Friday, December 15, 2017



How Affirmative Action Hurts Asian-Americans in College Admissions

Michael Wang stared at the letter in dismay.

It marked the sixth Ivy League university he had been rejected by, out of the seven he had applied to. In addition to his perfect ACT score and grade-point average, he was ranked third nationally in piano, sang at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, and had received accolades in many debate competitions.

When Wang realized that people with lesser qualifications than his were getting accepted by the Ivies, he suspected that something else was afoot: It wasn’t his qualifications keeping him from his dream, it was his Asian last name.

That explains why in May 2015, he, along with 64 Asian groups, filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education against Harvard University, which is now under investigation for its affirmative action policy.

Article VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits educational institutions that receive federal aid from discriminating based on race. Owing to allegations of discrimination advanced by Asian-Americans, the Justice Department has asked Harvard to produce documents that will help shed light on its admissions process.

Racial preferences in university admissions first arose in the late 1960s, when its supporters said they were needed to remedy a history of discrimination against African-Americans. In 1978, in California Board of Regents v. Bakke, the Supreme Court used twisted reasoning, rejecting racial quotas as unconstitutional, while affirming the permissibility of considering race in admissions.

Since then, the high court has edged closer and closer to banning racial preferences as distasteful and un-American, but hasn’t brought itself to completely eradicate them.

But now we are seeing how racial preferences also can hurt a minority group; namely, Asian-Americans. That’s why a number of Asian-American special-interest groups filed suit in federal court in May 2015, complaining that Harvard and other selective institutions of higher education employ veiled racial quotas in their admissions procedures.

These groups point to the fact that, on average, it is much more difficult for Asian-Americans to gain admission to elite schools than it is for their Hispanic, black, or white counterparts.

Asian-Americans must score 140 points higher on their SATs than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students, and 450 points higher than black students.

One study measured the considerable difference in SAT and ACT scores within highly selective universities and examined what factors allow certain low-scoring applicants to get into those colleges.

Findings revealed that it is equally likely that a black student who scored 27 on the ACT and a white student who scored 30.8 would get accepted. By contrast, they found that an Asian scoring 27 on the ACT would have as much chance of acceptance as white student who scored 23.6.

Since the ACT is measured on a 36-point scale, the difference in points is considerable. For example, a score of 27 places a student in the 86th percentile nationally, while a score of 23 bumps a student down to the 69th percentile. Especially in a competitive admissions process, such a difference can greatly affect a student’s chance of acceptance.

Among all racial groups, Asian-Americans are most “underrepresented relative to their application numbers,” according to the Asian American Coalition for Education. Although in 2008, Asians comprised more than half of “highly qualified” applicants to Harvard, only 17 percent received acceptance letters. Despite their rise in population, the percentage of Asians at Ivy League institutions has stagnated at about 18 percent.

Absent racial preferences, the Hispanic acceptance rate at elite institutions would drop to half its current rate, while black acceptance would plummet by two-thirds. By contrast, the number of Asian acceptances would rise from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent.

 Given these statistics, Asian interest groups fear that race amounts to more than just “one factor among many” in admissions processes. The Supreme Court has explicitly prohibited the practice of considering a student’s race to be a “defining feature of his or her application.” Instead, the court found that race must remain merely one consideration in a “holistic” evaluation of the individual applicant.

The Justice Department intends to discover whether the admissions difficulties Asian-Americans face result from a policy at Harvard that is “indistinguishable from racial quotas.” To do so, Justice has asked for access to documents that reveal the details of Harvard’s admissions procedures.

Harvard has been wary of producing records that contain information about students’ test scores and demographics.

However, under the threat of being sued by the Justice Department, Harvard proposed a plan to reveal the admissions information that the department requested. The school will require the Justice Department to limit viewing of the documents to Harvard lawyers’ offices.

The Justice Department indicated that Harvard’s proposal is promising, but it is still reviewing whether the university’s proposal complies with Article VI access requirements.

If proven that Harvard and other elite schools use policies that disproportionately consider race, these institutions should not continue to receive federal funds.

We will never eliminate discrimination by enacting policies that limit the opportunities of one race in favor of another.

As Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once put it, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

SOURCE 





The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

I have been in school for more than 40 years. First preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school. Then a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, followed by a doctoral program at Princeton. The next step was what you could call my first “real” job—as an economics professor at George Mason University.

Thanks to tenure, I have a dream job for life. Personally, I have no reason to lash out at our system of higher education. Yet a lifetime of experience, plus a quarter century of reading and reflection, has convinced me that it is a big waste of time and money. When politicians vow to send more Americans to college, I can’t help gasping, “Why? You want us to waste even more?”

How, you may ask, can anyone call higher education wasteful in an age when its financial payoff is greater than ever? The earnings premium for college graduates has rocketed to 73 percent—that is, those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 73 percent more than those who have only a high-school diploma, up from about 50 percent in the late 1970s. The key issue, however, isn’t whether college pays, but why. The simple, popular answer is that schools teach students useful job skills. But this dodges puzzling questions.

First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

The disconnect between college curricula and the job market has a banal explanation: Educators teach what they know—and most have as little firsthand knowledge of the modern workplace as I do. Yet this merely complicates the puzzle. If schools aim to boost students’ future income by teaching job skills, why do they entrust students’ education to people so detached from the real world? Because, despite the chasm between what students learn and what workers do, academic success is a strong signal of worker productivity.

Suppose your law firm wants a summer associate. A law student with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford applies. What do you infer? The applicant is probably brilliant, diligent, and willing to tolerate serious boredom. If you’re looking for that kind of worker—and what employer isn’t?—you’ll make an offer, knowing full well that nothing the philosopher learned at Stanford will be relevant to this job.

The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them. This is not a fringe idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz—all Nobel laureates in economics—made seminal contributions to the theory of educational signaling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory. But signaling plays almost no role in public discourse or policy making. As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The main effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy. Nonetheless, I believe that signaling accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward, and probably more.

Most of the salary payoff for college comes from crossing the graduation finish line. Suppose you drop out after a year. You’ll receive a salary bump compared with someone who’s attended no college, but it won’t be anywhere near 25 percent of the salary premium you’d get for a four-year degree. Similarly, the premium for sophomore year is nowhere near 50 percent of the return on a bachelor’s degree, and the premium for junior year is nowhere near 75 percent of that return. Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation. This in turn implies a mountain of wasted resources—time and money that would be better spent preparing students for the jobs they’re likely to do.

SOURCE 






College Presidents Making $1 Million Rise With Tuition and Student Debt

A seven-figure salary to run a nonprofit college? You know what they say: Pro Humanitate.

That's the motto of Wake Forest University, where President Nathan Hatch came in first in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s new ranking of compensation for heads of U.S. colleges. In 2015, the latest year for which data are available, he earned $4 million.

Hatch is one of 58 college presidents with total compensation of more than $1 million, up from 39 in 2014 and 32 in 2013, according to the Chronicle’s calculations. Average total compensation for school heads serving the full year was $569,932, up 9 percent from 2014's average. The data were drawn from federal tax filings for 500 private, nonprofit schools. 

"It certainly raises eyebrows," said Dan Bauman, a data reporter for the Chronicle. "It's unusually high."

To recruit and retain senior executives, schools often include deferred-compensation packages, a trend noticeable among most of the top earners in 2015. The chart-busting payday for Hatch, who has headed up Wake Forest since 2005, was partly from compensation of more than $3 million that came due in 2015, said Katie Neal, a spokeswoman for the university.

"President Hatch's compensation over the course of his tenure reflects his exceptional leadership," trustee chair Donna Boswell said. The school has raised nearly $800 million under Hatch, she said.

Total compensation includes base pay, bonus pay, nontaxable benefits (for example, health benefits, life insurance and dependent care) and other pay (such as severance payments, spending accounts and club dues). Such perks as housing and travel may also be included. Hatch had base pay of $839,944 and a bonus of $92,000.

In fact, all five of the highest-paid university presidents in the report on 2015 reaped deferred pay and bonuses that dwarfed their base salaries. James Wagner, then head of Emory University, took home the second-highest amount, fueled by a 10-year deferred-compensation award, according to spokeswoman Nancy Seideman. Of Wagner's $3.51 million take-home pay, $991,460 was his base salary, according to the Chronicle.

High pay and hefty endowments in academia have long drawn skepticism, or scorn, apparent most recently in the depths of the Republican-drafted tax legislation making its way through Congress. If it is passed in its current form, schools with more than $500,000 in endowment assets per student — about 30 universities, including Emory, as of 2014 — could see their annual investment income taxed at 1.4 percent, a levy that higher-education advocates have decried as "arbitrary," saying it "makes no sense." Currently, both public and private nonprofit colleges are tax- exempt.

Across the country at the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias collected a total of $3.18 million, of which $1.5 million came from a "one-time special bonus," said John Mork, chairman of the school's board of trustees. Since joining the school as president in 2010, Nikias has been responsible for a record-high level of freshman applications, the largest campus expansion in university history and "exceptional success" in the school's fundraising efforts, Mork said.

"For these reasons and many others, the executive committee of the board believes that President Nikias is doing an excellent job and was appropriately compensated," he said.

