Friday, March 24, 2017



Texas high school opens Muslim prayer room

For decades the ACLU and allied groups fought to get Christian prayer out of American public schools. They were successful. But now prayer is coming back into the schools, and as long as it's Islamic prayer, it seems to be fine with everyone. This does, however, reinforce the principle of Sharia that Muslims have rights and privileges to which non-Muslims are not entitled.

A prayer room at a Texas high school is raising legal concerns and the state's attorney general's office in a letter on Friday to school district's superintendent indicated the school's policy should be neutral toward religion.

Liberty High School's prayer room, which is reportedly dedicated to students who practice Islam, allows the students to pray at the school on Fridays instead of leaving to say their required prayers. The letter cites the school's own news site, which focused on the prayer room.

In a letter Friday to the the Frisco Independent School District, the Texas attorney general's office outlined the legal concerns over the prayer room, indicating it may violate the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty.

"Liberty High School's policy should be neutral toward religion," the letter from Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie to Superintendent Jeremy Lyons said. "However, it appears that students are being treated different based on their religious beliefs. Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation's enduring commitment to religious liberty."...

"Reports from Liberty's news site indicate that the prayer room is not available to students of all faiths. Instead, it appears that the prayer room is ‘dedicated to the religious needs of some students,' namely those who practice Islam," the letter reads....

"This is my seventh year at Liberty, my first year it kind of started when a core group of students were leaving campus every Friday for Friday prayer," said Principal Scott Warstler.

"Their parents would come pick them up, so they may miss an hour and a half to two hours to two and a half hours of school every Friday, so I met with those students and a couple of their parents and suggested if they would be okay if the students were able to lead the prayer at school as a group, and we gave them a space to do that so they didn't have to be in a car traveling thirty minutes each way on a Friday missing an hour, hour and a half, of class," said Warstler....

SOURCE 





British universities told they must protect freedom of speech

Universities will be required to protect free speech across their campuses including inside the student union under plans being drawn up by the government.

Jo Johnson, minister for higher education, has written to universities saying that they will be compelled to include a clear commitment to freedom of speech in their governance documents to counter the culture of censorship and so-called safe spaces.

The letter, seen by The Times, said that it was the “legal duty” of universities to ensure as far as practicable that freedom of speech is secured for “members, students, employees and visiting speakers”. This meant that all university premises should not be “denied to any individual or body on any grounds connected with their beliefs or views, policy or objective”.

In the letter for dissemination to all universities to Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, Mr Johnson added: “It is important to note that the duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students’ unions, even when they are not part of the university premises.”

Safe space and no platform movements have swept across campuses, including a campaign to ban Germaine Greer from giving a speech after her “offensive” comments about transgender people.

Students are also the victims. Censorship has steadily increased at universities, with 94 per cent of campuses having some restrictions on freedom of expression, up from 90 per cent last year and 80 per cent in 2015.

Village People outfits, vicars and tarts parties, dressing up like chavs, gangsters or Mexicans and even Pocahontas outfits have been banned as offensive by some student unions.

Cardiff Metropolitan University is trying to ban terms such as “gentleman’s agreement” and “mankind” in case they cause offence.

The Higher Education and Research Bill gave powers to impose public interest principles on higher education providers, Mr Johnson said, and there will be a consultation starting shortly.

“As part of this, the government proposes to raise the issue of freedom of speech, with a view to ensuring that a principle underscoring the importance of free speech in higher education is given due consideration,” he wrote.

“Subject to the outcome of the consultation, this could require providers that are subject to a public interest governance condition to include a principle about freedom of speech principles in their governance documents.”

The higher education bill has run into opposition in the House of Lords. Peers said that it gave too much power to students, who would be able to contribute to a new ranking system.

They said that this power to rate could force university authorities to give in to student demands for more safe spaces, however unreasonable they may be, in order to be given good ratings.

Mr Johnson said that all institutions must have a code of practice setting out free speech procedures in connection with hosting meetings.

These codes of conduct should not be allowed to “gather dust”, he said, adding: “They are crucial in demonstrating to students that free speech should be at the heart of a higher education community.”

SOURCE 






Australian high school students given option to select 'gender X' instead of 'male' or 'female' on official exam papers

In the Left-run State of Victoria

High school students who do not identify as male or female will now be able to list themselves as 'gender X' on official high school documents.

In the ruling made by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), students sitting their VCE and VCAL examinations will have a third option when it comes to listing their gender identity.

The move comes as Victorian transgender and intersex pupils feeling marginalised by the lack of identification on personal I.D forms, voiced their concerns to the education body.

But the decision has come under staunch opposition with some describing the it as a threat to 'bathroom usage.'

In announcing their ruling, VCAA expressed that their decision came with the support of schools and that the well-being of students was their priority.

'The inclusion of Gender X in student records is of importance to the health and welfare of individual students who do not identify as male or female.'

The rule would allow the VCAA to use gender X statistics to categorise a new subset of children - as young as 15 - as non male or female when it comes to VCE results. 

Education Minister for Victoria James Merlino supported the move arguing that it was a reflection of every student.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling however called on Premier Daniel Andrews to stop: 'pushing his radical gender and sexuality theories onto other people's children.'

Dan Flynn, Victorian director of the Australian Christian Lobby, also strongly opposed the decision, expressing concern that it could create safety issues within school bathrooms and change rooms.

'Boys are boys and girls are girls and there would be a fractional category of people who are truly intersex. We are also opening the door to say 'I don't want to be a male or a female, I want to be something else,' Mr Flynn told the Herald Sun. 

Adding that by having a third sex, same-sex sports teams would also be among those affected and that the decision is in direct contrast from the expectations of parents and the community. 

