Friday, January 24, 2020

Socialists are coming for your school-age children — and that’s no hyperbole

In a post on its website, the Democratic Socialists of America writes, “Why Socialists Should Become Teachers.”

And from there, the DSA of West Virginia explains how the success of a socialists’-led teachers’ strike in that state in 2018 that brought them a 5% pay raise could segue into long-term reform within America’s public schools.

Without understating, this seems a danger to America. It’s an attempt to crumble the country from within, by instilling the youth with anti-American viewpoints.

In another decade, that would be called seditious. Nowadays? Nowadays, it’s called freedom of speech.

But let’s be clear: What the DSA is advocating is a strategic infiltration of America’s public school systems to bring about socialist policy — and ultimately, teach socialist policy to the nation’s most vulnerable, the children.

“The West Virginia strike didn’t happen by chance,” wrote. “It was the result of creative shop floor organizing by teachers with socialist policies. These teachers introduced a fundamentally different vision of their state than what was on offer from either elected officials or union leaders. And they were able to do this because they had organic connections to their co-workers.”

They were inside, and they used their inside access to spread their socialist messages. They openly acknowledge that — and openly advocate for more of the same.

“[The DSA] argues that socialists should take jobs as teachers (and other school-based workers) for the political, economic, and social potential the industry holds,” the DSA website states.

This is horrifying. America’s children are being targeted by forces who stand in utter opposition to all this country represents, to all upon which this government was founded.

The risk is real. The fate of our country hangs in the balance.  The minds of our nation’s children are in jeopardy.

“There is a growing network of educators in DSA working to transform our schools, our unions and our society,” DSA wrote.

And they have no intention of slowing or going.

If conservatives, patriots, Christians, traditionalists, constitutionalists and others with love for the America that’s supposed to be — the limited government one envisioned by our framers — don’t get going and run for the school board, or seek out more teaching positions themselves, it won’t be long before socialism’s roots are unable to be dug.

It won’t be long before socialist teachers train socialist students how to lead in a socialist America and the democratic-republic, the whole Great Experiment Called Free America, becomes just a thing of study for the history books.


A Nascent College Accountability System

Holding institutions of higher learning accountable for rising tuition and loan defaults.

Quite likely, most Americans have never heard of Harvey Mudd College. Yet when the salary-comparison site PayScale analyzed alumni salary data of 3.5 million respondents representing more than 4,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. for its 2019-2020 College Salary Report, the undergraduate science and engineering institution in Claremont, California, topped the list. Its graduates earn $88,800 in their early careers, and $158,200 in their mid-careers. Making data like that easily available might influence thousands of students’ choices regarding which college to attend. The Trump administration has begun doing something about that — something with the potential to upend a contemptible status quo where by thousands of students are drowning in college-loan debt with little or nothing to show for it.

“In November, the Department of Education released post graduate earnings and debt data broken down by college program — which will have a revolutionary impact on higher education,” columnist Andrew Gillen explains. “Students (and policymakers) can now get accurate information about how much recent graduates earned by college and degree (e.g., a Bachelor’s in Physics from Ohio State University).”

Unfortunately, the data set is limited. It includes only students receiving federal financial aid and, as of now, those students’ earnings only one year after they’ve graduated. But when one considers the reality that hundreds of billions of dollars from federal, state, and local governments are provided to institutions of higher learning on an annual basis — with no consideration for the actual outcomes produced by those institutions — one suspects the political pressure ultimately brought to bear in a nation besieged by skyrocketing tuition costs and $1.5 trillion of outstanding student-loan debt with be impossible to ignore.

The Trump administration is not the first one making the attempt to increase transparency. In 2014, President Barack Obama championed a government rating system aimed at holding the nation’s 7,000 colleges and universities accountable for the $150 billion in federal loans and grants they were receiving at the time.

Quite unsurprisingly, those who’ve benefited from this arrangement were appalled. “Applying a sledgehammer to the whole system isn’t going to work,” Robert G. Templin Jr., former president of Northern Virginia Community College, complained at the time. “They think their vision of higher education is the only one.”

Adam F. Falk, former president of Williams College in Massachusetts, agreed. “As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination,” but, he added, it is likely to be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” Charles L. Flynn Jr., president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, insisted a rating system “cannot be done well and that the initiative was "uncharacteristically clueless.”

Ultimately, the Obama administration precipitated Gainful Employment regulations, whereby vocational programs that engendered too much student debt would no longer be eligible for federal financial aid. The Trump administration rescinded the regulations because they targeted for-profit programs while exempting most public and nonprofit programs.

Moreover, the Obama administration’s efforts to bypass Congress created unnecessary partisan rancor belied by the reality that a federal accountability system applied to all colleges is something both parties favor. In February 2019, Sen. Lamar Alexander, GOP chairman of the committee, proposed overhauling the Higher Education Act by streamlining federal student-aid applications, simplifying student-loan repayments, and holding colleges accountable for repayment rates on student loans. Two months later, Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy proposed four measures of accountability: graduation and loan-repayment rates, whether loan debt is too burdensome for graduates, and the release of data showing the proportion of low-income students who are admitted and graduate.

In a nation as polarized as this one, such bipartisanship is rare. And despite the aforementioned rule recision, Gillen believes Gainful Employment would make an excellent starting point for the Trump administration’s effort to precipitate the next level of accountability. “Adjusting the original Gainful Employment rules to account for differences in the student cohorts as well as differences in the earnings and debt measures, we can apply what I call Gainful Employment Equivalent (GEE), to explore what a similar accountability system might look like,” he states.

It is likely GEE would not be well received by those being held accountable, because it would reveal some highly damning data. As Gillen reveals, approximately one million graduates per year “received federal financial aid to attend a college program that does not pass a reasonable debt-to-income test.” The same test reveals that 69% of students attending law school — where the average student-loan debt for 2015-16 graduates was a whopping $145,500 — would also fail to receive an adequate bang for their buck.

The other part of the equation is just as critical. “For years we’ve asked students to make one of life’s most important decisions essentially blindfolded,” Gillen rightfully notes. “We’ve told them a college degree is the surest path to success but have given them little guidance on where to go to college or what major to choose once they get there.”

Again, such a rating system, whereby students wold be pointed toward statistically well-paying majors or the most lucrative parts of risky ones would be utterly anathema to a number of colleges not only replete with worthless majors, but those with ever-expanding bureaucracies invariably tied to some aspect of “social justice” or “diversity” — all of which drive up tuition costs.

“Not every college or program will survive,” Gillen warns. “But those that do will be stronger.”

Yet one more thing is critical to the mix: Colleges must be held accountable for some percentage of student-loan defaults. Those defaults are currently underwritten in total by taxpayers, and this contemptible dynamic allows colleges to raise their costs with impunity.

It also precipitates bone-headed plans like Elizabeth Warren’s assertion that she will implement student-loan forgiveness by executive fiat. Such a disastrous “solution” not only fails to incentivize colleges to rein in their costs, it engenders moral hazard on steroids, as in the idea that freely made personal commitments can be “justifiably” cast aside.

No doubt that resonates among some younger Americans, long-marinated in a cultivated sense of “grievance,” whereby some broken promises are perfectly acceptable. But such capriciousness is utterly catastrophic for any society other than one that embraces anarchy.

Maybe if we finally hold colleges truly accountable, some of those socialist/Marxist wannabes will get a clue.


British schools 'gaming' the system to boost league table position, warns Ofsted boss

Secondary schools are entering almost every child into an English foreign language GCSE in a bid to “game” the league tables, the head of Ofsted has revealed.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, has warned headteachers over putting their own interests over that of their pupils.

She said that schools should not feel “under pressure” to boost their position in league tables by entering children for pointless qualifications simply because “the school down the road is doing it”.

Speaking at the launch of Ofsted’s annual report, Ms Spielman cited one school where inspectors noted that every child was required to take a GCSE in sports science, regardless of whether they took any interest in the subject.

Meanwhile, other schools entered practically every pupil for a GCSE in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), even though they were “nearly all” native English speakers.

Ministers acted on Ofsted’s calls to close this loophole, and the league tables published last month were the first time that ESOL qualifications did not count towards a school’s performance.

Questions on an ESOL specimen paper include one where pupils are asked to describe in up to 150 words a person who “has played an important part in your life”.

Another question asks students to write between 70 and 90 words on how they celebrated their last birthday.

Ms Spielman said that a “minority” of schools are failing children by attempting to boost their reputation at the expense of delivering a well-rounded education.

She explained: "In schools, if we see actions that appear to be taken in the school's own interests, this may be a type of 'gaming', by seeking to make things look better than they are.

"Some actions that schools take may have a beneficial impact on the school's performance data but be of limited benefit or even at odds with the best interests of pupils."

Ms Spielman used her speech to accuse ministers of failing to support primary schools in Birmingham which faced picket lines and protests from their local Muslim communities over the introduction of LGBT lessons.

She said there was “no swift condemnation” from governments over these protests, and “remarkably little” from politicians.

Ms Spielman went on: “The powerful voices that should have supported the children and the school were largely muted. “Headteachers spoke of being isolated. Where leadership was desperately needed, it was lacking.”

After months of demonstrations a judge banned the protests in November, which he said had caused distress and anxiety to teachers and pupils alike.

Ms Spielman also criticised schools which segregate pupils on gender grounds and censor textbooks, as she condemned politicians for failing to properly tackle these issues.

These findings should have led to “proper public discussion”, Ms Spielman said but added that “very few” people are willing to engage in discussing “sensitive areas” such as these.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the majority of schools do not “game” the system but urged ministers to overhaul league tables so that headteachers are not presented with false incentives.

