Thursday, May 13, 2021

Parents in America's wealthiest county launch campaign ad to recall Virginia school board for 'infecting' children with Critical Race Theory

Parents in America's wealthiest suburb have released a campaign ad to oust members of a Virginia school district board after it pledged to push Critical Race Theory onto their children.

On Tuesday, 'Fight for Our Schools' - a group made up of dozens of parents from the wealthy enclave, where the median household income is $142,299 - released the campaign ad on Twitter.

It starts with a voiceover that says after a year where parents and students struggled with school closures and distance learning, the Loudoun County school board put their focus on 'infecting our schools with critical race theory'.

It accuses board members of 'plotting war' against parents who oppose it, and for labelling them as racists in a Facebook group. Loudoun County Sheriff's office is investigating various allegations of harassment between opponents and supporters of CRT in the community's public schools.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) asserts that 'institutions are inherently racist and that race itself... is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color', according to Texas A&M University professor Tommy Curry.

Numerous public and private schools across the US have recently opted to incorporate CRT into their teachings, but the decision has sparked fierce debate.

While Loudoun County Public Schools have not officially made it compulsory to use CRT in their classrooms, they have pledged to push for 'equity' and have started using many CRT 'buzzwords and concepts'.

On the same night the campaign ad was released, several parents blasted the school board members, including a black mother who said that the idea of CRT is 'racist, abusive and discriminates against one's color'.

'CRT is not an honest dialogue. It was a tactic used by Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan on slavery very many years ago to dumb down my ancestors so we could not think for ourselves,' she said.

Another parent also slammed the school board members, saying they had made Loudoun County 'ground zero' in the 'national fight against critical race theory'.

'Every single one of these parents would step in front of a train for their kids, and they will step in front of you too,' he said. 'This is the fight of our lives. We are going to go the distance, and at the end of the day, we are going to win.'

Only a handful of parents in Loudoun County publicly said they supported CRT in schools.

The contentious school board meeting and fiery battle in Loudoun County heated up after Monica Gill, who teaches AP Government in Loudoun County, told Fox News in mid-April that the school district's push for 'inclusion' has fueled further division in the community.

'We're told that we're living in a county that's suffering from systemic racism and I think that whole notion has done nothing but damage our community and our school since they began pushing equity'.

She told the network that teachers were told they needed to 'disrupt and dismantle this systemic racism.'

'I can tell you, one thing that's for sure, it has been disruptive because there are parents who disagree with this ideology, there are teachers who disagree with it, there are students who disagree with it — and it is harmful,' she stated.

According to Fox News, school board members have been identified as members of the 'Anti-racist parents of Loudoun County' Facebook group.

There have been claims that one member of the group planned to dox parents in the community who were opposed to CRT by asking volunteers to help 'gather information' on them.

That claim has not been substantiated.

However, the Loudoun County Sheriff's office confirmed to Fox News that an investigation into various allegations of harassment between opponents and supporters of CRT in the community's public schools.

Meanwhile, Loudoun Public School held an equity meeting last month, during which local teacher Andrea Weiskopf implied that opponents of CRT were racist. 'Over the past few weeks, a small group of Loudoun residents have put their racism on display for the nation,' she stated. 'It is the duty of the school board to acknowledge such overt and blatant racism against the students under your care'.

Numerous public and private schools across the US have recently opted to incorporate CRT into their teachings, but the decision has sparked fierce debate.

In New York City, Andrew Gutmann made national headlines after he pulled his daughter from an elite Manhattan private school over its anti-racism policies says the resulting backlash opened his eyes to the 'cancer of cancel culture'.

Gutmann, who previously spoke out about efforts to 'brainwash' his daughter at The Brearley School, said he'd been shocked to learn how 'pervasive and entrenched critical race theory had become in our schools', in a New York Post op-ed.

'Nor did I comprehend just how many parents were dealing with the same issues as our family, with close-minded administrations and racist, age-inappropriate and indoctrinating curriculums.'


Alaska high school teacher is suspended for telling Zoom class that George Floyd ‘would still be alive’ if he had complied with police and ‘sidled into their car’

Fairbanks North Star Borough School

In a 15-minute video a parent posted to YouTube, a teacher who is referred to as 'Ms. Gardner' can be seen talking to her students about police killing black people, and telling them that if they complied with police, they would be less likely to get shot.

She said: 'If George Floyd had at the beginning when they got him out of the car and went to put him in the police car, if he had just sidled into the car and slid in there and let them put his legs in, he would be alive today.

'You know that's true,' the Lathrop High School, Alaska, teacher said.

George Floyd died in May 2020 after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin appeared to kneel on his neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted last month of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

It is unclear what prompted the conversation in the video.

