Friday, July 19, 2013
How political correctness will kill an easy way to identify more of our most talented students
The United States’ economy desperately needs all the scientific, engineering, and IT geniuses it can find. One of the most important functions that the SAT can serve is to identify young Americans with that kind of intellectual potential.
For many years, the scholarly literature has indicated that we have been missing a lot of that talent because one of its key components, spatial ability, is not identified by the verbal component of the SAT and only partially identified by the math component. The current best guess is that we’re failing to identify about half of students within the top one percent of spatial ability. That estimate comes from an important new study by scholars at Vanderbilt University about to be published in Psychological Science and already summarized in the New York Times.
The good news is that IQ tests have accurately measured spatial ability for decades and the items to do so could easily be incorporated into the SAT. The bad news is that it’s extremely unlikely that the College Board, which administers the SAT, will have the nerve to do so. Why? Because the largest gender differences and the largest ethnic differences are found in the subtests that measure spatial skills.
Here’s the dilemma facing the top brass at the College Board: if they add a spatial component to go with their math and verbal components, they will indeed identify lots of extremely talented students whose potential is underestimated by the existing components of the SAT. But that spatial component will also show larger gender and ethnic differences than the other components (if you’re curious, the big winners from such a revision of the SAT would be Asians and males).
What do you suppose the chances are that the College Board will be willing to take the heat for such a result? If you want to make a bet, I’ll take zero and you can have everything else.
Islamic history will now be foisted on all British kids in school
Beginning in 2014, the United Kingdom will require all British schoolchildren to complete a unit on the history of Islam, proudly reports Press TV, Iran’s very own 24-hour English language news organization.
British Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the addition of a Muslim-specific component after revisions were made to address an outcry over a prior draft that did not include any references to the monotheistic Abrahamic religion.
Muslims were among the most vocal critics. The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents about 500 Islamic institutes across Britain, declared that it was “deeply disappointed.”
The revised curriculum is “great,” though, according to Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques. Sulla believes that people in the country could use “a better understanding of all faiths,” notes Press TV.
“There is already a good understanding of Christianity taught in schools,” Mulla told the Iranian media outlet. “But I don’t think a lot of Christians really understand what the Muslim faith is about.”
Islam is technically the third-largest religious affiliation in the country, according to The Guardian. Christianity is the largest religious group. People claiming to have no religion is the second. Those two groups make up the vast majority of Britons.
A spokesman for the Blackburn Diocese Board of Education spoke favorably of the new draft curriculum.
“As is well known, the early Islamic civilizations gave much to the world,” the spokesman said, “and we would certainly support the teaching of such an important part of world history.”
The British government is currently establishing a new national curriculum for primary and secondary education. The finished product is supposed to be introduced in schools in the fall of 2014.
Australia: Governments fail to reach deal on education funding despite optimistic phone calls
HOPES of a Queensland deal on Gonski seem to have been dashed with state Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek saying he sees no point in meeting his Commonwealth counterpart again.
Mr Langbroek had initially been positive about a potential deal after holding a phone hook-up with federal Education Minister Bill Shorten yesterday afternoon.
But it is understood things changed after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office sent a letter to Premier Campbell Newman's director-general Jon Grayson suggesting a funding model adjustment and a revised offer.
"The impact of this adjustment, and the new funding profile for Queensland, is a reduction to its base funding of $1.3 billion over 2014-19," the letter states.
But it did not address Mr Newman's concerns including his request for the increased bureaucracy involved in the reforms to be wound back.
Just hours after the Premier's department received the letter, Mr Langbroek issued a statement saying he saw no point in meeting Mr Shorten again. Mr Shorten, however, said he would push on with negotiations despite Mr Langbroek's declaration.
"We're not going to walk away from the negotiating table because of some intemperate language from Mr Langbroek," Mr Shorten said.
"Our priority has always been to get more resources into Queensland schools so that Queensland kids get the best start in life."
He said his offer to fly to Brisbane and meet with Mr Langbroek remained.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:35 AM
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
NY: Shool district issues reading list riddled with errors, including “Great Gypsy”
A Long Island school district has released a summer reading list riddled with spelling errors. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is misspelled as "The Great Gypsy." And author Emily Bronte is listed as Emily Bonte.
