Thursday, November 22, 2018

Policymakers Should Listen to Voters on School Choice

Despite a lot of headwinds and massive spending by the teachers’ unions and other opponents of education reform, school-choice supporters did very well in the 2018 midterm elections. The American Federation for Children and our affiliates participated in 377 state races to support pro–school choice candidates in 12 states, winning 77 percent of them. Heading into the 2019 legislative sessions, there are now pro–school choice governors and state legislatures in most states in the country.

Voters have made it clear: They want their policymakers to support and expand K–12 educational choice. Polling has shown that the majority of Republican, Democratic, and independent voters support school choice. Support is particularly strong among Latinos (72 percent), African Americans (66 percent), and Millennials (64 percent), according to a 2018 poll by Beck Research and commissioned by the American Federation for Children. These results were reinforced by the annual Education Next poll, which show that 57 percent of Americans support tax-credit scholarships and 54 percent support universal vouchers. And despite the avalanche of negative press about school choice and its strongest national champion, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, support for private-school choice and charter schools increased from 2017 to 2018.

There are important takeaways from the elections for policymakers on both sides of the aisle. The Wall Street Journal and Tampa Bay Times have noted that support from communities of color played an important role in the Arizona and Florida gubernatorial elections. African-American and Latino voters whose children are enrolled in private-school-choice programs or in charter schools likely tipped the scales toward Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida and contributed to the big win by Arizona Republican governor Doug Ducey.

In Florida, exit polls showed that Republican Ron DeSantis received 14 percent of the African-American vote, a strong showing against Democrat Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor and an African American. That support was bolstered by DeSantis’s unwavering support for the Florida tax-credit scholarship program, which serves more than 100,000 children from low-income families, 70 percent of whom are minority. Gillum stated that he wanted to bring the program “to a conclusion.” In Arizona, Republican governor Doug Ducey, a vocal school-choice champion, captured 44 percent of the Latino vote in his reelection victory. As we’ve seen in other elections, educational choice can be a powerful political issue and voters with children benefiting from these programs will reward candidates who stand with them.

Legislative momentum to give families more educational options has been steady and strong for a decade. Today, 26 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., offer private-school choice as an option. These programs are educating more than 500,000 children, most of whom are from lower-income and minority families.

What is the reason for this momentum, and why is giving families and children greater choice in K–12 education so important and so urgent? It’s because our K–12 system assigns children to schools according to their ZIP codes rather than their educational needs. According to the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fewer than half of our fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math; 27 percent are scoring at the “below basic” level. The numbers are even worse for minority children and those from lower-income families. On the Program for International Student Assessment, the United States ranks 35th in math and 23rd in reading out of 72 countries. In addition, despite a government-reported 84 percent graduation rate for public high schools, the nation spends nearly $7 billion annually on remediating high-school graduates.

The K–12 system is failing too many of our children, and families — and voters — know it. School-choice advocates believe that every family, regardless of its ZIP code, should be able to choose the best educational environment for its children — public, private, charter, magnet, virtual, home, or a blend of those options. We also believe that real competition for an antiquated government monopoly system is essential to improving educational outcomes across the board.

We have seen school choice work in states all across the country. Twenty years of research has shown that students participating in these programs are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. Surrounding public schools are more likely to improve with the existence of other options for families. Private-school choice should be among the options for families in every state.

The politicians in Washington, D.C., should also take note of the strong support for school choice among voters, and of the results that have been generated in the states. They can start by insisting on a rewrite of a broadly worded proposed IRS rule for the 2017 tax bill. The proposed rule threatens corporate and individual tax-credit scholarship programs that currently serve nearly 300,000 students in 18 states. If implemented as written, many corporate and individual donors would no longer participate in these programs and those scholarships would end. This not only hurts families, children, and the private schools they attend but will also have a negative financial impact on public school districts. It was not the intent of Congress to use tax reform to harm tax-credit scholarship programs and the students they serve. The proposed IRS rule should be more narrowly written.

Instead of contracting school choice by IRS rule, Congress and the administration should facilitate an expansion of school choice for America’s families and children.

State and federal policymakers must no longer ignore the evidence that our K–12 system is not doing the job for America’s students. Tinkering around the edges of an antiquated $650 billion system will not bring the necessary change. Governors, state legislatures, Congress, and the administration need to think outside the establishment box and act boldly. Americans expect and enjoy choice in virtually every aspect of their lives, including higher education. Educational choice is a policy and political winner. The politicians should listen to the voters and enact policies to give every child access to a quality education, which would improve educational outcomes across the board. School choice is not a silver bullet or cure-all, but it is an essential component to transforming our nation’s antiquated K–12 system into a 21st-century model for giving every child the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential.


Boston schools agree to change policies on suspensions

Bad for order.  More classroom chaos

The Boston school system has agreed to revamp its school suspension practices as part of a settlement of a case alleging that school employees illegally suspended students and in some cases threatened to notify police or child welfare investigators if parents could not immediately pick up misbehaving children.

Among the changes: The system will end the practice of suspending kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders, and stop suspending older students for minor offenses.

The lawsuit, which was filed last year in Suffolk Superior Court, centered on three students of color who were allegedly involved in relatively minor discipline incidents that the schools nevertheless treated as urgent crises.

The settlement comes as education and social justice advocates in Massachusetts and across the nation have been raising concerns that over-reliance on suspensions is potentially putting too many students on a path to the criminal justice system.

Suspensions can cause students to fall behind academically. It also provides them with unsupervised time when they can get in trouble, fueling what advocates contend is a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects students of color and those with disabilities, who experience higher rates of suspensions than their peers.

“We need to solve this problem and not just remove kids from school,” said Elizabeth McIntyre, an attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services, which represented the parents as part of its School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project.

According to the lawsuit, the Ellison/Parks Early Education Center in Mattapan demanded that one mother drop everything and pick up her 8-year-old daughter because the girl had wandered out of her classroom and into the guidance office four times that day. In another instance, the McKinley South End Academy canceled bus transportation for one boy without informing his parents that he had been suspended and then repeatedly refused to provide his mother with information about the discipline.

