Friday, March 27, 2020

Conservative, Not Liberal, Cities Are Ending the White-Black Achievement Gap in Education

Walter Williams, below, doesn't know why, so much more information is needed on that.  Is there an intensive system of remedial eduction, for instance, or are blacks in those cities unusually affluent?

A recent report by Chris Stewart has shed new light on some of the educational problems faced by black youth. The report is titled “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All.”

Stewart is a self-described liberal and CEO of Brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists who want to hold progressive political leaders accountable.

The report asks, “So how do we explain outstandingly poor educational results for minority children in San Francisco—which also happens to be one of the wealthiest cities in the country?” “The Secret Shame” reports that progressive cities, on average, have black/white achievement gaps in math and reading that are 15 and 13 percentage points higher than in conservative cities.

For example, in San Francisco, 70% of white students are proficient in math; for black students it’s 12%—a 58-point gap. In Washington, D.C., 83% of white students scored proficient in reading compared to 23% of black students—a 60-point gap.

Yet, three of the 12 conservative cities researchers looked at—Virginia Beach, Anaheim, and Fort Worth—have effectively closed or even erased the gap in at least one of the academic categories studied, achieving a gap of zero or one.

“The politically conservative Oklahoma City has even turned the tables on our typical thinking about race-based gaps,” says Stewart. Black students in Oklahoma City even have higher high school graduation rates than white students.

Had “The Secret Shame” study analyzed other cities, it would have found that educational outcomes for most black youngsters is a national disgrace.

As of 2016, in Philadelphia, only 19% of eighth-graders scored proficient in math, and 16% were proficient in reading. In Detroit, only 4% of its eighth-graders scored proficient in math, and 7% were proficient in reading.

In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state’s math exam. In six other high schools, only 1% tested proficient in math. Only 15% of Baltimore students passed the state’s English test.

National Assessment of Education Progress tests (also called the Nation’s Report Card) give further testament to the tragedy.

In Philadelphia, 47% of its students scored below basic in math and 42% scored below basic in reading. In Baltimore, it was, respectively, 59% and 49%. In Detroit, 73% scored below basic in math and 56% in reading. Below basic means that a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his or her grade level.

Then there’s gross fraud practiced by the education establishment. High school graduation rates for black students range from a high of 84% in Texas to a low of 57% in Nevada and Oregon. However, according to ACT data, the percentage of black students judged to be college-ready in English, math, reading, and science ranges from 17% in Massachusetts to only 3% in Mississippi.

One concrete example of this fraud is the fact that Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School has a graduation rate of 70% while not a single student tested proficient in mathematics and only 3% did so in reading.

“The Secret Shame” report didn’t say why the black/white achievement gap was smaller in conservative cities compared to their progressive counterparts. But permit me to make a suggestion.

An Education Week article reported that in the 2015-16 school year, “5.8% of the nation’s 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student.”

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics show that in the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary and secondary school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student.

A National Center for Education Statistics study found that 18% of the nation’s schools accounted for 75% of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6% accounted for half of all reported incidents.

These are schools with predominantly black student populations. My guess is that part of the reasons black academic achievement is greater in conservative cities is that schools are less tolerant of crime whereas schools in progressive cities make excuses.


Far Left takeover of Tulsa University is disastrous

Suffering from self-inflicted wounds, the University of Tulsa is sick and getting sicker. This is a case study in how “progressive” academic leadership can wreck a once-excellent university.

Last April 11, the university’s administration rolled out “True Commitment,” a radical restructuring that gutted the liberal arts, raised course loads, dissolved academic departments, and effectively turned the university into a technical and vocational school. I wrote about the turmoil that caused in this article for the Martin Center, but I’ll recap the events below.

A campaign of opposition to the restructuring formed immediately, sparked by the circulation of an article that appeared in City Journal on April 17. Concerned Faculty of TU (CFTU) was born at a meeting attended by four hundred people. Faculty votes in the colleges of Law and Arts and Sciences overwhelmingly rejected True Commitment. Students drafted a petition and held a funeral for the liberal arts. Facebook pages and a website were launched, and roughly 20 academic associations and societies wrote letters condemning True Commitment.

The administration quickly launched a venomous counterattack, attempting to muzzle and intimidate faculty and student critics. One low point was an Astroturf email campaign orchestrated by president Gerard Clancy. In September, four college deans and several other administrators denounced the “selfishness and negativity” of the “faceless faculty members”—or perhaps just the “anonymous message board troll”—known as CFTU. Clancy’s email of September 27 was the coup de grâce:

Several poignant moments occurred this week with many on our campus taking a stand: a stand in the name of our students; a stand for what is best for our community; and a stand against a nameless group that has attacked not only our university but many within it. To date, we have not engaged with a faceless entity.…I also appreciate and value the leadership I’ve seen this week as so many have denounced those who negate our value and hold us back.

Even as TU’s administrators deliberately poisoned the university community, the trustees erected a steel wall to protect them. Faculty Senate resolutions proposing alternatives to True Commitment, and finding that the administration violated constitutional provisions relating to shared governance, were deemed “inconsistent with the University’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws” by the board of trustees.

A faculty vote of no confidence that ran 4 to 1 against the president and the provost resulted in an immediate resolution of board support for both administrators. On December 10, board chair Frederic Dorwart told the Faculty Senate that the trustees need not involve them in any curricular decisions, and brazenly asked faculty to apologize for their role in the current crisis.

Just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, in late December, Moody’s downgraded $85 million in TU bonds two steps to Baa3 (just above junk) with a negative outlook, in large part because TU’s net tuition revenue declined 24 percent from 2015 to 2019. The administration subsequently informed us that we would now be entering a period of “austerity,” as $14 million to $20 million would have to be cut from the operating budget over the next two years.

How did a university with a $1.2 billion endowment end up in such bad shape? For one thing, we are seriously top-heavy. TU employs over a dozen people with the title of VP or higher. A study by TU economics professor Matthew Hendricks found that, in 2015, the last year for which broad comparisons are available, administrative spending per student at TU was in the top 9 percent of 796 comparable institutions, while the percentage of total expenditures allocated to academic instruction was in the bottom 12 percent. (That year, only 27.6 percent of TU’s budget—compared with 59 percent of Washington University’s—went to instruction.)

Hendricks also found that TU has the second-largest non-instructional staff size per student in the nation. But while budget cuts should obviously begin with unnecessary staff, the administration may not be eager to erode its primary base of support.

More bad news followed the bond downgrade. On January 30, president Clancy resigned, explaining that he’d promised his wife he would quit “if my health was affected” by his job. (Whose hasn’t been?) Provost Janet Levit was named interim president, where Dorwart has said she will remain until the university achieves “financial stability.” The accounting professor who oversaw the process leading to True Commitment was named interim provost.

Clancy’s departure might seem like a victory, except that the elevation of Levit completes the hostile takeover of the University of Tulsa by the billionaire George Kaiser, a story I wrote about in The Nation. Kaiser is the controlling shareholder of the Bank of Oklahoma Financial Corporation (BOKF), the corporate trustee of half of TU’s endowment. Dorwart is BOKF’s general counsel and president of the George Kaiser Family Foundation; BOKF’s CEO is also a TU trustee. Clancy served on BOKF’s board; and Janet Levit’s husband Ken is the CEO of the Kaiser Foundation. The potential conflicts of interest posed by those ethical entanglements are dizzying to contemplate.

That’s not all. True Commitment closely aligns with Kaiser’s “progressive” focus on alleviating poverty and making Tulsa more economically robust. Clancy was part of an Obama-era HUD task force that called for universities to become “anchor institutions” focused on serving the local community. TU is now part of the Higher Ed Forum of OK, an anchor institution consortium. Clancy also chaired the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce in 2011; TU has invested in various Chamber initiatives to train workers and bring new businesses to Tulsa.

The university has effectively opted to pump out workers and managers who will fit interchangeably into a globalized and digitalized system of production.

