old school tie’. Put more generously, you’re building friendships that last a long time.”

Choices driven by anxiety

“If I was paying $40,000 a year, I would want two swimming pools!” jokes the former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli, who now heads the Gonski Institute for Education at UNSW. “No one should resent a school like Kings for that, people are spending 40k a year to send their kids there.”

Associate Professor Piccoli, who was a leading advocate for needs-based funding while he was minister from 2011 to 2017 is also a supporter of school choice, with his own kids in the Catholic system. But he says the key difference between school sectors is “the ability of the non-government sector to choose who their students are.”

Public schools have to take all comers, but through fees, entrance exams, targeted scholarships, interviews, discretion and discipline proceedings, private schools can pick and choose. He believes many parents make a high school decision based on perceptions of student behaviour, or of a school’s level of discipline.

The extensive disclosure and reporting requirements about critical incidents or teacher dismissals for government schools can impact badly on the public sector’s reputation, he says.

“I don’t think the playing field is even,” he says. “If Catholic and independent schools were also subject to freedom of information applications, that would make it a bit more equal. Public schools are much more publicly accountable. Catholic and independent schools don’t have to provide that kind of information, and that gives them in a sense a marketing advantage.

“You only hear about it in independent schools if a parent complains about or it goes to court,” Piccoli says.

Leaver, the economist, says parental choices are typically driven more by anxiety than reason but it could be a rational choice to go private if your local public high school is small and does not offer the range of subjects your child wants.

“[However], in most cases you’re probably better off buying a house in a suburb with a nice public school than actually paying the fees to go to a private school,” he says. “It’s more of a consumption choice. They’re paying for all the extras. The nice facilities, the segregation effects, the screening out of the ‘undesirables’.”

Are private schools really stricter, better at instilling discipline or shaping the good character of children? That is certainly conveyed in the rhetoric and marketing of many private schools. But it might be simply that such schools have easier raw material to work with – and, as Piccoli pointed out in a public brawl with Trinity College in 2014, the fact they can just expel problem kids.

“The idea independent schools might be somehow morally superior – I don’t buy that at all,” says Dr Mark Merry, principal of Yarra Valley Grammar in Victoria, a private co-ed school in Melbourne with fees up to $27,000 a year.

“I think that parents who choose to send their children to our school choose to do so subscribing to the values of the school, so we perhaps don’t have the diversity of viewpoints ... It’s far more – not monocultural – but it’s more homogeneous.”

Better teachers?

Independent school advocates argue that the concentration of private resources is not the key point to private schools. What they offer is choice: giving parents options to fit their own values, faith or beliefs, or their kids’ special needs.

“There’s probably more differences within the sectors than there would be between them,” says Carolyn Bladden, the principal of the independent, no-fee Warakirri College in Sydney’s Fairfield and Blacktown, which helps disadvantaged young adults finish high school.

Bladden, who has previously worked at high-fee private schools in Sydney including Knox and Meriden, says sprawling grounds and gleaming facilities aren’t what makes the difference to a child. “The most important thing is the relationship between the teachers and the students, and their engagement. It can happen or not happen within either sector.”

So where are the teachers better? Even those working in the public sector admit underperforming teachers in public schools are harder to get rid of. Accordingly, principal autonomy in hiring and firing is a key factor many parents cite for going private, believing they will get better teaching quality as a result.

Yarra Valley’s Merry says: “A key difference [between sectors] is the autonomy of the head of the school to make decisions pertaining to that school. It comes out in lots and lots of different ways. Certainly it comes out in hiring colleagues. You’re able to really work out who you need, whether the person fits the specific school environment.”

A NSW public school principal who requested anonymity because of the Department of Education’s restrictions on talking to the media, says the process for dismissing an underperforming teacher is so onerous and drawn out that most principals just don’t have the time to do it. The easier option is to wait out the bad teacher, or get them transferred.

“Bureaucracy is the worst thing about public schools – it’s a huge employer, with creaky systems; one size must fit all. It is very hard to get rid of teachers who are not performing well,” the principal says.