However executive director of Transgender Victoria Sally Goldner lashed out at Mr Flynn's comments that a 'gender X' would risk safety in toilets, describing it as a non-existent argument.

'There has never been a proven case (of misconduct) in Australia involving transgender people … in bathrooms. I really have to express my frustration that we keep having this 'nothing' debate,' she said.

Transgender Victoria however disagreed having the third option as 'gender x', rather calling on I.D forms to have four options: male, female, 'other please specify', and one allowing pupils to not answer.

SOURCE


Thursday, March 23, 2017



Education Department rescinds rule that stopped aggressive student debt collectors

The Department of Education has rolled back a 2015 rule that prevented student-debt collection of large fees from defaulted borrowers who quickly begin paying again.

In a statement Thursday, the department said the Obama administration rule would have benefited from public comment before it was put in place. It applied to Federal Family Education Loans and prevented guaranty agencies that collect on federally-backed student loans from borrowers who have started repaying or worked out a payment plan.

Agencies want the ability to charge late fees to students who have defaulted, but the Obama administration argued they shouldn’t be able to do so if the student has committed to start paying again. United Student Aid Funds, a guaranty agency, spent $90,000 in the first half of 2016 lobbying against the rule, claiming that the Higher Education Act allows the imposition of such fees. The previous year, an appeals court ruled against USA Funds when it came to collection of the fees.

At issue was a Minnesota woman who was charged $4,547 in fees for defaulting on $18,000 in student loans. She argued that because she had agreed to resume paying off her debt, USA Funds shouldn’t be allowed its 16 percent collection fee. Earlier this year, the company agreed to pay $23 million to settle a class action lawsuit on its practices, although it did not admit to wrongdoing.

After nine months of nonpayment, student loans default. The number of people defaulting hit an all-time high in 2016, with 8 million people abandoning repayment on loans exceeding $137 billion. More than 1 million people defaulted for the first time last year.

The Department of Education said the rule would not be reinstated without a period of public comments. In the meantime, guaranty agencies are free to resume collecting the fees.

FFEL are no longer used because the Education Department now loans directly to students, so anyone who has taken out federal student loans since 2010 is not impacted by the rule change.

SOURCE 






What it's like to be a conservative student on campus
 
For Madeline May, it’s not worth it to speak out about her political beliefs on campus. May, a senior telecommunications major, feels she will automatically be stereotyped and dismissed because of her conservative leanings.

“I don’t try to make my voice heard, it’s not worth it,” May said. “It’s the minority opinion on campus, so we don’t publicize our opinion because it’s too divisive.”

Of course, that’s not true for every Republican. But that doesn't mean it's easy for them to speak out.

At most colleges, a liberal view is the norm, Matthew Woessner, a political science professor at Penn State University, told the Daily News. Conservative beliefs are considered a deviation.

This makes it harder for Republican students to speak out and have their voice heard on campus for fear of being labeled as racist or intolerant, Woessner said.

May experienced this during her first semester of college. In her COMM 210 class, she said her clearly liberal professor would argue with her consistently on her beliefs, and as a result, her grades suffered. May said it's all because she said she was a Republican.

“I just learned to not talk about it in a classroom,” May said. “It’s not worth your grade being damaged, not worth people having a bad view of you.”

And historically, faculty have fallen on the left side of the political spectrum, Woessner said. A 2016 survey by Econ Journal Watch found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans 11.5-1.

This can make it harder for conservative students on campus in general, he said. When they try to speak out, they don’t have professors sympathetic to their point of view. Having a mentor to validate their beliefs can make a big difference, Woessner said.

Republicans tend to have the burden of proof, and are the ones who have to show other students that they are not intolerant just because of their political leanings.

“The trick is to have conservative views but be intellectually deep enough to communicate with someone with different beliefs and not come across as unkind and aggressive,” he said. “Be extremely patient when the other side thinks the worst of you and make a point calmly and intellectually.”

In other words, they have to demonstrate to any non-Republican students that they don’t fit in with the negative stereotype.

But on campuses that may not be overly receptive to their beliefs, that’s easier said than done.

At both New York University and University of California Berkeley, conservative speakers coming to campus sparked protests. University officials canceled former senior editor for Breitbart News Milo Yiannopoulos' speech at Cal Berkeley. Additionally, Gavin McInnes, a conservative actor, comedian and co-founder of Vice Media, cut his presentation short at NYU.

And at Ball State, Donald Trump’s election brought liberal rallies and protests to campus. These reactions remained peaceful, and none got out of hand. It was just a group of students standing up for what they believe in.

But Mike Lee, a sophomore criminal justice major, suggested that if Republican students were to do the same thing on campus, he would fear for his safety. “If I grouped all of us together and plopped us out on campus, we’d be threatened and called racists or bigots,” Lee said.

Lee said when he talks politics with people, they automatically assume he’s wrong. When he tells people he voted for Donald Trump, some call him a racist.  “College is supposed to be about expanding your knowledge,” Lee said. “Why are they scared of my point of view?”

SOURCE 





IRS Gives "After School Satan Club" Tax-Exempt Status in 10 Days

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes conservative groups wait years for tax-exempt status an "After School Satan Club" launched to hinder Christian-based counterparts got its nonprofit ranking in just ten days, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The classification is offered to charitable, religious and educational organizations that operate as nonprofits. Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

In the meantime, leftist groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the process of establishing an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma. The entity behind the club is a nonprofit called Reason Alliance, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and operates in Washington State as the Satanic Temple of Seattle. Its director, Lilith X. Starr, established the Point Defiance Elementary Satanic club, the records show. In its application the club states that its purpose is "character development" and that adult instructors are vetted by the Satanic Temple's "Executive Ministry." Children ages 5-12 will develop basic critical reasoning, character qualities, problem solving and creative expression, according to the Satanic Temple filings included in the documents. The club logo is a pencil with devil's horns. Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.