And TechBoston Academy in Dorchester insisted that a mother immediately take her 12-year-old son home without initially offering an explanation. It was later revealed that the boy had had an argument with another classmate during lunch.

In each case, the schools failed to follow state law and the school system’s own discipline policies, which require schools to notify parents and hold a hearing before suspending a student.

Greater Boston Legal Services said the incidents are endemic of a larger problem in which Boston schools ignore state law and school system policies, while often threatening families with retaliation if they cannot immediately come to school because they are at work, caring for other children, lack transportation, or attending school themselves.

“These threats have included: telling parents the school will file a report of alleged child neglect with the state Department of Children and Families, calling the police on their young children, unilaterally putting a child in an ambulance and sending them to a hospital emergency room — regardless of a parent’s ability to meet their child at the hospital — or requiring the child to stay out of the classroom all day,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also contends schools frequently do not officially record suspensions.

The Boston school system admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement but agreed to halt unlawful suspensions. The agreement restricts suspensions to cases involving physical assaults, sexual misconduct, repeated bullying, civil rights violations, and possession of dangerous weapons or controlled substances.

Other measures agreed to include streamlining the process by which schools record suspensions and training school staff on a variety of issues, including alternative approaches to school discipline and proper procedures for reporting incidents to child welfare investigators.

Laura Perille, interim superintendent, touted steps the school system has taken in recent years to reduce suspensions, while saying that some measures in the agreement will aid in that effort.

“With the finalization of this agreement, BPS will be providing support to school staff to ensure full implementation of disciplinary protocols that are consistent with established best practices, legal obligations, and the best interests of all BPS students,” Perille said in a statement.

According to data the school system released Friday, its overall suspension rate dropped from 4.8 percent during the 2014-15 school year to 2.1 percent last year. Suspension rates during that time declined for black students from 7.6 percent to 3.2 percent and for Latino students from 4.4 percent to 2 percent.

The data also indicated that 229 kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders were suspended last school year.

School systems across Massachusetts have been under pressure from the state to reduce suspension rates, since the enactment of a state law in 2014 required schools to use suspensions as a last resort.

Although suspension rates have declined statewide, questions have persisted about whether some schools are suspending students off the books or recording suspensions as routine absences. For instance in 2015, a Globe reporter spotted a sign on the front door at Brighton High School warning tardy students they would not be allowed inside after 9 a.m. unless they had a note from a doctor or the court.

Parents who filed the lawsuit said Friday they hoped the agreement will result in students missing fewer days of classes and that procedures will be followed, including providing students and families their due-process rights for hearings when a suspension is recommended along with necessary information.


College Cancels “The Vagina Monologues”: Fails To Give Voice To Transgender Women Without Vaginas

All-women’s Mount Holyoke College will no longer perform their annual production of Eve Ensler’s narcissistic celebration of female sexuality, The Vagina Monologues, on Valentine’s Day because it fails to give a voice to transgendered women who don’t have vaginas.

The play served as the feminist bible for a generation asking the deepest of questions involving womanhood,  such as “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?” The Vagina Monologues is a tour de force of sexual discovery, pedophilia, homosexuality and other topics explored ad nauseam in plays since the 195os, except without the subtleties. Instead, the play is more of a grotesque “up-in-your-grille” style of performance art aiming to offend non-feminists, which it often does.

The Daily News reported that Erin Murphy, a spokesperson for the school’s Project Theatre Board, wrote in a campus-wide email, that “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.” The Board also wrote in a Facebook post that Ensler’s play “fails the trans community in a lot of ways.”

Murphy elaborated: “Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”

Refusing to remain in the past, the students at the South Hadley, Mass liberal arts college decided that they would no longer ignore the vagina-less women on campus. Instead they are debuting an original play called The Student Body, (kind of a Vagina Monologues 2.0), which will also explore topical issues of sex and gender, but throw a bone to non-vagina equipped women (no pun intended).

Not every student took kindly to the change in the Valentine Day tradition of showing Ensler’s homage to vaginas. Appearing on an online anonymous message board, the Holyoke Confessional, one student messaged, “I love how people who have never been able to discuss or embrace their vaj-wahs aren’t going to find an avenue here, either, since female-validating talk about vaginas is now forbidden. That’s so misogynistic under the guise of ‘progress.’”


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Students reportedly took a College Republicans chapter’s signs at a California State University campus, saying they were “inaccurate.”

The incident occurred at California State University, Chico, where some of the signs were allegedly taken while another sign was said to have been destroyed. CSU Chico’s College Republicans Executive Director Michael Curry said the signs claimed three liberal council candidates “want to raise gas prices” and “ignore [the] homeless problem,” Campus Reform reported Monday.

Curry told The Daily Caller News Foundation over Facebook messenger the incident happened on “Tuesday Election Day,” which was on Nov. 6.

Curry is heard asking the women what they were doing with the signs originally in the ground, according to video footage obtained by Campus Reform.

One of them replied, “We’re taking them — ” while another interrupted and agreed, adding, “Yeah, this is so inaccurate.”

The girls said they were moving the signs after Curry told them they were not allowed to take them out due to free speech rights.

“Why are you allowed to rip ’em [signs] out of our hands?” one of the girls asked Curry.

“They are our signs, not yours — ours,” Curry said.

Some other students also told the girls the College Republicans had the right to place the signs on campus.

Another woman in a separate incident allegedly threw the organization’s sign, Campus Reform reported. (RELATED: Florida Student Who Allegedly Threw Chocolate Milk On Students At College Republicans Event Charged With Battery)

She allegedly tried to grab Curry’s phone to push it away.

Curry told TheDCNF he is in the process of filing a report and that there were “no consequences as of now for the students.”

“I hope with the hardships our community is going through currently we can look past partisan politics and work together to get through this challenging time,” Curry said to TheDCNF.

The Chico City Council candidates backed by liberals were Alex Brown, Scott Huber and Rich Ober, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record.

“The events of the election are now behind us,” Chico State Republicans said to The DCNF. “In light of the recent disaster affecting a large portion of Butte County, we have no comments on election day activities at this time.”

