Friday, April 29, 2022

The False Narrative That Ethnic Studies Courses Improve Student Learning

When Gavin Newsom signed California’s Ethnic Studies (ES) requirement into law, he indicated one reason why was that “a number of studies have shown these courses boost student achievement.” But the reality is that there is no significant evidence these courses boost student achievement.

The most prominent studies regarding the positive effect of ES are from Stanford researchers who studied an ES program that was implemented in five high schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, before being required in all district schools in 2016. But the positive conclusions drawn from these studies are erroneous, reflecting a flawed experimental design and inappropriate inferences. I was never a fan of the old saw, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics,” because the peer-review process within academic publishing roots out deficiencies and mistakes in research. But in this case, it didn’t. Not even close.

Long story short, ES was supposed to have been taken by students with a GPA of less than 2.0 in the five San Francisco schools. The researchers believed that they could draw sharp statistical inference about the impact of ES by comparing future outcomes of students just under the 2.0 GPA threshold with those students who had a GPA just over the threshold but who didn’t take the course. Their main finding was nothing less than shocking. They concluded that taking an ES course raised the overall GPA of students by 1.4 points, in effect saying that the ES course turned a sub-C student into a B+ student. The magnitude of this treatment effect from a single intervention is literally unheard of in education circles.

But as is often the case when something is too good to be true, it turns out the Stanford analysis does not support such a conclusion. Research conducted by Richard Sander of UCLA and Abraham Wyner of the University of Pennsylvania highlights serious deficiencies of the Stanford study, so large that virtually no conclusions can be drawn from the research regarding the impact of ES studies on student learning. They note that so little can be learned from the study that it is possible that ES courses can lead to lower achievement.

One key problem with the Stanford study is that the both the treatment group—those students with GPAs under 2.0, and who were supposed to have taken the course—and the control group—those students with GPAs over 2.0, and who were supposed to have been omitted from the course—were polluted. The treatment group included those who should have been in the control group, and about 40 percent of students who should have taken the course did not.

Losing 40 percent of those students with a GPA under 2.0 created a very small sample, with only 67 students with a GPA under 2.0 in the treatment group. Nearly twice as many students with a GPA greater than 2.0 took the course as an elective. This means that the treatment group was primarily made up of those who should have been in the control group.

By omitting so many of the low-GPA students from the treatment group, particularly those near the threshold, and by including so many students in the treatment group who should have been in the control group, particularly those near the threshold, the analysis loses its ability to draw these comparisons. Moreover, only four teachers taught the ES course. This makes it difficult to separate out the impact of a teacher from the impact of the course curriculum. And if you are wondering if the high schools implemented any other educational interventions to help students with low GPAs? Well, they did, which means that the researchers would need to control for those effects in trying to measure the individual contribution of ES. But they did not try to do this, even though they were aware of other types of programs and student support being provided. Just like that, this natural experiment that was supposed to shed light on the effect of ES on student outcomes became anything but that.

For a moment, put aside the various weedy details here, and ask yourself the following: If an intervention is so remarkably successful, as the Stanford study concludes, something that could turn a C or below student into a B+ student, then shouldn’t it be readily apparent within the data? Shouldn’t the impact jump out at us?

It should, but it doesn’t. The researchers sorted students into groups by GPA, ranging from 1.2–1.3 up to 3.9–4.0, and reported GPA for these students the following academic year, after the ES course. As you might guess, students with very high GPA continued to have very high GPA the following year, and students with very low GPA continued to have very low GPA the following year. The students who had a GPA just above 2.0 had a subsequent GPA that was nearly identical to students who had a GPA just below 2.0. Nothing amazing about the impact of an ES course jumping out at us.

So where is the big effect that the study reports? Part of this comes from that the fact that students who began with a GPA between 2.2 and 2.3 had a GPA between 1.6 and 1.7 the following year. And the students with a GPA between 1.7 and 1.8 on average also had a GPA between 1.6 to 1.7 the following year.

All these students (a small number in any case) had a lower GPA the following year. It is just that the ones who began with a GPA between 1.7 and 1.8 declined less than those who began with a GPA between 2.2 to 2.3. Voil√†. There you have it. In other words, “Hey mom, I know my grades declined this year, but hey, it could have been worse!”

Professors Sander and Wyner describe the Stanford research as “shoddy” and state that “California parents are not being told the truth about the education of their children.”

More broadly, ES courses have been required for the last five years in all San Francisco high schools. But if taking an ES course was a game changer, then it should be obvious in student learning outcomes. It is not. Test scores among SF high school students since 2015, the last year before all SF students were required to take ES, haven’t budged.

Requiring ES will fatten the wallets of those whose business is to teach ES and to train new faculty to teach ES. But there is no reason to believe that it will improve student learning outcomes in a state where more than 80 percent of Hispanic and Black students lack proficiency in mathematics and science.


California’s Math Framework Lacks Research to Justify Its Progressive Agenda

The California State Department of Education has released a new draft of its curriculum framework for K-12 mathematics. While it is notably improved regarding opportunities for advanced work, the document is still woefully laden with dogma about politics and about how to teach math.

The framework promotes only the progressive-education approach to teaching math, calling it “student-led” instruction, “active learning,” “active inquiry,” and “collaborative” instruction. But evidence from the 1950s through recent times shows that this way of teaching math is ineffective. That evidence comes from scrutinizing carefully designed studies featuring randomized control and what are called quasi-experiments, which approximate the effect of a randomized assignment of students to different groups. Quasi-experiments look at cases, for example, where two adjoining districts with similar populations or two adjoining similar schools adopt different policies. Both sorts of studies are much stronger evidence than the case studies that progressive educators rely on.

