Friday, April 11, 2014
A Faculty Revolution Against Free Speech
“We must do away with all newspapers. A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press.” - Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
When I first started writing about campus free speech issues for Town Hall in 2003, I complained that most college administrators were ignorant of the constitution. One of my readers, Jim Collins from Colorado Springs, was quick to correct me. Jim pointed out that college administrators aren't just ignorant of the First Amendment. Instead, he insisted that they are hostile towards it. Time has shown just how right he was. In fact, administrative hostility towards the First Amendment has gotten worse since 2003.
Unfortunately, this hostility has spread from the administration to the faculty. In fact, just a few years ago, Dick Veit, our former faculty senate president here at UNCW, joined an administrative effort to punish faculty who dared to criticize the administration in opinion columns written in off-campus forums. This was done under the guise of promoting "collegiality."
The collegiality pretext has been used at other universities. It was first pushed at UNCW by then-Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo. She actually admitted that it was intended to punish me for publicly criticizing the university - for various reasons such as excessive spending on diversity and exorbitantly high salaries for university administrators. Internal emails confirmed that collegiality was being proposed as a device to explicitly punish my constitutionally protected speech.
It is noteworthy that these emails also revealed that Dick Veit was working with the administration to put the collegiality measure in place. Fortunately, when the measure came up for a vote, the junior faculty rebelled and voted it down. Veit later left the senate in frustration over his failed effort to supplement "teaching, research, and service" with a broad "collegiality" factor, which could be used to veto the United States Constitution.
Unfortunately, there are a lot other Dick Veits working in academia. Enter Gabriel Lugo who is a fan of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and is the current faculty senate president at my university. Lugo recently circulated false information on the faculty senate mailing list, which, unfortunately, may embolden senior faculty and administrators inclined to punish junior faculty for speaking out on matters of public concern. This requires a little background information. Please keep reading.
Last year, as our university began to consider revamping promotion polices - like the ones in place when I was denied promotion - Lugo circulated a memo to faculty giving guidelines on academic freedom as it relates to the promotion process. He urged faculty to read two Supreme Court cases, which he claimed were relevant to the issue of free speech. One of those cases was Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).
In Garcetti, Justice Kennedy wrote a majority opinion, which modified a previous rule regarding free speech and public employment. Previously, the Court said that public employees have a First Amendment right to speak out on matters of public concern without facing retaliation. Garcetti modified the rule saying that this right did not extend to public employees who spoke out on matters of public concern that were also a part of their "official duties."
The rule arose in the case of a public employee, Ceballos, who happened to be a district attorney. But some, including dissenting Justice David Souter, worried that the rule would be applied to professors who have a special role in the public square. In other words, the case was seen as a potential threat to academic freedom. For this reason, Justice Kennedy added a paragraph to the opinion noting that the rule in Garcetti did not specifically address the role of professors. Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated "We need not ... decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching."
Enter UNCW. In my recent lawsuit challenging my 2006 promotion denial, the university tried to apply Garcetti to my speech. They specifically argued that the mere mention of the column on my promotion application transformed my private speech into an official duty thus stripping the views expressed in the column of First Amendment protection. In other words, the university claimed a right to punish the speech by denying my promotion.
Gabriel Lugo and the faculty senate were silent while this epic First Amendment battle was brewing. That battle was settled in a 2011 unanimous decision in my favor. In that decision, the 4th Circuit specifically ruled that the Garcetti "official duties" distinction does not apply to university professors. It was a monumental victory for academic freedom.
In January of 2014, the 9th Circuit relied on Adams v. UNCW. They refused to allow a university to apply Garcetti in order to justify suppressing another professor's speech. That victory (in a case originating in Washington State) shows that our victory in the 4th Circuit is now spreading across the entire country. It seems everyone is learning from Adams v. UNCW - except for UNCW Faculty Senate President Gabriel Lugo.
Lugo's insistence that Garcetti still applies to academic promotion cases (remember, he said so in a recent memo) raises some interesting questions. In fact, I have two questions for Lugo and the faculty senate:
1. Is President Lugo so out of touch that he has never even heard of the 4th Circuit decision in Adams v. UNCW? As a reminder, Lugo teaches at UNCW. In fact, our offices are in the same building.
2. Or is it the case that Lugo has heard of Adams v. UNCW and has decided to actively mislead the faculty about their rights?
Those are really the only two options. Lugo is either a) completely uninformed about, or b) actively opposed to, academic freedom. Of course, I have my own constitutionally protected opinion of where Lugo, the Peruvian fan of Che Guevara, stands. (Hint: Read the quote at the top of the column).
This battle for campus free speech is not a battle against ignorance of our rights. It is a battle against hostility towards our rights. All of this talk about collegiality is merely intellectual cowardice meant to shield tenured hypocrites from well-deserved criticism.
How Wisconsin’s voucher students did better than you were told
Voucher students outperformed their public school counterparts on Wisconsin standardized tests, but you wouldn’t know it by reading any of the major state newspapers.
Newly released statistics from the Department of Public Instruction show that voucher students scored better than public school students, nearly across the board, when controlling for the students’ economic status. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s the data:
Standardized test scores tend to correlate with income level. Students living in poverty tend to score lower on standardized tests than students in better economic situations.
