Wednesday, December 31, 2008

British schools too much for British teachers

Negligible disciplinary options means high stress

Teachers are calling in sick at the rate of 15,000 a day. Almost three million working days were lost last year, up from 2.5million in 1999. Some 311,000 teachers took at least one day off.

Tories called the official figures 'very worrying', linking them with mounting bureaucracy and disruptive classroom behaviour.

The Government's school workforce statistics, which cover full and part-time teachers and classroom assistants, show the average number of sick days has risen from 5.1 a head in 1999 to 5.4 in 2007. The overall number of days lost was 2.9million. This equates to almost 15,000 teachers off sick on each school day. The total of 311,770 who took sickness absence is well over half the number working in English schools.

The rising levels of sick leave mean more pupils have to be taught by unfamiliar supply teachers who may not be specialists in the subjects they are teaching.

Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said the cost of teacher absence could run into hundreds of millions. Schools have to pay œ103 to œ210 a day for supply teachers.

Teaching unions said stress was 'endemic' to teaching in Britain. NUT acting general secretary Christine Blower said: 'Given the enormous pressures teachers are under, it is remarkable they have so little sick leave. 'The vast majority of teachers, sometimes unwisely, go into school, even though they may be ill, because of their commitment to the children. 'Unfortunately, too much stress is endemic to the job and it is the responsibility of not only the Government but the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways of reducing the excessive numbers of initiatives faced weekly by schools.'

Despite record education spending under Labour, teaching vacancies have risen by a quarter in the past year - with four in ten new teachers quitting within a year. Critics say they are weighed down with too many initiatives, too much form-filling and too much bad behaviour.

Mr Gove said: 'It's very worrying that the number of sick days has risen so dramatically. 'The Government needs to investigate the reasons so we can make sure there is as much stability as possible in every child's education.'

According to the General Teaching Council for England, there are 465,672 registered teachers currently working in England's schools. The figure does not include classroom assistants. The highest sickness rate was in London, where 50,840 full and part-time teachers took leave. The lowest rate was in the North East of England, with 13,360 teachers taking sickness absence.

Mark Wallace, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said last night: 'Taxpayers and pupils are the real victims of this epidemic. Teachers clearly need firmer rules and better management to both reduce stress and stop people getting away with taking sickies.'

But the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'Teacher sickness levels remain low and stable and well within industry norms. 'Of course, teaching is an incredibly rewarding but also very challenging role and we have worked hard to reduce the pressures on teachers. 'We have employed record numbers of support staff, given teachers a half-day a week outside the classroom to plan and prepare lessons, given teachers the full support of the law in dealing with unruly pupils and removed admin tasks from the list of activities which they can be asked to do.'

A spokesman for the largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Teachers are highly dedicated to their jobs and to the children they teach. 'We would question the release of these statistics if their intended purpose is to seek to undermine or call into question the hard work of teachers, who on a daily basis raise attainment and help children reach their full potential.'


Fake teacher? No problem in the Australian State of Victoria

Your legion of highly-paid bureaucrats will protect you (NOT). And when you do get found out only a slap on the wrist awaits you

THE state education watchdog has been rapped over the knuckles for failing to uncover a fake teacher working at a Melbourne primary school. The Victorian Institute of Teaching registered Renai Brochard, despite conflicting birth dates and signatures on her paperwork. Brochard, 41, was given a suspended jail term for stealing the identity of South Australian teacher Ginetta Rossi, her husband's former wife. She used the name to gain registration in Victoria and taught for several months last year at Melbourne Montessori School's Caulfield campus.

Brochard was exposed only after Ms Rossi tried to renew her teaching status with SA education authorities. It is believed Brochard is now working in a childcare job in Adelaide.

A recent institute of teaching disciplinary hearing heard Brochard was paid an annual salary of $58,828 at Melbourne Montessori. She misspelt Ms Rossi's first name on some registration documents and had whited out her name and replaced it with Ms Rossi's on her birth certificate, the hearing was told.

The Montessori principal approved Brochard's birth and marriage certificates, although not authorised to do so, the institute panel found. In its decision, the panel, headed by Susan Halliday, said thorough scrutiny and cross-referencing of all paperwork by the institute would have revealed the discrepancies. The panel said the institute had tightened checking procedures, but it recommended staff receive more training. The fraud was the first case of its kind to go before an institute of teaching hearing.

Brochard was convicted at Moorabbin Magistrates' Court on April 17 on charges of deception and making a false document. She was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

British schools reject assistance from parents

New theory-based and union-supported guidance discourages parents from going on school trips. For some schools it may mean no trips at all. But having parents present might dilute that wonderful CONTROL that Leftists get off on

Imagine the scenario. You're a mother who has volunteered to accompany your seven-year-old son's class on a trip to the Science Museum in west London and are in charge of a group of five boys, including your son. On the journey home, there's a problem. As you are waiting to board the Tube, the fire alarm sounds and there is an order to evacuate the station. What do you do? According to new government health and safety guidelines, there's a risk you'll snatch up your son and make a dash for the nearest emergency exit, neglecting the four other boys in the process. As a spokesman for the Department for Children, Families and Schools put it: "There is the potential for divided interest in the case of an emergency." By contrast, a teacher would try to look after the entire group.

Understandably, parents are outraged that they can no longer accompany their own children on school trips. "I loved taking my eldest daughter and her class on a school trip because it gave me a chance to see how the children interact together," says Tessa Park, a mother of two, who has accompanied class excursions to the London Aquarium in the past. Now, with parental involvement being scaled back, her volunteering days are in jeopardy. Just as ministers have published a manifesto calling for more "learning outside the classroom", Park has received a letter dissuading mothers and fathers from accompanying their own children on trips. "It's a very odd attitude," she says. "I'd like to see the evidence to support this claim that schoolchildren are less safe when they are looked after by a parent. Quite frankly, in the event of an accident I would feel safer if my children were in the hands of a mum who knows their names."

Park, whose children attend Bute House prep school in west London, is not alone in believing the government has taken a wrong turn. Another parent at the same school, who wished to remain anonymous, is even more vociferous. "Statistically, how many pupils have died on school trips because a parent has saved their child first?" she asks. "There is a greater chance of my child dying crossing Hammersmith Broadway. There are quite a few parents who think this is just the nanny state gone mad." She added: "Parents have been going on school trips since time immemorial. If you are a responsible parent, you will manage. This isn't white-water rafting down the Zambezi; it's a walk to a museum."

Bute House was one of several prep schools that attended a course on the issue run earlier this year by Roger Smith, a consultant who is a member of the government's outdoor education advisers panel. So far Smith has briefed about 600 private schools on the updated guidance. He says that while it is not yet statutory, it is already considered "best practice" not to include parents as supervisors on trips involving their children. "If a trip did go pear-shaped, a school would be asked why it had not complied with this advice," he says. Indeed, the consequences can be severe.

Fines and even manslaughter charges have been brought in the past against schools, councils and teachers who have failed to protect pupils on trips. In 2002 a teacher was jailed for manslaughter after an accident in Cumbria when a boy of 10 drowned in a river. In 2003 Leeds council was fined 30,000 pounds after admitting to flawed safety measures on a trip during which two teenage schoolgirls drowned. The turning point, however, was a tragedy more than a decade ago. In 1993 four sixth-formers died on a canoeing trip in Lyme Bay, in the West Country, in one of Britain's worst canoeing disasters. Peter Kite, the director of the outdoor centre responsible for the trip, was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for three years. After this, one teaching union, the NASUWT, told members to be wary of supervising trips for fear of being sued, and nationally the number of excursions fell drastically.

The union has now changed its stance, but insists that children be accompanied by teachers rather than parents. Longstanding guidelines suggest that one adult should be in charge of six seven-to-nine-year-olds on an outing; the ratio is one adult to three for children aged under five. Chris Keates, general secretary of the union, explains. "We have long had serious reservations about school trips. More and more schools were counting parents in the ratio of adults to children required for a trip, when they should really only be including trained staff. "While parents can be helpful, it can be hard for staff to get them to understand the safety aspects. Schools are taking a risk if they don't use qualified staff." Even on a trip to Kew gardens? To a museum? "On any outing," she says. Keates acknowledges that "some people might say that not counting parents as part of the adult-pupil ratio will jeopardise trips going ahead but we say that if you can't get enough qualified staff to accompany them, you shouldn't be going in the first place". [Translation: "We want more jobs for teachers"]

Several head teachers spoke out against the guidance last week. Dilys Hoffman, head of Beckford primary school, in north London, said: "I don't think it's okay for the government to be interfering with schools' practice. Sometimes it's quite a good thing for a parent to accompany their own child, especially if the child has special needs or behavioural issues. Children love having them there. "Provided parents are given guidance and have had police checks, I don't think it's a problem." Karen Coulthard, head of Berger primary school, in east London, agrees. "Today our nursery children are going to a pantomime and the ratio is 1:1, so we ask for one parent to accompany their child," she said. "It's very important to get the youngest children out and accessing the wealth of resources on our doorstep". For decades parents have helped schools to do just that.