In the spring 2012 issue of American Educator, the magazine of the American Federation of Teachers, top educational psychologists Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller summarized “decades of research” that “clearly demonstrates” that for almost all students, “direct, explicit instruction” is “more effective” than inquiry-based progressive education in math.

Clark, Kirschner, and Sweller conclude that after “a half century” of progressive educators advocating inquiry-based teaching of math, “no body of sound research” can be found that supports using that approach with “anyone other than the most expert students.” Evidence from the best studies, they emphasize, “almost uniformly” supports “full and explicit” instruction rather than an inquiry-based approach. Yet when explicit, direct instruction is discussed in the proposed math curriculum (chaps. 3 and 6), it is deprecated.

To be more specific, the framework uses the term “struggle” (or “struggling”) over 75 times, typically in phrases such as, “Students learn best when they are actively engaged in questioning, struggling, problem solving, reasoning, communicating, making connections, and explaining,” or “Teachers should also underscore the importance and value of times of struggle.” While the former is a mouthful and includes essentially everything and the kitchen sink—with a notable exception of “practice”—the latter is a direct pitch for “struggle.” It is as if the authors were guided by Mao Zedong’s old exhortation, “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.”

Is it true that student struggle is such a critical component of learning that it should be singled out and treated as primary? The framework offers a variety of cherry-picked citations supporting this idea. Yet, it carefully avoids mentioning that research warns against excessive struggle as time-wasting and discouraging, often leaving students with incorrect understanding. In the absence of such cautions, teachers are likely to walk away convinced that the more they let their students struggle—and struggle is common with the inquiry-based pedagogy promoted by the framework—the more they will learn. This is like saying a child should be tossed in the water rather than taught to swim.

This illustrates two related major flaws that underlie this draft framework: what does “research-based” mean, and the quality of its citations.

State-adopted education programs and recommendations are supposed to be “research-based.” This does not just mean an article or two in a peer-reviewed journal. It means there is a consensus or strong evidence of effectiveness in the published research. If no strong evidence exists, a practice should not be broadly recommended. If there is no consensus, both pro and con evidence should be cited. An example of that can be seen in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Practice Guides, which identify practices as having strong, medium, or weak evidence.

None of this is indicated for “struggle,” or the framework’s push for “inquiry learning” over explicit instruction that is effectively unmentioned in the framework, or its ignoring of highly effective engagement with worked-out problems, or the framework’s lack of any recommendations regarding the proven effective spaced (or distributed) practice—the use of homework and quizzes intentionally spread over a period of weeks after learning a topic, to maximize retention. The focus on inquiry learning, which relies heavily on students’ struggles, has been discouraged by strong research. Distributed practice and use of worked-out examples are supported here and here, yet are ignored in the framework. Instead, the framework offers us “trauma induced pedagogy,” teachers who are considered exemplary for promoting “sociopolitical consciousness,” taking a “justice-oriented perspective,” and embedding “environmental or social justice” in the math work given to children. This is not even a weakly research-based pedagogical framework—this is an ideological manifesto.

In fact, poor and selective research citations undermine much of this framework’s recommendations. Dozens of citations refer to unpublished works on the website of Jo Boaler, one of the framework’s authors. More than five dozen citations of her published works exist in the framework, far more than anyone else’s, yet only a single one of her references was published in one of the top 100 influential education journals. Her 2008 study, cited seven times in the framework, had its accuracy and methodology called into serious question in an analysis by two California math professors and a statistician.

If the framework writers had wanted solid evidence, they would have relied on the final report and subgroup reports of the 2008 federal National Mathematics Advisory Panel. They would have made even more use of the federal Institute of Education Sciences practice guides, which are designed for teachers and curriculum writers. Instead, the framework’s writers pretend this high-quality evidence doesn’t even exist.


Dad tells teacher to 'f*** off' after she pleaded with him to invite all 24 of his son's classmates to his birthday party

A dad has unleashed on his son's teacher after she insisted he invite the entire class to his birthday party.

The man turned to Reddit to ask if he was in the wrong for losing his temper and swearing at the teacher after she demanded he host the whole class so no one feels left out.

The 38-year-old said while the teacher had 'no business' telling the family who they can and can't invite to their party, he worries he took it too far by swearing at her.

The man said his son Al's teacher called him up after she found out he was having a birthday party and had invited nine of the 24 kids in the class.

'She tells me that she understands he is having a birthday party and that he invited a few of his friends from class, but not everyone. I said yeah, there are a few kids in there that he has problems with and also I don't think we can really handle hosting 24 kids and their parents,' he wrote.

The teacher proceeds to tell the disgruntled dad she has a rule that if any children in the class are invited to a birthday party, then everyone has to be invited.

'I told her it is an event off school hours on private property in my home. She can no more tell me what I do there and who I can and can't invite anymore than I can decide who is invited to her Thanksgiving dinner,' he said.

However the teacher was insistent saying she enforces the rule so no kids 'get their feelings hurt if they get left out'.

'I pointed out to her that there are 24 kids in the class. If their parents attend the party with them then that can be upwards of 72 people and I told her that's just not a reasonable thing to ask,' the man said.

He also said he asked if he then would need to invite the entire classes of his son's other friends who had been invited but the teacher stood her ground.

'She then said "Al is in my class. He is under my supervision. This is my rule." I then told her that Al is only under her supervision while he was in class,' he said.

'I am the one throwing the party, and she doesn't get to make rules for my house or me. She then said if it involves her class, she does.'

After a 'bit of back and forth' the dad said he 'lost his cool' telling the teacher her authority doesn't go further than the end of the school day and the 'schoolhouse gates'.

'If you think you're the one to make the rules for me, in my home on which I pay the mortgage on, you can go f*** yourself and there isn't a goddamn thing you can do about it,' he said he told her.