Unsurprisingly, Clancy announced in 2016 that TU would henceforth focus on recruiting first-generation college students. His 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, introduced by a section called “Jobs as Central to Life,” makes it clear that what such students need above all is employment. The university has effectively opted to pump out workers and managers who will fit interchangeably into a globalized and digitalized system of production. This is part of a national effort to monetize “human capital” through the creation of a “talent pipeline” from grades K through 20.

TU’s trustees, mostly business owners and executives, are happy to see the university assume the costs of workforce training they would otherwise have to bear. They may also stand to profit from endowment funds flowing into the construction of a new Tulsa Cyber District in a federally designated opportunity zone just west of the university, a project that aligns with Kaiser’s plan to make Tulsa a national hub for cybersecurity. A clandestinely produced TU brochure calling for investment in the Cyber District advertises the services of a “business sector consortium” composed of “alumni and trustees in leadership positions in energy, banking, credit rating and financial security, global retail, trucking and aviation.” Cui bono? When I asked this question of administrators, the brochure disappeared from the internet.

By February 2020, students were prepared to reject Janet Levit’s leadership. They voted no confidence in the interim president by a margin of more than 3 to 1. Levit and the trustees have so far not even acknowledged the vote, much less responded to it, and the local press has not reported on it.

What is more, the administration is once again suppressing dissent. The vice president of student affairs was seen tearing down posters advertising the vote, and two outspoken members of CFTU—nicknamed “Cluster F**k TU” by administration supporters—are now being investigated for harassment because a spreadsheet labeling certain faculty members as “known sycophants” was inadvertently attached to an email.

TU’s Strategic Plan praises Karamay in Xinjiang, China as a “model city for the future, built from the ground up in the past decade,” that “has the ability to plan in [the] absence of tradition.” This is somehow appropriate to the iron fist of corporate progressivism that has emerged at TU. Karamay and Xinjiang are known for authoritarian surveillance, severe pollution from coal gasification and coal-to-petrol projects, and the forcible internment of Uighur and Muslim minorities in detention and re-education camps.

After Clancy took over in late 2016, TU plunged out of the ranks of the top-100 national research universities; 75th eight years ago, we are now 121st. When Kaiser and his associates seized control of the university in 2018, they set to work destroying core academic programs and dividing and demoralizing the university community. The cuts set in motion by the recent Moody’s downgrade are likely to be exacerbated by the financial impact of the coronavirus, and it is unclear in what form—or even whether—TU will survive. This is what happens when know-nothing corporatists impose a “progressive” vision on a proud, once-flourishing university.


Australia: Pupil free week from Monday so teachers can prepare for remote learning

QUEENSLAND will close schools from next week to all but the children of essential workers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced schools would move to pupil-free days from next week, although anyone with a job would still be able to send their children to school.

“Next week Queensland schools will move to student free days ... schools will remain open to allow children of essential workers and vulnerable children to remain at school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

The ruling applies to all schools, not just state schools.

It comes as independent schools had already moved online, with some bringing forward the end of term to offer alternative learning from home next week.

“Next week will give independent school staff valuable time to test and refine their alternative learning from home arrangements and undertake important preparations for what shape school education could take from Term 2. Independent School Queensland executive director David Robertson said.

He commended school principals and the dedication of all school staff in “working closely with their communities” and doing everything in their power to safeguard student and staff health and wellbeing and maintain learning.

The pupil-free days will allow teachers to remain at work and prepare future learning materials, Ms Palaszczuk said.

Education Minister Grace Grace said Queensland did have to “prepare for what the potential future may be”.

“So from Monday the 30th of March, we will be moving to student free days, but we do stress that schools will remain open for children of essential workers, that is those who are required in the workplace,” she said.

“It is vital we remain open for these workers because we don’t want to put pressure on the economy.”

“Schools are open for essential workers and workers required in the workplace ... and obviously vulnerable children will be catered for as well,” Ms Grace said.

“We are planning for all kind of scenarios... and that’s why next week is important for teachers to be given the time to plan the learning materials for what may be needed.”

Kindies will follow suit with pupil-free days next week so that teachers can prepare remote learning and activities for children as well.

Long daycare centres will be open but Education Minister Grace Grace asked parents to adhere to strict isolation requirements and that only the essential workers and workers required in their workplaces use daycare centres.

“Teachers will move to developing remote learning for students and all those learning materials for what may lie ahead,” Ms Grace said.

The Palaszczuk Government has until now maintained a national line that schools were safe to attend, although had told parents they may choose to keep their children at home this week if they were available to care for them there.

The Premier said the health advice that schools were safe had not changed.

“Let me give this very clear message to parents who will have their children at home next week: They should be learning from home, they should not be out in the shopping centres,” she said.

And she said they should not be visiting any grandparents with risk-factors for coronavirus.

When asked how long the measures would be in place and if they would continue after the term break, the Premier said they were preparing for “every scenario”.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said she was happy with the decision.

“By reducing the numbers of children at school, we can make sure our older and vulnerable teachers aren’t in classrooms and increase the amount of social distancing in our schools, so it’s the perfect solution,” she said.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union also welcomed the decision for students to be given pupil-free days and to move Queensland schools from “business as usual”.

“Teachers will be engaged in preparation and planning in their schools around remote and flexible delivery into the future should schools close as a consequence of the national response to the pandemic,” QTU president Kevin Bates said.

“Schools will continue to provide supervision for children of essential services workers and vulnerable children including those in out of home care, students with disabilities who do not have medical complications and children for whom no other appropriate care arrangements are available - for example if both parents are working and their child could be at school and supervised.”

Health Minister Steven Miles said the state could have lost up to 30 per cent of its health staff if schools had completely closed. “It’s incredibly important that our health staff continue to be able to send their children to school,” he said.

“Modelling by our hospitals suggested if they had been unable to do that it would have potentially impacted on 30 per cent of our health workforce.

“We are already working on the basis that a proportion of our health workforce will get sick and that we will need to cover them.”

“We can also cover those that don’t have alternative arrangements for their children’s learning so it’s incredibly welcomed by our hospitals and our health staff that they will be able to continue to access schools.”

Dr Miles urged parents considering asking grandparents to look after children to consider the health of the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus.

The pupil-free days ruling comes after the Department of Education issued all Queensland schools with two-weeks worth of school work that can be delivered online and via paper copy.

Two-week units of school work for Prep to Year 10 was made available to all Queensland schools on March 17, with subsequent rollouts of content.

Packs of school work are already available to parents and students with various activities in line with the national curriculum for each year level and answers available for parents to help them with their child’s learning.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Novel Coronavirus Can Kill Colleges as Well as People


I am no public health expert, but if the novel coronavirus is pretty severe, as many experts are saying, like other institutions in society America’s colleges and universities will suffer. Classes may have to be cancelled, public lectures scrubbed, athletic contests (March Madness itself!) compromised (the latter a potentially huge loss to the NCAA).

But besides these obvious effects, there are several less obvious effects. Universities depend heavily on outsiders—taxpayers and private donors—for financial sustenance. If the coronavirus’s disruptive force triggers a significant economic downturn, certainly highly plausible, tax receipts will fall, leading, after some lag, to reduced state subsidies for public universities. There is a real probability the near 20% drop in stock prices from their peak will be sustained, maybe even worsened. This would particularly hit schools in three ways. First, endowments will lose value, in the long run necessitating some reduction in institutional financial support. Second, as the wealth of donors falls, university private contributions will also take a hit.

There is a third potential financial headache: a deterioration in the financial condition of pension funds to support present and future retirees. If stock prices fall 20%, other non-equity valuations stay constant, and endowments and pension funds have 60% of their money in equities, most will take about a 12% reduction in their value. Since some pension funds are on shaky grounds to begin with, this could lead to some real pain and suffering. One unintended consequence: some faculty and staff may defer retirement beyond original plans.

Moreover, this is obviously a global health catastrophe, and American universities are more dependent than previously on the international economy. Foreign students are an important revenue source—they were a lifesaver as some states reduced subsidies to schools after the 2008 financial crisis. It is hard to believe this will not have some negative impact on enrollments—the only issue is how much.