Australia: No standards for teachers?

A PRIMARY school teacher accused of swearing at his Year 5 students and allowing them to chase each other around the classroom with a baseball bat has been given the all-clear to continue working with children.

Victoria's top teaching watchdog has found the man, who is referred to only as RJS, may remain registered as a teacher despite being found guilty of incompetence for failing to adequately supervise students, maintain a safe environment or adequately protect students from harm.

It was alleged the male teacher told Victorian Year 5 students, aged about 11, "Don't f..king swear at me" and asked "Why the f..k are you behaving this way in my class and not other people's classes?" A disciplinary panel was also told he said to one class, "You are a pack of arseholes", The Australian reports.

The teacher, who has been working at a school in NSW, admitted during the Victorian Institute of Teaching hearing that the school was not aware of the disciplinary proceedings against him nor the fact that he had had his previous contract at a Victorian school terminated. The disciplinary panel heard the teacher had problems supervising and controlling students at a school that drew pupils from a disadvantaged and culturally diverse community, who had various behavioural problems.

It was alleged RJS started employment as a casual relief teacher before being hired as a PE and environmental studies teacher in May 2006. Soon afterwards, his colleagues complained about his lack of supervision of students. The panel heard this included incidents where the teacher permitted a Year 5 student to climb over a tennis court fence, failed to take action after a fight between two pupils, allowed students to wander off and did not stop Year 3 pupils pushing and shoving while in his class.

The panel was told the teacher allowed Year 5 students to engage in wrestling in class. He said he was showing his pupils the difference between fake television wrestling and real wrestling at the Commonwealth Games. The school's principal told the panel she had concerns about the teacher when she hired him.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Obama Picks a Moderate on Education

The president will ultimately decide whether to take on the teachers' unions.

Barack Obama picked Arne Duncan only partly for his skills on the basketball court. As secretary of education, he will be running one of the administration's most important finesse games. The CEO of the Chicago public schools and the ultimate diplomat, Mr. Duncan rises to the rim at a moment when teachers unions are, for the first time, facing opposition within the Democratic Party from young idealists who favor education reform. They want to recapture what should always have been a natural issue for Democrats: helping underprivileged kids get out of failing public schools.

Considering the reviews from the right and the left, you might be confused about whether Mr. Duncan is a signal that Mr. Obama's administration is lining up behind the reformers or supporting the status quo. Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor (and _ber reformer) Michelle Rhee endorsed the pick, as did President Bush's Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings. But Mr. Duncan also has fans among traditional Democrats, whose main interest is keeping the teachers unions happy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the choice, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that he would enjoy a speedy confirmation.

So what should we make of Mr. Duncan? One promising clue comes from a group called Democrats for Education Reform, part of the growing voice for reform in the party. DFER is known to cheer Democrats brave enough to support charter schools and other methods of extending options to parents. Joe Williams, the group's executive director, predicted that Mr. Duncan will help break the "ideological and political gridlock to promote new, innovative and experimental ideas."

In Chicago, Mr. Duncan is credited with laying out plans to close 100 underperforming public schools. Fans also note that he helped raise the cap on charter schools to 30 from 15. But his record is short of miraculous. Why have a cap on charter schools at all? And the teachers unions extracted plenty of concessions, including a ban on new charters operating multiple campuses.

Mr. Duncan is certainly no bomb thrower. His role instead will be to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of young idealists in the party, like DFER and the tens of thousands of young people who join Teach For America each year. This group, which continues to attract highly skilled young people, is fast creating the new Democratic elite in the education arena while challenging the education establishment.

At forums during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, several big-city mayors lined up with reform principles against union demands. Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., said that "As Democrats we have been wrong on education, and it's time to get it right." Washington, D.C.'s Adrian Fenty, a strong backer of Ms. Rhee's effort to negotiate tough terms with the unions, remarked that the politics of school reform are changing fast. At one DFER event last year, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. used the word "monopoly" -- a major affront to teachers unions -- to describe failing schools. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third ranking Democrat in the House, is another important convert to the idea of more parental choice in education.

It's all a bit delicate, which makes Mr. Duncan Mr. Obama's man for a good reason. He's known for a flexibility that allows him to float between the traditional Democratic strongholds and the new wave of reformers in the party. With proper implementation, Mr. Obama could accomplish on education reform what President Bill Clinton did for welfare reform -- taking a previously Republican issue and transforming it from within the left.

But unions aren't about to slink off into the sunset. If they're losing some of their clout at the national level, they maintain their grip locally. In many places, teachers angle to usurp the language of the reformers while pushing their own agenda. Thus "merit pay" has been twisted into a system that bears little resemblance to the original concept of paying teachers for teaching kids successfully. Instead, it has become pay-for-credential, offering salary bumps for continuing education and other qualifications, with no anchor to proven results in the classroom.

Mr. Duncan is a reformer at heart, if one who works collegially within the system. But in the end, much will depend on his boss. Whether Mr. Obama is an artful fence walker or a real agent of change -- on schools or anything else -- is a mystery the coming year may finally clear up.


Peek inside Britain's schools and shudder

If you want to know how bad the future will be, take a look at our schools, and shudder. We know that they are nurseries of ignorance, which is why we have to import disciplined, hard-working, competent young Poles to do so much of the work in this country. We should also be concerned that they are places of fear and violence, where authority is nothing but a joke.

The police have admitted (under Freedom of Information laws) that they were called to violent incidents at least 7,000 times in English schools last year. Since FoI disclosures are about the only Government statistics we can trust, I think we should take this seriously, though - since not all police forces replied - the figure is probably much higher. There is no reason to think that things are much better in Scotland or Wales.

The Sixties revolution, which destroyed the authority of parents and teachers alike, will soon reach its long-cherished goal. Everything stuffy, traditional, repressive, old-fashioned and boring has been swept away in the world of the young. They are all free now. The trouble is that they do not know how to be free, because they have also been taught that morals are `judgmental', religion is `outdated' and that adults are just obsolete ex-teenagers groping their way to the grave, a nuisance to be ignored or violently shoved aside.

They have discovered that the law is not just feeble (though it is) but that it frequently punishes those who try to uphold what used to be the rules of civilisation. And that, while we now have armed policemen licensed to kill virtually at will, our authorities recoil in horror at the very idea of an adult smacking a child. Listen to this slightly edited account of a day in a supposedly reputable school in a prosperous and middle-class area of one of the Home Counties. It is written by a highly experienced teacher, returning to work after a few years away.
`The class turned up totally out of control... it was similar to controlling a riot ... it took about 15 minutes to sit them down and make them do some work. `A boy in the front row turned his back on me and decided that he would try to wind the class back up into a frenzy, by calling out, waving his arms and by completely disregarding my presence. 'I thought he was going to mount the desks in front of him and cause other pupils - or himself - some damage. I had no intention of smacking him, but to restrain him from his own actions I went to grab him.'

The result of this was that the teacher concerned was accused, by another pupil, of the heinous crime of `smacking'. Thanks to this, the person involved has given up teaching and is - quite reasonably - worried in case the Useless Police and the CPS are called in and mount one of the zealous life-ruining prosecutions of innocent teachers that they so much enjoy.

Now, listen carefully, to see if you can hear any Sixties liberals admitting that they were wrong to dismantle adult authority. And listen even more carefully to see if you can discover a `Conservative' politician with the courage to say that this must be put right, that marriage is miles better than non-marriage, that a man without a conscience is wilder than any beast, that fathers should be respected, that parents must be allowed to smack, that teachers should be able to cane.

All you will hear is silence, mingled with the sound of boots kicking a human head as if it were a football, the head of another poor fool who tried to stand up for what was right, and thought he could appeal to the better natures of people who have been brought up feral, and have no better natures.


Australia: Reprieve for "old" maths in the State of NSW

The "old" syllabus is why NSW students learn more than kids in other States

The NSW Government will delay introduction of a long-awaited new syllabus for Higher School Certificate mathematics courses to avoid confusing schools with further changes when a national curriculum is introduced. The new courses were to be taught to year 11 students from 2010. It is about 30 years since the senior maths curriculum has been reviewed.

The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, has asked the Board of Studies to delay the new documents to avoid complicating the national curriculum agenda. "In light of the current work on the national curriculum, the minister has asked the Board of Studies to complete initial work on the senior maths syllabus but to delay implementation while monitoring the progress of the national curriculum," a spokeswoman said. "This is to avoid confusion for students, teachers and parents."