According to Newsday and News 12 Long Island, those are just a few of the more than 30 errors on the list provided by the Hempstead Public Schools.
In a statement, a member of the New York State Department of Education's Board of Regents said the mistakes indicated that a stable administration was essential for children to get a good education. The statement said, "Hempstead has not had a stable administration for a long time and the kids are suffering."
Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson didn't immediately return a call for comment.
British government blocks flagship Islamic free school following links to terrorism
A flagship free school has been blocked by Michael Gove following claims that it is linked to Islamic extremism.
The Education Secretary pulled the plug on the Muslim-inspired Northern Lights primary school in Halifax, Yorkshire, following a three-month investigation.
Ministers ordered the inquiry after complaints that a local Islamic centre had circulated a leaflet suggesting that Muslim parents who failed to support the free school would be condemned.
The leaflet said: ‘If it was said to us, “If you do not attend this meeting your child will die,” I am certain we would all make sure we attend the meeting. ‘What I am about to address... is even more serious than death and that is for us and our children to be safe on the Day of Judgment.’
Free schools are state-funded but operate independently of town halls and Northern Lights, which was to be run with a Muslim ethos, was due to open in September.
However, despite its denials that it endorsed the leaflet or extremist views, Ministers voiced worries about ‘inclusiveness and governance’.
Calderdale Council had written to Mr Gove warning about the ‘close links’ between the Sunniyy Islamic Centre and the school.
And David Whalley, the council’s Head of Learning, said: ‘The potential risk of a negative impact on community relations within the area is high.’
The Sunniyy Centre, which also runs an Islamic school and is said to hold hard-line theological views, apologised for the leaflet, which went out in December, saying it was ‘in parts poorly expressed and indelicate’.
The Department for Education said: ‘We judged that the capacity and capability of the group was not sufficient for the project to proceed.’
The school said: ‘We are devastated for the pupils, parents and staff.’
Forcing kids to read the classics puts them off books, says new Children's Laureate
She's got a point. A mix is needed
Children are falling out of love with reading because schools are forcing them to read the classics, the new Children’s Laureate has said.
Malorie Blackman, who was appointed to the role last month, said it was ‘dangerous’ for schools to draw up reading lists and that children should be encouraged to seek out books they like.
Her remarks set her on a collision course with Education Secretary Michael Gove, who last month lamented that teenagers were more likely to read the Twilight vampire books by Stephenie Meyer than George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
He said: ‘There is a great tradition of English literature, a canon of transcendent works, and [Twilight novel] Breaking Dawn is not part of it.’
But Mrs Blackman, 51, author of the Noughts & Crosses novels, said: ‘Children find prescriptive reading lists daunting and they are a dangerous thing to have in schools.
'If a child wants to read Twilight over Middlemarch they should be encouraged – the important thing is to get them reading in the first place.’
Speaking from the London Evening Standard’s Get Reading festival in Central London – whose star guests Hugh Grant, Rupert Everett, and Lily Cole all read from their favourite books –she added that she would like teachers to read to pupils for at least ten minutes a day. ‘When I was a child, we used to look forward to the end of the day when we would hear another ten minutes of a story.’
Posted by jonjayray at 12:40 AM
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Alabama to Implement “Race-Based Standards” in Public Schools
Not so different from Jim Crow and again supported by Democrats
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to post-racial America. Via the Wall Street Journal:
The Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) strongly opposes "race-based standards for student achievement" pushed by the Alabama Department of Education, as reported in The Tuscaloosa News on Sunday, June 30. Minority students will be held to a lower standard, and would be tracked at a lower standard throughout their academic career from K-12.
According to this article by Jamon Smith, "Beginning this fall, Alabama public schools will be under a new state-created academic accountability system that sets different goals for students in math and reading based on their race, economic status, ability to speak English and disabilities." Alabama's Plan 2020 "sets a different standard for students in each of several subgroups -- American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty, special education and white."
The "race-based" standards are part of Common Core, adopted by the state board of education in November 2010.
