Friday, February 01, 2019

UK: Academy schools [charters] struggle with ‘unsustainable’ deficits

Schools in England are merging into larger academy chains and slashing costs in a bid to manage “unsustainable” deficits, according to an authoritative survey of more than 1,000 academies.

The report by the Kreston academies group found that half of the schools had an operating deficit last year, with only stringent cuts and the sharing of resources within multi-academy trusts (Mats) stopping the figure from being higher.

The group said that while the average deficits at academies fell in 2018 compared with 2017, further spending reductions would be much harder to achieve, and uncertainty was being caused by higher pension contributions, increased teacher pay and crumbling school infrastructure.

“Our clients across England are telling us that the ‘easy savings’ have already been made,” said Pam Tuckett, the group’s chair. “We are seeing reductions in learning support assistants, and staff contact ratios will be increased to save costs. This means teachers spend longer in the classroom so, in theory, schools wouldn’t need as many teachers.

“There have been several years of cost-cutting and the trusts that we work with are telling us that there are no more areas where they can save significant costs without impacting on the way in which education is provided.”

Tuckett said it was “unsustainable” for schools to keep running deficits year after year, as many were now doing. “Eventually the reserves will run out,” she warned.

The report comes days after the government celebrated the news that 50% of England’s state school pupils were now educated in academies – schools outside local authority oversight that were first established under the last Labour government but were greatly expanded in England under Michael Gove as education secretary.

The survey found that financial pressures were driving standalone schools and small trusts to seek shelter within larger multi-academy trusts, and the average trust had grown from 3.5 schools per trust two years ago to 5.6 schools now.

Tuckett predicted that the trend for consolidation into larger trusts would continue while financial pressures remained. “With the weak financial position of schools in the maintained sector, it is likely that more schools and single academies that are failing financially will convert to become an academy as part of a Mat. Fortunately, there are many Mats that take this responsibility seriously and are willing to help.

“The trend of mergers and rebrokerage is likely to continue until trusts have achieved a size that enables them to take advantage of the economies of scale of a larger organisation,” Tuckett said, introducing the report.

“We continue to see a shift in the way a multi-academy trust is run, with some now operating on a far more commercial basis. While this may feel uncomfortable, it is a necessity if more efficiencies are to be found.”

Kreston, a network of independent accounting and business advisory firms in the education sector, compiled its survey from 370 academy trusts in England that manage 1,000 schools between them.

The findings match a report published by the Education Policy Institute at the start of the year, which estimated that half of all secondary academies and 60% of maintained secondary schools – those overseen by local authorities – were spending more than they were receiving, forcing them to dip into their reserves.


3 Simple Lessons to Maximize Your Education and Achieve Your Dreams

Education is certainly an essential aspect of life, but many schools and their programs fail to maximize the potential of the students due to one simple error: They don’t combine classroom instruction with firsthand experience.

It's difficult for any graduate to succeed in a new environment without what I call "situational knowledge". The definition of situational knowledge is rather simple: Knowledge you’ve acquired not through merely listening, but the experience of doing. This knowledge can only be gained in two ways -- through your actual experience or from the guidance of a mentor who has gone through a similar situation. And today’s top-tier educational programs will ensure that their students are prepared with this understanding of how the real world operates outside of a classroom.

On a recent trip to Full Sail University [in Florida], I got to see firsthand how this particular institution is providing situational knowledge to their students. They recently launched the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting, and it has changed the way I view education. Here are three powerful lessons I took from it.

1. Find a program with teachers and mentors who have situational knowledge.

Dan Patrick’s post-graduation struggles were something that countless new graduates also have to contend with. “I graduated from the University of Dayton," Patrick said, "then I thought, 'Well, where's my job?'” Dan found himself educated enough to attain a degree, but not enough to take on an uncharted path to his dream job of sports broadcasting. That's why Dan and the Full Sail team put together a program to empower the next generation of sportscasters with the "hands-on" tools they will need as they embark on careers in the industry.

There are no better instructors than those with decades of actual experience in their industry. And this is why Full Sail’s sportscasting program, led by program director Gus Ramsey, is so unique. Having spent more than 20 years as a producer for ESPN's flagship program, SportsCenter, there are few instructors more qualified to prepare students for life in front of (or behind) a camera. Like Dan, Gus has seen many new production assistants walk into the doors of ESPN’s headquarters with their “heads spinning”, unprepared for the real-life challenges they will face. He is driven to educate his students so that they do not have to endure the same hardship and struggle during the learning curve.

Related: 25 Lessons Business School Won't Ever Teach You

The best education pairs students with mentors who have invaluable experience to share; those who know what it takes to succeed in an organization or role, and can provide the right feedback to their students. Mentors can prepare their mentees for the tests they will face in the real world and give them the right tools to get the job done. Experienced mentors can show students exactly what it takes to succeed in a profession, and eliminate misconceptions about a given job.

Dan Patrick cites this as a key factor when educating the next generation of broadcasters: “Everybody thinks you turn on a microphone and you talk. That’s not the case. Everybody thinks you just sit in front of the camera and you talk. That’s not the case. As a teacher, you have to dispel those myths, so they understand this is what this job really is. This is what it takes to get from here to there.”

2. School should push you to be your best, not just push you out the door.

One of the most important aspects for any academic program is to have high, but realistic, expectations for students and push them to pursue their potential in whatever ventures they choose. These programs must produce job-ready graduates and provide constructive feedback so that graduates can achieve their goals without having to learn the hard way: experiencing failure after failure until they finally get it right.

The best feedback from instructors and mentors helps students understand the areas in which they need to improve in order to succeed, as well as guide them to make adjustments if they find that they fit certain roles better than others.

3. Hands-on experience with the latest tech and trends is essential.

Full Sail’s Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting also stood out to me because of the program’s focus on adaptation. Their month-to-month curriculum not only looks to instruct students on the current state of sportscasting but is flexible, allowing instructors to make adjustments based on new developments in the industry.

In an ever-evolving business environment, programs that adapt to changing technology and strategy will produce more job-ready graduates. A program’s curriculum must have a focus on preparing students with the tools of the trade that are currently being utilized, as well as the pioneering tools and techniques that are trending toward widespread use.


Australia: Estimated total cost of a government, Catholic and independent education revealed

The average median cost of a government education over a 13-year period in metropolitan Australia is $68,727, the latest ASG Planning for Education Index has revealed.

Parents considering a Catholic education for their son or daughter in metropolitan Australia are expected to spend $127,027, while the average median cost of an independent education in Australia’s capital cities is a whopping $298,689.

ASG, the largest provider of education scholarship plans in Australia, found Brisbane was the most expensive national city for a government education, with the bill coming in at $75,601 — 10 per cent higher than the national average of $68,727.

Startlingly, school fees made up just a small fraction of the estimated total cost of a government education each year, with external tuition and devices both costing more.

The ASG research discovered Adelaide was the country’s most expensive city for a Catholic education, with the median total cost exceeding $131,000.

Whereas, Sydney was Australia’s most expensive city for an independent education, with parents expected to spend $461,999 over a 13-year period — 54.7 per cent above the national average of $276,338.

School fees were easily the most expensive component of an independent education in metropolitan Australia, costing parents approximately $14,116 per child per year.

Mother Sarah Charge, whose youngest daughter is about to start Year 9 at a Catholic school in Sydney, described the total cost of an education as “scary” when seen as a lump sum.

“The estimated total cost is a lot more than I thought it would be, however we’ve been fortunate to source second hand uniforms and texts books which helps keep costs down,” Ms Charge said.

“I’m also really surprised the estimated total cost of a Catholic education in Sydney is below the national average. It must be the only thing that is, especially when you compare it to accommodation and house prices.”

The ASG Planning for Education Index also showed the average median cost of a government education in regional Australia was $57,994.

Parents considering a Catholic education for their son or daughter in regional Australia are expected to spend $109,877, while the average median cost of an independent education in regional Australians $201,210.