A modern university president’s responsibilities are greater than people may realize, the Chronicle’s Bauman said. School heads are often expected to lead the university as well as its medical enterprises, fundraising efforts, alumni relations and many other endeavors, all under the public eye, he said.

"It's not the interpretation that we get from pop culture, the guy sitting behind a big wooden desk reading Plato," Bauman said.

As college presidents' compensation has risen, so have tuition and student loan debt. In 2004, about $364 billion in student loans was outstanding. That figure has more than tripled to $1.3 trillion, according to the most recent New York Fed data.

"You have a lot of people arguing that the pay for presidents is out of line for someone in a nonprofit education role," Bauman said.

Argue away, say boards of trustees, usually the body responsible for determining a president's compensation package. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, took home $3.09 million in 2015, making her the highest-paid Ivy League head and the fourth-highest paid overall. David Cohen, chair of the school's board of trustees, said he wouldn't do anything differently.

"The trustees believe she is the best university president in the country and that her salary should rightly reflect the stellar leadership she has brought to Penn," he said.

To compile its list of private, nonprofit schools, the Chronicle looked for those that have the biggest endowments, are listed as participating in the Title IV federal student aid program and are classified as baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral institutions.

SOURCE 


Thursday, December 14, 2017



Is there hope for the education system?

Both sides of the aisle can agree that education reform is a necessity. With rising costs of higher education and increased joblessness amongst graduates, the higher education system is failing millions of young Americans. Rather than merely reauthorizing the Higher Education Act as administrations before have done, Congress is voting on the first significant changes to the legislation since 2008.

The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act was introduced by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) as an opportunity to reauthorize the Higher Education Act with changes to fit it into a modern context.

As Representative Foxx explains, “We need a higher education system that is designed to meet the needs of today’s students and has the flexibility to innovate for tomorrow’s workforce opportunities. The PROSPER Act is higher education’s long overdue reform.”

The bill encourages greater partnership between industry and institutions by focusing additional resources toward Federal Work-Study programs and provides institutional aid to develop and implement career-specific programs. In a major shift toward private sector partnership, the bill also requires grant application boards and accreditation boards to have at least one member of the business community present, to ensure institutions receiving federal funds are preparing students to meet the needs of the labor force.

Higher education provides no benefit if students cannot receive jobs upon completion of their degree, the situation many students are currently finding themselves in.

Millennials are the most college educated generation, but at the same time too many are finding themselves unable to enter the labor force. The value of a college degree has dropped substantially due to increased enrollment, while tuition soars alongside attendance.

In states like Iowa, more than half of the available jobs are middle-skilled jobs requiring some form of vocational training or employment that needs more than a high school degree but less than a four-year college degree. Students entering college, rather than taking these careers have caused a skills gap across industries in the state’s labor force.

This leaves students with costly degrees but no place to find jobs, most of these students are merely forced to peddle in their debt until an opportunity comes along.

The PROSPER Act begins to taks aim at assisting students with debt as well.

According to the Act’s summary released by the House Education Workforce, the act simplifies the FAFSA system and streamlines student aid programs into a single grant, single loan, and single Work-Study program to “ease confusion for students who are deciding the best options available to responsibly pay for their college education”.

However, this has been a frequent area of controversy for the bill as well. Opponents of the bill have been quick to notice the legislation ends several student loan forgiveness and repayment programs for individuals working in the public and non-profit sector.

This is not the first time this option has been discussed, the Department of Education discussed the possibility of removing loan forgiveness programs earlier this year. Almost 600,000 borrowers have signed up for this program since President George W. Bush introduced it in 2007 to encourage graduates to enter the public service.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute argues while this bill does take significant steps to mend the federal aid system and reduce debt, it does not do enough, “What needs to happen, ultimately, is for federal student aid to be phased out… Students with a demonstrated ability to do legitimate college-level work in in-demand fields would almost certainly be able to find private loans; both borrower and lender would likely profit. This bill, not surprisingly, does not phase aid out. It does, though, consolidate aid programs, and takes some small steps forward, capping total amounts students and their families can borrow from Washington, and letting schools say they won’t let students borrow a lot if the program doesn’t seem to justify it.”

The federal government leads student financial assistance, but only because former President Barack Obama made it so. While passing Obamacare, a healthcare policy, President Obama federalized student loans to pay for the costly health plan. Republicans blame this action for souring student loan costs in recent years.

If the history of higher education chaos, exacerbated by elements of this bill, teaches us anything, it is that the federal government should not be handling education policy. While this legislation attempts to limit the federal government’s role in education, it does not go far enough to ensure state control. Many of these very reform elements could be shifted to the states.

The Constitution says nothing about Congress or the executive branch’s role in education, let alone higher education. If states wish to build private sector relationships, they should be the facilitator of those, rather than the federal government which is woefully out of touch with statewide industry needs.

Higher education should be a bipartisan point for Congress, but not federal legislators, state legislators. While the full jury is still out on this bill, as it has not reached the House and Senate floor yet, once it does, representatives would do best to push issues to state governments rather than attempt comprehensive reform on their own

SOURCE 





Here’s the gender gap that matters

The gender gap in engineering and math is old news by now. Despite society's strenuous efforts to close it – including giving girls pink Lego sets to play with – nothing seems to work. The percentage of female engineering students remains around 20 per cent, give or take.

Meanwhile, there's another gender gap that everyone ignores. This one is in the ultra-competitive field of veterinary medicine. Not long ago, all vets were men, and women who aspired to be vets were told to aspire to something else. Scarcely any women were admitted into vet schools before the 1970s. Today the ratio in veterinary school is 80-20 – in favour of women. In 2015, for example, Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College admitted 83 women and only 18 men.

Oddly, nobody is hollering about discrimination in veterinary medicine. No activists or politicians are lobbying for preferential treatment for men, or preaching about systemic discrimination, or complaining because women win all the scholarly awards. No one gives two hoots about the vets (except for the veterinary schools themselves, which are desperate to recruit more males). The reason is that this particular gender imbalance doesn't fit the prevailing narrative, which is that women in historically male fields face systemic discrimination at every turn.

The gender gap we talk about incessantly – the one focused on the relatively small number of professions where men still outnumber women – is not the one that matters. The one that matters is the absence of so many men in higher education. Today, women dominate at all levels of education, including the graduate levels. In most postgraduate fields, as well as in law and medicine, women now outperform and outnumber men by growing margins.

Here's the picture, according to economist Mark Perry writing for the American Enterprise Institute. For every 100 men enrolled in U.S. graduate schools, there are now more than 135 women. In 2016, women earned 57.4 per cent of the masters' degrees and 52.1 per cent of the doctoral degrees. Women earned more doctoral degrees in seven of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the Council of Graduate Schools, including education, arts and humanities, public administration and biology. Men earned most of the doctoral degrees in only four fields: business, engineering, math and computer science, and physical and earth sciences.

I couldn't find similar comprehensive information for Canada, but the University of British Columbia is probably representative. Today, 56 per cent of all UBC graduate students are female. Women dominate in five of the eight fields tracked by UBC, sometimes by overwhelming margins: they make up 75 per cent of graduate students in education, 65 per cent in health sciences, 58 per cent in humanities, 67 per cent in non-health professional areas, and 56 per cent in social sciences. Women make up 44 per cent of the sciences. They lag significantly in only two areas: business and management (38 per cent) and engineering (26 per cent).

"Men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education," writes Mr. Perry.

What's clear from these trends is that educational inequality has worked its way up from elementary school, and is now solidly entrenched at all levels of attainment. This, in an age when higher education and cognitive skills are more important than ever. Why? Surely one reason is the temperamental differences between males and females. Females aim to please; males tend not to give a darn. Females don't mind sitting still and colouring inside the lines; a lot of men go crazy. The modern world demands the type of social skills that women are very good at. Most young men simply aren't wired to sit in classrooms until their mid-to-late 20s.

And that basically explains the feminization of veterinary schools. They're hard to get into. They require many years of extra schooling. The vast majority of the applicants are female because the guys don't even bother trying. They've gone missing in action.

Higher education has become so feminized that it's hard to see how it can be re-engineered to appeal to men. Meanwhile we've hit another watershed. A record number of men are marrying women who are more educated than they are. That's because, as the Institute for Family Studies reports, wives now have more education than husbands do. Among newlyweds, the trend is even more pronounced. In 2015, it says, nearly a third of newlywed women married down, educationally speaking.

Tell your daughters to get used to it. Because the way things are going, they will too.

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Elite colleges are making it easy for conservatives to dislike them

Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, has been lobbying in Washington against a Republican proposal to tax large university endowments and make other tax and spending changes that might adversely affect universities. Faust says the endowment tax would be a “blow at the strength of American higher education” and that the suite of proposals lacks “policy logic.” Perhaps so, but they have a political logic. We hope that Harvard and other elite universities will reflect on their part in these developments.

The proposed tax and spending policies aimed at universities are surely related to the sharp recent drop in support by conservatives for colleges and universities. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, a figure that has grown significantly in the past two years. This development likely reflects four related trends.

First is the obvious progressive tilt in universities, especially elite universities. At Harvard, for example, undergraduate students overwhelmingly identify as progressive or liberal and the faculty overwhelmingly gives to the Democratic Party. Even Harvard Law School, which has a handful of conservative scholars and a new conservative dean, is on the left end of law school faculties, which are themselves more progressive than the legal profession.