Walter Russell Mead points out that race-based standards are hardly new. Indeed, he writes, 27 out of the 33 states that received waivers from No Child Left Behind’s strict academic requirements in 2012 “now have different achievement goals for different groups of students.” This in turn works out well for public schools who can keep receiving federal funds even though many of their students are falling by the wayside.
But just because this practice is exceedingly common and popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s morally defensible. One of the more powerful arguments against Plessy vs. Ferguson -- the infamous “separate but equal” Supreme Court ruling in 1896 -- was that sending white and black students to separate but unequal school systems seriously harmed children. Why? Because it made young blacks feel inferior. Question: How on earth would lowering academic standards for non-whites in Alabama’s public schools be any less discriminatory?
The implicit assumption here is that minority students can’t compete with white students. And while it’s certainly true that perhaps some students lag significantly behind their white counterparts in the classroom, what kind of message does it send to persons of color when the achievement bar is purposefully lowered for non-academic reasons? Uniform academic benchmarks might be impossible in Alabama, but I find it reprehensible that minority students would be consigned to dumbed down standards solely because of the color of their skin and/or their parents’ level of income.
It’s self-evidently true that any child -- regardless of race, class or gender -- has the ability to attain the highest levels of academic achievement. Lowering standards and racial profiling in public schools is a terrible idea, not least because it seems to suggest otherwise.
Note also how the organization in Alabama that opposes race-based standards is not comprised of progressives but of conservative women. Remember that the next time someone on MSNBC shrieks that Republicans down in Dixie are “racists.”
This is shaping up to be an embarrassing weekend for universities and college students in the Washington, D.C. area. Campus Reform has the scoop on a few news items that should make us all a bit squeamish about the future.
First, George Mason University will apparently offer an entire course on the life and times of Trayvon Martin this fall. (Well...let's be fair...it's officially titled "Race and Politics: Trevon [sic] Martin.")
"George Mason University (GMU) is set to offer a three-credit course on Florida youth Trayvon Martin this fall but in the online description of the course misspelled his name as “Trevon Martin." The class, officially entitled “Race & Politics, Trevon [sic] Martin” in the course catalogue will be taught by Professor Rutledge Dennis of the Sociology and Anthropology Department.
Dennis will teach the GMU course in a lecture/seminar style on Wednesdays in two and half hour blocks from 4:30-7:10 in Krug Hall on GMU’s main campus."
In a separate but equally disturbing incident, a Georgetown University student told a reporter concerning Republicans' student loan plan "I don’t think I support anything the Republicans do. I think all of them should probably be put to death.”
When the reporter in question made her way over to our friends at George Washington University, she spoke with another young scholar who called the Republican plan "for lack of a better term, douchey."
It's nice to see schools in our nation's capital focusing on crucial items like Republican extermination, "douchey" conservatives, and Trayvon Martin's life story. The future of America is in great hands.
Nomination of anti-Israel activist to University of California Board of Regents
In just three days (July 17) the University of California (UC) Board of Regents will vote on the nomination of Sadia Saifuddin, an anti-Semite, to be the University of California Board of Regents Student Member. Your leadership and action is needed to stop this appointment.
Saifuddin, has been active in the infamous Students for Justice in Palestine-SJP (on the ADL list of the Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America), and the Muslim Brotherhood's Muslim Students Association-MSA, which is an anti-American and anti-Israel organization (see here, here, here, here and here). She is a leader in the manipulative and fraudulent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), whose goal is the destruction of the Jewish state. Eminent academics, including Larry Summers and Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, have described the BDS movement as “anti-Semitic.”
Saifuddin co-sponsored, and was a leading advocate of, the divisive anti-Israel divestment resolution in the Berkeley student Senate, calling upon the entire University of California system to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
A high school senior, applying to college, recently wrote, regarding Saifuddin's organizations, SJP and MSA, My biggest college fear: "I am scared ... because of the false propaganda and bullying — yes, bullying — taking place on college campuses nationwide ... led by two student groups — the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine.”
A lawsuit filed by two UC Berkeley students details a pattern of harassment and physical assaults by members of Saifuddin’s hate groups at UC Berkeley. These incidents cross the line from free speech to hostility on campus.
A complaint filed by the ZOA documents that Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine are being subjected to harassment, intimidation, and discrimination by Saifuddin' MSA.