“Performance tables currently penalise schools which have more pupils in challenging circumstances, such as those with low prior attainment and special educational needs,” he said. “This is wrong. The system should incentivise inclusivity and performance tables must be reformed.”

Ofsted’s report showed that 86 per cent of schools in England are rated good or outstanding, along with 96 per cent of nurseries and 81 per cent of further education and skills colleges.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This report shows that the majority of schools, nurseries and childminders, and colleges and other organisations delivering further education and training, are now rated as good or outstanding, and there have been improvements in children’s social work.

“These improvements are only possible because of the hard work of those working in these professions striving for the best education and care for our young people.

“But we are not complacent, and one of the key functions of a good regulator is that it highlights areas of concern and we will work with Ofsted, schools, local authorities and others to address the issues this report identifies.”


Thursday, January 23, 2020

NC: Turning Against Scholarship at Wake Forest

Nan Miller

I love Wake Forest. I was there before the ban on drinking and dancing was lifted but there during an era when supplying freshmen with free samples of Winston and Salem cigarettes was standard practice. When friends at other schools asked how I liked being deprived on the one hand and ensnared on the other, I confided that I’d become an artful dodger of certain rules — including what felt like the requirement to smoke. 

It was only later that I saw what an advantage I’d had as an undergraduate at Wake Forest. By the end of my sophomore year, I’d been steeped in our Western heritage and taught by professors who loved great works for their timeless insights and perfectly wrought passages, professors who challenged us, inspired us and prepared us for the hazardous business of being adults. 

Back in the ’60s, no one could have predicted that the ’80s would bring a nationwide push to replace legendary scholars with a breed that would redefine our heritage as one long procession of pompous white males who hold a Goliath-like grip on power by oppressing women and minorities. By 1991, The Atlantic had redefined higher education as “Illiberal” and featured on its cover a hand pouring gasoline on a stack of great books. 

So I was not the only donor who followed developments at Wake Forest to make sure my alma mater hadn’t joined the race to hire scholars who aim “to get away from the notion that literature is sacred,” as Georgetown’s John Glavin famously declared. 

Before 2016, I had no reason to doubt the pledge I’d found in Wake Forest’s Strategic Plan — to stand firm against “the undertow of trendiness.” Now I see that the fine print should read “unless, of course, the trend involves rescuing a university from the clutches of the Koch brothers” — for that is precisely the trend Wake Forest followed in 2016.

No one had objected when economics professor James Otteson announced plans to establish an institute that would bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to explore ways to promote happiness or “eudaimonia,” which was Aristotle’s term for human flourishing. Dr. Otteson’s plan fit perfectly Wake’s other mission “to create interdisciplinary institutes” where faculty and students can explore “complex issues” and “engage in actual research.”

Then came the announcement that the Charles Koch Foundation would donate $3.7 million to the Eudaimonia Institute — and the name Koch triggered 189 professors to stage what The Wall Street Journal called an “Anti-Koch Meltdown.” Using tactics set forth by the George Soros-funded movement to UnKoch My Campus, Wake’s faculty senate conducted “an intensive study” that uncovered a Koch plot to build “a robust freedom-advancing network of professors” who would smuggle a right-wing agenda into the Wake Forest curriculum. No matter that Soros himself once admitted to having “messianic fantasies” of imposing a left-wing agenda on his adopted nation. 

Perhaps in response to a spate of negative publicity, President Nathan Hatch rejected the faculty senate’s plea to “SEVER ALL CONNECTIONS TO THE CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION.” Denied an official ruling against “dark money,” the senate sought ways to hamstring its release — and to warn students of the Institute’s stealth plan to push for “lower taxes and less government regulation” (in clear violation of the faculty senate’s plan to quash those ideas). 

As an undergraduate studying philosophy under the redoubtable A.C. Reid, I read John Stuart Mill’s appraisal of ideologues who allow free speech only when it conforms to their particular creed: “To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.”

Fortunately, absolutists at Wake Forest have failed in their mission to defund the Eudaimonia Institute. In 2019 alone, the Institute sponsored lectures, presentations and conferences for 1,379 faculty and student participants. The bad news is that faculty resistance is behind the Koch Foundation’s recent decision to withhold the final million of its $3.7 million investment in the Eudaimonia Institute.

When Wake Forest professors argue that the pursuit of happiness can be hazardous to student health — from a safe perch secured for them by the sale of cigarettes — they scare off donors to the general fund. So I am not alone in my resolve to give only to the Eudaimonia Institute — where faculty and students can assemble “to explore the moral and economic case for freedom and prosperity” and where they are free to hold and affirm a diversity of opinions.


Student protesters are still a small minority

If news stories about the end of the decade are to be believed, the 2010s were an era in which American students – those in Gen Z – became significant agents of social change. Headlines regularly depict students protesting climate change, or organizing nation-wide school walkouts. We see Stoneman Douglas students in Parkland, FL marching and advocating for more gun control, and seemingly never-ending student protests on our nation’s colleges and universities, demanding change under the banner of social justice and equity. Such headlines make it easy to believe that those in Gen Z see themselves as agents of social change, and that, for them, protesting has become the norm.

The problem with this narrative is that is it simply not true.

Despite news reports which simplify and exaggerate reality, most American students are not interested in protesting; those who are new to college are more concerned with community service than their earlier counterparts, but public demonstration is not a high priority whatsoever.

As a professor who works with Gen Z Americans, I have visited scores of colleges and universities and talked with thousands of students. I have noticed that our students are not overwhelmingly political or interested in protesting.  

Six decades of data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) supports this line of thinking.

HERI has regularly presented a list of “objectives” to be achieved in college to incoming students who were asked if they were “essential” or “very important.” When asked about “keeping up to date with political affairs,” for instance, 57% of students on average thought this was essential or very important throughout the 1960s. This figure dropped significantly in the 1970s to 46% and a few points lower to an average of 43% in the 1980s.

By the 1990s, interest in politics waned even more to 37% and from 2000 to the 2015, the number slipped a few points more to 35% – a figure 20 points lower than the 1960s. By 2015, the figure ticked up a bit with the generational change on campus, and by 2017, the figure climbed to 48%. So, there has been a very recent jump in interest in political affairs, most likely due to the rise of Donald Trump, but this is a figure still notably lower than the norm in the 1960s.

Similarly, when students were asked about their interest in “influencing the political structure,” the figure has been fairly low and stable since the 1960s.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, about 17% of students thought that influencing politics was essential or very important. From the 1990s through 2015, the average increased slightly to 20%. In 2016 and 2017, the figure jumped with Gen Z on campus to 27% – but this is barely a quarter of the population.

HERI went further and asked the same students about performing volunteer or community service work. This is, of course, a different way to have political influence and the data show that there has been a steady increase from 1990, when only 17% believed that there was a “very good chance’ that they will engage in service, compared to 37% in 2017 –an increase of almost 118%.

Finally, incoming students were also asked about whether they intended to “participate in student protests or demonstrations” between 1967 and 2015, and that number has remained low over the past five decades. Only about 6% of incoming students on average said that there is a “very good chance” that they will protest. This figure vacillated between about 3.5% and 8% – but never crossed the 9% line, revealing that incoming college students are not inclined to be as radically engaged as the media often portrays them – and they weren’t so inclined even in the 1960s when the U.S. was going through massive socio-political change. Moreover, these protest statistics have barely changed even when other measures of political and social engagement have significantly shifted over time.

Regrettably, newer recent data has not been released but the 2018 HERI survey does have this question included. Even if the newer data doubles the student numbers toward protest, it would still amount to a small percentage of students and would not support the common narrative that students are eager to protest and demonstrate. When they do, they are often prodded by activist administrators who set the tone and influence student behavior on our nation’s college campuses.

Interest in politics among college students is appreciably lower compared to those entering college in the 1960s, and students say they have little interest in protests and demonstrations. On the other hand, students today are more interestedin volunteer or community service work when compared to those in earlier eras.

The current 24-hour news cycle and social media universe may have created the impression that today’s students are hyper-political and eager to demonstrate, but it simply is not true. Today’s college students want to make an impact, but they are more interested in impacting society by non-political means.


The old teacher standards debate

You can demand high academic standards in teacher trainees until you are blue in the face but people with high academic standards don't want a bar of chaotic Australian State schools.  They have better job options. So dummies are all you can get to teach there

What is needed to raise teacher quality is to make teaching more attractive and that means making public school classes less like a warzone.  And the only way to do that is to enforce civil standards of behaviour from the students.  Unruly students should be diverted to special schools where physical means can be used to enforce compliance with the rules. In the old days students were caned as a punishment for bad behaviour.  That could work again but Leftist opposition ensures it will not be reintroduced.

So what is the alternative?  Australia has a well-known alternative:  40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools.  Such schools are expensive so the kids concerned have to come from middle class homes -- where even a look can be sufficient discipline.

So in such schools teachers are allowed to teach and that is where the good teachers go. At my son's private school, he even had two MALE teachers, wonder of wonders

So Leftist failure to permit adequate discipline consigns as much as 60% of the child population to schools where very little gets taught in the worst cases.  How compassionate!

THE way to lift Queensland's academic standards? Get brighter teachers. It's not rocket science - but then science, of any kind, is not the strong suit of most who are fronting our classrooms.

By accepting into education degrees the students at the bottom end of tertiary entrance rankings, we can't then expect top outcomes. An OP17 won't get you into most university degrees - and fair enough, too - but it will ensure you a seat in the lecture theatres at the Australian Catholic University.

