Friday, February 24, 2023

One-Size-Fits-All Education Doesn't Work Well, but Diversity Advocates Are Hitting the Accelerator

There’s a world of difference in the abilities of elementary school students in the Trotwood-Madison City School District, outside Dayton, Ohio. Some low-performing fifth graders are only capable of reading first-grade picture books with basic words like dog and cat, says Angie Fugate, a district specialist focusing on gifted education. In the same classrooms, the aces read at a sixth-grade level, devouring thick novels that adults also enjoy, including the Harry Potter series.

This remarkable learning gap of about five grade levels exists today in many if not most K-8 classrooms in the U.S., according to researchers. They say it makes teaching everyone in a classroom extremely difficult and may help explain the poor performance of many public schools.

The gap partly reflects reformers’ decades-long push against grouping students by ability that’s only intensifying now in a renewed clamor for diversity in classrooms. Although much attention has focused on dropping selective admissions at academically competitive public schools, the diversity movement has also rolled back gifted programs and honors classes at more schools, from New York to Seattle.

Even educational experts who support diversity warn that the dismantling of accelerated instruction will likely add to the learning gap problem as advanced students are increasingly tossed into general education classrooms.

The learning gap already exists in big cities, suburbs, and small towns. A 2021 study found that in about 70% of fourth-grade classrooms, student performance varied widely, with pupils placing in four or more different math benchmarks from low to advanced – or from about the second- to sixth-grade levels.

The pandemic lockdowns widened the spread even more. It was particularly harmful to low-income students of color who spent more time in remote instruction and dropped even further behind their white peers, according to a 2022 study.

To learn, students need challenging instruction calibrated just beyond what they already know. But the wider the learning gap in a classroom, the more likely that a teacher won’t provide everyone with appropriate levels of instruction, says Scott Peters, a senior research scientist at school assessment group NWEA who focuses on the achievement gap.

“What schools are doing today is so inefficient and ineffective,” Peters says. “Equity should be about giving every kid what they need to grow. But we are teaching every kid the same thing, despite the big achievement gaps among them, and that’s the definition of inequity.”

For diversity advocates, the priority is integrating classrooms of high-achieving whites and Asians with more blacks and Latinos despite the disparity in skill levels that often exists among these students. They argue that mixed classrooms are essential in a country with a population that’s become much more diverse over the past two decades.

Halley Potter at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, says that while ability grouping almost always produces classrooms skewed by race and class, mixed classrooms create “learning environments that build empathy, reduce racial bias, and prepare students to thrive in a diverse world.”

But what about academic performance? Years of research to find out if mixing students from different economic backgrounds improves the performance of low achievers is “inconclusive,” according to a review of the studies by Sarah Cordes at Temple University.

Several studies suggest that struggling students do see gains in more prosperous schools ‒ but a few studies suggest they don’t. The bigger issue, Cordes points out, is that it’s unclear what’s causing the improved performance: Is it the exposure to high-achieving peers or the family background of the struggling students?

If mixed-ability classrooms work, it’s not reflected in the nation’s report card. The national testing scores of fourth and eighth graders in math and reading showed almost no progress from 2009 to 2019. More telling, the divergence between the high and low performers widened significantly. Scores for the weakest students fell in both subjects and in both grades.

But researchers who say lumping students together isn’t working and it’s time to consider new approaches sometimes face a hostile reception in today’s racially charged fight over public education.

“If you want to be called a racist, go out and say that you're for ability grouping,” says Jonathan Plucker, a professor of education at Johns Hopkins University who studies and consults with schools on this issue. “And people will say it to your face. But I’ve spent my career trying to help every kid grow academically, and I think the research says that ability grouping is a better way to do it.”

The learning gap takes shape even before kids enter kindergarten. A 2022 study looked at math and science skills among kindergartners of different races. Researchers found that about 16% of white students and only 4% of blacks and Latinos showed advanced abilities, a spread that they attributed mostly to differences in family income and early educational opportunities for children.

As students move through elementary school, so does the learning gap. In a study of sixth graders, researchers examined math and reading test data from two large and racially diverse urban school districts with more than 22,000 students in the 2014-2015 school year. They found that 59% of math classrooms and 82% of English classrooms had a gap of five or more grade levels.

School reformers have arguably helped to maintain if not widen the gap by dismantling ability grouping practices like tracking, according to Tom Loveless, a former senior fellow at Brookings Institution who wrote a book on tracking. This system that typically places students in low-, average- and high-performance classrooms for most of their schooling was the dominant way to organize students in the late 1980s, when it first came under attack by liberal-minded educators and academics. They were inspired by the work of Jeannie Oakes, an educational theorist at UCLA whose research focused on school inequalities and social justice.

While research showed that top students benefited from the high tracks, those in the lower tracks, composed of many black and Latino students, were being neglected. Oakes found that the low tracks were filled with less-experienced teachers, ineffective rote instruction, and unruly behavior that undermined students’ ability to learn.

Reformers succeeded in sharply reducing tracking in English, history, and social science courses across the county, but not in advanced math, according to Loveless. They also rolled back remedial education, in which struggling kids were pulled out of class and placed in groups for special interventions in subjects such as reading.

Since then, the opposition to tracking has expanded into a broader movement that has toppled other forms of ability grouping in several cities.


Texas A&M University Displays the Destructive Results of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Programs

One of the great ironies in contemporary college systems is how rampantly anti-intellectual they have become over the course of the last generation or so. Cerebral rigor, open-mindedness, and challenging information have long been underpinning aspects of university life. These days, those same elements are regarded as threats on too many campuses. More troubling is the inability of some schools to apply common sense while looking at the concrete results of a failed experiment.

This takes us to College Station, Texas. Texas A&M University has been leaning heavily into the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives that have been mushrooming across the country at universities and corporations. These social engineering programs are claimed to be set up to make the opportunity and acceptance of minorities more widespread, while critics have maintained these are more like opportunities to exact social revenge and pave the way for activism to gain more power. At TAMU, the critics are being proven correct.

Try to imagine that a social program designed to aid the people was shown to instead be exacerbating the problem being addressed, such as a food bank that was found to have created more malnourishment with recipients or if Alcoholics Anonymous led to more getting locked into alcoholism. There would be calls to suspend the program.

Professor Scott Yenor, writing for The Martin Center, exposes how years of DEI enforcement at A&M have not led to improved conditions and better campus life for the allegedly target student groups. Instead, it is seen that what has been accomplished is a lowered satisfaction level across the board. And yet, in the face of this blatant failure of the DEI programs, the college looks over these results and declares that even more DEI enforcement is needed.

"TAMU has sought to build a DEI university since the late 1990s, when former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was its president. Efforts accelerated with TAMU's 2010 Report on Diversity, which announced a two-pronged revolution in equity and inclusive climate. Important incentives were put in place for university units and colleges that adopted aggressive equity measures and efforts to measure and improve the campus climate."

The college has conducted studies of the student body since these DEI measures were implemented, and it shows that respondents indicate the opposite has occurred. Instead of improving the climate among students on campus, they have come to feel less satisfied with their experience. Over just five years, all major ethnic groups showed significant drops in their perception of being part of the TAMU experience.

We have seen DEI methods intended to diminish "white privilege" and make opportunities more available to minorities. Just last week, we saw a Florida university had a DEI program that established a scholarship for which whites were not eligible. These methods, however, are shown to have the opposite effect.

While the chart above shows diminished results for all racial groups, whites experienced the lowest drop, while staggeringly, blacks over that small five-year window saw a drop of nearly 30%. Barely half of all black students at TAMU felt inclusiveness at the school, where inclusion was the primary thrust of the DEI program.

A likely cause for some of that result is the DEI push to show POC students the areas where they are supposed to feel exclusionary efforts. Whether it is exposing students to something they previously never felt or experienced or reclassifying things to show an imbalanced result for others, it appears possible that the feeling of exclusion was manufactured. Instead of opening up opportunities, the DEI program instead highlighted claims of systemic oppression, and this further divided the campus rather than fostering inclusivity.

What other explanation can be concluded when you have DEI programs set up to target POC students and make their campus experience richer, and instead, the result is more end up feeling as if they do not belong? It is clear the DEI initiative was a failure. But at TAMU, they are not looking to bring an end to this failing effort; amazingly, these results are instead seen as a reason to ramp up the program.

"The diversity commissars at TAMU, however, were in no mood to reexamine their priors in the face of these survey results. Instead, they focused on the newly-emerged racial chasm between whites and blacks. TAMU's 2020 State of Diversity Report recommended a lot more. Seizing on the new chasm, the report announced a frontal assault on the systemically racist TAMU community."

