Saturday, September 03, 2022

The Pandemic Erased Two Decades of Progress in Math and Reading in America

National test results released on Thursday showed in stark terms the pandemic’s devastating effects on American schoolchildren, with the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading dropping to the levels from two decades ago.

This year, for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and scores in reading fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years.

The declines spanned almost all races and income levels and were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students. While top performers in the 90th percentile showed a modest drop — three points in math — students in the bottom 10th percentile dropped by 12 points in math, four times the impact.

“I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal agency that administered the exam earlier this year. The tests were given to a national sample of 14,800 9-year-olds and were compared with the results of tests taken by the same age group in early 2020, just before the pandemic took hold in the United States.

High and low performers had been diverging even before the pandemic, but now, “the students at the bottom are dropping faster,” Dr. Carr said.

In math, Black students lost 13 points, compared with five points among white students, widening the gap between the two groups. Research has documented the profound effect school closures had on low-income students and on Black and Hispanic students, in part because their schools were more likely to continue remote learning for longer periods of time.

The declines in test scores mean that while many 9-year-olds can demonstrate partial understanding of what they are reading, fewer can infer a character’s feelings from what they have read. In math, students may know simple arithmetic facts, but fewer can add fractions with common denominators.

The setbacks could have powerful consequences for a generation of children who must move beyond basics in elementary school to thrive later on.

“Student test scores, even starting in first, second and third grade, are really quite predictive of their success later in school, and their educational trajectories overall,” said Susanna Loeb, the director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which focuses on education inequality.

“The biggest reason to be concerned is the lower achievement of the lower-achieving kids,” she added. Being so far behind, she said, could lead to disengagement in school, making it less likely that they graduate from high school or attend college.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is considered a gold standard in testing. Unlike state tests, it is standardized across the country, has remained consistent over time and makes no attempt to hold individual schools accountable for results, which experts believe makes it more reliable.

The test results offered a snapshot for just one age group: 9-year-olds, who are typically in third or fourth grade. (More results, for fourth graders and for eighth graders, will be released later this fall on a state-by-state level.)

“This is a test that can unabashedly speak to federal and state leaders in a cleareyed way about how much work we have to do,” said Andrew Ho, a professor of education at Harvard and an expert on education testing who previously served on the board that oversees the exam.


Suspended Teacher Who Refused to Use ‘Preferred Pronouns’ Obtains $95K Settlement

In George Orwell’s dystopian and now-prescient work of fiction “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” the “Party” and its leader, “Big Brother,” devise a diabolically clever tactic to control the thoughts and actions of the proletariat: a new language. With this lexicon, “newspeak,” they can control the speech and actions of the masses, ensuring that both conform to the ideology of their ruling party.

This week, in the land of nonfiction, a teacher who was tired of her public school’s newspeak on gender identity just secured a $95,000 settlement against the school board that had suspended her for refusing to conform to its preferred gender pronoun policy.

Fort Riley, Kansas, middle school math teacher Pamela Ricard wasn’t looking to pick a fight. But when the Geary County School District suspended and disciplined the teacher with a 17-year history of teaching at the school, she sued.

Her offense? She addressed two students who considered themselves transgender by their legal names rather than their preferred names and pronouns, and she refused to hide their social transition from the students’ parents. Both actions were in contravention of the school district’s new communications policy.

Ricard is a Christian. She believes that God immutably creates each person as male or female, that there are only two anatomical sexes (except in very rare medical circumstances), and that the Bible prohibits dishonesty and lying.

In her federal lawsuit, Ricard stated that the school district both violated her constitutional rights and failed to accommodate her Christian beliefs when it suspended her. She brought claims alleging that the school district violated her free speech, free exercise of religion, and due process rights.

In her May decision to let the case proceed, U.S. District Court Judge Holly Teeter recognized that Ricard was likely to succeed on her First Amendment free exercise of religion claim against the school district and granted her motion to suspend enforcement of the school’s communication policy.

Among other authorities, Teeter cited Meriwether v. Hartop, which I’ve written about here, in which the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Christian professor at a public university was not required to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

The court in that case explained that professor Nicholas Meriwether’s First Amendment interest in not using his students’ preferred gender pronouns was “especially strong … because [his] speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs” and because requiring the professor to use students’ preferred gender pronouns “potentially compelled speech on a matter of public concern.”

Teeter stated that because Ricard’s transgender students had not authorized the school to disclose their preferred names and pronouns, the teacher would face the Hobson’s choice of “complying with the District’s policy and violating her religious beliefs, or abiding by her religious beliefs and facing discipline.”

Shortly after Teeter’s ruling, the school board voted to revoke the communications policy altogether. After a brief period of continued litigation on the separate student preferred pronoun policy, the school district offered to settle.

As part of the settlement, school officials have agreed to issue a statement that Ricard was a teacher in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her at the time of her retirement in May.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Kriegshauser Ney Law Group represented Ricard in her lawsuit against school officials, and after settlement, filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

Joshua Ney, the lawyer who represented Ricard in the case, said:

This case provides straightforward lessons for Kansas school boards: Schools shouldn’t lie to parents and teachers don’t forfeit their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. The Geary County School District unsuccessfully tried to convince a federal court that a teacher should completely avoid using a child’s name during a parent teacher conference in order to hide new names and genders being used by the school for a child in a classroom. Absurdity and deception has its limits, especially in federal court. I’m glad the case clarifies the financial stakes for school boards if they attempt to force teachers to lie to parents about their students.

As recently as last term, the Supreme Court reinforced the rights of public school teachers to communicate on matters of public concern—particularly when such speech relates to a teacher’s religious convictions—and said that such speech is protected by the First Amendment.

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as the international word of the year. The definition: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

While Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state of Oceania and modern America may both be suffering the ramifications of a post-truth era, at least in the case of Pamela Ricard and the Geary County School District, the score is encouraging:


Education Dept. Student Loan Projections Off By $311B

Bad assumptions on the part of the Department of Education led to federal student loans costing the government $197 billion since 1997 — instead of making $114 billion.

That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which found that the $311 billion difference was due to “faulty assumptions.”

Federal student loans were “originally estimated to generate $6 in income per every $100 disbursed” but they’re actually “expected to cost the government almost $9 for every $100 disbursed.”

That’s quite a miscalculation.

The GAO found by looking through the Department of Education’s budgets over the years that about 61 percent of the bad accounting was due to these faulty assumptions, like incorrect estimates on the economic standing of borrowers, underestimating the likelihood of borrower default, and underestimating the percentage of borrowers who would enter income-driven repayment plans.

The Direct Student loan program, which is the largest federal student loan program, accounts for about $1.4 trillion of the $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loans, The Daily Signal reported.

About half of all loans issued in that program are being repaid through IDR plans, which cap monthly loan payments based on income.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in February 2020, “borrowers who enroll in IDR plans tend to borrow more and earn less than borrowers in fixed-payment plans.”

That means the student loan program is not only making less money than estimated, but also losing money.

The GAO found the other 39 percent of the miscalculation is due to “programmatic changes such as ongoing repayment pauses, participation in Public Service Loan Forgiveness, interest waivers, and new income-driven repayment plans,” the Signal reported.

And this isn’t about to be corrected anytime soon. The DOE will continue to use these inaccurate accounting metrics for the next three years, making the budget incorrect until at least 2026.

And none of the bad accounting includes the recent announcement from President Joe Biden that forgives $10,000 in students loans per person, costing an estimated $300 billion.




Friday, September 02, 2022

UK: Half of pupils who get low grades in junior school already judged to be behind at age 5, study finds

This is of course being blamed on a deprived childhood background but it is perfectly predictable as an inherited IQ effect. A person with a low IQ is mostly born that way and stays that way. And a deprived background will also usually be an effect of low parental IQ. So IQ is undoubtedly at work in the results however you look at it. So nothing much is likely to change it

Half of schoolchildren who do not pass their maths and English GCSEs were already judged to be behind on their education at the age of five new research has found.

A fifth of all students in England, or around 100,000 pupils each year, do not achieve the grade 4 pass grade in both English language and maths.

“The forgotten fifth of pupils leaving school lacking basic English and maths skills is one of education’s biggest scandals,” Professor Lee Elliot Major, co-author of the research paper, said.