I've written about this issue before and am familiar with the arguments of those who disagree with me, including fans of ACU and proud parents of young teachers who say the ability to relate to kids outweighs academics.

Now, Deanne Fishburn from the Queensland College of Teachers is claiming that "you can't be registered as a teacher in Queensland without meeting high and rigorous standards".

As director of the QCT - which, according to its website, "registers teachers for Queensland schools and accredits the state's preservice teacher education programs" - Ms Fishburn is hardly going to admit the status quo stinks. Naturally, she will defend it.

However, as part of her argument, she says that those high standards include that "teacher education students must have passed senior English and mathematics". That means obtaining a C. Hardly what I'd call excellence.

When economic experts are continually identifying the greatest jobs growth in fields that require higher level maths and critical thinking, such as engineering and technology, why are we settling for a pass mark in those who would inspire and instruct future job-seekers? It is unreasonable to expect people who are average achievers themselves to be able to confidently unpack complex problems to others.

Alarming findings from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute back me up on this. Only one in four teenagers is learning from a specialist maths teacher - someone who studied maths at university, including for six months as part of their four-year education degree. Too often, sports or music teachers are also taking maths classes.

It's no better in primary school, with former AMSI director Geoff Prince saying that teachers are "breaking out in a cold sweat" when they have to teach maths. Contrary to the requirement to which Ms Fishbum refers, Mr Prince says many "haven't done maths through to Year 12 (and) don't understand fractions and percentages properly themselves".

Ms Fishburn argues that focusing on OP scores (soon to
be ATAR) distorts the real picture of the beginning teacher workforce. Reason being, she says, is the average age of graduate teachers is 28, meaning they are likely to have a career behind them or perhaps another degree. They might also have had several gap years, stuffed around  switching courses,'Or taken longer than usual to complete their teaching qualifications.

Don't get me wrong - life experience is valuable, but it shouldn't excuse academic mediocrity or underperformance.

In Finland - a much stronger performer than Australia in PISA international benchmarking - all teachers hold a master's degree.

Teaching polls as Finland's most admired profession, and you can't just walk into an education degree. You have to be the cream of the crop. This is how it should be.

As Peter Goss, director of the Grattan Institute School Education Program, told the Courier-Mail yesterday: "Teaching is a complex job. It requires strong cognitive abilities as well as the  emotional skills to relate to the  children, but unfortunately the academic backgrounds of new teachers has been dropping for 40 years and has continued to drop even over the last decade."

  Lowering the bar to address teacher shortages - which is partly why an OP17 is  considered adequate - will not  attract high achievers.  What will, however, is not an easy fix. It requires a major shift in how we, as a society, view the value of education and, in turn, respect, train and remunerate teachers.  Kids deserve the best educators - those who combine academic proficiency with "soft" skills such as creativity, communication and empathy, but as it stands now, that boils down to sheer luck.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Insane childcare costs in Australia

A torrent of regulations have "gold-plated" childcare, making it generally unaffordable.  So the government tries to restore affordability by giving subsidies. But the subsidies are not keeping up

It's deregulation that is needed if affordability is to be restored.  One insane regulation is that a carer has to have a university degree or diploma -- and it goes on from there.  There must also be a minimum educator-to-child ratio of 1:15, which is well-up on what it used to be.

There are also regulations about premises, furniture, materials and equipment; fencing; laundry and hygiene facilities; indoor and outdoor space – unencumbered space; toilet and hygiene facilities; ventilation and natural light; administrative space; nappy change facilities; outdoor space—natural environment and shade.  And they all cost money that has to be recouped from fees in order to get a return on investment

"OUT-of-control" childcare costs are continuing to soar -under a new subsidy scheme, as the industry warns there is more hip-pocket pain to come. Even fees for some Queensland parents on the highest discount are hundreds of dollars higher than they were 12 months earlier.

Prices are expected to substantially rise again later this year with a review of child-care worker wages anticipated in the Coming months. The cost increases are biting now as parents return to work and scramble to find extra care for their children until school returns.

Education Minister Dan Tehan flagged that more action would be announced soon to crackdown on excessive fee increases by rogue childcare operators.

The annual cost of sending a single child to care  is now reaching higher than $16,000 a' year in the inner city and parts of Brisbane's south, before rebates are applied.

Parents are forking out hundreds to thousands of dollars more, depending on where they live and how much they earn, just covering the increased costs applied by pro-viders since the subsidy started on July 2, 2018. The subsidy covers up to 85 per cent of the childcare fee depending on a family's household income.

Education Department data from September 2018 to September 2019 shows that childcare costs rose 42 per cent on average from $9.50/ hour to $9.90/hour during the 12-month period. But the Nathan area was the most expensive in the state. topping $17,000 a year pre-subsidy for one child in care for 31.6 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year after a 12.5 per cent increase in the hourly rate. Families there on the highest 85 per cent subsidy were still paying $2600 a year.

Families in Nundah, Nathan, Outback Queensland and Bundaberg on the full 85 per cent discount were paying $200 a year more out-of-pocket in September, compared to a year earlier.

Queensland Council of Social Services boss Mark Henley said child care was becoming unaffordable for many families. "For someone on minimum wage there's a decision to be made as to whether it's more costly to have ajob and put kids in child care, or if you're saving money by staying at home," he said.

Australian Childcare Association vice-president Nesha Hutchinson said profit margins were falling as rent and wage increases put pressure on care operators. "When they're putting up prices they don't want to gouge fainilies; they're just trying to remain financially viable," she said.

Despite the soaring costs, Mr Tehan said many. Austraian families were still paying less out of pocket now than they were before the new sub-sidy system started.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

Many Nonprofit College Programs Would Fail Gainful Test

Data in a new online tool raise questions about how well public and nonprofit colleges and universities are doing in helping students earn enough to repay their debt.

Only about 60 percent of programs at private nonprofit institutions, and 70 percent of those at public colleges and universities, would pass the Obama administration’s gainful-employment test, if it were in place and applied to them, according to an online tool developed by a conservative Texas policy group.

Coming amid a stalemate over how to proceed with college accountability after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repealed the gainful-employment rule in July, the tool made public by the Texas Public Policy Foundation was aimed in part to further the idea that public and nonprofit institutions -- and not just for-profit colleges -- should face scrutiny for how well graduates do financially.

The Obama administration rule subjected colleges and universities to a loss of financial aid funding if too large a share of their graduates do not make enough to repay their student debt. While nondegree programs at public and private nonprofit colleges were subject to the rule, it was controversial for being aimed primarily at for-profit institutions. In repealing the measure, DeVos said it unfairly targeted colleges and universities based on their tax status.

“As a country, we’ve only really applied the accountability metrics once, during the Obama administration,” Andrew Gillen, senior policy analyst in the foundation’s Center for Innovation in Education, said in a telephone interview. “What would happen if we applied the exact income and debt measures to other institutions?”

“What was shocking [was] how many programs are failing and how many students are attending those programs,” he said.

Based on the Department of Education’s College Scorecard data, the tool allows a search for the median income and debt of graduates at 40,000 college programs (one year out of college, controversially -- many college officials argue that taking such a short-term view is appropriate for vocational programs, but not for four-year degrees). Using similar standards to those in the gainful-employment rule -- based on the percentage of graduates’ income compared to their debt -- it judges whether programs would pass or fail the test or be on probation.

According to the web tool, private for-profit programs indeed do worse than public and private nonprofit programs in getting graduates jobs that pay enough so they are not overwhelmed by their student loans.

Only 5,646 of 10,147, or 55.6 percent, of private, for-profit programs for which income and debt data were available would have passed the standard. Another 2,071, or a fifth, would have failed. And 2,430, or 24 percent, of the programs would have been on probation. As with other types of institutions, data were not available for a large number of programs -- 10,633.

But private nonprofits didn’t do much better. Only 6,262 of 10,585 programs, or 59 percent, would have passed. Another 1,916, or 18 percent, would have failed. And 2,407, or 22.7 percent, would have been on probation. No information was available for 56,965 others.

Public institutions fared the best, with 14,234 of 20,216, or 70 percent, passing. Only 1,463, or 7.2 percent, of the programs failed. Another 4,519, or 22.3 percent, would have been on probation. Data were not available for 103,283 programs.

This indicates that a lot of the people asserting that for-profits are uniquely bad actors are wrong -- as a group, their performance is quite similar to that of nonprofits. Publics do noticeably better than either nonprofit private or for-profit colleges, no doubt because they generally cost less to attend and therefore their graduates have less debt.

In part, the tool is designed to make the Scorecard data accessible enough to let parents and high school students choose what programs to go to, Gillen said.

“If someone were to say they got into Harvard, should they go? People would say they should,” Gillen said. But according to the tool, Harvard’s dentistry program failed the test. A Harvard spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

But the Harvard School of Dental Medicine said in a statement, "Tools like this can be misleading when looking at gainful employment in the field of dentistry. It’s concerning that the data does not provide a comprehensive comparison of programs or take into account the career paths of graduates. Harvard School of Dental Medicine graduates go on to highly successful careers and residencies in competitive dental specialty programs, achieving earnings well beyond gainful employment requirements."

To Gillen, the tool would also help college administrators see how well programs are preparing students to get adequately paying jobs. But he said it could guide policy makers as well in withholding funding from underperforming programs.

It’s also intended to guide policy makers to restore but expand the idea of penalizing programs that leave students with too much debt, an idea nonprofit colleges generally oppose.