The parent permission forms ask for the name of the child's church and pastor, the records show. They also reveal that Starr, the Seattle Satanic Temple director, told Tacoma School District Superintendent Carla Santorno that the clubs are led by "caring Satanists" and each child receives a membership card. Starr also tells the superintendent that the effort to establish after-school Satan clubs in Tacoma schools is in direct response to the Christian-based Good News Clubs operating in campuses throughout the district. This ignited concern among some Tacoma district officials, the records show. In one electronic mail exchange, Tacoma Schools official Andrea O-Brien-Henley sends colleague Paul Koch a citation from the Satanic Temple's website noting that the temple only wants to establish after-school Satan clubs in school districts with Christian Good News Clubs. O'Brien-Henley notes that it's odd that the Satanic Temple only targets schools that have Good News Clubs, writing to hear colleague: "If they really want to get their message out to kids it seems kind of odd that they would only be targeting schools with a Good News Club; one would think that they would want to start clubs anywhere there is an *interest* in them."

Here's the citation that O'Brien-Henley forwarded to fellow school district official Koch from the Satanic Temple's website: "How do I start an After School Satan Club in my school district? If there isn't a chapter of The Satanic Temple near you, but you're interested in starting and After School Satan Club in your school district, please contact The Satanic Temple. Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented."

In another exchange, the Executive Director of Communications for the Tacoma School District, Dan Voelpel, expresses concern to colleagues that people will confuse the school district's message of tolerance toward the Satan Club with tolerance toward alleged "hate-related activities around the country in the wake of the presidential election." In the records the principal of Point Defiance Elementary reveals that, two weeks after the Satan club was launched, no one had signed up for it. The fact remains however, that the IRS fast-tracked a deranged Satanic cult to operate as a nonprofit in taxpayer-funded elementary schools.

SOURCE 



Wednesday, March 22, 2017



Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Funding for Education Department, Student Aid

President Trump Thursday morning released a $1.15 trillion budget proposal that cuts the United States Department of Education’s $68 billion budget by $9.2 billion (or 13.5 percent), down to $59 billion.

According to the budget blueprint called “America First,” the Federal Pell Grants program could be “on sound footing for the next decade” since the administration would keep the program’s discretionary funding at its current $22.5 billion level.

However, there will be “a cancellation of the $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding” out of the estimated $10.6 billion surplus. Funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions would remain at its current $492 million level.

However, Trump is restricting federal spending on education programs “that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with state, local or private funds.” It calls for the elimination of the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, or Title II grants, stating that the program is “poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact.”

The $808 million Trio and $219 million GEARUP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), two programs that prepare low-income, first-generation and disabled middle and high school students for college, would lose $193 million. In addition, work-study programs will be “significantly” reduced and reformed “to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.”

The budget zeroes out funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, which provide millions in funding for programs at colleges and universities.

The Corporation for Community and Public Service, which funds AmeriCorps, would also be completely eliminated.

SOURCE 






Georgia getting tough on failing schools

A bill to grant the state more power to intervene in Georgia's struggling schools is one step closer to a vote in the Senate.

The chamber's education committee on Monday approved the bill creating a "chief turnaround officer" to work with low-performing schools.

The committee maintained a key portion of the bill, which would make the State Board of Education responsible for hiring the new official. Education groups instead want the elected state superintendent to hire the new official because board members are appointed by the governor.

Superintendent Richard Woods, elected as a Republican, also pushed for the change but senators said it wasn't necessary.

The committee did amend the bill to prevent for-profit organizations from being hired to run public schools and decided schools should have three years to show improvement with state intervention, rather than two years in the House-approved bill.

The bill still prescribes some dramatic consequences for schools that show no improvement during that period or that refuse a "turnaround" contract with the state. In both cases, state officials could decide to remove staff, turn the school into a charter or allow parents to enroll their children elsewhere.

The bill must return to the House if it wins Senate approval.

SOURCE 







Why the feverish Leftism on American campuses?

First among those reasons is the unique structure of the American university. Unlike Australia where most students are commuters living off campus, US four-year schools are residential. Most students are affluent; a year at Middlebury costs about $US64,000 ($84,000), close to the norm for elite private institutions these days. They arrive fresh from childhoods filled with swimming and music lessons, soccer leagues, and ski and European trips with mum and dad. Many, perhaps even most, of them remain on campus for four full years.

These facts are crucial to the religious intensity of the American scene. Adolescents are the most tribal of human beings, desperate to fit in with their clan and prove their bona fides to their peers. Add the disorientation of being on their own and relatively unsupervised for the first time in their lives — and perhaps loneliness to boot — and you get a ­campus highly vulnerable to contagious youthful obsessions.

“The people in the audience who wanted to hear me speak were completely cowed,” Murray wrote in his Middlebury account. It’s not surprising. The terror of being pointed out and shunned by the people with whom they share meals, dormitories, classes and leisure has to be a powerful censor for most 18-year-olds. It’s also a strong temptation to the inevitable bullies among them.

Making matters worse are the dormitories themselves. American students who go to public high schools have little choice but to study and socialise with many kinds of fellow students. On many campuses, however, when they arrive they are often ghettoised into black, Hispanic, LGBTQ and white residences. With a constant drumbeat of diversity talk, including intensive orientation meetings, the minority dorms become the university’s sign to everyone of the virtuous other.

Commuting students, on the other hand, are at least somewhat spared the tyranny of the identity politics of the faculty and campus in-group for the simple reason that they have lives, friends and loved ones outside the ivy walls. The Occidental College sociologist Lisa Wade calls the American university a “total institution”. By comparison, the Australian university is a partial institution with a more moderate role in the lives of students.