The government has set out a plan for 90 per cent of children to reach the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and UCL used data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study to map the educational trajectories of 11,524 students born in England in 2000-2001, who then went on to take their GCSEs in 2016 or 2017.

They presented their findings on Thursday in a working paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The academics found that 18 per cent, or a fifth, of teenagers failed to achieve a grade 4 in both English language and maths. Of those students, just under half (48 per cent) had not reached expected levels of numeracy and literacy at the age of five.

More than one in four of them, 28 per cent, had been assessed as “delayed” in their learning at the age of three.

Since their first survey when they were nine months old, the children were followed up six times between the ages of three and 17 - providing regular assessments of how they were doing in school.

The paper found that children who were assessed as not being “school ready” at age three, and who were below expected standard levels at age five and age 16, often had similar family backgrounds.

At each age, children identifying as struggling were twice as likely to be born to a teenage mother (13 per cent compared to 5 per cent) and to be living with a single parent (24 per cent to 10 per cent). They were also three times as likely to be living in a workless household (33 per cent to 11 per cent).

These children were also three times as likely to have parents with no or poor education qualifications. Their home was also more likely to be rented, overcrowded, damp, or situated in poorer areas, compared to their peers.

They were also less likely to be female (39 per cent to 53 per cent) and were less likely to be a firstborn child (37 per cent to 44 per cent). Children who were born in the summer months were also more likely to do worse academically, with five-year-old underachievers twice as likely to be a summer baby than not.

Early years educational disadvantage was associated with being Black, Asian or minority ethnic and living in a home where an additional language (other than English) was spoken. However, this setback was reversed as the children grew up.

Not attaining a grade 4 or higher GCSE in English language and maths was associated with being white and only English being spoken in the home.

The forgotten fifth of pupils leaving school lacking basic English and maths skills is one of education’s biggest scandals

Mr Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, added: “Government attempts to address this challenge will fail without high-quality support for children during the pre-school years and greater efforts to identify, diagnose and most importantly respond to children falling behind at early stages of schooling.

“We should also consider introducing a basic threshold qualification for functional literacy and numeracy skills that all school leavers would be expected to pass.”

Dr Sam Parsons, an academic at the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and co-author of the study, said: “Poor performance in the early years together with socio-economic disadvantage are clear risk factors for poor performance in GCSE English language and maths examinations, which are in turn increasingly crucial for post-16 transitions.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “The recently published schools white paper sets out our ambition for 90 per cent of children to reach the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030.

“This is supported by excellent teaching and our pledge that if any child falls behind in English and maths, they will receive timely and evidence-based support to help them to reach their potential.”

They added that nearly £5bn has been invested to help children recover from the impact of the pandemic on their education.


NYC: Yeshiva University asks Supreme Court to act in case over LGBT club on religious freedom grounds

Yeshiva University has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in its legal battle over the recognition of an LGBTQ student club on religious freedom grounds.

The Manhattan school on Monday filed the emergency application to stay a state court ruling ordering it to formally register the Yeshiva University Pride Alliance.

“Yeshiva is now asking the Court to protect its religious mission from government interference,” high-profile law firm the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the university, said in a press release.

“The lower court rulings would force Yeshiva to put its stamp of approval on a club and activities that are inconsistent with the school’s Torah values and the religious environment it seeks to maintain on its undergraduate campuses,” it said.

Four current and former students filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last April, claiming the college had denied multiple requests to officially register a gay-rights group as a student club.

The plaintiffs argued that not allowing such a group to be recognized alongside more than 100 other student clubs was discriminatory and in violation of New York’s human rights law.

“All we wanted to do is find a way we can give support to each other in a way all other students had access to do — except for the queer students,” Beth Weiss, a founding board member of the Pride Alliance, told The Post on Tuesday.

Formal recognition gives student groups space on campus, access to email listservs, the ability to promote the club and its events around the school, and oversight and guidance, Weiss explained.

“If we had just been able to have a club from the beginning, it would’ve been not a big deal,” Weiss said. “We would’ve been able to have pizza nights and movie nights, and hang out and put out a flyer. The situation would not have escalated.”

A state judge in mid-June ruled in the group’s favor, saying that Yeshiva is not a religious corporation according to its charter — a category exempt from the anti-discrimination state law — and therefore must formally register the club, The New York Times reported at the time.

The school then appealed to a higher state court, which denied its request to grant a stay earlier this month, prompting it to file its petition with SCOTUS.

The school requested a stay “to prevent… grave and irreparable constitutional harm” to its First Amendment rights to religious freedom, according to the 42-page filing.


Minnesota Proposes to Require Teachers to Use Critical Race Theory

Parents are spreading “disinformation and hysteria around critical race theory,” a former teacher recently told NPR.

“Teachers can barely afford the resources for their own curriculum [so] it’s laughable that they’d shell out money [to teach] a college course,” he said.

College, of course, is the place where radical activists claim that critical race theory is found, not in K-12 classrooms.

Such claims would be laughable, absent evidence that state officials actually require teachers to teach critical race theory, a theory that that in fact advocates discrimination and views everything through the lens of skin color.

Earlier this year, Minnesota’s board for teacher licensure, which sets standards for teacher certification in the state, proposed changing standards for K-12 teachers to include training on “intersectionality,” one of critical race theory’s central ideas.

According to intersectionality, a concept developed by critical race theorist Kimberl√© Crenshaw, individuals should be categorized into groups. Women and ethnic minorities, especially, have overlapping identities based on race, class, and ambiguous “gender” choices. Then, actions that are sexist, or even perceived as sexist, for example, are also racist and elitist.

Such categorizing helps with “assertions of multiple identity and the ongoing necessity of group politics,” Crenshaw writes in an essay in the 1995 book “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement,” making plain that the political goal of critical race theory is to force tensions between and among identity groups.

What the theorists are less likely to admit is that intersectionality creates a culture in which people are always on the lookout for new ways to describe how they have been offended. Every action creates victims—or as one essay on critical race theory says: “The question isn’t: Was the act racist or not? The question is: How much racism was in play?”

Minnesota’s licensure board recently held a hearing on the proposed changes, which say that a teacher should “foster” student identities, including race, class, and so-called sexual orientation and gender identity. Which makes a parent wonder whether a child also will be taught that his or her character and behavior matter, too, or just skin color and gender.

These identity groupings also may affect grading. Teachers should “[take] into consideration the impact of … cultural background” on “measuring knowledge and performance of students,” according to the licensure board’s proposed changes.

The proposals in Minnesota are similar to new standards in Illinois, where the state licensing board added critical race theory’s ideas in 2021. In fact, the Minnesota board cites Illinois’ certification requirements in its documents, as reported by the Center for the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based research institute.

Illinois’ standards made headlines last year because of provisions such as “there is often not one ‘correct’ way of doing or understanding something, and that what is seen as ‘correct’ is most often based on our lived experiences”—a standard that makes geometry challenging to explain to students.

Illinois’ standards also include intersectionality as well as “decolonization,” another idea used by critical race theorists. With decolonization, teachers should replace books by white authors, such as the modern classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,”with books about “police brutality,” for example.

Minnesota officials should be prepared for parents to speak up.

A survey of Illinoisians conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and a group called eighteen92 found that 84% of respondents said they agreed with the statement, “All people should be treated equally based on merit.”

Only 23% of those surveyed said that “teachers should embrace progressive viewpoints and perspectives when teaching U.S. history, to encourage students to advocate for social justice causes.”

“Teachers should and do celebrate our state’s increasingly diverse student body, but these proposed changes would require teachers to view students as group identities and group cultures, undermining who they are as unique individuals,” Catrin Wigfall writes for the Center for the American Experiment.

Minnesota officials should consider how unpopular the prejudice and bias of critical race theory are in Illinois and other states where surveys have found that Americans reject it. Then they should refocus teaching standards on student achievement and the pursuit of truth, instead of identity politics.




Thursday, September 01, 2022

Jobs not jail: Bring back vocational education

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, classrooms are finally headed back to normalcy. While it’s a relief for parents, it’s going to take decades to absorb the brutal consequences of COVID on our nation’s kids.