The school is located about 90 miles north of Sacramento, California. The Northern California area has been hit with the Camp Fire, a deadly wildfire that has destroyed more than 6,700 buildings.

CSU Chico did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.


Scotland used to have the best schools system in the world. Then devolution happened

Once one of the best in the world, Scotland’s education system has been steadily marching backwards for the past ten years. From the outside, it seems baffling: why, given that Scottish spending per pupil is among the highest in the world, are things going so wrong? From the inside, it’s far easier to understand. You can explain it in three words: Curriculum for Excellence.

I’d heard stories about it before I started training as a teacher. By the time I qualified — in April last year — how I wished I’d listened to them. The story starts in 2010, when the new system was introduced with four aims: to create ‘confident individuals’, ‘successful learners’, ‘responsible citizens’ and ‘effective contributors’. Perhaps the meaning of these phrases was clear to those who came up with them. But as I found out, many teachers can’t recall — let alone explain — them.

Picture a grey Glasgow sky and underneath, a cosy school staffroom. ‘What are they called again? Successful contributors? Effective learners?’ one teacher with 30 years’ experience asks. ‘No, no. It is the learners who are successful; the contributors are effective!’ a student teacher replies helpfully.

The idea of teaching had been turned on its head. Rather than stick to a topic — like English or chemistry — we had to mix them up according to a bizarre formula created in the devolved parliament. In 1999, the new MSPs had been given power over the school system — so decided to use it. When the SNP came to power, the shake-up began. Devolution made a nation’s children into guinea pigs.

So instead of straightforward maths lessons, we’d have ‘interdisciplinary learning’. Bar charts would be shoehorned into lessons about Shakespeare. For a teacher to perform ‘active learning’, the ‘learners’ had to be constantly entertained. Then came the demand for ‘collaborative learning’, which means group work, where nothing gets done.

Exams were to be judged by classwork, which of course created plenty of scope for foul play. And not only by pupils. One experienced teacher told me of ‘the pass factory’ in her school, a place where pupils go for unlimited attempts on core assessments. Gaming the system is particularly noticeable in middle-class areas, where children pay for private tutors in order to be coached through exams. In some cases, tutors actually write the coursework for them.

In English, graphic novels crept their way into classrooms. Literature and media studies were fused. Presumably to cater for this, Penguin even published an emoji series of Shakespeare’s plays. This is new, certainly, but is it progress? Glaring ignorance of world geography or history is not just permissible, but expected. In history, for example, it’s normal for pupils to study the second world war year after year, and merely be assessed at different levels, constant assessment being the SNP’s only guarantee. The number of pupils studying French or German has halved.

All of this was supposed to empower teachers and give them more say. But the SNP failed to do its homework, and it didn’t quite turn out like that. And so, despite teachers’ sceptical willingness, the whole project has become seen as a sick joke. In the staffroom, the Curriculum for Excellence is known as the ‘curriculum for excrement’.

My final teaching exam led me to cater my lesson to the 20 pupils in front of me, of whom 18 had various ‘additional support’ needs (autism, dyslexia etc). Trying to fulfil the curriculum’s bizarre demands on top of these challenges made my lesson a circus. In the end, I qualified. But I walked away from teacher training with a smoking habit and a resolution never to return. I later found out that four in ten newly qualified teachers leave the profession within a year. Which is a tragedy: all of my fellow trainees entered wanting to help pupils, as we had been helped. But it’s hard, once you find out that you’ll be taking part in the dumbing-down of a nation’s schools and the betrayal of its children.

I know quite a few of the dropouts now. There’s the Frenchman with a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne, who stormed out of our school placement after a disagreement about the quality of his teaching. A fellow secondary school teacher who, due to unmanageable stress, now tutors young offenders rather than return to the classroom. A once enthusiastic primary teacher who said to me, ‘I’d rather do anything — anything — than go back.’ At the last count, there were almost 700 vacant teaching posts in Scotland. That’s around 21,000 pupils who are missing teachers.

In the staffroom of one school where I taught, there was a poster. It read, ‘Being a teacher is easy. It’s like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You’re on fire. Everything is on fire. And you’re in hell.’ Sometimes, on breaks between classes, I would sit and stare at it. I did not see the funny side; for the teachers, or for the pupils, who are the principal victims of a system that is so visibly failing.


Australian Principals at ‘breaking point’ as they struggle with violent parents and high stress

Teachers and principals across the country say they are at breaking point, too stressed from their workloads, pressures within the education system and abusive or violent parents.

In the worst cases teachers are attempting suicide or suffering major heart attacks.

Serious concerns are being raised over the mental health of Australian educators, with an “unprecedented” number of principals at risk.

Principals say parents are to blame and are calling for a national code of conduct to stop the abuse they face.

At St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD one student had to be expelled last year because things between parents and a staff member became so bad.

In Victoria teachers say that have been forced to get the police to intervene.

Ann Marie Kliman, president of Victorian Principals Association, said she was physically assaulted by a student’s father.

On the Gold Coast principals have reported parents pulling knives on them, with one even threatening to ram their “head into concrete”.

The crisis across the country is subject of debate, with many teachers claiming it is the principals who are abusive towards them.

But Australian Primary Principals Association president Dennis Yarrington said aggressive and abusive parents were the biggest issue.

But he said the problem was indicative of a societal issue and has called for a national code of conduct for parents.

“It’s very concerning and even though there are a number of states and territories implementing support, there’s still more to be done,” Mr Yarrington said.

“We really need to crank up the focus that this is a community issue so we need a community response.

“It’s the behaviour of parents and community members that we feel is totally unacceptable.

“We want this issue raised as a national topic that needs a response from departments and communities.”

Mr Yarrington said just as students were asked to call out other bullies, they wanted parents to call out inappropriate behaviour too.

“If parents continue to role model it in front of children it makes it very hard for schools to try and change that behaviour,” he said.

The problem is so bad, principal wellbeing researcher Phil Riley said he had received dozens of “red flag” alerts from those taking part in his annual survey.

The Australian Catholic University education expert said one-in-three school principals who took part in the survey had been flagged this year — the worst he had ever seen.