But the Grattan Institute’s Goss says, while the freedom to fire the worst teachers may be attractive to parents with a business mindset, it’s importance may be overstated.

“No good international research says you can lift the system by getting rid of the worst teachers,” he says. “Lots of international research says you can lift outcome at scale by providing appropriate support to all teachers.”

The somewhat maddening conclusion from talking to principals and researchers is that schools cannot be judged by sector – it is rationally meaningless to argue private schools are better. There is too much diversity between schools, and the research points to individual school cultures being the most important factor. That comes down to the teaching and learning culture cultivated by the principal.

“Some parents just like the uniforms, talk more about the grounds and the nice jackets than the quality of teaching and learning,” the public school principal says.

“The question I always tell parents to ask is what professional development are the teachers doing? Unless there’s a continuous investment in that happening, go somewhere else.”


Monday, August 20, 2018

NY University offers free tuition for all medical students

New York University is offering free tuition for all of its medical students. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the move is a first among major US medical schools.

Rising tuition and six-figure loans have been pushing new doctors into higher-paying fields and contributing to a shortage of researchers and primary care physicians.

The associate dean for admissions and financial aid, Dr. Rafael Rivera, said there’s a ‘‘moral imperative’’ to reduce debt.

‘‘Our full-tuition scholarships make it possible for aspiring physicians to choose a specialty based on their talent and inclinations to better serve the communities who need it most, and to more easily pursue scientific breakthroughs that improve how we care for patients,’’ the NYU School of Medicine said on its website.

Tuition was about $55,000 for the coming year. Most medical students will still need to pay about $29,000 for annual room and board and other living expenses.

The university will provide full-tuition scholarships for 93 first-year students — another nine are already covered through an MD/PhD program — as well as 350 students already partly through the MD-only degree program, the Wall Street Journal said.

NYU estimates it will need about $600 million to fund the tuition package in perpetuity. It has raised more than $450 million.


A new skirmish in Harvard admissions case

Privileged ethnics are protecting their privilege.  The old "I'm all right, Jack.  Too bad about you" attitude

Minority student and alumni groups at Harvard University are pushing back against what they consider an attempt to exclude their perspective from a lawsuit that seeks to eliminate race as a consideration in admissions, according to documents filed on their behalf this week.

This is the latest development in the suit, which is likely to go to trial in October and could dramatically change affirmative-action policies nationwide. The case is brought by the group Students for Fair Admissions, which argues that Harvard limits the number of Asian-Americans it admits.

Harvard has denied that it discriminates against Asian-American applicants and has sought to discredit the legal challenge to its admission policies in court.

Thus far, the university has sought to keep much of its admissions information under wraps, citing protection of its students and the exposure of potential trade secrets about how it determines who among more than 40,000 applicants will be offered fewer than 1,700 seats each year.

The high-stakes case could transform how colleges consider race in admissions and is being closely watched by university leaders, legal scholars, conservative and liberal interest groups, and the US Department of Justice. A host of other elite colleges have also filed briefs in support of Harvard. The case has divided many in the Asian-American community.

Harvard says the group suing the school over alleged admissions discrimination has created “900 paragraphs of supposedly undisputed facts — many of which are neither undisputed nor even facts.”

The minority student and alumni groups at Harvard first filed a brief in court last month, arguing for the importance of race as a factor in admission because it creates diversity on campus. But this week, Students for Fair Admissions sought to exclude declarations that the groups submitted along with the brief, which describe their personal stories of racial isolation on campus.

Edward Blum, who runs Students for Fair Admissions, said his group does not object to the student and alumni groups filing a brief, but only to the inclusion of personal declarations with that brief because he said the deadline for discovery has passed.

“We are not trying to silence anybody. The limited question at issue is whether they should be allowed to submit new evidence a year after deadline for fact discovery closed,” Blum said.

The 21 student and alumni groups that filed the brief include the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, the Harvard Korean Association, and the Harvard Vietnamese Association. They are represented in court by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“Ed Blum is attempting to silence the voices of actual students and alumni from diverse backgrounds who can speak to the lived experience at Harvard,” said Rachel Kleinman, an NAACP attorney working on the case. “This latest move further exposes [his group’s] hidden agenda. Rather than looking out for students, Ed Blum is simply focused on blocking programs that promote diversity, no matter the consequences.”