Second, the distinctive progressive ideology of elite universities is relentlessly critical of, to the point of being intolerant of, traditions and moral values widely seen as legitimate in the outside world. As a result, elite universities have narrowed the range of acceptable views within their walls.

Third is the rise of anti-conservative “mobs,” “shout-downs” and “illiberal behavior” on campus, as New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes it. Conservative speakers of various stripes are being harassed and excluded with increasing frequency. “Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas,” noted former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Harvard address a few years ago. Harvard is actually somewhat better on these issues than many universities — it hasn’t had anti-conservative mobs, and it has been relatively respectful of conservative speakers. But even at Harvard, the pervasive progressive orthodoxy chills conservatives’ speech in the classroom and hallways.

Fourth is the public contempt of so many university academics for those who fund their subsidies. Paul Krugman, an emeritus professor at Princeton University now at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, as well as a New York Times op-ed columnist, offered a self-described “deep thought” in reaction to a Post article about rising conservative anger at American universities: “Maybe conservatives are turning against learning because learning is incompatible with modern conservative ideology.” Krugman’s statement was a mere tweet. But in our experience it reflects an attitude that is widespread at elite universities.

We do not believe that every university in the country, or even every department in most universities, reflects the progressive views that we have described. Nor are we expressing a view on the merits of the current tax and spending proposals, which have complex consequences for universities and the public welfare, about which reasonable minds can differ. And Harvard and other private universities of course have every right to adopt a progressive ideology and to enforce it, more or less, by decisions on faculty hiring, student admissions and the allocation of resources.

But educational institutions should not be surprised when these attitudes and behaviors prove unappealing to a Congress and executive branch that are largely in the control of conservatives. Conservative politicians and their constituents hear, on the one hand, that government owes universities a continuance of largesse and, on the other, that conservatives are ignorant, unworthy or corrupt. This sounds suspiciously like special pleading by an intellectual elite that wants to indulge in social criticism at the expense of the criticized, in both figurative and literal senses.

Universities have become distinctively sectarian, limiting their appeal to federal elected officials who do not share those sectarian views and who are less and less willing to pay the universities to trumpet them.

SOURCE 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017



Trump plays the race card yet again by targeting affirmative action on campus

I would have thought it was affirmative action advocates who are playing the race card.  Trump is opposing use of race in admission decisions. 

The writer below pins his argument about the evilness of Trump on blacks being under-represented in tertiary colleges.  But what does that prove and why is it bad?  To the race-obsessed Leftists it is obviously bad but people not concerned about race might simply say: "That's the way the cookie crumbles" and leave it at that. 

And given the long-term failure of blacks to increase their presence in tertiary institutions, "That's the way the cookie crumbles" could be the only reasonable response -- or at least the only response that acknowledges reality

One wonders at the poor grip on reality of the writer below.  He also hates on the greater presence of the rich in universities.  High income earners do tend to be brighter and that is hereditary so their children are much more likely to meet the criteria for college admission. Only a Communist society could change that but even the Soviet union had a distinct favoured elite -- The Nomenklatura.  So when will the galoot below accept that all men will NEVER be equal?  He will never accept it because it goes against his Leftist religion.

He will never get the Communist society he seems to want so he will take whatever pressure towards it that he can get:  The pressure to enrol in colleges those who are less fit for it but are the "right" race.  He can't see that he is using an injustice to create some semblance of his impossible dream.  He can't see that he is the racist



Once again, Donald Trump pummels reality to please his base. As often, his cudgel is race.

His Justice Department, The New York Times reports, is investigating colleges, including Harvard, whose admissions policies supposedly disfavor whites and Asians to benefit blacks and Hispanics. This is perverse, for the evidence shows that those minorities continue to be underrepresented on American campuses.

Indeed, in the last 35 years this gap has widened. A comprehensive study by the Times shows that the percentage of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged, and that the increase in Hispanics has not kept up with their growth rate overall. The same holds true at top liberal arts colleges and public flagship universities, including the University of California in America’s most diverse state.

In 2003, the Supreme Court found that promoting diversity on campus is a legitimate consideration in admissions policy. But according to the Department of Education, since that ruling we have seen little progress.

As of 2014, the African-American population in four-year colleges had risen 1 percentage point, to 13 percent, over the preceding decade. Hispanics were up only a little more. Yet Trump’s DOJ, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is “attempting . . . to achieve what they have not been able to do with the Supreme Court” — discourage affirmative action.

His campaign thrived on deliberately stoking racial anxieties and resentments. Surveys show that a belief that whites are treated unfairly is a powerful predictor of support for Trump. Similarly, his adherents are more likely to feel that the growth of racial or ethnic groups is negatively affecting our society.

These feelings pervade the GOP electorate. A 2017 survey showed that 43 percent of Republicans believe there is significant discrimination against whites, whereas only 27 percent of them believe the same for blacks. As Thomas Edsall spelled out in the Times, Trump benefits from a “white identity politics” among voters who want the advantages they imagine accrue to minorities.

Now Trump’s presidency is reeling. His attack on affirmative action on campus is red meat for white people, demonstrating he will correct the passion for diversity which, his followers believe, limits white opportunity by skewing college admissions.

Thus does bigotry bury what, for the GOP, is a highly inconvenient truth. According to The Washington Post: “At 38 top colleges in the United States, more students come from the top 1 percent of income earners than from the bottom 60 percent.” It is income inequality, not race, that disadvantages lower-bracket whites.

But for Republican ideologues and cynics, reverse discrimination in admissions is a politically potent myth, energizing the base while providing cover for policies favoring the wealthy. Nowhere is this pernicious stalking horse more empowered than among Republican judges on the Supreme Court, to whom Trump will ultimately look to banish affirmative action.

Principal among them is Chief Justice John Roberts. It was in opposition to affirmative action in admissions that he wrote his famous dictum: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

This excruciating platitude does not withstand exposure to the world as it actually exists, including in college admissions. Such banality is, perhaps, to be expected from a smug country clubber, smiling benignly at the waiter who has just served up his favorite single malt scotch. But from America’s chief justice, it drives rulings that serve the ideology and electoral interests of the GOP at the cost of justice for minorities.

This effort is epitomized by Fisher v. University of Texas, the most recent challenge to affirmative action before the Supreme Court.

At issue was a modest plan allowing the university to consider race as one of many “plus factors” in some students’ admissions decisions. The white plaintiff conveniently overlooked that of the 47 students admitted with lower grades and test scores, 42 were white. A narrow majority of justices upheld the Texas program.

Roberts dissented. At oral argument he demanded to know: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”

Seriously? Does Roberts really imagine that this is about the principles of physics? What about those disadvantaged students — minorities and the poor — who the university sought to help? Or what students of all backgrounds experience as part of a diverse student body? His calculated obtuseness exposes the GOP’s attack on affirmative action for what it is — a callous sham.

But there Roberts remains, awaiting the next attack, which beyond doubt will be supported by Donald Trump.

SOURCE 






Trump, DeVos have stopped forgiving student loans for college scam victims

Not so quick to give out taxpayer money

The Trump administration has not approved a single debt cancellation request from students who received federal loans to pay for failed, for-profit colleges, according to the Department of Education's Inspector General.

Thousands of students who attended now defunct for-profit colleges such as Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes applied for debt forgiveness under a program launched by the Obama administration. And during the last six months of President Barack Obama's president, more than 46,000 claims were sent in.

The Obama administration's Education Department approved nearly 28,000 of those claims during those final six months.

But since President Donald Trump's first day in office on Jan. 20, the Education Department has received nearly 26,000 claims and approved zero of them, according to the IG report.

But there also haven't been many denials, either -- the IG report says only two claims have been denied.

That's because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has paused the program pending further review the process of debt forgiveness, as well as the possibility of abandoning the program altogether.

Canceling the program would affect at least 87,000 borrowers who have submitted claims and are waiting for approval as of October, according to the Washington Post.

The IG report recommends that the program be restarted.

A. Wayne Johnson, chief operating officer of the federal student aid program, said relief could soon come for about 11,000 former Corinthian students, according to the BBC.

Democrats have criticized DeVos for not more quickly finding a solution for students who have fallen victim to for-profit college scams.

"When a predatory college breaks the law to trick students into enrolling, those students are entitled to have their federal student loans canceled to help them start over," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in November.

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Teacher Who Was Fired For ‘Misgendering’ A Student Slaps School With Lawsuit

A teacher who was fired for calling a transgender student by her biological gender hit back at the school with a lawsuit.

After math teacher Joshua Sutcliffe, 27, allegedly said “well done girls” to two students at an Oxfordshire secondary school in England, the school suspended him and called for a disciplinary hearing. He apologized to the student, but he was charged with misconduct for “misgendering,” according to the Evening Standard.

Not long after, Sutcliffe was fired from his teaching post and he responded by sending a letter to the school saying that it’s equality policies are “totalitarian,” Metro reports. “I regret that our relations have reached this point, but I feel I have no choice but to bring legal proceedings against you without further notice,” Sutcliffe wrote in his letter.

“While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs… I have never looked to impose my convictions on others,” Sutcliffe, who is also a Christian pastor, said the school initially suspended him for six weeks, according to BBC News. He also thinks referring to someone by their birth gender isn’t wrong or unreasonable, according to the Daily Mail.