Differences by Discipline

Some programs were particularly problematic. Only 14 percent of law students graduated from programs that would pass, while almost 70 percent graduated from programs that would fail.

Because the College Scorecard data differ from what was used by the Education Department in implementing the gainful-employment rule, Gillen acknowledged making a number of technical adjustments.

Douglas Webber, director of graduate studies and an associate professor at Temple University department of economics and Institute for Labor Economics, and Robert Kelchen, an associate professor in Seton Hall University’s department of education leadership, management and policy, said in emails that Gillen’s methodology seemed “reasonable.”

For-profit colleges said the data showed they should not be singled out. “There are problematic programs in all sectors,” Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the association representing private for-profit institutions, said in a phone interview. However, he didn’t expect a break in the stalemate.

“The partisanship that has divided the country has entered higher education,” Gunderson said.

The College Affordability Act passed by Democrats on the House education and labor committee in October would restore the gainful-employment rule -- but only for for-profit institutions.

Advocacy groups lamented that DeVos’s repeal of the gainful-employment rule removed accountability from low-performing for-profit institutions. "The gainful employment rule was a commonsense regulation that held schools accountable for delivering value to federal student loan borrowers. It applied to all career education programs, including those at public and nonprofit schools, as well as to for-profit degree programs where evidence demonstrated students had been suffering from terrible loan outcomes while owners and shareholders got rich on student loan dollars," Abby Shafroth, a National Consumer Law Center lawyer, said in a statement.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said in a phone interview she’d be opposed to extending a gainful-employment rule to public institutions. The focus of the rule was on for-profit institutions because some misled students about being able to get high-paying jobs. Other accountability regimes, including boards of trustees and accreditors, at public and private nonprofit institutions, already protect students, she said.

Placing rules on public institutions “would further exacerbate the false narrative that the value of college relates only to employment,” she said.


Loosening Social Justice’s Iron Grip on Academia

Social justice education—which teaches young people to view the world through the lens of oppression and demands unquestioning conformity—pervades nearly every nook and cranny of higher education: the administration, general education requirements, extracurriculars, university mission statements, and academic departments.

On December 6, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) co-sponsored an event with the Martin Center to introduce a report on the spread of social justice education in the academy. The first speaker was the report author David Randall, the research director at NAS, followed by a talk by Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. A panel discussion followed, moderated by John Hood, president of the John William Pope Foundation.

While extensive reporting has covered social justice’s perverse effects in the academy, few have provided as comprehensive a guide as David Randall. In his new report, Social Justice Education in America, Randall catalogs the ways in which social education has “captured” the academy. Randall dives into course curricula, university-sponsored conferences, student orientations, and all the “training” sessions or workshops that students, faculty, and administrators are required to attend.

“Social justice education—compulsive, coercive, and bullying—replaces the academic’s search for truth with the activist’s search for power,” Randall wrote. According to Randall, the words referring to social justice include: diversity, inclusion, equity, multiculturalism, sustainability, and civic engagement.

During his talk, Randall noted that higher education has no easy solutions to rid itself of social justice ideology. Indeed, he said that he “preaches alarmism” and is not optimistic about it ever being rooted out of colleges and universities.

Nevertheless, in the conclusion of his report, Randall offers some recommendations on how to eliminate social justice education. The nine reforms he recommends include:

  • removing social justice requirements from undergraduate general education and introductory college courses,
  • removing social justice positions from higher education administration,
  • eliminating the “co-curriculum,”
  • eliminating experiential learning courses, and
  • removing social justice criteria from accreditation.

Furthermore, he writes that those reforms should happen at both the federal and state levels.

In Randall’s view, the most promising way to combat social justice education is through what he calls “student non-cooperation.” He encourages students to not cooperate when they are required to toe the social justice line—whether it be in a class assignment, attending an event, or participating in residential life activities. That idea particularly poses a challenge to those conservative students who sometimes hide their opinions for fear of receiving a bad grade. But Randall encourages them to boldly refuse social justice advocates’ demands. Randall told the Martin Center that:

If young Americans don’t have the courage to stand for liberty and freedom, then they deserve not to be free. If you’re simply going to go along forever and do nothing and merely stolidly accept your fate, then you will lose all of your freedom. Students need to do something—frankly, they should be marching every single day to protest this and to ask for this board of parasites to be fired and to have their tuition remission.

He continued:

But short of that: graduate, leave, and go to your employers and say, “I took all of the real courses, I didn’t take the fake courses”…Go to the university and say: “Give me my diploma, I got a real education—a better one than the one you wanted me to get.” Students must not be helpless. Students must take their fate into their own hands. This is what free Americans do.

After Randall, Heather Mac Donald took to the podium and offered her own analysis of why the academy and the culture have fallen prey to social justice ideology:

Social-justice education is merely a symptom of an even deeper perversion of academic values: The cult of race and gender victimology, otherwise known as “diversity.” The diversity cult is destroying the very foundations of our civilization.

In her talk, Mac Donald argued that diversity and social justice ideologies have been able to take over every aspect of colleges and universities because they fail to teach students essential core knowledge—which she argues is a central role of education. She emphasized that when people forget what education’s purpose is, any number of alternative and harmful ideologies fill the void.

In one of the final chapters of her book, The Diversity Delusion, Mac Donald wrote:

There exists a bedrock of core facts that precede any later revisionist interpretations. They would include, at bare minimum: the events that led to the creation of the nation-state in Europe; the achievements of Greco-Roman civilization; familiarity with key works of Shakespeare, the Greek tragedians, Twain, Dickens, Wordsworth, and Swift, among others; an understanding of genetics and the functioning of neurons, and the philosophical basis for constitutional democracy, among hundreds of other essential strata of the human ecology.

As a way to fight the “diversity cult’s” perverse hold on higher education, Mac Donald urges alumni not to give money to their alma maters unless the schools are still “committed unapologetically and joyfully to passing on our inheritance.” In an interview with the Carolina Journal, Mac Donald said she sees a need for alternative institutions to be created. She even mentioned the possibility of a “homeschool movement for college.” “Parents need to be more hands-on,” she said.

The event concluded with a panel discussion that featured Mike Adams, professor of criminology at UNC-Wilmington; Steve Long, a member of the UNC Board of Governors; and Jonathan Jordan, a former North Carolina state representative.

As a faculty member, Adams was asked to give his account of social justice’s influence on academia. He began his remarks by saying that the issue of social justice activism affects him “very directly” and he related an incident that occurred earlier that day. He had to fill out a letter of recommendation for one of his high-achieving students who was applying for a master’s degree in social work at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Adams said he had to fill out an online form where he was prompted to “check boxes and answer questions.” He said that he’s usually able to opt out of answering certain questions, and check a box entitled “no basis for observation.” According to Adams, one of the questions prompted him to rate on a numerical scale how much he agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “The applicant is committed to social justice and diversity.” There was nowhere for him to opt out of answering the question. Adams told the audience:

I have no basis for judgment [on my student’s commitment to social justice and diversity]. When I teach evidence law, politics don’t come up at all under any circumstances and I have no opportunity—and no desire—to judge the politics of my students in the classroom.

Nevertheless, Adams said he was being forced to evaluate his student based on social justice criteria. If he didn’t rate her well based on those criteria, he said that it would be “the end of that student’s application to the program.” “We are in a position where the social justice movement is now demanding that we grade our students based upon their politics,” Adams said.

The next panelist, Steve Long, focused on the issue of the lack of viewpoint diversity in UNC system schools. “I think that viewpoint diversity is a big problem in the university…It’s very frustrating to me on how to fix it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a structural problem,” he said.

As an example of the structural problem, Long pointed to the unfair hiring process of faculty at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law:

In order to get a job at UNC law school on the faculty, there’s a committee that the dean will appoint to hire the person, but the candidate has to go around and meet all of the other faculty. And then they will have a big faculty meeting to talk about the candidate.

They’ll never hire a conservative because they don’t want anybody in “the club.” I’ve come to believe that we need to centralize the management of academic institutions so that if you don’t have viewpoint diversity, you can go talk to the leader— or group of leaders— and say, “You have a problem here, you need to bring in different points of view.”

Long said that he doesn’t know if that is the solution, but thinks it should be considered.

The final panelist, Jonathan Jordan, spoke about how he helped work on the free speech bill which became law in 2017. He said that the passing of a free speech law in North Carolina was very important to him because Appalachian State University, which is in the district he represented at the time, had a free speech zone. Jordan told the audience that the free speech zone at Appalachian “comprised 0.67 percent of the campus property…When I went to college, I thought a university was a free speech zone,” he said.

Jordan also spoke about how the law would prevent the university administration from forcing faculty or students—or anyone in the campus community—to take positions on public policy issues.

In the end, the day’s event, although sobering, provided insightful discussion and analysis of how colleges and universities have lost their way. Yet, there is hope that true reform of higher education is possible. But, as indicated by the panel participants, that reform can—and must—come from multiple sources: from within academic departments, the legislature, and university governing boards.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Parents Challenge ‘Radical’ LGBT Curriculum in New Jersey Schools

TRENTON, N.J.—Parents are plenty angry about a New Jersey law that requires LGBT material to be incorporated into public school classroom instruction.

The parents say they are concerned the new law will “teach lifestyles and life choices that stand 100% against our family values.” They object to their tax dollars being used for what they call an “assault on religious liberty.”

And they say a special interest group helping develop curriculum for the new requirements has a “radical agenda” that could jeopardize the health and safety of children.

One parent warned about how the “gender ideology” already prevalent in public schools can “brainwash” a child into believing he is a girl rather than a boy and vice-versa.