There are other international interactions as well. Many schools have promoted study abroad programs, sometimes even for profit (allowing instruction to be provided by lower cost educational providers overseas while students still pay American tuition fees). The perceived risks associated with prolonged absence from the U.S. will probably seem greater as horror stories spread about people getting sick from travel or quarantined in rooms with little outside contact.

To be sure, we do not really know whether the American impact this year will be measured in a few thousand sick individuals and a few hundred deaths, or a much bigger outbreak, possibly worst than the 1918 “Spanish” flu occurring at a time when transportation and communication costs were vastly higher, possibly reducing contagion a bit from what it would be today.

However, remember Plato: necessity is the mother of invention. Already schools that are closing like the University of Washington or Columbia University are using internet capabilities to increase existing use of online technology. Not all learning can be done effectively online, but certainly some can. Indeed, the health crisis-induced expansion of online learning might lead to a revelation: students can learn a lot of stuff as well online as by the use of the same technology that Socrates used over two millennia ago, talking to an audience (via lectures and oral discussion).

Still, there are some schools that are fragile financially for which this unanticipated development could be sufficiently large that it is their death knell—what if planned new students for next fall are reduced several percent, enough to push some tuition-dependent schools into closing? Maybe not very likely, but clearly plausible. Especially vulnerable are tuition-dependent schools without much endowment, including most HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), many non-selective state schools and some community colleges.

On a slightly more cheerful note to conclude an otherwise depressing epistle, when the economy turns downward with unemployment rising and incomes falling, college enrollments actually tend to rise—some students finding it hard to get good jobs decide to invest in their future earning capacity by attending college. So schools do not usually see big enrollment drops in the short run arising from downturns, even though their revenue is constrained by poor economic conditions.

Let’s hope this is much ado about next to nothing and the negative effects turn out to be minimal.


Even in a Crisis, Cancelling Student Loans is a Bad Idea

The Senate is at a standstill while public health and the economy are in a death spiral. What’s the hang- up? Student loan cancellation. Democrats in the Senate are attempting to tack a provision onto the pending stimulus package that would provide $10,000 of student debt cancellation to each borrower. This is nonsensical and irresponsible.

Quick action by the administration has put a pause on student loan payments and interest. That means that not a single borrower is on the hook to make a student loan payment for at least two months. And once the payment hiatus is over, borrowers facing hardship have the option to enroll in a variety of existing repayment plans that lower monthly payments to an affordable level based on income and that provide for forgiveness of persistently unaffordable debt. Borrowers with little or no income will pay nothing.

Government spending should be swift and generous, but it shouldn’t be targeted at student borrowers. College educated workers are among the highest earners in the economy and are the most likely to retain their employment and earnings during any downturn. That’s why loan forgiveness plans like those proposed during the Democratic primary would end up being hugely regressive in nature.

Instead we should be sending cash immediately, both through immediate cash transfers and an expansion of unemployment insurance. The estimated cost of the proposed student debt cancellation would be $370 billion. That’s enough to make an immediate cash transfer of $1,100 to every single American.

We needn’t quibble now over who should receive a check. We don’t yet know who will need help.  Instead of basing eligibility on past earnings, checks should be mailed immediately to every American. If we make the payments taxable, our existing progressive tax code will make sure that the cash stays in the hands of those who need it and is clawed back from those who don’t.

In a time of crisis, all ideas should be considered, but this one is far off the mark. It would be foolish for Democrats to hold up the other urgently needed aspects of a stimulus package in order to accomplish this foolhardy handout.


SAT tests canceled. College tours on hold. High school juniors struggle with life ahead

Spring is traditionally a big time for high school juniors preparing for college, with SATs to ace and transcripts to perfect.

Many had scheduled campus tours in April to narrow their college choices and impress admissions deans with their in-person visits. Spring athletes planned to show off to college recruiters filling spots on team rosters and budding scientists expected to boost their admissions chances by taking home top prizes in high school robotics matches.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on that momentum and brought the usually hectic spring term of junior year to an abrupt standstill. High schools have been closed, tests canceled or modified, and college campus tours canceled, leaving many teenagers and their families frustrated and uncertain about the path forward.

“I’m definitely nervous for a lot of reasons,” said Nathan Brophy, 17, a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “I was planning to visit a bunch of colleges on April spring break and that’s not happening. I’m not sure if I’m going to get my grades this semester. It’s just a lot, just in general. No one has answers for any of these questions.”

Brophy said some of his teachers have been better organized than others in the transition to online classes, and many of the resources he counted on to help him study for the Advanced Placement tests and SATs were school-based. Now, he worries that when he does take the standardized tests, he won’t do as well.

“It’s frustrating to not know how it’s going to happen,” said Anna Galer, 17, a junior in Easton. “I know it’s totally a first-world problem compared to what so many people are facing right now. But it’s also really hard to know that something I feel like I’ve worked so long for is getting screwed up.”

Galer said she and her mom were going to visit colleges in Ohio and New York over spring break in April. Now, she’s checking out virtual tours online, but it doesn’t give her the same sense of campus life or a gut feel about whether a college is the right fit.

She’s also worried that she will be juggling too much this summer, between her job at a camp, studying and taking the SAT test and other entrance exams, and visiting colleges. “When you’ve been thinking this is your plan,” Galer said. “It’s hard to do a 180.”

Some colleges have started easing their requirements to adjust to chaotic and uncertain times.

A handful of higher education institutions, including Case Western Reserve University, made standardized test scores optional last week citing the coronavirus.

“We would rather students focus as best they can on their academic subjects rather than worrying about the SAT or ACT,” Richard Bischoff, Case Western's vice president for enrollment management, told the publication Inside Higher Ed. “Testing has always been just one factor in our evaluation of applications, and we are confident that we will continue to make quality admission decisions for those students who are either unable to test or who choose not to submit test scores.”

Last week, the College Board, which administers some of the major standardized entrance exams, announced AP tests will be available as 45-minute, online exams that may be taken at home. Committees are already at work selecting questions for the online exams, according to the College Board.

“To be fair to all students, some of whom have lost more instructional time than others, the exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March,” the College Board said in a statement.

SAT tests have been canceled through at least May 2, in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The College Board in a statement on its webpage said SAT tests scheduled for early June have not yet been canceled, but the organization “will continue to assess its status with the health and safety of students and educators as the top priority.”

The College Board will schedule new testing dates as soon as possible, the organization said.

Colleges are going to have to make more concessions for students, said Michele Hernandez Bayliss, copresident and founder of Top Tier Admissions, a private college counseling firm.

Colleges that require students to submit their scores for a slew of standardized tests will have to scale back their expectations. Schools that make admissions decisions based in part on whether students visited the campus will have to reconsider that strategy at a time when tours have been cancelled and state governments have warned against traveling, she said.

“They’re going to have to make adjustments for everyone,” Bayliss said.

Families have been scrambling in recent weeks, and Bayliss and her business partner Mimi Doe have advised students to adopt a plan B. Lacrosse and softball players whose seasons have been cut short may have to cobble together family home videos of their games to submit to college coaches. Students who planned to compete in science fairs may want to consider making YouTube videos for younger children about their inventions, Bayliss and Doe said.

Elsa Martinez-Pimentel, the Massachusetts regional director for uAspire, which helps low-income and first generation students through the college financial aid process, said her organization has delayed efforts to get high school juniors prepared to fill out complicated federal forms that are necessary for grants and loans to attend college.

The organization had hoped to start the process this spring so high school students weren’t crushed by academic work, tests, and college applications in the fall of their senior year. But these juniors, many in Boston, are busy getting set for online classes after their schools shut down, she said.

The organization’s counselors and workers have also been deployed to reach out to high school seniors who are suddenly at home with no access to printers and with limited Internet capability trying to download last-minute parental tax information and fill out all their paperwork to make sure colleges award them the financial aid they need to enroll this fall.

“I think our juniors have a little more time to buy,” Martinez-Pimentel said.