Also aggravating campus intolerance in the US is Donald Trump. Students were already prone to accepting the trinity of racism, sexism and homophobia; the Trump era has intensified their devotion exponentially. The stakes when confronted with a visitor such as Murray, said to espouse a racist ideology, were very high indeed. Many doubtless had come to believe that they were the only thing standing between freedom and sin itself. The President has not made much effort to temper these passions, failing to explain radical policy shifts and giving plenty of reason to be suspicious of his motives.

The third and related reason that American students may be more at risk of joining an impassioned mob at this moment than their Australian peers is the former’s class and economic isolation. These divisions pre-date the election of Trump; indeed, they are one of the reasons he was elected in the first place. Schools such as Middlebury have become ghettos for the children of America’s upper middle class. Even most of the “students of colour”, as they are described, come from the comfortable homes of Indian doctors and African-American professors. Few have had much contact with the more than half of the country that doesn’t share ­either their cosmopolitan tastes in clothes, food and media, their access to good education, or their comfortable family lives. They are not used to suffering serious consequences for their actions.

Ironically, it was precisely this tragic American divide that was supposed to be the topic of Murray’s Middlebury talk. Coming Apart describes “the bubble” that protects America’s professional and creative class from the harshness of working class life as well as poverty and the values that often develop in response to it. As one-time Middlebury professor and my former editor Myron Magnet noted in response to l’affaire Murray, the naive Middlebury students are exactly the sorts who could most benefit from Murray’s analysis. Alas, it was not to be.

Australia may not yet have descended into Middlebury’s religious madness. But the episode showed that substituting doctrinal conviction for reason is a dangerous game for universities. It’s not just the principle of free speech that comes under threat; logical distinctions, scepticism, subtlety, context and reading itself yield to shared dogma impervious to ­question.

SOURCE 



Tuesday, March 21, 2017






No long-term effects of reduced class sizes

Immediate educational outcomes of reduced class sizes are normally used to evaluate the change -- and the usual finding is of "no benefit" from smaller classes.  So the paper below from Norway is a stand-out.  It has much stricter criteria. It evaluates life outcomes.  But the result is the same.  Reduced class sizes confer no benefit on the student.  Abstract only below

Long Term Impacts of Class Size in Compulsory School

Edwin Leuven & Sturla A. Løkken

Abstract

How does class size in compulsory school affect peoples’ long run education and earnings? We use maximum class size rules and Norwegian administrative registries allowing us to observe outcomes up to age 48. We do not find any indication of beneficial effects of class size reduction in compulsory school. For a 1 person reduction in class size we can rule out effects on income as small as 0.087 percent in primary school and 0.12 percent in middle school. Population differences in parental background, school size or competitive pressure do not appear to reconcile our findings with previous studies.

SOURCE 






Race-Conscious Curbs on Suspensions in School Lead to Violence

By Hans Bader

The Obama-era Education Department sought to radically transform school discipline. It pressured schools to reduce suspensions, in the name of fighting racial disparities. Teachers in affected school districts complain of increased disorder and physical attacks by students as a result.

In places like New York City, schools have made it more difficult for principals to suspend disruptive or threatening students. The results? Increased violence, drug use, and gang activity, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden. He looks at the consequences of the curbs on suspension imposed under Mayor Bill de Blasio in a study released today: School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, 2012-2016.

His findings are based on student and teacher responses to questions contained in the NYC School Survey. As he notes, “the de Blasio administration removed the vast majority of school-order-related questions on the NYC School Survey, limiting our ability to judge changes in school climate. But the answers to the five questions that were asked consistently reveal a troubling pattern. According to teachers and students, school climate…deteriorated dramatically” when de Blasio’s curbs on suspensions were implemented from 2013 to 2016.

In terms of violence, 50% of schools deteriorated, and only 14% of schools improved. In terms of gang activity, 39% deteriorated, while only 11% of schools improved. For drug and alcohol use, 37% deteriorated while only 7% of schools improved. By contrast, these measures had been stable during the preceding four years before Mayor de Blasio took office.

Ironically, although these curbs on suspensions were done in the name of helping minority students and ending a supposed “school-to-prison pipeline,” they harmed minority students the most, producing “a significant differential racial impact.” As Eden notes, “Nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst” effects on school climate and safety. Indeed, the harm from curbing suspensions had “a disparate impact by race and socioeconomic status.” Of schools that serve over 90% minority students, “about 50% saw a deterioration in student-reported physical fighting…and nearly 40% saw an increase in student-reported drug and alcohol use and gang activity,” while few saw any improvement: “about three times as many schools reported a deterioration as an improvement.”

Curbs on suspensions produced even more harm in other large urban school districts — such as Oklahoma City, which curtailed suspensions in 2016 to appease the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. As Eden notes, there were also reports of rising violence in cities like Chicago and St. Paul:

“One Chicago teacher told the Chicago Tribune that her district’s new discipline policy led to “a totally lawless few months” at her school. One Denver teacher told Chalkbeat that, under the new discipline policy, students had threatened to harm or kill teachers, ‘with no meaningful consequences’ …After Oklahoma City Public Schools revised its discipline policies in response to federal pressure, one teacher told the Oklahoman that ‘[w]e were told that referrals would not require suspension unless there was blood.’ Another teacher in Oklahoma City reported: ‘Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors … . These students know there is nothing a teacher can do. Good students are now suffering because of the abuse and issues plaguing these classrooms.’ In Buffalo, a teacher who got kicked in the head by a student said: ‘We have fights here almost every day … . The kids walk around and say, “We can’t get suspended—we don’t care what you say.”’ … In St. Paul, Minnesota, Ramsey County attorney John Choi noted that the number of assaults against teachers doubled from 2014 to 201558 and called the situation a ‘public health crisis.’”