It begins with the teacher talking about how there have 'been a lot of shootings with people of color. The reason why you don't hear about it though is because it doesn't fit that angry white male narrative.'

'It's not just crazy white men who do shootings,' she said, before appearing to start discussing the police-involved killing of Ma'Khia Bryant.

'It was a terrible thing for the girl to get shot,' she said, but suggested Columbus, Ohio Police Officer Nicholas Reardon did not have a choice because she was going to stab another victim and police do not 'have time to choose between their gun and taser.'

'I agree that there needs to be some, I don't want to say reform, I want to say training,' the teacher acknowledges, before telling the students in the class that they should comply with police officers even if they think they are being arrested unjustly

'I’m an old white lady and if the cops came up to me and said ma’am, put your hands behind your back, you’re going to jail…I’m putting my hands behind my back,” she said, adding that she would tell the police officer she has a gun on her ankle, which she has a concealed carry permit for,

The teacher also insinuates that the students would be OK in a police encounter because they are 'dressed nicely' and 'don't look like thugs' with their 'pants around their knees.'

At that point, a woman who's name is 'Liz' on the Zoom call and identifies herself as a tutor of some of the students, spoke up and said she was not comfortable with the discussion.

'Police should be trained to not kill people even if they don't comply,' she said, and 'should be trained not to judge people' on their skin color or how they dress either.

Soon after, a mother who appears to be video taping the call speaks up as well, and says she does not feel 'Ms. Gardner' should be speaking about these topics as a white woman.

'Some of the things that you are saying, I feel like you are very uneducated on and I don't feel like you are able to address these things that are going on today,' said the woman, who identified herself as a woman of color who faced racism growing up in the South.

'You should stop this conversation - period,' the mother says, although it appears she is muted at that point.

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District officials said they were notified about the conversation from a parent last Wednesday and have put the teacher on paid administrative leave while the Human Resources Department conducts an investigation.

They would not name the teacher, but according to KUAC, there is a special education teacher at the school named Connie Gardner.

She will be represented by a union advocate while the investigation continues, according to Sandra Ryan, the president of Fairbanks Education Association.

In the meantime, district officials said, Principal Carly Sween and Assistant Principal Clarice Mingo (who is black) have spoken to the students in the class and will continue to 'provide opportunities for them to reflect on the situation.'


UMass Amherst Students Suspended for Being Maskless Outdoors, Off-Campus

A social media photograph of three UMass Amherst freshmen—outdoors, off-campus, and not wearing face masks—was sent to the university’s administration, which resulted in the girls being suspended for one semester, getting banned from taking remote lessons, and needing to reapply for the next semester.

“There was a photo sent to the administration of these girls outside off-campus on a Saturday. This is why they lost a whole semester of their schooling,” Kristin, one of the parents, told CBS.

The parents were additionally upset by a video of the UMass Amherst Hockey Team on-campus celebrating the national championship, and some of the players and other students are not wearing masks, yet they were not suspended.

Parents, Teresa and RJ, were interviewed by CBS over their daughter’s suspension.

“She was valedictorian and class president of her high school. She did everything right,” RJ told the outlet.

“I just want the university administration to be equitable and fair,” he added.

“One little thing happens and you’re out? Like not even like a don’t do it again, here’s some probation,” Teresa said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The girls will need to reapply for the next semester and the parents will suffer the financial loss of the current semester.

The students were taking lessons remotely after the suspension, but the online classes were completely discontinued last week.

In addition, they weren’t admitted for the final exams, rendering the semester completely invalid, according to one of the parents.

“That negates this whole semester $16,000 of money and they have to reapply for next semester. But they missed housing registration,” Scott, a parent, said.

UMass Amherst released a statement about the incident, saying that they had warned about the consequences of not complying with the rules.

“Students received a number of public health messages this semester that emphasized the importance of following public health protocols and the consequences for not complying, and those messages were also shared on UMass social media channels.”

“So for this to happen, it’s been devastating,” Kristin remarked.

The parents hired an attorney and intend to file a lawsuit.




Wednesday, May 12, 2021

‘Inclusive’ Math Dumbs Down Curriculum, Fails Students Who Need Help Most

California’s new “inclusive” math curriculum promises “equity” in math. Its goal is to provide “equitable education” by “making sure all students receive the attention, respect, and resources they need to achieve their potential.”

But the state’s math curriculum is full of inefficient practices, poor standards, and an absolute revulsion for the pursuit of truth.

The curriculum serves as a guide to the rest of the state for how to teach math. The California State Board of Education developed it for the specific purpose of attracting “black, Latinx, and Multilingual” people to math, in which they are “historically underrepresented.”

