Friday, August 31, 2018

How the Other Half Learns: Reorienting an Education System That Fails Most Students


America’s education system, from kindergarten through the state university, is designed to produce college graduates. Those who stop short of at least a community-college diploma are widely regarded as failures, or at least victims of a failed system. Yet most Americans fall into this category, and current trends offer little hope for improvement. Politicians and policymakers are finally paying attention to this population—which, roughly speaking, comprises the working class—and calls for more vocational education and apprenticeships have become fashionable. But a more fundamental reordering of the nation’s misshapen educational infrastructure is necessary if alternatives to the college pipeline are to take their rightful place as coequal pathways to the workforce.


* Fewer than one in five students travel smoothly from high school diploma to college degree to career; most Americans fail to earn even a two-year associate’s degree. Students are as likely to drop out of high school, skip higher education, drop out of college, or earn a degree unnecessary to their subsequent jobs.

* Contrary to conventional wisdom, a college degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for reaching the middle class. The wage and salary distributions for college graduates and high school graduates overlap significantly; high-earning high school graduates in a wide variety of fields that require no college degree earn substantially more than low-earning college graduates.

* While the potential demand for a serious Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway is huge, the federal government spent only $1 billion on CTE in 2016 but more than $70 billion subsidizing college attendance. State and local governments spent an additional $80 billion on college and almost nothing on expanding CTE pathways. Federal spending on college has more than doubled since 1990; spending on CTE has declined.


Study: Newspaper Coverage of Teacher Strikes Favored Pro-Strike Voices 4-to-1

A study from the conservative nonprofit American Enterprise Institute found that major newspapers heavily favored pro-union quotations when reporting on the spring 2018 teacher strikes.

AEI scholars Frederick M. Hess and RJ Martin examined 59 stories from national newspapers like The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal to study how they covered the series of teacher strikes that broke out in states as varied as West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina.

Hess and Martin give newspapers credit for remaining "remarkably impartial" in both their headlines and their ledes. Of the stories analyzed, 56 of the 59 used neutral headlines and lede paragraphs compared to only three stories that used pro-strikes headlines, two stories that used pro-strike ledes, and one story that used an anti-strike lede.

But when it came to larger substance of the stories, the authors identified several areas in which newspapers favored pro-strike voices, particularly when it came to quotes from interested parties. Of the quotes included in the articles, 60 percent supported the strikes, while 26 percent were neutral and only 14 percent were anti-strike.

Newspapers also favored sources that were most likely to be supportive of the strikes over those most likely to be burdened by strikes. Teachers or union leaders provided 52 percent of quotes, 31 percent were from politicians or officials, while a measly 5 percent came from students or parents.

"This omission is striking because families were the largest group impacted by the walkouts— in Arizona alone, over 800,000 students were affected— a bore the brunt of the disruptions," the authors wrote. "Whatever families thought of the strikes, positive or negative, was obviously important." Even when quotes from parents and students did make it into print, 5/6 were supportive of the strikes."

AEI also faulted newspapers for failing to accurately report on the nature of teacher compensation. While every single story discussed teacher salaries, "less than half the articles mentioned healthcare benefits, and barely a third mentioned pensions. Just three percent of stories even obliquely referenced the value of teacher pensions, and not a single one mentioned teacher vacation time or the length of the teacher work year."

The scholars also complained the information given in most articles was not enough to allow readers to form an informed opinion. "Half the stories did not even include the pertinent average teacher salary," they noted. "Meanwhile, just 2 percent of articles compared teacher pay to the state’s median household income."


Australia: National educational testing under attack because it exposes the truth

The latest skirmish in the never-ending war against NAPLAN is being fought on the grounds of "comparability". According to American consultants commissioned by the NSW Teachers’ Federation, this year’s NAPLAN results “should be discarded” because around 20 per cent of students completed NAPLAN online while the rest used paper and pencil. The consultants claim that “enormous” differences between the two test formats make any comparison between them misleading.

The latest NAPLAN battle is over whether the results of the online test can be compared with those of the traditional written test.
The latest NAPLAN battle is over whether the results of the online test can be compared with those of the traditional written test.

Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Curiously, the offshore consultants reached their conclusion without any reference to the 2018 NAPLAN results. Instead, they relied on a few studies of other tests, including some 30-year-old ones — what sort of computers were around then? — their own opinions, and some gratuitous comments about the incompetence of Australian statisticians.

The consultants’ report is riddled with errors. Despite the report’s claims to the contrary, students sitting the online test can in fact go back to review and change answers to previous questions. More importantly, there are numerous examples of large-scale assessments like NAPLAN that have been able to draw valid comparisons between online and paper results. These include the Program for International Assessment, or PISA, and the Trends in International and Science Study, or TIMMS.

ACARA has now released this year’s results and they clearly show that the online and paper and pencil tests are indeed comparable.

This does not mean that the paper and pencil and the online test are identical — they are different — but they are comparable because both measure the same underlying skills: numeracy and literacy. Comparing NAPLAN scores across testing modes — or across years, for that matter — is like comparing length using centimetres and inches. They are different, but they can be compared because they both measure the same thing (length).

As it turns out, there was a difference between the paper and pencil and the online version of NAPLAN, but it was not one that the union’s consultants predicted. Based on a 1992 study, the consultants claimed that typewritten essays receive lower marks than handwritten ones. The year 9 NAPLAN results showed just the opposite — students who completed their writing tests online scored higher on the average than those who wrote by hand. This result reflects older students’ experience with writing on computers and the ease with which computer writing can be reviewed and edited.