When attempting to control student test scores for these factors, voucher students mostly outperform public school students on the tests. They have also improved test scores at a faster rate during the past four years.
That said, DPI’s data doesn’t allow for exact comparisons of student performance across poverty levels. The DPI reports voucher student numbers without breaking down the data according to economic status. For public school students, DPI provides the scores for the students receiving free or reduced lunches.
The voucher program income cutoffs don’t perfectly align with free or reduced lunch income cutoffs, one measurement of student poverty.
A family of four cannot earn more than $43,752 to qualify for a reduced-price lunch.
The income cutoff for the statewide school-choice program is $50,636 for a family of four. In 2011 the Legislature increased the income limits for the Milwaukee and Racine programs from nearly $40,000 a year to nearly $71,000 per family of four.
The vast majority of students in the school choice-program qualify for a free or reduced lunch.
The major news outlets throughout the state, however, reported that voucher students in private schools performed worse than public school students on standardized tests.
“DPI: Wisconsin voucher schools show lower test scores compared to public schools” was the Wisconsin State Journal headline.
“Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools,” read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Voucher student scores lag public school students,” read the Racine Journal Times, which ran the Associated Press story.
That’s what they reported, more or less following the narrative in the state Department of Public Instruction’s news release regarding the testing data.
It’s technically all correct, but only when comparing apples to oranges. In this case, that means comparing test scores of poorer voucher students with those of wealthier public school students.
“There is a general level of trust (among the media) because (DPI is) a government agency,” said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “The rabid anti-school choice folks that sit at the controls of power inside (DPI) operate under a false veil of objectivity. In reality, DPI knows whatever headline they put out in a press release will likely be the headline in the paper the next morning.”
Many of the newspaper reporters also included the students who opted out of the tests as part of the voucher students’ overall score. DPI reports students who opt-out of tests as scoring non-proficient.
The DPI numbers and media accounts also fail to adjust for the thousands of new voucher students who attended their private school for just a few months before taking the tests. Most of these students’ academic careers have been in the public school system.
“DPI advocates and lobbies against the program and consistently manipulates the release of data to put the school choice program in a negative light,” Bender said. “This release of data is no different. Unfortunately, many in the media just fall for it.”
It’s a hard fall.
Researchers looking at the decades-long Milwaukee Parental Choice Program found that voucher students had better reading and math scores, graduated high school at a higher rate and did better in college than their MPS counterparts. The choice program also helped MPS scores increase by fostering competition for students and, therefore, tax dollars.
Coursework is axed as Gove toughens up GCSEs and A-Levels: Education Secretary introduces plans for harder exams including questions in foreign languages
Teenagers will carry out a dozen science experiments, study the sweep of British history and answer questions in foreign languages under dramatic changes to GCSEs and A-levels.
Coursework will be axed in almost all subjects – amid concerns it leads to cheating and wastes teaching time – in favour of written final exams.
Papers will demand greater knowledge of mathematics, scientific formulae, grammar, punctuation, British history and geography and cutting-edge science such as nanoparticles and space physics.
Unveiling the changes, Education Secretary Michael Gove said they would undo ‘the pernicious damage caused by grade inflation and dumbing down’.
He announced details of changes to a wide range of subjects which will be phased in from 2015. These include a requirement on pupils taking A-levels in any of the sciences to carry out at least a dozen practical experiments over the two-year course.
Pupils will be given a separate pass or fail grade for their performance in the practicals to stand alongside their usual grade in the written exam.
They will also be required to answer questions on the experiments in the main written exam. Mr Gove has said he backs ‘more whizzes and bangs in school science’.
But the move provoked fury among many scientists who say practical work should continue to be assessed as part of the overall A-level grade. English language GCSE will award 20 per cent of marks for accuracy in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
In a linked announcement, exams watchdog Ofqual said assessment in new GCSEs and A-levels would be ‘by exam only’ – except where the essential skills for a subject could not be tested in an exam.
Coursework or controlled assessments – coursework undertaken in exam conditions in class – will no longer feature in most GCSEs.
Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey said: ‘Non-exam assessments do not always test the skills they are meant to assess, they can disrupt classroom time better spent on teaching and learning and may provide limited evidence of performance across a group of students if they all get limited marks.
‘Importantly, non-exam assessments can narrow the focus of what is taught and can be vulnerable to malpractice, meaning the playing field is not level for all students.’
But head teachers’ leaders warned that schools and pupils faced ‘enormous pressure’ and confusion as the new-style exams are phased in.
‘Hastily implemented changes on such a scale carry an enormous risk,’ said Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:39 AM
Thursday, April 10, 2014
CA: School wrestling coach gets wave of support as video of him taking pupil down goes viral
The mobile phone video from inside a classroom at Santa Monica High School went viral late last week.
It showed Mark Black, a longtime teacher and wrestling coach, swatting at a student with his arms, grabbing the teenager by the thigh and then crashing into desks and the classroom wall as he tried to execute a takedown. Moments later, Black had the young man pinned to the ground.