But the state school board goes about this in the entirely wrong way.

First, the curriculum asks teachers to reconsider “preconceived biases” about math, particularly the idea of “one right answer” to math problems. The curriculum looks derisively at the idea that “a student can work on a question such as 18 x 5 in a textbook question, or in response to a teacher question, with the expectation that one answer is the goal.”

It suggests instead a “number talk,” where “teachers ask the class of students to work out the answer to 18 x 5 … then ask the class for the different answers that students may have found, and write them on the board,” and then ask students to defend their answers.

The problem is that in most math questions at the grade school level, there is only one correct answer; in this case, the answer is 90.

“Number talks” seem like a terribly time-inefficient way of teaching math if students are going up to the blackboard to defend answers that are ultimately wrong and would lead only to confusion and further difficulty in learning. Struggling students would be subject to a slow and indulgent math curriculum, further falling behind more advanced peers.

But it is in the weeds of this curriculum where the insidious purposes lurk.

The curriculum proposes to eliminate ability sorting, which is sorting students by their ability in math. Positing that students who have been granted a “giftedness” label that leads to “fragility” over losing that status, guidance for the curriculum suggests that to heal “racial divisions,” educators should reconsider ability sorting.

This means that a high-achieving student who would be challenged in a calculus class in high school would be forced to move back to precalculus or algebra II.

Math teacher Mike Malione, a member of the Piedmont Advanced Learners Coalition in Piedmont, California, writes: “Both algebra in eighth grade and calculus in 12th grade would be slated to go” under the new curriculum.

The so-called inclusive curriculum seems to function primarily for one purpose: to eliminate the ladders of achievement. By killing programs for gifted students and removing incentives such as grades to arrive at the right answer, the curriculum provides no incentive to do well in class. It is the kind of a “go along to get along” instruction that has failed minority students for too long.

In New York City’s public school system (which is 82% minority), such “go along” instruction has been tried for over 20 years after identity politics-infused rhetoric dismantled a substantial number of the city’s public programs for gifted students.

Now, with no accountability or incentive to perform, New York City’s black and Latino students couldn’t be more lost in the world of math. In fact, 80% to 94% of students in NYC’s public middle schools passed their math classes even though only 2% to 15% of them passed their math exams.

In some middle schools, teachers have lost the will to teach, seeing frustratingly dispiriting results as children “play hooky, skip course work, flunk tests—and still pass.” There is little doubt that as NYC students are advanced from grade to grade, their acquisition of true math skills is criminally perfunctory.

The education establishment now has a school of thought that it is OK to let these kids fail—because they were just not cut out for math.

The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways at the University of Texas at Austin offers six different “pathways” for students in teaching math; only one offers calculus I in high school. The rest—for “liberal arts” or “teaching”-oriented children (as if one can determine a person’s ultimate career goal at age 14)—lead to textbooks that teach math specifically in a way that isn’t computationally intensive.

Shannon Watkins, a higher education researcher in North Carolina, told me in an interview that education professionals “are looking to design alternative math gateway courses, because college algebra is considered ‘a stumbling block’ for these students.”

The low expectations on these students create a culture where performance isn’t valued and students leave with few math skills of use in the working world.

Yes, an achievement gap in math exists between the nation’s black and Latino students and the nation’s white and Asian students.

That is not in question. But teaching “inclusive” math directed at the very kids who most need a rigorous, high-functioning math curriculum is the opposite of an answer. Worse: It exacerbates the problem.


Falling College Academic Standards: New Evidence

My friend George Leef of North Carolina’s James Martin Center recently alerted me to a fine new National Bureau of Economic Research study showing that data suggesting there has been improved academic performance by American college students is illusionary: schools are simply lowering their standards. A primary culprit? Grade inflation.

For several decades in the 20th century, college completion rates were embarrassingly low and sometimes falling—many students entering college failed to graduate. Over the last generation or so, however, that has reversed: college completion rates are rising again. In “Why Have College Completion Rates Increased? An Analysis of Rising Grades,” a quintet of scholars now associated with Brigham Young, Purdue and Stanford Universities as well as the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), exhaustively (71 page paper) examine the issue.

As the authors point out, several things could have led to rising college completion rates: better pre-college academic preparation, rising wage premia associated with degrees, an increase in study times, falling real prices of attending college and rising state support for universities are five such factors. In reality, however, the trends with respect to these important factors in most cases suggested that over time a smallerproportion of entering students should have graduated from college within six years of entering.