The ability to write clearly is a vital skill; it is essential to success in practically all lines of work, yet this year’s NAPLAN results show that writing scores are at their lowest level since NAPLAN testing began. Because students are more likely to review and edit their work when writing on a computer, online writing has the potential to improve both instruction and assessment. Instead of criticising word processing and online writing, we should be harnessing this technology to improve writing skills.

The online version of NAPLAN offers numerous benefits. Results will be available much earlier in the school year to facilitate earlier intervention, and they will also be more precise. In contrast to the present one-size-fits-all paper test, NAPLAN online is tailored to the abilities of each student. Teachers receive a more precise picture of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, for the first time, NAPLAN will be able to be tailored to the individual needs of students with disabilities.

Like the legendary Rorschach inkblots used by psychiatrists, NAPLAN elicits radically divergent responses from different observers. Depending on whom you ask, the tests are too short, too long, too soft, too difficult, too narrow, too broad, too frequent or too rare. And now we are told that they cannot be compared. None of this is true.

NAPLAN exposes the truth. This year it exposed a persistent lack of improvement in writing in the 10 years since the assessment started, with one in five Year 9 students failing to achieve the minimum benchmark. Without NAPLAN we would be in the dark about these parlous education outcomes, which risks seeing our students continue to fail.

NAPLAN holds teachers, principals, schools and governments accountable. And it ensures the transparency of education results — allowing parents to be well informed. Many people find this uncomfortable, so they attack the assessment using every argument that they can mount.

It is time for parents, policymakers, and community leaders to make their voices heard. This battle will likely not be the last skirmish in the war on NAPLAN. But if the battalions that are attacking NAPLAN win, it is our students who will lose.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Chinese school removes chairs so pupils don’t linger over lunch

To maximise lesson time, a Chinese secondary school has removed all the seating from its dining hall to make sure that pupils take no more than ten minutes to eat their meals.

The 6,000 students at Suixian High School now stand up at metal tables while eating in an innovation that the school claims has halved average mealtimes.

Teachers said the initiative has freed up more time to memorise English grammar or maths formulae. They intend to speed up the process further by giving each pupil a pre-ordained spot at which to eat their meals, thus reducing the time expended finding somewhere to stand.

“It’s a best practice we’ve learnt from other schools to improve the mealtime efficiency so our students would have more time to study,” an official in the central province of Henan told local media.

The goal, the official said, is to limit mealtimes to a maximum of ten minutes. The reduction in eating times and the aim to maximise study, reflects the highly competitive and often career-defining nature of China’s national college entrance exams.

Chinese high school students typically cram intensively for the exams, with extra lessons, quizzes and mock tests, and some establishments have gone to other extreme measures to free up study time.

Hengshui High School in the northern province of Hebei limits toilet breaks, giving pupils between one and three minutes depending in the nature of their requirements. All students on their morning run must carry a text so they can learn at least one more English word during their exercise.

Mobile phones are strictly prohibited on campus, and the school unplugs landlines in its dormitories in the final weeks before the national exams to ensure zero distractions. Despite such restrictions places at the school are highly sought after because it sends a high percentage of its students to some of China’s best universities, and the Hengshui model is being copied elsewhere.

But even Hengshui High has not taken seating away from its refectory, and reaction to the new of the standing only dining hall has been mixed. “It’s a terrible idea to make students eat while standing,” the state-run Chongqing Morning Post said in an editorial. “It sacrifices the student’s health for academic scores. It’s unacceptable, and it should not be emulated.”

It quoted Gao Shan, a gastroenterologist, who suggested that rushed eating over a long period of time could lead to chronic digestive problems. The paper questioned whether the few minutes shaved off a proper meal could improve academic performance, when a meal consumed while standing is more likely to hurt one’s health, the newspaper added.

At Suixian High, some students said they understood the school’s intent was ultimately designed for their benefit.

“The school has done it for the good of us, so we don’t spend too much time on eating but more time on studying,” one student said but acknowledged that there were some teething problems. “It’ll be better if the dining table is higher,” he said.


Public Grows Disenchanted with the Ivory Tower

Is the American public losing faith in public higher education? A recent survey from the Pew Research Center suggests that broad swaths of people are indeed peeved by state-funded universities and colleges. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Richard K. Vedder explains at Forbes, 61 percent of the survey respondents indicated they thought schools were “going in the wrong direction,” including 73 percent of Republicans (or GOP leaning) and 52 percent of Democrats (or Democratic leaning).

Some concerns involved rising tuition fees (a worry shared by almost all Democrats and most Republicans) and free speech restrictions (shared by many Republicans and some Democrats). One apparent by-product of the bipartisan upset: reduced state funding for certain institutions, including a few schools troubled by well-publicized student demonstrations, such as the University of Missouri and Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Public education has a major PR problem that it can’t afford to ignore.

One step toward fixing the problem—at least on the academic-freedom front—is to ditch certain Obama-era guidelines, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow William J. Watkins Jr. “Under the Obama administration, Title IX [of the Education Amendments of 1972] became a tool not to achieve [gender] participation-parity [in school sports], but to sanction kangaroo courts and silence certain viewpoints,” Watkins writes in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has already cast aside some of the guidelines, but more needs to be done, Watkins argues. “Undoubtedly, Title IX-inspired speech codes and inquisitions stifle student speech and undermine the first principles of a free society.”


Australian student writing standards plummet to a new low: One in three Year 7 students are still learning to read and almost half of 15-year-olds need help to construct a sentence

Students have recorded the lowest ever scores since NAPLAN testing began - and the alarming slide has experts calling for urgent classroom reforms. 

The National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) are a series of basic skills tests given each year to Australian children.

A third of Year Seven students are still learning to read and almost half of 15-year-olds need help constructing sentences, according to this year's test scores.

A staggering 20 per cent of Year Nine students in New South Wales failed the writing test, the Daily Telegraph reported.