Participants get red flagged if they answer questions indicating they are at risk.

The survey included questions over their quality of life, their psychosocial risk and whether they had felt like harming themselves in the last week.

“That’s unprecedented, we’ve never had anything like that before,” Dr Riley said. “Every year it’s getting worse and worse.”

The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey indicates whether staff are burning out, having sleeping problems or are depressed.

“It’s pretty rough, and it’s uniform across the country, across the whole system,” Dr Riley.

About a third of principals across the country take part in the survey, which in previous years has also revealed alarming results.

Last year, Dr Riley indicated a “worrying trend” around the increase in stress caused by mental health issues among staff and students over the last six years.

“This is a worrying trend that goes well beyond the school gate,” he wrote.

“The costs associated with this trend were recently estimated to be $10.9 billion annually. As

the education workforce is very large, a significant proportion of these costs could be saved.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia reported a 2.3 return on investment when organisations addressed the issues directly. It appears foolhardy not to do so in the education sector.”

His report also revealed 44 per cent of principals had been threatened with violence.

Principals are at the top end of a mental health crisis that is appears to be systemic across the education sector. has spoken to several formers teachers across the country who have been forced to leave their profession because of stress and bullying.

Current teachers said they were struggling with high workloads and pressures from NAPLAN requirements but were too scared to speak out.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Va. school hosts 'listening sessions' after removing 'racist' Confederate display

A Virginia university held a “listening session” Tuesday to discuss a Confederate display that it took down earlier in November.

Mary Baldwin University removed a display that featured prominent Confederate figures after a small group of students deemed the exhibit racist, the Staunton News Leader  reported.

“As a result of student concerns and discussions with the artists, the installation has been removed as of last night.”    Tweet This

“In accordance with our values as an inclusive, student-centered campus community, we take seriously the concerns about an art exhibition by two Richmond-based artists installed earlier this week in Hunt Gallery,” the school said in a Nov. 8 statement. “As a result of student concerns and discussions with the artists, the installation has been removed as of last night.”

Shortly after the opening of the exhibit, students began to voice their concerns with the Student Senate and convinced the faculty to get in contact with the artists.

An Instagram page with the screen name “yallracistatmarybaldwinu” began posting pictures of the exhibit, terming it  "racist," “cultural MISappropriation,” and “bigotry.”

“Get this racist artwork out of here!” the page said, posting an apparent image of the exhibit, which featured horseback riders with “Christianity” written beneath them.

MBU students set up a conference with faculty and administrators artists to express their concerns about the exhibit. Faculty and administrators then met with the artists. Ultimately, MBU decided to take down the display on Nov. 7.

The university also announced “listening session” events pertaining to the discussion of the exhibit and student opinion.

“To allow students an opportunity to share their feelings in response to the exhibit and their hopes for inclusive community, a series of listening sessions organized by the Office of Inclusive Excellence will be held next week,” the statement said about the listening sessions.

“It is not open to the public, only members of the MBU community,” MBU spokeswoman Liesel Crosier told Campus Reform.

The artists have released a statement in light of the controversy, defending their exhibit in the process and encouraging civil discourse about the exhibit.

“The work in this exhibition expresses our consideration of the complexity of the situation, the current post-truth context in the U.S. only adding to its complexity,” Williams and Sutherland said. “In seeing the inherent duality of the situation, and leading with forgiveness, we hope art becomes a healing lens through which history can be amended.”

Campus Reform reached out to MBU for additional comment about the decision and the process to pull the exhibit from the gallery. Crosier pointed back to the official MBU statement with no additional comment.


Parents Rally After Teacher Is Fired for Thanking Students Who Stood for Pledge of Allegiance

When Missouri substitute teacher Jim Furkin thanked students for standing for the Pledge of Allegiance recently, he had no idea he would be booted from the St. Louis school where he taught just for doing that.

Furkin’s ouster has led partners to create an on-line petition opposing the school’s action.

Furkin, 66, recalled the incident at Parkway South High School for station KTVI. First, he said, the announcement came over the public address system that it was time for the Pledge.

“I say, ‘Let’s go.”  The kids get up — 24 kids in class — and 22 got up. I say, ‘Thank you very much, all of you that participated. I appreciate that. I’m sure all of those families that lost loved ones so we could have the freedoms we have today would appreciate that, too.’ That’s what I said.”

But school officials put a different spin on his actions.

“By praising certain students for standing, the students who made the decision not to stand were humiliated and then teased,” said school district spokeswoman Cathy Kelly, according to KMOV.

“The class environment did not cultivate an atmosphere of learning and acceptance of the views and values of others. As you know, our mission and vision are integral parts of teaching and learning in Parkway,” she said.

Furkin said that he had no opportunity to explain himself, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said a school administrator told him a student was “hurt” by the comments.

“I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t my intent at all,’” Furkin said. “He said ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and then the next day after that, I’m no longer welcome in the building.”

He said Kelly Educational Staffing, the agency the school district uses to book substitute teachers, said he had “bullied” a student.

Furkin said that was not his intent. “I just think that I would try to convey something like that to the kids who just take everything for granted. That flag is not to be taken for granted, in my opinion. It is our symbol of freedom,” he said.

Furkin, who has taught at the school as a substitute for several years, received support from parents. More than 800 people have signed an on-line petition calling for him to be allowed to return to the school.

“Mr Furkin was recently fired from Parkway South high school because he had thanked students for standing for the pledge of allegiance,” the petition reads.

“For me and the people I have heard from in this situation it is unfair for a man to lose (his) job over a situation like that. The goal of this petition is for me and the Park South community to show our overall appreciation for Mr. Furkin’s work over the years. If Mr Furkin is reading this, Thank you for your hard work over the years,” it read.

The school said there were other incidents with Furkin that culminated in his dismissal.


Australia: University review a win for free speech on campus

The review of freedom of speech at universities announced by the federal government is a timely initiative to ensure the rights and freedoms of all Australians are protected on Australian campuses, The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) said.