While he said his wife agrees the school can't tell them who they can and can't invite to their home outside school hours, she thinks he may have taken it too far by swearing.

'I am very comfortable with telling her that she has no right to tell us who we can and can't invite into our home and that it is crazy I might have to invite up to 72 people for my son to have any friends from his class attend but in truth, I do kind of wish I left that last "go f*** yourself" part off,' he admitted.

The post drew in thousands of comments from Redditors many of whom agreed with the dad and defended his heavy handed approach.

'Several different ways were used to politely tell her 'no'. She seems to have gotten the message with profanity,' one person wrote.

'You declined her request, which was your right to do. Instead of accepting that, she argued with you. Some people won't take no for an answer until you get more forceful with it' said a second.

A third commented: 'She is ridiculous. My kid's school policy is that if you don't invite kids to your kid's party, don't expect to get invited to theirs. Common sense.'

While the dad confirmed his son had not been handing out invitations in class for those not invited to see, some said the 'everyone or no one' rule was a common one at many schools.

'The reason behind it is that if kids are left out, you're basically throwing a grenade into the middle of a teachers classroom and then leaving them to clean up the mess,' one user explained.




Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tenured female economics professor is fired for saying Black Lives Matter 'destroyed' Mount Royal University in Calgary so much she 'doesn't recognize it'

A tenured economics professor in Canada was fired for saying Black Lives Matter destroyed her university to such an extent she 'doesn't recognize it anymore'.

Frances Widdowson, who also taught justice and policy studies, was sacked from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada last year.

The academic is now calling for an open arbitration hearing with the school to have it out with the institution next January - but bosses are yet to agree.

Widdowson was fired in December for saying BLM had destroyed the college to such an extent she 'doesn't recognize it anymore'.

Activists rounded on her and called her a racist for claiming Canada's residential school program offered Indigenous children chances 'they wouldn't have received'.

But the lecturer launched her fightback this week as she pledged to take university bosses to an arbitration.

Meanwhile the institution refused to be drawn on any hearing, adding it 'will not be providing specific details on this personnel matter'.

Widdowson called for it to be held from January 16 to January 27 next year in which she can air her issues with her treatment, Fox News reports.

She told The College Fix in an interview recently: 'All of my grievances are going forward together at this time.'

The associate professor, who studied indigenization for 20 years, said she wanted it to be open so journalists could attend and report on the case.

She added: 'Without upholding academic freedom, we have no ability to explore ideas and pursue the truth.'

Widdowson is being supported by the free speech group the Society for Academic Freedom, which claimed some of her old colleagues also backed her.

The academic was unceremoniously dumped from her job at the end of last year over her comments about race. She had claimed BLM had 'destroyed MRU' to such an extent that she 'doesn't recognize the institution anymore'.

She told the Western Standard Online at the time: 'You're supposed to be teaching. That's your job.

'You can go on strike to protest police brutality but what does it have to do with you? A 'woke' faculty is now in charge. This isn't going to be good.'

She also found herself in hot water over comments about Canada's controversial residential school program.

She claimed it offered Indigenous children the chance 'to get an education that normally they wouldn't have received'.

But she said it at a time of heightened tension after unmarked graves were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Her comments saw students and activists round on the professor as they called for her to be sacked. One petition, which was hoping for 7,500 signatories but only got just over 6,000, branded her a racist.

It said: 'Frances Widdowson is a racist professor who works at Mount Royal University. 'This is a call to demand that the university condemns Widdowson's hateful actions against the BIPOC community and that she is terminated for her racist remarks.'

It added: 'In ignoring the racist actions of people in power, we directly contribute to the systemic racism within our society.'

In January Widdowson signaled her intension to fight her dismissal, telling CBC: 'I was generally criticizing 'woke' ideas.

'Basically, identity politics that has become totalitarian, and is imposing itself on the university, and preventing people from openly discussing ideas.'

But the university shot back that it 'unequivocally supports academic debate' but 'academic freedom does not justify harassment or discrimination'.

A spokesman told 'Mount Royal University can confirm that Frances Widdowson is no longer a faculty member and we will not be providing specific details on this personnel matter.

'MRU is committed to fostering expression and free speech, and strives to be a model for allowing opposing viewpoints to co-exist.

'The university unequivocally supports academic debate and will always defend the rights of faculty related to academic freedom.

'However, academic freedom does not justify harassment or discrimination. Mount Royal employees have the right to work in an environment that is respectful and free from harassment.

'The collective agreement and MRU policies outline a process for resolving issues of workplace conduct, and decisions are always made following rigorous due process.

'The MRU community is committed to a learning environment free from harassment and discrimination for our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and the broader community.'


Putting trigger warnings on books like Harry Potter does students a 'disservice', warns minister after University of Chester issued caution

Putting trigger warnings on books like Harry Potter 'to protect university students' is doing them a 'disservice', a minister has said.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has called for 'common sense' after the University of Chester placed warnings on the first book of the JK Rowling series over 'difficult conversations about, race, sexuality, class, and identity'.

Its English Department sounded the klaxon to freshers on its Approaches to Literature module, led by Dr Richard Leahy, and even told them they could raise concerns with him if they had 'any issues' with the topics discussed.

But Ms Donelan today said students 'have to be able to live in the real world' as she questioned whether universities 'are getting their priorities right'.

She added: 'Harry Potter is actually a children's book. Fundamentally it is probably a multimillion-pound industry that has been franchised into films.

'To say that we need to protect some of our brightest and our best from the likes of Harry Potter is to not only do our universities a disservice but to do our students a disservice.'

'And it's not the way to ensure that they can enter the world having those skills at their fingertips - the ability to challenge, to be critically astute - and that's certainly not the interpretation that I'd had talking to students, that they want or they need this from their universities.'

Harry Potter: a magical masterpiece or a triggering tome?