About 40 per cent of Year Nine students across the state need help from a teacher in putting a sentence together as they only just met the minimum standards for writing.

The performance of NSW students has been getting worse since 2011.

Writing results in Year Five and Year Seven were also below those when testing began.

Students who are unable to reach minimum standards - 22 per cent in NSW - may require 'additional assistance' from teachers, according to the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority.

Pete Goss of the think tank Grattan Institute said the results were disappointing, and added schools should be focusing strongly on teaching students how to write well.

'National benchmarks are not set very high and that's just not good enough,' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

'In a typical to slightly disadvantaged secondary school, one-third of Year Seven students are still learning to read, they're reading at a Year Three or Four level,' he said.

University of Technology Sydney education professor Rosemary Johnston said the poor results were due to a lack of practice.

'I don’t think it matters if it is handwriting or written on a computer, we need children to read more and to write more, otherwise it is a skill that is going to be lost,' she told the Daily Telegraph.

Students are given a picture or phrase in NAPLAN tests and are asked to write a 'persuasive or narrative' text in 40 minutes, which is then marked against ten criteria including vocabulary, spelling and sentence structure.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes defended the state's results, saying it performed above the national average when numeracy and reading were included.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

England has become one of the world’s biggest education laboratories

A third of its schools have taken part in randomised controlled trials. The struggle is getting teachers to pay attention to the evidence

ASH GROVE ACADEMY, a state primary which sits in Moss Roe, a poor suburb on the outskirts of Macclesfield, is an excellent school. Recently, its team won a local debating tournament, besting fancier rivals; its pupils are exposed to William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde; lessons are demanding and there are catch-up sessions for those who fall behind. Most important, teaching is based on up-to-date research into what works in the classroom. It is the sort of school that ministers dream of replicating across the country.

But how to do so? When the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in 2010, it set about freeing schools from local-authority control. International studies have suggested that such freedom improves results. But giving teachers autonomy doesn’t automatically mean that all will make good decisions. So in 2011 the government provided a grant of £135m ($218m) to establish the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a laboratory for education research which would provide teachers with the information to make smart choices.

In the seven years since its foundation, the EEF reckons it has commissioned 10% of all randomised controlled trials ever carried out in education research. In doing so it has turned the English school system into a giant test-bed, with a third of all state schools involved in at least one of its trials. Its work has been used in other parts of the world, like Australia and Latin America, and other countries are considering copying England’s example.

But at home, its efforts have raised difficult questions. Does providing teachers with evidence of what works change their behaviour? And if not, what next?

Where the evidence leads

The EEF was given two main jobs. First, it dished out cash to researchers with interesting ideas, becoming, on its creation, by far the biggest funder of schools research in the country. Educationalists are inclined to small-scale research projects—the sort of studies, says Stephen Gorard of Durham University, where “academics would write up three interviews with head teachers and call it research.” The EEF has prodded them in a more rigorous direction.

Some of its results have been influential. On March 19th the government set aside £26m to fund breakfast clubs, after an EEF study found that they boosted attainment. Just as significant, studies have disproved numerous teaching methods, which is important in a field where fads are common. One recent study found that a programme in which 13- and 14-year-olds assisted 11- and 12-year-olds with their reading did not help the youngsters improve.

Its second job is to disseminate existing research. Its online “teaching and learning toolkit” summarises the findings of more than 13,000 trials from around the world, rating initiatives on the basis of their cost, the strength of the evidence behind them, and their impact, which is measured in the number of months by which they advance children’s learning. Getting a pupil to repeat a year, for example, is expensive and there is adequate evidence to suggest that it sets them back by the equivalent of four months. The EEF also provides broader evidence summaries on areas of interest for schools, such as written marking and digital technology.

Teachers claim to pay attention. A report by the National Audit Office, an official spending watchdog, found that two-thirds of head teachers say they turn to EEF evidence for guidance. But the EEF has come to the realisation that the “passive presentation of evidence is not enough,” says Sir Kevan Collins, its boss. Naturally, it did this by testing its approach. Results published last year found that providing schools with high-quality evidence about teaching led to no improvement in pupils’ performance. The study did not investigate why this was the case. One possibility is that teachers did not take up the ideas. Another is that successful strategies are hard to replicate.

Thus the EEF is increasingly focused on working out how to change behaviour. “One thing we know”, says Sir Kevan, “is that teachers really trust other teachers.” The EEF has joined with officials who work with groups of schools, either in academy chains, local authorities or charities, to spread the evidence-based gospel. It has also increased its meetings with head teachers and has provided extra funding for trials of promising schemes in poorer parts of the country. As ever, all approaches will be scrutinised to see if they work.

The most ambitious shift is the recruitment of 23 “research schools”, of which Ash Grove is one. As a research school, it gets money to help around 150 other local schools, by putting on events to spread the latest research, training teachers and helping them to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom innovations. Jo Ashcroft, the director of education at Ash Grove’s group of academies, notes that the schools “don’t have endless amounts of money”, so every penny has to make a difference.

It is too soon to judge whether such an approach will work. Most educationalists agree that teachers have become more focused on research in recent years. A hard-core minority spend their weekends at conferences debating the merits of star scholars such as John Hattie and Carol Dweck. The challenge for research schools will be reaching beyond these enthusiasts.

It will not be easy. Tellingly, one of the most popular briefs published by the EEF found there was little evidence to support most marking schemes employed by schools, which often infuriate teachers with their pernicketiness. Teachers “like proof they are right”, says Becky Francis of the UCL Institute of Education; it is more difficult to change behaviour when they are wrong. The EEF hopes that evidence will be more compelling when it comes from a friendly face.