The Secretary and Chief of Staff to The Regents claims that the Regents have received "only limited correspondence on this matter.”
Please Take Action to stop this outrageous nomination
The University of California is world renowned institution. Appointing a leader of anti-Semitic and anti-American networks aiming to destroy the Jewish state and basic academic freedoms in the United States, signifies the willingness of the University of California to tolerate and endorse a movement which advocates hate, and pure anti-Semitism in particular. The University of California deserves better!
Let the leadership of the University of California know where you, your friends and your community stand.
Tell UC Board of Regents and California top leaders that their leadership is needed to stop the appointment of a BDS leader with solid ties to Anti-American and Anti-Israel hate organizations.
Tell them you expect them not to:
1. Turn a blind eye to, or legitimize the evil goals and groups dedicated to the delegitimization of Israel and freedom. One of Saifuddin's groups, the MSA, is also anti-American.
2. Approve the nomination of a leader of hate oriented groups that cause so much divisiveness. Inform them that the nomination of a racist and bigot would harm UC’s reputation irreparably.
Please send your message to:
1. The Chairman of the Board of Regents: Bruce Varner. His personal email is: Bruce.Varner@varnerbrandt.com
2. Sherry Lansing, past Chair of the Board. Lansing can be reached through the head of her foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org Please Cc: Cara@sherrylansingfoundation.org
3. The UC Regents - they can be reached through the Regents' office at: email@example.com and their secretary and Chief of Staff at: Marsha.Kelman@ucop.edu
4. The Governor of California - see http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php It would also be effective for California residents to call him at 916-445-2841.
5. The Lieutenant Governor - see http://www.ltg.ca.gov/m_contact.asp California residents should call him at 916-445-2841.
6. Speaker of the Assembly - see http://www.asmdc.org/speaker/email-john-a-perez
Posted by jonjayray at 12:41 AM
Monday, July 15, 2013
A Student Loan Faceoff
Ever get the feeling that Washington sees every issue as a hockey puck in a rink with no nets? There's just a constant back-and-forth between two teams with big elbows and pointed fingers -- but no real resolution.
That's how a battle over federal student loans played out in Congress last week -- lots of news conferences but no legislation.
The two parties faced off after Congress failed to act before a July 1 deadline. Rates for subsidized Stafford loans doubled, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
"Most people would see that rate, especially for borrowing with no collateral, and think that's awfully, awfully good," critic Neal McCluskey of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute observed.
But in a town in fierce competition to win the student-parent vote, neither party wanted to be seen as doubling the price of student borrowing, even if the program is unsustainable. The Congressional Budget Office expects student loans to cost taxpayers $95 billion over the next decade.
Those loans, many voters have come to realize, do not make college affordable as politicians suggested they would. To the contrary, McCluskey argues, federal aid has fueled tuition hikes and encouraged students to borrow more than they will be able to pay back.
Last year, when the subsidized Stafford rate was scheduled to rise, President Barack Obama launched a "#DontDoubleMyRate" Twitter campaign. Young voters swooned. In the heat of the 2012 election season, Congress voted to delay the slated rate increase for a year.
Call it spendthrift gridlock. When both parties cannot agree on anything, they can always agree to dump all reform and keep on spending.
This year, there was every reason to expect a repeat. Then, to his credit and Washington's surprise, President Obama proposed tying federal student loans to the 10-year Treasury yield. With interest rates expected to rise, it was a smart and bold move.
"When he did that," McCluskey told me, "it really signaled to Republicans you can do something that is more responsible, and you have political cover for it."
House Republicans passed a measure The New York Times described as "similar enough to the White House proposal to give Republicans solid political cover against Democratic attacks."
Alas, neither the White House nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to give House Republicans a win. The president and Reid vigorously opposed the House measure.
For their part, House Repubs seemed all too pleased with an opportunity to needle Obama for failing to lead and the Senate for not passing their measure and allowing subsidized Stafford rates to double. (The House bill would limit this year's increase to below 5 percent and cap rates at 8.5 percent if interest rates rise.) House Speaker John Boehner gamely proclaimed, "The White House and Senate Democrats have let these students down."