But one thing that is vitally important to completing college is grades, and continued grade inflation over time has made it easier to graduate from college since students receive fewer failing or very low grades unacceptable for receipt of a diploma. According to one time Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer, in 1940, the average GPA of American college and universities students was below 2.5 on a four point scale—more “C”, “D” and “F” grades compared with “A” and “B”s. That was still true when I attended college in the collegiate Golden Age of the late 1950s and early 1960s. But by the end of the twentieth century a typical grade was “B”, and by early in the last decade the average had risen still further, with average GPAs exceeding 3.1.

At the same time, research by Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks and others show that American college students are spending far less time on their studies than they did a couple of generations ago. Broadly speaking, American college students typically are earning much higher grades than those of a half century or so ago, but doing about one-third less work. Doing less for more—but at a far higher cost.

It’s actually worse. American students enter college less prepared than counterparts in other countries or, in some respects, Americans of two generations ago. From 1972 to 2016, the average verbal score on the SAT test fell about 35 points, and on the PISA international assessment in science and math (given to 15 year old secondary students), U.S. student performance is abysmal, well below Asian standards (China, Japan, Korea) and even relatively poorer European nations like Poland.

To entice kids to go to college, the schools apply low grading standards, and wink at excessively libertine lifestyles replete with lots of sex and booze, sometimes illicit drug use.

In spite of all of this, however, fewer kids will go to college this fall than a decade ago. Here are 5 reasons:

Kids are often paying a lot of money to learn relatively little, while not exercising fully their capacity to learn;

Colleges increasingly are intolerant of those not subscribing to a woke, progressive view of the world with which many Americans are uncomfortable;

The cost of college has risen sharply, and it is a greater burden to finance it today than it was 25 or even 50 years ago;
Many graduates become severely underemployed, taking jobs traditionally filled by those with a high school education; why go to college to become a bartender?

Birth rates are low and falling; fewer babies were born in 2000 (college age now) than 40 years earlier, and 10% fewer still were born in 2020.

In the short run, the Biden bailout of colleges may get them through current tough times, but, as I have said before, huge amounts of federal largesse are not permanently either politically or economically feasible in the long run.


Australia:Teachers oppose state-wide educational assessment

They are afraid it will show them up as incompetent

Costing millions of dollars every year, education experts have told The Courier-Mail NAPLAN is outdated, misused, and causes undue angst to kids, parents and teachers.

Queensland Teachers’ Union president Cresta Richardson said the majority of teachers “loathe” the test and most feel the testing method is “broken”.

”The message from members is clear – NAPLAN in its current form needs to go,” she said.

“It is the Union’s view that in the face of a federal government that, despite the views of the profession that standardised testing is an ill-informed practice that provides little educational value to students, is determined to keep some form of the test in place, the high stakes nature of the program needs to change.”

Ms Richardson said many teachers were pressured to “teach to the test”, with NAPLAN results even used for performance management of staff.

University of New South Wales Professor of Educational Policy Pasi Sahlbeg said his own young son, set to undertake NAPLAN for the first time this year, was “afraid and doesn’t want to go to school”.

“On his first day of school this year he heard about NAPLAN – it’s been such a traumatic experience already and it’s affecting his learning,” he said.

“Australia is the only country to hold onto a census high stakes assessment – we are a bit of an outlier.

“We need clarity on the aims and the purpose of NAPLAN. “The original intent of NAPLAN was to be a low stakes assessment – not anymore.”

Professor Sahlberg said a more effective way of taking the pulse of students’ literacy and numeracy skills would be a sample-based assessment – an idea the teachers’ union also backs.

“Parents should opt in for their students to participate in NAPLAN and the withdrawal form should be made more easily accessible for parents, not hidden behind firewalls as has been the practice this year,” Ms Richardson said.

University of Newcastle Associate Professor Jess Harris said students often felt anxious about the NAPLAN tests.

“It (has become) a high stakes test and it can have significant stress impact on teachers, members of the school and on individual students,” she said.

But the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting authority who oversee NAPLAN say this year’s test may be the most crucial one to date, given it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief executive David de Carvalho said the test provided key information on how well students were learning the essential skills of reading, writing and mathematics.

“With the cancellation of NAPLAN last year and the interruption of schooling because of COVID the community is eager for information about the impact on learning in literacy and numeracy and the effectiveness of remote teaching and learning,” he said.

“Literacy and numeracy are critical elements of learning and it is important to understand how each student is progressing in establishing these foundations.

“The NAPLAN tests provide valuable information to all schools about the performance of their students, and support the ability of schools to focus teaching on areas of need.

Mr de Carvalho said it was up to the adults in children’s lives, including their parents and teachers, to ensure kids keep “NAPLAN in perspective”.

“The best way you can help your child prepare for NAPLAN is to reassure them that NAPLAN tests are just one part of their school program, and to urge them to simply do the best they can on the day,” he said.