One reason for these curbs on suspensions was the dubious notion peddled by the Obama-era Education Department that student suspensions are often due to racism, and that higher suspension rates among minority students are typically the result of racism. (See Education Department, Office for Civil Rights, Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline, Jan. 8, 2014).

That notion is at odds with federal court rulings. For years, the courts have recognized that schools are not guilty of discrimination merely because black students get suspended from school at a higher rate than whites, since the higher rate may just reflect higher rates of misbehavior. (See, e.g., Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 269 F.3d 305, 332 (4th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (although “statistics show that of the 13,206 students disciplined from 1996–98, sixty-six percent were African–American,” this “‘disparity does not, by itself, constitute discrimination,’” and provides “no evidence” that the school district “targets African–American students for discipline.”); Coalition to Save Our Children v. State Board of Education, 90 F.3d 752, 775 (3d Cir. 1996)(rejecting the “assumption ‘that “undiscipline” or misbehavior is a randomly distributed characteristic among racial groups’”); Tasby v. Estes, 643 F.2d 1103 (5th Cir. 1981)).

For example, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional a provision that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline unless the district purges all ‘subjective’ criteria from its disciplinary code,” concluding that that constituted a forbidden racial quota. As it noted, “Racial disciplinary quotas violate equity” by “either systematically overpunishing the innocent or systematically underpunishing the guilty,” and thus violate the requirement that “discipline be administered without regard to race or ethnicity.” (People Who Care v. Rockford Bd. of Educ., 111 F.3d 528, 538 (7th Cir. 1997)).

Student misconduct rates are not usually the same among different racial groups. A 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice by criminologist John Paul Wright and his co-authors, for example, found that racial disparities in student discipline resulted from more frequent misbehavior by black students, not racism.

Higher rates of misconduct among black students are not surprising, since they are more likely to come from a poor or single-parent family, and factors such as low socio-economic status are correlated with higher rates of misbehavior. For example, a 2007 report noted that serious “discipline problems” were much higher in schools with many poor kids than in schools with few kids in poverty, and frequent “verbal abuse of teachers” occurred at nearly five times the rate in those schools. (See Rachel Dinkes, et al., Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007 (2007), pg. 26).

The Obama-era Education Department claimed it has the right to demand that schools eliminate colorblind disciplinary rules just because they have a “disparate impact”—i.e., if a higher percentage of blacks than whites are suspended, and the school cannot prove to bureaucrats’ satisfaction that the disciplinary rule is essential to maintain order. The Education Department’s January 2014 guidance to the nation’s schools declared that a school can be guilty under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (for disparate impact) solely due to “neutral,” and “evenhanded” application of discipline rules, just because more minority students violate such rules (see pp. 11-12).

But the Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v. Sandoval (2001) that disparate impact doesn’t violate Title VI, only “intentional” discrimination does. The Education Department elsewhere has claimed that while the Title VI statute itself doesn’t reach disparate impact, regulations under it can and do (an idea that the Supreme Court decision did not explicitly reject, but cast serious doubt on, by describing it as “strange” in footnote 6 of its opinion), but clearly the statute itself does not.

The Obama-era Education Department was so rigidly focused on race that its 2014 guidance stated that even if the only reason a school punishes more black students for unauthorized “use of electronic devices” is because blacks actually “are engaging in the use of electronic devices at a higher rate than students of other races,” the school could still be liable for racially “disparate impact.” This distorts the disparate impact concept. Even when courts do allow liability for disparate impact, the disparity must result from something in the disciplinary process, not the pattern of behavior observed.

For example, the Obama-era guidance fails to control for non-racial factors to even the limited extent required in disparate-impact cases. Even when courts do allow liability for disparate impact in discipline (as in the workplace), they require that the disparity result from something in the disciplinary process, not the mere fact that more members of one racial group misbehaved.

As a federal appeals court decision allowing lawsuits over disparate impact in workplace discipline emphasized, a mere “bottom line racial imbalance in the work force” is “insufficient.” That case allowed minority employees to sue over allegations that delegation of discretionary disciplinary authority to managers caused more minorities to be punished, but it noted that the employer could nonetheless prevail by showing that this “challenged practice [of delegation] did not cause the disparity” in discipline rates. (See Robinson v. Metro-North Commuter R.R. Co., 267 F.3d 147, 160-61 (2d Cir. 2001), abrogated in part by Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338 (2011)). That court later allowed the lawsuit to continue because the plaintiffs’ statistical expert “controlled for various factors that one would expect to be relevant to the likelihood of disciplinary action,” — such as “age, years with the company,” “department, and union vs. management status.” (See Caridad v. Metro-North Commuter R.R. Co., 191 F.3d 283, 292-93 (2d Cir. 1999), abrogated in part by In re IPO Sec. Litig., 471 F.3d 24 (2d Cir. 2006)).

By contrast, the 2014 guidance issued by the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights simply relies on the “bottom line” racial imbalance between blacks and whites, rather than controlling for various non-racial factors that one would expect to be relevant to the likelihood of disciplinary action, such as low socio-economic status, which are much more prevalent in the black community.

The Education Department also claimed such racial imbalances were usually the product of racist intent by schools, rather than just “disparate impact.” That assumption is at odds with the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Armstrong. It rejected the “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, which is “contradicted by” reality. Blacks, who are only 13 percent of the population, commit nearly half of all homicides. The Education Department claimed there is no evidence of “more frequent” misbehavior by minority students. But the homicide rate is 10 times higher among black teens than white teens.