Back in the 1990s, I was listening to a presentation by an official who ran a for-profit prison. During the Q&A, an audience member asked: “How do you know how many beds you need to build?” Without hesitation, the official said: “We extrapolate from the number of children that fail the NAEP’s fourth-grade reading exam.” The room went silent.

Conducted every four years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress is a longitudinal snapshot of student attainment at fourth, eighth and 12th grades and proficiency in reading and math. It was last conducted in 2019 — pre-shutdown, giving us a baseline that abuts COVID. The 2019 NAEP showed 34% of fourth-grade students unable to read at grade level — up 3% from 2015. My bet is the next measure is going to be much bigger.

How much bigger? The Brookings Institution gauges COVID’s impact on reading at 15%. With 2023 right around the corner, we might be looking at a NAEP non-proficiency number around 50%. And if you are looking for evidence of disparate impact, NAEP failure and COVID-related failure are not colorblind.

The good news is the educational establishment knows it has a huge problem on its hands — and it has $22 billion looking for “evidence-based interventions” to address the COVID-aggravated drop in learning.

Unfortunately, the thinking on this front is neither inspired nor up to the challenge. Educators intend to open the funding spigots to pay for measures that depend for their success on high-quality teachers — teachers who don’t exist in the current labor pool.

What would up-to-the-challenge thinking look like?

First, a budget for big thinking. The money is there. The Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund is $200 billion, including $20 billion dedicated to closing the COVID gap for at-risk students. The problem is the default thinking that helped get us into this spot: It won’t get us out, even with this bankroll.

We know who fails these NAEP exams. Instead of watching them drown again, let’s develop an educational approach that works for them specifically and at scale.

We know what works: clarity and achievable standards for both academic and personal comportment, scrupulously enforced.

We need to go in with our eyes open. These kids have obvious problems outside the classroom holding them back academically. Clarity is key. This isn’t jail — this is an alternative to jail. Education is your child’s best chance for a good life.

These kids need a culture of learning designed to push back against the problems that exist at home or on the street. The NAEP test is made to be passed. Closing the NAEP gap ought to take priority — not a new teachers’ contract or more identity politics or a lowering of standards to satisfy woke directives.

Look behind the curtain of successful charter and Catholic schools in poor communities. You’ll find a culture of personal responsibility, tied to respect for one’s peers, teachers and the community. Lorraine Monroe made it her calling to save at-risk kids; her mantra is “The Street Stops Here.” There is too much street in our schools and in these kids’ homes. They need loving discipline and structure.

Last, make it practical, hands-on and engaging. If we want to create functional citizens from dysfunctional circumstances, meet them where they are and give them the tools and encouragement they need to rise above their circumstances.

And make it relevant to them. Communicate the immediate benefit and practical value of learning. Build lessons and classroom activities around the demonstration of an education’s real-world value. Unleash and exercise students’ common sense.

This failure at the bottom comes from our middle-class fixation on college as the only path to productive citizenship and living — even though only 40% of high-school graduates have the needed aptitude for college-level work.

The solution to the problem of at-risk kids — most of them minority males — is public trade schools. Teaching trades was once a component of public education, and some high schools were solely dedicated to grooming human capital in the practical arts and sciences. These schools and programs have all but vanished now. They need to be revived.

With all this money sitting idle, let’s invest it in building flagship vocational schools and programs within regular high schools — programs consciously designed to close the NAEP proficiency gap and prepare at-risk kids to fill those millions of unfilled, high-paying, skills-based jobs.

The choice before us is simple: a middle-class job or a prison bed. It shouldn’t be a hard call to make.


Oberlin College Gets Just Deserts for Smearing Bakery. Appeal fails

Update: Legal Insurrection reported Aug. 30 that the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Oberlin College meaning that the Gibson Family Bakery is now entitled to collect approximately $36 million in punitive damages. While Oberlin College may appeal to have their appeal heard in federal court, William Jacobson says that strategy is unlikely to succeed.

In 2016, clerks at Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio, stopped several shoplifters from stealing from their store. They didn’t realize at the time that their action would set them on a six-year legal struggle.

Social justice warriors accused the tiny, family-owned bakery of racial profiling for confronting the shoplifters, who were black. That accusation prompted students and faculty at nearby Oberlin College to engage in a smear campaign to shut down Gibson’s Bakery.

Fortunately, a libel case filed by the bakery owners recently concluded with their victory. This didn’t stopped the college from continuing to accuse the shop of being racist.

“They have been completely unapologetic. They have been very aggressive towards this bakery,” says Bill Jacobson, a Cornell Law professor and founder of the Legal Insurrection Foundation. “They continue to make their false accusations of racism against the bakery. They show no remorse whatsoever.”


A professor lectures to an empty room as all students work from home

I agree that this is not good. I always took questions from students during and after a lecture and that was a helpful part of the process

A university professor has cried out for help after he gave a lecture to a completely empty hall - as students watch remotely from home rather than come to campus.

Jan Slapeta, a Professor of Veterinary and Molecular Parasitology at Sydney University, posted an image of his deserted lecture theatre on Monday as all students were dialling in.

The work-from-home habits adopted during Covid lockdowns have lingered long after most isolation measures for the virus had been abandoned.

Prof. Slapeta said students as a result are missing out not only on collaborative learning but the social life that had always been a major part of the student experience.

'Should I be shocked again? 1 pm lecture - no one! I lectured empty chairs,' he posted to social media.

Professor Slapeta tagged Sydney University in the post, asking for answers after the only student he encountered was one who turned up early for the next class.

'10 min in a student that was early for 2 pm lecture showed up (completely unrelated subject, different degree).

'We had a great discussion, and I had one keen student learning,' he wrote, before asking the uni: 'Where from now? Help @Sydney Uni'

The veterinary professor told Daily Mail Australia it was an issue that 'required deep thought', as lecture attendance had been 'declining for several years' - even before the pandemic - as the university allowed students to log in remotely.

Peter Black, a senior law lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, revealed he often hosts digital lectures to students with cameras turned off.

'This was almost just as depressing, teaching to unresponsive blank screens on Zoom,' he replied to Professor Slapeta's post.

The response to the image was mixed, with some suggesting universities and lecturers will have to adapt to the results of modern technology, while others lamented the isolating effect.

'As someone who taught for over 25 years (high school and undergrad) I can honestly say I find this really upsetting. Teaching is social, and there is nothing like building knowledge together with students in a room,' another professor at QUT replied.

'We are in a global pandemic. Why is it surprising to anyone that people don't want to risk serious illness to do something that can be done remotely?' astrophysicist Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith said.

Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson, a Senior Lecturer in Australian History at Sydney University, thought the picture showed the problems with modern learning. 'This shows that the current way of approaching hybrid teaching isn't working. We need a rethink,' she said. 'Lectures are a vital part of university life and can provide transformative moments in students' education. We need to value them. The current model does not.'

A PhD student claimed the lecture dynamic was wrong and the lack of discussion and debate was also a factor causing lack of attendance.

'Lecture theatre design is outdated! Look how the space is arranged. It implies that only you have something worthwhile to say.

'In my opinion, the design of learning spaces impacts on how we view them. Students will show up not to be talked AT but to be in conversation WITH,' she replied.




Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Texas Conservatives Mobilize Against New Social Curriculum Adding Gender, LGBT, and CRT Ideology

Texas conservatives are revolting over proposed State Board of Education changes that will eliminate teaching the U.S. Constitution and founding principles in some grade levels while including ideologies on white supremacy, LBGT pride, and gender.

Parent groups and conservative groups have mobilized to attend a public hearing at the Texas State Board of Education in Austin Tuesday in opposition to changes that they feel do not accurately reflect the accomplishments of Texas and America. The board could vote on the changes this week.

Left-leaning groups praised the first draft of the social studies curriculums proposed last month as more inclusive and progressive than past education standards.

Melissa Martin, a board member of Innovative Teachers of Texas, a conservative teacher’s group, told The Epoch Times the changes were “disappointing.”

“Texas is an exceptional state, and our students need to learn about our rich Texas history,” she said via text. “Rather than focusing on a globalist agenda, the curriculum should motivate our young Texans to develop into citizens who value family and citizenship of our great state and nation.”