As parents found out Jan. 4  at a “parental rights” conference in Flemington, New Jersey, elected officials and religious leaders share their concerns. But the effort to reverse these laws or prevent their implementation will be an uphill battle.

At the meeting, Victoria Jakelsky, state director of a grassroots group called Protect Your Children, or Team PYC, estimated that about 60 parental rights activists from Team PYC would be in Trenton Wednesday to testify against the new law.

But Kathy Goldenberg, president of the New Jersey State Board of Education, told parents Wednesday that the board was not empowered to make any policy changes with regard to the curriculum focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

“The law was enacted by the state Legislature, and it did not grant the board a policymaking role with this law,” Goldenberg said. “But we are glad to listen to your comments.”

At issue is LGBT education legislation that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed into law Jan. 31, 2019.

New Jersey became the second state in the nation, following California, to pass a law requiring public schools to teach about LGBT history.

The New Jersey measure says the state board of education “shall include instruction on the political, economic and social contribution of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.”

A pilot program designed to accommodate the new curriculum began in 12 public schools as of Jan. 7.

All New Jersey middle and high schools are supposed to be equipped to begin meeting the new requirements this coming fall.

The immediate aim in speaking at the school board hearing Wednesday and in meeting with public officials is to find a way to postpone full implementation of the program, Jakelsky said.

“We want to be clear. We care about each and every child, and we support and defend equality,” Jakelsky told The Daily Signal. “We are highly concerned that the LGBT history will teach lifestyles and life choices that stand 100% against our family values, our deeply held religious views, and the way we practice our faith.”

Some parents said they could support an opt-out provision, but Jakelsky said she does not think that would be sufficient.

All the groups taking part in the Jan. 4 conference were united in opposition to the new law. Those included “teachers, school board members, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Coptic Christians,” said Jakelsky, who lives in Hunterdon County.

Protect Your Children, she said, has grown to about 1,000 active members since being formed at a rally last June. It is affiliated with, and includes evangelical Protestants, Roman Catholics, Coptic Christians, and other concerned citizens, she said.

Jakelsky said Team PYC also is aligned with Muslim and Jewish groups that share concerns about the potential dangers the LGBT curriculum presents to students. Team PYC is on Facebook.

But some were there Jan. 4 to bring to light similar laws enacted by Murphy and New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Crystal Lopez, who lives in Sussex County, attended on behalf of, which advocates repeal of a state law that she says prevents licensed therapists from providing individuals afflicted with gender dysphoria from obtaining a “fair and balanced medical assessment.”

Lopez, who also is active with the Kelsey Coalition, a nationwide group that works to “promote policies and laws to protect young people who identify as transgender,” recounted a two-hour phone conversation she had with her son when he “came out” and said he was transgender. She tells the full story on her website.

Her son was 19 and attending Rutgers University at the time, and Lopez asked counselors at Rutgers to help him identify his male biology. But a New Jersey law against “conversion therapy” prevented counselors from giving her son the help he needed, Lopez said during her presentation.

“Gender ideology has brainwashed my son and erased his childhood,” Lopez said. “My son now thinks he is really a girl. The curriculum that is being implemented is really harmful and is meant to confuse our children.”

Others focused on Garden State Equality, a group headquartered in Asbury Park that describes itself as a “statewide advocacy and education organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” and helped establish the curriculum and initiate the pilot program.

Garden State Equality, which claims 150,000 members and presents details of the LGBT curriculum on its website, is working to advance a “radical agenda” that “undermines the constitutional rights of parents,” Jakelsky said.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Garden State Equality for this report, but the group did not respond before publication.

Thomas Sobol, of Flemington, took issue with what he called an assault on personal freedom.

The LGBT agenda is “wrong, wrong, wrong for public schools,” Sobol told The Daily Signal. “This agenda should not be forced on people and I don’t think that it’s age appropriate to have this in public schools. Public education should be neutral, and it’s unfair to exclude people with religious values. This agenda did not come out of nowhere.”

Mayor Ed McKelvey, a Republican from Alloway Township in Salem County and an ordained pastor who has attracted media attention for speaking out against the LGBT curriculum, said it is a matter of right and wrong.

“God never calls you to do something that does not line up with his word, even if what he calls you to do doesn’t always make natural sense,” McKelvey told audience members.

Pat Stanley, a member of the Franklin Township School Board in Somerset County, warned Team PYC members that too many government officials “have a mindset that says your kids are theirs.”

She said the law firm Strauss Esmay Associates, based in Toms River, “greases the skids” for the LGBT curriculum to be implemented in the state. Stanley estimates that it costs schools about $13,000 a year to work with Strauss Esmay and that the firm has about 500 clients.

“You are the teachers of your children, not the government,” Stanley said. “This is an assault on the rights of parents. We should not have to protect our children against this nonsense. We already have kids who can’t read or do math, and now they are being burdened with this undue influence.”

The Daily Signal sought comment from Strauss Esmay, but the law firm did not respond after acknowledging the inquiry.

Mayor Alfonso Cirulli of Barnegat Township in Ocean County called on Christians from across denominations to unite in an effort to reform New Jersey laws that undermine biblical teachings.

Cirulli, a Republican, has been widely quoted for saying that the LGBT curriculum mandates could “indoctrinate” students.

 “This is a spiritual battle,” he said. “We have the Lord behind us.”

Cirulli, a former assistant school principal, told the audience Jan. 4 that the letter “P” for pedophilia could be added to the LGBT acronym.

Cirulli said he sees a “full-scale assault” against Christian values at work in television commercials, public libraries, the toy industry, and other venues.

Pastor Steve Nash from LOFT Wesleyan Church in Hillsborough suggested parents may need to start pulling children out of public schools.

“There is a battle for the souls of our children and our nation,” Nash said in his talk, adding:

They are trying to propagate their views onto innocent children. As Christians, we see homosexuality as a matter of rebellion against God because it undermines the creation of God. This is being done to undermine the institution of the family. As parents, we have an awesome responsibility to raise kids because they are a gift from God.

A dozen members of Team PYC are scheduled to meet Jan. 30 with Lamont Repollet, New Jersey’s commissioner of education.

Group members also plan to testify at school boards across the state in February and March, and to hold “prayer and policy meetings” in some counties.


UK: Middle-class high achievers will miss out on Oxbridge places as colleges are under pressure to meet diversity targets, whistleblowers warn

Middle class high achievers will miss out on Oxbridge places as colleges are under pressure to meet diversity targets, whistleblowers have told The Sunday Telegraph.

The university's radical pledge to boost the number of undergraduates from deprived backgrounds will inevitably result in bright pupils from well-off families getting "squeezed out", according to two senior Oxford dons.

Oxford has told the higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, that it will increase its intake of disadvantaged students from 15 to 25 per cent by 2023.

But two sources, both of whom are senior figures in Oxford admissions, have revealed their concern that this will lead to a degradation in academic standards. "The vice-Chancellor is on the hook now, she is really out on one with this pledge. It is pretty stark," one source told The Sunday Telegraph.

"The dial has got to move quite a long way. We are not like Bristol or Exeter who can hit their numbers [of disadvantaged students] simply by expanding by about 500 places a year and worrying about beds later.

"That's not going to happen at Oxbridge, our system doesn't work like that with the constraints on college size. It's got to be done at the expense of the middle class kids."

The source said that independent school heads "can see the writing on the wall" and are growing increasingly concerned about the direction of travel.

"My biggest fear is we will end up polarised," they added. "We will still take them in heaps from the Etons and the Westminsters. And what gets squeezed out in the middle, the heads who used to send us two or three a year get squeezed out."

Thousands of pupils learned this week whether they were offered a place at Oxbridge. This year Oxford made the highest proportion of state school offers in its 900 year history, and the first time it has been more than double that of private schools.

From 2020, 250 state school students will receive free tuition and accommodation at Oxford as part of its latest multi-million-pound recruitment bid for disadvantaged students.

However, 50 students in the new intake - which will include refugees and young  carers - will be eligible to receive offers “made on the basis of lower contextual A-level grades, rather than the university’s standard offers”.

Another Oxford source said that admissions tutors were "strongly urged" to interview candidates from deprived backgrounds. "The instructions we received were that we had to interview them as long as they met very basic standards – and some failed even those," he said. "My experience is that those candidates just don’t do very well. We call them to interview because we have to.

"They just do really badly and we reject them and it’s a waste of everyone's time. But if this target of 25 per cent  is going to met, we will have to start admitting some of these people.

"This almost certainly will mean they will be let in at the expense of middle class students, who will have to make way for candidates who are not as acacmidecally talented as they are."

The source said that if the 25 per cent quota is enforced, students will be "unjustly discriminated against on the basis of their social class".

The source admitted that most of their colleagues "see no problem" with the new regime, adding:  "Almost everyone is willing to go along with it quite enthusiastically".

An Oxford University spokesman said that rising numbers of applications in recent years "inevitably means more students will be disappointed".

 “Our admissions process is designed to identify academic potential and passion for a subject," they said.

"A highly academically talented student with enthusiasm for their chosen subject has every chance of getting into Oxford, regardless of background, and will continue to do so.

“The Opportunity Oxford scheme we have introduced this year is for candidates who will meet or exceed the A-level grades for the University’s standard offer and then receive tailored academic support to prepare them for entry to Oxford."

The spokesman said that there are "more than enough" talented pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to fill places, adding that efforts to diversity their intake have enjoyed "widespread support" among academics.