For most JK Rowling's wizarding fantasy is pure escapism - and a classic battle between good and evil.

But the University of Chester's concerns mere discussion of it could spark triggering themes is not the first time it has been flagged in this way.

Most recently an anti-semitism row was sparked over the goblins that run Gringotts bank over the suggestion they were caricatures of Jewish people.

It was claimed they were based on figures from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous text that purports to show a Jewish plan for world domination.

Ms Rowling has always been a staunch opponent of anti-semitism.

Meanwhile the portrayal of Dudley Dursley, who is one of the larger characters and is initially a bully, has prompted some calls of 'fattism'.

Ms Rowling has spoken about it herself and said Harry Potter characters who were 'on the plumper side' include 'several of my most important, admirable and loveable characters'.

There are also some themes of racism within the books.

The series' villain Voldemort believes pureblood wizards are supreme and any other people are inferior.

There are also themes of loss and abuse in the books of some of the young characters.

A literal reading might prompt some to question why there are no mental health interventions available to them at Hogwarts School.

There has also been concerns raised at the lack of diversity in some of the books.

One of the characters Cho Chang has attracted attention, with some describing her name as 'stereotypical and inaccurate'.

And despite Hermione being one of the series' main characters, there have been accusations of sexism in the books.

Some readers feel many of the female figures are portrayed as being annoying or tag-alongs to the males on their adventures.

She continued: 'There are no trigger warnings every day as you operate. I've not met students who have called for these trigger warnings either.

'They are not the issues that students are bringing up to me - they're bringing up sexual harassment, they're bringing up antisemitism.'

Ms Donelan also questioned the priorities of universities that have not yet signed up to the international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, adding that the institutions should focus on tackling harassment and antisemitism rather than looking at trigger warnings on content.

She said: 'I think their priorities, fundamentally, should be the welfare, the wellbeing and the education of students.'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is one of the University of Chester course's three set literary texts alongside Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Philip Pullman's Northern Lights.

The trigger warning, seen by MailOnline, tells students: 'Although we are studying a selection of Young Adult texts on this Module, the nature of the theories we apply to them can lead to some difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity.

'These topics will be treated objectively, critically, and most crucially, with respect. If anyone has any issues with the content, please get in touch with the Module Leader to make them aware.'

It comes after JK Rowling's views on transgender rights has seen her criticised from some quarters.

But Ms Donelan said there is 'an undeniable link between quality and free speech', pointing to 86 per cent of Nobel Prize winners coming from countries with the highest rating for academic freedom - with just one per cent from nations with the lowest.

The minister added: 'Vice-chancellors need to ensure that they're not on the wrong side of history on this. We want them to proactively be supporting their members of staff - they may face criticism but certainly shouldn't face harassment when they put forward their views and their academic research.'

Today, Ms Doneland told a meeting at the Policy Exchange think tank in London that supporting free speech is 'no longer enough' and, instead, it is something that has to be 'actively defended'.

She continued: 'Where would we be now if the views of 100 or even 200 years ago had never been challenged?

'As a woman, I doubt I would be a Member of Parliament, let alone the Minister for Higher and Further Education," she said.

'But, sadly, where once we found critical debate and arguments which were run on their merit, today we have seen an upsurge in physical threats and complete intolerance of opposing ideas.'

She said professors have been 'harangued and hounded just for doing their jobs', as well as 'prominent, well-respected guests no-platformed'.

'Who would you rather employ - an inquisitive, critical, open-minded graduate, or a self-contained cookie-cutter graduate who is afraid to be challenged or confront new ideas?', she asked.

Ms Donelan also referred to the case of Kathleen Stock, who was forced to quit the University of Sussex due to her views on gender identity.

The minister said she found it 'completely deplorable' how 'balaclava-clad protesters forced a female academic to stay off campus under threats of physical violence'.

She added that Ms Stock's case was not an 'isolated event' as an 'intolerant mob' threatened the Israeli ambassador outside an event held at the London School of Economics just a few weeks later.

'We're not talking about peaceful protest here, the right of which of course is sacrosanct. We are talking about threats, intimidation and harassment', she said.

Ms Doneland said Policy Exchange polling had shown that 32 per cent of academics identifying as right-wing had refrained from airing their views in teaching or research, while around 15 per cent identifying as politically centrist or left-wing also reported self-censoring.

University vice-chancellors, academics and students should not 'allow the history books to record your name as part of the small cabal of the intolerant', she added.

Instead, the minister called on vice-chancellors to 'go into bat' for their staff and "put their money where their mouth is" on the issue rather than bowing to the 'intolerant few'.

The Government's Free Speech Bill has been carried over to the next session of Parliament.

Ms Donelan said she expects the House of Lords will have 'a lot to say on this subject', but that the Bill is less about what happens in Parliament than 'a culture change that will reverberate through the sector'.


Why I'm suing my kids' school district

I love the public schools in my hometown of Rochester. I went to them myself, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and my experience inspired me to become a teacher. My husband and I both graduated from the district, and we chose to live in Rochester largely for the schools. We want our kids, who are currently in elementary school, to have access to at least the same level of excellent education.

But now I’m suing the school district. It’s surreal. But it’s necessary.

What happened? Last August, I was casually browsing social media and stumbled upon a teacher's post, which featured reference materials for a new "Ethnic and Gender Studies" class at the local high schools. The books immediately raised questions, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. So, I reached out to get more information. While my kids are years away from being able to take this class, I wanted to learn more about what’s coming their way.

The teacher instructed me to contact the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director, who was in charge of training the teachers in charge of the class. I did so, but she evaded my questions. The Secondary Director of Education offered to share material with me, but all I received was a one-page course outline, a teacher training PowerPoint, and a lesson plan filled with "ice breakers" for the first two weeks of school. I also wrote to our school board and superintendent, but heard nothing back. And I repeatedly asked administrators for information that should have been readily available, such as course materials and student assignments. But after several weeks of trying to get answers, I received nothing of substance.