Republican groups sent out a call to action identifying the removal of numerous Texas Education and Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) educational standards about America’s founding principles and the family to be replaced by more liberal ideas aligned with globalism.

Some of the high school level changes include removing “E Pluribus Unum” and “God We Trust” from the U.S. History curriculum.

Significant American government figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan were removed from U.S. Government studies.

A working committee drafting the rules said in notations about the deletion that the standards would be a better fit for middle school or moved into other lessons on executive power concerning government figures.

Other social studies curriculum standards that were part of a draft were just as problematic for critics.

In the 7th Grade, a standard claims that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s practice of federalism influenced the writing of the U.S. Constitution as a nod to diversity inclusion.

However, some scholars have debunked that connection.

The confederacy is also known as the League of the Iroquois, consisting of up to six upstate New York-based Native American tribes.

An 8th Grade standard on the intersectionality of (gay) pride, civil rights, and other movements was included.

The comment section mentioned Angela Davis, who advocates Critical Resistance Theory for abolishing the prison system. Also, Texas Rangers, an elite law enforcement group, were listed as “an instrument of oppression” during the clash between Texas Rangers and Mexican Americans and immigrants during the Mexican Revolution.

On the high school level of World Geography, the new standard included the “Gender Inequality Index” and the “World Happiness Report.”

Various citations of the “history of white supremacy” were included in the middle and high school level, where one standard analyzed the effects of “the New South” on diverse populations including, “sharecropping, convict leasing, Black Codes, white supremacy, and the creation of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Julie Pickren, a Republican running for State Board of Education in District 7, told The Epoch Times the state board sped up the process of deciding the TEKS for the next 12 years.

With more conservatives likely to take seats on the board in January, the process was fast-tracked. Work groups were put in place that produced “woke content,” including the use of the 1619 Project as the foundation of the African American Studies course, she said.

Pickren said other educational standards remove the family and focus on community instead. She noted that other states with conservative governors, such as Florida, Virginia, and South Dakota, have experienced similar moves but stopped them.

State Rep. Steve Toth (R-Woodlands), who championed banning Critical Race Theory in schools, told The Epoch Times the 1619 Project is not historically accurate and prohibited by state law.

“This is a concerted effort, a uniform effort all across the United States,” Toth said.

Potentially six statutes will be violated if the revisions go through, including those required by the Celebrate Freedom law highlighting America’s founding principles and one banning CRT, Pickren added.

Pickren is concerned that if the current board, which includes nine Republicans and six Democrats, passes the new educational standards, there will be no way to correct it.

“The board’s attitude, she said, is to “pass it to see what’s in it.”

Pickren believes the National School Board Association is pushing rewrites of social studies curriculum across the country. The NSBA wrote a letter to President Joe Biden’s administration led to the Justice Department targeting parents speaking out against CRT.

Toth said he intends to fight educational curriculum changes that break Texas law. He called for Texas attorney general Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott to get involved.

State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, wrote in a news release Aug. 29 that the proposed changes were unacceptable and, in many cases, illegal.

The release noted that a letter objecting to the changes had been sent to the SBOE.

“The proposed standards also eliminate Texas history as a standalone course, in favor of intertwining Texas history with other historical subjects, in effect watering down our heritage and putting it on the same level as all other cultures,” he wrote.


Former bullied teen wins $1M lawsuit against California school district

A California school district was ordered to pay $1 million for failing to protect a middle school student who was “bullied, tormented and verbally assaulted” by fellow teens who started a petition to end her life.

A jury ruled that the El Segundo Unified School District was negligent in training and supervising its workers, who then failed to safeguard 13-year-old Eleri Irons from three bullies between November 2017 to June 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

A lawsuit filed in 2019 reportedly alleged Irons “suffered PTSD, cut herself and sought refuge in the school nurse’s office nearly every lunch break.”

The torture began when teachers failed to act after finding out about a petition that was circulating in school entitled “Let’s kill Eleri Irons.”

When Irons’ parents did ask school officials for help, they “dismissed the concerns as drama over a teen love triangle,” the teen’s attorney Christa Ramey told the paper.

Former El Segundo Middle School principal Principal Melissa Gooden, who is now an executive director of human resources with the district, allegedly lied about calling police as soon as she learned of the death threat in June 2018, Ramey reportedly said.

“She didn’t call the police that day. She attempted to make it seem like they did everything they could, but in reality, during the entire year, they didn’t do anything,” Ramey said, according to the article. “They never investigated a single claim of bullying made by my client.”

A police report was filed a day after the petition came to light and moments before administrators met with Irons’ parents, according to the article. No one was arrested and the students involved were reportedly suspended.

“Every teacher, counselor and administrator who touched this case failed not only my client, but also the aggressors and every other student at the school,” Ramey said in a statement published by the LA Times. “Bullying is to be taken seriously and the administrators are culpable when they don’t stop it.”

El Segundo Superintendent Melissa Moore said the district, which enrolls about 3,500 students, added two new student safety positions at two elementary schools and implemented a district-wide safety plan.

“As a school district, we respect the ruling of the court and acknowledge the findings of the lawsuit,” Moore said in a statement to The Post.

“The next steps are up to our legal counsel. As we move forward, we are committed to self-improvement and doing everything we can to prevent bullying in our schools.”

Irons, now 18, reportedly said in a statement that she remained traumatized but has forgiven her main bully.

“I am so thankful that I have been able to share my experience and to actually be taken seriously so that the next time a child asks for help, the school will address it the way they should have for me.”


Mother demands Texas education board ban teaching about Gandhi as part of CRT crackdown

A Texas mother identifying herself as Jenna told the State Board of Education that its first graders should not be learning about Mahatma Gandhi because she considers such instruction part of critical race theory.

“This revision wants to teach a first grader whose still putting notes to the Tooth Fairy under her pillow about following Gandhi’s lead to a peaceful protest,” Jenna said. A first grader! CRT is already rampant and baked into our curriculum and we don’t want to be good little global citizens where our borders are considered a military zone.”

State Board of Education member Marisa Perez-Diaz quickly noted that Jenna had not identified a specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standard that she was upset about — after which Jenna accused the board member of “belittling” her.

“These parents are confused and we don’t know,” Jenna said. “So I’m sorry — I’m up here testifying because we don’t understand. But I know the result.”

The State Board of Education is currently considering a new social studies curriculum for K-12 students. Elsewhere in her testimony, Jenna said that the current revision of TEKS looked to her like “collectivism” at the expense of “individualism” and said falsely claimed that the US-Mexico border is “open.”

The fight against CRT, or critical race theory, has been a central feature of Texas Republican politics over the last several years. Critical race theory is a decades-old academic concept holding that race is socially constructed and that racism is a systemic power structure, but conservative activists and Republican politicians have broadened that definition to include all manner of teaching about the effects of race and racism in the US.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning federal employees from taking trainings including “critical race theory” or “white privilege”. The next year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill banning the teaching of CRT in Texas schools — strictly limiting how teachers can teach about current events, banning teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, and prohibiting students from recieving course credit for participating in civic activities.

That bill has not been the only threat to academic freedom in the state’s public schools. Last October, State Rep Matt Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency asking if schools in the state had any of a list of 850 books on a range of subjects including human rights and gender that he felt could be objected to. Some school districts in Texas have removed books from their libraries or classrooms due to challenges from parents.

Now, as the state considers a new social studies curriculum, many of those parents are again making their voices heard.

Challenged again later on by Ms Perez-Diaz to provide a specific example or examples of TEKS standards she took issue with, Jenna was unable to do so. Instead, she said that an indeterminate had dedicated their lives to the fight against so-called critical race theory.

“We parents quit our jobs,” Jenna said. “We left our careers. And we have gone to school board meeting after school board meeting, and we have spent hours and thousands of them ourselves trying to ask questions, as you’ve suggested, digging for information... I’m here because the school boards won’t answer.




Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Bias hotlines at US colleges have led to a witch hunt culture on campus

When I stepped on campus at NYU four years ago, I was handed a school ID by a public safety officer. On the back, I found a list of phone numbers: who to call if I was in danger, who to call if I was sick, and . . . a bias response line? Not long after, I found posters with the same number on the back of bathroom stalls, urging students to call and report bias on campus.