More than 2,000 children aged three to 18 in the U.K. were referred to a gender identity specialist last year, BBC reports.

The teacher’s firing and sequential lawsuit comes after similar events in the U.S. An 8-year-old transgender student and his parents recently sued a California school for failing to let him express his identity as a girl and another set of parents filed a lawsuit against a school in New York, alleging the school created a hostile environment for their five-year-old kid, according to The New York Times.

SOURCE 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017






How America Is Breaking Public Education (?)

Ethan Siegel, writing and depicted below, somehow manages to combine unoriginality with being a bit of a nut.  The image below is only one of his eccentric depictions of himself.



Siegel has reduced the problems of education to only one factor -- albeit a factor popular among teachers.  He says teachers need to be treated like professionals but that they are not. What teacher union would disagree with that?

Being Left-leaning, however, Siegel has not thought to ask WHY teachers are inapty treated.  To describe a problem seems to him a sufficient contribution without offering any solution to it. If you can't call "racism" as a response to some problem, Leftists are stumped.

And for anybody with experience in the education sector, the reason for the situation is obvious:  Most public school teachers are dummies.  Except for a few dedicated souls, those who teach are those who could get no other work deserving of a college education.  A bright graduate will look to teach only as a last resort, and  will very rarely drop to that last level.  The "Teach for America" system is an explicit recognition that bright graduates typically don't go into teaching.

OK.  That's the first part of the explanation.  Now we ask WHY teaching is such an unattractive job in most places today.  It helps to answer that to consider some places where teachers are high quality -- say South Korea.  Teachers there mostly have higher degrees and are something of an elite.  How come?  Because teaching has long been a rewarding and prestigious occupation and there is nothing in South Korea to disrupt that.  Even from ancient Sumeria we have a depiction of a parent giving a teacher a fleece -- a bit better than an apple for the teacher.

So what has gone wrong in the Anglosphere countries of recent times?  Answer: Leftist destruction of discipline.  Teachers now have very few disciplinary options available and a few unruly students can now totally destroy the classroom experience.  Teaching becomes a constant battle to get the attention of the students.  In many public schools teachers are little more than child-minders.  They can do very little teaching. So we have the experience of places like California where students can graduate High School while being barely able to read and write

And who would want to work in that environment?  Only those with no other options.  So as older teachers retire, classrooms have been left in the hands of people with very little in the way of educational achievement themselves.  Politicians talk about demanding that admission to their teacher-training colleges include only candidates with good GPAs etc but if they insisted on that, they would soon run out of teachers.

But good classroom management is within living memory so higher educational standards are possible -- but only if Leftist "reforms" of the last 30 years or so are rolled back


The ultimate dream of public education is incredibly simple. Students, ideally, would go to a classroom, receive top-notch instruction from a passionate, well-informed teacher, would work hard in their class, and would come away with a new set of skills, talents, interests, and capabilities. Over the past few decades in the United States, a number of education reforms have been enacted, designed to measure and improve student learning outcomes, holding teachers accountable for their students' performances. Despite these well-intentioned programs, including No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, public education is more broken than ever. The reason, as much as we hate to admit it, is that we've disobeyed the cardinal rule of success in any industry: treating your workers like professionals.

Everyone who's been through school has had experiences with a wide variety of teachers, ranging from the colossally bad to the spectacularly good. There are a few qualities universally ascribed to the best teachers, and the lists almost always include the following traits:

* a passion for their chosen subject,

* a deep, expert-level knowledge of the subject matter they're teaching,

* a willingness to cater to a variety of learning styles and to employ a variety of educational techniques,

* and a vision for what a class of properly educated students would be able to know and demonstrate at the end of the academic year.

Yet despite knowing what a spectacular teacher looks like, the educational models we have in place actively discourage every one of these.

The first and largest problem is that every educational program we've had in place since 2002 — the first year that No Child Left Behind took effect — prioritizes student performance on standardized tests above all else. Test performance is now tied to both school funding, and the evaluation of teachers and administrators. In many cases, there exists no empirical evidence to back up the validity of this approach, yet it's universally accepted as the way things ought to be.

Imagine, for a moment, that this weren't education, but any other job. Imagine how you'd feel if you found yourself employed in such a role.

Requiring teachers to follow a script in a variety of educational settings is one of the surest ways to squash creativity and kill student interest. It is a more widespread practice than ever before.

You have, on any given day, a slew of unique problems to tackle. These include how to reach, motivate, and excite the people whose education and performance you're responsible for. It includes imparting them with skills that will enable them to succeed in the world, which will be vastly different from state-to-state, county-to-county, and even classroom-to-classroom. Gifted students, average students, special needs students, and students with severe disabilities are all often found in the same class, requiring a deft touch to keep everyone motivated and engaged. Moreover, students often come to class with problems that place them at a competitive disadvantage, such as food insecurity, unaddressed physical, dental, and mental health issues, or home life responsibilities that severely curtail their ability to invest in academics.

If your goal was to achieve the greatest learning outcome possible for each of your students, what would you need to be successful? You'd need the freedom to decide what to teach, how to teach it, how to evaluate and assess your students, and how to structure your classroom and curriculum. You'd need the freedom to make individualized plans or separate plans for students who were achieving at different levels. You'd need the resources — financial, time, and support resources — to maximize the return on your efforts. In short, you'd need the same thing that any employee in any role needs: the freedom and flexibility to assess your own situation, and make empowered decisions.

In public education, if teachers do that, they are penalized to an extraordinary extent. Passion is disincentivized, as whatever aspects your passionate about take a back seat to what will appear on the standardized test. Expert knowledge is thrown to the wayside, as curiosity and engagement is seen as a distraction. A vision for what successful students look like is narrowed down to one metric alone: test performance. And a teacher's evaluation of what skills are important to develop is treated as less than nothing, as anything that fails to raise a student's test score is something that everyone — the teacher, the school, and the student — are all penalized for.

If this were common practice in any other industry, we'd be outraged. How dare you presume to micromanage the experts, the very people you hired to do a difficult job full of unique challenges to the best of their abilities! Yet in education, we have this unrealistic dream that a scripted, one-sized-fits-all strategy will somehow lead to success for all. That we can somehow, through just the right set of instructions, transform a mediocre teacher into a great one.

This hasn't worked in any walk of life, and it doesn't work in education. If we were serious about improving the quality of public education in this country (or any country), we wouldn't focus on a one-size-fits-all model, whether at the federal or state level. We would fully fund schools everywhere, regardless of test scores, economic concerns, or teacher quality. We would make a concerted effort to pay desirable wages to extremely qualified, expert-knowledge-level educators, and give them the support resources they need to succeed. And we'd evaluate them across a variety of objective and subjective metrics, with any standardized testing components making up only a small part of an evaluation.

The most important goal of an education is something we rarely talk about: the set of skills and the capabilities of thinking and problem solving that a student acquires. Part of what makes an adult successful in this world is the unique toolkit they have for approaching, attacking, and defeating the challenges they face in this world. A diversity of experiences and methods among the population is a great way to ensure that more problems can be solved; absolute uniformity is as bad for human society as monoculture is for agriculture. The greatest advances in science and society have come about because of the unique backgrounds and approaches some of the greatest minds in history possessed and utilized. Unless our goal is societal stagnation, we need to encourage creativity and excellence, not only in our students, but in our educators as well.

Like any job involving an interaction with other people, teaching is as much of an art as it is a science. By taking away the freedom to innovate, we aren't improving the outcomes of the worst teachers or even average teachers; we're simply telling the good ones that their skills and talents aren't needed here. By refusing to treat teachers like professionals — by failing to empower them to teach students in the best way that they see fit — we demonstrate the simple fact that we don't trust them to do a good job, or even to understand what doing a good job looks like. Until we abandon the failed education model we've adopted since the start of the 21st century, public education will continue to be broken. As long as we insist on telling teachers what to teach and how to teach it, we'll continue to fail our children.

SOURCE 





Why history education is central to the survival of democracy

Canadians are at war over their history. The CBC series Canada: The Story of Us caused outrage in spring 2017 with the choices made for its historical storyline. Critics called the series anglocentric and said it omitted the roles of the Acadians and Mi'kmaq people.

Statues and names of prominent Canadians have also been the centre of vigorous debate across the country this year. One of these debates has focused on the statue of Edward Cornwallis in a public park in Halifax — the military officer who founded Halifax for the British in 1749, but also offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed an Indigenous person. They have also included calls from the the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) to remove so-called “architect of genocide” Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from elementary schools across the province.

Amid debates over the renaming of public buildings across the country, our public history is being hotly contested. And Canada is not alone. As protests and counter protests about the public commemoration of Civil War figures in the United States demonstrate, history is a significant public concern in many places around the world.

For history educators like myself, the good news is that the public obviously cares about history very much. The bad news is that we can’t seem to talk about it without resorting to name calling, vitriol and sometimes — as evident in recent events in Charlottesville — violence.

I believe the teaching of history to be more important than ever. History — if funded and taught well — can teach a tolerance for ambiguity. It can provide people with strategies to help them think through complex issues.

War, and war memorials in particular, are central to collective memory. Taught well, war offer windows into the construction of personal and national identity.