The Index discovered regional New South Wales was Australia’s most expensive state for a government education ($73,808), regional Queensland the most expensive for a Catholic education ($113,211) and regional Victoria the most expensive state for an independent education ($248,543).

ASG CEO Ross Higgins said the cost of education had risen at more than double the rate of inflation over the past decade.

“Education costs, including tuition costs, uniforms, transport and devices are demanding a far greater share of the family budget than in the past,” Mr Higgins said.

“More than ever, the costs associated with education are placing more of a burden on Australian families, who are already challenged by the rising cost of living.

“With less discretionary money to spend, it’s going to be very hard to pay for education, which means parents who have saved will be in a better position in the long run.”

Mr Higgins encouraged parents to put in place a dedicated savings plan, so they can financially afford to meet their children’s educational goals and aspirations.

ASG has also developed a Cost Calculator tool which may assist looking at this data as it applies to your circumstances.

The Index was based on data sourced from a survey of 2300 ASG members on ancillary costs and public information on school fees from the Good Schools Guide and My School website.

The data was then consolidated and analysed by Monash University.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Slow vocab growth associated with hyperactivity in kids

The relevant academic journal article is Vocabulary development and trajectories of inattention-hyperactivity and emotional symptoms via academic ability and peer problems" by Elizabeth Westrupp et al.

It's a very painstaking piece of research but is greatly impoverished theoretically.  They don't seem to have realized that all they did was to rediscover IQ.  Yes, that pesky IQ again that no respectable academic may mention these days. Low IQ is of course associated with slow language development and all sorts of health and behavioral problems in later life. The prisons are full of low IQ people.  So Elizabeth and her friends have just reinvented the wheel.  Sad

Political correctness is a plague on all research concerning human beings.  So much effort has been put into research that is inconclusive due to the failure to account for IQ differences. If IQ WERE controlled for, most of the brightly-reported "findings" would lapse into statistical non-significance or negligible significance

In science, political correctness is a great evil.  It is a relentless enemy of truth

Children whose vocabulary skills develop slowly are more likely to experience emotional and behavioural issues in adolescence, according to a new Deakin University study, published today in the journal Child Development.

The research, led by Deakin School of Psychology researcher Dr Elizabeth Westrupp, was the first to model how children’s language development influences changes in mental health problems over a 10 year period, from early childhood to adolescence.

“We found new evidence that lower growth in vocabulary over primary school was associated with increased child hyperactivity-inattention at eight to nine years, and more rapid increases in hyperactivity-inattention over early to middle teenage years, up to 14 to 15 years,” Dr Westrupp said.

“These findings show the importance of monitoring children through middle childhood and adolescence as they develop.”

As part of the study, data was gathered from almost 5000 Australian children, with children assessed six times between four and 15 years of age.

Dr Westrupp said the study also investigated possible reasons for the association between language development and behavioural issues.

“We found that children’s academic experiences in middle childhood explained the link between early vocabulary development and teenage emotional and behavioural problems,” she said.

“It may be that children with lower vocabulary skills struggle more in the classroom with reading and literacy, which then leads to the development of behavioural and emotional problems in teenage years.”

Dr Westrupp said early literacy-based interventions may alleviate declining academic, emotional and behavioural functioning in adolescence.

“There’s already some evidence to suggest that children with early language problems have higher rates of behavioural and emotional difficulties compared to other children,” Dr Westrupp said.

“However prior research only looked at children at one point in time, and we know that children's language ability and mental health are not static, they change as children grow.

“Understanding these associations will allow parents and teachers to better support children in preventing childhood mental health problems.”

Dr Westrupp said it was critical the focus was not just on kids who entered school with low language skills, but also kids who were dropping behind their peers in the first few years of primary school.

“We need to be aware that they are also at risk. Schools and parents must work together to identify and monitor children falling behind in language, that means having supportive and regular conversations about how a child’s language is developing,” she said.

“It also means oral language based interventions in the classroom may be important beyond just the first few years of primary school, and incorporating specialist oral language skills and interventions into the standard curriculum could be beneficial. So that’s working with children around the meaning of words, the structure of words, and using words in new contexts.

“There is some explicit language teaching in the first years of formal schooling, but there’s much less focus in older years. So a continued emphasis on these skills would help us to best support children to thrive.”

Media release by email from Elise Snashall-Woodhams --

America’s Public Schools Have Become Socialist Indoctrination Factories

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, wants to insert government into every aspect of your life, from education and health care to the kind of car you drive—and she’s not alone. Millions of other Millennials agree that the world would be a better place if government were empowered to dramatically increase taxes and regulations and create massive new federal programs that could take care of Americans from the womb to the tomb. In fact, a 2018 Gallup poll found more than half of Americans aged 18 to 29 now view socialism positively. Only 45 percent said they have a positive view of capitalism.

The real question isn’t whether these socialist tendencies exist, but rather why they exist. How is it that the same generation that has benefited more from capitalism than any other in human history is also the generation most willing to destroy it?

One of the most commonly expressed answers to these questions is that America’s higher education system has turned into a bastion for leftist thought. A 2018 study of more than 8,600 tenure-track professors by Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert found registered Democrats outnumber Republicans at 51 of America’s leading liberal arts colleges by a ratio of 10.4 to one.

As important as bias on college campuses is, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Much of the problem goes back much further, to K–12 schools, where only 27 percent of teachers identify as Republicans, according to a national survey by the Education Week Research Center. Not only are K–12 teachers more likely to vote for Democrats and favor left-wing causes, socialist ideas permeate nearly every aspect of government-run schools.

From their earliest days, young students are taught by modern state curriculum standards to be cogs in the societal wheel rather than independent thinkers. The educational focus is often placed on performing well on standardized tests and memorizing facts, not learning how to make difficult moral choices or cogent arguments with classmates. Young children are constantly told “sharing is caring,” and students routinely “earn” participation trophies for merely showing up. 

Influential education “experts” like Alfie Kohn denounce the use of rewards in education, even calling them “destructive.” In many schools, students don’t earn letter grades anymore. We wouldn’t want the poor-performers to feel badly!

Most children no longer extensively read the literary classics, which include a wealth of resources, and many high schoolers spend little time enrolled in civics or history courses compared to classes that focus on mathematics, science, or technology. And when they are in history classrooms, they are often bombarded with left-wing historical revisionism that turns American heroes like George Washington into racist moral monsters.

And these examples are just the subtle forms for educational socialism. In many public schools, teachers are outright hostile to conservative ideas and openly embrace radical left-wing positions like single-payer health care.

Given the state of the current educational system, it’s not surprising that many young people identify with the collectivist principles of the far left and not with the rugged individualism that has been the foundation of American life for centuries. Our children aren’t being taught the same principles the American Founders were taught when they were kids; children today don’t even read the same books the Founders read. Is it any wonder then that they don’t think the same way John Adams and Thomas Jefferson did?

In recent decades, millions of American families have bravely moved their children out of the government school system, often at great cost, to escape the increasingly radical nature of the public education system. More than 1.7 million kids are now homeschooled, significantly more than in the 1980s. These are undeniably positive developments, but the overwhelming majority of students are still trapped in left-wing schools, and unless parents have the financial means to move them out, they’re going to stay there.

All this isn’t to say that hope is lost, however. America has drifted to the left before—most notably in the progressive era of the early twentieth century—and then subsequently rediscovered its identity. But if we’re going to save Millennials from socialism, conservatives can’t stay sitting on the sidelines, hoping their children and millions of others suddenly realize socialism is a flawed idea.

One vitally important public policy solution is the passage of education savings accounts, which allow parents to use much of the taxpayer money that would have been spent on their child in a local government school on tuition and fees at another school, public or private. Parents could even use ESAs to homeschool their children.

ESAs are a good first step toward fighting back against socialism in public education, but it’s not enough to provide students with opportunities to change schools. Wealthy conservatives who believe in the power of free markets and individual liberty need to start building new K–12 schools and colleges as well, so that parents have options that extend beyond their local government-run school.