Discrimination and harassment are one thing, but I found myself wondering what exactly constituted “bias.” Since I had watched students and professors canceled for all manner of perceived transgressions, it left me wondering what range of incidents could fall under this umbrella.

I had never heard of them before, but evidently schools across the country, from Drew University to Penn State, and the University of Missouri, have similar hotlines. Countless other colleges and universities have bias response teams, many with online reporting forms.

As a champion of free speech, I was concerned, so I dug a little deeper. That’s when I found a 2018 report on my school’s hotline, which divided the calls they received into groups. Category 1 constituted alleged violations of the university’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Category 2, however, included instances determined to be biased but not a violation. Those constituted 61% of the calls made.

Some examples of Category 2 incidents included “concerns that marketing materials displayed on campus do not accurately represent the University’s diverse population” or “concerns about a culturally-insensitive comment.” I was perplexed by the subjectivity of incidents that could unleash an administrative team on perceived transgressors.

To be clear, I do not condone harassment or discrimination under any circumstances, and I absolutely believe targeted students should have a place to turn. But they already do. As Alex Morey, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) told me, “Bias response teams are unnecessary, because existing laws preventing discrimination and harassment are already in place to curb unlawful behavior on campus.”

That leaves bias response teams to figure out the vague contours of “acceptable” speech at their own discretion. Indeed, a survey of administrators on such teams revealed an ill-defined mission that goes far beyond enforcing anti-discrimination policy. One administrator interviewed described their duty as combatting “whatever threat that might [be posed] to an inclusive campus.” Another said they determine “when the exercise of individual rights becomes reckless and irresponsible.”

These thresholds are subjective to say the least — and could invite any number of complaints. After investigating 230 college bias response teams around the country, a 2017 report by FIRE uncovered a whole host of complaints that range from laughable to downright censorious.

On-campus humor publication The Koala at the University of California San Diego, for example, was defunded by the school for poking fun at campus “safe spaces” after bias reports (including one requesting the school “stop funding” the publication) were submitted. An anonymous report at Ohio’s John Carroll University alleged that “the African-American Alliance’s student protest was making white students feel uncomfortable.” At the University of Michigan, a so-called “snow penis” sculpture was reported to their bias response team.

While not all reports result in punishment or investigation, introducing the bias response tripwire into a college community surely can’t be healthy for free speech.

“Encouraging people to report their peers for protected speech creates a climate of fear around everyday discussions,” Morey said. “The threat of investigations . . . too often results in students and faculty self-censoring rather than risking getting in trouble.”

In a world where accidentally mixing up the names of two students of the same race or saying epithets in a class about epithets could jeopardize your reputation — or your job —encouraging students to call a hotline on transgressors is downright dystopian.

If we can’t discuss touchy subjects and wrestle with controversial ideas on campuses, where can we? We come to college to ask the unaskable and answer the unanswerable questions of our time. Sometimes that means we might express something inartfully — or, yes, sometimes offensively. But discussion, debate and resolution are the remedies to that tension. Not a hotline.


Top Google Fellowships: If White or Asian, Good Luck

Google is setting strict caps on the number of white and Asian students that universities can nominate for a prestigious fellowship program, a policy legal experts say likely violates civil rights law and could threaten the federal funding of nearly every elite university in the United States.

The Google Ph.D. Fellowship, which gives promising computer scientists nearly $100,000, allows each participating university—a group that includes most elite schools—to nominate four Ph.D. students annually. "If a university chooses to nominate more than two students," Google says, "the third and fourth nominees must self-identify as a woman, Black / African descent, Hispanic / Latino / Latinx, Indigenous, and/or a person with a disability."

That criterion, which an archived webpage shows has been in place since at least April 2020, is almost certainly illegal, civil rights lawyers told the Washington Free Beacon—both for Google and the universities.

"It is illegal for Google to enter into contracts based on race under the Civil Rights Act of 1866," said Adam Mortara, the lead trial lawyer for the plaintiffs in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, who are pressing the Supreme Court to outlaw affirmative action. "And it is illegal for universities receiving federal funds to nominate students based on race under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act."

That means nearly every top school in the United States could be at risk of losing its federal funding. Since Google’s discriminatory rule went into effect, a long list of universities has nominated students for the fellowship: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of California Berkeley, and New York University.

Those schools also have their own policies banning discrimination by race, gender, or disability—the three categories on which Google requires them to base fellowship nominations.

"The Google Fellowship program is a blatantly unlawful and immoral quota plan that pits students against one another by skin color and ethnic heritage," said Edward Blum, the founder of Students for Fair Admissions. "Our nation’s enduring civil rights laws were passed to specifically forbid this type of racial discrimination."

The fellowship shows how racial quotas, when sanctioned by a sufficiently powerful corporate actor, can metastasize and multiply across institutions. It also shows how private companies can circumvent Congress and federal law through a kind of bribery, providing a financial reward for illegal discrimination.

"Google is using its pocket-book to incentivize America’s elite universities to violate Title VI," said Dan Morenoff, the executive director of the American Civil Rights Project. "It’s using its financial support to directly counter Congress’s policy."

The bet, Morenoff added, is that "the feds won’t notice, won’t care, or won’t actually force the schools to choose between federal funding and Google’s."

That assumption reflects the race-conscious consensus that has captured both private and public bureaucracies. Uber Eats in 2020 waived delivery fees for black-owned restaurants, only to scrap the policy after a lawsuit. In 2021, NASDAQ mandated racial quotas for all companies listed on its exchange, a rule now being challenged in the Fifth Circuit. And from New York to Utah to Minnesota, state public health departments have allocated scarce COVID-19 drugs based on race—even after lawyers informed them that their allocation schemes were illegal.

Those plans, like Google’s fellowship criteria, were all posted on public websites. No effort was made to hide them, suggesting that race-discriminaton—against certain groups, at least—is now the norm for many professionals.

It is also the norm at many universities, some of which explicitly advertise the Google fellowship’s diversity criteria to students. In an August 16 email encouraging all computer science Ph.D.'s to apply for the fellowship, New York University said it would not nominate more than two white or Asian males, "in order to increase opportunities for students who are underrepresented in the field of computing." Duke University includes the same language on its "Research Funding" website.

Contacted about these concerns, New York University appeared to backtrack. "The language used in the internal announcement was not NYU's but rather was drawn from the FAQ that Google posted about the Fellowship program," a spokesman, John Beckman, told the Free Beacon, adding that "we are reviewing the language in the announcement."

The participating universities may be violating as many as three different civil rights laws, not just Title VI. If schools are nominating people for a fellowship, Morenoff said, courts might treat them as employment agencies under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment. State civil rights laws, which are often more exacting than federal statutes, pose a separate challenge. New York’s Human Rights Law, Morenoff said, is the most broadly written antidiscrimination law in the United States, and almost certainly bars universities from nominating students based on race.

That said, it would take a lot for universities to lose federal funding—a punishment of last resort under Title VI—over the fellowship. It could, however, open universities to civil rights investigations, Morenoff said, as well as to lawsuits from private parties. Universities usually blink in the face of such pressure. Harvard, for example, rescinded a ban on nominating members of single-gender clubs for the Rhodes scholarship after a 2019 lawsuit alleged that the policy violated Title IX.

Google’s legal problems are just as extensive as the universities’. Mortara, Morenoff, and another lawyer said that the fellowship’s racial caps likely violate the 1886 Civil Right Act, the law that bans contracting on the basis of race. Because it imposes requirements on students as well as Google—for example, that students remain enrolled in a Ph.D. program for the duration of the fellowship—courts would probably consider it a contract.

"Might Google have some defense? It’s possible," Morenoff said. "But on its face, this is a violation of our oldest civil rights enactment."

In addition, Google may be violating Title VII, whose ban on employment discrimination extends to employment training programs. The fellowship could be considered such a program, Morenoff said: Though fellows are not employed by Google, they are paired with a "Google mentor" and encouraged to apply for internships with the company. California state law, Morenoff added, also prohibits discrimination in employment training programs.

In response to a detailed inquiry about these legal concerns, Google defended the nominating criteria and denied that it was breaking the law.