Still, it can be difficult to regroup after students who have worked so hard find themselves suddenly stalled by the virus, students and counselors said.

Galer, the Easton student, said she wavers between being upset and resigned depending on the day. But she does take some consolation in knowing that she’s not alone.

“Everything that’s happening to me is happening to everybody across the world,” she said.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

With schools everywhere suspended, an education expert answers 4 questions about the upheaval

Most of the school systems that shut their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak initially said these closures would be temporary. But health authorities warn that Americans may need to keep up their social distancing for months. Jon Pedersen, dean of the University of South Carolina College of Education, answers some key questions about how this unprecedented situation might affect the education of millions of children.

* Will kids learn anything while schools are closed?

Not all school systems are going to count schoolwork done while schools are closed toward grades. Educators will have to figure out how to motivate kids to do what it takes to keep learning. If dull worksheets don’t excite kids at school, then those worksheets really won’t work at home.

Teachers will have to be more creative and resourceful than ever with what they do while classes are suspended. For example, they can take students on virtual classroom field trips to places like the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Kids can see everything from wild bears in Alaska to classical music concerts through the Virtual School Activities website. They can learn how to conduct science experiments and make collages that look like kooky monsters at Fun Learning for Kids, which has a multitude of activities children will enjoy.

In addition, the New York Public Library has more than 300,000 books you can download for free.

There are also options for children with special needs, such as Educational Technology and Mobile Learning – a great resource for activities for dyslexic learners, autistic learners, apps for the visually impaired and apps for learners with writing difficulties. Parents will also have a role to play.

* Will anyone have to repeat a grade or not graduate as expected?

We don’t know how long this crisis will last. If it drags on, every state and school will have to decide whether students should move on to the next grade or graduate. Not promoting students or not graduating seniors would obviously have broad implications for all public schools, colleges and universities – including community colleges. There will also be fallout for families and the workforce.

It may be hard in part to see whether students are ready to move forward to the next grade because the federal government has authorized states to let public schools skip otherwise mandatory standardized tests this school year.

* When could lost time be made up?

There are options, some more challenging then others. For example, local districts could switch to year-round schooling, extend their current or upcoming academic year beyond the usual minimum of around 180 instructional days, lengthen school days and skip some holidays once things are back to normal.

There are precedents for those arrangements. Numerous schools already operate year-round or with longer school years in places like El Paso, Texas; Romeoville, Illinois; and Bardstown, Kentucky. And countless schools have had to extend the school year by days, weeks or more due to closures brought about by blizzards, hurricanes, floods and other disasters.

But whatever school leaders decide to do, it’s going to come with serious consequences and costs. Adding instructional time at a future date will cost more money.

And it’s not clear how school districts will be able to foot the bill.

* Are there any grounds for optimism?

Yes. I believe that the United States has some of the best teachers and professional educators in the world and we will come through this not losing ground.

Although I would not rule out some sort of extended school year for schools, I do believe that the rapid response of states, districts, schools and teachers have reduced the likelihood that extreme measures will be needed.

My colleague, the education professor Gloria Boutte, always starts meetings with a traditional Masai greeting: “How are the children?”

I think this is very appropriate to keep in mind. How are the children? How are they doing? What do we need to do as a community to ensure their success?

Together, we can make sure children succeed.


British schools tell employers: Keep as many kids as possible at home

Coronavirus efforts could fail if too many children stay in school, say education leaders

Only children of key workers – including medics, police and food distribution staff – are eligible for places from Monday.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, urged parents to “only leave your child at school if you have no other choice”.

“My appeal to the families of key workers is: this is not business as usual. Keep your family at home if at all possible. Leave the few spaces available for those that truly have no alternative.

“My appeal to companies and other employers: please do not interpret the key workers lists liberally for your own ends.

Government guidance, issued on Friday, listed the relevant occupations and children with “at least one parent or carer” who is considered critical to the Covid-19 response “can attend school if required”.

The National Education Union criticised the Department for Education’s guidance as not being clear enough and called for an urgent clarification, saying a strong message was needed to let parents know their child should only be at school if there was no alternative. Dr Mary Bousted, the NEU’s joint general secretary, said teachers were on the frontline. “They can only do this vital work if everyone plays fair,” she said.

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “Tomorrow, all schools will be closed except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. If your work is not critical in the response to coronavirus then please keep your child at home. This will help to halt the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“We will be closely monitoring what is happening in schools and will ensure they get the support they need in the weeks and months ahead.”

Jules White, the head of Tanbridge House School in Horsham, West Sussex, a secondary school with 1,600 pupils, was expecting between 90 and 100 pupils.

From his informal network of school leaders and teachers, as coordinator of the WorthLess? lobbying campaign over school funding, White said it was clear “schools are really busting a gut”.

“[There’s been] a lot of frantic work across this weekend, a lot of informal sharing … just real concern about getting it right and schools really wanting to step up, because that’s what’s happening on the ground,” he said. “I think largely parents are seeing schools in a difficult situation, and I think they are supportive.”

Simon Kidwell, the head of Hartford Manor primary school in Cheshire, and who sits on the NAHT national executive, said since the key workers list came out he had been plugging the message to parents”: “Is your job corona critical?”

He said: “First I briefed all the parents in the playground. I told them what our stance was. I used language like ‘last resort’ and ‘your family are safer’ if the social distancing is in their own home, rather than coming into our child care. We’ve had our phones on between 10am and 3pm over the weekend.”


Australia: Education experts say scrapped tests puts focus on future of schooling

NAPLAN testing has been scrapped for 2020, and new social distancing measures have cast doubt over how schools will continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came as Brisbane Girls Grammar School told parents it would deliver the final week of term remotely, as they prepare for the likelihood to do the same for all of Term 2.

In an extraordinary move the national benchmark test, NAPLAN, was yesterday cancelled by education ministers — for the first time since it began in 2008 — over fears of the extra anxiety caused by coronavirus and the stress it has already placed on schools.

State Education Minister Grace Grace said the current advice was that schools should remain open. "The valuable time of school leaders, teachers and support staff should be spent either providing continuity of learning for our students or preparing to deliver possible curriculum at home," she said.

Ms Grace also revealed school attendance had dropped 5-6 per cent compared to this time last year, blaming the reduction on children being sick (not corona-related) and parents needing to self isolate. Independent and Catholic education systems and unions advocating for teachers already swamped with work-load during the public health crisis supported the move.

And education experts have said the move brings the future of schooling into sharp focus with calls for non-essential education to be scrapped for the system already grappling with increased work-load, stress and panic of preparing for schools to close in the event of an outbreak.

OTU president Kevin Bates said cancelling NAPLAN was the right move given the massive disruption in the community and schools caused by COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said gatherings, not including schools, should limit crowds to one person per four square metres. Mr Bates said while the advice on social distancing had merit in the community, it would be impossible for schools to follow as they would need a school hall for each classroom. "It's another confusing message," he said.

QUT education curriculum and pedagogy expert Kelli McGraw said anyone who thought coronavirus would not disrupt learning was "kidding themselves" and more focus should be given to student well-being. An option would be to suspend a half-year report in schools which already "maxes out" teachers.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 21.3.20

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

LIST of American States that have closed all schools due to coronavirus

State Superintendent Eric Mackey announced schools will close starting at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18. All public schools will be on a 2.5 week break.

Governor Doug Ducey and State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman jointly announced the closure of all Arizona schools from Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, March 27, 2020.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced all Arkansas schools will suspend on-site instruction.

Gov. Jared Polis has ordered all public and private schools be closed to in-person learning from March 23 to April 17, according to KDVR.

Governor Ned Lamont has ordered all public schools statewide to cancel classes beginning Tuesday, March 17 through at least March 31. The date may be extended if determined necessary.

Gov. John Carney directed all public schools close from through March 27.

Public schools statewide will be closed until April 15 due to the coronavirus, the state announced.

Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order to close all public elementary, secondary and post-secondary public schools in Georgia through the end of the month in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Hawaii State Department of Education closed its offices except for essential functions, and schools were scheduled to close March 30 following an extended spring break. Students are expected to return to school on April 7.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has closed all Illinois schools in the latest effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students will be out of schools beginning on Tuesday, March 17 and are scheduled to return on March 30th.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order that extends the closure of K-12 public schools until May 1. Non-public schools are also ordered closed. This date may be revised to extend through the end of the 2019-2020 school year if circumstances warrant.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced that she is closing schools four weeks because of the growing spread of COVID-19.

Governor Laura Kelly announced all K-12 schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus.

Public school districts across Kentucky have been closed for at least two weeks amid coronavirus pandemic

Gov. John Bel Edwards has closed all K-12 public schools statewide effective Monday, March 16 resuming Monday, April 13, as Louisiana seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Maryland public schools will be closed from March 16-27 in coronavirus response. Gov. Hogan announce a number of actions to take immediately.

Governor Charlie Baker announced that schools will be closed for three weeks as of Tuesday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said all of the state’s public and private schools will closed for three weeks through April 5 to combat the spread of a rising number of coronavirus cases.

Minnesota schools are closed for learning but open for emergency personnel child care. Graduation services suspended.

Gov. Tate Reeves signed an executive order to close all public schools until April 17.

In a press conference, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the closure of all K-12 schools in the state through April 6.

New Hampshire
Gov. Chris Sununu ordered all schools in New Hampshire to close immediately and begin a transition to remote learning for a three-week period.

New Mexico
The New Mexico Public Education Department announced that all public schools will be closed for three weeks due to concerns of coronavirus spread.

North Carolina
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Saturday that stops gatherings of 100 or more people and closes all K-12 public schools for at least two weeks.

North Dakota
Governor Doug Burgum announced schools will be closed for the next week. He says the state will make an assessment about extending that in the future.

New York
The New York State Education Department required that all New York state schools close through April 1.

Officials say students who attend public schools in Oklahoma will be out of class for at least three weeks following a decision by the Oklahoma State Board of Education.

Ohio’s governor said all schools will be on an extended spring break beginning at the end of the school day Monday and lasting until April 3. It applies to all K-12 public, private and charter schools.

Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide school closure for students in Oregon from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.

Governor Tom Wolf has announced the closure of all K-12 Pennsylvania schools for 10 business days starting Monday, March 16.

Rhode Island
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced all public schools in Rhode Island will be closed next week, moving up their April vacations.

South Carolina
Gov. Henry McMaster plans to close all schools, with the possibility of allowing those districts in counties with no known COVID-19 cases to conduct school Monday to prepare for distance learning.

South Dakota
Governor Kristi Noem has asked schools to close statewide. They will be closed for one week.

Gov. Bill Lee is urging schools to close as soon as possible with all schools expected to close by Friday, March 20. Schools should remain closed through March 31.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that will close schools through April 3.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced a “soft closure” of all public and charter K-12 schools for two weeks, through March 27.

Governor Phil Scott has ordered the closure of all schools Pre-K-12 to close by Wednesday, March 18 until April 6. Gov. Scott said this period may be extended.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has ordered all K-12 schools in the commonwealth to be closed for a minimum of two weeks due to the coronavirus.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced he is mandating the closure of all Washington schools from March 17, through at least April 24.

West Virginia
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice closed schools Friday for the time being. He says it is important to make sure the needs of students are taken care of, and closing the schools will also help prevent the spread of the virus.

Gov. Tony Evers has ordered the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, as part of the state’s efforts to respond to and contain the spread of COVID-19.


The UK is closing schools to all except the children of 'key workers.' Here's who they are

As the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, the United Kingdom is shutting its schools from Monday -- with some exceptions.

While most parents are trying to figure out what to do with their newly free children, the children of workers deemed critical to the country's response to Covid-19 will be allowed to go to school.

The government said people who fall into this category should contact their local authority, which will allocate a local school for their children.

"We are grateful for the work of teachers and workers in educational settings for continuing to provide for the children of the other critical workers of our country," the government said in a statement. "It is an essential part of our national effort to combat this disease," it added.

Here are the jobs covered by the exception:

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff, including volunteers.

The support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK's health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

Nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals necessary for delivering the government's Covid-19 response plan.

Key public services

Those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative roles essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits.

Food and other necessary goods

People involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example, hygiene supplies and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

Police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defense and national security or to the response to the Covid-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including overseas.


Those keeping air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transportation running.

Utilities, communication and financial services

Staff needed to provide essential financial services, the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, the information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemical, telecommunication, postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors


Coronavirus Australia school closures: What's happening in every state

Some Australians schools are closing early for the holidays, others are going online for a few weeks. Here’s what is happening in each state or territory.

States and territories around Australia have declared their varying stances on school closures despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announcing “children should go to school”.

He said the health advice from the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee had not changed. “I do not want to see our children lose an entire year of their education,” Mr Morrison said.

He said “all leaders” had committed to reopening schools at the end of the school break, or Easter holidays, “subject to the advice” of the AHPPC.

“If parents choose to keep their children home from school, parents must be responsible for the conduct of the children and to ensure they adhere to the social distancing arrangements in place,” Mr Morrison said.

“Parents must be aware that while the majority of adults who contract COVID-19 have mild forms of the virus, the elderly or those with comorbidities can have more significant symptoms.”


In contrast to the prime minister's stance, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday morning urged parents to "keep their children at home".

She said 30 per cent of parents had already made the choice to keep their kids at home and the state government feels it is “the best course to follow” in regards to the state health advice.

Schools in NSW will be staying open from Tuesday for children of "parents who have no option".

“For practical reasons, in NSW we will be encouraging parents to keep their children at home,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters. “However I want to stress that for parents who have no option, for parents who are workers, that have no option, the schools will remain open. No child will be turned away from school.”


Victoria has already acted, announcing it was bringing forward Easter holidays to Tuesday. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared the state’s plan prior to Sunday night’s national cabinet meeting.

On Monday morning, he said term two is scheduled to begin on April 14, “unless I have medical advice not to proceed with term two at school”.

“I'm not making that announcement today," he said.

"We have taken the decision, and the Chief Health Officer of Victoria is completely comfortable and supportive of this, to bring forward the school holidays and to spend these precious days without kids at school to plan for remote, flexible, distance learning in the evident that we need to move to that way of teaching and learning."

This means by Monday afternoon, Victorian students will be on a three-week break.


Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said schools were open on Monday and "will remain open" until the last day of term on April 3.

But parents can choose "whether or not they wish to send their children to school".

She said if this decision is made, parents have three responsibilities – to advise the school their child or children won't be attending to ensure the wellbeing of students, to continue with online learning materials available on the education department's website, and to ensure the students practise social distancing.

"The responsibility for children not going to school will be solely with the parents and carers … and we ask that they adhere to these requests," she said.

She urged parents and children to stay off school grounds if they are sick.


ACT schools will close on Tuesday as teachers plan how to keep classes operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Chief Minister Andrew Barr today said they will remain open to students who "absolutely need to attend".

"What we are endeavouring to do is (see) the school population, the number of students who would physically need to go to school each day, would be considerably less so we can space them out more," he told ABC Radio.

Term two is due to commence on April 28.


South Australian schools are set to remain open for now with a view to helping slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Premier Steven Marshall said the message from health experts was very clear. “Send your children to school. If we do this we will slow the spread of the disease,” Mr Marshall told radio 5AA on Monday.

“But having said that, there are some parents who would like to have their children out of school.”

Mr Marshall said schools would also need to provide more flexible learning options for parents who believed they could supervise their children and look after them at home.

Term two is due to commence on April 27.


WA Premier Mark McGowan on Monday said schools will remain open until the end of term one, finishing April 9, but they will "relax the law and provide parents with choice" whether to send their children to school.

"I have always said that closing schools is a last resort but I understand many parents are concerned and want to keep their children home at this time," he said.

"It is for that reason that we will relax the law and provide parents with choice.