Colleges cut ties with acclaimed Boston organist amid sex allegations

Colleges in Massachusetts and Ohio have abruptly cut ties with a Boston-area concert organist of international acclaim amid allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

James David Christie, widely regarded as one of the greatest organists of his generation, has resigned his post as distinguished artist-in-residence at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, the school said Thursday. He has also left Oberlin College and Conservatory, where he was a professor of organ and chair of the organ department. Christie has played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra since at least 1980, and he served as Wellesley College organist for years.

A group of former students wrote Holy Cross president Rev. Philip L. Boroughs earlier this month, charging that Christie “is an imminent danger to students on your campus.”

“Several of us were sexually abused by Prof. Christie while we were Holy Cross students,” the group wrote in its Aug. 3 letter. “Holy Cross has enabled Prof. Christie’s misconduct, and has a responsibility now to respond to our coming forward as quickly and decisively as possible.”

In a statement to the Globe on Thursday, Holy Cross said the college “was informed of allegations of serious misconduct and immediately placed Mr. Christie on administrative leave, in accordance with college policy. Mr. Christie had submitted a letter of resignation, and he will not be returning to the College.”

Inside the ‘cult’ that catapulted conductor James Levine’s career
At the beginning of the maestro’s 50-year career, Levine ran what some young musicians considered a cult, allegedly making members take loyalty tests and engage in group sex.

An Oberlin spokesperson referred the Globe to a general statement dated Thursday on the school’s website regarding recent allegations of sexual misconduct against unnamed faculty members. In a Thursday e-mail to Oberlin students, staff, and faculty obtained by the Globe, conservatory dean Andrea Kalyn said the school’s Title IX officer recently received reports that Christie had allegedly violated Oberlin’s sexual misconduct policy.

“Professor Christie was informed of these allegations and was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation,” wrote Kalyn. “He has resigned, and no longer teaches at Oberlin.”

A Wellesley spokeswoman said the college has “no record of any complaints” against Christie, adding that in 2016 he was classified as an independent contractor there.

Christie, 66, did not respond to multiple telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Christie, who was named International Performer of the Year for 2017 by the American Guild of Organists’ New York City Chapter, has performed with many of the world’s great orchestras during his long career. He has appeared on numerous recordings and has strong ties to the Boston area, where his work with the BSO has been singled out by reviewers in recent years.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the BSO said the orchestra had been unaware of the allegations against Christie, who performed with the orchestra as a freelance musician and has no formal title with the BSO.

“The Boston Symphony Orchestra has never had complaints against Mr. Christie,” the statement read. “Mr. Christie is not on the schedule to perform with the BSO this upcoming season, and there are no plans to engage him for future performances with the orchestra.”

In multiple interviews with the Globe, former students at Holy Cross and Oberlin described a consistent pattern of sexual harassment by Christie. Some said the organist used his considerable artistic standing to manipulate and cajole students, dangling before them entrance to some of classical music’s most rarefied circles. Former students also described a sexually charged environment that included lewd comments, large amounts of alcohol, and unwanted touching over a period between 1994 and 2017.


Australia: Release of education testing 2018 information summary

I am not convinced that the improvement over base year is real.  Having "experts" say it is, is a laugh.  What about a proper validation test?

The NAPLAN summary results issued today include combined data for online and paper student cohorts.

“Overall, the NAPLAN results for 2018 show that since 2008 there have been statistically significant gains in a number of domains and year levels, particularly at the primary level,” ACARA CEO, Robert Randall, said.

The national summary preliminary NAPLAN results for 2018 show:

Compared with the base year:

The performance of Australian students in Years 5 and 9 numeracy, Years 3 and 5 reading,Years 3 and 5 spelling, and Years 3 and 7 grammar was significantly above the NAPLAN 2008 average.
The writing test results in Years 5, 7 and 9 were below those observed in the base year (2011).

Compared with 2017:

Results were stable, with no statistically significant changes compared with last year in any of the NAPLAN domains. “This was the first year in which some students took NAPLAN online and the transition was smooth, with feedback from schools at the time of testing stating that students found the online assessment engaging,” said Mr Randall.

“The NAPLAN Online platform performed well and 99.8 per cent of students were able to complete the assessment online.”

Prior to release, NAPLAN results are reviewed and endorsed by independent measurement advisory experts.

These measurement experts have confirmed that the results for online and paper NAPLAN have assessed the same content and can be placed on the same NAPLAN assessment scale. While NAPLAN results can be compared between assessment modes and years, individual student experiences for any single test may differ due to a range of factors, including the mode of delivery or a student’s performance on the day.

For example, this year’s results for Year 9 students who completed writing test online were, on average, higher than the results of students who completed writing test on paper. The independent experts have confirmed the results are comparable; however, this difference appears to be a result of the test mode. The difference may be due to students at this year level having greater confidence writing online than on paper, as well as students’ ability to readily review and edit their work online in a way that is not possible with a paper test. This reinforces the benefit of moving to NAPLAN Online, which will give teachers, students and parents more information about what students know and can do, and where additional support is needed.

NAPLAN assesses the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy, with the data provided used by families, schools and education systems to ensure Australian students are supported in their learning. As always, NAPLAN provides a snapshot of a child’s assessment at a point in time and individual student results should be considered together with school-based assessments.

Via email:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The British Labour party's private schoolboys: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'hypocrisy' over calls for BBC to publish 'social class' data

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “hypocrisy” after he called on the BBC to publish data on the “social class” of its journalists, despite several of his closest aides hailing from leading independent schools.

The Labour leader faced criticism on Thursday after he suggested the broadcaster demonstrate “complete transparency” by publishing data on the backgrounds of its workforce, only for Labour to later fail to provide similar information on his own inner circle when it was requested.