"Like many companies, we actively encourage a broad range of individuals to apply to our PhD Fellowship program in order to attract the widest and most representative pool of applicants possible—this follows all relevant laws and is extremely common to do," a Google spokesperson said. "Selection for the fellowships"—that is, selection from the pool of nominees, not the nomination process itself—"is not based on demographics in any way. Fellows receive unrestricted funding for their studies, and if they are interested in working at Google, they are welcome to apply for jobs and go through the same hiring process as any other person."

This is not the first time Google has pushed the envelope with its diversity initiatives. The company’s former director of diversity strategy, Kamau Bobb, was reassigned in June of 2021 in the wake of a Free Beacon report that revealed his history of anti-Semitic comments, including that "Jews have an insatiable appetite for war." Around the same time, Google told employees in a series of diversity trainings that "America is a system of white supremacy" in which everyone is "raised to be racist" and that "colorblindness" is "covert white supremacy."

In 2017, the company also fired a programmer, James Damore, after he questioned Google’s diversity policies in an internal memo. The memo—"Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber"—proposed ways "to increase women's representation in tech without resorting to discrimination," a practice Damore called "unfair, divisive, and bad for businesses."

Google's diversity quotas extend beyond the United States. The Ph.D. Fellowship recruits students from across the world, with different nominating criteria for each region. Universities in East Asia and Europe, which are only allowed three nominations each, do not have to worry about race or disability. But gender is another story.

"If a university chooses to nominate more than two students," the rules for Asia and Europe read, "the third nominee must self-identify as a woman."


Britain's strictest headteacher hits back at Ofsted after inspectors found his school 'oppressive'

A teacher dubbed Britain’s strictest head has defended his discipline methods after a school he was drafted into was criticised as ‘oppressive’ by Ofsted.

Barry Smith, an education consultant and former school leader, said too many secondary school pupils were ‘openly contemptuous and abusive’ towards staff.

He said it was so bad that some teachers suffered from something akin to ‘battered-wife syndrome’ – and they almost feel they deserve the daily abuse from some pupils.

Mr Smith is part of a movement to reinstate ‘adult authority’ in schools. His approach is based on the acronym SLANT, which demands that pupils Sit up, Listen, Ask and answer questions, Never interrupt and Track the teacher – or look at them when they talk.

But critics claim such behaviour is the result of ‘military-style’ rules that are too harsh for modern teenagers and make them miserable.

An Ofsted report published last week about Abbey School, a secondary in Faversham, Kent, where Mr Smith helped establish a discipline regime last year, stated: ‘In lessons, most pupils comply with leaders’ strict expectations of behaviour.

‘However, the way leaders implement these expectations does not contribute positively to the culture of the school. For the majority of pupils, these approaches are applied in a manner that is overly restrictive. Many pupils find this oppressive.’

Abbey School gained its best GCSE results this summer. At A-level, the proportion of A* to C grades is up from 41 per cent in 2019 to 67 per cent.

Mr Smith claims that without his methods, too many teenagers get away with treating teachers with ‘habitual contempt’, telling The Mail on Sunday: ‘The loss of adult authority has a terrible impact on schools.

'Casual contempt is very commonplace in some schools. Too often, head teachers accept it and Ofsted accepts it and rates schools “good”. Pupils and adults in schools deserve far better.’

He also expects pupils to call teachers ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’, speak in sentences, be polite and ‘treat adults with the same level of courtesy that teachers deliberately demonstrate to pupils’.

He said: ‘These are basic social skills. If you go to private school, you often meet teenagers brimming with confidence. Pupils in state schools need to… compete. Having your head down, avoiding eye contact and monosyllabic responses are not going to cut it in the job or university interview.

‘I make it clear, every lesson is something to be treasured and every interaction is about deliberately modelling genuine mutual respect. The results pay off – positive relationships which lead to concrete achievement.’




Monday, August 29, 2022

Conservatives Sweep School Board Races Across Florida

School boards in five Florida counties flipped to conservative majorities Tuesday with help from the endorsements of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

Miami-Dade County, Sarasota County, Duval County, Martin County, and Clay County held school board elections. The conservative school board candidates in the five counties won their races, resulting in a flip in the majority on these school boards.

April Carney, endorsed by DeSantis, narrowly defeated incumbent Elizabeth Andersen, who was backed by Duval Teachers United and the Duval County Democratic Party, according to First Coast News. A video of Andersen calling a black conservative mom a “token person” surfaced on Aug. 14, sparking backlash from the mom and her attorney.

Roberto Alonso of Miami-Dade County was appointed to the school board in 2020 by DeSantis and defeated his two opponents, claiming an open seat on the board, according to the Miami Herald. Monica Colucci, endorsed by DeSantis, beat incumbent Marta Perez.

Tim Enos, Robyn Marinelli, and Bridget Ziegler all claimed a seat to the Sarasota County school board on election night, the Herald Tribune reported. All three candidates were endorsed by DeSantis.

Amy Pritchett, the co-chair of the local chapter of Moms For Liberty, a group that focuses on increasing parents’ involvement in their students’ education, won a seat on the Martin County school board by 337 votes, according to Treasure Coast Newspapers. Jennifer Russell was endorsed by DeSantis and won her race, claiming 56.26% of the vote.

Clay County’s Erin Skipper, endorsed by DeSantis, won 55% of the vote to win a seat on the school board, the First Coast News reported. Ashley Hutchings Gilhousen was up for reelection and claimed 69% of the vote.

The 1776 Project PAC, a group focused on school board elections and ending critical race theory, endorsed Carney, Alonso, Colucci, Ziegler, Enos, Marinelli, Pritchett, Russell, Skipper, and Gilhousen.

“The 1776 Project PAC worked to reach out to Republicans who typically vote in presidential elections but miss these important off cycle elections,” Aiden Buzzetti, head of coalitions and candidate recruitment for the 1776 Project PAC, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “By increasing voter turnout and focusing on the issues happening at their local school board, we were able to move voters to the ballot box to cast their vote for conservatives.”

Moms For Liberty did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. DeSantis’ office pointed the Daily Caller News Foundation to a Tuesday press release that called the governor’s interventions “the most significant effort by a governor to endorse, train and invest in school board candidates across the nation.”


UK: Teenagers with Covid-inflated GCSE grades ‘struggle with A-Levels’

Some teenagers are struggling on A-Level courses that are too difficult for them after they got inflated GCSE results last year, the head of a London college group warned.

Sam Parrett, group principal of London South East Colleges, said more 16 year olds stayed on at school sixth form last year after getting better grades than they expected, but too many are now on courses that may not be “the best choice for them.”

Grades spiralled during the pandemic after they were decided on by teachers. But this year’s GCSE results, released on Thursday, are expected to show a drop in the number of top grades after students took exams for the first time in three years.

Dr Parrett said around 200 fewer 16 to 18 year old students enrolled at London South East Colleges, which has campuses in Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich, last year which is a drop of five per cent and the first decrease for ten years.

There was also a large reduction of more than 600 fewer students needing to retake GCSE maths and English when they started their college courses.

Dr Parrett said: “[The drop in numbers] is likely to be the result of school leavers achieving higher grades through the teacher assessed grades system than they were perhaps expecting to. They then chose to stay at their school sixth form to take up A Levels, rather than moving to college to pursue a more vocational route.”

She added: “This has inevitably led to some students struggling on academic A-Level courses that perhaps weren’t the best choice for them, their interests or their abilities – made even worse by the significant period of lost learning they experienced due to Covid.”

She called on students who get lower grades than expected on results day to consider vocational courses. She said: “Our message for young people and their families expecting results [on Thursday] is to please not worry. There are so many options at Further Education colleges like ours to gain qualifications that will lead you directly into higher education and into great employment.”

GCSEs are graded from 9 to 1 in England with 7 the equivalent of a low A and a 4 to a C. Experts have predicted that about a quarter of a million fewer GCSEs will reach at least a grade 4 which is considered a pass mark, compared with last year. This will still be about 260,000 more than in 2019 when exams were last taken.

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said: “The impact on their lives of not having this now-accepted standard pass will be significant because it often means they leave school without having enough basic functional skills and the qualifications needed by employers.