To rescue America from socialism, conservatives also need to devote significant resources—especially time and money—toward teaching Millennials about the dangers of socialism and the value of free markets. This can be achieved by launching new publications, creating videos and podcasts, and spending more time on college campuses—all of which we’re trying to accomplish at We need a massive multi-faceted, multi-organization campaign against socialism, and everyone can play a part, especially student groups like Students for Liberty, Turning Point USA, and Young Americans for Liberty.

We can’t afford to continue closing our eyes to this growing problem and wishing for the best. We must act now. Time is running out.


Abrupt closure of Boston Language Institute spurs review by state Attorney General’s office

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the abrupt closure earlier this month of the Boston Language Institute, a Kenmore Square school that for nearly 38 years helped students learn Spanish, Vietnamese, and dozens of other languages, along with teaching English-language learners.

The school lost its bankruptcy protection in mid-January, allowing creditors, including the bank, to seize its accounts. On Jan. 16, the school’s owner and president, Siri Karm Singh Khalsa, informed students and staff that the school would “terminate operations immediately.”

But students have complained about failing to get refunds, and former employees say they are owed weeks and in some cases months of back pay. Some former employees said their paychecks have bounced or the bank has warned them against cashing the checks, because the school’s account has no funds.

A few of the institute’s teachers are in the United States on work visas or are permanent residents, and the way Khalsa handled the closure and withheld their taxes has left them concerned about their status in the country, former employees said.

“Our office is aware of this closure and has received several complaints,” Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said in a statement on Monday. “We have reached out to get more information.”

The institute’s closure was first reported by the Boston Business Journal.

Khalsa said he has not yet heard from Healey’s office, but believes that the company has handled its payroll appropriately and that the closure was a surprise to him too. Other Boston language schools have agreed to take some of the institute’s students for free, Khalsa said.

But he could not say when employees would be paid. “I am committed to making it work, I don’t have the answers at this point,” Khalsa said. “I have been doing this for 38 years. Businesses go through ups and downs, I’ve always been able to pull it out. . . . It never occurred to me that we would not prosper.”

Khalsa had previously assured the seven full-time administration employees, along with dozens of full- and part-time language instructors, of an orderly closure.

But employees said that is far from the reality.

“There was not a lot of transparency,” said Darlene Madera, an associate director who oversaw English language programs. Madera worked at the institute for almost eight years and said she assumed the school would downsize but wasn’t expecting a shutdown.

Just days before the closure she reviewed plans to house the institute in a smaller space in Chinatown, she said.

Madera and other employees said they have not been paid for their final weeks on the job. Several former workers also said they are concerned that their earnings reported for tax purposes don’t seem to match their actual pay.

One former part-time employee, who declined to be named, said she has informally consulted an attorney because she is worried that any tax discrepancies could jeopardize the renewal of her permanent residency card.

The institute, which opened in 1981, had experienced financial problems in the past.

Elizabeth Starr, who worked at the institute for three years until early December, remembered Khalsa asking her and other employees to take pay cuts. But as a single mother, Starr said she couldn’t afford to do that; Khalsa eventually backed off that proposal.

And checks to teachers would occasionally be delayed, Starr said.

In 1991, Khalsa sought bankruptcy protection after accumulating nearly $300,000 of debt, including back taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service. At the time, employees rebelled and locked him out of the building.

But Khalsa prevailed. He outbid an employee-backed group to purchase the institute out of US Bankruptcy Court and regained control of the school.

Last summer, Khalsa returned to bankruptcy court, this time over a dispute with the institute’s landlord, Related Beal. Khalsa was fighting to remain in the Beacon Street property even as Related Beal, which had bought the building from Boston University, made plans for an extensive renovation with higher rents.

According to court documents, Khalsa had failed to pay his attorney about $45,000 between June and October. Then in late December, his attorney withdrew, citing “irretrievable breakdown.”

Khalsa had until Jan. 14 to find a new attorney, which he failed to do. As a result, the bankruptcy judge dismissed the case and the institute lost its bankruptcy protections, allowing creditors to seize its assets.

Former employees said Khalsa should have known that the school’s finances were dire, yet a new crop of students started their classes on Jan. 14. Tuition at the institute varied depending on the length of the coursework. Some students paid $187 for a one-week sessions, while others spent more than $4,400 for three months of classes.

Madera said many staff feel betrayed by the recent financial upheaval and are heartbroken that the school is shut. “It was a labor of love for a lot of teachers there,” she said. “It was a really special environment that was really international.”


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bullying: A Problem Sometimes Used as a Tool

In teaching our kids not to bully, are we actually creating more bullies and more victims?

Bullying is a big enough deal to have its own .gov website:

There, readers will find that bullying has a definition that seems to become less rigid when applied to various targets of those who either possess the power to intervene or those self-anointed to judge. Bullying should not be condoned, justified, or encouraged, but it seems the approach to dealing with such unwanted behavior is resulting in more victims rather than empowered individuals.

Bullying, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, involves “unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”

There’s no federal law that specifically applies to bullying, but most states have measures in place to define it, identify protected groups, specify reporting requirements, create safeguards, implement education and training, and establish consequences. A key in the resources and guides offered include creating a safe environment that would prevent and prohibit such behavior. Simply, the aim is to guarantee either no or limited exposure to unwanted behavior, particularly in a school environment.

The downside? School psychologist and author Israel Kalman posits that “anti-bullying education teaches kids that they are entitled to a life without bullying” and that society has a duty to protect them from potentially negative behaviors. Kalman argues that the move to create such a sterile environment free from any conflict is actually successful in creating more victims rather than dealing with the culprits or empowering others to deal with conflict resolution.

Kalman identifies three roles all are assigned in bullying, in the current approach embraced by academia and social activists: the bully who carries sole responsibility, the victim who is held completely harmless, and the bystander that either actively or passively enables bullying. Institutions of learning are held legally responsible to address bullying and, with this construct, adapt a “law enforcement” approach where all negative behavior is practically criminal. Each interaction — verbal and physical, along with even intentions — are monitored and analyzed by those in charge, who are employing a program created in the 1970s by Norwegian psychology researcher Professor Dan Olweus. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) is considered the gold standard and, as such, is the most widely used in the world.

But social science has a problem living up to the true framework of being a system of knowledge that can be tested and replicated. In the case of OBPP, analysis shows that even when employed for a two-year span, the failure rate, when measuring a reduction in children’s reports of being bullied more than twice monthly, is 88%. Meaning that only a 12% reduction was documented in the 24-month study. Additional research duplicates this result and even records an increase in bullying. Kalman writes that the pathologies of perceived victimhood are actually as or more dangerous than the actual trauma or threat of a negative event.

It’s worrisome to understand that a generation, if not two, was raised to expect little to no exposure to some type of interpersonal conflict, seeking some hermetically sealed bubble of life that is isolated from the reality of humanity. Without exposure and experience in dealing with actual conflict, the need for “adulting” classes will continue to rise because we’re not raising fully developed humans. Instead, we’re seeing men and women of adult ages struggle mightily with responsibility, stress, group dynamics, and the typical unexpected events that pop up in life.

While bullying is criticized among academia and progressives, it’s often a tool used in their efforts to obtain the “moral high ground,” or to simply muzzle those deemed as the bully when it’s more like a difference of opinion. Look no further than last weekend’s monumental mischaracterization of events around the Covington Catholic School young men who were first described as disrespectful, aggressive, hostile, and racist. Why? Because it fit the narrative of the Presstitutes covering the March for Life.

Just as school roles are defined as either bully, victim, or enabler, leftists always mark their opponents as the racist, the bigot, or the whatever while they stand as the victim. The guise of victimhood is a powerful tool to silence critics, censor opponents, and marginalize those who challenge failed assertions.

Say no to the bullying of the truly innocent. Disarm those who use the premise as their own weapon.