"If parents decide not to send their kids to school, we will not enforce the law that requires you to do so. But I stress, if parents do decide to keep their children home, parents must abide by all other laws and that includes all new social distance, social distancing rules that have been introduced."

Many non-government schools will provide access to online and distance learning while in the public system, parents and students will have access to resources to see out the remainder of the term.

Term two is due to commence on April 28.


Territory schools will remain open for now until the school holidays, starting on Good Friday on April 10.

But Chief Minister Michael Gunner today said from Tuesday, “and for the rest of this term, the decision to send kids to school will be a choice for parents”.

“I know a lot of parents are feeling anxious right now during these times. I trust parents to know what is best for them and their kids,” he said.

“If you want to keep kids at home for the remainder of this term, that's okay. But they have to be at home.”

Term two is due to commence on April 20.


In addressing the topic on Monday, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein acknowledged "there has been much community angst" regarding schools.

"Tasmanian schools will remain open for the time being," he said.

"We recognise the incredibly important role that our schools play supporting the education and wellbeing of Tasmania's children and young people and the advice of the AHPPC is unchanged on this matter."

However, he said parents and carers can keep children at home from Wednesday, March 25 if they wish.

Term two is due to commence on April 27.

More HERE 

Monday, March 23, 2020

UK: Why it was wrong to cancel exams

Students have been left in limbo, even though any risks could surely have been mitigated.


In the past week, my two daughters have had their school musical cancelled, along with a cello exam, a clarinet exam, an interview for a student position in school, and a SAT test. Last night we learned that all schools in the UK will close at the end of the week. ‘They are taking away everything that I have been working for’, was how one of my daughters expressed her frustration.

I fear that this will be how many students in Years 11 and 13, along with their teachers, felt yesterday when news broke that this year’s GCSE and A-level exams have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus crisis and the school closures.

I do not want to understate the challenges posed by setting public exams at a time when schools are closing, or at least paring back provision to cater for a small number of pupils. Exam boards are probably also short-staffed. The closure of schools from next week would have made it difficult for pupils to complete their courses and prepare for their exams.

But many students were about to be granted study leave anyway, either just before or after the Easter holidays, so that they could revise at home. Completing their courses remotely may have put them at a disadvantage, but nearly all pupils would be in a similar situation and exam boards would surely make allowances in terms of grade boundaries.

There would also of course be the challenge of putting on exams in schools that are not fully open. Schools have designated exam officers who may be self-isolating, and invigilators would need to be employed to run the exams. Some students may be unwell with the virus and so would have to take the exams at another time. On the plus side, exams require students to sit and work individually at desks, with minimal social contact.

Exam grades are not the ends of education. Like many others, I have been arguing for some time that schools today place too much emphasis on exams and data, at the expense of the intrinsic value of learning. That is, exploring questions of what is true, what is right and what is beautiful, enabling young people to inherit the wisdom of their teachers, and urging them to join in conversations about society, the economy and the environment.

But exams have an important role to play both for young people and society more broadly – they validate learning and achievement. Exams have their limitations. But for students they provide a focus, structure and culmination for their study. They are an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learnt and what they can do. Exams are also, of course, key to how universities and employers assess applicants.

Cancelling these exams presents enormous challenges for assessing student achievement in a way that is fair, valid and standardised. The knock-on effect in terms of university admissions will be highly problematic. More immediately, this move has removed the very thing that students and teachers have been working towards for the best part of two years. What should the teachers teach and what should the students study if the government has just removed the goal to which they have all been working towards?

We could argue that the situation provides an opportunity to show students that education is about more than exams. But this is a hard sell given they certainly were important last week. Plus we should interrogate the context in which this decision was made.

The Covid-19 crisis is an unprecedented situation in recent times. Difficult decisions are having to be made with many people suffering the effects. Judgements need to be made that weigh the costs and benefits of things like keeping schools open versus isolating people to slow the transmission of the virus. Of course, the government wants to protect as many people as possible. But that doesn’t mean that safety is an absolute that overrides all the other aspects of life that we value. Surely these exams could have still gone ahead if sensible steps were taken to minimise any risk.

What message are we sending to young people by cancelling their exams rather than finding a way to allow them to go ahead? And why cancellation rather than postponement, which would at least show that the government recognises and values the important work everyone has put in?

In recent years, schools have given a lot of attention to the idea of building young people’s resilience. But while we can all sit in classrooms and talk about it, real resilience comes from facing and responding to adversity in a mature way. Until now, by keeping schools open during a health emergency, the government and teachers had been doing just that. Unfortunately, when faced with the challenge of public exams, it appears the government has told teachers and students to give up.


The Price Mechanism in Attending College

In 2019, Maxine Waters (D-CA) ascended to the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. In April, Waters conducted a hearing for which she had assembled the heads of some of America’s largest banks. Waters asked these titans of finance: “What are you guys doing to help us with this student loan debt? Who would like to answer first?” She then went down the line of bankers, who said they were no longer in the student loan business. Finally, she came to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who said, “When the government took over student lending in 2010 or so, we stopped doing student lending.”

Tail between her legs, Waters quickly moved on to other matters. What the exchange demonstrated is that Waters was at the very least unprepared to chair that hearing (about which, more coming up), but what may be even more vexing is that the government takeover Mr. Dimon referred to had received an aye vote from none other than Maxine Waters.

In February of 2018, Investor’s Business Daily ran an important editorial about the 2010 legislation Rep. Waters apparently forgot voting for. IBD asserted that the Act had “effectively nationalized” the student loan business:

“By cutting out the middleman, we'll save the American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years,” Obama said when he signed this change into law. “That's real money.” …As a result, federal student loan debt shot up from $154.9 billion in 2009 to $1.1 trillion by the end of 2017… The problem is that at the same time Obama was getting the government into the lending business in a big way, he was making it easier for students to avoid paying back their loans."

As the IBD editorial outlines, the 2010 takeover of student loans was sold as a moneymaker for the government. Instead, it’s turning out to be a huge loser. The act also provides for a disturbing amount of student debt forgiveness. That’s on top of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program enacted on 2007. Even so, Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders urges that Congress enact legislation that would forgive all student loan debt.

In June of 2019, the New York Times ran “Canceling Student Loan Debt Doesnʼt Make Problems Disappear” by guest Kevin Carey, who wrote about another proposal of Sanders’: making all undergraduate programs at public universities and colleges “free.” But, as Carey shows, Sanders’ proposal doesn’t add up:

"That’s because most student loan debt isn’t taken out to attend undergraduate programs at public colleges and universities. Most loans are used for private colleges, for-profit colleges and, most of all, graduate school."

Is it not remarkable that the federal government actually extends loans to attend for-profit colleges, not to mention private colleges that have multi-billion-dollar endowments? And then the feds forgive many of the loans by putting the taxpayer on the hook.

Carey also touched on the issue of the “pricing power” exercised by colleges, and how it would work under Sanders’ new regime of free undergraduate college: “The universities would have no pricing power, because there would be no prices.” We might also consider pricing power under the current system. Isn’t price discovery likely to get all bollixed up when an entity that can “print” money gets involved?

What the federal government should be doing is the exact opposite of what Bernie Sanders has proposed: Congress should end the federal student loan program for undergraduate education altogether. Too many young people are attending college who shouldn’t be attending. Also, it is undergraduate education where much harm is being done. It’s the undergraduates who are being turned into entitled little snowflakes who feel they can destroy property with impunity (as with Confederate statues). Let them pay for their indoctrination with their own money, not the taxpayers’.

However, if the federal government did end its loans for undergraduate education, wouldn’t that dash the hopes of youngsters who are indeed motivated and who should be in college -- wouldn’t they be priced out? One of the reasons prices for tuitions are so high is because so many kids are attending. If enough of them elected to forgo college, prices should fall.

On March 3 of 2020, the Boston Globe ran “The real story on the $1.6 trillion student loan debt crisis” by Josh Wright, who wrote:

"Over half of student loan borrowers (around 25 million people) owe less than $20,000, but they have higher default rates than the borrowers who owe more. The student borrowers with over $100,000 in federal student debt (about 7 percent of borrowers) are, in fact, the least likely to default on their loans."