This is how race hustlers usually operate. They do not highlight successes that are easily pointed out. Instead, when their divisive tactics create a deeper racial chasm, they claim that it is proof they are needed for further time spent repairing the damage. Pay no mind that they added to the damage rather than healed anything.

This is a grifter's hustle, offering a solution to a problem they have created. That colleges play into this is disturbing, and that universities claiming to be institutions of higher learning cannot learn from the most basic level of lessons is as troubling a sign of our future that exists. The evidence is clear, and the scam is obvious, but these high-minded thinkers give in to their base emotional responses.


Biased reading list for Australian High School students

Of the five Australians who have won the Booker Prize, which one is on the NSW HSC English set text list? Of course you knew it was Aravind Diga whose novel White Tiger won in 2008. The other four winners of the Booker have yet to make it on to the racist NSW HSC reading list. Why DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little), Richard Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s Ark) and Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda, 1988, A True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001) are not on the list is worth considering.

Diga is on the list and the other four aren’t because of racism. The faceless bureaucrats who set the curriculum are obsessed with ethnicity and give preference to books by non-whites or books by white authors about the problems of non-white people belonging in mainly white societies. It sounds absurd but look at the list. Consider who is on the list of approved texts and, more importantly, who isn’t.

While DBC Pierre’s selection was controversial, there can be no doubt that the books of Flanagan, Carey and Keneally will stand the test of time because of the quality of their writing. In particular Flanagan’s book is recognised as a masterpiece but all three are examples of writing of the highest order and must stand among the best novels ever written by an Australian.

Why then are these brilliant novels not on the NSW HSC reading list? Instead the ideologues who compiled the current farce prefer works such as Swallow the Air by ‘Wiradjuri author’ Tara Winch and Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller or Small Island by Jamaican writer Andrea Levy which are all concerned with the awful way that white people treat black people. The books by Miller and Winch were probably selected because the curriculum specifies that the books studied must include, ‘a range of Australian texts, including texts by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander authors and those that give insights into diverse experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples’. The book by Levy was presumably selected because it shows that the awful way that black people are treated extends across the globe and is not just limited to the racist cesspool which some people call Australia. These books, and the others like them on the reading list, are not bad novels, but neither are they great works of art and it would be interesting to hear from the people who selected them as to why they consistently prefer second-rate novels when there is an abundance of great literature available.

It is not only great Australian writers who are absent from the HSC reading list. We see the same reluctance to include great writers on the list when we consider British and American authors. Any list of the very best of contemporary or recent fiction by northern hemisphere writers must include people such as John Updike, Phillip Roth, Cormack McCarthy and Ian McEwan.

The funniest book about male adolescent sexuality ever written is incontestably Portnoy’s Complaint and perhaps it may be too risqué for a high school audience but The Human Stain and American Pastoral, also by Roth will be read generations from now for an insight into post-World War II America in the same way that we look to Balzac for insight into post-Napoleonic France. Updike’s novels cover the same territory with equally majestic and insightful prose which makes the stuff the HSC students have to digest seem amateurish. Cormack McCarthy’s The Road about the journey of a father and his son across post-apocalyptic America, was probably not written with the NSW HSC syllabus in mind but, if ever a book was written to capture the imagination of an adolescent male, this is it.

There are dozens of writers around the globe whose work offers us great insight into our contemporary world and who demonstrate the power and the beauty of ideas expressed in precise prose. Instead of putting the best of modern writing before HSC students, by focussing on works by non-white writers who are mainly concerned with issues of race, the NSW Board of studies is simply going to leave most HSC students bored with studies.

The decision to promote second-order fiction and to ignore the abundance of contemporary great literature that would capture the imagination of students must produce the same sort of disengagement we see in Chinese students who are required to immerse themselves in the riches of Xi Jinping Thought. The difference is that while Xi Jinping is steadily crushing any form of public dissent, for the moment, in Australia, we still have the ability to produce open debate about the relationship between ideology and power. The furore over the establishment of university courses focusing on Western Civilisation is a manifestation of that ideological struggle. The HSC reading list which is a product of the current academic ruling class, and which pushes an ideological barrow not supported by most Australians, is another. Step by step and book by book, the academic Left is chipping away at the legitimacy of the ideas that have shaped the modern world.

According to US academic Ambereen Dadabhoy, ‘Shakespeare is implicated in the hostility and violence, the currency of racism, experienced by those “of dark skin”.’ She is not alone. Google ‘Shakespeare and racism’ and hundreds of articles addressing this issue are available. The same applies if we ask Google if Shakespeare was a misogynist or an antisemite. There are hundreds of articles investigating these issues. From my unscientific reading, approximately half come to Shakespeare’s defence and find him not guilty but that still leaves 50 per cent of the people who examine these issues inclined to consider the greatest writer in the English speaking world for the past one thousand years, guilty of at least one of the wokerati’s trio of capital sins.

People in power all too often seem unable to distinguish between racist plays and plays about racism and the higher up the academic hierarchy one goes, the more the ‘experts’ judge the work of Shakespeare against the current race-obsessed intellectual climate rather than in relation to the Elizabethan age in which he wrote.

The idea that Shakespeare was a racist, misogynist or antisemite was rarely considered until recently. But increasingly, The Shrew, The Merchant and Othello are seen less as masterpieces and more as problematic plays unsuitable for study in secondary schools. The madness must be stopped. ?




Thursday, February 23, 2023

Two Tales of Higher Education in North Carolina

The African woman below describes the ambience at an historically black college and compares that with the ambience at a college in an affluent white area. The scenery is undoubtedly better in the white area. She sees the facilities and scenery in the white area as conferring more opportunity on the students who go there. She sees the black college students as disadvantaged by comparison.

Yet she also says that the educational environment at the black college is very good and likely to help the students there to develop themselves in constructive directions

That seems a non-sequitur to me. Does nice scenery make you learn better? Any such influence is surely marginal.

The real difference between the two colleges lies not in facilities but in the family background of the students. The lush environment of the white college tells us that a lot of the parents of the students there are affluent. And affluence is substantially transmissable. The habits of thought and behaviour that made the parents and grandparents affluent will tend to be passed onto the children who will thus be well equipped to become affluent themselves.

So the advantage that the writer sees as coming from the college environment in fact comes from the family of the students there and little more. Different families lead to different lives

Aweek ago, I visited the first Historically Black College or University for women in the United States, Bennett College. The college itself is landmark, a beautiful representation of Black women, and a hallmark of Greensboro.

The women who attend and teach at the college are known as the Bennett Belles — epitomizing grace and intellect with every step they take. The campus is laid out intentionally with residential halls facing the academic buildings so that, as the tour guide informed me, “the young women of Bennett remain focused on what matters.”

At the tip of the campus is a brick chapel, which once hosted the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., facing gates that women can walk through only twice in their time at Bennett — when they first become Belles and when those Belles finally leave the ball (also known as graduation). The gates are parallel to the president’s home, which serves as the campus’ North Star.

As I sat, perched, at the bench in front of the chapel, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy mainly due to the fact that Black women had a place they could call home — a space in which they could and should delve into all their interests without remorse. I imagine that I would have felt this way had I gone to Spelman, another Historically Black College for Black women situated in Atlanta.

After speaking with the Black women who attended Bennett, my heart was full. Before me were tens of young women, from different walks of life, passionate about making the world a better place — and they had the added bonus of having each other to lean on.

That same day, I travelled to another higher education institution, Elon University, which was about 30 minutes out. I drove with a professor who also had not yet visited the university, and when we turned into campus, our jaws immediately dropped.

Flanked to our left was a beautiful brick building simply titled “The Inn” and ahead of us was a huge fountain surrounded by the greenest grass you could possibly imagine. (I later found out that Elon is known for being one of the most picturesque campuses in the country, and it surely lived up to its name.) The school was simply breathtaking.

Though my time at Elon was edifying and exciting (I taught my first class there based on my edited collection!), I could not help but think about the Bennett Belles, their campus, and how some years back the college was in the news for potentially losing accreditation. I could not help but think about how Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom discussed Bennett College in her piece about student debt for the New York Times. Or, how at present nearly all full-time first-time Bennett College students receive financial aid.

In comparison, a quick look at Elon University’s demographics suggests that the majority of college-age students are white, rich, and from the Northeast. Lots of students who attended the private school I graduated from landed at Elon. Though a fair amount of Elon’s students still need financial aid (~36 percent of first year students needed aid this past year), there is no shortage of resources.