Between virtue and evil

Our public discourse has become dangerously polarized — making democratic deliberation about collective memory, history and the common good almost impossible.

Reflecting on the 2017 French election, French political scientist Nicole Bacharan described the worry and stress resulting from, “the division of the country and the hatred that came out of groups of people who can’t discuss anything, can’t understand each other, can’t talk.”

Bacharan is just one of many voices lamenting the poverty of civic discourse in democratic jurisdictions around the world. The debates about public history installations are one manifestation of that wider trend. I think they illustrate an important aspect of this toxic polarization — a seeming inability to handle nuance.

Citizens want things kept simple. In their view, historical figures or events represented in public memorials are either iconic representations of virtue and progress that should stand for all time, or they are manifestations of evil and should be torn down. There seems to be no room for complex alternatives.

The trouble is, life is complicated and full of nuance. We like the dividing line between our heroes and villains to be clear but as Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn points out in The Gulag Archipelago:

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Teach history, teach complexity

I am convinced that contemporary approaches to history education can help citizens develop the tolerance for complexity and ambiguity necessary to engage effectively in civic life.

Over the past half century there has been an explosion in theoretical and empirical research related to the teaching of history, and there is a growing consensus around the world about what constitutes effective teaching and learning in the field. Some key elements of that consensus include:

* History education must move beyond the transmission of what historians know to include attention to historical method — how historians know. This is often referred to as historical thinking.

* History education must include attention to historical consciousness, or how history and memory work to shape how we think about ourselves, our communities and our place in the world.

* There are many places where history can be learned, including classrooms, historical sites, museums, patriotic ceremonies and family events.

* History education must engage students in thinking about what constitutes evidence about the past and how we assess and construct accounts about the past.

* Research evidence makes it clear that students, even those in primary school, can learn to think in sophisticated and complex ways about the past and its relationship to the present and the future.

* Effective history education requires well-educated and skilled teachers.

History as educational priority

While this consensus exists among researchers and many history teachers around the world, conditions in the classroom or lecture theatre are often very different.

One key issue is that education in social studies — and history education in particular — has diminished as a priority area in public education in Canada and around the world.

Traditionally social studies was considered one of the core areas of the curriculum, but the policy changes in the past 30 years — in New Brunswick, across Canada and globally — has been toward subjects considered more immediately useful for fostering employment, particularly in technical fields.

There are several other key factors limiting the implementation of effective history education. These include a persistent focus on nation building rather than developing critical skills, and assigning teachers with little or no history background to teach courses in the area.

War and collective memory

Colleagues and I at the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick have developed a broad program in history education to complement the Centre’s well-established work in history.

Central to this initiative is collaboration between historians, history educators and teachers — to develop materials and approaches that implement the consensus on effective history education described above.

We believe the theme of war and society offers a potentially effective way to do this for several reasons:

* Topics in the area are often presented as iconic and, as Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan points out in The Uses and Abuses of History, part of the purpose of teaching history is to challenge and investigate icons.

* War and war memorials are often central to collective memory and they provide a window into the construction of personal and national identity.

* War shows up in school curricula, museums, family lore and community memorials. This provides the opportunity to bring the community into the classroom, as well as consider relationships among the past, present and future.

* Virtually all elements of the study of war and society, including community memorials, are contested. This provides opportunities for students to examine diverse historical perspectives.

* The issues involved are multilayered and complex. As historian Tim Cook points out in his recent book about the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge: “Vimy, like all legends, is a layered skein of stories, myths, wishful thinking and conflicting narratives.”

Research from around the world shows that fostering the abilities of young citizens to grapple with these complex and difficult questions lays a foundation for enhanced civic discourse in the future.

We do not want to end debates about our history; we do hope to make them more substantive and fruitful.

SOURCE 






College Republicans Kicked Out Of Coffee Shop For Wearing MAGA Hats

A coffee shop owner gave college Republicans five minutes to get out of the shop because of their MAGA hats, according to a Friday video.

The unnamed owner of Rodrigue’s Coffee at Fordham University in New York kicked the college Republicans out because the MAGA hats allegedly violated the shop’s “safe space policy,” reported Campus Reform. “I am protecting my customers,” said the owner.

“We are your customers,” responded a member of the college Republicans. “We bought something.”

“I don’t want people like you supporting this club. No one here wants people like you supporting our club,” the owner told the group. “I am giving you five minutes.”

When one student asked for a refund, the owner said “you had some coffee … do not try to outsmart me.”

One of the college Republicans asked the owner to explain how the MAGA hat violated the safe space policy, to which the owner responded by suggesting it stood for “fascism! Nazis! You have three minutes.”

Rodrigue’s Coffee Shop’s “safe space policy” instructs customers to “not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences. Be aware of your identity, while being considerate of the personhood of your peers.”

“We went there because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop,” said one Fordham College Republican to Campus Reform.”We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”

The college Republican asserted that, as a student who paid over $70,000 in tuition per year, he should be able to use campus buildings and express his political views in them.

“Rodrigues is a student-operated part of our student-led Campus Activities Board and advised by Student Affairs staff,” said Bob Howe, Fordham’s assistant vice president for communications, to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There is no University safe space policy, nor one that excludes any members of the Fordham community from any public spaces on the basis of their political views.”

Howe told TheDCNF that Fordham values a diversity of opinions and said that the university is still looking into the occurrence and will appropriately sanction students who may have infringed upon the school’s code of conduct.

TheDCNF reached out to Rodrigue’s Coffee Shop for comment, but received none in time for press.

SOURCE 


Monday, December 11, 2017



Campus Watch Exposes Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers at Georgetown University

A new Campus Watch report details how Georgetown University's Middle East studies faculty has radicalized in recent years to include not just the fellow travelers of previous decades but actual Islamist professors.

Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown University by Campus Watch, a project of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, exposes this alarming increase in anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Western biases among professors, some Saudi funded, in the heart of the American capital.

"Georgetown's decades-long reputation as ground zero for apologists for Islamism is well deserved" said Winfield Myers, director of academic affairs at the Forum and head of Campus Watch. "But our research reveals alarming trends in its recent hiring and promotion of actual Islamist professors who propagandize for Islamist goals in their teaching and scholarship," Myers added.

As advisors to policymakers and politicians, Georgetown's faculty consistently misread the Middle East, as when John Esposito argued that Islamism was the surest path to democracy in the region, a theory proved false by events, for example in Egypt and Turkey. The report concludes that "the permeation of postcolonial theory and aggressive Islamism into academia has given rise to politicized scholarship that yields little useful expertise to policymakers."

The executive summary of the report is below

Executive Summary

Georgetown University's various Middle East studies (MES) faculty have a reputation as the most intolerant, ideological, anti-Israel, and pro-Islamist in the United States. This detailed new Campus Watch report, Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown University, demonstrates that this reputation is well deserved, but recent hiring trends promise an even more radical future.

The problem began decades ago with the old guard, scholars such as Michael Hudson, John Esposito, and John Voll who were trained in the once-rigorous disciplines that make up MES –history, languages, political science, religious studies, and more. They advanced then-fashionable theories of Arab nationalism, Islamic democracy, and anti-Zionism. Willful blindness to systemic problems in the region supported a revisionist historiography that actively undermined the earlier MES work. That these scholars uncritically embraced Edward Said's deeply flawed book Orientalism (1978) revealed how deeply politicized MES had become. Georgetown faculty adopted Said's anti-intellectual, know-nothing approach of labeling Western scholars (whose erudition he could never hope to match) as racist, imperialist Orientalists.

Said's malignant postcolonial reading of the region so dominated Georgetown's faculty that by 2005, when Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bestowed $20 million on the school, the transformation was complete. But the prince's largess was not wasted: it gave Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (ACMCU), an enhanced platform from which to spread a pro-Islamist message. Thus did Georgetown become the country's leading center of Islamist apologetics. Then matters got yet worse.

The past decade saw a new guard, consisting not merely of fellow travelers of the old guard, but of authentic Islamists, ascend. Chief among these is Jonathan Brown, who became director of ACMCU upon Esposito's retirement in 2015. A convert to Islam who has defended the practice of slavery, Brown represents a new generation of disciplinary leaders who see themselves not as apologists for Islamism, but proselytizers for it. Others include Osama Abi-Mershed, Felicitas Opwis, and Emma Gannagé.

From its perch in the nation's capital, Georgetown's MES faculty wields great influence on every branch of government as expert advisors, as well as on the media. The result, as the Campus Watch report concludes, is that "the permeation of postcolonial theory and aggressive Islamism into academia has given rise to politicized scholarship that yields little useful expertise to policymakers." Yet, "From underestimating threats to national security to misrepresenting empirical data, the impact is considerable."

This dangerous situation should be unacceptable to all those connected to Georgetown University; they should take immediate steps to ensure that the university ends its role as an Islamist outpost on the Potomac.

SOURCE 






UK: Grammar schools 'contrary to common good' - Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised grammar schools as "contrary to the notion of the common good". Speaking in the House of Lords, the Most Rev Justin Welby called for education to focus on "drawing the best out of every person", rather than a selective approach.

He said governments should not look to the past and "waste our time rummaging there for the solutions of tomorrow."