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My Local School Board May Begin Silencing Parents Over Transgender Agenda

In Fairfax, 10 parents have just three minutes each to give their views to the county school board each meeting.

Earning one of these coveted slots is like buying concert tickets: You get up early on the Monday before the meeting and click frantically, hoping to be among the first 10 when the school board opens its sign-up line.

Since the school board imposed its gender identity politics on unwilling Fairfax families nearly two years ago, it has heard from dozens of angry parents. More come forward every month.

For school board members on the receiving end of the discourse, this must be getting old. But that's the price of freedom, right?

Maybe not. Parents have learned that bureaucrats on the Fairfax County School Board have had just about enough of this free speech, and are meeting to discuss how best to curtail it.

This week, board member Ryan McElveen, chief proponent of the transgender policy, is calling a meeting to discuss the public speaker process. Nothing good can come from that.

Last month, a citizen speaking before the Fairfax County School Board made the charge that nonresidents frequently appear at school board meetings-meaning people who do not reside in Fairfax County. He was referring to some who voiced criticism of school board action.

I'm a Fairfax County resident, and to my knowledge, all the speakers who have spoken out against the gender identity policies of the board have been Fairfax County residents. But if they want to require ID, I'm all for it.

But I wonder, do they also favor IDs for voting in Fairfax? Do you have to show proof of legal residency to receive school services? Those are good questions for the board, if I ever get the chance to ask them.

The gentleman who made the complaint claimed that Loudoun County residents were testifying in Fairfax County.

Perhaps he thought I was from Loudoun, since I testified before the Loudoun school board back in December. But I was speaking as a Fairfax County resident and as a sexual assault victim, to warn them that allowing men and boys into women's and girls' locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms is not only disrespectful, but dangerous.

Thankfully, Loudoun did not go the way of Fairfax.

I actually had to withdraw my daughter from her Fairfax County public elementary school over concerns for her personal safety and privacy. Her former school is currently allowing a biological boy to use the girls' facilities, without any parental notification.

When Fairfax County School Board Chairman Sandy Evans says the transgender guidelines are "on hold," she gives a false impression. The policy is being implemented right now, behind parents' backs.

And now, a new speech policy against parents is being considered. This would affect parents who are not only constituents, but also the taxpayers who pay the school board's salaries.

As a taxpayer, I am entitled to voice my concerns. I am a strong believer in giving both positive and negative feedback.

I called Fairfax County Interim Superintendent Steve Lockhard's office this week to thank him for keeping schools open Wednesday-unlike our neighbor city, Alexandria, which closed schools for the leftist women's protest, putting politics above children.

The Fairfax County School Board does not seem interested in listening to constituents who do not share their political views. When a single citizen makes the unfounded claim that non-Fairfax parents are speaking, McElveen shows deference and schedules a meeting to address it.

Yet when hundreds of parents and citizens with diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds have gathered in one room to voice their concerns about adding "gender identity" to the so-called nondiscrimination policy, no meeting is ever called.

The school board hasn't even shown us the courtesy and respect to acknowledge that we've been heard. All we've heard is their silence-and now they want to silence us?

The school board needs to develop some respect for parental input. Rather than shutting down citizens who would defend the privacy of their children, the Fairfax County School Board should make good on its commitment to openness, respect, and the democratic process.

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Monday, March 20, 2017



Assimilation under threat as children of immigrants flood U.S. public schools

The Virginia neighborhood of Fairfax County ranks with parts of those other cities as having the highest percentage of children from immigrants in its public schools, with 78 percent of students coming from immigrant households, according to a report that the Center for Immigration Studies is releasing Thursday.

Across the country, some 23 percent of students in public schools come from immigrant households. That has more than doubled in the past 25 years, from just 11 percent in 1990. But their numbers are heavily concentrated in big cities.

Miami-Dade County in Florida has four areas where at least 80 percent of students are from immigrant-led homes. In one of those, a part of Hialeah City, a staggering 93 percent of students belong to immigrant households.

Los Angeles County has 13 regions where students from immigrant homes make up at least 75 percent of the school populations.
“Immigration really has dramatically increased the number of children in public schools,” said Steven A. Camarota, research director at the center, which advocates for stricter immigration limits. “The biggest issue for me is: Can the level of immigration be so high that it overwhelms the assimilation process?”

That has long been a question in the immigration debate, particularly in the Annandale region, which also includes Bailey’s Crossroads and Culmore.

President Clinton, launching his race initiative in 1997, highlighted the surrounding Fairfax County as a model for integration. He sent his race commission to Bailey’s Elementary School, in the heart of Culmore, to study diversity and integration.

At the time Mr. Clinton highlighted the region, Fairfax’s public school system was 64 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 11 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic. Twenty years later, whites are 40 percent of the student population, while Hispanics have more than doubled to 24 percent, Asians have risen to 19 percent and blacks have held nearly steady at 10 percent. Five percent identify as multiracial.

Over the past two decades, costs of the diversity have emerged.
Culmore and surrounding areas have long been a breeding ground for ethnic gangs, with MS-13 in particular using it as a foothold in the region.

Although not a one-to-one correlation, immigrant population serves as an indicator of some costly special circumstances, such as a higher percentage of students who are struggling to learn English.

In the Annandale region, 72 percent of students speak a foreign language at home, according to the report. Most of those are speaking Spanish, but a large number speak Vietnamese and nearly 10 percent speak Kru, a West African language. All told, 21 languages are spoken at immigrant homes in Annandale.

One Loudoun County, Virginia, region reported 23 languages spoken at homes, with Spanish, Vietnamese and Telegu topping the list.
The biggest polyglot nationally was part of Alameda County, California, which had 27 languages spoken at homes. Spanish, Korean and Chinese were the most common.