Students Avoid High Campus Prices, Buy Books Online

As college textbook prices have increased 88 percent since 2006, education reformers wonder how universities can make books more affordable. One simple thing they could do is to stop selling textbooks with absurdly high mark-ups, the difference between the cost incurred by the bookstore for textbooks and the price at which they’re sold. While some progress has been made within the UNC system, much room for improvement remains.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for example, signed a contract with Barnes and Noble in 2009 to merge its university bookstore with Barnes and Noble. That conjunction promised students lower book prices, bringing down the mark-up from 23 percent to 18 percent. However, merging the bookstore has meant that students still pay higher prices than they would if they bought books from an online competitor or the book publisher. The rationale for the merger may have been affordability, but textbooks remain expensive for students who trust UNC-Charlotte’s bookstore to offer the best price.

When students feel they’ve been overcharged, they take to social media to let the bookstore know. On the Barnes and Noble UNCC Facebook page, one student left a review describing how the bookstore charged him $115 to rent a used textbook—which he found on Amazon for $15. “Barnes and Noble needs to be boycotted for exploiting college students for insane profits. I will never spend a dime there again,” he wrote. Another student left a review stating that the bookstore sold an access code for his textbook for $96, but he discovered that the code was available through the publisher for $55. Yet another student left a negative review, writing that bookstore employees told him that he could return books on a certain day, and then refused to accept his books when he came back.

Although the bookstore’s contract with Barnes and Noble states that students have a price match guarantee, it is only valid for the first week of the semester. Many students, however, do not finish book shopping until the second week of school. Students who have less time to shop or less skill in finding bargains can’t always compare prices and default to the university bookstore, which will have the right editions of textbooks in stock.

If UNC-Charlotte wants to change its practices, it could look to another UNC system school: North Carolina State University. NC State is experimenting with providing free materials to substitute for traditional textbooks. As of 2019, NC State partnered with Rice University’s OpenStax, the largest provider of free Open Educational Resources (OERs), to drive down textbook costs for students. OERs are “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium—digital or otherwise—that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

NC State was one of nine institutions to try the OpenStax program during the 2019-2020 academic year. The partnership was an attempt to help professors use free materials rather than textbooks. Will Cross, director of the Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center at NC State, said that students who prefer hard-copy books can pay a small fee to print out text. “There should be an open resource that supports the best version of every faculty member teaching and every student’s experience,” Cross told the Technician, NC State’s student newspaper.

By experimenting with free materials and looking for ways to save students money, students have less, financially, to worry about when pursuing a degree. They also might rely on the university bookstore more when they have to buy a traditional textbook.

Unfortunately, NC State undercuts its free textbook experiment by running its campus bookstore like UNC-Charlotte. The Technician looked into bookstore prices compared to its competitors and found high mark-ups. “If a student were to buy a two-inch binder, five notebooks, a package of mechanical pencils, five plastic folders, a utility box and 100 sheets of college-ruled notebook paper from Wolfpack Outfitters, the total cost would be approximately $65.03. If the same supplies were bought at Target, their total would be approximately $33.36,” Destry Adams wrote.

“I will never spend a dime there again,” one student wrote.
Although Wolfpack Outfitters offers students the convenience of buying school supplies within walking distance of their dorms, doubling the price they would otherwise pay adds financial stress for low-income students. Doing so makes earning a degree harder for students. Students already pay tens of thousands in tuition and fees. That overcharging for textbooks and supplies creates an adversarial relationship between the university and some students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that students are highly motivated to find alternatives to new editions of textbooks because they are so expensive. A survey published by the National Association of College Stores (NACS) found that students spent an average of $484 on required course materials in 2017-2018. That figure is lower than the $701 students spent in 2007-2008, but the decline isn’t from textbooks getting cheaper. Instead, the internet has fundamentally altered how students buy their books.

After comparing prices online, students don’t trust the campus bookstore as much. Even renting books has moved online: Many students do so through a far-off company rather than the campus bookstore. Renting instead of buying textbooks is popular with a large swath of students: About 44 percent of students rent at least one required book, according to NACS. And 56 percent of students reported that they had bought a used textbook for class. Students, when they can, jump at the chance to save some money. It’s no surprise, either, when the average class has 4.3 required course materials, NACS noted.

If the university bookstore can’t keep prices affordable or offer better customer service, they’ll struggle to keep students coming back after the first semester.

Like many problems in higher education, the incentives are misaligned for the university bookstore. The bookstore’s mission focuses on revenue-generation, not keeping books affordable for students. The revenue from the Barnes & Noble store at UNC-Charlotte, for example, funds scholarships, facility construction and maintenance (including the Popp Martin Student Union and sports complexes), and supports other programs such as student orientation and homecoming events. While those programs and scholarships can benefit students, they’re also the ones paying the price.

The UNC system has taken some steps to rein in textbooks costs, but students have been the creative ones trying to cut costs. If North Carolina wants to offer an affordable education for its students, the UNC system could think twice about how it runs its university bookstores.


Monday, January 20, 2020

A Path Forward for Reforming College Sports

As we move into 2020, it is important to assess where we are with the uniquely American phenomenon of elite, commercialized college sports.

Often, what is claimed about college sports is not what’s actually happening. The industry and its largest governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), claim to promote an academic-first culture where sports are a student’s hobby, played by amateurs driven by their love of the game to represent their school.

Yet, in reality, commercialized college sport has produced pressures that challenge the academic integrity of institutions of higher education, the ability of athletes to get a real education, propelled out-of-control spending, eliminated basic rights for athletes that are afforded to other students, and failed to protect college athletes from health and welfare risks.

The United States is the only country in the world that has a significant portion of elite athletic development and commercialized sport embedded within its education systems. Consider that ten of the biggest outdoor sports stadiums in the world (excluding auto racing venues) are American college football stadiums. None of the largest ones are NFL stadiums.

Like millions of others, I love college sports, but there are several reasons why it needs to change:

(1) An overwhelming majority—98 percent—of all athletics programs spend more than they make, requiring mandatory student fees and general fund subsidies that prompts tuition increases and more student debt;

(2) Excessive staff salaries and expensive building sprees for lavish athletes-only facilities that isolate them from other students and the college experience;

(3) The NCAA doesn’t use its power and resources to address the health and safety needs of college athletes;

(4) Academic fraud and other academic improprieties within athletic departments and extensive recruiting of athletes who do not meet admissions standards threaten academic integrity; and

(5) Outdated amateur rules prevent athletes from exploiting the rights to their own names, images, and likenesses, or seeking work available to non-athlete students.

The popularity of college sports is not going away, nor do I think it should. However, changes are necessary and not to be feared. The question we need to ask is: Should the management and conduct of college athletics be based on myth or reality?

As interim president of The Drake Group, a group of faculty, staff, and others concerned about the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sport on education, we have worked on athletic reform for nearly 20 years. The Drake Group has a reform plan based on the simple observation that the current model of college sports does not work as intended. Once all sides get to that baseline, then real change can happen. The system, however, works very well for some parties, such as highly paid coaches, administrators, media entities like ESPN, and major sponsors. It does not work so well for the primary stakeholder: the athletes.

To reform college sports, The Drake Group advocates:

Controlling spending: Create a limited and structured anti-trust exemption granted by Congress. A full exemption is not practical or needed, but this exemption stops the financial arms race through Congress controlling access to federal funds for institutions that do not limit excessive spending. A limited exemption also allows the capping of sports budgets and coaches’ salaries without fear of litigation.

Academic disclosure: Public disclosure of athlete majors, faculty, and advisors without identifying individual athletes. Other academic changes include structured freshman ineligibility and a minimum 2.0 GPA. The freshman ineligibility proposal requires academic remediation for incoming freshmen athletes more than one standard deviation below the profile of the incoming class. Those freshmen should also have limitations on their sports-related activities—including competition—until they are able to “compete” in the classroom.

Eliminating “athlete-only” facilities: These facilities separate the athlete from other students, which inhibits access and exposure to all that college can offer.
Revamping athletic time commitments: An absolute 25-hour weekly maximum commitment for all athletic activity. The current NCAA 20-hour limit has many loopholes. Athletes average 40-50 hours weekly on athletic endeavors, which makes it difficult to be a full-time student.

Enhancing athlete rights: Athletes should have the freedom to transfer, along with name, image, and likeness rights to profit off their success, and a guarantee of their right to pursue any academic field.

None of those changes would affect the public’s interest in college sports. They would also bring NCAA rules closer to their original intent of being an organization that is focused on education as the main priority with athletics being an avocation that supports academic and life skill endeavors. The Drake Group is convinced that the NCAA will not reform itself.

While notable changes have happened in the past five years, such as a cash stipend allowance and greater transfer freedom, these changes were forced by public outrage, a burgeoning college athletes’ rights movement, government intervention, and several lawsuits.

As structured, American college sports, especially Division I, is based on three false perceptions. Those misperceptions are academics first, amateurism, and competitive equity. Academics are not the priority in Division I athletics. College athletes—by the NCAAs own studies—spend about 50 hours per week on sports-related activities and they struggle to pursue their majors of choice due to athletic obligations. College sports are infested with an eligibility-first culture to remain competitive rather than an education-first culture. The only amateur quality about college athletics is that colleges refuse to pay their players. Nor is competitive equity anything but a mirage: Out-of-control spending on coaches, facilities, and recruitment efforts tilt the playing field in favor of big spenders.

To start the above-mentioned reforms, the first step should be a two-year Congressional study to identify all problems and remedies such as was done with the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which reorganized amateur sports governance in America and gave athletes significant voting rights in the administrative structure.