The NSW Board of Studies said it would meet on February 17 to discuss the status of the new HSC maths courses in the context of a national curriculum.

Representatives of the school-resources publishing industry contacted The Sun-Herald about the delay. A maths editor said book sellers who relied on income from the sale of syllabus documents were concerned.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Teacher criticises British 'can't touch' culture after being throttled by pupil as colleagues looked on

A teacher who won 250,000 pounds compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised a 'can't touch' culture in schools after other staff initially refused to intervene. Colin Adams, 50, was attacked by a 12- year- old boy, who knocked him to the floor before punching and kicking him, and grabbing his neck. But despite other teachers yelling at the boy to stop, no one stepped in to help. Mr Adams's ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boy's thumbs back to release his hold. Later, the unnamed teacher admitted to Mr Adams that he was afraid the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would accuse him of assault.

It later emerged the boy had a history of violence, having previously attacked pupils and a security guard at a library opposite Kingsford Community School in East London. However, he was not properly disciplined over the assaults and staff were not warned about his past.

Mr Adams yesterday criticised Government-backed 'inclusion' policies, which he claimed had led to pupils with severe behavioural problems being taught in schools where staff are not trained to cope with them. His comments come only days after figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed police were called to schools 10,000 times last year to deal with violent incidents.

Mr Adams's attacker was expelled after the assault in 2004 and given a referral order by the courts, which involved him being supervised for six months. It is rumoured he was sent on a holiday as 'a reward' for completing it.

As a result of the attack, which lasted for several minutes, Mr Adams, of Ockendon, Essex, was forced to give up work after suffering severe stress and back problems. His distress was further compounded by a lengthy court battle to win compensation, charted by his wife Sharon, 47, in a diary she started after the assault. Four-and-a-half years later, he secured 250,000 in an out-of-court settlement from Newham Council.

Writing in her diary, Mrs Adams said the boy had been misbehaving in another teacher's class and Mr Adams, as head of department, had gone to his aid. He ordered the boy to leave but the pupil refused. Mr Adams then left the room and was attacked by the boy from behind. She wrote: 'He came around to find the boy strangling him. The teachers told the boy to let go, but he did not. 'Teachers are very wary of touching children these days as children all know their rights and they can take a teacher to court. 'It only came to an end when a male teacher grabbed hold of one of the boy's thumbs and caused him pain and made the boy let go. 'This teacher didn't want to admit what he'd done for fear of being accused of assault.

'The police informed the school they could have kicked the boy in his back to make him let go, but I am not sure there is any teacher anywhere who would be willing to do that for fear of repercussions.' Mr Adams, who has two grown-up children, added: 'The whole thing has left a bitter taste. We are trying our best to move forward but it's a slow process.'

A Newham Council spokesman said: 'Our staff have the right to work without fear of assault or harassment. 'In this particular case, an appropriate financial settlement was agreed following advice from our insurers, which was based on Mr Adams's loss of salary, future loss of earnings and damages for the injury he suffered.'


University of Calgary Pro-Life Students Victorious - Administration Backs Down from Arrest Threats

University of Calgary officials have not followed through on their threats to arrest Campus Pro-Life students for erecting the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display on campus grounds this week. s past Wednesday and Thursday pro-life students at the university had set up the GAP display, which includes graphic images of abortions and comparisons between abortion and past genocides. In the weeks leading up to the display, however, the university had threatened the students with arrest, suspension, expulsion, and other censures, if they did not agree either to turn the signs inwards, so that they could not be seen by passersby, or not to erect the display at all.

Leah Hallman, president of Campus Pro-Life, told that she sees the fact that the university backed away from its threats to arrest the students as only a partial victory. The university, she said, may still be planning on taking legal action against the students who were present at the GAP display site, who had their names recorded by campus security officers. "What the university administration will do is not clear, but I hope the university will continue to allow us to express our pro-life message and will rescind the order to turn the signs inward, especially as we are determined to display the GAP signs in the Spring semester, as we have in previous years," Hallman said. "The most important thing right now," Hallman said "is for people to write to the university to express their support for the right of freedom of expression at the U of C."

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," a statement on Campus Pro-Life's website begins, quoting the French philosopher Voltaire. "These words of Voltaire are being ignored by the University of Calgary and we, their own students and the victims of their oppression, wish to expose their censorship, intimidation, and bully-tactics. "We implore our fellow Canadians-who may disapprove of what we say but who will defend our right to say it-to support our rights to free speech, to communicate their disagreement to U of C, and to withdraw support from the university until U of C upholds academic freedom."


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Standards for teachers: How amazing

Any standards at all have to be welcomed these days. Similar standards for students are too much to expect, of course. Do I sense a double standard there? Do teachers recognize what is needed to gain respect but not convey that to those they teach? "Everything is relative" certainly seems to be often taught. Traditional Leftist double standards, it would seem. Story from Britain below

Teachers must behave as pillars of the community and be role models to their pupils, the industry’s professional body said yesterday. Those who drink heavily and disgrace themselves - even outside school hours – face disciplinary action for bringing the profession into disrepute, whether or not they have broken the law. Some teachers have had to undergo counselling or provide medical proof of abstinence from alcohol to remain on the teaching register, the General Teaching Council admitted.

Yesterday the teaching council presented a draft of its new code of conduct for teachers, on which it is consulting. The wellbeing of children is the main thrust of the code, with an even higher billing than learning. Teachers could be disciplined if they fail to cooperate with social workers or do everything in their power to protect children, the draft code says. They should pick up on and address problems at the earliest possible stage. They must also report colleagues if they have concerns that their practice puts children at risk.

The draft code says that teachers have to demonstrate high standards of honesty and integrity, and uphold public trust and confidence in the teaching profession. This includes teachers “maintaining standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession”.

Keith Bartley, the chief executive of the General Teaching Council, admitted that expectations of teachers had increased significantly in the past few years. He said: “The new code will have to reflect the fact that teachers are working more closely with other professionals. Some of the cases that have had national prominence recently show that, if a teacher has concerns, they have a duty to raise and pass on those concerns.”

Whereas the previous code, drawn up in 2004, set out what teachers should not do, the 2008 draft describes in unambiguous terms how teachers are expected to behave. Sarah Stephens, director of policy at the teaching council, said: “It gives greater clarity about what it means to act as a role model, and about a teacher’s conduct outside the classroom.” Mr Bartley added that, at some of the organisation’s professional misconduct hearings, teachers had been required to agree to undergo therapy. He added that teachers could be found guilty of unacceptable conduct without breaking the law – for example by belonging to a party that held racist views. “We’re saying to teachers that, as individuals, they have to consider their place in society,” he said. “There’s a sense that this [code] has to reflect society’s expectations of the people to whom we commit our children.”

David James, the teaching council’s head of professional regulation, said: “We have the ability to apply conditions to a teacher’s registration. We can say to people, ‘You can remain a teacher but you must undertake retraining, or counselling, or provide evidence of abstinence from drinking’. That happens quite frequently.”

The draft code requires teachers to forge links with parents, and consider their views. It also says they must keep up to date with technology and social changes. The organisation is investigating what schools and local authorities are doing to tackle the problem of incompetent teachers. It will report the findings of its research next year.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Laptops Do Not Increase Academic Achievement in Reading and Writing

With the Texas Legislature almost ready to begin its 81st Regular Session in January 2009, I am sure the technology lobbyists are out in full force. For years, they have been trying to pressure Legislators to pass legislation that would force taxpayers to fund laptops for every student in the Texas public schools. The question is:Do laptops on every student's desk raise academic achievement?

In January 2008 a report entitled Evaluation of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot: Outcomes for the Third Year (2006-07) was released. Based upon four years of solid research, here is the answer to the academic achievement question: "There were no statistically significant effects of immersion on the TAKS reading and Writing."[TAKS -- Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills were the tests used to measure academic achievement for TIP.]It seems that laptops on every desk did not raise student academic achievement in the most important foundational skills a student will ever learn -- reading and writing.

With the downturn in the economy across our nation, it is more important than ever to make sure that our tax dollars are well spent.I hope that Texas Legislators will read the following information about the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot (TIP) and make responsible decisions based upon this scientific research.


The Technology Immersion Pilot was created by the Texas Legislature in 2003.Senate Bill 396 called for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to establish a pilot project to "immerse" schools in wireless laptops. The mandate came without any funding; but through a competitive grant process, the TEA used more than $20 million in federal monies to fund the TIP project. Concurrently, a federal research study has been evaluating whether student achievement improves over time through this immersion in laptops.The Texas Center for Educational Research is a non-profit research organization in Austin that has been working with the TEA for four years (2004-2008) to produce research-based results.