Mr. Camarota’s study suggests it’s not just immigrants who are speaking other languages at home. In parts of Texas, only half of the students are from immigrant-led homes, but as much as 90 percent of the households speak languages other than English at home.

The challenge for schools, Mr. Camarota said, is that even as the number of children of immigrants rises, the tax bases don’t grow as quickly because immigrant families tend to have lower incomes than native-born families.

He said that raises a number of policy questions, including whether the government should do a better job picking immigrants, should impose stricter limits on the number arriving or offer more assistance to school systems grappling with the challenge of assimilation.

“I’m not arguing we somehow not educate these kids. They make up almost a quarter of the kids in America. How these kids do is extremely important for the future of the country,” he said. “The question is: Does it make sense to keep adding to this population and creating new strains and challenges for schools? The debate over immigration — nobody even talks about that.”

Analysts say the surge of immigrants is a result of changes in U.S. policies dating back decades, which put a higher priority on family ties, created a random lottery to admit tens of thousands of people a year and largely turned the other eye on illegal immigration.

President Trump has suggested shifting the system to place a bigger priority on merit-based immigration, which could attract better-educated and wealthier immigrants.

Immigrant rights groups have bristled at that suggestion, saying a strength of the U.S. system is the ability to bring extended families.

After Mr. Trump mentioned his merit-based plans in his address to Congress last month, Greg Chen, advocacy director at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said it was “merely code to exclude those who seek to join family members in the United States.”

“There is a wealth of research proving that immigrants improve the economy through purchasing power and their participation in the labor force. Immigration is good for our economy and our nation,” he said.

Mr. Camarota’s data did not distinguish between families whose parents are in the U.S. legally versus those in the country without authorization. Under Supreme Court precedent, children are guaranteed a public education no matter what their status.
Most of the children in the study were born in the U.S. and are citizens, though their parents may be immigrants.

Mr. Camarota used the Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Areas, or PUMAs, for his analysis. Those comprise about six to 10 high schools per region. In some densely populated cities, a PUMA is about the size of a neighborhood, and there can be many PUMAs in a single city. In less-populated Western regions, a PUMA can cover an entire corner of a state.

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Time to Say Goodbye to Michelle Obama's School Lunches

Easy come, easy go. Former First Lady Michelle Obama made much of her “Let’s Move” initiative to get kids to exercise and eat healthier. Part of that push was allegedly better food choices for school lunches. Now, we’ll be the first to say that kids should eat right and exercise. But Michelle’s nanny state was going about it all wrong, and the kids rebelled. As we reported in 2014, according to the School Nutrition Association, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that [Obama’s] new school meal standards will force local school districts and states to absorb $1.22 billion in new food, labor and administrative costs in Fiscal Year 2015 alone, up from $362 million in additional costs in FY 2014.”

Upon discovering that kids would rather dump their health “food” in the garbage than eat such swill, schools around the nation dropped the program. No use spending all that money and effort just to have the food end up in a landfill.

Now, the School Nutrition Association is recommending that Donald Trump dump the entire program in the landfill of failed Obama policies. “Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences,” the SNA said, “including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes.” Brief translation: Make school lunch great again.

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Australian school standards drop as government pushes a politically correct program

KEVIN DONNELLY

PARENTS should be worried about the LGBTI Safe Schools gender and sexuality program being forced on government schools by Daniel Andrews' government.

Add the fact, as reported in The Australian recently, that vulnerable teenagers with intellectual disabilities enrolled in Victorian special schools are also being indoctrinated, and it's understandable why so many now call the program Un-Safe Schools.

Such was the furore last year about Safe Schools' indoctrinating of pupils with a Marxist-inspired curriculum, where gender is fluid and limitless and boys can be girls and girls can be boys, that the Commonwealth censored the program and cut its funding.

Not so in Victoria, where the uncensored version is being promoted. Education Minister James Merlino has said "Work is under way on expanding Safe Schools to all government schools by the end of 2018."

Supporters argue it is an anti-bullying program to make schools safer. Wrong.

Roz Ward, the Marxist academic responsible for its design, publicly admits its real purpose is to impose a radical, alternative view about gender and sexuality: "Safe Schools Coalition is about supporting gender and sexual diversity, not about stopping bullying." She says it's about "sexual diversity, about same-sex attraction, about being transgender, about being lesbian, gay, bisexual - say the words transgender, intersex".

While the government severed ties with Ward and La Trobe University's Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society late last year, the Safe Schools material is still guilty of advocating an extreme, cultural-Left view of gender and sexuality.

Notwithstanding that about 98 per cent of Australians identify as heterosexual and are comfortable being men and women, one of the resources, OMG I'M Queer, tells pupils that "sexuality can't really be defined". It is stated that "sexuality is fluid, and changes over time" and "Looking at sexuality as something that's fluid and always changing is pretty cool".

According to Safe Schools, "what you label yourself is up to you" as "common definitions of sexuality, gender and sex are often limited" and because gender and sexuality "exist on a spectrum rather than absolute binaries".

Ignored (as argued by the American College of Pediatricians, and with very rare exceptions) is that we are all born with either XY or XX chromosomes, and "Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species".

Even though most children are happy being boys or girls, the Safe Schools material argues "Gender isn't quite as simple as whether you're `male' or `female'. Everyone has their own gender identity in relation to masculinity or femininity". Victoria's version of Safe Schools also repeats the misleading statistics used by the LGBTI lobby when justifying the need for government funding and positive discrimination.

The All of Us booklet tells pupils 10 per cent of people are same-sex-attracted. Ignored is one of the largest Australian surveys, by Anthony Smith and Paul Badcock, Sexual identity and practices, that concludes only 1.6 per cent of men identify as gay and 0.8 per cent of women as lesbian.