“My research shows teachers identify those likely to struggle to get to grade 4 level during their early years of education, yet too many of these children fail to progress.” The NSPCC said there has been a 20 per cent rise in the number of 16, 17 and 18 year olds phoning Childline because of worries about exam results this year compared to last year.

Shaun Friel, Childline Director, said: “Most students receiving their GCSE results this year will have had little to no experience of sitting an exam in a formal setting, particularly as there’s been a lot of uncertainty on whether these exams would even take place.”


School districts move to ease teacher stress, burnout

With Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” blaring in the background, about 20 New Hampshire educators grabbed wooden sticks and began pounding their tables to the beat.

Emily Daniels, who was leading a two-day workshop on burnout, encouraged the group including teachers, school counselors, occupational therapists and social workers to stand up inside a hotel conference room. Before long, the group was banging on walls and whatever else they could find. Laughter filled the air. A few started dancing.

“Rhythm making offers the body a different kind of predictability that you can do every single day,” said Daniels, a former school counselor who created The Regulated Classroom which trains teachers on how to manage their own nervous system and, in turn, reduce stress in the classroom.

The training session is part of a growing and, some would say long overdue, effort to address the strains on educators' mental health.

Addressing the mental health challenges of students coming out of the pandemic has emerged as a priority for schools nationwide. Many districts, facing hiring challenges, see tending to the educators as a way to help them help students and to retain them, amid stressors that range from behavioral problems to fears of shootings.

School districts have provided increased mental health training for staff, classroom support as well as resources and systems aimed at identifying burned out teachers and getting instructors connected to help.

Karen Bowden-Gurley, a fifth grade teacher, said she attended the New Hampshire training because of teacher burnout, but she also feels student burnout.

“The demands on all of us were really high and we were trying to make up for lost time for the couple of years that they fell back on their curriculum. But we forgot that they haven’t been in school for a couple of years so they missed that social-emotional piece. We are dealing with that in the classroom.”

In a survey by the Rand Corporation, twice as many principals and teachers reported frequent job-related stress as other working adults. A study from a coalition of mental health organizations of New Orleans found educators working during the pandemic reported rates of emotional distress similar to health care workers — 36% screened positive for anxiety, 35% for depression and 19% for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“It’s all pretty bad,” said Leigh McLean, the primary investigator at the Teacher Emotions, Characteristics, and Health Lab at the University of Delaware School of Education, who has found levels of depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion among elementary school teachers that are 100% to 400% higher than before the pandemic.

She saw those issues increasing the most among early career teachers and teachers of color.

“So it seems like the patterns among teachers are mirroring inequities that we’re seeing in the general population with underrepresented groups being hit the hardest, which is really unfortunate,” she said.

Some districts have or are planning to invest federal COVID-19 relief money in teacher mental health, seeing it as a way to also improve the classroom environment, boost retention and ultimately benefit the students themselves. Among the states singling out teacher mental health as priorities are Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

The Atlanta school district launched a service with Emory University using federal funds to provide mental health services. Dubbed Urgent Behavioral Health Response, it funds 11 clinicians from Emory who provide emotional and behavioral assistance during school hours for struggling school employees.

A Delaware district, meanwhile, hired two social and emotional learning coaches who work to address problems teachers are having in the classroom.

“If you can imagine a teacher has a classroom where students are engaged, they are helping each other and there is a positive supportive culture, their job satisfaction is likely to be higher,” Jon Cooper, the director of the Colonial School District’s health and wellness division. “They are less likely to leave the profession, and in turn, that supports their well being.”

Houston, which started building calming rooms where students can go to decompress, is hoping to do the same for teachers, according to Sean Ricks, the Houston Independent School District’s senior manager of crisis intervention, noting that he has seen a “significant rise in teachers that were in distress.”

The rooms would be different from the traditional teacher break rooms and a place where teachers could go during time off to “calm down and chill out,” Ricks said, adding they could have “could have some aromatherapy, maybe some soft music.”

“We want them to be able to understand that we have to take mindfulness breaks and self-care breaks during the academic day sometimes,” Ricks said.

An elementary school in Indiana starts the week with Mindful Mondays, where teachers guide their classes in deep breathing techniques. There are also Thoughtful Thursdays, where a student is called on to write a letter to a staff member to show appreciation, and Friday Focus, when students and teachers talk about self-care.

“My teachers know when they need to take breaks throughout the day I want them to take those breaks,” said Allison Allen-Lenzo, the principal at O’Bannon Elementary School.

A growing number of groups offer training that incorporates breathing exercises, yoga, gentle movements and meditation.




Sunday, August 28, 2022

UK: 'Snowflake' secondary school refuses to publish GCSE results because 'ALL pupils should be celebrated'

Parents have blasted a 'snowflake' secondary school after its 'woke' headteacher decided not to publish GCSE results this year because 'all pupils should be celebrated'.

It comes after schools up and down the country publicly revealed the exam results of their pupils, as has always traditionally been the case.

But Uppingham Community College, in Rutland, say they are celebrating an 'exceptional' set of GCSE results despite two years of disruption due to the Covid pandemic.

The college has refused to release headline figures of what pupils have achieved due to the 'unlevel playing field' in education during this period.

The mixed secondary, which caters for 900 pupils between 11-16, has also decided not to promote pupils who have achieved the highest grades.

Headteacher Ben Solly defended the decision saying 'all pupils should be celebrated for their achievements' and comparing results with previous years would be 'irrelevant'.

He added: 'During the past two to three years there has not been a level playing field in education.

'Young people, their families and school communities have faced unique situations which make any comparisons between schools, or results from previous years, invalid and irrelevant.

'We have chosen not to make such publications today because we strongly believe that all pupils should be celebrated for their individual achievements.

'Each and every pupils will have faced their own challenges, barriers and set-backs, and we are immensely proud of all of them for persevering and doing their very best regardless of the obstacles they faced.

'It is easy to forget that the last 'normal' school year this cohort received was when they were in Year 8 in 2018 to 19.

'Thankfully we pulled together and ensured our pupils received an excellent education throughout this period, this is reflected in the very high standards pupils have achieved in their GCSE exams.'

However the decision not to publicise the GCSE results drew a mixed response from parents on social media who accused the school of 'pandering to the woke brigade'.

One mum said: 'Here we go again, yet another example of an institution pandering to the woke brigade.

How GCSEs were graded across the UK?

Students received their GCSE results on Thursday, having sat exams for the first time in two years due to the pandemic.

Grading is different in England, compared with Northern Ireland and Wales.

In England, traditional A* to G grades were replaced in recent years with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 being the highest mark.

In general, a grade 7-9 is roughly equivalent to A-A*, while a grade 4 and above is roughly equivalent to a C and above.

Traditional A*-G grades are still used in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Similar to the pattern with A-level results, published last week, results dropped below last year's levels, but remain above those from 2019.

This year, exams were graded more generously in a bid to provide a safety net for students in the move back towards pre-pandemic arrangements.

'Wrapping everyone up in cotton wool and telling them they are all equally brilliant. What a joke.'

Another added: 'I feel for those who have worked hard to get the best grades and won't get public recognition now due to some PC nonsense.'

A third wrote: 'Just heard Uppingham School are not publicizing (sic) their GCSE results - welcome to snowflake Britain 2022.'

Another put: 'Why doesn't this surprise me anymore. Probably trying not to offend the low-achievers to avoid any upset. Stop this pampering, they are nearly adults now.'

However one person added: 'He has a point, these last two years have been like no other so to compare them to previous years is unfair. Well done everyone.'

And another said: 'There has been a lot of disruption during this period so I can see why. Each pupil knows how they have done and that's all that really matters.'

GCSE results were released at 8am on Thursday morning and as expected, this year's pass rate had fallen since 2021, but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Results this year were expected to be significantly lower as grade inflation due to the pandemic comes to an end.

Exams this year were graded more generously following on from two years of teacher-based marks in a bid to provide a safety net for students in the move back towards pre-pandemic arrangements.

Overall GCSE results are higher than in 2019, with outcomes at grade 7 and above at 26.0% compared with 20.6% in 2019, and outcomes at grade 4 and above at 73.0% compared with 67.0% in 2019.