District Superintendent Sandra Lyon called the incident "utterly alarming" and acted swiftly, placing the teacher on leave pending the outcome of an investigation. In a statement released hours after the fight, she called the teacher's use of physical restraint "unacceptable" and pledged that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District would offer support to the student's family.
But over the weekend, the tide changed.
Irate parents flooded Lyon and school board members with letters, castigating the superintendent for pre-judging the popular teacher and fiercely defending Black, 60, for what some saw as an act of bravery. Thousands of people liked a "We Support Coach Black of Samohi" page on Facebook and signed a Change.org petition calling for the coach's reinstatement.
So Lyon issued a second statement over the weekend, acknowledging that her remarks about Black had "caused great anger" and apologising to the community.
On Monday, Santa Monica police announced the arrest of an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old in connection with the classroom scuffle and said they would seek battery charges against both students.
The investigation casts a different light on Black's physical altercation, which some supporters say was necessary to keep other students safe. One school board member said the incident arose from a conflict over drug use, which raises complicated questions about when and how school staffers should intervene when students pose a threat or break a rule.
"It's a huge controversy when teachers put their hands on students," school board member Oscar de la Torre said. "From me knowing Mr Black personally — he was a former teacher of mine — I know him to be a fair person. The school board is committed to conducting a thorough and fair investigation."
Police and jail records identified the 18-year-old as Blair Moore. He is due in court on Tuesday for arraignment, and police are asking that he be charged with threatening a school official, possession of a weapon — a box cutter — on a school campus and possession of marijuana on school grounds, in addition to the battery charge.
Police did not identify the 16-year-old.
De la Torre said other staffers were injured trying to break up the melee and at least one person sought medical attention.
Lyon did not return multiple phone messages seeking comment, but in a third statement Monday she defended her decision to place Black on paid administrative leave as "standard procedure." Black did not reply to an email seeking comment.
Darrell Goode, president of the Santa Monica-Venice branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, voiced support for the superintendent's action. He said the recent event was particularly sensitive because of an incident about a year and a half ago in which an African American wrestler at the school was hazed by white teammates.
"They have security, so I'm not sure why a teacher would need to grab a student under any condition," Goode said. "It's just judgment. You call security and security calls police."
But Daniel Jacobs, 32, a 1999 Santa Monica High School graduate who runs a Silicon Valley start-up, was so upset by Lyon's initial statement that he started his own Change.org petition, which asks Lyon to apologise.
Jacobs said that when he saw the video, his reaction was that it captured Black "trying to neutralise a threat."
Jacobs said that whenever he returns to Santa Monica, he makes a point of visiting Black. "I've never met a better or more kindhearted man in my life."
Forget tiger moms! Study says Asian American children succeed because of socioeconomic factors
Which is as near as they can get to mentioning IQ
Asian American students tend to succeed because their parents invest time researching their education and encouraging their children into traditional jobs and not because of tough rules or habits introduced at home by so-called Tiger Moms, a new study claims.
Sociology professors Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou interviewed 82 adult children of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants from Los Angeles to better understand Asian Americans' success.
They wanted to explore the impact of Tiger Mom parenting – strict advice made famous by Amy Chua in a 2011 column where she claimed Asian American children succeed because of parenting rules among the community, including limiting free time, avoiding TV and subjects like gym and drama and ‘insulting’ her children until they reach top grades.
The two academics said what they discovered was a departure from Chua’s theory. Though Asian parents aid their children, it comes from their determined research into the best schools and living in a community that prides traditional jobs and academic success above other achievement.
This explains why Asian Americans from poor families often succeed just as well as their richer counterparts, whose parents like Chua can invest heavily in extra-curricular activities like encouraging musical instruments and foreign languages.
To do this, parents use the 'Chinese Yellow Pages': a whopping 1,500-page directory that lists both Asian businesses in California as well as top high schools and universities.
'Doing well in school' translates to 'getting straight A’s, graduating as valedictorian or salutatorian, getting into one of the top UC (University of California) schools or an Ivy, and pursuing some type of graduate education in order [to] work in one of the ‘four professions’: doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, or engineer,' the researchers say.
‘So exacting is the frame for "doing well in school" that our Asian respondents described the value of grades on an Asian scale as "A is for average, and B is an Asian fail,"' they add.
It is not down to direct parent coercion but because as a member of the community they have their own measures of success and failure and tend to accord to them.
These measures, though, may cause Asian American students to feel alienated when they fail to meet them. Separating ethnicity from achievement, the authors argue, would give Asian Americans space to achieve success on their own terms.
'That Asian Americans are increasingly departing from the success frame, choosing alternate pathways, and achieving success on their own terms, should give Asian immigrant parents and their children confidence that broadening the success frame is not a route to failure,' Lee said.
Sixth Graders' Common Core Homework: Remove Two Rights from Bill of Rights
An Arkansas mom was disturbed to learn her sixth grade daughter's homework was to "prioritize, revise, prune two and add two" amendments in the Bill of Rights. The homework, part of the controversial Common Core curriculum, said that the Bill of Rights is "outdated and may not remain in its current form any longer."