Critics were quick to point out that three of his most senior staff were privately educated, as were the party’s new general secretary and the chairman of Momentum, the pro-Corbyn campaign group.


Christian College Group Goes to Court – Again: U of Iowa Targets Religious Groups

So it’s okay for Christian groups to require their leaders to be Christian, right? Or a Muslim group to demand that its leaders be Muslim? Well, not on some campuses.

I’m not one to go around quoting Karl Marx very often, but today I can’t resist. Marx once said that history repeats itself, “the first [time] as tragedy, then as farce.”

And farce is exactly what we have at the University of Iowa.

The 33,000-student institution of higher education in Iowa City is being sued by, of all people—InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. And what, pray tell, did the solons at Iowa do to be served with a lawsuit? Well, they kicked IVCF and 37 other groups off campus for violating the school’s “human rights” policy. InterVarsity ran afoul of this policy because its charter required that its leaders actually be—wait for it—Christians.

The school thus accused InterVarsity of discriminating against people of different faiths, or no faith. Now, you don’t have to hold an advanced degree to figure out that no group can keep its distinct character if it allows people who hold beliefs antithetical to its core values to lead it. So imagine the student atheist club allowing Christian leaders. It’s insane! So InterVarsity is suing to protect its First Amendment rights—and the rights of others.

As Daniel Blomberg of the Becket law firm told the Christian Post, “Universities should allow students the space to form their own groups that challenge and grow their sincere beliefs. Banning religious groups from having religious leaders just flattens diversity and impoverishes the campus.”

My association with Socrates in the City, a forum bringing busy professionals face to face with the important questions about life, brings home to me the great need to have an active Christian witness on campus, especially any campus that prides itself on “diversity.”

Besides InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, some of the other groups kicked off campus at Iowa are the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, Young Life, the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Imam Mahdi Organization, and the Sikh Awareness Club.

InterVarsity, for its part, would like to settle this quietly.

“We’re grateful to have been part of the university community for 25 years,” Kristina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, said in a statement. “Because we love our school, we hope it reconsiders and lets religious groups continue to authentically reflect their religious roots.”

If all this sounds familiar to you, it should. Last year, Wayne State University in Michigan expelled InterVarsity from campus for requiring that its leaders affirm Christian faith. In March, after InterVarsity filed suit for religious discrimination, just two days later, Wayne State backed down. There’s more.

According to Christianity Today, InterVarsity “lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ ‘all comers’ policy.” And for now, Iowa is allowing IVCF back on campus until the lawsuit is ended.

So, what do we do in the face of such blatant discrimination against InterVarsity and other religious groups on our campuses? First, of course, we pray. This is ultimately a spiritual battle. Second, if your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, is about to go off to a secular college campus, find out what its policies are. If you find that they’re discriminating against Christian or other religious groups, speak up—and if they don’t satisfy your concerns, send your dollars and your kids elsewhere. The same goes for you alums. How is your alma mater treating religious groups?

Third, let’s all remember that opposition is par for the course for believers. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Of course, it was also Paul who defended his rights in the Roman courts so that the gospel could go forward.

So thank you InterVarsity, for fighting the good fight.


UK: It's the pronoun posse! Students Union hands out badges to freshers listing if they prefer to be known as 'he', 'she' or 'they' to help transgender students settle in

Freshers at Edinburgh University will be offered badges telling fellow students whether to call them he, she or they.

The move by the students' union is intended to avoid 'misgendering' transgender and non-binary youngsters starting at the university this autumn.

The badges will be available during the university's Welcome Week next month, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

A guide published by the students' union said people should 'normalise' the sharing of pronouns so their classmates know how to refer to them.

Kai O'Doherty, welfare vice president at the student body, said on Twitter: We'll be getting pronoun badges at [the union] for any students to use if they want, during Welcome Week and throughout the year!'

The guide said it was 'frustrating and harmful' for transgender people when others assumed which pronouns to use based on their appearance.

It suggested that people could add their chosen pronouns to their email signature in an effort to encourage people to speak openly about the subject. 

In a list of 'best practice' ideas the guide also suggested it would be more inclusive to welcome 'everybody' rather than using the form 'ladies and gentlemen'.

The guide said: 'The purpose of normalising the regular sharing of pronouns is to ensure we’re less likely to be in situations where we don’t know someone’s pronouns.'

'For people who have never been misgendered and whose correct pronouns are used routinely by everyone around them, sharing pronouns can seem silly or boring.

'However, it’s important to remember that for people who have experienced misgendering or whose pronouns are less common, the simple act of sharing is a welcome and important act of inclusion.' 


Monday, August 27, 2018

Out-of-Control Teacher Threatens Violence Against a Student for Calling Her ‘Ma’am’

Take a walk through American schools these days, and one thing becomes dramatically clear: There’s a lack of respect coming from young people.

Whether it’s frequent fights between unruly students or classrooms so chaotic that dozens of teachers quit at once, many school districts are struggling with disrespectful and uninterested pupils.

You’d think that a boy actually trying to show courtesy to educators would be welcomed. Apparently not, at least if a disturbing incident in North Carolina is any sign.

According to WSFA News, a 10-year-old boy was recently punished by a teacher and verbally threatened with violence. His offense? He said “yes, ma’am” to a female teacher.

Tamarion Wilson attends North East Carolina Preparatory School in Tarboro, North Carolina. When he came home from school this past Tuesday, his mother knew something was wrong and started asking questions.

“I asked him what happened,” explained Teretha Wilson. “He said he got in trouble for saying ‘yes, ma’am.'”

Then the 10-year-old showed his mother a sheet of paper he was forced to write as punishment. “(H)e’d been made to write the word “ma’am,” four times per line on both sides – all because he’d referred to his teacher as such after she’d instructed him not to,” reported WSFA.