Harvard students and alumni echoed her sentiments.

“If [Students for Fair Admissions] is concerned about the experiences of students on our campus, it is important that [they] and the court be willing to listen to our experiences,” said Madison Trice, a rising Harvard sophomore from Houston and a member of the Association of Black Harvard Women and the Harvard-Radcliffe Black Student Association, which participated in the brief.

“Ed Blum is fighting to silence the very voices he claims to be defending,” said Margaret Chin, a Harvard College graduate who is now a professor of sociology at Hunter College.

Chin said it is ironic that Blum’s organization claims to be working on behalf of Asian-Americans when many Asian-American groups signed the brief opposing his suit. Chin, who is on the steering committee of the organization Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, said it is important for the court to hear the perspectives of many Asians, not just the ones represented by Blum.


Is it too late to save our universities?

WHEN university teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd showed her students a clip of a TV debate about the use of gender-neutral pronouns, she was accused of “epistemic violence”.

An LGBT centre official claimed her activities led to a surge in assaults on transgender people. When asked to prove the allegations, he said he didn’t have to “perform his trauma”.

A professor in Ms Shepherd’s own department wrote an opinion piece for the local paper saying the campus “had become unsafe”.  “Is freedom of speech more important than the safety and wellbeing of our society?” he asked.

Ms Shepherd, a graduate student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, made international headlines late last year after she released an audio recording of her interrogation by university officials over the tutorial lesson.

She was told her decision to air the clip featuring University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson debating Bill C-16 — a law making it illegal to refuse to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns — had created a “toxic climate” and an “unsafe learning environment”.

She was accused of violating the university’s gendered and sexual violence policy for transphobia, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and even Bill C-16 itself simply by presenting criticism of the bill.

“Most shockingly, I was told that by playing that clip neutrally and not denouncing Peterson’s views, this was akin to neutrally playing a speech by Hitler. So it was my neutrality that was the problem,” the 23-year-old told a gathering at the [Australian] Centre for Independent Studies on Thursday night.

Ms Shepherd, who has since launched a $3.6 million lawsuit against the university over the “inquisition”, was speaking alongside Quillette magazine founder Claire Lehmann and sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins at an event titled “The Snowflake Epidemic”.

Conservatives have held up her case as a emblematic of a radical left-wing takeover of universities, where safe spaces, “micro-aggressions”, trigger warnings and censorship of ideological opponents are now commonplace.

For many, the universities are a lost cause after decades of postmodernism — which holds that there is no objective truth — eating away at the intellectual foundations of most disciplines.

Melbourne University now teaches a course in “whiteness studies”, pushing concepts like “white privilege”, “white fragility” and “toxic whiteness”.

In 2013, two whiteness studies “scholars of colour” published a peer-reviewed paper exploring their lack of empathy for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Sandy Hook massacre — because the victims were white.

“Why does this matter? Students who get inculcated into this ideology graduate and enter the professions, enter the media and enter corporations,” said Ms Lehmann, whose online magazine bills itself as a “platform for free thought”.

Quillette founder Claire Lehmann, an Australian psychologist.

The panel warned that it only took a small number of aggressive activists to force the majority to acquiesce. “The radicals are definitely a minority,” Ms Shepherd said.

“The thing is, the vast majority of students on campus are totally disengaged. They don’t do their readings, they barely come to class, they don’t care about anything, they just want to pass with the lowest grade they can get, so they don’t care what happens. That’s why the minority is so powerful.”

Ms Lehmann said the noisy minority had power. “You can see the impact in Australia through the corporate world with all of this virtue signalling on diversity and inclusion and implicit bias training,” she said.

“Implicit bias training doesn’t have any solid scientific evidence backing it up. These ideas have impact. They waste money. They waste people’s time.”

Ms Shepherd said the only way to fight the activists was to get a “critical mass of people who will speak out, but when you look at my situation it’s not very inspiring for other students”.