Since it’s much more expensive to attend graduate school, a good bet is that most of those kids who’ve racked up less than $20K in student loan debt did it attending undergraduate school. In the real world, any cohort that could be identified as being more likely to default on their loans than other groups would either not get loans or have their interest rates raised.

As for continuing to extend loans to grad students, that, too, needs to be tweaked. The feds don’t need to be extending credit to students pursuing graduate degrees in Art History, Philosophy, Literature, and other programs in the Arts and Humanities departments. And the feds certainly shouldn’t be making loans to students in Law School (we have enough lawyers as it is, thank you). Perhaps it’s time for the federal government to get completely out of the student loan business. The only areas where it makes sense are in medicine, pharmacology, dentistry, engineering, some sciences, and other disciplines that are undeniably in the “common weal.”

At Media Research Center, one can watch a 45-second clip of Maxine Waters’ “cringeworthy” hearing; it also includes a short article by Brittany Hughes worth reading. The legislation Waters forgot voting aye for was the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. The education part of the act started out as a stand-alone bill in 2009, but having been passed only by the House was attached as a rider to the larger bill, (which might account for Rep. Waters’ confusion). The main part of the bill was to amend the ACA, ObamaCare, which had been signed into law just one week earlier. When critics claim that ObamaCare was passed with the reconciliation process, they’re referring to this piece of legislation.

It was fitting that education funding was attached to the ObamaCare amendments of the reconciliation bill, because price inflation in both education and health care is largely due to government. (Just as with the price of health care, if you want the price of college to soar, make it free.) We’re also seeing attempts to attach “riders” to the legislation addressing the coronavirus pandemic that are entirely unrelated, such as funding for abortion. There ought to be a law against such legislative shenanigans, but that would require, uh, legislation.

It’s likely that in addition to not reading ObamaCare, Auntie Maxine also failed to read the reconciliation bill that followed. As for Obama’s claim, rather than government “cutting out the middleman,” what really happened is that government became the middleman. How’s that working out for you, America?


The soft power of education

Education has long been accepted as a way of building Australia’s soft power.

When we say soft power, we’re talking about the use of “positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives” rather than the military and economic might of hard power. And education has “the ability to influence the behaviour or thinking of others through the power of attraction and ideas”.

In the 1950s, Australia made international education part of its foreign policy when, as part of the Colombo Plan, it funded scholarships to bring the future leaders of Asia to study in Australia.

The Australian government saw the benefit of “the body of people in Asian countries which is gradually built up with an intimate knowledge of Australia and, it may be hoped, some affection for this country”.

If we work on this criterion, the Colombo Plan can be considered a real success.

By 1985, the Colombo Plan had brought over 20,000 students to Australia — many of whom went on to work in key positions across Asia, giving Australia a soft power connection.

In Malaysia, alumni include a minister for trade, a chief minister and a renowned architect. A quarter of Mongolia’s current cabinet studied in Australia.

Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper points to the soft power effects of study in Australia: “Many foreign government and business leaders, including heads of state, ministers and CEOs, have studied in Australia and understand our institutions, values and perspective on the world. This is a significant asset for Australia.”

It also outlines the efforts being put into an Australia Global Alumni program to leverage these connections.

But the picture is now more complex for at least four reasons.

* A smaller budget

First, Australia is no longer investing sufficiently in funded study to Australia to have large-scale impact.

The Colombo Plan’s successor, the Australia Awards, has become the victim of funding cuts. In 2016, it was reported that around 3500 scholarships, fellowships and short courses were funded.

Four years later, there are only 1982 Australia Awards.

Additionally, research tells us that Australia’s investment in diplomacy, development and trade is now at its lowest level ever.

On top of this, other countries have been investing more. In Laos, for example, Australia offers 30 scholarships, while China offers 1000.

* Self-funded student experience

International education is a significant business: it is now Australia’s third biggest export.

The vast majority of international students in Australia are fee-paying (which was true even during the Colombo Plan). In 2019, there were more than 750,000 international students in Australia including 25,000 secondary school students.

Whether these students add to Australia’s soft power depends crucially on whether they have a positive experience in Australia.

The worst-case scenario is that they speak mainly to other overseas students, don’t form friendships with Australians and leave having formed few connections or perhaps even negative views about Australia.

It’s up to schools and universities to be aware of this and work to ensure students feel welcome and at home during their time in Australia.

* Getting Australians into the region

Australia’s old model needs to be updated to take into account the effect of Australia’s new outbound program to take Australian students to the Indo-Pacific, known as the New Colombo Plan.

Launched in 2014 by then Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop as one of her signature initiatives, the New Colombo Plan aims to get young Australians to study and work in the region, rather than heading to traditional destinations like the US and Europe, as “a rite of passage to benefit us all”.

According to Julie Bishop: “Our country will benefit enormously from having young ambassadors from Australia who have an understanding of and an insight into the region that only comes from living, studying and working there.”

The New Colombo Plan takes Australian students to the Indo-Pacific region. Picture: Shutterstock
The scale of the New Colombo Plan — by the end of last year 60,000 young people had been funded to live and learn in 40 countries — suggest there is likely to be a significant soft power ripple effect.

Having thousands of young people serve as unofficial ambassadors for Australia in the region is likely to have a positive impact, particularly when the New Colombo Plan shows two of the hallmarks of best practice in public diplomacy: genuineness and mutuality.

* The global classroom

New technology means that coming to study in Australia isn’t the only way that education can have an effect.

Global organisations like ours are operating a number of intercultural learning programs, aiming to link our classrooms to the world.

The Asia Education Foundation’s school partnership program, Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue Growing Engagement or BRIDGE, has been operating for over ten years, establishing more than 500 school partnerships across 21 countries.

Funded by the Australian Government, it fosters these important people-to-people links through establishing relationships between students, teachers and school communities — helping teachers to open their classrooms to the world.

Intercultural learning lets us explore our differences and similarities through empathy and critical discussion.

It’s about relationships where both groups change and respond, forming cultural connections, rather than one-way transmission. It helps build global mindset and intercultural capabilities through learning together in a cross-cultural setting.

There are an estimated 750 million youth across Indo-Pacific aged 12 to 25, compared to 4.3 million young Australians. So, it’s essential that this generation must be able to develop deeper understandings of culture, communication, and connection.

The original Colombo Plan was small but precisely targeted and achieved the aim of creating significant long-term soft power benefit.

It provided a foundation for Australia to build rich contacts with the nations around us.

But today’s challenge is to update our model to include the many ways that education impacts on Australia’s image and influence in the region. And education remains one of the best ways to build soft power — creating bonds of affection as well as a deeper and more enriched intercultural understanding of the world.


Sunday, March 22, 2020


Three current articles below

Stopping bullying requires everyone to play a part

Preaching to bullies goes only so far. There comes a point where physical punishment alone will induce change

Finding out that their child is being bullied at school is a situation many parents dread, with good reason.

Decades of research has highlighted the profound effects of bullying, with children who are bullied in primary school at greater risk of experiencing serious mental health problems into adolescence and ongoing depression into adulthood. Tragically, as we all know, too many young Australians have taken their own lives as a result of the effects of bullying.

At the very least, bullied kids are more likely to miss school, disengage with their learning and suffer academically. And with one in four children in Australia reporting that they've been impacted by bullying, more needs to be done to deal with this complex and pervasive problem.

Under its cyberbullying reporting scheme, the office of Australia's eSafety Commissioner, has the power to order social media sites to take down harmful material and has successfully handled hundreds of complaints about cyberbullying on behalf of young Australians.

While it's reassuring to have a federal watchdog to help keep kids, and all Australians safe online, it's vital that we work together as a community to promote zero tolerance for bullying for the sake of this generation and future generations of young people.

There's no quick fix to solve the bullying issue, but a vital strategy involves educating children from a young age with the skills and attitudes to build and maintain healthy, respectful relationships with others.