Mass.: Education bill would expand state’s power to intervene in struggling schools

Governor Charlie Baker’s new education proposal would expand the power of the state to intervene in struggling schools, opening up a major front in the coming Beacon Hill debate over how best to revamp the state’s troubled school funding formula.

Teachers and other education advocates slammed Baker’s plan, which includes enabling the commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to withhold some state aid from school districts if the department determines they aren’t making necessary changes to improve student performance.

“We find that appalling, to withhold funds from some of our neediest districts . . . in order to impose whatever plan the commissioner feels [is] best,” said Max Page, vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

“His proposal to take resources away from K-12 students whose schools are struggling, when those are clearly the communities that need the most help, is simply nonsensical,” said Lisa Guisbond, a member of the Fund Our Future coalition, which includes teachers unions and other advocacy organizations.

Baker administration officials describe the expanded powers for the commissioner, a position currently held by Jeffrey Riley, as another tool to close the achievement gap that has opened up between students in the state’s poorer districts and those in richer suburban areas.

Baker, a Republican who campaigned on not raising taxes, also tucked a series of new levy proposals into his budget plan.

“We’re talking here about giving the commissioner the ability to withhold central office funds from school districts that have schools that for three years in a row have underperformed,” Baker said as he unveiled his spending plans on Wednesday. “Now how long are we supposed to wait? Until a third-grader’s a ninth-grader, by which time they’re six years behind their peers?”

“What we tried to do here was create an appropriate way for the commissioner — a guy who really knows how to turn around these kind of schools and districts and has proven it for the past 25 years — to create a process that can bring both his knowledge and the knowledge of others, as well as some focus and urgency, into dealing with” schools that continue to stumble, Baker continued.

Baker’s education bill would give the commissioner more power to approve and shape certain measures in the schools’ formal turnaround plans — which are three-year road maps officials at underperforming schools must formulate to improve performance.

The Baker bill also proposes that if the commissioner finds at the end of that first three-year plan a school hasn’t taken key steps it was supposed to, he can withhold some state aid until the school follows through.

“At the end of the day, it’s really designed to never be used but to provide the kind of influence or leverage the commissioner — or for that matter the superintendent — may need in order to get stuff done,” James Peyser, Baker’s education secretary, said in an interview.

Administration officials stress that the money involved is administrative funding for staff, and wouldn’t come out of school budgets or money that directly serves students.

Baker’s bill contains carrots to help struggling schools that Peyser said could be used in conjunction with a threat of withholding funds to push a school to adopt changes the commissioner believes are necessary. These include a new $50 million “school improvement” fund, money the commissioner can give to troubled schools to fund specific performance-boosting initiatives, such as after-school programs.

Page, the teachers union official, contended the provisions are part of a broader effort by the Baker administration “to centralize power over school districts in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.” His group fears Peyser and Riley will use it as a “weapon” to force school districts to accept changes, such as more charter school seats, that the union believes the local communities don’t want.

Other advocates want to see even more strings attached to the new infusion of money pitched in Baker’s proposal.

A final bill should include some mechanism to measure that money is actually being spent to close the achievement gap, said Edward J. Lambert, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which played a key role in the landmark 1993 law that established the state’s current education funding formula.

Calling Baker’s bill “a good step,” Lambert said his group also would like to see provisions aimed at improving the collection and use of data from individual schools as another way to track that “the money is going directly to the schools that need it the most.”

Baker’s education bill, unveiled Wednesday alongside his fiscal 2020 budget proposal, helped define the contours of another central aspect of the funding fight — just how much more money the state should spend.

Baker’s proposal envisions the state and municipalities together spending $1.1 billion more on educating K-12 students at the end of the seven-year ramp-up period. Administration officials said they did not have an estimate of how much the state aid would increase, but historically the state portion of the foundation budget has run about 45 percent, according to Peyser.

By contrast, a bill introduced earlier this year by state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Representative Aaron Vega would increase the state portion alone by more than $1 billion at the end of a multiyear phase-in, according to aides. Numerous players, including the teachers unions, are backing the Chang-Díaz bill and its higher spending levels, and even advocates who haven’t endorsed it believe more funding than Baker has proposed is likely needed .

“Teachers and students have already been doing our part. We’ve been testing and we’re doing all these things that are our accountability measures. Now what we need really is for the state to do their portion . . . and that is our funding,” said Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts.

Another unknown factor is where House leaders will come down on the key questions, including how much state money to commit to struggling schools and what strings to attach to that cash.

Saying he’s yet to look at all the details of the 14-page bill, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo declined Thursday to address Baker’s proposal.

He also was noncommittal on the specific provision to withhold funding earmarked for administrative needs. “At the end of the day, I’m not sure if that will be part of our particular piece of legislation,” DeLeo said, adding he’d have to speak to various players.


Teaching talent: UK universities recruit more Indian academics, number reaches 5600 in 2017-18

Many of these would have been  "diversity" hires.  A brown skin  is worth gold in the idiotic mental universe of the Left.  They think it proves that all men are equal. Quaint

The number of Indian students coming to British higher education institutions showed a minor rise in 2017-18, but the recruitment of ‘British Indian’ academics has continued to grow, reflecting expertise across disciplines: they now number 5,600.

The category includes individuals who are Indian citizens as well as British citizens of Indian origin. Of the 5,600 academics in this group in 2017-18, 2,620 were Indian citizens, new figures provided to Hindustan Times by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show.

The 5,600 academics now include 450 professors, 105 categorised as ‘other senior academic’, and 5045 employed at ‘other contract level’. Indian academics are among faculty staff in almost every British university, conducting research and teaching a range of subjects. The numbers have steadily gone up from 3930 in 2010-11 to 5245 in 2016-17 before again increasing in 2017-18.

Previous and current Indian academics include economist Amartya Sen, educationist Sugata Mitra, engineer Kumar Bhattacharyya, cultural theorist Bhikhu Parekh, Sumantra Bose at the London School of Economics, and Jaideep Prabhu at the University of Cambridge.

In 2017, two India-born experts, Parveen Kumar (medicine; based at the London School of Medicine) and Pratibha Gai (electron microscopy; University of York) were honoured with damehood, the female equivalent of knighthood, one of Britain’s highest civilian honours.

Universities with the highest number of Indian-origin academics include Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, King’s College London, Manchester, and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, the figures show.

Disciplines employing the largest number of Indian academics are Clinical Medicine, Biosciences, Business and Management, Mechanical, Aero and Production Engineering, and Information Technology. Many came from India for doctoral study and later took up academic positions.

The HESA figures complement findings of a 2015 study that said Indian academics in research-intensive universities are preferred due to their “single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, as well as their links with Indian institutions and knowledge of India.

The study found that Indian academics are “singled out for jobs over other candidates” partly due to their willingness to “play the game” of prioritising research over teaching.

The study by Dulini Fernando of Warwick Business School and Laurie Cohen of Nottingham University Business School said research-intensive universities in science and engineering departments, which recruit high numbers of international staff, found that “cultural, social and domestic capital” can put Indian academics in a more favourable position than home-grown talent.

Fernando said: “The Indian academics in our study used their valuable social connections to India and important cultural knowledge to obtain highly prized symbolic capital in the form of research partnerships with leading academics in the West, thus challenging the assertion that migrants’ networks and resources do not facilitate upward career mobility”.

“These findings show ‘ethnic capital’ advantages such as cultural knowledge and networks can be used to move up the career ladder.”

She added that the Indian academics surveyed were comfortable with “rules which require academics to prioritise research over everything else”. She attributed this quality to “single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, influenced by their early experiences of overcoming challenging circumstances and growing up in a society with limited resources.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The LA Teacher Strike: 3 Things You Should Know

The government has been shut down for a month, and now the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been on strike for a week. The district and unions reached an impasse last Friday, and the teachers left the schools on Monday. In interviews, the head of the local teachers union has echoed three complaints: loss of students to charter schools, too little pay, and too big of classes.