*Since January 2008, two more reports (July 2008 and December 2008) have been produced that emphasize other aspects of laptop immersion; but neither focuses on the lack of academic achievement on TAKS reading and writing.(Please see links posted at the bottom of this article.)

My concern is that the capstone report (December 2008 -- Progress Report on the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020) that has been produced for the 81st Legislature really seems to "dance around" the most important issue which is the academic achievement.Instead the report puts out information on issues of secondary importance (e.g., whether students and teachers like laptops, whether the immersion has been deep enough, whether students' computer skills have improved, whether discipline problems have decreased, whether teachers have received enough technology training, etc.).These may be interesting to study in and of themselves but do not really get to the heart of the matter which is whether laptops indeed improve students' reading and writing skills appreciably - enough to justify the huge expenditure to provide individual student laptops for all students in Texas.Legislators may be prone to read only the December 2008 TIP report and disregard the January 2008 TIP report that holds the real "meat" of the issue.

More here

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Dumbing Down of Academe

Just when you think the folks on the left can't get any goofier, they go and surpass themselves. If silliness were an Olympic event, these lunkheads could be counted on to bring home the gold. The fool's gold, that is.

Actually, they could probably excel in the sprints, seeing as how they're not weighed down with a whole lot of common sense. In case you haven't gotten the word, the religious left, as I like to think of them, seeing as how they live their lives by a certain dogma, have now determined that poor people are terribly under-represented on America's college campuses. It was, I suppose, only a matter of time. After all, if no institute of higher education can justify its existence unless its student population is composed of X-percent of women, Hispanics, blacks, gays and the physically handicapped, some Democrat was bound to notice that there still remained an untapped source of future votes; namely, poor, young whites.

Diversity in the student body is the catch phrase. But, as you may have noticed, there is no parallel diversity along the faculties. In the humanities departments of most American colleges, professors run the gamut from liberal to radical. Given a choice between Ahmadinejad and a Republican, a large majority would vote for the little schmuck in the windbreaker.

Frankly, I see no reason to give preferential treatment to students for no better reason than that their parents are poor. If a mix of humanity is what they're really seeking, I say they should throw open the doors to idiots. And, no, I'm not referring to those aforementioned professors in the liberal arts who get paid a lot of money for doing nothing more than foisting their half-baked politics on a bunch of highly impressionable 18-year-olds. No, I'm talking about the genuine article -- people with subterranean I.Q.s.

I mean, if diversity is of such monumental importance, why limit it to race, gender and national origin? Obviously, members of these groups have far more in common with each other than they have with the intellectually- challenged -- or whatever it is that the P.C. crowd is calling dumb people this week.

Honestly, I haven't a clue why college would be a more exalting experience just because the student in the next seat has different pigmentation or hails from a country where indoor plumbing is optional.

Admittedly, it's been many years since I was a collegian. Still, as I recall, the real value of the four years, aside from learning how to drink and how to talk to women without stuttering, was the enforced proximity to the minds and works of Socrates, Newton, Freud, Shakespeare, Plato, Milton, Michelangelo, Einstein, Da Vinci and Jefferson, and was neither enhanced nor diminished by the color or creed of the other students.

The truth of the matter was that my interest in my fellow scholars, and I don't think my attitude was at all atypical, was limited to wanting to date the more attractive coeds and wanting to eviscerate those brainiacs most likely to raise the class curve.

Inasmuch as smart, poor kids already receive academic scholarships, one can only assume that it's the stupid ones whom the social engineers are trying to cram through the ivied portals. But, inasmuch as once in, they're destined to flunk out, I have a better solution. I suggest we take our lead from "The Wizard of Oz." The Scarecrow, as you may recall, didn't waste four years boning up for final exams. The great and powerful Oz merely handed him a diploma, and just like that, Ray Bolger was squaring the hypotenuse and jabbering away like a young William F. Buckley, Jr.

Why not give diplomas to anybody who wants one? In a day and age when people are wasting their parents' hard-earned money majoring in things like Gay Studies, Sit Coms of the 60's, and Comic Books as Literature, why not do the decent thing and just hand out sheepskins to anyone who says, "Please"? A built-in bonus of my plan is that with all those goobers off the campuses, there would be additional parking spaces for the people studying to be doctors, mathematicians, and scientists. After all, when all is said and done, most college graduates aren't really smarter than other people. They just think they are.


Police called to 10,000 violent cases in British schools annually

Police officers have had to deal with 10,000 violent incidents at schools in a year. Teachers were forced to call them in to deal with attacks on staff and pupils - some involving knives or other weapons. Figures from 25 out of 39 English forces showed that officers were called to deal with school violence more than 7,000 times in a year. Extending the numbers across all forces gives almost 10,000.

The extent of police involvement in school incidents emerged as increasing numbers of heads ask for officers to be permanently stationed on the premises. Official figures suggest at least 450 schools have an officer on site. But increased liaison with police has prompted warnings by children's groups that pupils are being criminalised for playground spats. In one case, an 11-year-old boy spent three hours in a cell after he brandished a plastic toy gun at a schoolmate.

The Tories asked forces how many times they had been called to school premises to deal with an attempted or actual violent crime in the year from September 2007. There were 7,311 incidents tackled by the forces that responded. The Metropolitan Police reported the most call-outs, with 2,698. This was followed by Thames Valley with 697 calls and Kent with 425.

Violent incidents mainly involve offences against the person by pupils, parents or intruders, including threats, physical attacks, sex crimes and robbery. The figures emerged in the wake of a series of school attacks. Shaquille Clarke-Adams, 14, was stabbed three times in the chest and stomach in front of pupils at Allerton Grange High in Leeds. Carrington Mgbeanulu, 15, was knifed just inches from his heart at the gates of Cardinal Wiseman School in Greenford, West London. Meanwhile prefect Darcey Menezes, 16, was stabbed five times in the back while trying to protect younger children from a gang that was terrorising them with a pitbull terrier at Salesian College in Battersea, South London. These incidents follow the killing of Luke Walmsley, 14, in 2003. He was knifed through the heart by Alan Pennell, 16, at Birkbeck School, North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, in front of pupils.

Official figures show that 344 secondary school pupils are suspended from school every day for assaulting other children. Despite this, just 1,350 pupils were expelled in the school year from September 2006 for assaults on students, while 980 were thrown out for attacking teachers. Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said: 'The number of violent incidents in schools that lead to police being called is very worrying. There will always be the odd occasion when teachers need to call on the police for support but at the moment they do not have sufficient powers to nip discipline problems in the bud.'

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers says nearly a third of state school teachers are punched, kicked or bitten by a pupil and one in ten is injured by students. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'The overwhelming majority of schools are safe and behaviour is very good. Head teachers have more powers than ever to deal with discipline problems.'


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jobs for snobs won't make you happy

This post from Australia is a bit light-hearted but the author has a point

My friend Tom has a burning ambition to work on a road gang. Whenever he drives past roadworks, he slows down and beeps his horn at the blokes in hard-hats; waving, smiling, winding down his window to say hello. They don't often wave back. Tom's a solicitor at a big-city law firm. He has spent a decade studying, working overtime and establishing himself in a job he hates with a passion.

He's not alone. Marie's loathing of her insurance firm is so intense she's begun trying to bankrupt the place from the inside, fantasising about the day the liquidators move in. The only thing preventing Kate quitting as a emergency doctor is an occasional illicit blast of pharmaceuticals from the dispensary - and the fact she's eaten so many consolation Tim Tams she's worried her scrubs are the only clothes that still fit.

This is a strange little phenomenon that started in the first few years after we left school. The people who were apparently the brightest - the ones who got the highest marks - soon became the most likely to be hollow-eyed and unhappy. Most of them despised their colleagues only slightly less than they loathed their bosses. They'd lie at parties about what they did for a crust. Everyone had reverse ambition: grand dreams of work at the drive-thru.

These are white-collar people. They're not slitting throats in abbatoirs or mopping up spilt orange juice in shopping malls; they're working in industries of prestige, with opportunities for taxi-charge rorting and other fringe benefits.

Objectively, there's no good reason for them to do jobs they hate. Except for our oddly snobbish system of university admissions. Last week, thousands of NSW kids went through the agony of discovering their marks in the Higher School Certificate. To the students, the scores are desperately important. Those four little numbers will determine the future shape of their lives. And what a shame that is.

This is how it works. A clever kid works as hard as possible for the final two years at school. He'd quite like to be a PE teacher, or maybe a tour guide. He makes it through exams, avoids getting arrested at Schoolies, and learns his university admissions index ranking - let's say it's 97.35. Then he looks at the line-up of university courses he can scrape into - it might be podiatry at the University of New England, or actuarial studies at UNSW.