Lela Spears was particularly disturbed because her daughter's Sixth Grade History class "had received no prior training in civics or how to amend the Constitution, which may lead those children to incorrectly believe that it can be changed by a 'special committee' as suggested by the assignment," Digital Journal reported:
"After she brought it home and explained her assignment to me, it made me question exactly what she was being taught. Where I can see a class using critical thinking skills to modernize the words, as to help them better understand the Amendments, giving an assignment to remove two then add two with little explanation as to why is upsetting," Lela Spears said.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, contain amendments that guarantee the right to free speech, assembly, the right to bear arms, due process, trial by jury, no cruel or unusual punishment, and limits to Federal power.
This homework was part of the Common Core curriculum which parents have been clamoring to replace in several states. Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton are very public fans of the curriculum.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:46 AM
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Grappling with the Burden of Student Debt
Every year the percentage of American high school graduates enrolling in college increases. Yet the cost of attaining those degrees has been growing at an astronomical pace, one that is harmful and unsustainable.
Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to assess the rising prices of goods, it is immediately clear that something very strange is going on in the higher education market. The cost of attending college has increased by nearly three times that of the CPI taken as a whole.
Today, most students can only afford college by taking out loans. While less than half of undergraduates needed loans in the early 1990s, the figure has risen to more than two-thirds. The average loan burden is now an astonishing $29,400.
In a recent interview with CCTV America, The Heartland Institute’s Director of Government Relations, John Nothdurft, described the serious woes created by the more than $1 trillion in federal student loan debt currently hobbling a generation of young Americans. Rather than being a sure way to enter the middle class, the lodestone of debt has made life a struggle for many young graduates trying to start careers. Instead of being liberating, college has shackled these people to a struggle to stay afloat, forcing many to make hard decisions; some have to move back in with their parents because they cannot get decent work, while those who can work are so laden with debt that they have to put off life milestones, like buying their first houses or starting families, far longer than did previous generations.
The sheer amount of debt is staggering, and it continues to grow as costs increase and post-college employment prospects remain the doldrums.
Why then are students continuing to enroll in college in record numbers? One reason appears to be the bizarre sensibility propagated by the media and education establishment that college must needs be the natural follow-on from high school, that all normal people go on to college. Essentially, college has been transformed in the public psyche from an optional undertaking designed to educate professionals and develop human capital into a mandatory rite of passage. Should it hold such an exalted place?
In a country ever more dependent on technology and innovation to stay ahead of global competitors, a well-educated populace is essential to success. It is absolutely true that America relies upon its superior advancement to remain a powerhouse in world commerce. Some promoters of increased college enrollment argue that it is only by getting more people into college can we retain our knowledge edge. However, that argument is not borne out by the facts.
In reality, increased college enrollment and graduation do not translate to gains to a “smart economy.” When lots of students enroll in college to study the humanities, they do not contribute to the technological gains of the country. What college so often turns out to be is an expensive four-year detour that does little to boost the career potential of a graduate.
The problem is exacerbated by the heavy government involvement in the student loans market. The government makes loans on the basis of financial need alone, and does not consider what the recipient intends to do with the money. The result is countless billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on educations that will yield no great economic value for the country. It is the definition of a poor investment decision. In the interest of treating students equally, the federal government does nothing to shepherd the people’s funds which are entrusted to its care, instead treating the people who might be able to succeed in the information economy with an engineering degree as an equal risk to the students of 19th century French poetry. This willy-nilly assessment of the value of college has no doubt contributed to the poor allocation of educational resources.
If the government insists on funding higher education, then it should make assessments in the same way private loaners would, namely to actually assess the risk-reward frontier of the loans it gives. Such assessments could go a decent way toward blunting the currently distorted incentives of loan recipients whose interest rates and borrowing amounts are unaffected by chosen courses of study.
Yet there are better ways to allocate these federal resources. One way would be to just stop distorting the higher education mark with its deluge of cash, so that colleges have to set tuition more along the lines of market-price, rather than tuition based on the amount they think they can squeeze from the government. It could also make access to vocational education more readily available so that there is a genuine alternative to college that won’t break the bank or waste government funds egregiously.
The way to an innovative society cannot be paved with crushing debt. Ultimately, something’s got to give. Rather than bankrupting the next generation, we should lay the groundwork for its success. Radically reforming the federal loan system would be a good start.
Meltdown: Staffers Beaten, Students Brawling at Lawless Philly High School
One teacher calls it the "new normal" for southwest Philadelphia's Bartram High School: a massive brawl in the cafeteria, where students punched and stomped each other, and even attacked school police; firecrackers set off in the building; and the student who fractured the skull of a "conflict resolution specialist" is once again roaming the halls, just two weeks after the attack.
Insiders told the newspaper, the larger problem at the 1,100-student school "is the continued culture of chaos and disregard for authority."
According to the newspaper, four additional Philadelphia and school police officers will be at the school by Monday; a community meeting is planned; and the district has reached out to city officials to get social-services help for students who need it.
"We want to show students that this is a place where you come in, you learn, and adults are here to help you, to take care of you," district spokesman Fernando Gallard was quoted as saying.
The report includes video of the cafeteria brawl.
The Inquirer says Bartram has been a problem all year -- "with more students, less staff, one principal removed less than two weeks into the school year, and rampant class-cutting, fights, smoking, and other student problems."