A promising bill to do so is The Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Act of 2019 (HR 5528) in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Donna Shalala of Florida (former president of the University of Miami) and Ross Spano. As stated by Rep. Spano in a press release announcing the bill’s filing, “Our higher education institutions receive a substantial amount of federal student support funding. There is little oversight, and as a result, we have little insight into how the funding is being spent and if the students’ best interests are being prioritized. This commission would fill that gap.”

While it might seem strange to ask Congress to fix college sports, only Congress can provide legal ways to limit spending, such as capping coach salaries, while also tying Department of Education funding to ensure compliance with the reforms. We are at a serious crossroads with college sports governance and reform. The time for serious action is now, and HR 5528 and The Drake Group model are achievable pathways to get there.


Happy birthday Michelle Obama, I've canceled your school lunches! Donald Trump's administration lets schools cut back on fruit and veg and sell MORE pizza and burgers - and serve fries every day

Donald Trump's administration proposed new school lunch guidelines Friday that would undo several changes made by Michelle Obama to get more fruit and veggies on the menu: a move that comes on the former first lady's birthday.

The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Food and Nutrition Service, said it is proposing new rules 'to simplify meal service and reduce food waste.' That would include 'increasing flexibility in the “vegetable subgroups” requirements for school lunches.'

But the changes would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them the ability to offer more pizza, burgers and fries instead.

It would also undo rules championed by Michelle Obama as part of her Let's Move initiative and The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

Friday is the former first lady's 56th birthday.

Michelle Obama made healthy eating a signature issue during her time in the White House. 'I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition,' she said.

Trump, however, is known for his love of fast food. He often ate McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken on the campaign trail.

One of his favorite meals is a hamburger with a side salad consisting of an edge of iceberg lettuce covered in blue cheese. Apple pie with ice cream is his favorite dessert.

Consumer groups slammed the proposed school meal changes.

'The proposed rule would allow anything that might be allowable as an entrée on any one school day to be served as an a la carte item every single day. In practice, if finalized, this would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, French fries, and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day,' Center for Science in the Public Interest Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Colin Schwartz said in a statement.

'The Trump administration proposal also would limit the variety of vegetables served at lunch and allow schools to reduce the amount of fruit served with some breakfasts. (If past is prologue, lobbyists for the potato industry likely have replacements in mind.),' Schwartz added.

'The potato industry and junk food lobbyists should not be able to dictate what is and is not on school menus for 30 million students,' said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook in a statement.

'Just because President Trump consumes cheeseburgers and fries every day doesn’t mean children want or should be given the same choice.

'There are far too many kids struggling with obesity in this country, and we should be making it easier for them to choose fresh, local whole fruits and vegetables, not limiting them to highly processed foods that will only make this epidemic worse.'

The changes had been sought by food manufacturers and some school districts that were frustrated with the higher food costs that come at providing more fruits and vegetables.

The USDA defended the proposed rules, arguing they would reduce food waste. 'Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,' Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. 'We listened and now we’re getting to work.'

A public comment period on the new rules opens January 21.

The USDA oversees nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools. About two-thirds of those kids qualify as low-income and receive meals free or for a reduced price.

Low-income kids are at a higher risk for obesity and are less likely to have healthy meals at home, making school lunches and breakfasts an important alternative for them. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 14 million children and adolescents struggle with obesity.

Additionally, the new rules would make it 'simpler to offer meats or meat alternates' at school meals. And they would cut the fruit serving guidelines from from one cup to a half cup.

For school lunches, the new rules would allow potatoes as a vegetable everyday and would allow them to offer pizza and burgers over more nutritious choices.

It's not the first time the USDA has changed school meal guidelines. In March, they allowed school breakfast programs to 'credit any vegetable offered, including potatoes and other starchy vegetables, in place of fruit.'


Religious Liberty Finds an Ally in Trump

The administration issues new guidance to protect faith expression in public schools.

Thursday was National Religious Freedom Day, which, as Gary Bauer notes, “commemorates the day in 1786 when the Virginia General Assembly adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s statute became the foundation for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, among other key liberties.”

To mark the occasion, President Donald Trump hosted in the Oval Office students, teachers, and others whose expressions of faith have been silenced in public schools, as well as those who’ve fought in the court system to protect those rights. He declared that he’s fighting back against the “growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression.” Indeed, he ordered nine federal agencies to roll back regulations that restrict religious liberty — most of them issued during the tenure of the most faith-intolerant regime in the history of our Republic.

Schools won’t be forced to sponsor religious activities. The guidance states, “For example, teachers and other public school officials, acting in their official capacities, may not lead their classes in prayer, devotional readings from the Bible, or other religious activities.” Yet, the order also states, “Students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Moreover, each year, states must provide a list of districts or local schools that have “a policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer.” And Fox News notes, “States are also required to report local schools that do not certify to the state that they don’t have unconstitutional prayer policies.”

While anti-religious zealots complained that Trump’s budding theocracy “undermines” civil rights and will have “dire consequences” for homosexuals and religious minorities, the truth is that he’s doing what he was elected to do — protect the religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the administration’s new rules, saying, “For years, we’ve watched secularists pressure school administrators into telling students that they can’t pray, read their Bibles, or talk about their faith in class. Now, the tables are turned. For once, the onus isn’t on kids or districts to defend their freedoms — it’s on states to certify that they’re compliant and respectful of these basic rights. Thanks to President Trump, the government is finally standing up to schoolyard bullies who make a living trying to intimidate and silence students.”


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Scotland: No tuition fees? No thanks

How the SNP's no-fees policy is harming Scotland's young people. There may be no fees but enrolment is severely limited

Attempting to entice the electorate with freebies was a prominent part of the Labour Party’s General Election campaign. Yet although the electorate rejected Labour, the popularity of its pledge to abolish university fees has prompted some to suggest that university education in England, Northern Ireland and Wales should be as it is in Scotland; namely, free.

In truth, however, Scotland illustrates the danger of taking the offer of free higher education at face value.

Since 2008, the Scottish government, led by the Scottish National Party, has provided free tuition for Scottish domicile and EU students attending Scottish universities. It also sees this policy as a way to expand HE participation among the most socially disadvantaged. But despite SNP headlines that the number of Scottish students in post-compulsory education is at an all-time high, drilling down into the data tells a very different story.

According to public-spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, only one fifth of applicants who attended the elite Edinburgh University and St Andrews University in 2015 came from Scotland. UCAS statistics for 2018-19 indicate that the number of Scottish students attending Scottish universities declined by four per cent in comparison with 2014.

This is a long-term trend. Since 2010, the proportion of offers to Scottish students from Scottish universities has consistently fallen. One in five Scottish students did not receive an offer from a Scottish university in 2015. In contrast, offer rates to RUK (Rest of UK) and non-EU students have increased by on average 11 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

The SNP has overseen a period of marked disinvestment in the Scottish higher-education sector. A recent Public Funding Observatory Report, produced by the European Universities Association (EUA), has suggested that levels of public funding in Scottish universities are in ‘sustained decline’, and are as low as sector levels in Italy, the Czech Republic and Serbia.

Far from widening participation, the Scottish government’s no-tuition-fees policy, and continual disinvestment, has created a two-tier system that treats Scottish students as second-class citizens, and actively penalises Scottish universities for recruiting Scottish students.

This crisis is the very real result of SNP-enforced austerity. As Audit Scotland suggests, government funding to the university sector has been reduced by 12 per cent over the past seven years. In effect, Scottish universities have been subjected to a level of penury that would make the most fiscally punitive Tory blush.

In recent years, however, the issue of tuition fees has been used by successive devolved administrations to signal Scotland’s ethical and caring approach to capitalism. Although tuition fees were abolished in 2000 by the first devolved administration – a Labour / Liberal Democrat coalition – it wasn’t until 2008 that tuition could be considered properly free in Scotland, when the first SNP government scrapped the one-off graduate endowment fee (of just over £2,000).

In 2011, the then Lib-Con coalition UK government announced it was raising the cap on fees at English universities from £3,375 to £9,000. The decision was made against a background of public-sector austerity and a £600million real-terms budget reduction for three-quarters of English universities.

Following Scottish elections later that same year, the Alex Salmond-led majority SNP administration reaffirmed its opposition to the reintroduction of tuition fees in Scotland. As Mike Russell MSP said at the time, ‘higher education is, and will continue to be, based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay’. However, the SNPs apparent egalitarianism was not extended to all. Only those students domiciled in Scotland and the EU would be eligible to pay no tuition fees. Scottish universities would be free to charge higher variable tuition fees to students domiciled in the rest of the UK and those outside the EU.

Under EU rules, all EU nationals are entitled to access a fellow member state’s education system on the same terms as the state’s own nationals. However, these rules do not apply to the regional education systems within member states. Scottish universities are allowed to charge students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while offering students from the EU free tuition.

The policy has proved a total disaster for Scottish students and Scottish university education more broadly. The actual number of places available to Scottish undergraduates is policed through the imposition of a cap. The Scottish government limits the number of Scottish domiciles that Scottish universities can recruit to their courses and programmes, and imposes financial penalties on those universities that do not adhere to the cap. SNP austerity has been exacerbated by the no-fees policy and it is clear that the policy is now beginning to bite hard

More than half of Scottish universities are in deficit. There are of course notable exceptions. As Audit Scotland notes, financial surpluses are disproportionately concentrated in three of Scotland’s four elite universities – Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews. But the institutions in deficit are precisely those now dependent on recruiting Scottish students. Government funding now accounts for 56 per cent of modern university income – the most significant proportion of this being the SFC-grant funding of Scottish domicile and EU places.