Tour-guiding and PE are forgotten. Mum and Dad say it'd be mad to waste his time on anything like that, when his marks are giving him the chance to get into such flash degrees. Everyone from teachers and classmates to Nanna's friends urge him to make the most of his potential by entering the highest-mark course he can possibly get into. They say it'd be a terrible thing to waste all those marks by going into a degree that requires a mark of only 70.5, or - horrors! - an apprenticeship. And so our brilliant school-leaver spends the rest of his days removing ingrown toenails or sitting behind a desk worrying about whether his managing partner likes him.

How did we get into this logical cul-de-sac? Instead of considering what will make our kids happy, our collective tendency is to think only about whether their marks are high enough for the most impressive-sounding courses. Off they go to law school or radiology lectures - even if they'd much rather own a tea-shop or wax eyebrows. Any top-scoring student who fails to enter a high-mark course is regarded as a bit thick - or at least ungrateful and in need of a good war. Wouldn't it be better to encourage kids - and educational institutions - to think more cleverly about how they guide students into careers?

A federal review of higher education last week recommended changing the university admission system so a high school mark is not the only criterion for determining entry. The review suggests including interviews and other tests for gauging what suits individual students That's a good start. The next step is a bit trickier - eliminating the ingrained snobbery that shoehorns kids into the wrong careers. Law and medicine might be potentially lucrative careers, but they're no social good if they make Junior miserable.

Tom claims he's seriously considering applying for work as a stop-go man on a road gang. He says he'd be sure to wave back at all the passing cars. I'd love to see it.


9-year-old is called a drug dealer over cough drops

Case prompted when student shared Vitamin C candy with friend

A Florida elementary school accused a 9-year-old student of selling drugs for sharing cough drops with friends. Officials at Patterson Elementary School in Clay County decided, however, not to discipline Khalin Rivenbark, who met with the girl and her father Wednesday.

The accusation arose one day earlier when the child got into trouble after her father put some Halls Defense Vitamin C cough drops in her school bag when she was recovering from a cold, she told Jacksonville's WJXT-TV. She later shared some with friends.

"[A teacher] saw me with the cough drops out and I guess she saw me give it to one of my friends, and then like, 'Oh, I see this good business going on around you,'" Khalin told the station. "She said, 'You're selling drugs.' (I said) 'No, I'm not.'" The 9-year-old said one of her friends gave her $1 for the cough drop.

Her father, Andy Rivenbark, told the station, "It's absolutely crazy." The student said the cough drops were in her bag, and two friends asked for one, so she handed them out. One friend insisted on paying. "She felt guilty taking the cough drop or whatever, so she gave me a dollar. I didn't want to accept it, but she had me take it," Khalin told the Jacksonville TV station.

The student handbook for Clay County Schools says, "If a student must take a prescription or over-the-counter medication during school hours, it must be received and stored in the original container, and be labeled with the student's name, current date, prescription dosage, frequency of administration and physician's name." But WJXT reporter Diane Cho questioned whether the Halls cough drops qualify as a drug, since the ingredients were nearly the same as Lifesavers candy.

Andy Rivenbark said he didn't get a note or call from school administrators about the incident. "It's definitely detrimental to somebody who we teach the whole time growing up, 'don't use drugs because drugs are bad.' To accuse her, it's unnecessary to make a comment like that," Rivenbark said.

The report said the meeting included an admonition from school officials for the child not to bring cough drops again.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Black college students get better grades with white roommate

That living with white work habits rather than more entertainment-oriented black habits might be beneficial for study is no surprise. As we read elsewhere, however, the whites concerned didn't like the experience

A new study of college freshman suggests that African Americans may obtain higher grades if they live with a white roommate. A detailed study of students at a large, predominantly-white university revealed that while living with a white roommate may be more challenging than living with someone of the same race, many Black students appear to benefit from the experience.

For African American students, this could translate into as much as 0.30-point increase in their GPA in their first quarter of college. White students, on the other hand, were affected more by the academic ability of their roommate than by their race. While the study results may seem one-sided, earlier studies by these researchers and others reinforces the value of students' experience with members of different races and ethnic groups.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University found that nearly one in every six interracial roommate relationships failed, meaning at least one roommate moved out, by the end of the first quarter. But African American students who were paired with a white roommate performed better academically than did those with a same-race roommate.

These African American students may be better adjusted to college because they live with someone who can help them learn about the challenges and norms of a different environment, said Natalie Shook, lead author of the study, who started the work as a graduate student at Ohio State. "It's already known that interracial roommate relationships are more difficult than same-race relationships. But despite the problems, we've shown that there are benefits in how well Black students perform academically," said Shook, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She conducted the study with Russell Fazio, a professor of psychology at Ohio State, who has been studying interracial attitudes and relationships for the past 15 years. The pair published the results in the October 2008 issue of the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. The pair collected data on college freshman in more than 2,700 dorm rooms at a large, predominately white university. They studied how successful relationships were for students who specifically requested to live with someone, as well those who were randomly assigned to a roommate. Room assignments were studied alongside the students' SAT or ACT scores, autumn quarter GPA in the fall of 2001 and 2002, and their ethnic background to test for significant differences between students in all room types.

The results showed that randomly assigned roommates were more likely to move to another room, regardless of the students' race. Fifteen percent of randomly paired interracial relationships dissolved, compared to the 8.1 percent and 6.4 percent of randomly assigned same-race white rooms and same-race African American rooms, respectively. But the researchers point out that the number of interracial room dissolutions was much lower than they expected. "The university in the study was experiencing a housing crunch that year, so more students probably may not have been able to change rooms for the first quarter. Some of the previous work showed much higher rates than did our work here. But of the 85 percent of those that did try to work things out, we see real, tangible benefits," Fazio said.

The researchers found that African American students who scored higher on their ACT (24 and above) and SAT (1040 and above) were more likely to be successful in college if they were randomly paired with a white student. Black students who scored lower on their ACT and SAT did not see any improvement in their GPA if they roomed with a white student. The findings suggest that the interaction between a white and an African American student may help orient these minority students to a predominantly white university, Shook said. By living with their white counterparts, the African American students are finding someone with whom they can study and learn from in ways other African American students cannot offer. "Particularly for minority students, there is a lot of added stress to belong and succeed at a predominately white university. This intergroup contact and exposure to diversity may help minority students adjust in ways same-race relationships cannot," Shook said. "And if we can help them adjust more quickly to find their university identity, then hopefully that can also translate into more academic success."

However, white students' grades were virtually unaffected by the race of their roommate. White students earned higher GPAs when assigned to someone who was more successful academically. "It's a predominately white institution, so their roommate is not a means by which they can get integrated into the community. So the race of the roommate proves irrelevant and the day-to-day environment becomes more important. If their roommate is very competent and studious, or less competent, more of a partygoer, that has a larger impact on their success," Fazio said.

Even though the race of their roommate did not affect them academically, the researchers believe that living with an African American benefits whites in another way. Fazio said previous research suggests that many of the automatically activated stereotypes that whites may harbor about African Americans, consciously or subconsciously, dissolve when they interact extensively with someone of another race. This interaction not only helps white students get over their initial fears and prejudices, it also affects comfort level with other minorities in the future. "It is definitely not easy for students at first; it is more stressful and more difficult to live in an interracial situation than in same race situations. But if people stick with it, their racial attitudes improve and it definitely outweighs any initial difficulty. This is just one way we can overcome our misconceptions and biases and learn to appreciate our differences earlier on in life," Shook said.


7 Canadian students suspended for refusing anti-Christian class

Officials are 'veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here'

Seven Christian students in Quebec have been handed suspensions in the last few days - and could face expulsions - for refusing to participate in a new mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture course that, according to a critic, is a "superficial mishmash of trendy theoretical platitudes" with the goal of convincing children that "all religions - including pagan animism and cults - are equally 'true.'"

Canada's National Post has reported on the developing confrontation between educators who have ordered students to take the course and students and their parents who object to what they see as a virtual indoctrination into a social and moral relativism. While seven students already have been targeted for punishment, hundreds more are demanding to be relieved of the obligation to attend the classes, and several parents have begun legal actions over the course.

Diane Gagne's 16-year-old son, Jonathan, is one of those hit with a suspension. He has refused to take part in the two-hour-per-week course because it teaches values that run counter to his religious beliefs. "He told me, 'Mom, I am still standing, and I'm going to keep standing and fight this to the end,'" said Diane Gagne. "We're prepared to go right to expulsion."