On the district side, the superintendent wants to meet demands, but seeing as LAUSD is projected to run a deficit of $600 million in the 2019-2020 school year, all possibilities for budgeting in the union’s requests are null. While the news so far has focused on the supposed plight of underpaid teachers, as a teacher myself, I can say that strikes and teacher salaries are far more complex than many realize.

Here are three basic facts that complicate each of the union’s demands:

1. Charter schools aren’t to blame—pensions are

Between 2009 and 2015, LAUSD lost roughly 100,000 students and the funding that comes with them. The unions blame charter schools, which to some extent is a valid claim; they account for roughly 50 percent of the total loss. Considering a decrease of almost one-sixth of their students, one would assume there was a similar reduction of staff throughout LAUSD. The contrary happened, and as the district shrank, expenditures for staffing increased. The financial report attributes the blame to various factors. An abundance of waste in every department is the biggest culprit, but there are two others that stand out.

Discussions of funding miss a larger issue. What about the schools has made so many parents choose charter or traditional public schools?

The first area of financial stress comes from special education services. After the passage of the IDEA Act in 1990, which mandated special-ed support in all public schools, the federal government promised to pay 40 percent of the rise in costs that would accompany an increase in support staff. Since its passage, the federal government has reached only a quarter of its projected commitment. The second large issue is pensions. The graph below shows the ever-increasing commitments of California’s two teacher pensions funds, which have skyrocketed in the past few years, draining the district's reserves and any discretionary spending ability.

That said, discussions of funding miss a larger issue. What about the schools has made so many parents choose charter or traditional public schools? Instead of lambasting charter schools, the loss of students should act as an incentive for public schools to modify their instruction, study the systems that are presumably more effective at these charter schools, and match the success that their competitors have had. Rather than place blame, they should improve their educational product and fight for customers.

To begin with, California ranks fifth in the nation for teacher pay, doling out on average $74,940. On top of that, LAUSD teachers make more than the average Californian teacher, with 56 percent of them earning over $76,000.

Furthermore, studies overwhelmingly show that an expansion of school choice in districts leads to saved money. Contrary to the union’s complaints, an expansion of charters and vouchers are more likely to save money than drain the public schools.

2. Teachers are already compensated well

Compared to doctors or executives, a teacher’s paycheck appears small. Yet I showed my medical insurance to a doctor once and found it was better and cheaper than a man who worked in the health care field itself. Paychecks tell only a small part of the story.

To begin with, California ranks fifth in the nation for teacher pay, doling out on average $74,940. On top of that, LAUSD teachers make more than the average Californian teacher, with 56 percent of them earning over $76,000. Considering that accounts for nine months of work, that paycheck works out to be about on average with architects. All of that still doesn’t account for their benefits. Among all public employees, teachers bring in the highest retirement benefits, averaging $6.22 per hour worked. Assuming they work 40 hours a week for 40 weeks a year, that is just shy of an additional $10,000.

Again, contrary to the union’s claims, these numbers miss a larger issue. An early educator can outperform their colleagues and make no extra money, while a veteran teacher with little or no interest in improving their craft can bring home an architect’s salary. Perhaps merit-based pay would be a better demand for them to make. This approach not only fixes an unfair compensation structure but also shows a moderate benefit to student learning.

3. Class size is a serious financial issue

Studies on class size almost unanimously show a positive correlation at the elementary level; fewer students means better learning. The effect weakens, though, as the age increases. At the high school level, positive trends don’t start to appear until the class difference reaches seven or more students. Considering the Brookings Institute estimates that “increasing the pupil/teacher ratio in the U.S. by one student would save at least $12 billion per year in teacher salary costs alone,” districts need to weigh the cost-benefit analysis of decreasing class sizes. In the case of LAUSD, where the district proposed a class size cap of 39 at the high school level, all agree that smaller classes are ideal. Unfortunately, in the face of their current deficit, the district should look to other strategies for improving student success.

The fiscal review of the schools warned that “a combination of difficult, substantial and immediate decisions will be required. Failure to do so could lead to the insolvency of the LAUSD, and the loss of local governance authority that comes from state takeover.”

This strike accomplishes two things: an interruption of student learning and the potential for even more financial stress.

If the strikers have one thing correct, it is that the stakes are high in this debate. However, the union’s current demands are often the cause of—rather than the solution to—the district's precarious situation and are simply not financially soluble.

I’m a teacher in Wisconsin and am watching this strike from half a country away. My final personal reflection is this: My commitment is foremost to my students. Were my district to ever strike, I would continue to go to work and, if barred from the building, would send optional email assignments to my students. With that in mind, this strike accomplishes two things: an interruption of student learning and the potential for even more financial stress.


Secretary DeVos celebrates National School Choice Week at Heritage

Heritage had the honor of hosting Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to commemorate National School Choice Week. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, long championed by Heritage, has been a blessing for hundreds of District students and their families.

“The outcomes for students in D.C. have continued to improve, from the most underperforming district in the country to now one that is on a growth trajectory,” DeVos said Wednesday at The Heritage Foundation.  She went on to urge Congress to implement stronger school choice programs for the future of the nation’s children.

Panelist Virginia Ford summarized the driving message by stating, “The President of the United States shouldn’t be the only one living in public housing that is able to send their children to private school.” School choice has allowed low-income students previously trapped in failing public schools to acquire a quality education elsewhere—an important step on the path out of poverty.

Today, over 50 percent of D.C. students go to schools they weren’t assigned to, and that’s good news. With your help, there will be more good news for students all across America who are being failed by costly public schools.


Boston’s economy is booming, but schools seem cash poor. Why?

By many measures, the Boston school system should be flush with cash, thanks to the city’s booming economy.

Over the past decade, the parking lots and rotting piers of the Seaport District have given way to sleek office towers and luxury condominiums, and large-scale developments have sprouted up elsewhere, including the city’s third tallest skyscraper (in the Back Bay).

That has pumped tens of billions of dollars into the city’s tax base, swelling it beyond $160 billion. The new revenue has allowed Boston to increase spending on city services while keeping homeowners’ taxes among the lowest in the state, a feat Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently championed in his state of the city address.

Yet earlier in January on Beacon Hill, Walsh painted a more dire picture of city finances as he asked for tens of millions of dollars more in state aid for city schools, arguing that “without these resources, we will struggle in Boston to meet the basic needs” of 55,000 students.

For some political insiders, the mayor’s remarks elicited disbelief: How can the economic engine of the state not have enough money for its schools? Even parents, teachers, and advocates who have pressed the state for more aid have repeatedly asked that very question.

“We are a rich city educating a poor student population,” said Michael Maguire, a Boston teacher and parent. “Honestly, I feel the city can afford more.”

For all the city’s wealth, the Boston school system feels like it belongs in an economically depressed industrial center. Decades-old buildings plagued by leaks. Drinking fountains shut because of lead pipe contamination. Persistent shortages of guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists, textbooks — even soap in the bathrooms.

All the while, many Boston schools are under state pressure to increase their standardized test scores and graduation rates.

The disconnect between the city’s prosperity and the state of its schools has baffled parents, teachers, and education advocates for years. They have repeatedly rallied at the State House for more state funding and questioned whether Walsh provides enough city money to the schools, and whether the School Department spends that money wisely.

“Yes, there needs to be more funding for our schools, but we need to make sure that funding is getting to the children in the classrooms, and that is not happening,” said Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. “I don’t know if residents in the city of Boston realize how resource-strapped our schools are and how every day we have teachers and parents trying to thread resources together so our kids can at least have a shot.”

Boston’s latest push for more aid comes as lawmakers debate updating the state’s outdated formula for calculating local school aid. The formula has failed to keep pace with inflation and consequently is underfunding education by $1 billion or more, according to multiple state reports.

Of importance to Walsh is ensuring Boston schools receive a minimum amount of state aid — which has been dwindling over time as the state diverts money to independent charter schools.