More alarmingly, the teacher also told the boy that she would have thrown something at him if her hands were full after he used “ma’am” to address her.

The teacher sent the boy home with a paper to be signed by a parent and returned. His mother did — but also included a second paper on which the young student wrote out the definition for the term “ma’am.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “ma’am” is short for madam, “used without a name as a form of respectful or polite address to a woman.”

As anybody who has spent time in the south knows, saying “sir” and “ma’am” is quite common as a sign of respect and many parents instill this in their children. The young boy’s parents said that’s exactly what they taught their son.

“He had a look on his face of disappointment, shame,” said McArthur Bryant, who is Tamarion’s father.

“At the end of the day, as a father, you feel kind of responsible for that. Knowing that I have been raising him and doing the best that I can, it’s not acceptable,” Bryant said.

Incredibly, school officials acknowledged during a meeting with the parents that the teacher did threaten to throw something at the boy, but claimed she wasn’t serious.

“Following the meeting, Wilson requested her son be moved to a different classroom, which the principal agreed to do,” WSFA News reported.

“In a statement about the handling of the situation, a school official said: ‘This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal,'” the news outlet continued.

Now, it is possible that there is more to the story. Perhaps the teacher genuinely believed that the student was using the term in a mocking or condescending way, instead of being polite.

In light of other stories, like the case last year where a teacher sued her school because co-workers used the “wrong” gender pronoun, there’s a very good chance this played out exactly as WSFA reported it.

America’s youth could use more respect for adults, not less. There’s no way around it: Punishing a boy for using a common term of courtesy — especially in the south — is simply ridiculous.


What Five American Teachers Learned From Germany's Education System

Less emphasis on university entrance.  More on trades

These state teachers of the year, from Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., met German public school teachers, visited a private school in Berlin, and toured a vocational training program at a Siemens plant in Berlin. The teachers also visited historical and cultural sites in the city and participated in a discussion with two women who grew up on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall.

The teachers' trips were funded through EF Educational Tours, an educational travel agency for students and teachers, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Education Week spoke with three of the teachers about their trip. (To read about teachers' trips in past years, see Madeline Will's coverage of prior state teachers' visits to Finland.)

Vocational Training and Career Preparation

All three of the teachers remarked on the strength and breadth of Germany's vocational training program.

In Germany, many students end secondary school after 10th grade and start on-the-job training or enroll in a vocational school. Most German students are tracked around the age of 12, either enrolled in a college-preparatory program, a school that prepares them for an apprenticeship supplemented with higher education coursework, or a vocational track.

This rigid structure has loosened somewhat in the past two decades as Germany sought to close the achievement gap between its highest and lowest performing students, but critics of the system still say it perpetuates inequalities: Children of native-born parents are overrepresented in the college-bound track, while children of immigrants are more likely to be in vocational schools.

In the U.S., "there is still sort of this notion that every kid who graduates from high school needs to [go to] college in order to be successful—and that is not the case in Germany," said Heidi Crumrine, an English teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire.

The teachers saw an example of this vocational education in a visit to Siemens, the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe. The company participates in Germany's dual-training program, an option through the public school system in which students spend part of the week at a vocational school and part of the week working in industry.

Training, testing, and certification requirements are nationally standardized, so students aren't just preparing for a job with the company where they're apprenticing—they could earn certification in a certain trade at Siemens, and then use the credentials to apply for another job elsewhere.

Some U.S. schools offer similar certification tracks: Crumrine's school, for example, offers training in cosmetology, automotive technology, and health sciences. Students who complete a program can graduate with an endorsement for the trade. But vocational programs in the United States are more localized, operating at the state level or even in individual districts.

This large-scale, public program is more comprehensive than any career and technical education options in the U.S., said Paul Howard, a social studies teacher at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in Washington, D.C. "Even at the college level in the U.S., we haven't figured out how to give people applicable knowledge," he said.

High schools in this country could do a better job of "helping students make that transition from school to work," said Becky Mitchell, an English and science teacher at Vision Charter School in Caldwell, Ind. The trip to Siemens gave her ideas about forming workforce partnerships at her own school in Idaho that could prepare her students for IT jobs in Boise, the state's capital, she said.

But Howard was skeptical that the U.S. as a whole—a much larger, more decentralized education system than in Germany, with a more diverse student population—could effectively replicate the national vocational training model.

"To say that we can just take what we're doing and drop it into the United States, which has a completely different historical context and cultural context—it's not going to happen," he said.

Teacher Challenges

But the German public school teachers that the state teachers of the year met with also discussed difficulties they experienced in the classroom.

"In the states, we kind of have this mythos that we've built around European schools," said Howard, when in reality, the teachers there face challenges as well.

Some of the issues were similar to those faced by U.S. teachers: Public school teachers told Howard that students from poor families in Germany don't get access to the same opportunities that the children of wealthier parents do.

Teacher pay is also low compared to other professions, they said, and teacher retention is a problem in German schools. (Teacher pay in Germany is actually higher than in the United States—2016 research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that a veteran high school teacher there makes about $89,000 annually, while the same analysis put the average salary for a seasoned U.S. teacher at $69,000.)

"We're subject to the same bureaucracy, the same red tape," said Mitchell. "And we all want what's best for our students."


Vocational schools must select to lift Britain’s technical merit

Toby Young

FOR more than a century, education experts have been warning that Britain places too much emphasis on academic education and not enough on technical or vocational.

Today, there is not just a growing consensus that we need to redress the balance, but an increasing demand for high-quality technical/vocational schools.

The growing skills gap in the UK means that by 2022 there are expected to be an additional 3.6 million vacancies in skilled occupations, such as advanced manufacturing.