The differences in facilities, for example, between the two schools are stark. At most public universities and HBCUs, separate colleges or departments may share floors or even a building. At Elon, and lots of private PWIs, colleges and/or departments have their own campus or building.

To me, these two colleges, thirty minutes apart, represented two completely different institutional realities, which differ along the lines of race, gender, and class in higher education.

Bennett College is more than equipped to educate students, but the noticeable lack of investment in HBCUs, like Bennett, that serve purposes beyond educating Black students, is egregious at best.

What’s more Elon isn’t unique in its proximity to whiteness and wealth (and the legacy thereof) in the higher education sphere. My dad used to say that predominantly white institutions are where the resources were concentrated. And he’s right.

In 2016, the United Negro College Fund found that Howard University, the HBCU with the largest endowment of $600 million, has a significantly lower endowment than the 10th place non-HBCU university, University of Michigan at $9.5 billion. Billions to millions. Comparing Elon and Bennett, Elon’s current endowment is 335 million as of 2021 while Bennett’s is $15 million. The differences are stark. Yet, the outsized cultural and economic impact of HBCUs are unparalleled.

At the crux, the [type of] access to higher education is an excellent representation of how inequality still shapes the spaces that generate opportunity. And how when we talk about who faces challenges in higher education, and who ends up makes decisions for students overall, there is a gap.

The two tales of higher education boils down to this: The Bennett Belles are as capable as anyone I met at Elon University, but because of their race, gender identity, and for many, class, they will not be easily granted the space to lead in the way Elon students will be expected to, they will not receive every resource they are entitled to.

Even amidst challenges faced, Bennett College students are thriving in every area, being selected for high ranking graduate programs, interning at Fortune 500 companies, and the list continues. What would happen if these women were granted the resources to go above and beyond what they’ve already achieved?


The Collegiate War on Excellence and Descent into Mediocrity

The United States has been considered a truly “exceptional” place because it excels in so many ways. It has the biggest output of goods and services. It has had the most powerful military presence on the planet for many years. Its technological advances have been the greatest of any nation. And, more relevant to this readership, surveys of higher education, conducted in such diverse places as London and Shanghai, say that America has a commanding proportion of the world’s greatest universities.

Yet, over the last generation, a remarkable and disturbing development has occurred: American universities are increasingly downplaying, ignoring, or even condemning their distinction in the production and dissemination of ideas that they have, historically, done so well. The genesis of this development goes back several decades. Around 1960, time-use data suggest that the typical college student spent around 40 hours per week in class, studying, writing papers, working in laboratories, etc., while earning a 2.4 or 2.5 grade point average—roughly one half “B” grades and one half “C”s. Fast forward to the present. Twenty-first-century data suggest a typical American college student spends under 30 hours per week on these activities (probably about 28), a 30% reduction from two generations earlier, yet the average grade point average is above 3.0—mostly “B”s, with a smattering of even higher grades.

Students are doing far less work for more recognition. If excellence associated with great achievement typically requires hard work and discipline, the present college-going generation is lacking, in large part because their professors are far less demanding than those in the past (grade inflation has been indirectly encouraged by the increasing dominance of an administrative staff contemptuous of academic values, a subject for another epistle.)

Colleges that, a half century or more ago, seemed eager to reward scholarly excellence with not only admissions but also generous financial aid are now obsessed with other things totally irrelevant to academic excellence, namely such biological characteristics as skin coloration, or even sexual preferences. I predict this will become embarrassingly obvious in the forthcoming Supreme Court cases involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina, leading the court to restrict the race-preferential treatment that currently exists.

There are still other manifestations of a near contempt for the pursuit of excellence. The widespread abandonment of required SAT or ACT test results reduces the ability of college admissions officers to assess the academic performance of applicants. The attempt by law and medical schools to suppress the rankings of their institutions by magazines trying to measure excellence is yet another manifestation of this worrisome trend. Medical schools which ease learning requirements while promoting “diversity” could literally cost lives through incompetent health care in future years.

The biggest single cause of this descent into mediocrity is the enormous federal financing of student financial aid. Unlike nearly all private scholarship assistance, there are virtually no minimal performance criteria to get federal student loans or Pell Grants. Indeed, just the opposite. If a student fails a number of courses, takes a relatively low course load, and therefore takes five and one-half years to graduate, he will probably have received at least one-third more financial assistance from the federal government than the student who graduates in four years, or even less, summa cum laude. The attrition rate of Pell Grant recipients is very high—there is no financial pressure to excel or even to persist in amiable mediocrity.

There are some early signs that America’s research excellence is being significantly challenged as well. The number of non-American schools in global lists of the top 50 or 100 institutions is growing. Aside from declining research spending in the U.S. relative to other nations, the diminishing emphasis on research probably in part reflects the current American academic obsession with promoting essentially progressive, woke agendas as manifested by swollen and increasingly powerful diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracies that have no interest in promoting academic integrity and merit—indeed, often the opposite.

The disdain for academic excellence recently hit home for me. My wife and I made a gift to modestly augment an already existing scholarship endowment fund we had created at my university. The university often provides additional matching funds from unrestricted gifts to enhance the impact of a donation, but it would not do so for our scholarship because we have a stipulation that the monies must go to a good student who is in the top 20% of his high school class. The university did not like that restriction, and therefore no matching funds were provided. At my university, scholarships to promote academic excellence are disfavored relative to ones available to prospective students with mediocre secondary school or collegiate performance. Mediocrity trumps excellence.

At zero net cost to the government or society, we could significantly promote improved student academic performance. If we restricted federal financial aid provision for poorly performing students, we would save billions each year. For example, deny aid for all students after five years of study. Deny aid to students with lower than a “C” average, and impose some anti–grade inflation standards on colleges accepting federal student financial aid.

Suppose we then used the funds saved by giving $10,000 graduation bonuses to roughly 400,000 students annually who graduate both in the top one-quarter of their college class and with scores above the national average on a new National College Equivalence Examination (NCEE), a 3–4 hour test required for graduation from any U.S. university. The NCEE would measure both general educational literacy and success in a major field of study (I have discussed that exam elsewhere, notably in my book Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America). This expenditure-neutral set of proposals would set us on the path to restoring and enhancing our reputation for educational excellence.


Why Not Shut Down Public Schools That Don’t Educate the Kids?

Mike Weisser

Yesterday, I ran a column about my experience as a substitute teacher at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, MA. To be brief, I can only say that I have never encountered such a deplorable and destructive situation in any educational environment of any kind — deplorable because of the utter and complete chaos which engulfs every aspect of the school, destructive because generations of children are not being given the slightest opportunity to shape or grow their lives.

It was only after I posted the column that I learned the entire public school system in Holyoke has now been under state receivership for the last seven years. What this means is that back in 2015, the public schools in Holyoke were such a mess that the Massachusetts Department of Education had no choice but to take over running the system in an effort to end what had been the ‘chronic underperformance’ of Holyoke public schools.

What does the phrase ‘chronic underperformance’ mean?’ It means that too many students end their school years without knowing how to read or write.

According to most experts, what is referred to as ‘functional literacy,’ meaning the ability to read and write at what is necessary to hold even the most menial job, is equivalent to reading and writing at an 8th-grade level.

I didn’t experience a single moment yesterday at Holyoke High School where the atmosphere in any classroom was conducive to learning anything — reading, writing or anything else.

In one class a female student walked into the room, lay her head down on the desk, covered herself with her coat, and slept for the entire hour. She didn’t even wake up when the class session ended. And this was in the room where three paraprofessionals stood around talking to each other for the entire class period and none of them attempted to wake up this young girl, even when the other students were filing out of the room.

So, I walked over to this kid, tapped the desk until she woke up, and asked her whether she was getting any sleep at home.

To which she replied, “I always sleep here because I don’t like this class.” Note the word ‘always.’

Take a look at the school’s website: Holyoke High North Campus | Holyoke Public Schools. It says that the school provides “a frame of reference and field experience that connect academic work to the work of the world.”

It does? According to test scores, the school is currently graduating 81% of its students, of whom — ready? — only 27% can read and write at a tenth-grade level.

In other words, the learning experience of most of the kids who graduate from Holyoke High School is basically the same experience that the young girl is having who slept through the entire, hour-long algebra class.

And none of the paraprofessionals in the room even tried to wake her up when the class came to an end!

At one point during this particular class session, a woman appeared in the hallway and began chatting with one of the paraprofessionals standing at the entrance to the class. I walked over to these two ladies who continued conversing until the woman who had briefly appeared turned and continued walking down the hall.