It’s not like Boston doesn’t spend a lot on its schools: $1.1 billion budgeted this year, well more than required by the state. Since Walsh took office in 2014, he has increased spending on the school system by more than $170 million.

Overall, Boston spends almost $21,000 per student, according to state data. Among the nation’s largest systems, only New York City shells out more per student than Boston, according to a US Census report last spring.

So why do Boston schools appear to be so cash poor? A collision of factors creates the perfect financial storm.

Like other districts, Boston has not been immune from skyrocketing health care costs, pension obligations, and special education spending.

The school funding formula used by the state provides only 17.5 percent of the required per-pupil spending for Boston — the bare minimum allowed under law. And little of that state money actually goes into the city’s schools, as the state diverts most of that for the tuition costs of Boston students in charter schools. The idea is that Boston needs less money because it has fewer students to educate.

While those factors are largely out of Boston’s control, city officials also bear responsibility for a system that many analysts have described as unwieldy and inefficient. Many schools have about half the number of students they did a decade ago. But attempts to close them have met heated resistance.

School buses — many less than half full — crisscross the city, often taking students to schools far outside their own neighborhoods, while others transport homeless students to and from shelters outside Boston, and students with disabilities to private programs in the suburbs. In all, transportation consumes more than 10 percent of the school budget, one of the highest rates in the nation.

Liam Kerr, director of Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts, said some of BPS’s financial problems have been decades in the making.

“Marty Walsh got handed a house underwater,” Kerr said. “At some point, there will be a financial crisis, and hard decisions will have to be made.”

City officials say they are keenly aware of a potential recession and are preparing for it. They also say they’re trying to get the system to spend more wisely, such as bringing in MIT to redo bus routes.

But they also argue the state doesn’t do nearly enough.

“State aid used to be an integral part of how we funded government,” city budget director Justin Sterritt said.

Two decades ago, state educational aid covered almost a third of Boston’s school expenses; this year about 5 percent of the system’s funds will come from state educational aid. And city officials anticipate that in just a few years every penny from the state will instead go toward charter-school costs of Boston students.

This year, for instance, Boston is slated to receive $220 million in state education aid; about $167 million will cover charter-school tuition for 10,000 students, leaving a little more than $50 million for the 55,000 students in the city school system.

That has forced the city to pony up more each year, even as it seeks to expand and update schools. In the past five years, Boston has added 1,000 preschool seats, expanded the elementary and middle-school day by 40 minutes, replaced frozen lunches with fresh entrees, and purchased 50,000 pieces of new furniture, among other efforts.

Still, in the district’s 125 schools, money is tight.

That the state does not provide more support to the system that educates the largest number of students in Massachusetts living in poverty, the largest number of students who don’t speak English fluently, and the largest number of students with disabilities strikes many as unfair.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union. “Our students deserve the same opportunities that students in the suburbs receive.”

Many parents, teachers, elected officials, and education advocates argue the state’s 26-year-old school funding formula has never treated Boston fairly. Although the formula takes into account student demographics, including income, it puts far more weight on a community’s ability to pay.

Consequently, Boston is treated like an affluent suburb — even though 58 percent of students in its schools live in households that rely on government assistance. One key barometer of property values that the state uses to determine aid puts Boston slightly above the wealthy community of Concord.

The end result is that the state provides Boston with the same level of aid as Concord: just 17.5 percent of the amount required for an adequate education.

But the resources available in schools in Boston and those in Concord are worlds apart.

Last year, a group of parents from the Blackstone Elementary School in Boston’s South End, where three-quarters of students live in poverty and almost half are not fluent in English, took a field trip to a Concord elementary school to see what a suburban education is like.

The parents were greeted with a musical performance by students playing a variety of instruments. Classrooms had computers and electronic whiteboards connected to the Internet. Students home sick could participate virtually.

At recess, students broke into groups and were assigned a recess coach.

“For me, it was like seeing magical classrooms,” Rafaela Polanco, whose son is in the third grade at the Blackstone, said through an interpreter. “I felt so small. Our school has so few things.”

For instance, in music class Blackstone students beat on small cans instead of using instruments, Polanco said. The Blackstone has repeatedly had its budget cut, and for next year, the school will probably need to cut $500,000, which could result in eliminating 10 support staff positions.

Polanco has contemplated whether she should move to Concord or get her son a spot in Concord through the voluntary school integration program METCO. But then she had second thoughts.

“If I go to Concord, that’s great for my kid, but what about all the other kids and families in the Boston Public Schools? Who will be here to fight for them?” said Polanco, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. “So I’m staying to fight for them.” [Translation: Because her kid would be like a fish out of water  there]


Monday, January 28, 2019

The Rapid Growth of Homeschooling

Unfortunately, many children are trapped in schools where they’re not only unsafe, but also unable to access a quality education. Sure, there are plenty of great public and private schools, but shouldn’t parents have more say in where and how their children are educated than to be stuck in the public school they’re zoned for?

Today there are plenty of stereotypical arguments against homeschooling, but the stigma that homeschooled children are introverted, narrow-minded, politically intolerant, or ill-prepared for college is being turned upside down by the facts.

Studies show that homeschooled children score higher on the SAT and ACT, the two standardized tests that most colleges and universities require for admission. At the same time, the scores of public-school students are dropping. As a result, colleges are more eager than ever to admit homeschooled students and in many cases actively seek them out.

Not only is homeschooling producing students ready to take on a college education, but these students are also arriving on campus as engaged and open-minded citizens. As David Cheng concludes in the Journal of School Choice, “Some have claimed that private schooling and homeschooling are institutions that propagate political intolerance by fostering separatism and an unwillingness to consider alternative viewpoints.” However, Cheng’s research reveals that “homeschooling is associated with more political tolerance.”

But what about the notion that homeschooled children are mainly from Christian families? The Pacific Standard reminds us, “Today’s homeschool advocates aren’t the Christian Right, trying to dismantle public education. Rather, they’re parents who don’t believe that the current school model is best, or enough, for their children.”

Of course, homeschooling simply isn’t a viable alternative for all families.

Mike McShane writes at Forbes, “For many families, the costs and obligations related to homeschooling are simply too burdensome. Some parents don’t have the confidence in their own abilities to teach every subject to their children. Others cannot devote themselves to homeschooling full-time. Perhaps most of all, many homeschooling families want their children to socialize with other children to learn how to share, cooperate and get along with others.”

Homeschooling may not be the best option for every student, and no one is suggesting that traditional methods of educating children don’t have merit. In fact, that’s just the point: Each child and family is different and deserves the opportunity for the right education model. The key is to make sure parents have the freedom and the flexibility to make choices that are best for their kids instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all system.

One option that seems to be making its mark is known as hybrid schooling, a system in which children spend part of their time being educated in the home and the other part in a traditional classroom. This innovative idea is just one example of what great options parents could have if school choice initiatives were expanded across the country.

Despite some of the obstacles that parents face in deciding how and where to educate their children, the homeschooled numbers are increasing steadily. According to EdChoice’s Schooling in America survey, around 3% of students are currently homeschooled, while another 7% of parents would consider it for their children. Overall, the number of homeschooled students has more than doubled since 1999 to nearly two million.

One of the factors making it easier for parents to choose homeschooling is the implementation of education savings accounts. The Daily Signal’s Lindsey Burke writes, “Not only have the number of schooling options swelled in recent years, but so has innovation within the education sector. Education savings accounts, also established in 2011, enable families to direct the funds that would have been spent by the state on their child in the public system.”

Burke adds, “State funds for each pupil are deposited directly into a parent-controlled account, and families can then use those funds to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. The innovation afforded through education savings accounts can put children on an entirely different educational trajectory.” Five states currently have these account systems in place, says Burke, while others are considering it as an option for parents.

All in all, these are good days for the homeschooling movement in America. And as we recognize School Choice Week, let’s hope our political leaders continue to work toward giving parents a greater say in how their children are educated.