Lawyer Jean-Yves Cote is representing the family against the suspension imposed by the public high school in Granby, Quebec, as well as another family with a court challenge to the state demand. Under the course requirements, "it is the state deciding what religious content will be learned, at what age, and that is totally overriding the parents' authority and role," Jean Morse-Chevrier, of the Quebec Association of Catholic Parents, told the newspaper. In 2005, a change in the law eliminated a family's right to choose among "Catholic," "Protestant" or "moral" instruction in classrooms, a change that took effect last summer.

Quebec Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Tremblay told the newspaper school boards have gotten more than 1,400 requests from parents for their children to be exempted from the instruction, which emphasizes feminism over Christianity, and suggests Raelians are centuries ahead of other beliefs. She also confirmed school boards have rejected every request for an exemption. She explained it is not "religious instruction." "It is religious culture," she stated. "We introduce young people to religious culture like we introduce them to musical culture."

Officials at Voice of the Martyrs, who work daily against persecution of Christians worldwide, noted on a blog posting the students are to be applauded for their opposition to state religious teaching. "We believe that the state has no right to mandate religious education, force students to learn the content of other religious and to deliberately seek to undermine the religious convictions of those who refuse to accept a relativistic view of truth. It is the right and responsibility of parents to train their own children according to their own religious beliefs, not those of the state," said the posting. "Religious courses, if offered, should be optional or alternatives provided. But the state must not mandate what religious content will or will not be taught to children, especially against the wishes of their parents."

In the National Post, columnist Barbara Kay took school officials to task for teaching what she described as "a chilling intrusion into what all democratically inspired charters of rights designate as a parental realm of authority." She continued, "ERC was adopted by virtual fiat, its mission to instill 'normative pluralism' in students. 'Normative pluralism' is gussied-up moral relativism, the ideology asserting there is no absolute right or wrong and that there are as many 'truths' as there are whims."

"The program is predicated on the worst worst possible educational model for young children: the philosopher Hegel's 'pedagogy of conflict.' As one of the founders of the ECR course put it, students 'must learn to shake up a too-solid identity' and experience 'divergence and dissonance'. "The curriculum is strewn with politically correct material that openly subverts Judeo-Christian values. In many of the manuals, ideology and religion are conflated. Social engineering is revealed as the heart of the ECR program; in the most recently published activity book, for example, Christianity is given 12 pages, feminism gets 27 pages...."

She continued, "Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches 'are women like any other in daily life;' 'Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us.' And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence."

Cote said the issue could end up before the Supreme Court of Canada soon. He said his second case, in Drummondville, is to be heard before Superior Court in May, and will test if the course infringes guaranteed rights in Canada. Since the course is required for all students, not just public school students, 600 of the students at Montreal's Jesuit Loyola High asked for exemptions and all were rejected. Now the school has started its own court challenge. Principal Paul Donovan told the Post the mandates require relativism. "What it essentially says is that religion is just, 'You like tomato soup and I like pea soup, so don't be all offended because someone likes tomato soup. It's really just a matter of preference,'" he told the Post. "Religion could be Wiccan or Raelian or any of the new movements or atheism or agnosticism."

Sylvain Lamontagne told the Globe Campus education publication the course is religious fast food. "We can't do this to children. It will only confuse them," he said. "Religion isn't a Chinese buffet. You can't just pick one and then another however you want."

Kay cited the course's "gloss" of the Golden Rule: "Christianity's 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Judaism's 'Love thy neighbour as thyself ' and Islam's 'None of you is really a believer if he does not wish for his brother what he wishes for himself.' All are posited in the ERC text as the same acknowledgement of the common humanity of all God's children," she wrote. "But in fact, there is a deep interpretive chasm between Christianity's 'others' and Judaism's 'neighbour' - both of which refer to all people - and Islam's 'brother,' which refers only to fellow Muslims. Here is 'divergence and dissonance' truly worthy of 'le questionnement.' But encouraging real critical thinking is precisely what the ERC course employs duplicity to avoid," she wrote. "Quebec is veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here," she said.

The government requirement for teaching a potpourri of religious concepts as equal is just the latest effort on the part of the Canadian government to put new restrictions on Christians. WND previously has reported on a number of Human Rights Commission cases in the nation that have targeted Christian pastors and others for "hate" crimes for stating their biblically-based opposition to the homosexual lifestyle. Last spring, Pastor Stephen Boisson was ordered by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal to stop expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and pay $5,000 for "damages for pain and suffering" as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt.


Monday, December 22, 2008

British faith school pupils 'outperforming others at every age'

Pupils in England's religious state schools scored significantly better examination results at seven, 11 and 16 than those in community schools, figures show. On average, 85 per cent of children at Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim schools left primary school with a decent grasp of the basics - compared to 79 per cent elsewhere. Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country's 7,000 faith schools.

Critics claim that higher scores are achieved because faith schools use admissions policies to cream off middle-class pupils. Last year, the Catholic Church reported a surge in late baptisms as parents attempted to boost their children's chances of getting into the much sought-after schools. And a recent report by the Runnymede Trust - a multi-cultural think-tank - said they should be stripped of their power to select along religious lines to prevent distortion.

But faith leaders insist schools do well because of their religious ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Service, said: "Our success comes from fulfilling our mission, which is so much more than what Ofsted or the Government says a school must do. When I was a teacher, I remembered that I was not just seeing a child, but was seeing God in that child, and that creates expectations in teachers. "We are charged with developing the whole child."

Faith schools currently make up a third of all state-funded schools in England. Some 4,657 are Anglican, 2,053 are Roman Catholic and 82 belong to other Christian denominations. Another 36 schools are Jewish, eight Muslim, two Sikh and one is Hindu. Most use religion - often gauged by attendance at weekly worship or references from local faith leaders - as a tiebreaker when over-subscribed.

An analysis of GCSE results from 2007 reveals pupils in these schools make more progress at every stage of the education system. Some 51 per cent of pupils in Church of England schools and 52 per cent in Catholic schools gained five or more good GCSEs, including the subjects of English and maths. Scores increased to 63 per cent in Muslim schools but soared to 77 per cent in Jewish secondaries. By comparison, only 43 per cent of pupils made the grade in England's non-religious schools last year.

Faith schools also outperformed the rest based on the Government's favoured "value-added" measure, which compares performance at 16 to results when pupils started secondary school at 11. Scores are also weighted to take account of the number of pupils speaking English and second language and those on free meals - ensuring schools with large numbers of middle-class children do not gain unfair advantage. On this measure, Muslim pupils made the most progress, followed by those at Jewish schools, other Christian schools, Catholic schools and Anglican schools. Again they outstripped secular schools. It suggests that claims faith schools are dominated by children from rich backgrounds may be exaggerated.

Last month, a report by the schools adjudicator found that two-thirds of schools controlling their own entrance policies - most of which are faith schools - failed to follow the code on admissions. A large number were found to have asked for extra information from applicants, prompting critics to accuse them of seeking to discover parents' incomes and marital statuses in order to "cream off" middle-class pupils who tend to do better academically.


Germany against Israel ban

Annette Schavan says Berlin's position against suggested embargo clear, adds maintaining scientific relations between counties can help create peaceful coexistence

German Education Minister Annette Schavan voiced her adamant objection to recent elements in the European academia calling to ban Israeli researchers for political reasons. Schavan, who will visit Israel later this week in order to mark a year of Israeli-German technological cooperation, told Yedioth Ahronoth that Germany's position on the matter is clear, and that Berlin only wishes to strengthen the ties between respective research teams.

Israel, she said, "is one of Germany's most valuable scientific partners. Maintaining scientific relations between Berlin and Jerusalem can help solve some of the biggest questions of our time, as well as find ways for forward peaceful coexistence. "The history of the relationship between Germany and Israel proves that science can help form a diplomacy of trust."

Schavan, who is a member of Germany's ruling party - the Christian Democratic Union, will stay in Israel for three days, during which she and Science, Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele will also mark the 20th anniversary for the foundation of the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. Over the years, the foundation has funded 970 joint research projects preformed by Israeli and German research team. The foundation's capital is equally donated by the German and Israeli governments and currently stands at 21million euros (about $267.5 million).


Sunday, December 21, 2008

School Tax Credit Can Help Kids and the State

New Jersey is in deep financial trouble, and government estimates keep get ting worse. The most recent budget deficit prediction tripled the last one, concluding that the state might be $1.2 billion in the hole. The bad news doesn't end there. The economic slowdown is prompting many families who can no longer afford both taxes and private school tuition to move their children into public schools. Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden, for instance, have lost almost 1,000 students, about 10 percent of their enrollment from last year. And those declining enrollment figures came before the worst of the recession hit.

The accelerating closure of private schools in urban areas will only add to the pressure. Public schools will suddenly need to spend more -- even as tax revenues drop. With this kind of budget problem, lawmakers need to take a look at an important benefit of programs that make it easier for families to choose private schools: School choice means huge savings for state and local governments.