CNSNews.com reported in January that the Obama administration has announced new "guidance" for schools, aimed at reducing out-of-school suspensions and eliminating racial disparities in school disciplinary proceedings.
Attorney General Eric Holder criticized zero tolerance policies, saying they “make students feel unwelcome in their own schools....Routine school discipline infractions should land students in the principal's office, not in a police precinct."
Australia: Selective State schools even more socially exclusive than private schools
Brains rise to the top
Para Parameshwaran was not interested in fancy sporting fields when deciding on a school for his children.
For the civil and chemical engineer and his wife Yogarani, also an engineer, the focus for their family was for the children to study with "like-minded" students.
Their son, Kajanan, 17, is vice-captain of James Ruse Agricultural High and their daughter, Balaki, is in year 10.
"For us, we gave little thought to private schools because we researched schools and we knew we wanted them to be with like-minded kids and where they could be challenged," Mr Parameshwaran said.
Highly educated parents such as Mr Parameshwaran, who migrated from Sri Lanka in 1998, are increasingly sending their children to the state's best selective schools rather than some of Sydney's most elite private schools, the latest My School data reveals.
The top selective schools, including James Ruse, Baulkham Hills, Hornsby Girls and North Sydney Boys, have families from the highest social and educational backgrounds, the index measuring social advantage on My School shows.
As well as the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, My School also publishes every school's distribution of students across the quarters of social advantage. At James Ruse, which has consistently topped the Higher School Certificate results for almost 20 years, 85 per cent of students come from the most advantaged backgrounds and none fall into the most disadvantaged quarter. James Ruse's ICSEA ranking is 1249, while Baulkham Hills has an ICSEA of 1200, Hornsby Girls 1229, North Sydney Boys 1216, North Sydney Girls 1216 and Sydney Girls 1196. The average rank is 1000.
Mr Parameshwaran sent Kajanan and Balaki to their local primary rather than a school with a selective opportunity class but the couple always intended to send them to one of the top-performing selective schools for high school.
An education academic at the University of Sydney, Craig Campbell, who has written a book called School Choice, said private schools considered selective schools a threat and they tried to attract students from advantaged backgrounds
But Dr Campbell said selective schools were "the most socially exclusive schools of any in NSW".
As well as a high level of social advantage, many of the selective schools have an extremely high proportion of students with a language background other than English. At James Ruse it is 97 per cent.
"But they also have a very high proportion of parents who are tertiary-educated and also from professional middle-class backgrounds so there is a huge pull of cultural capital," Dr Campbell said.
"A lot of the families who were sending their kids to selective schools tended to see some of the wealthier non-government schools as too rich, too privileged."
Posted by jonjayray at 12:47 AM
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Los Angeles Public School Food Waste: $100,000 per Day
Your tax dollars at work. As noted in the chart below from the LAUSD 2013-14 fact sheet, approximately 80 percent of district students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, so the taxpayer is dinged for the appalling waste of food.
Since 73 percent of the LAUSD enrollment is hispanic, the taxpayer cost of feeding so many must be understood as yet another expense of importing millions of the world’s poor via a suicidal immigration policy.
Not that the LA Times article would mention the I-word in a story about schools, but the piece does show what a mess it becomes when federal mandates for the subsidized food include requirements for healthy chow, in part because of Michelle Obama’s nutrition hobby. The 2010 child nutrition law (a $4.5 billion measure) provided more money to poor areas to subsidize free meals and requires schools to abide by health guidelines.
Schools have become feeding stations, with breakfast and dinner in addition to lunch being provided in several states.
Below, hundreds of Ventura County kiddies lined up with parents for food on the taxpayer’s tab.
The massive amount of food dumped into the trash shows that the diverse students aren’t starving to death in poverty, as liberals argue, but are spoiled kids who regard free-to-them meals as an entitlement, an attitude they likely got from their parents.
Solutions sought to reduce food waste at schools, By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2014
Federal rules require students to take at least three items each day, but an L.A. Unified manager wants to change the policy to reduce the $100,000 in food thrown away daily.
It’s lunchtime at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, but 16-year-old Parrish Jackson has barely touched her turkey burger and apricots.
She’s dumping them into the trash can.
The apricots are “sour,” the junior says. The meat is “nasty.” If it were up to her, she would just have taken the potato wedges — they’re close enough to fries — then headed to the student store to fuel up on hot Cheetos and juice.
And so it goes on hundreds of campuses in Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, which serves 650,000 meals a day. Students throw out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more, according to estimates by David Binkle, the district’s food services director. That amounts to $18 million a year — based on a conservative estimate of 10% food waste — which Binkle says would be far better spent on higher-quality items, such as strawberries or watermelon.
But under federal school meal rules finalized in 2012, Parrish and other students must take at least three items — including one fruit or vegetable — even if they don’t want them. Otherwise, the federal government won’t reimburse school districts for the meals.
“What can we do about this?” Binkle says. “We can stop forcing children to take food they don’t like and throw in the garbage.”
Many nutrition and health experts disagree, citing studies that show repeated exposure to fruits and vegetables eventually leads children to eat more of them. That, in turn, will help prevent obesity and related maladies, says William J. McCarthy, a UCLA professor of health policy and management.