On Wednesday, Reid tried to ram through a bill to prevent the rate increase for yet another year. Even as he hectored Boehner for blocking the passage of bipartisan measures on such issues as immigration, Reid would not allow a Senate floor vote on a bipartisan measure by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats, and Richard Burr, R-N.C. It took guts for these three senators to oppose Reid and Washington's usual game of pandering and deficit spending -- and never fixing a problem.
After Manchin and King joined a GOP filibuster Wednesday, Reid's pet bill failed.
The rate for new loans is 6.8 percent. That's not a bad thing, but there was a better way to solve the problem. Obama suggested it himself. Tie interest rates to the market; let the increase be more gradual. Because House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House cared more about blaming the other guys for doubling loans, it didn't happen.
To Washington's elected class, taxpayers and students are just two hockey pucks in an endless, netless game of gotcha.
"Genes" a reason poor kids struggle at school, says Australian government report
Rather amazing to see the unspeakable spoken, albeit with a lot of hedging
RICH kids do better at school and poor children struggle due to genetic "inherited abilities", the Federal Government's top policy research agency says.
In a controversial new report released today, the Productivity Commission cites "parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes" as one of five main reasons why kids from low-income families lag behind those from wealthy homes.
Genes are listed before access to books and computers, parental attention and aspirations, and even schools.
In a section entitled "inherited abilities", the 246-page staff working paper states that "one explanation for differences in educational attainment between children of low and high socio-economic backgrounds is parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes".
Citing a British study, it suggests that "inherited cognitive abilities" explain one-fifth of the gap in test scores between children from the richest and poorest families, once environmental factors are taken into account.
"Genetic explanations for children's success at school is a controversial and complex area because of interactions between genes and the environment," the report says.
"Evidence is now emerging that the same genetic endowment can result in different outcomes depending on the environment".
The Productivity Commission notes that Australia has one of the highest rates of joblessness among families in the developed world, with nearly one in five families unemployed.
It cites two research studies showing that unemployed parents have "poorer parenting skills", with their children 13.4 per cent more likely to lie or fight, and 7.6 per cent more likely to be bullied.
The Productivity Commission also links learning success to "character traits such as perseverance, motivation and self-esteem".
The report on "Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia", made public today, says poor children are "behind the eight-ball" when they start school and the gap widens as they grow older.
Poorer children may have less access to books, computers or study space than kids from well-off families, it says.
And parents' aspirations and attitudes to education "vary strongly with socio-economic position".
Better educated parents tend to spend more time reading to children and helping with homework, the report says.
"Evidence on why some disadvantaged children 'buck the trend' to succeed in later life suggests that the level of parental interest and parents' behaviour are important," it says.
"Attending school with higher-achieving or more advantaged peers seemed to be associated with a higher probability of bucking the trend.
"While inherited genes influence their development, the quality of family environments, and the availability of appropriate experiences at various stages of development, are crucial for building capabilities."
The Productivity Commission cites the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) international PISA tests of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science.
"Results from the PISA show that economically advantaged parents are more likely to have read to their children regularly, sung songs, talked about what they had done during the day, and read signs aloud to their children," the report says.
British schools 'playing the system' to boost high school exam grades
Children are being forced to sit exams in the same subject as many as seven times as part of an elaborate ploy to boost GCSE results, a Government investigation has found.
Rising numbers of schools are entering pupils for a series of different tests in English and maths but only registering the best score to improve their position in league tables.
In many cases, children are taking exams a year or two early and then re-sitting the test after failing to get good scores at the first attempt.
But an analysis by the Department for Education found widespread evidence of schools going to more extreme lengths to play the system.
This includes allowing pupils to sit the same subject with multiple examination boards in the same year to maximise their chances of doing well.
It emerged that the number of pupils sitting both GCSEs and International GCSEs – an alternative version of the qualification created for schools overseas – at the same time has soared 10-fold in just 12 months.
In 2012, some 5,700 pupils took GCSE and IGCSE exams in maths at the same time – up from just 600 a year earlier.
For English, numbers soared from 300 to 4,000 over the same period.
The DfE report warned that “continually sitting examinations” was harmful to children’s education and had serious “consequences for pupils’ progression to A-level and beyond”.