The review follows a paper published last month by CIS Senior Research Fellow Dr Jeremy Sammut,  University Freedom Charters: How best to protect free speech on Australian campuses, which called for the introduction of University of Chicago-style free speech charters to promote and protect free and open inquiry in pursuit of truth in Australian universities.

“We welcome the move to hold higher education administrators to account and ensure universities fulfil the role they receive billions of taxpayer’s dollars to perform in a democratic society,” Dr Sammut said.

“As my report showed, the free speech policies developed in Chicago and emulated by other US colleges are international best practice.”

The review, headed by former High Court Chief Justice, Robert French, has been tasked with developing realistic and practical policies to promote free speech on campus that are based the Chicago approach.

“The Chicago model strikes the right balance between protecting legitimate debate and protest and stamping out the kind of disruptive behaviour that interferes with the right to free speech of others like we have seen recently at Sydney University,” Dr Sammut said.

He also welcomed the announcement that the federal government will use the findings of the review to formulate a national declara­tion on freedom of speech that will serve as a benchmark to hold universities to account.

“A key recommendation of my research was the need to ensure that university freedom charters are not toothless tigers to which only lip service is paid, and to impose greater external accountability mechanisms for what universities actually do and don’t do to protect free speech.”


Monday, November 19, 2018

Betsy DeVos Formally Unveils New Title IX Rules: 3 Ways They Will Strengthen Due Process on Campus

The Education Department has officially released new rules on how to enforce Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex and gender-based discrimination in public schools.

This guidance will replace an approach, established under the Obama administration, that threatened free expression on college campuses and due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike the Obama-era guidance, the DeVos policies operate in accordance with basic principles of fairness. They are a massive step forward. If colleges are going to be involved in the business of adjudicating sexual assault, this new approach is vastly preferable.

A draft of the new proposals was released in September; the final version differs slightly, according to an Education Department spokesperson familiar with the process.

The biggest change since the draft proposal is that the increasingly popular single-investigator model of sexual misconduct adjudication—in which a sole administrator was charged with investigating the allegation, preparing a report on the matter, and passing judgment—is no longer permitted. Universities will be required to provide a separate decision maker, either an individual or a group, to determine an accused student's guilt.

A less welcome development is the appeals provision: Under the new rules, both the accuser and the accused will still be able to appeal the outcome of a Title IX decision. Civil libertarians opposed this idea. In the criminal justice system, only the defendant can appeal a guilty verdict; holding an additional trial after a finding of innocence constitutes double jeopardy.

But in other important respects, the new rules are a vast improvement over what existed previously. Here are three ways the new DeVos rules will make campuses freer and fairer places:

1) They define sexual misconduct more narrowly. Under the previous system, administrators were obliged to investigate any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, which is a fairly wide swath of behavior. Some officials even interpreted this to include mundane speech that happened to involve gender or sex. But the new guidance specifies that Title IX is only infringed when conduct is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. (Violence and quid pro quo arrangements are also prohibited.) An administrator with knowledge of a potential Title IX violation does not need to follow through with an investigation if the allegation does not satisfy these criteria.

2) The new rules mandate cross-examination. Previous guidance did not explicitly forbid cross-examination, but it heavily discouraged the practice due to concern that questioning an alleged sexual assault survivor would be re-traumatizing. The new rules state that neither the accuser nor the accused need to be physically present in the same room, but their attorneys—or support persons provided by the university—must be allowed to submit questions on their behalf for the other party to answer.

There are some exceptions. Neither party may ask questions pertaining to their previous sexual history with other partners. This is consistent with state and federal "rape shield" laws which also limit such questioning.

3) The new rules let colleges set their own evidentiary standards but require similar standards for non–Title IX adjudication. Currently, universities must adjudicate sexual misconduct under a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard: The accused is found guilty if there is 51 percent certainty that he or she is guilty. Henceforth, universities may use either this standard or the clear-and-convincing standard, which requires greater certainty. I am skeptical that many administrations will return to the higher standard of proof, which opens them up to criticism from feminist activists who think they aren't doing enough to punish rapists. However, the new rules stipulate that a university must use the same standard for Title IX as it does for other matters—even ones involving the faculty. If academic misconduct is adjudicated under a clear-and-convincing standard, sexual misconduct must be handled in such a manner as well. This could create pressure to adopt higher standards uniformly.

There are other boons for advocates of due process. The jurisdiction of Title IX will be limited to events that transpire on campus, or are properly described as school functions. The new rules also recognize differences between K-12 education and college: K-12 teachers, for instance, must initiate investigations if they become aware of sexual misconduct, whereas college professors are not necessarily on the hook—at the university level, misconduct must generally be reported to the Title IX office for an investigation to unfold.

These rules will undoubtedly infuriate the Title IX activist movement, which has worked tirelessly to strip accused students of fundamental due process protections in the name of combating the campus rape problem. NARAL, a pro-choice feminist organization, tweeted Thursday that "a new rule from Betsy DeVos would require universities to allow accused sexual abusers to cross-examine and re-traumatize their victims. This is absolutely sickening." This is misleading—the new rule only requires universities to allow the accused to question their accusers vis a vis an intermediary. Nevertheless, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D–Mass.) retweeted the comment, adding, "No survivor should be cross-examined by his or her accused rapist. Ever. Full stop." This is a curious statement; in the criminal justice system, an accused rapist who is representing himself already enjoys the right to question his accuser.

Reforming Title IX is largely a thankless task, given that those helped by these reforms—men accused of sexual misconduct—are an unsympathetic lot. Most of the people who are very invested in Title IX as an issue are victims' rights advocates who see any attempt to re-balance the scales of justice as a sexist attack. There's a tempting narrative here—"Trump administration changes law to hurt women"—that will undoubtedly fool many who are unfamiliar with the specifics of Obama-era Title IX abuse.

Missing from this narrative is any acknowledgement of the fact that the previous Title IX guidance had created more problems than it solved: Hundreds of young men have filed lawsuits alleging breach of contract and due process violations. Universities found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They could ignore the federal government, and risk their public funding, or they could ignore students' rights, and risk going to court. This reality wasn't sustainable, and DeVos's administration deserves tremendous credit for taking some steps to address the problem.