Eventually, the DEI director told me to send a Freedom of Information Act request. Since school districts are legally bound to provide public documents, I felt hopeful that I might finally get access to the information I sought. As it turns out, I was overly optimistic.

The district has devised new ways to stonewall my search for the truth. In response to my FOIA request, the district claimed that, other than the few documents I had already received, no other curriculum documents existed. That seems impossible, since based on my communications with the district, I had reason to believe there were already case studies, daily questions, readings, and Google classroom assignments. But the district refused to shed light on any of this.

What’s more, the FOIA requests alerted me to more transparency concerns. For example, I discovered that the district had removed the 6th and 7th grade Advanced Language Arts classes without following an approval process or allowing for public input. And when I tried to obtain teacher training materials, the district again attempted to block my efforts. While I paid more than $400 for the FOIA request, officials refused to provide copies of any copyrighted materials, despite the "fair use" exemption in the copyright law.

As the months went on, and after talking with others who were charged exorbitant fees for FOIA requests, I began to wonder: Why all the secrecy? Why all the efforts to keep parents in the dark?

Betsy DeVos: Parents are ‘tired of being thought of as a nuisance, taken for granted’Video
Frustrated by the constant stonewalling, I reached out to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is helping me sue the district for answers. I am asking Rochester Community Schools to provide me with copies of teacher lesson plans, curricula, reading materials, video materials, and assignments. To be clear, questioning a class does not mean I am opposed to it. I just want to confirm that these sensitive topics are being addressed in a fair and balanced way.

Some of my friends and family have asked me, "Why do you keep pursuing this?" It’s a good question. If administrators had responded with straightforward answers, I wouldn’t have needed to go this far. But they didn’t. Nothing taught in our schools should be under the cover of secrecy. If there is any reason why secrecy is desired or needed, that alone is a red flag.

For the sake of my kids, and for the sake of all other parents who send their kids to Rochester public schools, I need answers. We have a legal right to know what our children are taught in school. And the public schools that we pay for with our taxes have a legal duty to tell us.




Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Science shows transgender education doesn’t belong in schools

School districts are embroiled in a battle over whether to teach children in grades K-3 about being transgender. Advocates recommend teachers read their young students “Introducing Teddy,” about a boy teddy bear who transitions to be a girl, calling it a “heart-warming story about being true to yourself.”

The books offered to young children make changing genders sound like a cakewalk. Truth is, it’s easier for teddy bears than for people.

For honest answers on what should be taught in public schools, follow the science and the US Constitution.

First, the science: A staggering 99%-plus of the population does not have the physical traits that cause someone to become transgender. People with gender dysphoria — a condition that causes extreme distress — deserve empathy and respect. But only a miniscule 0.6% of the adult population has it, says the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank.

A classroom lesson proposed for New Jersey 6-year-olds called “Pink, Blue and Purple” says children should be taught, “You might feel like you’re a girl even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘boy’ parts. . . . No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal.”

Normal, no. It is a rare condition. Most gender dysphoria manifests in early childhood, according to a 2020 study at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, so guidance counselors and teachers should be trained to offer families help. But there’s no reason to incorporate it into the curriculum, inviting children to choose their pronouns and confusing the 99% who don’t have the condition.

The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups ignore this science and insist that someone with “boy parts” can become a girl and vice versa.

These groups are teaming up with the National Education Association to steamroll schools into disseminating this false claim, even designating national reading days when school kids are indoctrinated with lessons about transgender characters like “I am Jazz” and “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope.”

Scientists are still debating actual causes, but a consensus is emerging that boys’ and girls’ brains are different, and people with gender dysphoria have a brain structure that does not correspond to their genitalia at birth.

Transgender individuals process the sex hormones estrogen and androgen differently from other people. Exeter University researchers say gender dysphoria is caused by Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, in which “the testosterone receptor is mutated and faulty, and thus cannot function.”

The LGBTQ community is adamant this condition not be stigmatized as mental illness. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by American psychiatrists was updated in 2013, it changed Gender Identity Disorder to Gender Dysphoria.

Trans advocates want greater acceptance. But instructing young kids that it’s normal for boys to become girls and vice versa is going too far. Parents rightly fear their kids are being “groomed.”

In the last two decades, the proportion of minors saying they’re transgender has soared to 1.8%. Gender dysphoria used to be a condition experienced primarily by young boys. It’s suddenly shifted to teens born female. Brown University’s Lisa Littman calls this “social contagion,” meaning teenage girls mimicking their friends and claiming to be trans, without displaying the classic signs of gender dysphoria that emerge in early childhood.

Children need to be protected from gender hysteria and moving headlong into transitioning.

What does the US Constitution say? We have the freedom to practice our own religion. Many Christians and Jews believe God created man and woman. They don’t want their kids indoctrinated in a belief system that claims a person born with “boy parts” can become a girl. Parents in Ludlow, Mass., are suing to stop the public school from teaching transgenderism.

They’re likely to win. The US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled last year that an Ohio public university could not force a professor to address transgender students using their chosen pronouns contrary to the professor’s Christian beliefs. This month, Shawnee State University agreed to pay the professor $400,000 to settle his suit.

Transgender advocates have a right to their views, but they don’t have a right to brainwash our kids with them


DeSantis Signs Bill to Reform Higher Education

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a higher education reform bill on April 19 to hold faculty accountable, and ensure transparency with the curriculum.

Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, tenured faculty will be reviewed every five years by a Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, which will consider such things as accomplishments, productivity, performance metrics. and compensation.