I was told by the paraprofessional that the other woman was an assistant principal at the school, obviously a member of the school’s management team.

Did this woman bother to introduce herself to me and welcome me to the school on the first day of my job?

Of course not. Why bother introducing herself to me? After all, I was only the adult responsible for trying to teach something in that class.

But the point is, he administration which runs Holyoke High School isn’t interested in teaching anything at the school. When I asked a teacher why such a level of total chaos was being allowed to exist in the classrooms and the hallways, the answer was — you guess it — a shrug.

If a sizable number of students ambled into my classroom late for every class, what this tells me is that placing the school in receivership won’t change anything at all. If the State Department of Education wants to prevent Holyoke High School from unleashing a sizable number of kids every year who are totally unprepared to deal with the wider world, they have to come up with a plan that will prevent these kids from having any contact with the high school at all.

What happens to kids who attend Holyoke High School is what happens to kids who commit a serious crime and are sent to jail. What happens is they spend their jail time learning how to commit more crimes. At Holyoke High School the kids learn that showing up late for every class will have no practical effect on their ability to get through school.

Which means these kids will never learn what it means to show up for a job on time, never mind not being able to read or write. Which means they won’t get jobs even in an economy where the unemployment rate is less than 4 percent.

Holyoke High School should be shuttered and closed, the entire school administration fired, and all the students should be bussed to schools in adjacent school districts where there is actually a commitment to teach kids how to read and write.

For the first time in their entire lives, these Holyoke kids will find themselves surrounded by other kids who don’t wander around outside the classrooms after class sessions have begun.

And the peer pressure the kids from Holyoke will now experience will be exactly what they need in order to prepare themselves to grow and survive after their school years come to an end.




Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Youngkin Orders Department of Education to Review the College Board’s AP African American Studies Course

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) ordered the state’s Education Secretary to review the College Board’s “AP African American Studies” course, becoming the fourth state to do so.

"After numerous reports about draft course content, the governor asked the Education Secretariat to review the College Board’s proposed AP African American Studies course as it pertains to Executive Order 1,” a spokesperson for Youngkin’s office said in a statement.

Executive Order 1 prohibits divisive concepts, like Critical Race Theory (CRT), from being taught in Virginia schools. The order was signed shortly after Youngkin entered office.

According to Fox News, the Advanced Placement course covers a variety of topics pertaining to black history. A revised version released this month removed the lessons on the Black Lives Matter movement and topics derived from books that teach CRT.

Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected the new proposed AP African American studies course. His administration held open the possibility of approval of the course if changes were made, which Guy covered. DeSantis’ office later said that the College Board would revise the curriculum.

"We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic, and we are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend,” Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi said, which Townhall covered.

“AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course,” Lanfranconi continued. "As Governor DeSantis said, African American History is American History, and we will not allow any organization to use an academic course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda.”

Shortly after, the College Board denied that DeSantis’ decision played a role in the revision of the course.

Other states to review the course include Arkansas, Mississippi and North Dakota.

"I would invite the review and I would invite everyone to participate in the review," Associate Professor Greg Carr of Howard University's Afro-American Studies told WUSA9. Carr reportedly contributed to the course framework.

"We all don't agree, but this is a very inclusive course and course framework that allows the flexibility for all of us to come to the table of any racial or cultural background and discuss what it means to be a person of African descent in the world and U.S.,” Carr added.


Scottish schools have become places of indoctrination

Nicola Sturgeon may be on her way out – but after 16 years of SNP rule, Scottish schools are still places of indoctrination. This may sound like a hyperbolic thing to say, but that’s the only conclusion you can draw when you look at what Scottish educators and the Scottish government are saying themselves.

Take the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Standard for Headship, which sets out the professional framework for what a headteacher, teachers and schools should be all about.

You would expect such a document to be all about imparting knowledge and aspiring to teach every child as much as possible. Instead, it is a horrifying mix of therapeutic new-speak that stresses the need for teachers and headteachers to focus on the matter of social justice.

In the 16-page Standard for Headship report ‘social justice’ is mentioned seven times. We are informed, for example, that the very culture of Scotland is ‘based on social justice’, that we now have ‘professional values of social justice’, and that social justice is about a commitment to ‘sustainable policies and practices in relation to protected characteristics…. and intersectionality’.

The terms sustainable or sustainability appear 23 times in the document. This includes what some would see as a Malthusian demand for ‘respect for our natural world and its limited resources’ as well as a call for ‘learning for sustainability’, whatever that means.

This new doctrine is highly therapeutic, with the entire document grounded in a need to ‘promote health and wellbeing’ and ‘emotional intelligence’, which, as part of our culture of social justice, is ‘enabling’ and ‘empowering’ pupils to be ‘safe’ and ‘caring’.

This melding together of social justice moralising and therapeutic language permeates through the entirety of the Scottish education system. Education in Scotland is no longer viewed as a way of passing on vitally important knowledge to children, but rather as a way to ensure that ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are embedded in our children’s minds.

As one educational expert told me, if student teachers, ‘don’t subscribe to the particular interpretation of “social justice” that is currently in vogue, then they won’t achieve registration for the General Teaching Council.’

Elsewhere the Scottish government and Education Scotland have worked to ensure that teachers are ‘Embedding race equality in school’. This is not simply about treating people equally, quite the reverse in fact. Rather it is about the promotion of Critical Race Theory and the divisive and self-loathing idea of ‘white privilege’, which is endorsed by Education Scotland.

According to the Scottish government, ‘A new package of support materials…. will embed anti-racism and race equality into all aspects of school life’. An Education Scotland policy document says that ‘As the child grows, they can see diversity’ in all subjects, including, ‘mathematics’. Who knows, perhaps future generations in Scotland will be taught that ‘their truth’ means that two plus two equals colonial oppression.

Perhaps worse of all is the Supporting Transgender Pupils in Schools guidance document, a policy that would fit comfortably on the shelves of the most extreme trans activist.

Schools, for example, have to ensure that children, ‘demonstrate an understanding of diversity in sexuality and gender identity’. From age 12 children can self-identify and receive support and validation from schools. The school will develop a ‘support plan for the transgender young person’, thus creating a ‘safe space for transgender young people to be themselves and have their identities respected’.

If parents don’t support this development it is implied that they a wellbeing concern. But then, many parents will not even know that this gender fluid ideology is being adopted or that their child is being transitioned with the help of the school as, ‘it is best to not share information with parents or carers without considering and respecting the young person’s views’.

Some of the above issues may appear to be justified and legitimate, and indeed, if we were talking about university education, being exposed to some of these ideas would be entirely legitimate. It’s entirely fair for young adults to be able to debate the merits of Marx versus Malthus or the differences between Critical race theory and colour-blind anti-racism. And we should be able to discuss transgender policies too – even though many universities appear to be uncomfortable with any debate on this issue.

But this is school education we are talking about. Many of these ideas are not part of a debate, they are a dogma, a form of cultural engineering, where ideas and outlooks that the majority of the Scottish population oppose are forced onto children.

For those who are directing this process there is a clear attempt to ‘change the culture’ of Scottish society through the politicisation of the curriculum.

To counteract this a number of colleagues and I have just set up the Scottish Union for Education, a campaign group for parents and teachers to challenge the declining standards in education and the growing indoctrination that is taking place in our schools.

The Scottish Union for Education will challenge these illiberal (and indeed illiterate) developments and aim to create a framework for ordinary parents, grandparents, teachers and communities to make their voices heard. It may appear to be a tough ask, but I am convinced that the majority are on our side and for the sake of our liberal and democratic society, something must be done.


Work visa extension to attract international students to Australia

International students who complete a degree in a skill shortage area will be given an extra two years to stay in Australia after graduation.

The move, intended to help business beat skill shortages as well as speed the return of international students to Australia, was announced on Tuesday by federal Education Minister Jason Clare and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil.

For international students it means that the period of their post study work visa is increased from two to four years if they complete a bachelors degree, and increased from three to five years if they complete a masters degree.

But they get the benefit only if they study in a skill shortage area and the government has released a list of likely complying degrees including many in the health, teaching, engineering and agricultural fields.

All international students doing PhDs will benefit from the new policy regardless of their field of study. The period of their post study work visa will lengthen from four to six years.

The new work rights will come into effect on July 1 this year. International students are warned that they should check a more precise list of courses eligible for the extended work rights which will be released nearer to the July 1 commencement date.

Mr Clare said the changes would “make Australia more attractive as a study destination” for international students and help business fill skill shortages.