It's a tough job, but someone had to do it.


Maybe that feminisation of education wasn't that great an idea?

Some decades back it was noted that girls did rather worse than boys in our education system. Something must be done. Thus the education system was feminised. This isn’t referring to the manner in which there are almost no men actually in the frontline, they being as rare as hen’s teeth in teaching the littler ones. Rather, there was an insistence that girls and boys learned in a slightly different manner, showed that they learned in a slightly different manner.

All of which is most interesting of course. This idea that mean and women are entirely equal in every way was rather contradicted by this insistence that an all or nothing exam system favoured boy styles of learning, a more cooperative, course work based, system favours girls. But then few activists are willing to note the inconsistencies in their own insistences.

So, what was done was that the system was moved from that boy favouring to a more girl favouring structure. Out went the idea of two years work to be tested the once, and once only, in two three hour exams. That system considered to favour boys. In comes course work, continual marking, a system supposed to favour girls more.

The result?

Britain’s education system is failing to tackle the “astonishing” underperformance of boys as feminists have made the topic “taboo”, the former head of the university admissions service has warned.

Mary Curnock Cook, who was chief executive of Ucas until last year, said the fact that boys are falling behind in education is a national scandal – yet it is such an “unfashionable” topic to discuss that it has become “normalised”.

Girls outperform boys in all aspects of education, from primary school to GCSEs and A-level results. Last year, 57 per cent of women went to university compared to 43 per cent of men, a gap that has widened significantly over the last decade.

“I just find it unacceptable to think that it’s OK to let boys fall further and further behind in education and allow the gap to get bigger,” Ms Curnock Cook said.

“Boys underachieving in education is becoming pretty normalised – everyone knows it yet no one is doing anything about it.” She said that other disparities in education – such as the gulf between rich and poor children – are narrowing, but the gap between boys and girls is getting wider.

Who knows, perhaps the feminisation of education wasn’t all that great an idea? We could even get all economic and efficient about all of this. We’re going to get more years of labour out of the men – breaks to have families and all that – so perhaps we should in fact be aiming societal investment in education at them, not the women who will work for fewer years?

Perhaps the world’s not quite ready for that level of reality but why have we designed an education system that disfavours boys?


Australia: NSW plans a de facto confiscation of private school property

A central part of private property rights is the ability to say who uses it.  So this abolishes that right  It is pure communism. Why should those who have not paid for it be entitled to it?

Private schools could be forced to share their multimillion-dollar facilities with public school students under a radical new plan.

The proposal - pushed by Education Minister Rob Stokes - encourages Australia's most prestigious schools to open up their sports and arts facilities to ensure the best facilities can be used by all students regardless of their school.

Access to playing fields, swimming pools and gyms, along with theatres and libraries would be under the new proposal and may require tweaking the Education Act to come into effect.

'There are a couple of regulatory­ hurdles that we need to overcome,' Mr Stokes told The Saturday Telegraph.

Current regulations prevent private­ schools receiving government money to recover the costs of opening their facilities.

'The challenge then if they're getting small amounts of money to clean halls and so forth, after a community group has used it, is whether that offends those not-for-profit provisions — we're working through that.'   

Some of the nations top private schools charge fees of up to $40,000 a year, with many fee-paying parents unwilling to back the proposal.

However, Mr Stokes said the pay-off for private schools was in community goodwill when they wanted to expand.

'I know one of the challenges private schools have in developing their facilities have is that the surrounding communities can often object on the basis that they say, well we're getting the extra traffic, where is the benefit for us?, he said.

'By opening these facilities up and sharing them with the community, that means the community is much more likely to be open to expansion if there is a wider social benefit.'

Association of Independent Schools of NSW CEO Dr Geoff Newcombe said some schools have already made their facilities­ available and not all independent schools had 'lavish' facilities.

'On average, more than 90 per cent of the cost of capital works in independent schools is met by parents, fundraising and donations, with this figure at 100 per cent for most higher SES schools,' he said.

Instead, he said the notion that all private schools had lavish stereotypes was 'a stereotype' and noted that most school facilities were not markedly different to other schools nearby.

NSW P&C President Susie Boyd said she would welcome the change in private schools being opened up to public students, adding if private schools refused to open up to their community, they should be denied further funding.

The government's school infrastructure plan specifically looks at encouraging more joint-use projects, Mr Stokes said.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Dartmouth students sue over alleged sexual assault by professors

This appears to be just money-grubbing.  The academics concerned have all been fired or retired but that is not enough, apparently.  Dartmouth should have acted more promptly, apparently. It is that tardiness which is now alleged to be worth $70 million.  I wrote about an earlier stage of these proceedings on 17 June

To the scientific community, Dartmouth College’s psychology and brain sciences department was a powerhouse, equipped with the latest technology and celebrated professors producing headline-grabbing research.

But it was also a “21st-century Animal House” where three former neuroscience professors groped female students in plain sight, hosted drinking and hot-tub parties with students, openly debated who had the “hottest lab,” and sexually assaulted graduate students, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against Dartmouth on Thursday.

For years Dartmouth did little to rein in the professors — two of whom resigned and one who retired earlier this year — and failed to protect students, according to the suit, filed by seven current and former students in New Hampshire federal District Court.

The suit for the first time details the specific sexual misconduct allegations that thrust Dartmouth into the spotlight last fall, triggered a criminal investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, and led to the removal of the professors, Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen, and Bill Kelley.

The complaint describes a party culture where influential professors exercised tremendous control over their students’ academic careers, delaying exams, withholding advisory meetings, and threatening the research and funding of women who shunned their advances. The professors conducted lab meetings at bars, and Kelley “invited undergraduate students to use real cocaine during classes related to addiction as part of a ‘demonstration,’ ” the lawsuit and students allege.

“I don’t think that anybody in a position of authority should be using their power to demand sexual favors, or any sort of favors,” said Ashwini Narayanan, 18.