The archbishop led a debate on education, saying the country was now in a "fourth digital revolution" and schools had one of the "greatest challenges" in tackling the "seismic shift" when it comes to preparing children for the future.

However, he said "children of privilege continue to inherit privilege" and the system was not acting in a way to help everyone.

"The academic selective approach to education, one which prioritises separation as a necessary precondition for the nurture of excellence, makes a statement about the purpose of education that is contrary to the notion of the common good," the archbishop said.

"An approach that neglects those of lesser ability or because of a misguided notion of levelling out does not give the fullest opportunity to those of highest ability or does not enable all to develop a sense of community and mutuality."

His comments have been denounced by some MPs who back the schools. Conservative Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Mail: "[Mr Welby] is obviously entitled to his own views, but the evidence is that grammar schools are a great way for under-privileged children to escape poverty. "It is well known that they provide social mobility for the under-privileged."

Fellow Conservative MP Conor Burns also told the newspaper: "Many grammar school provide invaluable opportunities for children from both poor and rich backgrounds, and give them the opportunities they may not otherwise have."

SOURCE 





Australian Universities becoming ‘increasingly hostile to free speech’

Australian universities have become increasingly hostile to free speech, with an audit finding most campuses have instituted policies, guidelines or charters that prohibit students from making “insulting” or “unwelcome” comments, telling “offensive jokes” or, in some cases, engaging in “sarcasm”.

Analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs has revealed 81 per cent of Australia’s 42 universities are actively hostile to free speech on campus as a result of censorious policies or actions taken by administrators or students.

A further 17 per cent potentially threaten free speech by maintaining policies that could stifle student expression.

Only one, the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, actively supports free speech on campus and is among a handful of institutions with a policy upholding intellectual freedom.

The University of Sydney has been named as the most hostile ­university. It topped the ranking, scoring 36 — more than double its nearest rival, Charles Sturt University.

Rather than its policies, it was Sydney University’s role in ­numerous censorship scandals, largely led by student activity, that had contributed to its score.

IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh, who carried out the audit, said many policies appeared to extend beyond the law, meaning students were more restricted as to what they could say or do on campus than out in the wider community. He cited the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful for a person to commit an act “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate ­another person or a group” on the grounds of race or ­ethnicity.

“The vast majority of universities seem to have introduced policies that prevent behaviour without applying that reasonable person test,” he said. “They also extend the idea of offence to hurt feelings, or emotional injury or unwelcome ­behaviour.”

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence said he believed it was the role of a university to host debate on difficult topics and to encourage ­people to disagree. “While I recognise not everyone will agree with the university’s decision not to take a position on issues … I do believe that the right to express a view must be defended; this is codified in our charter of academic freedom,” Dr Spence said. [but not acted on]

“The University of Sydney supports academic freedom,” a spokeswoman said. [For Leftists only]

SOURCE


Sunday, December 10, 2017



Ivy League Billions: Sponsored by the American Taxpayer

Despite cumulative endowments of $119 billion, we're still paying big for these eight elite universities

Open the Books, an organization dedicated to transparency of government spending, tracks and publishes government spending online and serves as one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world. Their motto, “Every dime. Online. In Real Time,” reflects their mission of making government spending transparent and accessible to the public. Open the Books publishes a report every quarter, focusing on an aspect of government spending.

Earlier this year, they published an oversight report entitled, “Ivy League, Inc.,” which reveals the government money and tax privileges granted to the eight colleges of the Ivy League: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

The endowments for these universities range from $3.2 billion (Brown) to $35.7 billion (Harvard). As Open the Books Founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski wryly remarks in Forbes, “Many pundits describe the Ivy League as ‘a hedge fund with classes.’” Open the Books notes that the combined endowments of the universities ($119.4 billion) could fund a full-ride scholarship for all Ivy undergraduate students for the next 51 years. As non-profits, the government does not tax the Ivy League schools on their endowment earnings. So, they not only operate like a hedge fund, but a hedge fund with tax privileges.

While the Ivy League certainly commits no error in freely raising money from alumni and private donors, the Open the Books report reveals how the Ivy League profits off of taxpayers who pay the Ivy League whether they want to or not. Tracking government payments and entitlements for six years (FY2010-FY2015), Open the Books discovered the total Ivy League cost to taxpayers as $41.9 billion, or about $6.93 billion per year. This number includes payments, subsidies and special tax treatment. In terms of total government money received, 16 states (including South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii, Utah, Alaska and Montana) receive less government money per year than the Ivy League does. In other words, entire states take less government money per year than a group of eight universities, each of which have multi-billion-dollar endowments. They don’t need the money, so why are they receiving it?

Lobbying for their interests seems to be part of the answer. Open the Books reveals that between 2010-2014, the Ivy League spent $17.8 million on lobbying Congress to advocate for their interests. This explains the preference given to the Ivies, and the billions of dollars granted to these institutions in federal contracts, subsidies and tax privileges.

While government grants and contracts make sense in terms of groundbreaking medical research, they don’t make sense in terms of the unnecessary research funded by the American taxpayer. Consider the following grants:

$137,530 from the National Science Foundation to Dartmouth College to fund the making of a video game entitled “Layoff.” In this game, the player must fire employees until he or she receives a bank bailout. In the game, bankers are invincible and cannot be fired.

$53,419 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Brown University to study whether homosexual men and male sex workers in Mexico City would decrease the number of sex partners and/or use condoms if the government paid them.

$5.7 million from the National Science Foundation to Columbia University to develop a website entitled Future Coast. The website allows visitors to leave voicemails describing how they think the world will be changed by destructive climate change in the future (2020-2065). Examples include a dwindling Alaska and a California without water.

Most people do not object to private research to fund such projects. If a person wants to develop a video game or study sexual habits and incentives of men in Mexico City or listen to fictional voicemails, why not? But these people should do what the rest of the country does: raise capital, fundraise and involve their friends. The American taxpayer should not have to shoulder the cost.

In fact, the Ivy League receives more money from their government contract “side gig” ($25.27 billion) than they do from student tuition payments ($22 billion). This prompts the question, Is their government contract “business” a higher priority than their students?

Further, the Ivy League schools receive an enormous $3.7 billion tax break in local government property taxes. Open the Books estimates that with regard to local property taxes, the Ivy Leagues should be paying approximately $617 million per year. However, due to the lost revenue, residential property taxes in the surrounding areas are 20-30% higher. In the case of Princeton University, residents sued the school, and won a settlement of $18 million.

Ultimately, the Open the Books report on the Ivy League shows taxpayers what has really been happening to their money. While the Ivy League should be able to maintain their status as top universities, the time has come to re-examine how much, if any, government money they should receive.

When we place all the issues facing our country on the table, government money should be prioritized toward keeping our communities safe and encouraging human flourishing, not toward contributing to the billion-dollar corporatism of the Ivy League. They can do that on their own.

SOURCE 





Defining value: without expensive research, there’s no ‘higher’ to higher education

Higher education is expensive.  It is more expensive, in fact, than many people realise because many of the costs of higher education originate with a set of activities that are not well understood by outsiders. Teaching in its strictest sense is only one part of these costs. The most obvious other costs include research and public engagement.

There are two important points to be made that are lost in the current frenzy to assess whether higher education is “good value”.

The first is that if universities were not engaged in research and public engagement activities, there would be no “higher” to higher education. There is something special about the opportunity to study not simply with people who are excellent teachers, but with those who are at the cutting edge of developing new ideas about a subject. This kind of teaching is special, and it is expensive.

Similarly, there is something special about being part of an institution that has a broader responsibility to the public to lead evidence-based conversations, to intervene in political and social debates, to sponsor art and literature, to develop new technologies and make scientific discoveries. But, again, this is very expensive.

The second is the question of who gets to decide whether all of this is “good value”. Today’s story from the National Audit Office points out that just one in three students think that their degree is good value. I am not surprised. A student today pays up to £9,250 a year just for their tuition. This is a lot of money. On what basis can that student decide whether this is good value?

Let me suggest an analogy. Anyone who has lived in a country where healthcare is fully privatised will know what it feels like to realise just how expensive essential medical treatment is. If the UK government openly took the decision to privatise the NHS (which is a different proposition from the stealth privatisation of the past 20 years), one of the first things that would happen would be a newspaper campaign against rip-off doctors.

It would not matter that the vast majority of the cost of healthcare goes on facilities, equipment, medicines and insurance policies, because most people do not understand the cost of all these things. Patients are not customers. And neither are students. They are not “always right” and the value of higher education is not for them alone to decide. It is a question of the benefits that research and teaching bring to society as a whole.

Academics and universities are partly to blame. We have not done a good enough job of explaining what is special about “higher” education. Our students do not recognise the value of the unique privileges of being taught by leading researchers and of participating in public bodies that lead conversations. We could do much more to help them understand this.

But the fault is not entirely with the universities.

This discussion is the obvious and inevitable result of the introduction of tuition fees: placing the cost of universities on the shoulders of students encouraged in the belief that higher education exists only for their benefit. Asking them if they consider it good value confirms that we believe that they are capable of judging this. “Satisfaction”, after all, is not the same thing as “learning”.

And education is not a pick-and-mix market.