“Businesses are screaming out for skilled workers, particularly in the regions. We have got the second highest skills shortage in the developed world, according to the OECD,” he said.

The government will continue to give international students a further extension on their post study work rights period if they study at a regional or remote university. Regional universities will continue to attract an extra year and remote universities an extra two years on top of the two year extension announced on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s announcement also brings back the cap on the number of hours which international students are permitted to work in Australia while they attend their education institution.

The previous 40 hour per fortnight cap was temporarily removed by the Morrison government in early 2022 to help deal with labour shortages as the Australian economy emerged from Covid.

The new working hours cap will be 48 hours a fortnight and the higher figure will ease the impact of the change on international students who currently have no limit on their working hours. As before, the cap will not apply in holiday periods.

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said he believed Mr Clare and Ms O’Neil had struck the right balance between the need to give students an incentive to choose Australia over other study destinations, the need to meet Australia’s skill needs and the obligation to find a sensible working hours solution.

But he said that international students will needed a clearer path to permanent residency. “If we are to encourage students to spend a decade of their life in studying and working in our economy, we need to have clearer migration pathways,” Mr Honeywood said.




Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The big school choice turnaround in Iowa that more states should follow

State lawmakers are often slow to act, but they can move quickly when voters make them feel the heat. Consider Iowa, where Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed the nation’s third publicly funded education choice program for all K-12 students, following West Virginia and Arizona.

This represents a stunning reversal. A smaller proposal failed to clear the legislature last year. What changed?

The Students First Act will provide Iowa families education savings accounts (ESAs) that they can use for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, and a variety of other education expenses. The ESAs, funded with a portion of the state’s per-pupil spending, are worth about $7,600 annually. That more than covers the average private elementary school tuition in Iowa (about $5,400) and nearly covers the average private high school tuition (about $9,200).

Families can also roll over unused ESA funds from year to year to save for later expenses. Initially, the ESAs will be available to low- and middle-income families; they will open to all Iowa families in the program’s third year.

The policy Reynolds signed is significantly more ambitious than her proposal last year, which was limited only to low-income students. That bill cleared the state senate but failed after a lengthy battle in the Iowa House of Representatives. Although the GOP had strong majorities in both chambers, several Republicans representing rural areas raised concerns about the effects that school choice policies might have on their local public schools.

Last spring, Reynolds took the unusual step of endorsing several primary challenges to legislators in her own party who had thwarted her school choice proposal. The governor was betting that she had a better understanding of the GOP base’s priorities than the legislators she was challenging—politicians who had already proven their popularity in their districts. If they survived their primary challenges, Reynolds’s standing in the party would be significantly diminished.

Rural Republican legislators nationwide have long posed a stumbling block to passing school choice legislation. In rural areas, public schools are often the largest employers, and the local superintendents wield significant political power. Rural legislators therefore tend to heed those superintendents’ hostility to expanding school choice.

But in the wake of the COVID-19 school shutdowns, the relationship between parents and their local schools changed. "We wouldn’t have passed the ESA bill but for COVID," explained Iowa Sen. Brad Zaun, a long-time proponent of school choice. "Groups like Moms for Liberty were down at the capitol nearly every day clamoring for school choice."

But they didn’t become school choice supporters overnight. Initially, parents just wanted their local public schools reopened. Some districts—including in Des Moines, the largest in the state—stayed closed for in-person instruction for more than six months. Frustrated parents turned to the governor and their state legislators for help. Lawmakers ultimately forced schools to reopen.

But the shutdown fight had permanently changed the relationship between parents and their local schools. Many parents felt that the schools had broken faith with them. Parents were also given a window into their children’s classrooms via Zoom, and many didn’t like what they saw, particularly the politicization of instruction.

Even after schools reopened, parents remained wary and engaged. Samantha Fett, the Warren County chapter chair for Moms for Liberty, described how her group first got involved trying to remove books with sexually explicit scenes and images from elementary school libraries. "The public school administrators and school boards would just ignore us and hope we’d go away," she said.

But they didn’t. Instead, they again turned to state lawmakers. "The frustration we had the local level not making any progress, not getting any answers, and being pushed away, drove us to look for solutions outside the district system," said Fett.

Soon the parents’ groups were barraging the legislature with complaints. Inappropriate books. Lessons derived from critical race theory. Policies that put biological males on girls’ sports teams and in girls’ locker rooms. Policies kept parents in the dark about their children being called pronouns that differed from their sex.

"Schools they trusted all these years were usurping their authority as parents and they didn’t like it," said Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair. At first the legislature tried dealing with each issue as it arose, but eventually state lawmakers offered a comprehensive solution: school choice.

"The legislature got tired of playing whack-a-mole with all the issues," said Sinclair. "School choice solved all of them at once."

Parent groups enthusiastically embraced school choice policies, like ESAs, which not only gave them the ability to choose schools that aligned with their values, but also strengthened their hand when raising concerns at their local public schools.

Reynolds also expressed these concerns on the campaign trail, explicitly framing her push for school choice as an effort to combat the radical ideology that had seeped into the public school system and to restore parental authority in education. Her gamble paid off. The candidates she endorsed won their primaries. In the general election, Iowa voters rewarded her with a second term and expanded the Republican party’s legislative majority.

Lawmakers got the message. Last month, they moved with all deliberate speed to deliver the choice bill to Reynolds’s desk.

Lawmakers in other states would be wise to follow Gov. Reynolds’s playbook.


To Increase Equity, School Districts Eliminate Honors Classes

CULVER CITY, Calif.—A group of parents stepped to the lectern Tuesday night at a school board meeting in this middle-class, Los Angeles-area city to push back against a racial-equity initiative. The high school, they argued, should reinstate honors English classes that were eliminated because they didn’t enroll enough Black and Latino students.

The district earlier this school year replaced the honors classes at Culver City High School with uniform courses that officials say will ensure students of all races receive an equal, rigorous education.

These parents disagreed.

“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” Joanna Schaenman, a Culver City parent who helped spearhead the effort, said in the run-up to the meeting.

The parental pushback in Culver City mirrors resistance that has taken place in Wisconsin, Rhode Island and elsewhere in California over the last year in response to schools stripping away the honors designation on some high school classes.

School districts doing away with honors classes argue students who don’t take those classes from a young age start to see themselves in a different tier, and come to think they aren’t capable of enrolling in Advanced Placement classes that help with college admissions. Black and Latino students are underrepresented in AP enrollment in the majority of states, according to the Education Trust, a nonprofit that studies equity in education.

Since the start of this school year, freshmen and sophomores in Culver City have only been able to select one level of English class, known as College Prep, rather than the previous system in which anyone could opt into the honors class. School officials say the goal is to teach everyone with an equal level of rigor, one that encourages them to enroll in advanced classes in their final years of high school.

“Parents say academic excellence should not be experimented with for the sake of social justice,” said Quoc Tran, the superintendent of 6,900-student Culver City Unified School District. But, he said, “it was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP enrollment and realized Black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something.”

Culver City English teachers presented data at a board meeting last year showing Latino students made up 13% of those in 12th-grade Advanced Placement English, compared with 37% of the student body. Asian students were 34% of the advanced class, compared with 10% of students. Black students represented 14% of AP English, versus 15% of the student body.

The board saw anonymous quotes from students not enrolled in honors classes saying they felt less motivated or successful. One described students feeling “unable to break out of the molds that they established when they were 11.”

Tuesday marked Ms. Schaenman’s first time attending a school board meeting in person in years. She wandered the hallways of City Hall with fellow parent Pedro Frigola looking for the right room, clutching a stack of copies laying out the two-page resolution they and a few dozen other parents are asking the board to adopt.

Mr. Frigola said he disagrees with the district’s view of equity. “I was born in Cuba, and it doesn’t sound good when people are trying to achieve equal outcomes for everyone,” he said.

His ninth-grade daughter, Emma Frigola, said she was surprised and a little confused by the decision to remove honors, which she had wanted to take. She said her English teacher, who used to teach the honors class, is trying to maintain a higher standard, but that it doesn’t always seem to be working.

“There are some people who slow down the pace because they don’t really do anything and aren’t looking to try harder,” Emma said. “I don’t think you can force that into people.”

For a unit on research, Emma said her teacher gathered all the reference sources they needed to write a paper on whether graffiti is art or vandalism and had students review them together in class. Her sister, Elena Frigola, now in 11th grade, said prior honors English students chose their own topics and did research independently.

In Santa Monica, Calif., high school English teachers said last year they had “a moral imperative” to eliminate honors English classes that they viewed as perpetuating inequality. The teachers studied the issue for a year and a half, a district representative said.