Missouri school district reinstates corporal punishment after parents called for their kids to be spanked with a wooden paddle

A Missouri school district has reinstated corporal punishment after parents reportedly called for their kids to be spanked with a wooden paddle, the superintendent claimed.

Cassville R-IV School District, located near the Arkansas border, has implemented corporal punishment as a 'last resort' going into the 2022-23 school year.

'It shall be used only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed,' the policy reads. 'It should never be inflicted in the presence of other students.'

The punishment technique - which is legal in 19 states - will only be administered in front of a witness and will not cause 'bodily injury or harm.'

Superintendent Merlyn Johnson, 47, claimed parents were asking the school district 'why can't you paddle my student?' and they had received several requests to reinstate the decades-old policy.

'There had been a conversation with parents and there had been requests from parents for us to look into it,' he told the Springfield News-Leader. 'We've had people actually thank us for it.

Older students whose parents opt-in could receive up to three spanks per punishment, while younger scholars will receive one to two spanks. Staff members will be able to employ 'reasonable physical force,' but it does not explicitly explain how it will be measured and whether or not all staff members will be allowed to hit students.

'Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I've run into have been supportive,' he claimed.

In an August 2022 letter to parents, Johnson explained that the policy change was simply to give 'principals one more disciplinary option before students receive more serious punishment. such as suspensions.'

Parents must review and sign an opt-in form if they 'wish to authorize corporal punishment' for their child. has reached out to board members, the superintendent, and other staff members for comment.

Some parents are unhappy with the decision, stating they would prefer in-school or out-of-school suspension rather than physical punishment.

'We live in a really small community where people were raised a certain way and they’re kind of blanketed in that fact that they grew up having discipline and swats,' parent Miranda Waltrip told Ozarks First.

'And so, for them, it’s like going back to the good old days but it’s not because it’s going to do more harm than good at the end of the day.'

Kimberly Richardson agreed, stating: 'In-school suspension that would be fine with me, or even out of school suspensions. Those are just way better than corporal punishment.'

However, Dylan Burns said he doesn't see a problem with the new policy, saying: 'No matter what you choose, I think you need to sit down with your kids and choose what’s best for you and your family.'

Washington County Public Schools, in Alabama, also implemented corporal punishment and the former superintendent John Dickey told NBC 15 in 2020: '[For] most kids, it's effective.

'It’s a last resort before expulsion. So, it is serious by the time we use corporal punishment.'

It was used 90 times in the 2018-19 school year, according to the school district, and most of the incident occurred at the high school level.

Students were spanked 32 times at Fruitdale High School and 30 times at the Millry High School, according to NBC 15.


After Being Targeted by NBC News, Christian School Refuses to Back Down on Traditional Morality

Grace Christian School “fielded hundreds, probably thousands, of phone calls Thursday, Friday, over the weekend, with just some of the most outrageous things: People threatening to burn my house down, threatening to kill my family,” said Barry McKeen, school administrator and pastor of Grace Community Church of Valrico, Florida, which runs the school.

The threats came in reaction to an article by NBC News, which published several paragraphs of a June 6 email in which McKeen reiterated to school parents the school’s commitment to biblical sexuality.

“We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity,” read the email, and continued:

Therefore, one’s biological sex must be affirmed, and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s biological gender—including, but not limited to, elective sex reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary gender fluid acts of conduct (Genesis 1:26-28). Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion.

“We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful in the sight of God and the church (Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1:26-29; I Corinthians 5:1; I Corinthians 6:9; I Thessalonians 4:2-7),” the email added. “Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately.”

It’s a bit surprising that NBC News would choose to cite a robust defense of biblical sexuality so extensively. It must believe that every word is damning.

Indeed, to this apologetic, NBC felt it needed to only add quotes from three anonymous former students who essentially confirmed the email accurately reflected the school’s policies. One left the school for another which allowed her to “just be myself.” Another, who graduated, said her identity as transgender “was not something I could be open about.” A third, who also graduated, objected to chapel messages preaching against homosexuality.

In response, McKeen published a video address on Thursday night insisting that the school would not back away from its commitment to follow the Bible. “Why we were chosen for this experience, I do not know,” he said. “Almost every Christian school has such a policy.”

But McKeen did know one thing. “I don’t answer to NBC,” he explained. “I answer to God. And so, if a lot of people are mad at me, I’m sorry. I don’t like that they’re mad at me. But at the end of the day, I answer to God.”

McKeen said “many things in the article” were true. Grace Christian School does have “a policy that does not allow students to [identify as] homosexuals or transgender.” But that’s because “they’re students. They’re young people. They shouldn’t be sexual at all. God condemns any sexual activity outside of marriage, and that’s also in the policy.” The policy didn’t single out LGBT identities; it also applied to heterosexual immorality.

“We have had these policies in our school since day No. 1, in the early 1970s,” said McKeen, who “has served in the church for 21 years.” He clearly explained that “God has spoken on those issues explicitly, aggressively.” There is no wiggle room. Therefore, “it is our policy now. It will be our policy going forward because … God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change.”

But “some things” were “blatantly untrue” in the article, insisted McKeen—particularly an anonymous assertion in the NBC article that, during chapel hour, he “started yelling about how if you’re gay you’re going to hell.” McKeen responded, “I did not utter those words. The reason I know that is because that’s not my doctrinal position … nor the position of our church.”

“Any sin will condemn you to hell. And that’s why we need a savior,” McKeen explained. “One must come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. One must be born again. So, we teach our students, ‘We have to acknowledge our sin. We have to admit that sin to God. Then we have to understand and accept the free gift of salvation: that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again.’ … To be saved, the sinner must call upon God and admit that sin.”

On the other hand, McKeen warned, “If you’re an unrepentant sinner … you’ll be separated from God for all time and eternity.”

McKeen also responded to NBC’s emphasizing in the headline that Grace Christian School “asks gay and transgender students to leave,” noting that “we had one student, on one occasion, whose parents and us came to an agreement for them to be withdrawn. And that’s about it. … Did the school and the atmosphere make them uncomfortable? I would think that a school that’s standing for biblical values is going to be discomforting to somebody who is not.”

The students mentioned in the article “were loved by this school,” he added. “We’re not hateful people.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” said Jesus (Mat. 5:10-12).

Even if NBC and others call them hateful, McKeen promised the school would not abandon its biblical convictions.

“If anybody ever came to me—any entity with the power to do so—and said, ‘Do this, change this policy, or your doors can’t open,’ then our doors would remain closed,” he said. “We believe the Bible from cover to cover. We’re not going to change.”

“This is a private, Christian school,” McKeen explained. That means they don’t have to conform to the values of public education or the secular, religious indoctrination infused in public schools. “Parents choose to send their kids to the school,” he said, because that’s the type of education they want for their children.

McKeen admitted “it’s not for everybody,” but if someone doesn’t agree with their values, they have plenty of other schools to choose from, and there are plenty of other families waiting to take their place. But “in Christian schools, you would find almost the exact same policy”; in many, it’s “the exact same wording.”

After the barrage of threats, parents with children enrolled in the school showed up to the church on Sunday morning, even if that wasn’t the church they regularly attended. Well-wishers from around the county donated to the school, including one who attached a note to his $5,000 check, reading, “Stay strong, keep the faith.”

As millions of students have abandoned public schools since the pandemic began, leftist elites are desperate to disparage Christian schools and other alternative forms of education beyond their control. Yet private Christian schools still offer a positive alternative to a public education system drowning in its own wokeness.

Grace Christian School currently has a waitlist of more than 100 students. Lengthy waitlists indicate that the demand for a Christian education far outstrips the supply. That’s why Family Research Council’s senior fellow for biblical worldview and strategic engagement, Joseph Backholm, argues that “every church should start a Christian school.”

Public schools used to teach shared values and basic education skills, and that was acceptable for many parents. But now that public schools are abandoning the fundamentals and increasingly embracing woke indoctrination, many Christian parents are rediscovering there is no such thing as value-neutral education. Instead, they are increasingly embracing education based on explicitly biblical values.

“These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children,” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Christian schools that stand firm on biblical values are an increasingly attractive option for doing so.