In an alarming conclusion, it emerged that 400 pupils took maths exams at least seven times in 2012 – a four-fold rise in 12 months.
The DfE insisted it was reforming school league tables and moving towards end-of-course exams to crack down on the practice.
But a spokesman said: "We are increasingly concerned about this. The evidence shows that entering exams early, and then re-sitting, or sitting another exam in the same subject, is not good for pupils.
"The changes we have made to GCSEs and reforms to the accountability system will help address this. We are considering further action to discourage this practice."
The cross-party Commons Education Select Committee published a report last year that criticised the extent to which the exams system skewed pupils’ education.
As part of the report, MPs asked the DfE to investigate the problem of multiple exam entry and what action was needed to limit the practice.
This week, officials published new research into the issue.
It emerged that seven per cent of pupils sat GCSEs in English more than once in 2012, down from 25 per cent a year earlier. But in maths, numbers were as high as 41 per cent, compared with just 28 per cent a year earlier.
Some 4,500 pupils sat maths exams five times in 2012, up from just 800 in 2011. A further 400 took exams in the subject at least seven times – a significant increase on the 100 pupils doing so a year earlier.
The DfE report found that many cases involved children who took “different specifications” – test papers in the same subject drawn up by competing exam boards.
“Of the 63,800 pupils who took mathematics three times in 2012, 50,000 – 78 per cent – included more than one specification in their entries,” the study said.
“The use of multiple specifications in mathematics in 2012 represented a significant increase when compared to 2011 [when it accounted for only 14 per cent]”.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:47 AM
Sunday, July 14, 2013
'Los Angeles Times' to Feds: Respect Campus Speech
An editorial published in today's Los Angeles Times calls on the Departments of Justice and Education to respect free speech on campus. The editorial asks the Departments to clarify their "blueprint," issued last month, that requires an expanded definition of sexual harassment and restricts speech protected by the First Amendment. The Times' editorial board writes: "Sexual harassment on campus is a serious problem, but it can be addressed without abridging free speech."
The "blueprint" the editorial refers to is, of course, the May 9 findings letter and resolution agreement authored by the Departments and concluding their investigation into the University of Montana's practices regarding sexual assault. The Departments proclaimed the letter and resolution agreement to be "a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country." FIRE has covered the blueprint's ramifications for campus speech extensively since its issuance.
In criticizing the federal blueprint—which the Times politely notes isn't "a model of clarity"—the editorial points out the blueprint's prohibition against "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "verbal conduct" (i.e., speech). The editors write that the blueprint suggests "that a college or university must punish such 'verbal conduct' if even a single, arguably oversensitive, person found it offensive or 'unwelcome.'"
The editors also note the Departments' response last week to criticisms of the blueprint, but state that the response left "questions unresolved" relating to its implications for free expression on campus, and that "[t]hose matters need to be addressed in a new 'blueprint' that is both clearer and more sensitive to the 1st Amendment than the first effort."
Citing FIRE's arguments against the blueprint's threat to freedom of speech, the editors highlight the high stakes:
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education warned that this definition would potentially allow colleges to punish "any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person," from a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" to a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" to a "sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason." The group also argued that the new definition contradicted a 2003 advisory by the Department of Education that harassment "must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive." That earlier qualification echoed court decisions interpreting the free-speech protections of the 1st Amendment.
FIRE thanks the Los Angeles Times for their attention to the serious threat to student and faculty speech presented by the federal government's striking overreach.
Teachers 'denied British schoolboy, 10, water on the hottest day of the year to avoid upsetting Muslim pupils during Ramadan'
An angry mother has accused a primary school of denying her child water on one of the hottest days of the year for fear of upsetting pupils observing Ramadan.
Kora Blagden, 32, claimed a teacher at her son Luke’s school refused to let the 10-year old drink from his water bottle because it was unfair to fasting classmates.
Many pupils at Charles Dickens Primary School, Portsmouth, Hampshire, are fasting during Ramadan, which means they refrain from taking food or water between sunrise and sunset for around 30 days, depending on the moon.
Mother-of-four Kora said: 'Just before bedtime me and my sons Luke, ten, and Alfie, eight, were talking about Ramadan as we had seen it on the news.