What comparison can students make to ascertain whether their education is good value? School, as I have tried to show, is a bad comparison, as schools do not perform the same functions as higher education. What about other universities? Perhaps the two-thirds of students who think that their education is bad value are comparing themselves with peer experiences? If so, this would be a good indication of what nonsense the measure is, suggesting that student perceptions are systematically dissatisfied, with students perceiving another’s experiences as better value than their own.

Or perhaps they are aware of the elephant in my blog post: the fact that England now has the most expensive tuition fees in the world?

But before jumping to any conclusions about the significance of this statistic, it is worth pointing out that England now has, in some senses, a completely different fees system to either Europe – where most universities retain the system of nominal fees that used to exist in the UK – or the US, where a few institutions charge exorbitant fees, many state universities charge fees below the English rate, and a range of other providers charge a lot less.

The fact that almost all English universities chose to charge the top rate offered by the government means that average fees are more than in the US. But in the US, a great many institutions of higher education are not performing the roles in research and public impact that almost all British universities carry out.

We could have that here, too, if that’s what the students and the newspapers whipping up this dissatisfaction want. Would they regret what we have lost once it is gone?

SOURCE 





The root of the Left’s anger lies in our universities

Comment from Australia

As excited crowds of people lined up around the block to attend Milo Yiannoplous’ first Sydney talk last Tuesday, dozens of riot police corralled into a local park the large crowd of furious left-wing activists who were doing their best to stop the event happening.

Stirring them on were young women, mainly students from Sydney University, screeching into their megaphones while their frustrated audience entertained themselves taking selfies, brandishing crude signs and doing their best to provoke police.

It can’t have helped when they heard the 2000-plus crowd roar their approval as Milo attacked feminists and gender studies courses, debunked myths about wage gaps and campus rape crises, and challenged his audience to stand up to bullying leftists.

Milo has spent the past week giving interviews about his recent activities, including his tours of American universities which are successfully forcing administrations into allowing more free speech on campuses.

Key groups are now planning similar activities for Australian universities.

Milo announced this week in our YouTube interview that he was keen to return and take part. He’s just one of many social media heroes soon to be invited to these shores as part of a concerted effort to wrestle back higher education from what Milo describes as a “stiflingly homogenous leftist grip which is undermining the foundations of free society.”

While our Coalition politicians spent their time plotting changing captains on a sinking ship, they’d be well advised to take note of this proposed counter-revolution. Therein lies the only hope of rescuing their political parties from a very real threat to the future of conservative parties both here and abroad — the sharp turn left in women’s voting preferences.

Startling new data from the Australian National University, to be revealed in Inquirer in tomorrow’s The Weekend Australian, shows it is young women who are driving a major shift towards left-wing parties. Midst the complex reasons for this shift, left-leaning university education is at the heart of this trend — with women most likely to take the humanities subjects now stepped in Neo-Marxist and postmodernist ideology.

Those ferociously leftist young women trying to shut down Milo’s talks are set to join successive generations of women already voting conservative parties out of office — unless efforts to reclaim the universities prove successful.

SOURCE



Friday, December 08, 2017



Harvard sticks with restrictions on all-male clubs, eliciting lawsuit threats

The hypocrisy and sheer anti-male hostility in this is mind boggling. Feminists worldwide campaign for safe spaces for women.  Why must there be no safe spaces for men?  What is a "safe space" for women is apparently a "gender-discriminatory organization" for men. (The words of Harvard’s president, Drew Faust). How absurd! I think I will start accusing feminists of sponsoring "gender-discriminatory organizations".

Is it no coincidence that Harvard is currently run by a woman with, no doubt, impeccable feminist credentials. The fact that Faust in not a Harvard graduate may also contribute to her disrespect for its traditions.  She is not of course alone in her Leftist wish for restrictions but she could have stopped the whole push from the beginning if she had wanted to.

The figleaf justifying the policy is that club members sometimes behave badly.  So they do -- like students worldwide. And let the badly behaved culprits be prosecuted and punished appropriately.  But where is the justice in punishing everybody for the misdeeds of a few?  That's not even a semblance of justice.  It makes the Harvard administration look like a kangaroo court



Harvard University announced Tuesday that it will not ban its exclusive all-male final clubs outright but will continue to sanction their members, upholding the college’s current policy.

The fate of the social clubs, which count US presidents and powerbrokers among their alumni, has sparked fierce debate among Harvard’s students, faculty, and graduates over the past two years.

University administrators have sought to phase out the off-campus groups, blaming them for social divisions and alcohol-fueled parties that have led to sexual assaults. This summer, a faculty committee recommended the most severe punishment yet: that students who join final clubs, as well as single-gender fraternities and sororities, be suspended or expelled.

That plan, which would have effectively put an end to the clubs, touched off a firestorm of criticism. Alumni threatened to withhold donations, free speech advocates argued that Harvard had overstepped its legal authority, and students balked at the proposed restrictions on their social lives.

On Tuesday, university officials said they had decided to maintain the current policy, which restricts students who join unrecognized single-gender groups from leading campus organizations and sports teams and bars them from receiving recommendations from the dean for Rhodes or Marshall scholarships.

“Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources,” Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a statement released with William Lee, a Boston lawyer and the head of the university’s governing board.

The policy was instituted in 2016 and began with this year’s incoming class.

The decision to maintain the status quo was met with anger and threats of lawsuits from the clubs’ representatives.

“Harvard could not be more wrong,” said Heather Kirk, a spokeswoman for the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities and is considering legal action against the policy. “It’s ironic that one of the most exclusive institutions in the world is limiting what organizations students can join.”

Rick Porteus, graduate president of the all-male Fly Club, said it has existed for more than 180 years and isn’t going anywhere. He said Harvard should not dictate how students spend their free time and criticized the college for not fostering a better social life on campus.

The clubs are socioeconomically and racially diverse, he said, something Harvard has ignored. “This is really a childish approach to maturing young adults into full adulthood,” he said.

Fly Club members will meet to discuss whether to sue, representatives said.

Harvard has eight unrecognized male final clubs, with secret traditions and mysterious names like the Delphic, the Fox, and the Porcellian. Many were founded in the 1800s, and their alumni include T.S. Eliot, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Gates, and John F. Kennedy.

The clubs hold sizable endowments and own stately homes near Harvard Square where students line up to attend their parties.

Harvard also has six female final clubs, as well as five fraternities and four sororities, all unrecognized by the university.

Heather Furnas, a California plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this year, said that sororities and women’s groups are unfairly being swept up by this policy. She has warned the college that she will not make future donations because of this issue.

“How does membership in women’s clubs warrant being barred from leadership positions, being captain of a varsity athletic team, or receiving a college endorsement for a prestigious graduate fellowship?” Furnas asked.

“Harvard’s sanction of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations in the name of diversity is effectively social engineering. I just don’t feel comfortable with social engineering.”

Typically, the decision on the final clubs would have been made by Faust. But because she is stepping down as president in June, Harvard’s governing board voted on the policy. Faust is a member of the governing board.

Since Harvard began debating the policy, one of the final clubs and a fraternity have become gender-neutral, and a men’s club and a women’s club decided to share resources.

University officials said those are signs the campus culture is changing.

Harvard said it will review the policy in five years to determine whether it is effective.

SOURCE 




Best reading in British schools for a generation

England came joint eighth with Norway and Taiwan in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

English primary schoolchildren have achieved the highest reading standards for a generation because of improvements by boys, according to a test that placed them joint eighth in the world.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, used the results of tests taken by nine and ten-year-old children to claim success for the use of phonics in the classroom and to attack teaching unions and ideological opponents of his reforms. He now wants to see primary school pupils reading at a speed of 100 words a minute to improve their comprehension.

Mr Gibb attributed progress in England to the introduction of phonics, which uses individual sounds and blends them together to make words. He said that “dogmatic romanticism” had prevented teaching using such evidence-based methods before his tenure.

SOURCE 





Prof offers extra credit to 'rally against the GOP tax bill'

Kutztown University students received an email Tuesday morning inviting them to earn "additional extra credit" for attending a rally against the GOP tax plan hosted by the faculty. The email instructs students to "find me at the event and sign your name" in order to earn the extra credit.

“Please join your faculty as we rally against the GOP Tax Bill that has serious implications to you and on Higher Education. This is an opportunity to gain additional extra credit,” the email states, with a bolded subject line of “Additional Extra Credit Opportunity!”

While the email was initially drafted by Dr. Mauricia John, a professor in the publicly funded school’s Anthropology and Sociology Department, it is unclear whether other professors are offering their students the same opportunity, as the email indicates that the rally is a collaborative effort by the faculty.

An advertisement for the rally, sponsored by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, was attached to the email, with a banner declaring “rally with us against the tax bill!”

“This bill threatens tax increases on our students. Tell congress to make education affordable to all. Defend not defund higher education. Tuition waivers should not be taxed,” the flyer goes on to state.

Faculty spokesperson Daniel Spiegel insisted that the event is "not in any way political or partisan," but is simply an effort to "stand up for higher education by alerting our campus community about the harm that the tax bill currently being considered in Congress could cause to the goals and accessibility of higher education."

"The speakers will be speaking on the effect of this bill," he added. "We will be encouraging people to fulfill their obligation as a citizen  to contact their representatives to express their opinion."