Despite this being the era of ‘no tuition fees’, tuition fees have replaced government funding as the single largest source of income for most Scottish universities. Scottish government-funded fees for Scottish domiciled and EU students are notoriously inadequate. At £1,820 per academic year, they pale in comparison to the average fees Scottish universities can now charge RUK (£9,250) and non-EU (from £10,000 to £26,000 per academic year) undergraduates. The recruitment cap and the enormous income discrepancy between fees implicitly discriminates against those Scottish students whom the SNP policy purports to be helping, because it both limits the numbers of them that can get into university, and effectively limits the universities they can actually attend.

Under the current funding regime, Scottish universities are forced to increase income by targeting RUK and non-EU international students. It will come as no surprise that the income from RUK students has increased by £68million (66 per cent) since 2014- 2015. Over the same period, income from non-EU students has increased by £148million (31 per cent) since 2014-15. It will also come as no surprise that it is the elite Scottish universities that have benefited most from this market – accounting for 66 per cent of the overall increase in fee income across the whole sector from the non-EU undergraduate market.

Deliberately locked out of Scotland’s elite universities, which look to the RUK and non-EU markets, the majority of Scottish students end up either in clearing, or at those very universities whose lack of access to RUK and non-EU markets has already left them financially challenged. Universities Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s 19 HE institutions, has consistently argued that the funding to cover free tuition is wholly inadequate and does not cover the actual cost involved in a student’s university education. As a result, these already struggling universities are forced to subsidise this obvious shortfall through cuts to teaching and support staff.

It is an added irony that those universities most penalised by the SNP are the very same institutions that are blazing a trail in widening participation – the Scottish government’s key strategic priority for Scottish higher education. For the academic year 2017-18, the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) had an operating deficit of £3.3 million – a three per cent fall on 2016-17. For the same period, the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh operated on a surplus of £23.5million and £27.5million respectively.

These massive inequalities are pretty easy to understand once placed within the context of SNP cuts in higher-education funding. Sixty per cent of UWS income comes from SFC grants (ie, subsidised student places). This is the second highest in Scotland. Only 18 per cent of Edinburgh University’s total operating income is generated from SFC grants. For St Andrews, it is even lower, at 15 per cent. However, UWS is a sector leader in widening participation. Eighty per cent of UWS Scottish domicile entrants to full-time undergraduate study are drawn from Scotland’s most deprived areas, as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Again, this isn’t that surprising given that UWS’s main campus in Paisley is a stone’s throw from Ferguslie Park, a suburb of Paisley and one of the poorest and most deprived areas in Europe. But, as members of this cohort have the poorest progression and highest non-completion rates when at university, UWS is rewarded for its efforts to widen participation with government sanctions.

The SNP commitment to free tuition equates to an attack on Scottish higher education. University teaching and research have become subordinate to chasing income markets that the vast majority of Scottish universities have no real access to. Knowledge and scholarly endeavour now play second fiddle to universities’ financial imperatives. On the whole, higher education in Scotland means little more than packing students into under-resourced and failing learning environments, and then telling them they should be grateful for it.

In 11 years, the SNP has decimated Scottish higher education. The ‘fauxgalitarian’ rhetoric of no tuition fees has allowed it to pose as a bulwark against the increasing consumerism dominating the sector in England. In reality, however, a very real and heavy price has been paid. Rather than helping Scottish students get to university, the SNP actively discriminates against them, especially those from the poorest social backgrounds. Scottish students get to go to university not because of the SNPs no-fees policy, but despite it. Effectively excluded from Scotland’s elite universities, they find themselves at institutions penalised for recruiting Scottish students.

Ill-defined and ill thought out, like many SNP policies, free tuition is born of a desire to virtue-signal. Rather than really opposing the neoliberal valorisation of higher education, the SNP offers a textbook example of neoliberalism in action. Revanchist in principle and practice, the SNP’s policy deliberately targets and punishes Scotland’s young people.


Failing schools must be focus of next Boston mayoral race

In Boston, unlike in most Massachusetts communities, members of the school committee are appointed by the mayor. The theory is that with power centralized in City Hall, there’s a clear line of accountability: Since the mayor ultimately calls the shots, he’s responsible for results in the Boston Public Schools ― full stop.

That model works, though, only if voters and other elected officials actually hold mayors accountable for Boston’s still-troubled schools, instead of letting education fade into the background during election years. So it was especially refreshing to see District 4 city councilor and potential mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell make pointed criticisms last week of the gaps in Mayor Marty Walsh’s record, forcing the mayor’s office to mount a detailed defense and thrusting Bostonians’ festering unhappiness with the schools out into the open.

If the exchange is a taste of what’s to come next year, then public education is poised to take the front-burner position it deserves heading into the 2021 election. Political leaders are starting to talk with more candor about the uneven quality of the city’s schools, which should spur discussion of the tough choices needed to improve them.

The back-and-forth started on Jan. 7, after Walsh’s State of the City speech, when he announced $100 million of new investment in “direct classroom funding” for the school district to be phased in over the next three years.

Campbell wasn’t impressed and, in a statement, called out the news as part of a “disturbing pattern of flashy announcements that feature big dollar figures, but never change the dynamic for children and families.” On Twitter, she wrote: “In order to ensure every family has access to a quality BPS school, we need more than announcements & money thrown at the problem.”

Campbell’s strong words about the troubling state of the Boston schools reflect widespread and justified disappointment over the lack of progress at closing persistent achievement gaps in the system, which consistently produces sub-par results for black and Latino students.

Last year, roughly 42 percent of Boston schools that receive a grade from the state were shown to require assistance and intervention; a third of them are in the bottom 10 percent statewide. The annual dropout rate increased, while chronic absenteeism worsened. It’s no wonder the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently launched a comprehensive review of the Boston system, which could result in the state taking control of the city’s schools.

Campbell’s criticism was blunt. “Roughly 80 percent of students in downtown Boston attend high-quality schools, compared with only 5 percent of students in Mattapan,” she wrote. That’s based on a 2018 district-commissioned report that found that the assignment system is keeping many kindergarten students of color out of the best schools, while the vast majority of their peers in Charlestown, the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and central Boston have access to those schools. “Nearly 4 out of 10 non-exam school students will not graduate from high school,” the statement went on. In an interview, Campbell said she’s “frustrated with the lack of urgency and responsiveness . . . as well as a lack of acknowledgment that some parts of the district are doing well and some other parts are not.”

Six years into his mayoralty, Walsh owns those numbers. Granted, education policy is a political minefield — just remember the backlash when BPS tried to adjust school start times — but that’s no excuse.

Asked for comment after Campbell’s remarks, BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in an interview that she gets and shares Campbell’s sense of urgency. She said she views the state’s review of BPS as a gift for a new superintendent like her because it will serve as another set of eyes on the schools. “I didn’t come here to kind of tinker around the edges," she said. Cassellius added she wants BPS to adopt MassCORE, the state’s curriculum framework that Boston has resisted embracing out of fear that it will hurt graduation rates. On Wednesday, she rolled out a five-year draft plan that would include full implementation of universal pre-K but was mostly lacking in details.

If you ask Bostonians what issues they care about most in the city, you’ll probably hear angry rants about the T, the high cost of housing, and the unequal access to good schools. Of the three, education is perhaps where strong and effective mayoral leadership can make the most difference. Walsh has had some recent wins, including placing a full-time nurse in every school and hiring more mental health counselors. Hopefully, the infusion of money he announced in the State of the City will have an impact. Campbell, if she runs, will have to go beyond diagnosing problems to offering specific solutions. But for now, the real talk about public schools is welcome — and critical for holding Walsh accountable in his second term.


Australia: Teachers rushed in

Students hired to fill widening gap

AN INCREASING number of Queensland university students are being approved to teach before they have officially graduated, as the state is gripped by a shortage of educators. The Courier-Mail can reveal that last year, 99 students in education courses were granted Permission to Teach (PTT) waivers by Education Queensland to help fill the gap in schools without enough teachers — 39 more early approvals than in 2018.

But a Department of Education spokeswoman said the number of teachers on PTT represented "only a fraction of all new teachers hired" and they taught in schools for an average of one semester. The spokeswoman said that the approvals issued included those for students who had finished their courses, but were yet to graduate and be registered as teachers.

The main criteria for a PTT, which is assessed by the Queensland College of Teachers, includes evidence that no "appropriate" registered teacher is already available for that position, and evidence that the applicant has the skills and ability relevant to the job, and is "suitable to teach".

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the process should be used only as a last resort and he was concerned the number issued was increasing. Mr Bates said that a concerning number of teachers were already forced to teach outside of their specialty, and this could place increasing pressure on new teachers employed under PTTs.

"It can complicate things enormously ... in remote and rural areas you usually have to teach something you're not trained in, and that involves an enormous amount of additional work," he said. "A teacher in a western school who is trained as a junior primary school teacher is teaching a secondary art and a math class simply because there aren't enough teachers.

"PTT should be a last resort only and should not be seen as an easy option for HR systems to fill a gap. We need to have a long-term view to make sure teachers are available to teach every class."

Mr Bates said those teachers needed more support. "If they're coming in on PTT, the standard induction and support of the Beginning to Teach program is simply not enough."

During 2019, the department employed more than 1400 new teachers, and 500 new teachers have already accepted appointments to start in 2020, an Education spokeswoman said.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 15 Jan., 2020