I’m a Single Mom From the City. School Choice Has Changed My Kids’ Lives Forever

Fifteen years ago, I found myself feeling hopeless and helpless in the nation’s capital. My children’s school situation was dismal. My older kids were academically driven, yet faced a steady stream of challenges. My youngest seemed completely overwhelmed and destined for failure. And when I looked around my neighborhood, I saw the same dismal situation playing out with my neighbors’ kids.

That was in 2004, just as Washington, D.C., was about to implement its Opportunity Scholarship Program. Although my son was awarded a scholarship from a neighbor, it was that action that pushed me to fight for all kids in D.C. to have the same choices.

Fifteen years later, fellow parents and I have witnessed a sea change in our kids’ education, with more than 10,000 scholarships awarded to attend private schools. These scholarships have helped deserving low-income kids escape to a school that will put them on track to a bright future.

With D.C. being under Congress’ jurisdiction, it was Congress that passed this school choice program.

It took D.C. parents years of advocating for their children before Congress responded. In 2003, Congress passed the D.C. Parental Choice Incentive Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law on Jan. 23, 2004.

Seeing the results in the lives of children has been so wonderful. I have watched children who received scholarships thrive in the schools that they and their parents chose. I’ve seen them graduate and go on to attend college, and then graduate there.

These are the same kids that many thought would never be successful. They are now holding good jobs and contributing to society in so many positive ways.

As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of this incredible program, my heart and my spirits are continually raised. I often run into families who have benefited and get an update on how their children are doing, and it always makes me proud.

As difficult as it was for us during the initial fight, and even afterward, seeing what this program has done to change the lives of so many families has made every tough moment worthwhile.

So many people didn’t think a ragtag group of low-income parents could effectively fight to ensure our kids the best education possible. But we knew differently. We knew that if we raised our voices, we could win for our children.

We did. And now our kids are winning as a result.


China is using its universities to buy friendship in belt-and-road countries

In a restaurant in the backstreets of Beijing, 12 Pakistanis and Afghans studying at the China University of Communications tell stories of their arrival in China. No one came to pick them up; none of them spoke a word of Chinese. They have plenty of tales of getting lost, disoriented and ripped off by taxi drivers.

The students, all but two of them ethnic Pushtuns, roar with laughter as they swap yarns and savour the cuisine from Xinjiang, a Chinese region that borders on their home countries and has cultural bonds with them. Any ill feeling about those early days has long since dissipated. They agree that, apart from some taxi drivers, the Chinese are very helpful. Friendly relations between their countries and China mean they are welcomed as brothers. Most important, they are all on full scholarships—free tuition, free accommodation and a stipend of 3,000 yuan ($441) a month, more than three times Pakistan’s GDP per person. Beijing’s many Xinjiang restaurants serving halal food are a big plus.

There are nearly half a million foreign students in China, about 50% of whom are on degree programmes. South Koreans are the most numerous. They often come to China if they cannot get into good universities at home—unlike Americans, who come out of cultural and political curiosity, and because it looks good on their CVs. But the share of students from the developing world is growing fast, especially from the dozens of countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan that have signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure-building project. Overall numbers of foreign students grew fourfold in 2004-16; student numbers from BRI-related countries expanded eightfold. In 2012, the year before BRI was launched, students from those countries on Chinese government scholarships were less than 53% of the total number of recipients. By 2016 they made up 61%. China says it reserves 10,000 of its scholarships every year for students from BRI countries. Local governments have been piling in with their own “Silk Road scholarship” schemes.

In countries such as Britain, Australia and America, foreign students are welcomed mostly because universities can make more money out of them than out of locals. In China it is the opposite. Foreign students enjoy big subsidies. Often they are more generously treated than local students. Last year the Ministry of Education budgeted 3.3bn yuan for them, 16% more than in 2017. The rich world is selling education. China is using it to buy influence.

The cheerful Pushtuns are one manifestation of China’s strategy. Another are the more than 500 Confucius Institutes which the government has set up on campuses around the world. Offering heavily subsidised classes in Mandarin, the institutes have aroused suspicions in the West that China may be using them to exert political influence. Such worries have prompted several universities in Europe and America to close them. There has been far less resistance to China’s stepped-up efforts to bring students to its own territory and, it hopes, to influence them there.

It is a familiar path among aspiring superpowers. Just as Cecil Rhodes endowed the Rhodes Scholarships a century ago to preach British imperial virtues, America set up the Fulbright programme in 1946 to spread American values and the Soviet Union created Patrice Lumumba University in 1961 to teach socialism to students from third-world countries, so China is using higher education for political ends. One of its aims is to strengthen ties with BRI countries. Global Times, a state tabloid, paraphrased a former Chinese envoy to Iran (a BRI participant) as saying that studying in China would help people to understand China’s political system and avoid “ignorant Western bias” against the country.

For many of the foreign students, a cheap degree is the main attraction. Several of the Pakistanis tried, but failed, to get European, North American and Australian scholarships; getting a degree at home would be much costlier than the one the Chinese are offering. And the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a huge BRI-related project in Pakistan, means that jobs are plentiful there for those with Mandarin. Bilal, one of the Pushtun students, says that when he was returning to China from a visit home, he was offered two jobs while waiting at Karachi airport.

For many of the students, language is a problem. Some universities have created English-medium courses—Richard Coward of China Admissions, a firm that helps students find university places, knows of 2,000 such programmes—but many students have to use Chinese and few speak it well. That is difficult for teachers. “The government and the universities don’t want the foreigners to fail, but as the number has increased, the quality has fallen,” says Shuiyun Liu of Beijing Normal University. There is some grumbling among young Chinese about the ease with which, in spite of this, foreigners walk into good universities and about the superior facilities they are sometimes offered.

Foreign students have reservations, too, says Ms Liu, who has researched foreigners’ satisfaction with teaching in China. “The rules are all hidden here,” she says. And the relationship between teacher and pupils is different. “There’s not much critical thinking. Students are not always encouraged to challenge the teachers.” Learning in China can be an endurance test. Lectures commonly go on for three or four hours, with only a ten-minute break. “This morning I fell asleep after three hours,” says one of the Pakistani students.

That said, students from developing countries tend to be more enthusiastic than students from the West. “The culture is amazing,” says Ugochukwu Izundu, a Nigerian who did a master’s degree in data analysis at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in the eastern city of Suzhou. “I believe China is a force for good in the world,” says Goodwill Mataranyika, a Zimbabwean at Shijiazhuang Tiedao University in Hebei, a northern province. “The Belt and Road Initiative is an economic corridor for mutual benefit, and China is also investing in Africa for a shared win-win benefit for all nations.” (Nigeria and Zimbabwe are signatories to BRI.)

For all such talk, personal relations between the foreigners and their Chinese fellow-students often remain distant. The Pakistanis and Afghans speak warmly of the friends they have made from other countries, but they do not have any Chinese ones. “I would try to talk to them,” says Bilal, who did his degree in Chinese. “But when we did group assignments, they would make their own groups, and the foreigners would be left to work together. I don’t know what it is. Maybe they’re shy.” Still, Bilal has no complaints. He has married a Brazilian he met in China and now works in the Pakistani embassy in Beijing. “I got a scholarship, a language, a job and a wife. God smiled on me.”


Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Public School Monopoly Forces Kids to Learn Secular Humanism. We Need More Options

President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring this week, Jan. 20-26, as National School Choice Week.

The proclamation expresses concern about performance of U.S. students in international surveys: 24th in reading, 25th in science, 40th in math. And it ascribes the cause of these disappointing statistics to the “consequences of the limitations imposed by a largely one-size-fits-all approach to education.”

It makes all the sense in the world to appreciate the value of bringing the marketplace and competition to education. Free markets serve us extremely well in delivering goods and services. Why shouldn’t one of our nation’s most important institutions—education—also benefit from competition?

It is ironic that the political left extols the importance of diversity while also wanting government monopolies.

The conclusion should be the opposite. The more diverse a customer base, ethnically or any other way, the more diversity you need among suppliers to meet and serve the unique needs of different communities. This can only be achieved in free, private markets.