New Jersey spends more than $18,500 a year on every student when you count all local school taxes and expenses like pension and health benefits. That figure doesn't even include huge sums spent on construction. A 1 percent drop in private school enrollment will put New Jersey governments on the hook for about $55 million a year; a 10 percent swing will require $550 million more in school spend ing. In contrast, the national me dian private school tuition is just over $4,000 and a little more than $5,000 when it's adjusted for New Jersey's higher income levels.

There is a way to avoid getting slammed by huge new demands for public school spending while saving money and improving education: A broad-based, moderate-size education tax credit would help families stay in private schools and save their children from burdening taxpayers with the public schools' (much greater) price tag. The credit would also help others make the switch to the private sector, easing the burden on taxpayers even more.

Education tax credits reduce the amount a taxpayer owes the government for each dollar he spends on his child's education or on scholarships for children who need them. That money comes straight off a person's tax liability, so it's a dollar-for-dollar benefit: You can send it to the government or use it on the kind of education you want to support. Tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations help support school choice for lower-income families, while personal-use credits help middle-class families send their children to good schools.

Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly have proposed a donation tax credit plan for New Jersey. Businesses would get tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations that provide school choice for lower-income families. An economic study supporting the Urban Enterprise Zone Jobs Scholarship Act concludes that this tax credit for children in eight underperforming districts would save $72 million over the length of the five-year pilot. A re cent fiscal analysis of Cato's model tax credit legislation shows that New Jersey could save $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years with that larger program based on the savings found for New York and Illinois.

Across the nation, many Democratic lawmakers have embraced education tax credits as a way to offset the persistent educational disadvantage facing low-income children. When Florida's donation tax credit program became law seven years ago, only one Democratic legislator voted for it. This year, a third of statehouse Democrats, half the black caucus and the entire Hispanic caucus voted to expand the program. Arizona, Rhode Island and Iowa all passed education tax credit initiatives in 2006, and Pennsylvania, under Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell, expanded its program. The Arizona and Iowa bills became law under Democratic governors, and the Rhode Island business tax credit was born in a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

The momentum is still building. A government fully controlled by Democrats in Iowa -- governor and both legislative houses -- expanded the tax credit dollar cap by 50 percent in 2007. Just this year, Georgia passed a $50 million program with no family income cap on student eligibility. A bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators, led by Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), supports an education tax credit bill because it will improve education and save children from failing schools. Now they have billions more reasons to support it, and so do New Jersey's overburdened taxpayers.


A Social-Work Housecleaning

Yesterday we noted the case of William Felkner, a student at Rhode Island College's School of Social work who is suing the school claiming that professors discriminated against him because he disagreed with their left-liberal political views. It turns out a similar lawsuit two years ago had impressive results. The Associated Press reported on the suit when it was filed, in November 2006:
A Missouri State University graduate has sued the school, claiming she was retaliated against because she refused to support gay adoption as part of a class project. Emily Brooker's federal lawsuit, filed on her behalf Monday by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, claims the retaliation against her Christian beliefs violated her First Amendment right to free speech. . . .

She said one of her professor's [sic], Frank G. Kauffman, accused her of the violation after he assigned a project that required the entire class to write and each sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature in support of gay adoption. Brooker said her Christian beliefs required her to refuse to sign the letter. . . .

Brooker said she was called before a college ethics committee on Dec. 16, where she was questioned for two hours by faculty members. She alleges they asked her questions such as "Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?" and "Do you think I am a sinner?" She said she was also asked if she could help gay and lesbian people in social work situations. Brooker said she was required to sign a contract with the department pledging to follow the National Association of Social Work's code of ethics, which does not refer to homosexuality. She alleges the contract requires her to change her religious beliefs to conform to social work standards to continue enrollment in the School of Social Work.

It took less than a week for Brooker to get satisfaction. In a press release dated Nov. 8, 2006, the university announced that it had agreed to strike the disciplinary action from Brooker's record, pay her $9,000, and reimburse her for tuition and living expenses for two years' graduate education.

It gets better. In addition to the terms of the settlement agreement, the press release announced that Kauffman had "voluntarily stepped down" as head of the social work program and "had begun weekly consultations" with a provost, "which will continue at least through the spring 2007 semester."

Further, the university's president, Michael Nietzel, pledged to "commission a comprehensive, professionally directed evaluation of the Missouri State Social Work Program" and "appoint an ad hoc committee to recommend ways in which the university can better publicize and more effectively implement its policies regarding freedom of speech and expression on campus." The report came out in March 2007. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education described it:
The report is scathing, citing ideological coercion on the part of the faculty against dissenting students and the chilling effect of such actions and policies on the school's intellectual atmosphere. . . .

MSU's report is encouraging-generally universities try to cover up and excuse their mistakes, and MSU has done neither. MSU should be applauded for expending the effort for some serious self-reflection and its students will no doubt benefit from the overdue recognition that MSU had been providing them with an atmosphere of ideological coercion.

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal noted that a group of state university heads are seeking a $45 billion bailout from Washington. We'd just as soon they not get it, but if they do, why not condition it on an MSU-like commitment to eradicate ideological coercion by the faculty?

Source (See the original for links)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Minnesota College Bans Bay Buchanan from Campus

Administrators at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota-the nation's largest Catholic women's college-unexpectedly blocked young conservatives on campus from hosting Bay Buchanan, a popular conservative commentator and U.S. Treasurer under President Reagan. The speech was scheduled for Wednesday, October 22, but was abruptly canceled after college officials deemed Ms. Buchanan's remarks on "Feminism and the 2008 Election" too politically charged, citing concerns about the school's tax status. "Because we are a 501(c)(3) organization, the College of St. Catherine has sought to avoid any appearance of partisanship during the 2008 political season," said College spokesman Julie Michener.

That Ms. Michener can say that with a straight face is remarkable, considering the actions of her school's program, Voter Education 2008. Program-sponsored seminars have highlighted student agitators protesting the GOP's convention and featured a representative from the Joint Religious Legislative Task Force, which pushes for universal healthcare and minimum wage increases.

St. Catherine's student handbook claims, "Students enjoy the collective assurance and protection of free inquiry and open exchange of facts, ideas and openness." Except, not really. St. Catherine is filtering out ideas it doesn't want its students to hear.

In the last year, school officials sponsored vocal Hillary Clinton supporter Maya Angelou, NPR's liberal correspondent Mara Liasson, and the anti-war radical Frank Kroncke. But Bay Buchanan? Well, she's partisan, according to St. Catherine's administration.

The whole notion that a college or university's tax status would be in jeopardy is also a canard, and St. Catherine's administrators know it. The IRS in its Revenue Ruling 2007-41 Publication allows colleges and universities to host candidates or supporters of candidates without being in violation of the law. The violation occurs when such institutions prohibit a balance of ideas between parties and candidates, which means that by freezing out Bay Buchanan under the ruse of non-partisanship (while entertaining explicitly leftist viewpoints), St. Catherine is more likely to be defying IRS guidelines.

Moreover, St. Catherine boasts membership with the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, in which other participating colleges have organized unequivocally political events. Macalester College, for instance, recently featured a rally with Michelle Obama that drew not only her husband's supporters but prominent liberal politicians as well, including St. Paul's Mayor and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. At St. Thomas College, Al Franken made a campaign stop in the school's auditorium.

Even if St. Catherine's officials are ignorant about IRS strictures (which is dubious) and the rallies taking place in their own backyard (doubly dubious), the fact that Barack Obama has spoken at more than 170 colleges and universities in his quest for the presidency and not a single school has had its tax exempt status threatened should have tipped them off that no legal ramifications would ensue by hosting Ms. Buchanan-who's neither a politician nor on John McCain's staff.

Students at St. Catherine requested to hear Bay Buchanan's perspective on American feminism, and Young America's Foundation along with the Minnesota Association of Scholars provided the funding to enable her appearance. St. Catherine merely had to provide a room for its students. Its failure to do so, aggravated by its flimsy excuse for the refusal, suggests a more sinister motive behind the cancellation of Ms. Buchanan's speech and an utter contempt for intellectual diversity.


Princeton Pays $100 Million over misused legacy

You will remember that the Robertson family had charged that Princeton had repeatedly violated donor intent by misusing funds contributed to the university by their parents, Charles and Marie Robertson -- he a devoted Princeton alumnus, she an heiress to the A&P fortune. Princeton's response to the lawsuit, originally filed in 2002, had been, first, to dismiss its merit, and then to demean the plaintiffs and, finally, to launch a war of attrition designed to exhaust the family and deplete its resources. This attack launched, mind you, against the university's most generous donor family.