“Other students were publishing op-eds saying I put hate speech in my classroom, I’m a transphobe, I committed gendered violence,” she said.

Dr Jenkins said the “bottom up” censorship that came as a result of identity politics already “seeped into our everyday lives”. “The interesting thing about it is it doesn’t announce itself in the way censorship used to,” she said.

“How we deal with each other, second guessing, seeing each other through the prism of difference. It encourages people to see each other as harmful.”

She said educators had a responsibility to the younger generation and she “would not necessarily encourage people to go to university anymore”.

“They’re not going to learn, they’re not going to be challenged,” she said. “I genuinely think we need to set up different universities and encourage people to take the ideals of the old academy out.”

Ms Lehmann agreed that the universities were lost. “A lot of us are trying to build intellectual spaces online,” she said.

“We try to have serious, thoughtful, complex discussions on difficult topics. There is quite a robust community of us who are scattered all over the world but we come together to talk about things you would have ordinarily talked about in a university tutorial setting but we can’t anymore so we talk about it online.

“We have to carry on the spirit of learning and the values of western civilisation, and the love of learning and books. That’s all we can really do is keep that flame burning. Universities are an institution, but institutions die.”


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Enforcing Classroom Disorder: Trump Has Not Called Off Obama's War on School Discipline

Executive Summary

In January 2014, the Obama administration issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on school discipline. The DCL—prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—claimed that: (1) school districts rely excessively on suspensions; (2) black students are suspended at disproportionately high rates primarily because of educators’ racial bias; (3) suspensions cause substantial long-term harm to students; and (4) schools should curtail traditional discipline (suspensions) in favor of new “restorative” approaches that emphasize dialogue over punishment.

Critics of the DCL contend that it directly triggered a reduction in school suspensions nationwide, which has led to a rise in classroom disorder and violence.[1] Supporters argue that the DCL is merely “nonbinding guidance,” a simple reminder to school districts to administer school discipline in a nondiscriminatory manner, and that the declining use of suspensions in America has been mostly spurred at the grassroots level.

Who’s right? The facts leave little doubt that the DCL has been instrumental in reducing suspensions. But there is more to the story than is typically recognized.

As early as 2010, the Obama administration had begun breaking long-standing precedent by shifting OCR’s mission—from ensuring that school districts apply their own discipline policies evenhandedly to pressuring them into adopting the administration’s favored progressive discipline policies under threat of losing federal funding.

After the DCL was issued in 2014, OCR’s new mission was formalized and sharply expanded—as confirmed by an internal document (released to this author by a whistle-blower and former OCR employee) guiding OCR investigations of school districts. A Freedom of Information Act request on all disciplinary investigations from January 2009 to October 2017 reveals just how widespread OCR’s policy reach was.

During this period, at least 350 school districts—serving nearly 10 million children, or about one-fifth of all public elementary and secondary school students in the U.S.—were investigated for the express purpose of coercing districts into changing their discipline policies. Among the districts investigated were 52 of America’s 100 largest, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Seattle. The result: a further tightening of federal control over U.S. education, largely without parents’ knowledge or teachers’ consent, and the imposition of discipline policies that appear to be making America’s schools more disorderly and violent.[2]

To date, the Trump administration has neither rescinded the DCL nor ended OCR’s coercive investigations. As of June 29, 2018, 363 investigations were ongoing in 43 states, of which 79 have been open for four or more years, including those of the school districts of New Haven, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Columbus, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Denver.[3]


Stoneman Douglas at 6 Months

What the school lacked seems to be ignored:  Security personnel with the guts to do their job.  All the cameras in the world won't make up for that lack

It was six months ago but feels like just yesterday. On Feb. 14, a deranged teen attacked students and staff members at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17.

Like millions of parents and grandparents across America, I was transfixed by the news that day, watching the coverage with horror. I grieved for those whose lives were lost and those they left behind. And I feared for my own school-age grandkids.

On Wednesday, Stoneman Douglas opened its doors once again to a new school year. Again, like mothers and grandmothers nationwide, I want to know if anything has changed over the last half year.