Since 2010, 118 technical/vocational schools have been set up, aimed at 14 to 19-year-olds with a particular aptitude for a range of skilled occupations – 57 University Technical Colleges (UTCs), 55 studio schools and six free schools. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, they have not been successful.

To date, 36 of these schools have either been shut down, converted to other types of school or are earmarked for closure or conversion.

This has caused embarrassment to successive governments, undermined the credibility of the education reform programme that these schools are linked with, and harmed the life chances of the students consigned to them.

Those technical schools that are still open are also facing significant obstacles. For example, pupils at UTCs have lower GCSE scores, make less progress and acquire fewer qualifications than their contemporaries at comprehensives.

There are many difficulties facing technical and vocational schools, but my report, Technically Gifted, argues that their poor performance is largely due to the fact that they cannot select pupils, but must take all-comers – which in practice means that the headteachers of neighbouring comprehensives are using them as ‘‘dumping grounds’’ for their most poorly behaved, low-attaining students.

This puts off pupils who might actually benefit from the specialised education on offer and leaves the schools with many unfilled places.

It also blights the life chances of the hard-to-teach children who end up in them, and those who share their classrooms.

England’s two most successful technical/vocational schools – the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in London and Birmingham Ormiston Academy – are both selective and cater for those aged 14-19.

Historically, some of the most successful technical/vocational schools in Britain in the last 100 years – such as the 15 City Technology Colleges set up in the early 1980s, of which the BRIT School is one – have been selective.

Technical and vocational education in Britain has a long history of failure. Secondary moderns, where councils steered children who failed the 11-plus and where pupils had an opportunity to take qualifications in non-academic subjects, were, with a few exceptions, not particularly successful or popular.

Under the current system, technical/vocational education is still seen as an ‘‘alternative’’ for those who cannot cope with academic subjects or who have a range of difficulties.

This means fewer pupils are willing to move aged 14 – and most of those who do end up in these schools make below average progress.

In the 1990s, reforms to the qualification system to promote technical and vocational education largely failed, and so now the Government is creating T-Levels.

My report argues that, if the Government wants England’s technical/vocational schools to survive and thrive, it must cut the Gordian Knot linking technical and vocational education to a lack of aptitude for academic subjects and allow these schools to select pupils according to aptitude for their particular specialisms at the age of 14.

Not only would this transform the fortunes of these schools, it would also enable the Department for Education (DfE) to set up new 14-19 technical/vocational schools that would be likely to succeed, including replicas of the BRIT School and BOA in other English cities like Manchester and Liverpool.

This would not require any amendment to primary or secondary legislation. A policy change by the Secretary of State for Education would suffice.

This reform would help with Ministers’ stated aim of boosting the status of technical and vocational education by making sure specialist 14-19 schools are not seen as a second-best option.

It would also enhance the Government’s efforts to improve the calibre of technical/vocational qualifications via the introduction of T-levels, ensuring that those who take them (including a 45-day work placement at the end of each course)
are not just employment-ready but motivated to seek a career in the relevant industry.

Above all, it would fundamentally improve the life chances, income and well-being of those who have an aptitude for this type of education and would like the opportunity to pursue it, rather than treating them – as we have done for so long – like second-class citizens.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

School District Under Fire From Parents After Banning Fast Food

Parents of children at a Missouri school are fighting back after the school district announced it was banning fast food from being eaten on campus during school hours.

A terse announcement on the Facebook page of Dear Elementary in the Richmond School District in Richmond, Missouri, stated that "(n)ew board policy states that no fast food is allowed at lunch or during school hours for students."

One would assume that there isn't a Carl's Jr. anywhere inside Dear Elementary or any of the other schools in Richmond. However, this means that parents can't even make choices regarding what their own children bring to school.

It didn't take long after the Aug. 15 announcement for the district to start receiving significant backlash.

"At the end of the day, we want to be able to decide on our own," Chris Swafford, who has five kids in the district and two at Dear Elementary, told WDAF-TV.

"I thought it was overstepping at its finest," he said. "It's up to parents what their children eat."

Swafford also contended that fast food was being made a popular scapegoat, claiming that there wasn't a whole lot of nutritional difference between some of the bagged lunches that parents give their children and the fast food lunches the school was banning.

"Just because I don't personally bring fast food to my children at school doesn't mean other parents shouldn't be able to do," Swafford said.

"Parents' lives are busy. They sometimes have things going on, and sometimes, grabbing a 10-piece nugget from McDonald's and taking it to their child shouldn't be an issue."

Richmond School District Superintendent Mike Aytes told WDAF that district personnel were too busy to comment on the issue. Parents on Facebook, however, weren't. School lunches, as those who remember Michelle Obama's tenure as first lady know, are a hot-button issue.

"I don't agree with this. At all," one parent wrote.

"I'm the parent. It is my job to parent my child and make those decisions. What she eats, how much she eats, what she wears, how she does her hair, if I keep her home because she is sick, those are MY decisions The schools sole responsibility is to provide a safe, positive learning environment for my children to get an education. They are not, and will not be making parenting decisions for my children."

"They don't get money from students that bring a lunch from home. Why can't they have a burger with family on special occasions?!" another wrote. "This is stupid as can be!"

One of the more common arguments for the policy wasn't health outcomes, however, but the fact that fast food represents privilege.

"My kids take their lunch," parent Karen Williams said. While she opposed the policy, she said she understood fast food might make other kids feel bad. "Kids have been getting their birthday lunch brought to them since they were in kindergarten. I think it's kind of silly, but I could see how other kids would feel sad if they didn't have anything ever."