Here's the backstory on Wednesday's news. Princeton settled, we sense, for two reasons, one obvious, the other less so. Up against a hard trial date of January 21, Princeton attorneys plotted the arc of a trial under the format prescribed by the newly appointed judge. What quickly became apparent was that the trial would begin with a lengthy recitation of Princeton's (alleged) malefactions -- its misallocations of large chunks of overhead, its improper billing of professors and other personnel, the construction of a building (a building!) wrongly charged to the Robertsons. The opening weeks of what was expected to be a three-month trial would amount to a jaw-dropping tale of more than $200 million of Robertson Foundation funds misused by one Princeton administration after another. By the time Robertson attorneys had completed their presentation, Princeton might have looked like the L. Dennis Kozlowski of American universities. Remember, too, that this courtroom drama would have played out in Trenton, New Jersey, just a short commute from the media capital of the world, where the trial would have been catnip in equal measure to good-gray broadsheets and taunting tabloids. After the first few days of testimony, the Princeton development office would have had all the bounce and jingle of a Christmas party at Lehman Brothers.

Reason enough to settle, to be sure, but what sharpened the focus of the institutional mind, we surmise, was the beginning of an implausible cash squeeze. Princeton sits atop a huge endowment, reported earlier this year to have topped $15 billion. But a review of public filings for its most recent fiscal year suggests the problem. Here's how Princeton reported its asset allocation: Hedge funds - 26%; Domestic equity - 9%; Fixed income - 3%; Foreign equity - 16%; Private equity - 25%; Real assets - 19%; Cash - 1%.

That's a lot of illiquidity. Just take the hedge funds, the PE investments and "real assets" (by which they mean timberland, commercial buildings and such like). That's 70% of the portfolio subject to contractual lockups, market rigidities and other liquidity constraints. All of the university's cash needs must be met by the other 30%. (One of the reasons stocks sold off so sharply this fall is that, in large portfolios like Princeton's, stocks are one of the few assets that can be sold.) To get a sense of the dynamic, take a look at the Robertson Foundation, whose assets are managed in common with the university endowment. The Foundation's assets reached a high-water mark last year of $930 million. Our back-of-the-envelope calculation is that the fund had dropped to $585 million by the time the settlement deal was struck. Princeton's leadership may be venal, and has for years been arrogant in the extreme, but it's not stupid.

As for the Robertson family, after seven years of hard slog, they weren't feeling fresh as daisies, either. Imagine, if you will, the challenge of holding four branches of a family together when, month after month, the only things going out are six figures worth of expenses and the only things coming in are ad hominem mudballs tossed by one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. In our view, the lead plaintiff, William Robertson, should win the Kissinger Medal in Shuttle Diplomacy. He held the family to its honorable course from day one to day last.

Most remarkably of all, the family knew when to take yes for an answer, which is a path rarely seen clearly through the fog of battle. It was never part of the Robertsons' purpose to damage Princeton as an institution. The family's twin objectives were proximate and discrete and, in the settlement reached yesterday, they achieved them both. First, they reclaimed resources sufficient to carry out their parents' original intention. The new Robertson philanthropy will be a significant force in developing young Americans for government service in the international arena -- Foreign Service officers, development and trade officials, intelligence analysts, and so on. (And this just at a moment when the Obama administration has announced its intention to shift strategic emphasis to diplomatic initiatives.) And second, the Robertsons have set an instructive and hopeful example for donors and grantees everywhere. The next time a nonprofit executive is seized by larcenous impulse it may be necessary only to whisper in his ear the magic word, "Princeton."


Friday, December 19, 2008

The 'Certified' Teacher Myth: It doesn't help classroom performance

I heartily agree with this. I got excellent results as a High School teacher without having had one minute of teacher training. Subject knowledge and a bit of self-confidence is all you need

Like all unions, teachers unions have a vested interest in restricting the labor supply to reduce job competition. Traditional state certification rules help to limit the supply of "certified" teachers. But a new study suggests that such requirements also hinder student learning.

Harvard researchers Paul Peterson and Daniel Nadler compared states that have genuine alternative certification with those that have it in name only. And they found that between 2003 and 2007 students in states with a real alternative pathway to teaching gained more on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a federal standardized test) than did students in other states.

"In states that had genuine alternative certification, test-score gains on the NAEP exceeded those in the other states by 4.8 points and 7.6 points in 4th- and 8th-grade math, respectively," report the authors in the current issue of Education Next. "In reading, the additional gains in the states with genuine alternative certification were 10.6 points and 3.9 points for the two grade levels respectively."

The study undermines the arguments from colleges of education and teachers unions, which say that traditional certification, which they control, is the only process that can produce quality teachers. The findings hold up even after controlling for race, ethnicity, free-lunch eligibility, class size and per-pupil state spending.

The study also found that loosening certification rules can help alleviate teacher shortages. Unions blame these shortages on low pay, though in Washington, D.C. now they are also refusing an offer of higher pay in return for giving up teacher tenure. Messrs. Peterson and Nadler show that broader recruitment paths can also address shortages, particularly among minority teachers who are in especially short supply.

This is important because there is broad agreement that minority students tend to benefit from having a minority instructor, who can also serve as a role model. And it turns out that black and Hispanic college graduates are much more likely to take advantage of alternative paths to certification.

"Minorities are represented in the teaching force to a greater extent in states with genuine alternative certification than in other states," write the authors, who conclude, "there is every reason to believe that alternative certification is key to recruiting more minorities into the teaching profession." In Mississippi, 60% of the more than 800 teachers who were alternatively certified in 2004-05 were minorities, even though the overall teaching force in the state is only 26% minority.

President-elect Barack Obama has expressed guarded support for education reforms like merit pay and charter schools. Yet he chose Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy team for his transition. Ms. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a union favorite and vocal supporter of traditional certification. She's also been a fierce critic of Teach for America and other successful alternative certification programs.

Unions claim that traditional certification serves the interests of students. But it's clear that students would be better served if the teaching profession were open to more college graduates. Teachers learn by teaching, not by mastering the required "education" courses associated with state certification.

Far from regulating teacher quality, forcing prospective teachers to take a specific set of education-related courses merely deters college graduates who might otherwise consider teaching. That outcome may serve the goals of labor unions, but it's hard to see how it helps the kids. If we want better teachers and more of them, relaxing certification standards would be a good place to start.


Australia: Destructive Victorian government meddling in education

The never-ending Leftist attack on discipline

Angry state school principals have attacked a plan by the Brumby Government to curtail their power to suspend and expel unruly students. They say that a move to suspend students a maximum of three days in a row would seriously undermine state education and drive more middle-class families into private schools. "In the case of a serious assault or the selling of drugs to other students, three days is simply inadequate and sends a terrible message to other members of the school community," said a submission by a principals' group.

The Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals was responding to draft student behaviour guidelines released by the Education Department. As revealed by the Herald Sun last week, the proposals include plans to suspend students for a maximum three days instead of 10 now. The total days a student could be suspended in a year would be cut from 20 to 15. And principals would have less power to expel students, with education bureaucrats given the right to overturn decisions.

The VASSP's submission said that the draft guidelines were part of an unrelenting campaign to wind back the autonomy of Victorian principals. "The proposed guidelines completely undermine the role of the principal and school council president," it said. That a bureaucrat, often with no school-leadership experience, is considered better placed to make this judgment is an insult to dedicated school leaders, the submission said.

The submission included comments by several principals and assistant principals, such as: "This is unarguably the greatest threat to the good order of our schools that we have seen. "It is designed by 'do gooders' with no actual concept of what occurs within a school."

Education Minister Bronwyn Pike has said the Government wants a bigger focus on schools preventing bad behaviour before suspensions were required. Ms Pike is expected to release the revised guidelines early next year after considering submissions.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

OH: University Announces "Free Speech" Area

Deserving to be in the spotlight this month is the University of Cincinnati which has announced a policy that allows free speech in one designated campus area only.

Free speech is permissible in the specified area but only after being authorized and scheduled by the Campus Scheduling Office.

Those individuals failing to comply with the policy are threatened with criminal trespassing charges. According to F.I.R.E.,
A quick look at a map of the university’s West Campus shows that the “northwest section of McMicken Commons” is a very small area of campus, and that there are numerous other greens, commons, lawn areas, and sidewalks where students should be able to exercise their free speech rights.

It is truly shameful this public university--legally bound to uphold its students' First Amendment rights--not only maintains this repressive Free Speech Area policy but threatens students with criminal prosecution merely for exercising their constitutionally protected rights outside of the paltry area it has designated for free speech.
Notably, previous similar attempts to suppress free speech at other colleges have failed when challenged.

Tip: Patrick Poole