Dartmouth, an Ivy League college in Hanover, N.H., had received at least three previous sexual harassment complaints against Heatherton starting in 2002 and at least one against Kelley in 2005, and should have taken action long before the recent group of students complained, according to the lawsuit. The students are seeking $70 million in damages.

“Dartmouth’s conduct was wanton, malicious, outrageous, and conducted with full knowledge of the law,” according to the suit. “Dartmouth exhibited reckless indifference to the foreseeable risks of harm.”

Justin Anderson, a spokesman for Dartmouth, said the college took unprecedented steps in dealing with the professors after an outside investigator found evidence of misconduct. The university was prepared to revoke their tenure before they decided to leave.

“We respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth’s actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings,” Anderson said in a statement. “We applaud the courage displayed by members of our community within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) who brought the misconduct allegations to Dartmouth’s attention last year. And we remain open to a fair resolution of the students’ claims through an alternative to the court process.”

On Thursday, Dartmouth president Phil Hanlon sent an e-mail to the college community defending the review of sexual harassment allegations against the professors as “rigorous, thorough, and fair.”

Kelley’s attorney declined to comment, and Whalen’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Heatherton has said that he acted “unprofessionally while intoxicated” at several public events and has apologized for his behavior.

Julie Moore, a Wellesley attorney representing Heatherton, denied her client had any role in creating a toxic culture at Dartmouth and distanced him from the other two professors. Heatherton had no knowledge of any students being sexually assaulted and did not engage in the patterns of conduct that Whalen and Kelley are accused of, she said.

“He repeats that he did not regularly socialize with graduate students and has never had any sexual relationship whatsoever with any student,” Moore said.

In an interview this week, the six named students in the lawsuit said that the alleged behavior by the professors and Dartmouth’s yearlong investigation and subsequent response left them reeling and betrayed.

Several graduate students said that even after they made their complaints in April 2017, they were encouraged by Dartmouth administrators to keep the professors as advisers into the summer to avoid retaliation and the loss of their academic support. But that meant the women had to continue to endure the same sexual harassment they had complained about, according to the lawsuit.

“None of this should have happened to any of us,” said Kristina Rapuano, 30, who completed her PhD at Dartmouth and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.

In the lawsuit, Rapuano accused Whalen of inappropriately touching her in 2014 in his office, advances that she rejected.

The next year, Rapuano and Kelley attended a neuroscience conference in San Francisco and got drunk. Rapuano alleges that she informed Kelley that sexual contact would be unwelcome, but the two had sex nonetheless. Rapuano said she has no memory of the episode or how she returned to the hotel, but Kelley told her about it, according to the lawsuit.

Rapuano repeatedly tried to establish a more professional footing with Kelley, but felt his willingness to support her work was reliant on her complying with his sexual demands, according to the lawsuit.

“I felt trapped,” Rapuano said in an interview this week.

In 2016, Rapuano explicitly told Kelley she didn’t want a sexual relationship. He later wrote in an e-mail, “I don’t know how to separate the personal from the professional. I don’t know that it makes sense to do so.”

Rapuano went to Heatherton, who conducted research with Kelley, to voice her concerns and in January 2017 contacted Dartmouth’s then-provost to report the sexual harassment, the lawsuit says.

The provost informed Rapuano that she should talk to the Title IX office, which handles sexual harassment complaints, and to her department head, but did not open an investigation, according to Rapuano.

Marissa Evans, 22, who worked as an undergraduate in Kelley’s lab, alleged that the professor bombarded her with “unwelcome and offensive” text messages, including naked photos of himself, questions about her sexual practices, and his intention to have sex with her. Evans eventually blocked Kelley’s number and transferred to another lab, according to the suit.

The women said they all thought they were alone in receiving unwanted and inappropriate attention from their professors. That changed in March 2017 during a professional conference in Los Angeles, according to the students and the lawsuit.

Sasha Brietzke, 26, a doctoral student at Dartmouth, was out at a karaoke event at a Korean bar with other conference participants. Heatherton arrived drunk and called Brietzke over, groped her buttocks, pulled her onto his lap, and asked her what she was doing later that night, according to the suit.

“I felt really humiliated,” Brietzke said. “This is my introduction to the scientific community, and now I’m a sexual object.”

Brietzke started talking to other female students during the conference and realized that some shared similar experiences. Less than three weeks later, in early April, Rapuano and several other graduate students made a Title IX complaint against Kelley, Whalen, and Heatherton.

According to the lawsuit, Dartmouth didn’t inform the professors about the complaint until July 20 of that year.

Vassiki Chauhan, 27, a doctoral student at Dartmouth and Whalen’s teaching assistant at the time, also wasn’t aware of the allegations.

In mid-April, after a going-away celebration for a research assistant that involved drinking, Chauhan agreed to return to Whalen’s house for another drink.

Whalen repeatedly tried to “initiate sexual contact” and Chauhan kept rejecting his advances, according to the lawsuit.

Chauhan tried to leave multiple times, but Whalen followed her and talked her into staying, she said.

“Whalen then forced her to engage in nonconsensual intercourse with him,” according to the suit.

The next day, Whalen called a meeting with Chauhan, told her to keep their encounter private, and asked her if she thought it was consensual. Chauhan said she told him, “Yeah, I guess.”

But after the incident she was in pain and sought medical attention on campus, according to the lawsuit. In the weeks that followed, Whalen kept texting and asking for a meeting, but she made excuses to avoid him, she said.

“I always respectfully replied,” she said. “I felt really cornered about how to tell him to stop.”

She finally told him that she felt uncomfortable with his attention that May when he approached her at a bar. That was their last conversation, Chauhan said.

She had prepared a 10-page statement to present during his disciplinary hearing describing how the experience felt like an open wound. But Whalen resigned first.

“There is also lack of acknowledgment about how badly things were handled and how problematic the culture was,” Chauhan said. “All people want to do now is move on and pretend that Dartmouth is a land of peace and joy.”


Our flawed college system takes toll on families years before tuition is due

Busyness. It’s among the most common complaints from parents today. It isn’t just the rise of dual working families, which means both parents must weave child-rearing responsibilities in with careers. Life with kids today is busy in itself.