The cost of wasted food “is a small investment for permanently enlarging our children’s receptivity to the foods most likely to prolong their lives and minimize their risk of the major chronic diseases that kill Americans,” McCarthy said in an email.
The differing views reflect the escalating national debate over how to improve child nutrition without the massive food waste and climbing costs in the $11.6-billion federal school lunch program, which feeds 31 million students daily. The rules, part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, imposed a dizzying array of requirements on calories, portion sizes, even the color of fruits and vegetables to be served. The rules also increased the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that must be offered, imposing higher costs on school districts.
For Binkle and many other school food managers, the most challenging change has been the requirement to offer both a fruit and vegetable — previously it was one or the other — and make students take at least one of them in order to receive federal reimbursement for the meal.
The extra produce costs school districts $5.4 million a day, with $3.8 million of that being tossed in the trash, according to national estimates based on a 2013 study of 15 Utah schools by researchers with Cornell University and Brigham Young University.
Other studies also have found significant waste, including 40% of all the lunches served in four Boston schools. In L.A. Unified, a forthcoming study of four middle schools has confirmed substantial waste and “significant student aversion to even selecting a fruit or vegetable serving,” according to McCarthy, who co-wrote it. He declined to provide further details until the study is published.
Yet federal rules bar schools from allowing people to take the uneaten food off campus. The school board voted to allow nonprofits to pick up extra food under the federal Good Samaritan food law that allows such actions to aid people in need. But Binkle said that not enough schools participate to solve the massive waste problem.
Teachers and parents have also complained about widespread waste in the Breakfast in the Classroom program, which requires L.A. Unified students to take all three items offered.
Nationally, the cost of wasted food overall — including milk, meats and grains — is estimated at more than $1 billion annually. A U.S. General Accountability Office survey released in January found that 48 of 50 states reported that food waste and higher costs have been their top challenges in rolling out the 2012 rules.
The widespread concerns have prompted the School Nutrition Assn., representing 55,000 school food providers, to launch lobbying efforts to revise the child nutrition law, which is up for reauthorization next year.
Among other things, the group wants to remove the requirement forcing students to take a fruit or vegetable, suspend rules requiring lower sodium and drop a planned shift from half to full whole grain in food products beginning in July.
“We’re not opposed to healthy changes,” said Julia Bauscher, the group’s president-elect. “We just want changes that don’t unnecessarily increase cost and force students to take foods they have no intention of eating.”
Other nutrition experts are pushing back. Juliana Cohen, a Harvard University nutrition research fellow, said the rules have helped children eat more nutritious food — particularly important, she said, for urban, low-income students who get up to half their daily calories from school meals. She co-wrote a study, published this month, that found that students observed over two days in four Boston schools ate more fruits and vegetables after the new rules took effect — although they still threw away much of them.
The solution to waste, Cohen and others say, isn’t to roll back the rules but to find other ways to prod children to eat their vegetables. Working with professional chefs to make meals tastier, planting school gardens and scheduling recess before lunch are all proven ways to do so, Cohen and McCarthy say.
The Utah study found that rewards such as raffle tickets and small amounts of money got students to eat more produce with far less waste than mandatory servings. Joseph Price, a Brigham Young assistant economics professor and study co-writer, said smoothies and redesigned cafeterias have also been effective.
L.A. Unified, regarded as a national leader in making school food more healthful, has taken many of these steps. Celebrity chefs, such as Jamie Oliver, have helped develop menus. More than 270 schools offer “harvest of the month” lessons about produce, and 450 schools have started campus gardens.
Still the food piles up in school trash cans.
Back at Washington Prep, a few students said they ate their entire lunches. Daniel Ofa, a hulking sophomore, said he doesn’t really enjoy the spaghetti or enchiladas but downs them anyway.
“Since we’re football players, we eat all of it, bad or good,” he said.
Several students poked at their food. The potato wedges seemed the biggest hit, while the apricots were a bust. At one table, A’lea Rendev, a senior, pulled a hair from her turkey burger, eliciting loud “ewwwwws” from her friends.
“If the food was good food, we’d have no problems,” A’lea said. She dumped her food, then headed off to the school store for a Pop-Tart.
Homosexual teacher in mainly Muslim area of Britain has resigned after parents complained they did not want him to teach their children
A gay assistant head teacher has been forced to resign after Muslim parents complained that they did not want their children learning that it’s OK to be homosexual.
The dispute at Birmingham’s Chilwell Croft Academy, which mainly involved Muslim parents, is the latest controversy surrounding a secular state school in the city.
Andrew Moffat, who resigned from the primary school in December and will leave his post this month, said some Christian parents had also complained.
But fellow teachers are concerned that the respected teacher may have been the victim of an alleged plot by Muslim extremists to force non-Muslim teachers out and replace them with hardliners.
Last month a letter was circulated referring to a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot for Muslim extremists to take over the running of schools in Birmingham.
The authenticity of the letter is unclear but its very existence led to a flood of allegations from parents and staff at several schools .
At least 12 schools are under now investigation by the Department for Education (DfE) following allegations that strict Islamic practices have been introduced there.