“Transparency and accountability is absolutely key,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill in The Villages. “We’re going to make sure that our institutions of higher education are committed to excellence, not ideology – we’re going to be even better than we have been, and we’ve been pretty doggone good over the last many years.”

The Republican governor told a boisterous crowd that Florida’s higher education institutions were ranked No. 1 in U.S. News and World Report for the last five years, but, with these reforms, he wanted to make it even better.

Senate Bill 7044 addresses three main issues that DeSantis’s administration sees as “eroding higher education,” he said. Accreditation, transparency in course descriptions, tenure reforms and allowing grandchildren of Florida residents in-state tuition.

“It’s all about trying to make these institutions more in line with what the state’s priorities are and, frankly, the priorities of the parents throughout the state of Florida,” the governor said.

The bill sponsored by Republican Senator Manny Diaz will also remove the “stranglehold that faculty unions and accrediting agencies have had on universities and colleges,” a written statement from the governor’s office said. It also “adds common-sense transparency requirements for tuition, fees and cost of materials.”

Florida’s higher education institutions are required to seek accreditation, but the bill requires them to “seek accreditation from different accreditors in consecutive accreditation cycles.”

The bill reads: “State Board of Education and Board of Governors (BOG) will identify regional accreditors that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) that are best suited for each institution. Institutions must seek accreditation from identified regional accreditors and if they are denied by the regional accreditor, they may seek accreditation from any USDOE-approved accreditor that is different from their current accreditor. Prior to this legislation, accrediting agencies had a monopoly on Florida colleges and universities and were able to hold a hand over the operations of educational institutions and remove objectivity from the process.”

The bill also takes on tenured professors.

“Tenure was there to protect people so that they could do ideas that maybe would cause them to lose their job, or whatever, and academic freedom. I think what tenure does is [that] … it has created more of an intellectual orthodoxy—and once you’re tenured, your productivity really declines,” DeSantis said.

“The BOG will be authorized to adopt regulations for performance reviews of tenured professors to hold tenured faculty to the highest standards of accountability. These reviews will help ensure that tenured staff remain active and effective in educating Florida’s university students,” the bill said. “Previously, tenured faculty had to be retained despite repeated instances of political motivations, ineffective teaching practices and overall bad behavior in the classroom.”

Dr. Michael Poliakoff, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni said that the bill is the “guardianship” of the future.

“There is no doubt tenure without accountability is an invitation to abuse,” he said.

Florida State University senior Taylor Walker was in attendance, and said she agreed with holding universities accountable.

“As I go into my classes, my professors hold me to high standards, as they should—but this bill gives me the opportunity to hold them to the same high standards,” she said.

Walker, a first-generation college student, said her conservative views were sometimes “stifled” and that “woke narratives” are thought by some to be the only narratives that should be taught.

“When so many in this world, especially in academia, will put their own biased agendas over excellence, it is refreshing to see a government that applies standards to mitigate injustice,” the fourth-year history major said, calling the bill “excellent.”

Current Florida Secretary of Education Richard Corcoran, with two more weeks before he returns to the private sector, quipped that he was on his “farewell tour.”

The governor has kept his inaugural promise of making life better for the children of Florida, he said.

Corcoran also took the opportunity to address the decision on rejecting the math textbooks for reasons of inserting critical race theory (CRT) into the content of the books, which violates Florida law.

“It’s a math textbook you’re trying to teach two plus two equals four, and it’s like this whole hidden agenda of indoctrination,” he said of the books. “I don’t care how you feel when you’re doing the problem, just be able to solve it.”

He continued to predict that because of making sure CRT is not “infiltrating” the content of textbooks that Florida will “shoot to the top in all education metrics.”


A University Will Not Consider Male Applicants for Tenure-Track Position

A prominent public university recently listed a job opening for a tenure track assistant professor position in science and geography. Reportedly, white men are not eligible to apply. Applicants are vetted in the first steps of the application where they must select one of four categories; women, transgender, nonbinary, or "two-spirit."

The University of Waterloo, a public university in Waterloo, Canada listed the job in March, according to the Daily Mail.

“Two-spirit,” according to Canadian-based website Researching for LBGTQ Health, means someone “who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity.”

Daily Mail noted that the role in the school’s Natural Science and Engineering Research division will pay between $90,000 to $120,000 a year. Though not considering men for the position would be discriminating against someone based on gender, the university apparently found a way to work around the policy.

“In the listing, the school asks applicants to fill out a self-identification form to ensure that they fall into one of the four categories, in an effort to 'address the underrepresentation of individuals from equity deserving groups among our Canada Research Chairs.'

'Because this is a special opportunity for a specific member of the four designated groups, applicant self-identification information will be used for the purposes of screening and consideration,' the university said.

'As such, this opportunity is open only to individuals who self-identify as women, transgender, non-binary, or two-spirit.'

The stipulations from school brass may come as a surprise to some, as the university, which has a main campus in Waterloo, Ontario, and three more satellite campuses in the province, is a public institution, meaning policies that discriminate based on gender are prohibited.

'However,' the ad asserts that school officials can circumvent that policy by implementing 'special programs' under the Ontario Human Rights Code, 'designed to help people who experience hardship, economic disadvantage, inequality or discrimination.'

The school said those who self-identify as women, transgender, non-binary or two-spirit fit that criteria.”

Last fall, Matt reported how a Canadian professor, Carrie Bourassa, was placed on leave after serious questions were raised about her Indigenous identity. An investigation by CBC News found genealogy as eastern European, though she claimed to be Anishinaabe and Metis.

CTV News reported that some of Bourassa’s colleagues at University of Saskatchewan also worked to trace her genealogy.

"What we found is that Dr. Carrie Bourassa doesn't have a drop of Indigenous blood in her and that she has been faking her identity for at least 20 years," Winona Wheeler, associate professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, told reporters.