'Luke said to me he was told he wasn’t allowed to drink in class by his teacher. 'The reason being, a child who is fasting had a headache and the teacher said it would be unfair if the other children drank in front of the pupil.
'They normally have their bottles on their table but they were kept in a tray by the teacher.
'He went along with it but he was thirsty and didn’t want to offend the other children. 'Alfie said he was allowed to drink in the morning but not in the afternoon. 'Luke was dehydrated when he got home and drunk three glasses of water straight away.'
The teacher made the ruling on Thursday when temperatures soared to 28C.
Ms Blagden confronted deputy head Lisa Florence before lessons began today and was given a verbal apology for the incident.
'She said it wasn’t fair my son was refused a drink in lesson and therefore drank nothing in lesson time all day.
'She said they will be speaking with Luke and the teacher, and stated she was sorry my children felt they could not drink.
'The deputy head said it was not what they had been told to do and it is only what children of Muslim faith do.
'I have no problem with that but I don’t wish my sons to be told they can’t drink water. 'Personally I think it is very wrong.'
Poor boys in Britain 'two-and-a-half years behind wealthy peers'
Of course they are. It has long been shown that the poor have lower IQs on average. And chaotic British schools don't help. The poor also get the worst schools!
The gulf in standards between bright boys from rich and poor backgrounds is wider in Britain than in any other developed nation, according to research.
Clever boys from wealthy families are around two-and-a-half years ahead of their peers in the most disadvantaged families by the age 15, it emerged.
The study showed that boys’ chances of doing well were more closely tied to social class in England and Scotland than anywhere else in the western world.
It was also revealed that the gap between the two groups was wider than that witnessed for girls.
The report – published by the Sutton Trust charity – warned that action was needed to stop bright children from working class families missing out on places at leading universities and good jobs.
It called for the reintroduction of a national programme to identify bright pupils at the age of five and give them extra tuition throughout compulsory education – similar to the “Gifted and Talented” scheme axed by Labour in 2010.
Sir Peter Lampl, the charity’s chairman, said the country had a duty to “improve the support given to highly able children in comprehensive schools and academies”.
It comes just weeks after a major inquiry by Ofsted found that non-selective schools were systematically failing the brightest children by staging mixed-ability lessons, setting mediocre homework tasks and refusing to push pupils towards top universities.
Inspectors claimed that more than 65,000 of England’s most able schoolchildren ware falling far short of their potential.
Sir Peter said: “It matters because it is clearly economically inefficient not to tap into talent wherever it exists. By not stretching our most able students from all backgrounds, we are not only failing them, we are reducing our ability to compete globally.
“Moreover, such under-achievement perpetuates those inequalities which make it so hard for bright children to move up in society.”
Researchers analysed the results of reading exams administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2009 and sat by 15-year-olds in countries around the world.
The study, led by John Jerrim of the University of London’s Institute of Education, split pupils within each nation into five groups based on parental income.
It found that the poorest 20 per cent were always outperformed by the richest fifth.
In England, the most disadvantaged pupils were the equivalent of two years and four months behind. It was the 23rd largest gap in the world, with other countries such as the US, France, Scotland and New Zealand performing worse.
But the study also broke results down by gender and focused on the very brightest pupils within each economic sub set.
Using this measure, it emerged that high-achieving boys from the poorest group were two years and six months behind the brightest boys from the wealthiest group.
The study said: “England ranks 31st and Scotland 32nd out of the 32 countries considered. England performs particularly poorly relative to countries like Finland (ranked 2nd), Germany (3rd) and Canada (5th), where the gap is (approximately) one year and three months, or less.”
When researchers repeated the same analysis for bright girls, it was revealed that the gap was two years and four months – less than that seen among boys.
The study called for a new programme in which “high potential children from low and middle income backgrounds are identified at the start of compulsory education and receive sustained interventions throughout their time at school”.
Sir Peter added: “We need to improve the support given to highly able children in comprehensive schools and academies. That is why it is so important that there is a targeted scheme that ensures that those with high potential from low and middle income backgrounds are identified and helped to thrive.
"Parents and students need to know that highly able young people will be given the backing they need to succeed regardless of which school they attend.”
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