Mr Moffat has written several articles and books on homophobia in schools, in which he makes recommendations of how to teach children how to be tolerant. One book, entitled Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools, has been used in literacy lessons for 10 and 11-year-olds, including those at Chilwell Croft.
One suggested lesson plan describes a picnic at which gay families are guests. Pupils are encouraged to treat all the picnic guests equally.
Mr Moffat, who worked at the school for five years, also trained teachers on how to prevent homophobic bullying.
‘In my work I have met with some challenging views from different sections of the community,’ he said. ‘Some Christian and some Muslim parents have told me they don’t want their children learning that it’s OK to be gay.
‘I did come out at school in an assembly after a group of 11-year-olds held up a poster they made, with the heading “Gay is good”. It seemed like the right time to let the children know that they knew a gay person.
‘Following my coming out, some parents from different communities complained to the school, but I maintain that my decision was the right one at that time.’
Mr Moffat has now accepted another teaching position outside Birmingham.
Liam Nolan, the high- profile gay head teacher at Perry Beeches Academy in Birmingham, told the Sunday Times he had been ‘incredibly shocked that an assistant head teacher who was doing incredible work around relationship education had been intimidated by a small group of what are being seen as extremists in the city’.
He added: ‘The Muslim community is being allowed to influence government legislation around equality.’
But Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said schools had a duty to tell parents before introducing literature that some might object to on religious grounds.
‘If parents are coming from a particular religious group, whether it is Islamic or Christian, and they have a concern at what they might consider the promotion of homosexuality, the school’s position should be made clear to them.
‘We are certainly not trying to silence people who want to discuss questions of sexuality but with young children this is quite complicated territory,’ he said.
Schools under investigation by the DfE in Birmingham include Park View Academy, where senior teachers have been accused of praising senior Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki during assemblies.
The school also faces allegations of nepotism and misuse of public funds to pay for loudspeakers to call pupils to prayer.
Chilwell Croft and Mr Moffat said they did not believe that the school’s ‘recent discussions with parents . . . are in any way connected with the Trojan Horse investigation’.
In a statement, the school added: ‘A minority group of parents . . . objected to some of the resource books being used in literacy lessons with some of the oldest children in the school, which explored relationships in different families.
‘The . . . objections were primarily voiced by those whose own religion took an opposing stance to homosexuality.
Mufti day... but just for cleverest pupils: Parents criticise school that only allows pupils not to wear uniform if they reached academic targets
"Mufti" is an old British army term for "non-uniform". If the army can allow it on occasions, so can a school
Parents have criticised a school which allowed only pupils who had hit academic targets to join in with a non-uniform day.
Children who had achieved their ‘accelerated reading target’ at Woodland Middle School in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, were allowed to wear their own clothes on Friday.
However, those who had fallen short had to stick with uniform.
One parent, who did not want to be named, said: ‘My son isn’t academic but he is good at other things. I understand that those who have hit their target deserve a reward but not by isolating those who haven’t.’
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the idea was ‘the same as putting a dunce’s hat on a child’.
'I think it’s extremely discriminatory. It’s depressing for children who have to wear school uniform,' he said.
'It could work if most of the school are hitting their targets but it would be cruel for the children who are in the school uniform.
'It’s the equivalent of putting a dunce’s hat on them in Victorian times. And of course, if only five to 10 per cent of pupils are hitting targets and wearing their own clothes they could also be bullied for it. 'It’s inappropriate, discriminatory and unwise in the worst possible sense.'
But Woodland Middle School, which caters for pupils aged nine to 13, defended its decision. Deputy Headteacher, Sharon Hardacre, said: 'At Woodland Middle School we reward the positives as much as possible.
'One such reward is the use of a mufti day. Targets are not "unobtainable" or "aspirational" but rather will be achieved if the child reads books at their level and takes quizzes.'
And parent agreed, saying: 'I was really pleased that my son got a reward for reading, he had worked hard.
'I know people have different opinions but I don’t see the problem.'
Posted by jonjayray at 12:48 AM
Monday, April 07, 2014
Muslim parent upset over school flyer promoting church's Easter egg hunt
Easter eggs are a pagan fertility symbol, nothing to do with Christianity. They derive from the pagan Babylonian goddess, Astarte
Some Muslim parents are concerned about public schools in Dearborn handing out flyers to all students advertising an Easter egg hunt, saying it violates the principle of church and state separation.
A flyer headlined “Eggstravaganza!” was given to students this week at three elementary schools in the Dearborn Public Schools district, which has a substantial number of Muslim students. The flyer described an April 12 event at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church in Dearborn featuring an egg hunt, relay race, and egg toss. It asked students to RSVP “to secure your free spot” and included images of eggs and a bunny.
“It really bothered my two kids,” said parent Majed Moughni, who is Muslim and has two children, ages 7 and 9, in Dearborn elementary schools. “My son was like, ‘Dad, I really don’t feel comfortable getting these flyers, telling me to go to church. I thought churches are not supposed to mix with schools.’ ”
Moughni said he’s concerned about “using school teachers paid by public funds ... to pass out these flyers that are being distributed by a church. I think that’s a serious violation of separation of church and state.”
David Mustonen, spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools, did not respond Thursday to several requests by the Free Press for comment.