Tuesday, April 26, 2022

West Virginia is ground zero for the battle for broad Educational Savings Accounts in America

One of the broadest Educational Savings Accounts (ESA) in the nation is set to go into effect on Aug. 15 in West Virginia. The program stipulates $4,600 to West Virginia students that leave the public school system for either private schools or homeschooling. Any unused funds in the account can be rolled over to the next school year or used for postsecondary expenses.

But to qualify for the scholarship, a student must first have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school. Regarding a student currently in a private school and being homeschooled the “student could become eligible by enrolling full time and attending a public elementary or secondary school program in this state for at least 45 calendar days at the time of application.”

Meaning, unless they immediately enroll in public school, the roughly 14,000 West Virginia students who are enrolled in private school or the more than 30,000 who are homeschooling will be ineligible for the scholarships. The exact number is not quite clear as the reporting requirements for homeschooling in West Virginia has recently changed.

That said, all students would become eligible for the Hope Scholarship in 2026 if less than 5 percent of students statewide are enrolled in the program in 2024.

While the West Virginia Hope Scholarship is a major step in the right direction, and an excellent initiative for parents skeptical of their current student’s public school, excluding the families who have already chosen alternative education is not an ideal launch for a program. It also is unfortunate for parents of older children who will have little time ahead to use the money as opposed to a new kindergartner. The state should open the program to all students immediately, but with its expected cost, there may be a lack of funding and an unwillingness to reallocate other funding. This is unfortunate.

Out of the roughly 266,000 K-12 students in West Virginia, 90 percent will be eligible to receive funding to help pay for tuition, curriculum, tutoring, therapy, and other educational expenses in lieu of public school.

West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship Program, established by House Bill 2013, became law on June 15, 2021. Students started enrolling earlier this year on March 1 for an initial fund distribution on Aug. 15, 2022. “The Hope Scholarship Program is an education savings account (ESA) program that will allow parents and families to utilize the state portion of their education funding to tailor an individualized learning experience that works best for them” according to the Hope Scholarship website.

The program has its own fund created and managed by the State Treasury. A parental agreement must be signed prior to a student receiving assistance. Additionally, the funds will only made available through a dashboard in which educational expenses can be paid. No direct checks shall be issued.

The Hope Scholarship is an unexpected legislative victory in a state with a very powerful teacher’s union. West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee opposed the measure and gave the state legislature an F in public schools. This is at odds with the 64 percent of adults and 73 percent school parents in West Virginia who support Educations Savings Accounts.

The Hope Scholarships are just one of the multi-year, bitter battles that have been fought between West Virginia State legislators and the union. On Feb. 22, 2018, around 20,000 West Virginia teachers went on strike for 9 consecutive days. Public schools in all 55 West Virginia Counties were closed. The legislature then conceded gave teachers a 5 percent pay raise.

Many on the left considered this a major victory for organized labor and the birth of the Red for Ed movement where teachers went on strike in Republican held states across the country.

Less than one year later, West Virginia teacher went on strike again, citing being left out of discussions of a complicated piece of education legislation in the Virginia Senate. The bill would have allowed for the creation of 7 charter schools throughout the state and 1,000 educational savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. The House killed the Senate’s version of the bill and educators returned to work on Thursday. This was after the teachers demanded a second 5 percent pay raise in two years.

Fast forward back to 2021 and the West Virginia Senate passed a bill that illegalized work stoppages by public employees and called for withheld pay for any days missed. The House also passed its version of the bill, and it was signed into law.

Now, three West Virginia parents are suing state officials and seeking a judgement and injunction against the Hope Scholarship program. The plaintiffs argue that the program creation was the result of the Legislature exceeding or frustrating the West Virginia Constitutional obligation to public education being upheld as public right. This argument may not hold up in court as the West Virginia Constitution grants the legislature the power to determine what is thorough and efficient for public schools, not the courts.

While it’s unknown how this will end in West Virginia, the fight over education between red legislatures and blue teacher unions is only intensifying. West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship school choice move may encourage other states to take notice and let parents decide what education is best for their children.


More Pandemic Fallout: The Chronically Absent Student

At one middle school, more than 40 percent of the students have been chronically absent this year. Districts are going to great lengths — offering gift cards, night classes — to reach them.

Schools across the country have seen a rise in chronic absenteeism, often defined as missing 10 percent of the days in a school year.

After the coronavirus pandemic pushed his classes online in the spring of 2020, Isaac Mosley, now 18, got used to spending his time outside of school.

Isaac, a public school student in Waco, Texas, finished his sophomore year remotely. During his junior year, he worked at a lumber company, where he discovered that he could still be counted as present at school if he carved out some time to check in online.

When he became a senior last fall, his high school fully resumed in-person learning. But Isaac kept working, earning money to support himself and his family while racking up dozens of missed school days and hundreds of missed classes.

Isaac is one of millions of public school students across the United States who are considered chronically absent — often defined as missing 10 percent of the days in a school year, whether the absences are excused or not.

“Chronic absence has skyrocketed” during the pandemic, said Hedy Chang, the director of Attendance Works, a national group that promotes solutions to chronic absenteeism, which has been linked to weaker academic performance and can predict whether a student is more likely to drop out before finishing high school.

Rates of absenteeism can be hard to compare nationally because schools do not report the data in the same way, nor on the same timetable. But according to a December report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which defined chronic absenteeism as missing 15 school days per year, the percentage of students who were on track to be chronically absent was about 22 percent — more than double the rate of chronically absent students before the pandemic.

“While absenteeism rates for high-income students are leveling off, rates for low-income students have continued to worsen since the spring,” the report added.