“This is not a social experiment,” board member Jon Kean said at a meeting last spring. “This is a sound pedagogical approach to education.”

Gail Pinsker, a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman, said the shift this school year “has increased access and provided excellent educational experiences for all of our students.”

Several school districts have scaled back plans to eliminate honors classes after community opposition. San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School planned to eliminate 11th-grade honors American literature and U.S. history last year, but reinstated both after listening to students and families, a district spokeswoman said.

The school district in Madison, Wis., pulled back on plans last year to remove stand-alone honors classes and now lets students earn an honors label within general classes. A Rhode Island district made a similar move.

Those who support cutting honors classes point out that the curriculum of honors courses often doesn’t differ substantially from regular classes. Honors classes often move at a faster pace and the students complete more assignments. Some can boost grade-point averages or give students an advantage when applying for college.

Critics say attempting to teach everyone at an elevated level isn’t realistic and that teachers, even with the best intentions, may end up simplifying instruction. Instead, some educators and parents argue schools should find more ways to diversify honors courses and encourage students to enroll who aren’t self-selecting, including proactively reaching out to students, using an opt-out system, or looking to teacher recommendations.

“I just don’t see how removing something from some kids all of a sudden helps other kids learn faster,” said Scott Peters, a senior research scientist at education research nonprofit NWEA who has studied equity in gifted and talented programs.


Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Plan in Trouble at Supreme Court, Lawyers Say

President Joe Biden’s sweeping plan to partially forgive student loans will likely receive a cool reception when the Supreme Court hears challenges to the program on Feb. 28, legal experts told The Epoch Times.

Biden introduced the plan in August 2022 in a move that critics decried as a constitutionally dubious attempt to shore up Democrats’ fortunes ahead of the November 2022 congressional elections. While the Congressional Budget Office said the plan could cost about $400 billion, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania estimates the price tag could exceed $1 trillion.

The student loan relief program is premised on the existence of the emergencies the Trump administration declared in March 2020 to combat the COVID-19 virus. The national emergency and the public health emergency enabled federal agencies to exercise expansive powers in managing the government’s pandemic response.

In a move that could undermine the government’s legal arguments in the pending court cases, Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said in a Jan. 30 press release (pdf) that it would extend the soon-to-expire emergencies to May 11 “and then end both emergencies on that date.”

The federal government put a pause on student loan payments and interest during the recent pandemic but then claimed in 2022 that the pandemic gave it emergency authority under the law to proceed with partial loan forgiveness. Republicans, who took the majority in the House of Representatives in January, say the emergencies aren’t justified and should be ended sooner.

About 26 million people reportedly applied under the program before courts blocked it last year. Of those 26 million, 16 million were said to have been approved before the government stopped accepting applications.

The Department of Education claims that it has the authority to move forward with the debt relief proposal, which would cancel as much as $20,000 in loan principal for 40 million borrowers, under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act).

But lawmakers involved in the passage of the HEROES Act say the statute was enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks to provide student loan relief to military service members and their families and was never intended to be used to cancel debts en masse.

The court is scheduled to hear two related cases dealing with the program, Biden v. Nebraska (court file 22-506) and Department of Education v. Brown (court file 22-535), back-to-back on Feb. 28.

The Biden student loan forgiveness plan is flatly unconstitutional, attorney Caleb Kruckenberg of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a national nonprofit public interest law firm, told The Epoch Times.

He said Biden unveiled the debt relief program not long after the pandemic “was over anyway [and] we all sort of understood what that meant.”

Kruckenberg said that even if the Biden administration were successful at the Supreme Court, which he doubts, their stated authority would expire May 11.

He conceded that the announcement that the emergencies will terminate may render the challenges to the program moot, but mootness “is a flexible standard,” he said.

“There is a legal answer, and then there’s a practical answer. And I think the practical answer is, if the court very much wants to reach the case, they will,” he said.

It appears the Department of Education has not “disclaimed” the authority to grant student loan relief, so even if the emergency is over, the court may wonder if there is a chance the department could claim such authority again in the future, he said, adding that department officials will never say they lack the authority.

“They’ll always insist in any emergency we can do whatever we want,” he said. “And that’s a big enough risk for the Supreme Court to say, ‘We’re going to set some rules here.’

“You have to wonder what the administration is doing and … what they’re planning in the best case scenario for them. Frankly, I was surprised that they asked the Supreme Court for intervention, because a lot of us watching this case expected, and we still expect, if the Supreme Court rules on it, then the administration is going to lose.”

Kruckenberg said that the administration might be thinking politically, reasoning, “‘Well, we’re going to make the Supreme Court overturn this, so that it’s not our fault … so that we can say we tried, but the court stopped us.’”

“There will probably be two or three dissenters, but I think there’s a very clear majority [that is] going to say, probably not in a complicated opinion, that this is just completely out of bounds.” It will be “a strong rebuke of the department,” he said.

Veteran Supreme Court observer Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, also said he expects the Biden administration to lose.

The court may not even reach the question of how the expiration of the COVID-19-related emergencies affects the validity of student loan relief, Levey told The Epoch Times.

The HEROES Act “was clearly aimed at military personnel,” but it’s not clear whether it allows cancellation of debt, Levey said. The statute allows postponement of debt, which is what his group argued in a friend-of-court brief (pdf), he said.

So the government has overreached by going beyond military personnel and by allowing debt cancellation, he said.

“This has been a court that’s not been afraid to say, ‘Look, the executive branch is overreaching,’ whether it’s the rent moratorium or certain things with immigration, or trying to force private employers to mandate vaccinations,” Levey said.

“They have been willing to say, ‘This is overreach,’ [and] not just defer blindly to whatever the administration says a statute means.”




GOP-Led States Race To Roll Out New School Choice Measures

Which state will be the next to enact universal school choice?

In January, Utah and Iowa passed legislation that would create universal school choice, joining Arizona and West Virginia as trailblazers in universal ESA programs.

These universal school choice programs take the form of education savings accounts, or ESAs, which disburse funds to families in flexible accounts that can be spent on a variety of education related expenses — tuition, tutoring, textbooks, and more. Unlike scholarships or vouchers, funds from accounts can roll over from year to year, incentivizing economization.

“Too often, parents have been frustrated that their child’s assigned school has failed to meet their needs,” an education scholar at the Heritage Foundation, Jason Bedrick, tells the Sun. “What’s clear is that parents are tired of the one-size-fits-some model of education.”

“ESAs give families the freedom and flexibility to choose the learning environment that’s the right fit for their children,” Mr. Bedrick says.

Opponents, often buoyed by teachers’ and superintendents’ unions, say these programs divert resources from traditional public schools. The programs have also come under recent scrutiny for unusual educational expenditures, including chicken coops and SeaWorld tickets.

Proponents say, however, that public funding should follow the student — if a child is no longer enrolled in a public school, he or she should be able to spend the taxpayer dollars in the education program of the family’s choice, including raising chickens and visiting aquariums.

Of the proposals, the loudest declaration in support of school choice comes out of Arkansas, where Governor Sanders made a splashy announcement of her education plan after her rebuttal to the State of the Union address last week.

Ms. Sanders’s plan would phase in a universal ESA program over the course of three years, alongside increased benefits, including raises, for public school teachers.

In Wyoming and South Carolina, bills to create ESAs have passed in at least one of each state’s legislative chambers. South Carolina’s legislation would create a more limited program — only 15,000 accounts would be available to lower- and middle-income families.

Meanwhile, Wyoming’s would be a universal school choice regime with funding of about $6,000 per student.

In neighboring Idaho, a similar bill in the state senate that would create a universal ESA program, with funding of just less than $6,000 per student, made it out of the education committee after a grueling hearing.

The Republican chairman of the committee, Dave Lent, opposed the measure. “I cannot, in good faith, send money out with no accountability,” Mr. Lent said, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.

In Texas and Oklahoma, Republican governors are making concerted pushes for school choice programs despite hesitancy from their own party leadership.

Oklahoma’s legislature is currently considering two bills that would create large-scale ESA programs — one universal. While Governor Stitt has voiced ardent support for school choice measures, he’s faced opposition from within his own party. Oklahoma’s Republican speaker of the house, Charles McCall, has historically opposed education savings accounts.

At a recent event, Mr. McCall was quoted by the Journal Record as advocating for education reforms to support students “in all four corners of the state” — implying that ESA programs do not achieve that end.

In Texas, the speaker of the house, Dade Phelan, has expressed skepticism about school choice measures in the past, while Governor Abbott has made a concerted push for ESAs. A bill in the state senate would create a universal program.