SOURCE 


Thursday, December 07, 2017



Taking a second look at the learn-to-code craze

I must say that the craze puzzles me.  From all I have seen serious coding in languages like C and its derivatives is only possible for perhaps the top 2% or 5% in IQ.  And for them it soon becomes a doddle.  As Jesus said in another context, "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 25:29, ESV).

In my decades of experience as a statistical analysis programmer, I have met a lot of other programmers and all have had the bright eyes that only high IQ gives.

I actually have form as a teacher of coding. In my academic career, I once tried to teach a sociology class at a major university the FORTRAN language.  As far as I could tell, by the end of the semester none of them had actually "got" it.  And they would have been fairly bright.

I would like to see evidence that a person of average IQ can code productively -- or at all -- but until I do I think I will rather reluctantly have to believe the Left-type explanation below



Over the past five years, the idea that computer programming – or “coding” – is the key to the future for both children and adults alike has become received wisdom in the United States. The aim of making computer science a “new basic” skill for all Americans has driven the formation of dozens of nonprofit organizations, coding schools and policy programs.

As the third annual Computer Science Education Week begins, it is worth taking a closer look at this recent coding craze. The Obama administration’s “Computer Science For All” initiative and the Trump administration’s new effort are both based on the idea that computer programming is not only a fun and exciting activity, but a necessary skill for the jobs of the future.

However, the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place. The current campaign to teach American kids to code may be the latest example of tech companies using concerns about education to achieve their own goals. This raises some important questions about who stands to gain the most from the recent computer science push.
Old rhetoric about a ‘new economy’

One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations.

The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps: According to a California legislative analysis, the bill’s supporters felt that “computer literacy for children is becoming a necessity in today’s world” and that the bill would help in “placing needed ‘hardware’ in schools unable to afford computers in any other way.”

Kids Can’t Wait took advantage of Reagan-era concerns that Americans were “falling behind” global competitors in the “new economy.” In 1983, a U.S. Department of Education report titled “A Nation at Risk” warned that the country’s “once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.” The report’s authors blamed the American education system for turning out graduates who were underprepared for a fast-changing, technology-infused workplace.

Over the past 30 years, the same rhetoric has appeared again and again. In 1998, Bill Clinton proclaimed that “access to new technology means … access to the new economy.” In 2016, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith described the Obama administration’s coding initiative as an “ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to get every student in America an early start with the skills they’ll need to be part of the new economy.”

While technology is often framed as the solution for success in a globalized labor market, the evidence is less clear. In his 2003 book “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom,” education researcher Larry Cuban warned that technology on its own would not solve “education’s age-old problems,” such as inequitable funding, inadequate facilities and overworked teachers.

Cuban found that some educational technology initiatives from the 1990s did help students get access to computers and learn basic skills. But that didn’t necessarily translate into higher-wage jobs when those students entered the workforce. However, the equipment and software needed to teach them brought large windfalls for tech companies – in 1995 the industry was worth US$4 billion.

Under pressure

If computers in schools didn’t work as promised two decades ago, then what’s behind the current coding push? Cuban points out that few school boards and administrators can resist pressure from business leaders, public officials and parents. Organizations like the CS For All Consortium, for example, have a large membership of education companies who are taking advantage of funding from state legislatures.

A huge boost comes from the tech giants, too. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others are collectively contributing $300 million to the Trump administration’s new federal initiative – no doubt seeing, as The New York Times observed, the potential to “market their own devices and software in schools as coding classes spread.”

This isn’t always the best deal for students. In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District planned to give Apple iPads to every student in every school – at a cost of $1.3 billion. The program was a fiasco: The iPads had technical problems and incomplete software that made them essentially useless. The fallout included investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a legal settlement in which Apple and its partners repaid the school district $6.4 million.

However, tech companies are framing their efforts in more noble terms. In June 2017, Microsoft president Brad Smith compared the efforts of tech industry nonprofit Code.org to previous efforts to improve science and technology training in the United States. Recalling the focus on scientific research that drove the Space Race, Smith said, “We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century.”

Indeed, tech companies are having a very hard time hiring and retaining software engineers. With new concerns about restrictions on visas for skilled immigrant workers, the industry could definitely benefit from a workforce trained with public dollars.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho which read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.
History repeating?

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap” between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities has helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

As millions of dollars flow to technology companies in the name of education, they often bypass other major needs of U.S. schools. Technology in the classroom can’t solve the problems that budget cuts, large class sizes and low teacher salaries create. Worse still, new research is finding that contemporary tech-driven educational reforms may end up intensifying the problems they were trying to fix.

Who will benefit most from this new computer science push? History tells us that it may not be students.

SOURCE 





U.S. schoolchildren tumble in international reading exam rankings, worrying educators

And their performance will continue to worsen until the Leftist grip on education is prised away.  The Left WANT dumb citizens  -- easier to manipulate

The United States tumbled in international rankings released Tuesday of reading skills among fourth-graders, raising warning flags about students’ ability to compete with international peers.

The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system.

The United States has traditionally performed well on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years. In 2016, however, the average score in the United States dropped to 549 out of 1,000, compared to 556 in 2011. The country’s ranking fell from fifth in the world in 2011 to 13th, with 12 education systems outscoring the United States by statistically significant margins. Three other countries roughly tied with the United States; they  scored higher, but the differences were not ­notable.

“We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment,” Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, said during a news conference Friday. “This is a trend we’ve seen on other international assessments in which the U.S. participates.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos weighed in on the scores in a tweet Tuesday: “Our students can’t move ahead – in school or in life – if they’re falling behind in reading. We must do better for students, parents & educators. We must #RethinkSchool,” she wrote. DeVos’s visited several charter and private schools in the fall on a tour she dubbed “Rethink School.”

The international exam was given to 4,400 U.S. fourth-graders who composed a nationally representative sample. The United States was outscored by countries and school systems that typically score well on international assessments, with Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong topping the list. But it was also surpassed by Latvia, one of the poorest countries in the European Union. Meanwhile, Poland and Norway leapfrogged ahead of the United States.

The report adds to a worrisome body of evidence that academic achievement is stagnant or slipping among U.S. schoolchildren. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders continued to lag behind their counterparts in Asian countries in math and science, according to another international exam administered in 2015. That same year, high school seniors showed unchanged results in reading and slipping scores in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given every two years. Reading scores on that test for fourth-graders remained unchanged and dropped for eighth-graders.

“This is kind of an international confirmation that something may be going on in the United States where our academic performance — which, generally speaking, was going upward — may have stopped,” said Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow who studies education at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Carr noted that the worst-performing students posted the largest losses on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study test, suggesting U.S. schools should do more to improve achievement among their most challenged students. The average score for the bottom 25 percent of students fell from 510 to 501 points from 2011 to 2016.

“Other education systems seem to be doing a better job of moving students from lower levels of achievement to higher levels of achievement,” Carr said.

Students in schools with higher free- and reduced-lunch rates, a rough proxy for poverty, also performed worse than the average. Black and Hispanic students lagged behind the national average, while Asian students outperformed all other groups.

SOURCE 






What American School Districts Can Learn From How Israel Successfully Rotates Its Superintendents

Superintendent quality trickles down to school-level results such as standardized test scores and school climate, according to a new study on the Israeli education system published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper is part of a growing strand of research examining management quality in public schools, and it contributes to the debate over district leaders’ true importance in the United States.
Related

How Districts Are Joining the Fight to Close a Troubling Training Gap Among America’s School Leaders

Conducted by Israeli researchers, the study takes advantage of the country’s practice of regularly rotating schools in superintendents’ portfolios every 3 to 5 years. While district leadership assignments in many countries are largely non-random — the most experienced and effective administrators may be placed in particularly challenging areas, or else choose a plum role in an affluent community elsewhere — Israel’s superintendents have new schools assigned to them as veterans retire or are promoted.

The authors estimate that the average school experiences a superintendent change every 5–6 years. In most instances, the country’s ministry of education simply transfers a retiring superintendent’s entire group of schools — usually around 15 — to a new leader. This shuffling, the authors argue, means selection bias played no role in their results.

For an indicator of school quality, the study uses Growth and Effectiveness Measurements for Schools (GEMS) data from 2002 to 2005. GEMS includes standardized test data in Hebrew, English, and math for fifth- and eighth-graders, along with surveys of staff morale and student well-being. With the exception of religious Orthodox and Arab schools, each primary and middle school in the country is measured every two years, so the four-year data set gave the authors a window into two rounds of assessments.

The authors also ranked superintendents’ “value added” by measuring academic achievement at schools that remained under the same superintendent for the duration of the experiment and at schools that switched to new superintendents during that time.

The study’s conclusion: Being assigned to a more effective superintendent meaningfully benefited a school’s academic performance. Test scores rose incrementally as superintendent quality improved, with the effects visible in students on either end of the socioeconomic divide.

“Schools with higher quality superintendents are more likely to address school climate, violence and bullying, and implement interventions that lead to lower violence in school and higher social school satisfaction among students,” they write, directly comparing the reduction of violence and bullying in schools with especially engaged superintendents to the “no excuses” philosophy of American charter schools.

The results come at a time when the importance of school and district management is being reconsidered and traditional educational structures have come into competition with new challengers. Some researchers have pointed to collaborative networks of schools in New Zealand and the United Kingdom as a model for American reformers.

SOURCE