"Oddly I support this," another Facebook commenter wrote, according to Fox News. "I would hope they are doing this for the right reasons though. That being it's simply not right for kids who do not ever get these things to watch the other classmates eat it in front of them. Some parents can't afford to bring child fast food."

"So what about all of the other kids that are going to be complaining that your kid got a happy meal and they didn't? What about the kids who parents can't afford to bring their children lunch or something like that? Are you really gonna let your kid eat their happy meal in front of all these other kids? They're avoiding those issues all together with this policy," another person defending the plan wrote.

Head, meet hand.

I can marginally understand the concept behind banning fast food in schools for health reasons, although I'd point out that school-provided or home-cooked lunches aren't necessarily any healthier. However, since when did fast food become a status symbol? Maybe it's just me, but I was under the impression it was the other way around.

Here's a novel idea: Let's go further in eliminating outward vestiges of privileges. Why stop at burgers and fries?

Let's put all these kids in school uniforms so nobody has to worry about being clothes-conscious. Students can't be bused to school, since those buses might stop in front of their houses and other students would see how rich their families are. All kids will be henceforth driven to class in school-issued 2003 Kia Rios so that nobody will seem any richer than anyone else. Trained dogs will be stationed at all entrances, sniffing out any students that may try to smuggle in a Whopper or a Frosty.

Busybody educators of the world, unite and take over!

Yes, this is wholly ridiculous - just as ridiculous as banning fast food from schools that happily serve pigswill, all in the name of health consciousness and privilege-checking.


The snowflakes are safe: University bans snowball fights and water guns

The endless quest for ‘safe spaces’ on campus hits a ridiculous new low. Delaware State University has announced that it is banning snowball fights, water guns, super soakers, and most masks that cover the face out of concern that they could present “potential harm” to students.

According to Fox 6, which first reported the ban, violators could face punishment including “warnings, reprimands, community service, fines, or disciplinary probation.”

Now, the school is claiming that it has enacted the new rules in order to create a “safe space” for students. But I think a truly safe space is one where you are allowed to experience the joy that some of life’s simplest pleasures have to offer.

Let’s face it: Snowball fights are pretty much the only good thing about this particular form of precipitation. Snow, after all, is generally terrible. It’s basically just chunks of freezing cold death that fall from the sky, which eventually melt and turn everything they’ve touched into mud. You’re forced to walk around cold and wet — and then cold, wet, and muddy — when all you’re trying to do is get to class. Sure, there are some people who get excited for things like the first snow, but I personally am not one of them. In fact, the moment I see those formidable flakes falling from the sky, I immediately start praying to God to save me from what is assuredly going to be four to five months of pure, shivering hell.

If you can’t tell, I hate the winter. But even someone like me can appreciate a good snowball fight. In fact, other than possibly sledding, the one saving grace that we have as humans in the wintery months of misery might just be the pure, unadulterated joy of a snowball fight. You might have to worry about things like school or work or bills, but when you’re engaged in a snowball fight, all of those things melt away. When you’re engaged in a snowball fight, all you can think about is creaming your friend with a snowball, and dodging your friends’ fire as they aim to cream you. The same joy can be experienced during the summer using water guns. When you’re playing these sorts of games, you can feel like a kid again, and that’s not something that Delaware State should be taking away from its students.

Another thing to remember about snowball fights is that they are, indeed, consensual. If one student were to just randomly smash another student in the face with snow, that wouldn’t be a snowball fight. It would be assault, and I would completely condone the college punishing the perpetrator. Banning snowball and water-gun fights altogether, though, is absolutely ridiculous. After all, most students attending college are adults. By the time you’re an adult, you should be given the freedom to decide whether or not you’d like to participate in a snowball or water-gun fight on your own. You have the emotional capacity to make that decision on your own. What’s more, by the time you’ve reached adulthood, you generally know how to wield both snowballs and water guns in a responsible way. You know not to hit people in the face, and you know that people have to consent in order to be considered a participant in the fight.

College can be a stressful time — exams, papers, figuring out what you want to do with your life after you graduate. Taking away the relief of a snowball or water-gun fight is wrong and un-American — and Delaware State University should be ashamed of itself.


Australia: Inner-Sydney primary school bans SOCCER BALLS - to make the playground 'safer'

Parents have been left outraged after their children's primary school banned soccer balls and limited students access to the oval.

Summer Hill Public School, in Sydney's inner-west, sent a letter to the parents of more than 800 students this week to announce the new rules.

Natalie Bamback said her active seven-year-old son Nash Cazilieris was devastated he could no longer play his favourite sport at lunch time. 'He loves playing with the ball... I suppose he will get used to the new rules, but he doesn't like it,' she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Under the new rules, Summer Hill Public School students will not be allowed to bring anything bigger than a tennis ball in to school.

Parent Michelle Vasconcelos said the new rules were overzealous. 'I understand why they're doing it, because there's a lot of kids that are getting hit – and teachers – with the balls. But at the same time they are kids, they should be coming to school, playing, enjoying the playground,' she said.

The school, which has has two main play areas - a basketball court and an oval - also stipulated changes to children's play time on the oval. Under the new rules, each grade will be banned from the oval one day a week, to 'alleviate overcrowding'. The school said the rule would make the oval safer for all students.

Summer Hill said oval time would be staggered to prevent younger children being injured by older students as they played side-by-side.

Opposition education spokesman Jihad Dib said overcrowding was a huge issue in schools, but he said the problem should not be passed on to the children.

'What you don't want to have is a situation where it's becoming so overcrowded that kids have to sit down at playtime and not do anything,' he said.

Summer Hill Public School, while popular for its successful NAPLAN results, is about 96 per cent full, the publication reported. Anywhere between 80 and 100 per cent is efficient.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the new rules were not prompted by a lack of space, instead introduced to prevent conflict between the children.