“That will give all parents the ability to choose the best education option for their child,” Mr. Abbott said in January at a pro-school choice event. “The bottom line is this: This is really about freedom.”

Mr. Phelan, however, appears to be coming around after appointing a new pro-ESA chairman to the Public Education Committee.

Texas and Oklahoma face challenges from their more rural areas, which have historically opposed school choice. Recent polling, though, has shown that rural voters tend to support school choice, but superintendents’ unions wield significant power over elected officials.

In Governor DeSantis’s Florida, the first house bill of the legislative session would universalize the state’s current ESA program.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Governor Hobbs is crusading to roll back that state’s trailblazing school choice program. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Ms. Hobbs rejected the premise that governors across the country are promoting.

“What I want is for every student in the state of Arizona no matter where they live to have access to high quality public education,” Ms. Hobbs said. “With this universal voucher system, that’s not happening.”


Group advocating for 'race-blind America' demands woke UNC medical school stop injecting social justice issues into its curriculum

A group advocating for 'race blind America' has launched a campaign to stop the University of North Carolina's medical school integrating social justice issues into its curriculum.

Color Us United is a non-profit that claims to fight for people who 'are upset by government, corporate and media claims that America is a hateful country'.

Its most recent initiative is a bid to stop the UNC School of Medicine from implementing social justice into its teaching - which the school is attempting to do via a task force that gave recommendations in 2020 that is taking advisement from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The taskforce claims: 'A wealth of literature has demonstrated disparities in health care access, quality, and outcomes. We now know these disparities are apparent both across our healthcare system and within most individual providers’ patient panels.'

The AAMC protocols also require medical students to study issues such as 'Unconscious Bias Awareness,' 'Understanding and Responding to Microaggressions' and 'Understanding that America's medical system is structurally racist.'

The taskforce's stated goals include finding environments where diverse groups of students thrive, training in areas of social justice and DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, eliminating racist content and terminology from the curriculum, avoiding implicit bias in treatment and allowing students to advocate on behalf of patients.

The UNC confirmed which of the recommendations they would be implementing in a 2022 report.

Ultimately, it wants all faculty to be trained in these methods and be judged based on their ability to integrate it into their teachings.

But Christian Watson, a spokesperson for Color Us United, told this is little more than an attempt to force doctors to become social activists and send the medical field toward politicization.

'A big part of it is the accrediting agencies that have been taken over by people of some political ideas,' Watson said. 'The AAMC, the body that accredits all medical schools in America, has certain requirements it has to follow.'

He noted that the University of North Carolina - a part of the state's hallowed 'research triangle' - has taken at least 89 of these ideas from them.

They also argue that North Carolina is going to be teaching students that many health disparities are caused by racism.

'They want to subject professors to implicit bias training, actively discriminating against whites and Asians,' Watson added. 'Teach anti-racism ideology. They're teaching them how to be anti-racist as opposed to how to be good doctors.'

Color Us United - which aims to get 10,000 people to sign a petition against these initiatives - says this ideology is spreading, but that North Carolina is particularly important given its status as a state school

'North Carolina is the flagship institution, it's not only subject to AAMC but taxpayer dollars,' Watson noted. 'We think it's quite significant taxpayers know what kind of education their doctors get.'

While Watson believes there is some place for debate on racism and equity within the classrooms, he doesn't believe that the efforts of the AAMC are appropriate or done in good faith.

He said: 'I think the premise of the program, that we need to integrate social justice into medical education, is flawed. Doctors are not meant to be social activists. Doctors are meant to care for their patients.

'There's nothing wrong with having conversations, but they should be done on a neutral basis. Not one that affirms a particular viewpoint. They are basically positing a leftwing view point about health disparities to the exclusion of others that may challenge that,' he added.

The organization said in a press release that it wants 'UNC Medical School to renounce their commitment to social justice and affirm the importance of colorblind, meritocratic patient care over political activism'.

The group has fought DEI programs in the past, including when a small school district in California planned to spend $40 million teaching 'ethnic studies' to high school students

'Taxpayer dollars shouldn't be used to fund courses that are fundamentally racist and anti-American,' President Kenny Xu said.

There are plans to release a letter undersigned by doctors and legislators in an attempt to influence the issue further within the state, which is currently governed by Democrat Roy Cooper.

Currently, the organization's petition stands at just around 300 signatures, but they believe once their message is heard, it will spread.

'We believe that North Carolina can be a test case to challenge the broader demands of the AAMC,' Watson said. 'We think that overall, our message, which is not a political one, it's one of common sense, is gonna prevail.'


'Woke' California university slammed for 'dehumanized' initiative encouraging students to tell on professors

College students are pushing back against a "woke" California university for encouraging students to tell on professors for racism if they aren't called on "consistently" during class.

Campus Reform correspondents Courtney McLain, Emily Sturge, and Darryl Boyer joined "Fox & Friends Weekend" to discuss the broader issues at hand with the far-left infusion of the "woke" agenda in college classrooms.

"I believe when Francis Bellamy wrote One Nation under God, Indivisible, we oftentimes overlook that word indivisible," Boyer told Rachel Campos-Duffy. "We must stop dividing our nation and come together as one… I spent a considerable amount of time in higher education. I spent my undergrad at the University of North Florida. Now I'm at Florida State University working on my graduate degree, and I've never felt like I've been discriminated against based on the color of my skin."

"And it just really makes me feel dehumanized when people can be able to tell on their professor for racism," he continued. "That really takes away the credibility for when things like that may really be happening."

California State University Monterey Bay has faced criticism for urging non-White students to report "race-related stress" under the Personal Growth and Counseling Center tab on its website.

"Document acts of racism or intolerance. Don't ignore or minimize your experiences, and think broadly about what could be an act of racism. It doesn't have to be an overt act (e.g., professor consistently not calling on you or minimizing your contributions, curriculum racially biased, etc). Talk to someone you trust, and report it," a webpage on "Coping with Racism and Discrimination" says.

According to the university website, race-related stress can cause psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, paranoia, and self-blame, as well as physiological health concerns such as heart disease, hypertension, and muscle tension.

"Students of color who experience stereotype threat may begin to believe that their peers do not regard them as individuals, but as representatives of their racial/ethnic group," the page reads.

McLain, who is a student at University of Central Florida, noted her angst surrounding the move, citing concerns as to how it affects academic progress.

"I am seeing more and more of this diversity, equity and inclusion being forced by my school, and I'm frustrated because I feel like I'm not learning as much academically as I could because we're putting so much money into this," McLain said.

"We're seeing this in more and more schools across the country, that these students are just being believed automatically, which worries me because when I need to go to my administration about a problem, they don't want to believe me, since sometimes these students are actually saying things that are incredible," she continued.

Sturge is a student at the University of Florida, and she argued the left is "winning the culture war" through the avenue of "woke" education in America's classrooms.

"I think this story is just yet another example of wokeism taking over college campuses," Sturge said. "We're seeing the left inject this woke ideology into college classrooms because this is how the left is winning. They're winning the culture war because they're injecting it into our course curriculum."

"These things are absolutely crazy, and we're seeing these things happen in California, and so we feel like it's far away off in a blue state," she continued. "But here in Florida, we're also seeing that, too. We're Florida students, and we're seeing these woke ideals in our classrooms."

Despite the widespread effort of the far left, the trio touted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis,' R., efforts to counter indoctrination in the state's classrooms.




Sunday, February 19, 2023

Democrats Forcing Teachers to Lie

There's a national conversation occurring right now about the role of parents in the lives of their children—specifically, the role a parent has in critical decisions regarding their child's sexuality and gender identity.

In Virginia, a bill is being debated right now that would compel teachers and administrators to disclose to parents if their child is identifying as a different gender from their birth while at school. Critics call this a forced outing. I discussed it in this space last week in detail.

This is an issue that should be completely non-partisan and not even worthy of debate. So, of course, because woke Democrat lawmakers are involved, it has become highly partisan and a heated debate.

When most observers contemplate this issue and engage in the emotional discussion that inevitably ensues, one's perspective will naturally gravitate toward either the parent who would like to know what's going on with their child when they're at school or that of the child who might wish to keep certain secrets from their parents.

Lost in this discussion is the role of the teacher.

The most outspoken representatives of the education class will advocate for secrecy to prevail. They believe they are the only adults who can be trusted with such things and that the parent inevitably is a judgmental abuser who will force their child to suicide rather than compassionately deal with their gender identity issues.