At Life Education, three of our key programs — Cyberwise, Relate, Respect, Connect and Talk About It teach children about cyber ethics, responsible and respectful behaviour, strategies to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, and the role of bystanders.

And it's the bystander effect which is one of the keys to dealing with the bullying issue. Research shows peers are present as onlookers in 85 per cent of bullying interactions and play a central role in the bullying process, so we need to educate young people to call out bullying behaviour when they see it.

It's important they understand that it's not 'dobbing', but rather showing compassion for those who are being victimised. It's about sending a strong message that bullying,harassment  and violence are not acceptable at any time.

There are some good anti-bullying programs, including recent reforms, adopted by the State Government in the wake of the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce. Undoubtedly, tackling bullying requires a whole-of-community approach.

We know that online abuse and bullying of teachers and principals around the state is on the rise, with some parents restricted from entering school grounds. We can't expect children to learn about appropriate respectful behaviour, when some parents are role modelling aggression and hostility.

This year, Australia's largest anti-bullying event for schools, the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA) has adopted the theme: Take Action Together and the message could not be more fitting. Schools, parents, teachers, specialist educators and students can all play a role in reducing bullying within schools.

The focus on prevention and education can go a long way to building respect and tolerance in our community, and that in turn, can only mean better mental health outcomes for our children and young people.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 19.3.20

Australian university orders return to face-to-face teaching amid coronavirus pandemic

A Queensland university prompted outrage by ordering its academics to scrap established plans for online teaching and return to face-to-face classes, a sign of the sector’s chaotic and disjointed response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universities across the country are still grappling with how to continue teaching during the crisis, after the federal government firmly advised them on Wednesday that “university and higher education should continue at this time with risk mitigation measures”.

The sector already faces a massive financial hit, with analysis in the very early stages of Covid-19 suggesting the top 10 universities would lose $1.2bn due to Chinese student travel bans alone. The situation has prompted serious concerns for the future of casual academic staff.

A host of universities – the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, University of Adelaide, University of Wollongong and University of Technology Sydney, among others – are rushing to transition their courses online. The Australian National University is pausing its teaching for a week from Monday and says it is “stopping face-to-face teaching for lectures and moving to remote participation”.

The UQ vice-chancellor, Peter Høj, told students in an email late on Sunday that it would temporarily cancel all coursework after a fourth confirmed case on the campus. “This is a big call, and not one I have taken lightly,” Høj wrote to students.

The University of Sydney and Southern Cross University have each committed to delivering all of their classes remotely from Monday.

But others are pressing on with some form of face-to-face teaching of lectures and other classes, albeit with risk mitigation measures, including Monash University.

The University of Western Australia says on its website that it is continuing to “operate as normal and our academic calendar is unchanged”. It also announced it is moving all lectures and tutorials and, where possible, practical classes to online delivery mode until further notice from Monday.

The approach to staff leave has also been disjointed. Some universities are providing affected staff with special coronavirus leave, others are telling staff to use their existing personal and annual leave.

At the University of Sydney, Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer in English and linguistics, said teaching staff had found themselves rushing to prepare for online classes while also juggling the concerns of students. He said there was “widespread concern” across campus about the implications of the virus for teaching and professional staff long-term.

“It has been fairly chaotic and there are all these intense extra demands being placed on staff,” he said.

“This semester I have less than 80 students and there is still a quite significant extra time burden placed on my work [but] colleagues who are running much larger lecture programs have reported exponentially higher workload.”

Riemer also said he was concerned that “emergency measures” put in place during the crisis – including extra working from home demands – would become “normalised”, as well as fears for professional and casual staff at the university.

“There’s an enormous amount of concern about the implications for the amount of work available for those staff,” he said.

The response of the University of the Sunshine Coast, which had to conduct deep cleaning following a visit from the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, two weeks ago, has prompted a particularly angry response from staff.

The university on Friday announced it would pause coursework teaching and assessments for a week from Monday, to give it time to redesign its courses to support online delivery and social distancing.

But earlier in the week, it told staff to reverse plans they had already developed to deliver the vast majority of their courses online.

On Wednesday, senior leadership at the university wrote to the school and ordered it to retract the plans and return to face-to-face teaching, citing the advice of the federal government.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) described the decision as “nuts” and deeply irresponsible.

“For the University of the Sunshine Coast to say we were ready to have online delivery for some of our subjects but actually we’re going to return to our normal timetabled operations, that is just nuts,” the union’s Queensland secretary, Michael McNally, told the Guardian.

“There’s no reason for that. Many universities are actively trying to put their stuff online, for the simple reason that even if universities aren’t closed, it reduces the risk to the community to deliver as much of the teaching as possible online.”

It also appears to run counter to the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which on Wednesday said it supported universities using as much online teaching as possible.

The University of the Sunshine Coast did not respond directly to the NTEU’s criticism. But a spokesman said the university was “working towards what is expected to be a government directive to suspend face-to-face teaching in the near future”.

“Much planning and work in recent weeks have gone into preparing the university for the delivery of online learning across all disciplines,” he said.

The university has cancelled graduations, is encouraging students to study online where possible, and is advising social distancing in other face-to-face classes.

Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson, acknowledged that the tertiary sector’s response to the virus had varied, but said all universities were adhering to advice from officials and praised the federal government for providing a “clear set of requirements”.

“These are prudent, measured steps designed to safeguard students, staff and their communities. At the same time, we are trying to minimise disruption to students’ education,” she said.

“Things are moving very quickly, and all universities have mobilised staff and students in what is a national effort.

“None of this is easy and we recognise the challenges faced by our students and staff. But it is vital that as individuals and institutions we work together to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus and protect the community. People’s lives depend on how we respond now.”


National school achievement tests to be cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19 disruption

Education ministers have cancelled this year's NAPLAN tests due to the coronavirus, saying it would put an unnecessary burden on already stressed schools. The national tests - sat annually by years 3, 5, 7 and 9 - will resume next year.

Schools, which are busily preparing remote learning materials in case they shut down, had been hoping the national assessment program - scheduled to be held between May 12 and 22 - would be scrapped, saying it would be unsafe for students to sit together for prolonged periods.

It came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated the importance of keeping schools open amid anxiety from teachers, who are concerned about the welfare of older staff and the difficulty of enforcing safe distances between children and teens.

Ministers met via video link on Friday morning to decide the fate of NAPLAN, which some modelling suggests would coincide with the peak of the virus and increased likelihood of school closures.

In a statement, they said, "The decision not to proceed with NAPLAN has been taken to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning.

"Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test."

The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Craig Petersen, said school leaders and teachers would welcome the "commonsense" announcement.

"Everyone is under lots of stress as a result of the corona anxiety," he said. "It will make a huge difference to morale, and it will let teachers focus on maximising the teaching and learning time they have with kids, rather than worrying about a test."

The government is also facing growing pressure from teachers’ unions, who say staff are at risk of infection and the information and resources available to schools are insufficient for them to observe social distancing and hygiene rules.

The Independent Education Union, representing staff in private and Catholic schools, has written to the Prime Minister, saying current preventative measures are "manifestly inadequate" and teachers are at "grave risk".

IEU federal secretary Chris Watt said many schools did not have sufficient resources to implement hand-washing and cleaning advice, while social distancing rules were not possible for children in packed school environments.

Mr Watt urged the government to release its medical advice "that is the purported basis for schools remaining open".

He also said at-risk employees and those with vulnerable relatives should immediately be allowed to work from home or go on leave.

The Australian Education Union, representing public school staff, has also written to Mr Morrison calling for additional advice and resources and rejecting "unrealistic" and inequitable online learning alternatives to schools staying open.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and government medical officials will meet the unions next week to discuss their concerns.

On Friday, Mr Morrison said the government’s position on keeping schools closed had not changed.

"It is in the national interest that we keep schools open," he said.

National chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the risk to children was low and data suggested that children were more likely to be infected by adults rather than vice-versa.