Statistics on the changing ethnic profile of the students in our public schools speak for themselves.

In 1997, 63.4 percent of the students in our public schools were white and 36.6 percent were minority—black, Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial—students. By 2014, 49.5 percent were white and 50.5 percent were minority.

The projection from the National Center for Education Statistics is that by 2026, 45 percent of public school students will be white and 55 percent will be minority.

Parents of these minority communities should have freedom to choose an educational framework for the diverse needs of their children. Suppliers in a dynamic marketplace will listen to those parents, try to understand the unique needs of their children, and serve them.

This is exactly the opposite of what you get with a government-controlled monopoly and union bureaucrats.

However, the country is not just becoming increasingly ethnically diverse. It is also becoming increasingly diverse regarding values.

At the nation’s founding, it was almost universally accepted that education would include the Bible. “One great advantage of the Christian religion,” said John Adams, “is that … the duties and rights of the man and citizen are thus taught from early infancy to every creature.”

The Northwest Ordinance, passed in America’s first Congress in 1789 said: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

This sentiment carried well into the 20th century, until court decisions began, step by step, purging any presence of the Bible in public education.

Did these decisions improve our public schools, making them more value neutral? Certainly not. They simply politicized education, replacing Judeo-Christian values with prevailing politically correct secular humanist values.

Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education in their public schools. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72 percent of schools in large urban districts provide education regarding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

What exactly are the values, the worldview, through which issues such as marriage, sex, and pregnancy are being taught in these schools?

Black communities have already been hurt by the secular humanism of the welfare state. Since the 1960s, the incidence of single-parent black households has tripled.

It makes sense that black parents would want to send their children to Christian schools so that these values are transmitted as part of their education. Shouldn’t parents have this right?

In a country with widely growing diversity in religious identification and values, the only answer is parental choice in education. It brings the efficiencies of the marketplace and the principle of religious freedom to schools.

Parents must fight for the right to choose where to send their children to school.


How School Choice Is Lifting Thousands of Kids Across America

It’s amazing how far school choice has come since the first National School Choice Week was held in 2011. That year, 18 states and Washington, D.C., offered 31 school choice programs (vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts) enabling some 212,000 students to attend a private school of choice.

Today, 65 private school choice options are operating in 29 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. More than 482,000 students across the country are exercising private school choice—more than double the number of programs and students since National School Choice Week first launched in 2011.

It’s why this week, we’re celebrating the ninth annual School Choice Week to keep the progress going.

Innovative Options Across the Country

Not only have the number of schooling options swelled in recent years, but so has innovation within the education sector. Education savings accounts, also established in 2011, enable families to direct the funds that would have been spent by the state on their child in the public system.

State funds for each pupil are deposited directly into a parent-controlled account, and families can then use those funds to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers.

The innovation afforded through education savings accounts can put children on an entirely different educational trajectory.

Take Alexa Bloom, whose son, Julian, was diagnosed at 18 months with autism and a severe sensory and auditory processing disorder. Although the district system said he would need to be in the maximum restrictive environment in school, Bloom wanted something different.

She entered Arizona’s education savings account program, and uses Julian’s account to pay for personal tutors, specially tailored curriculum, and art and music specialists. Thanks to education choice, Julian is getting a customized education that is helping him reach his full potential.

A total of five states—Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina—currently have education savings account options in place, and several other states are seriously considering them this year.

Federal Spotlight

National School Choice Week is also a great opportunity to consider possibilities for federal policymakers to advance education choice. Although education is primarily a state and local issue, the federal government does have a constitutional warrant to advance education choice options for a few special student populations: children from military families, children living in Washington, D.C., and Native American students on tribal lands.

Last year, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., introduced a proposal to provide children of military families with education savings accounts. Providing education choice to military families is sound education policy and meets a critical national security need.

In 2017, the Military Times conducted a survey of its readers in which 35 percent of respondents said that dissatisfaction with their child’s education was a “significant factor” in their decision to remain in or leave military service. And in a nationally representative survey of active-duty and veteran families conducted by EdChoice last year, three-quarters of active-duty respondents supported the idea of providing their children with education savings accounts to ensure they can find education options that are the right fit for them.

Making 2019 a Record Year for School Choice

Across the country, states like Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Indiana are considering establishing education savings accounts to provide education flexibility to as many families as possible. And at the federal level, the Trump administration’s support for parental choice in education bodes well for federally appropriate options, such as education savings accounts for military families.

We Americans experience choice and customization in nearly all aspects of our lives—from food delivery and television to transportation and even tele-medicine—so choice and customization in education should be the norm, rather than the exception.

Education choice improves academic outcomes, leads to more satisfaction among parents, enhances school safety, reduces criminal behavior, and can have positive impacts on later life outcomes, such as earnings.

This National School Choice Week, let’s renew our work to extend those benefits to every single child in America.


Australia: New $40million 'school of the future' with no year levels and 'campfires' instead of classrooms is set to open in Australia - but not everyone is convinced by the modern concept

"Modern" and "Future" are a laugh.  Most of the ideas behind this are as old as the hills -- going back at least to Maria Montessori -- and were tried many times in the 20th century with indifferent success. I taught in a "progressive" school much like this and it worked reasonably well for brighter kids with a motivated home background but the majority learned next to nothing and failed their final High School exams

Next week, 350 Australian pupils will step through the doors of a new type of school - a school that doesn't have classrooms, exams or levels.

Lindfield Learning Village located in Sydney's North Shore is the first of it's kind in Australia and this year the new facility, which cost the NSW Government $40million to build, is offering places to kids from kindergarten age through to Year 10.

The 'school of the future' teaches children through project-based activities and aims to give them the skills to solve 'real world problems'

This means instead of learning subjects in a single fashion, a child will learn in a collaborative way about multiple disciplines.

Although there will be teachers, children will be also be mentored by others who are older than them as well as learn from mixed aged peers.

There aren't assessments either - at least not in a formal sense.

Principal Stephanie McConnell told the ABC pupils will be evaluated 'but perhaps not in the way we understand assessment in a traditional environment'.

'A student might choose a particular point in time when they feel they can demonstrate the learning required to meet a particular learning outcome.'

The sprawling campus, set on the site old University of Technology site at Ku-ring-gai, has also gone without classrooms.

Rather, teaching will happen around 'waterholes' which are spaces dedicated to big groups, 'campfires' - spaces for small groups working with a teacher and 'caves' - spaces for children who want to work on their own.

While there is capacity for up to 2000 students, this year, only 350 students were eligible to enrol.

One parent, Mario Trinco, who is sending his three daughters to the school, told the ABC the school's progressive approach is in step with technological advancements. 'Things have changed so much in the last 20 years, with social media [and] the internet - and the education system hasn't kept up.'

While the ABC clip about the school and its opening was viewed by more than 32,000 people on Facebook, those leaving comments said they weren't convinced this type of educational system was a solution to current learning problems.

One woman Ashleigh wrote: 'I sort of cringed while watching this. I think giving kids real life problem solving skills is great but there's so many aspects of this model that are unrealistic.

'Wouldn't this model be better if it was paired with traditional learning, particularly English and maths so they actually have the foundational knowledge to be able to solve the problems?'

Another, Kylie, questioned the school's model of progressing children by ability rather than by age and assessment.

She said while this might give brighter kids a confidence boost because they'd get a chance to work on advanced projects with older kids, she wanted to know how other children might feel having to work on simpler tasks with those below their age level.

'The problem with these educational fads is that they think they have to abandon everything that is 'old' when in reality the answer is somewhere in the middle.'

A third, Melinda, said she thought the idea behind the school was great. However, she noted only time would tell whether the system would work well for the majority.

'I taught in a school with a similar approach/philosophy. It was beneficial for some students, but for many, it failed the students, which is why I had to leave after 2 years.

'Let's hope this new school has done their research. I hope it works well and is a great success because our current education system needs an overhaul.'