The pastor of Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church defended the flyer, saying it was approved for distribution by Dearborn Public Schools and is not promoting a religious event.
“It’s designed to be an opportunity to invite the community to come for a day of activity,” said Pastor Neeta Nichols of Cherry Hill. “There is not a religious component to this event.”
“Part of our ministry in Dearborn is to invite the community to let them know we’re here,” she added. “We’re offering various kinds of programming, fun opportunities, so what we can be engaged with the community.”
But Moughni and others are worried that churches are trying to convert their youth through the Dearborn schools. Moughni said his children received flyers for Halloween events at another church last year.
And in recent years, other Muslim parents have complained about what they say are attempts to convert their children. The Conquerors, a Grandville-based group of Christian athletes who display feats of strength to spread the message of Jesus, have performed in Dearborn schools, drawing some concern. In 2009, there was controversy over an assistant wrestling coach who some parents said was trying to convert Muslim wrestlers, which the coach denied.
Moughni said he greatly respects Christianity, but believes that schools should not promote events related to religious holidays. He said he would oppose flyers that promoted events at mosques as well.
Part of the debate centers around whether Easter is entirely a religious holiday, or one that combines Christian and Western cultural traditions such as the Easter bunny and eggs.
Greg Lipper, senior litigation counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he has some concerns about the flyer since the event is being held at a church.
“It would be one thing if this were an Easter egg hunt in an otherwise secular setting,” say, the White House Easter egg hunt, he said. “But this invitation was for an Easter egg hunt at a Christian church — and so the event has much clearer religious connotations. Context matters.”
Lipper added that the legality of flyer distribution in schools depends on whether the district is favoring some institutions over others. Schools can’t favor one religion, he said.
“The younger the children, the greater the concern,” Lipper said. “Children are more impressionable than adults, and elementary schoolchildren are more impressionable than any other students. And so the school district has to be especially careful about appearing to endorse ... a particular religion.”
Bid to bring forward GCSEs so Muslim pupils aren't fasting for Ramadan while they take their exams
GCSE and A-level examinations could be brought forward for hundreds of thousands of pupils to avoid a clash with Ramadan under controversial proposals.
Teachers and lecturers in England and Wales are pushing for the summer exam timetable to be altered to help Muslim students who will be fasting when they sit papers.
School exam boards and universities are considering the radical shake-up from 2016, when the religious period of Ramadan clashes with the exam season.
One option is to hold some exams earlier within the usual May-June exam season. Another is for fasting Muslim students to be eligible for extra marks under ‘special consideration’ rules if they believe their performance has been affected.
The holy period in the Islamic calendar, which requires Muslims to fast during daylight hours, starts to fall earlier and earlier in the summer from next year, progressively clashing with the exam season in June.
The clash also coincides with Michael Gove’s return to O-level style exams, which are taken at the end of the two-year course rather than at intervals throughout it – making the summer exams the only chance to do well.
This month, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union (ATL) conference will debate how to ‘minimise the impact’ on Muslim pupils.
Barry Lingard, who is on the ATL executive committee, said: ‘The consequences are quite huge, particularly with the return to three-hour exams at the end of the course in the summer.
If some of the big vital exams like English and maths could be rescheduled for before Ramadan kicks in, that would certainly be supported by the majority of teachers.’
Ofqual, the exam watchdog, and the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the main three exam boards, have met with Muslim groups to discuss the issue.
Another suggestion is to run exams in the morning, when pupils are less likely to be hungry and tired, rather than the afternoon.
The government-funded Equality Challenge Unit, which advises higher education, said exam time-tables should be overhauled.
‘Institutions should be prepared to consider significant adjustments to their exam schedules and think creatively about assessment methods in order to eliminate disadvantage to particular groups,’ it said.
Muslim undergraduates at university are also affected by the clash of dates. At the University of East Anglia in Norwich, they have already been told: ‘Where a student feels that fasting has affected their performance, this should be submitted as an extenuating circumstance.’
But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said children had been coping with exams for decades in many different circumstances.
‘Where there is scope for some flexibility the exam boards should exercise it, but I don’t think it is realistic for a board to rearrange their timetable to fit in with a minority religion, or any religion for that matter,’ he said.
‘If you run exams in the morning because of this, you may be disadvantaging a non-Muslim pupil who then has two exams in one day rather than one.’
The Finns can't educate minorities well, either
Because Finland scores well on PISA tests, there has been much interest in that remote Northern land's rather laidback public education system. But that raises a problem: Finland hasn't been very diverse until recently despite having a huge border with a much poorer country (secret: land mines). So, many accounts of Finland's education system in America simply assert that immigrants do great in Finland. Only problem: not true.
From a Google Translate version of a Finnish government account of the results of the latest PISA test, this one on "problem-solving:"
Immigrants fared poorly compared to the native population differences between the native population and the migrant pupils' problem-solving skills were high in all the participating countries. In Finland, the main population, representing the students 'scores averaged 526 points, while second-generation immigrant students' backgrounds ¬ an average of 461 points and a first-generation 426 points. In Finland, migrant and native population, the difference between success was greater than in the participating countries on average.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:56 AM