But suppose you think this policy through, a habit not often associated with left-wing advocates. In that case, you'll realize the position of the Democrats and the professional educators who are on the side of secrecy or really on the side of deception.

In short, their position is for teachers to be compelled to lie to keep their jobs.

Read that sentence again.

The position of the Democratic Party on this vital issue involving adolescent and pre-adolescent children is to force teachers to lie to parents in order to keep their jobs.

In California, a teacher just lost her job because she refused to lie to a parent about this very issue:

A California teacher, who lost her job after refusing to comply with a California district's gender policies, citing Christian beliefs, is blowing the whistle on the expectations she felt as a teacher to not only hide students' gender transitions from parents, but also to keep them in the dark through lying.

"I knew immediately, like in my gut, in my heart, in my soul, that there was a decision I had to make because, you know, these two things were totally butting heads," Jessica Tapia, who worked at the Jurupa Unified School District, told Fox News Digital. "I essentially had to pick one. Am I going to obey the district in the directive that are not lining up with… my own beliefs, convictions and faith? Or am I going to stay true…, choose my faith, choose to be obedient to… the way the Lord has called me to live. And so it was crazy to be in the position where I realized that I couldn't be a Christian and a teacher."

For anyone advocating for the teacher, school counselor, or school administrator to keep sexual and gender identity secrets with a child secret from their parents, they need to recognize exactly the scenario they are creating.

Say a parent recognizes that their child is going through something in their life. They're not sure what it is, but they know that they're not the same. They're behaving strangely around the house. They're concerned. So they call their child's teacher.

"I've noticed that Jane is not herself lately. She is secretive, she dresses differently, and she's very moody. Please, tell me, have you noticed anything at school? Is there anything going on that I should know about?"

Now, what is the teacher supposed to do at this moment? According to the Democrats and the policy that they're promoting, they want the teacher to tell this parent, this concerned parent, this parent who is doing all the right things and trying to find out what's going on with their child, the Democrats want this teacher to lie. They want this teacher to tell the parent that everything's fine and there's nothing going on that they should know about.

And if the teacher doesn't feel comfortable lying to a parent about something so serious, they are fired.

Now, if you listen to the left, this entire issue comes down to forced outing and eventual suicide for the adolescent child who chooses to out themselves to their school but stays in the closet to their parents. And I suppose from a 12-year-old's perspective, that's all that matters.

But what if you're a teacher? What if you actually care about the child's future? What if you think, in your judgment, that the parent should know about this?

Too bad. You will lie, and you will deceive, or you will be out of a job.

Now, we're used to electing officials lying, and we're used to government workers lying, and we're certainly used to Democrats lying, but this may be the first time in American history that the party is advocating that their lies be instituted as policy for government workers going forward.

There's a lot at stake in this issue, and it all comes down to one very important value: the truth.

What side are you on?


The UFT’s racist effort to crush charter schools

When it comes to minority city families’ efforts to get their children a quality public-school education, Michael Mulgrew, his United Federation of Teachers and their politician pawns are literally standing in the schoolhouse door (albeit less blatantly than Alabama Gov. George Wallace back in 1963).

We’re talking, of course, about the UFT’s relentless drive to prevent more public charter schools from opening in the city, even though charters plainly do better by their students.

In the last pre-COVID year, 62.2% of city charter kids scored proficient on statewide math tests, vs. just 45.6% at regular public schools. In reading, it was 57.3% vs. 47.4%.

The gap for black students: 63.9% vs. 28.3% in math, 58.2% vs. 35% in reading.

On a different front, charter enrollment of English Language Learners has been rising rapidly, perhaps because these public schools manage to teach ELL students to be proficient in English at twice the rate of regular city schools.

In neighborhoods across the city, the only high-quality public schools are charters.

Insofar as they can, parents are voting with their feet: 29% of city black students now attend a charter, with another 8% at private or Catholic schools. Many more are on waitlists, hoping charter seats open up.

Put it another way: Almost half of all NYC charter students are black, with most of the rest being Latino — and interest is growing among Asian-Americans, too, after the de Blasio years saw excellence downgraded at many once-high-performing regular public schools.

Membership in the United Federation of Teachers, meanwhile, is predominantly (about 60%) white. The statewide parent union, New York State United Teachers, is 80% white.

That is: As good a job as the unions do of hiding it, their war on charters is a case of well-organized, privileged whites striving to preserve that privilege by denying opportunity to lower-income non-whites.

We don’t believe that Mulgrew’s motive is racist, but the facts fit what the left these days routinely calls “racism,” and maybe even “white supremacy culture.”

To cover the reality, the UFT uses its resources to buy minority politicians and create fake grassroots (“astroturf”) support for its agenda. But polls show most New Yorkers want more charters, with 2:1 support for expansion among both African-Americans and Hispanics.

As far as “equity” goes: The city’s 275 charter schools enroll 142,500 students (again, overwhelmingly low-income, minority kids), about 15% of total public-school enrollment. But thanks to years of UFT and NYSUT backroom maneuvering, charters get just 10% of city education spending — roughly $3 billion out of the Department of Education’s $31 billion budget.

Yet charters still vastly outperform the UFT-dominated DOE schools.

It may not be racist if the UFT and NYSUT succeed in stopping Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to allow dozens more charters to open in the city, but it certainly will be rank injustice.


School choice gives parents the power to break teachers unions' chokeholds on students

School choice advocate Corey DeAngelis said teachers unions aim to maintain power over people's kids by fighting against letting families have educational options.

The growing movement to give parents the ability to choose where to send their children to school has helped them break through teachers unions' chokeholds on education, a school choice advocate told Fox News.

"Finally, we are freeing families from the clutches of the teachers unions once and for all, and there's not a dang thing they can do about it," Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, told Fox News.

The school choice debate has taken a front seat as parents push back against curriculum decisions and as more states pass legislation offering more educational options for students. School choice, which allows tax dollars to follow a student rather than a specific school, would free families from the teachers unions' control and allow them to pick an education system that aligns with their values, DeAngelis said.

"The teachers union monopoly wants to force kids to attend their residentially assigned, government-run institutions that they staff," DeAngelis told Fox News. "It's about maintaining power. It's about maintaining a monopoly on the minds of other people's kids."

"For far too long in K-12 education, the only special interests who had any influence were the ones who represented the employees in the system," he continued. "But now the kids have a union of their own, and they're called parents."

Debates over what topics are appropriate for classroom discussions, such as critical race theory and gender identity, have become flashpoints nationwide. Parents have increasingly spoken out at school board meetings to voice concerns and advocate for a say in their kids' education.

"School choice is a winner for everybody except for Randi Weingarten and the teachers unions who want to trap your kids in schools that aren't working for them," DeAngelis said.

DeAngelis blames the teacher unions for trying to control the minds of our nation's kids by not supporting educational options for families.
DeAngelis blames the teacher unions for trying to control the minds of our nation's kids by not supporting educational options for families. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Weingarten, the president of American Federation of Teachers, previously said school choice advocates aimed to privatize and defund public education. She criticized efforts to divert funds from public districts to bankroll school choice initiatives.

"America’s parents don’t want vouchers that syphon money away from the schools that 90 percent of kids attend—they want to invest in public schools and get educators the resources they need to create safe classrooms, boost academic skills, and pave pathways to career, college and life," a spokesperson for the union told Fox News in a statement. She pointed to a study that found "parents and voters back improving education in public schools over more 'school choice'" by an 80-20 margin.

That argument is an "admission that they're not confident in the product that they're providing," DeAngelis told Fox News. "Why would giving families a choice defund public schools that you staff?"

Giving parents a choice wouldn't exclude public schools, but would allow for a wider array of options, according to DeAngelis.

"We don't want to destroy the public schools," he told Fox News. "We want to make them better."

"When you inject competition into that system, the district starts to allocate more resources into the classroom so they don't upset parents, and they have to compete for the employees," DeAngelis added.

Math scores saw their largest decreases ever in 2022, according to the Nation's Report Card. Reading scores also dropped to levels not seen since 1992 for fourth and eighth graders across the country.

School choice would also allow disadvantaged children more opportunities to access educational options like private schools that only some families can afford, DeAngelis said.

"Why should they be forced into this one-size-fits-all system?" DeAngelis said. "School choice is an equalizer."

Arizona became the first state to pass universal education scholarship accounts to all 1.1 million K-12 students in the state in 2022. Other states, including Iowa, Utah and Florida, have followed in pushing school choice legislation.

"It's the teachers unions' own fault for overplaying their hand and awakening a sleeping giant: parents who just want more of a say in their kids' education," DeAngelis said.