“What we know,” Dr. Chang said, “is that chronic absence is exacerbating existing inequities.”

For school districts, attendance is a knotty problem. Showing up to class is fundamental to learning, but schools have little control over absences and solving the problem is not easy. Chronic absenteeism can stem from a variety of issues including instability at home, work obligations or illness.

Now, unsettled by the continuing shock waves of a pandemic, even more students appear to be falling through the cracks. And district employees — stretched increasingly thin by understaffing and absences of their own — are grasping for creative ways to lure students back.

Some are offering night classes. Others are giving gift cards for groceries. At least one has eaten insects.

When McDonough Middle School in Hartford, Conn., held a pep rally to encourage student attendance last month, about 16 percent of the school’s students were marked absent. That meant 51 children missed their chance to see the basketball free-throw contest in the gymnasium and the spirited dance-off between two sixth-grade teachers.

Still, it was not a bad turnout for a district where more than 40 percent of the students have been chronically absent this year.

In Connecticut, state data shows that chronic absenteeism soared during the pandemic, especially for Black, Latino and Native American students. This year in Hartford, where children of color make up a vast majority of the student body, the pandemic has disrupted years of effort to push that figure down, said Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.

“You feel that in the hallways,” she said. “You hear teachers saying to students: ‘I’ve missed you. Where have you been?’”

The district collected data on students’ reasons for absences and found that the most common included illnesses and quarantines, whether Covid-related or not; transportation difficulties, sometimes exacerbated by safety concerns or bad weather; suspensions over students’ behavior; and appointments outside of school, for example with doctors or social workers.

“We look at the barriers,” said Marjorie Rice, the principal of McDonough. “What we can remove, we remove.”

That work falls not only to teachers and administrators, but also to teams of district employees with tongue-twister titles like Student Engagement Specialist, or S.E.S., Family and Community Support Service Provider, or F.C.S.S.P., and Pupil Personnel Worker, or P.P.W.

Michelle Martinez, an F.C.S.S.P. at McDonough, said parents regularly called and texted her for help with everything from food to shelter to transportation.

She works with students, too, and has performed eye-popping antics at pep rallies in order to encourage attendance. Last year, Ms. Martinez ate a chocolate-covered cricket. This year, she ate a salted one.

The stunts were worth it, she said, if they brought more children to school.

“With attendance not being where we want it to be, we have to go that extra step,” said Ashley Jackson, an S.E.S. who often leads the pep rallies. She added, “They know, at the end of the month, if I have perfect attendance, I get to see Ms. Martinez eat a bug.”


A Critical Look at Critical Race Theory in America’s Classrooms

A growing number of states are acknowledging that parents—not schools or teachers—are their children's primary guidance counselors, especially with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity issues. (Photo illustration: ajr_images/ IStock/Getty Images)

Florida has been the center of national attention for weeks over its new Parental Rights in Education law, but it’s not alone: Across the country, state lawmakers are introducing similar legislation.

Florida’s law—inaccurately dubbed “the Don’t Say Gay law” by opponents—prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” to children in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that isn’t age appropriate according to state standards.

A report by The Heritage Foundation says that other states are responding to parent dissatisfaction by increasing classroom transparency and asserting parents’ rights as decision-makers for their children. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

“Lawmakers around the country are considering parents’ bills of rights that affirm that parents are their children’s primary caregivers, prevent schools from compelling students to affirm ideas that violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, require schools to receive parental permission before administering health services to children, and authorize parents to view the list of books and instructional materials for K–12 classrooms,” the Heritage report reads.

In recent months, these five states—among others—have taken action to limit discussion of gender ideology in the classroom and to protect parents’ rights in K-12 education.

1. Alabama
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, on April 8 signed into law a bill that goes further than Florida’s. It prohibits classroom instruction to children in kindergarten through fifth grade on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The new Alabama law also limits who may use which multiple-occupancy restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, and shower facilities in K-12 public schools, “based on their biological sex.”

2. Ohio
As with Florida’s law, legislators in Ohio proposed a bill April 4 to prohibit teachers from instructing children from kindergarten through grade three on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill also would require any instructional materials used in grades four through 12 to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The Legislature has not yet voted on the bill. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has not yet indicated his position.

3. Kansas
In March, the Kansas state Senate approved SB 496, which aims to create a parents’ bill of rights.

The bill states, in part, that “a parent shall have the right to play a central role in a child’s education, to obtain critical information about what is being taught or provided in the classroom and to take action when a parent feels that the quality or content of a child’s education does not align with the values and expectations the parent expects and deserves.”

If the bill becomes law, Kansas parents will be able to inspect any classroom materials, such as lessons, curriculums, surveys, and tests. Parents also would be able to object to any learning activities that infringe on their values.

The bill also would protect the right of parents to “challenge the material or educational benefit of any book, magazine, or any other material available to students in the school library such that a successful challenge results in the removal of the book, magazine, or material from the school.”

4. Iowa
A proposed bill in Iowa would require schools to obtain parental consent to teach children in grades one through six about gender identity.

The legislation also states: “If a parent or guardian does not provide written consent, a student may opt out of instruction relating to gender identity.”

5. Indiana
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita issued an updated parents’ bill of rights that, although only a legal opinion and not state law, provides what Rokita calls a “road map” for parents to direct their children’s educational and medical decisions.

Among the parental rights listed are the right to “question and address your child’s school officials via letters, electronic communications, and in-person meetings” and the right to “make medical care decisions on behalf of your child.”

Rokita, a Republican, said the purpose of the bill of rights is to ensure parents understand their legal rights to oversee their children’s education. He wrote:

The family unit is the vital building block of a free society. ‘We the Parents’ have the duty to raise our families and are primarily responsible for what and how our children learn. It is not the government’s job to raise our children, even if it wants to do so.