The intervening months have certainly been eventful for some of Stoneman Douglas’ students. They marched in Washington, D.C., gave fiery speeches, and took a 20-state “Road to Change” bus tour to register voters and push for gun control. They rubbed shoulders with celebrities, gave hundreds of interviews, and made passionate appeals for gun control.

But as they settle back in at Parkland, will their school be any safer?

Fortunately, the answer appears to be “yes”—and it’s not because of any media-focused bus tour.

Instead, Broward County—like many other communities across America—has been working hard to improve school safety. Security upgrades at Stoneman Douglas include a new 12-foot security fence, improved classroom door locks, additional security guards, and continuous monitoring of the school’s video surveillance system. The school is even piloting the use of portable metal detectors.

None of these measures are as glamorous as a press conference with a movie star. But each will meaningfully improve school safety.

Of course, much more can and should be done. A good place to start is by taking action to prevent future tragedies by identifying and intervening with those who are likely to commit them.

I find it deeply disturbing that the Broward County school district reported no instances of bullying, harassment, battery, or trespassing at Stoneman Douglas for the entire 2016-17 school year. None.

That’s not just a problem—it’s a potential crisis. The Sun Sentinel reports that the school had many reportable incidents that year. But failure to report such incidents, as the paper observed, “mak[es] it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety.”

Why is this so relevant?  Because the Parkland attacker was himself the victim of reportedly vicious bullying. He was also the subject of dozens of tips made to local police and the FBI. But no one acted on that information—and then it was too late.

The “Road to Change” bus tour could have focused the nation’s attention on these issues. It could have called for schools’ safety improvements and proactive intervention for people like the Parkland attacker. Sadly, though, it seems to have had a very different objective.

According to the tour’s website, its objective was “to get young people educated, registered, and motivated to vote.” It was, according to its own words, a political operation.

Political activism is fine, but to focus on politics instead of commonsense solutions for school safety simply isn’t.

Nor is focusing solely on guns. The Columbine attackers brought bombs to school. Last year, a Maryland girl was arrested for planning to blow up her classmates. And just weeks after the Parkland attack, an ISIS-inspired Utah teen brought a homemade bomb to school.

That’s why a holistic approach is needed. More secure schools. Better mental health services. A proactive response to bullying. And “red flag” laws to keep weapons away from those who pose a clear threat to themselves and others.

These are just a few of the commonsense solutions that can make schools safer. None of them have the flash and dazzle of a political bus tour. But that’s all the more reason for us to pursue them.

After all, our children deserve nothing less. It’s been six months since the Parkland tragedy—and they’re heading back to school NOW.


Australia: Assaults on teachers are on the rise – but an expert claims it's the students' parents who are to blame

Violence in schools is becoming more frequent and intense, yet some believe that the students' parents are to blame.

A record number of teachers in New South Wales schools have lodged compensation claims regarding violence inflicted by students. NSW is believed to be the worst state in the country when it comes to violence in schools, and the numbers only seem to be getting worse.

Last year saw figures more than double from 17 violence-related claims lodged in 2016, to 41 in 2017, The Saturday Telegraph reported.

There has already been 15 assaults lodged so far this year, with expectations for more to come.

Australian Catholic University Associate Professor Philip Riley said that the children may be repeating behaviour they are enduring at home from violent parents.

'Kids are seeing parents modelling this sort of behaviour. We have a much more ingrained problem with violence in this country than we're caring to admit,' he said.

Professor Riley said that the violence is becoming more and more intense, and unfortunately more frequent. 'It is everything; biting, scratching, kicking, throwing things,' he said.

While many believe NSW is the worst state when it comes to violence, just last month it was revealed that staff at Queensland schools submitted 359 claims of physical violence between June 2017 and June 2018.

This number is higher than the previous year by 55 claims, and includes incidents of students punching teachers, throwing chairs or tackling them to the ground.

A spokesman from the NSW Department of Education said that they are trying to combat the issue by modifying violent student's behaviour.

The spokesman also said that they're implementing strategies to support teachers and education employees that are affected by workplace injuries. 'The programs implemented under the strategy have focused on injury prevention … support and recovery at work for staff,' they said.