Standing on the sidelines of a sports field, parents exchange battle stories: “My kids have three games today, and we’ve got two overlapping practices tomorrow. How can I be in two places at once?” I tell the other parents. They invariably come back with equally jammed schedules, replete with language lessons, music recitals, sports travel teams, and Odyssey of the Mind.

Why do we knowingly over-schedule our kids?

Despite the complaining, part of the reason is because we enjoy it: I enjoy seeing my children gaining skills and confidence at an activity they love, and I enjoy the chit-chat with other parents while we watch our kids. Yet we also go overboard and commit to activities that yield little pleasure, and create a whole lot of headaches, for both parents and children. That’s at least in part because, much as we hate to admit it, college applications are already on our minds.  

The specter of student loans

Mostly public discussion of the burden college places on families focus on costs. Wise elders begin refreshing blear eyed parents — many of whom still are paying off their own student loan debt — about the power of compound interest, explaining why saving early will be the key to minimizing junior’s future student loan debt, as soon as the baby’s home from the hospital.

The specter of huge college costs creates a lot of pressure, and even impacts people’s decisions about whether or how many children to have. More than half of respondents in one survey reported planning to have fewer children than their parents had, and more than 1-in-10 of those who don’t want children or weren't sure cited concerns about college costs as the reason.

When having my fifth child, I was often asked how we planned to pay for college for all these kids? My husband and I both work and are comfortably middle class. It seemed crazy to me to think we couldn’t afford to have as many children as we wanted. We have done the best we can to save for college and figure we will make it work when the time comes.

But, really, financial worries are only part of the college burden. For those who aspire for their children to not just go to college, but go to a competitive or even prestigious college, there’s also pressure to do everything you can to help your kids build the skills and accomplishments that will impress future admissions committees.   

My daughters dreaded the violin lessons I enrolled them in when they were starting elementary school. So did I: Classes were expensive and required a long drive across town where there was little parking. I should have been relieved when they asked to quit. Yet there was a sense of such failure: I was letting them down by not ensuring they had some musically ability on which to build. Sure, in part I sincerely wanted them to be able to have the pleasure of being able to play an instrument, but those future college applications were also a factor.

We parents know it’s a little crazy to resume build when your son or daughter still sleeps with a security blanket. But there’s a fear that if kids don’t start developing skills early, they’ll be irretrievably behind the kids who do and never have a chance to excel.

Getting back to what college is really about

Parents will always want to advantage their children. For the most part, this is an overwhelming positive instinct. Yet changes to our higher education system could help redirect parents’ efforts so they are more effective for the long-term.

Instead of fixating on how children will appear to a college admissions committee (which is often looking for a mix of qualities which have little value outside of the college arena) parents could focus on helping their kids gain skills and experiences that will actually help them find careers that will be remunerative and that they’ll enjoy.

The sad truth is that depressingly little actual learning goes on during the typical college experience. According to the 2011 book, "Academically Adrift," 45 percent of students learn little to nothing after two years of college, and more than 1-in-3 learn next to nothing after four years.

Many companies, including giants like Google, Apple and IBM, no longer require four-year degrees, likely because they recognize that someone with a college bachelor’s degree isn’t necessarily more qualified for a job than someone who chose a different path.

Increasingly, there are other ways for students leaving high school to gain skills that will prepare them for careers. Computer-code schools and boot camps, for example, can work directly with employers to train people for jobs in the tech field that are currently unfilled. Other education providers offer more traditional degree programs, but tailor classes to prepare students for more specific industries.

These new education providers, which often offer more flexible schedules and encourage online engagement, also understand that education doesn’t just happen between ages 18 and 22. It should be an ongoing process.

Of course, four-year colleges still have plenty to offer and are the best path for some students. Many parents will always start planning early for how to give their kids the shot at one of the few coveted spots at elite colleges. Yet parents should be able to take comfort that a four-year degree at a liberal arts college isn’t the only path, or even the best path, to success.

Knowing that success doesn’t rest on the resume you build by age 17 may help parents relax a little, so we can enjoy our weekends, and our families, more today.


School cancels prize giving ceremony so students don't get upset when they're beaten by their friends

A school has cancelled prize giving ceremonies in a bid to move away from ranking systems so students don't get upset when they're beaten by their friends.

Silverdale Primary School, on Auckland's Hibiscus Coast in New Zealand, announced their plans to abolish award ceremonies in their October school newsletter.

Principal Cameron Lockie told the New Zealand Herald handing out awards at end of year ceremonies no longer aligned with the school's beliefs and values.

Mr Lockie said singling out students as 'special' made no sense - especially when the majority of kids are trying their hardest to be the best they can be.

'Try explaining to a child that has tried hard all year with their learning that they didn't get the Commitment to Learning award because someone else was trying harder, this is subjective,' he said.

The principal said schools are supposed to be about 'learning and creativity' to empower children, not 'ranking and sorting', which only rewards high achievers.

'If we continuously tell our children that every single one of them is important to our school, I do not see how end-of-year prizegiving aligns with this belief,' he said.

The decision to change the school's award ceremonies was met with mixed reviews from parents and generated 'a lot of talk' in the community. 

Silverdale resident Tracey Smith questioned the principal's decision, saying if we don't each kids to how to fail, they may struggle transitioning into high school.

But another resident, Theresa Yaroshevich, agreed with Mr Lockie, saying prizegiving ceremonies are outdated and awkward to sit through for those not being rewarded.

The principal explained his reasons for the changes in the October newsletter.

Mr Lockie wrote the changes wouldn't have an impact on certain reward systems, such as sporting activities, inter-school competitions and team awards.

He said prizes would continue for these events as they were 'competitive' and not 'subjective'.

If a student comes first in the cross country race, then obviously they've won and deserve first place and a reward, everyone understands that, he said.

The principal said the way to promote 'lifelong learners' is to provide them with an engaging curriculum in a 'safe, caring community in which to discover and create'.   

He said there is 'abundant research' that show awards can undermine a child's intrinsic motivation to to succeed.

'We are trying to get our children to succeed because they want to succeed and not because of a reward at the end which is subjective at best,' he said.