On reading the Safe Schools material on the Victorian Department of Education and Training's website, parents are left in no doubt that Safe Schools is more about LGBTI advocacy than stopping bullying. Schools are told that language should be gender-neutral and, as a result, "Phrases like `ladies and gentlemen' or `boys and girls' should be avoided".

Schools are also told they should ensure, regardless of whether pupils are male and female, that they should be able to use "the toilets, changing rooms, showers and swimming facilities based on the student's gender identity and the facilities they feel most comfortable with".

Safe Schools is not the only alternative, cultural-Left program. The Respectful Relationships material is also one-sided and biased. Even though the Victorian royal commission concluded that 25 per cent of family violence involves men as victims, the Respectful Relationships program implies it's only women who are at risk. Boys and men are portrayed as misogynist and violent.

Once again gender is presented as a social construct that is impossible to define because whatever gender you are is "determined by what an individual feels and does and how individuals understand their identities including being a man, women, transgender, gender queer and many other gender positions".

But at the same time the government is forcing a politically correct gender and sexuality program on government schools, we are going backwards in international literacy and numeracy tests; we are now ranked 24th in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. So much for the basics.

SOURCE

Sunday, March 19, 2017






College Students' Fascist View of Tolerance

University of Wisconsin-Madison students universally agree: private business owners who espouse hardline political beliefs, like clothing designers who turned down Melania Trump, should have the liberty to refuse doing business with whom they disagree. This applies to a professional Muslim singer as well. Just because a Christian church solicits the singer for an Easter program doesn't mean said Muslim should feel coerced or forced into performing.

Sadly, the students' view of inclusiveness and tolerance ends there. In response to another example - legally bullying a Christian photographer to partake in a same-sex ceremony - the consensus eroded, with one student claiming, "That's such a sticky issue."

Actually, it's no different from any of the others. As Alliance Defending Freedom put it, "When faced with a situation that goes against current cultural expectations, like a Christian photographer declining to promote a same-sex wedding, the gears start grinding."

This contradiction gets to the heart of what columnist Dennis Prager, in his piece "Some on the Left Now Criticize the Students They Created," argues when he says leftist professors' denunciation of recent campus protests "should not be taken seriously." He adds, "Their leftist thinking spawned this catastrophe. Until they take responsibility for it, they are not to be taken seriously." They are the ones responsible for why students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are blind to their own hypocrisy.

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Government schools are not for the Leftist elite

“Do as I say, not as I do.” That might as well be the official motto of liberals. For example, they love to lecture the rest of us to use less energy, while flying around the globe on their private jets, and living in massive homes that have equally large power bills.

Democrats are convinced they know best. We’re not as smart as they are, you see, so these elites take it upon themselves to pass laws the rest of us have to obey, ones that restrict our freedoms “for our own good.” Of course, these same liberals ignore these same rules, because they don’t want to impinge on their lifestyles.

One area where this hypocrisy is most blatant is in the realm of education. Liberals are always talking about America’s “wonderful” public school system and while it might have been world class at one time, unionization, political correctness, Common Core and other pedagogical reforms have made public schools glorified holding pens.

Here’s the most blatant case of double standards on this issue you’ll ever see, and the man who is behind it won’t surprise you one bit:

Despite opposing proposals to increase market forces’ impacts on schooling through the implementation of taxpayer-funded educational vouchers, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) sends his own children to $45,000-per-year private school in New York City, NY.

In early February, Franken took to the Senate floor to oppose DeVos’ nomination as Secretary of Education. He criticized DeVos for apparently not having sent any of her four children to public schools, implying that this diminished her qualifications for the role of education secretary: “She has never sent a child to a public school.”

The Daily Caller says Franken’s children attend the Dalton School, which has been described at “uber-exclusive” and “upper crust.” Franken himself attended a Protestant charter school called Blake.

But Franken doesn’t want other Americans to have the opportunities he did. The left pretends to care about the common man but their actions speak louder than words. What they care about most is maintaining their lofty position in society then handing down their privileges to their own children, but no one else’s.

As last November’s election results made clear, Americans are sick of being ruled over by these out of touch hypocrites. Surely there are even some on the far left who will look at Franken’s hypocrisy on this matter and call him out for it. It won’t look good when the time comes for him to run for re-election, or when (as he has threatened to do) run for even higher public office.

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Australia: Literally no idea about literacy and numeracy

Blaise Joseph

In my entire teacher education degree, there was just one subject dedicated to learning how to teach literacy and numeracy. And ironically that subject included very little literacy and no numeracy.

It is unsurprising therefore -- but nonetheless concerning -- that it's necessary for the federal government to require students doing teacher education degrees to pass a literacy and numeracy test before they can be accredited to teach.

The test requires students to achieve the literacy and numeracy level equivalent to the top 30% of Australian adults (not the loftiest of goals). This week we learnt that over 5% of teacher education students didn't achieve the required level on the test in 2016 and another 3% had to re-sit the test, despite having already been admitted to a teacher education degree.

Students are charged $185 to sit the compulsory test -- and are then charged the same amount again if they have to re-sit it. They are entitled to wonder why they were admitted to an expensive teaching degree in the first place if their literacy and numeracy skills were not necessarily up to scratch.

This raises many questions. How has the quality of graduate intake in teaching degrees fallen so low that the ATAR cut-offs don't eliminate applicants who lack the literacy and numeracy levels required? What are universities actually covering in teaching degrees if an external test for literacy and numeracy is still needed? And are there teachers already in schools who don't have adequate literacy and numeracy skills themselves -- and so have no hope of passing on these basic skills to school students?

The absurdity of having to test the literacy and numeracy levels of teacher education students, who will soon be responsible for teaching literacy and numeracy, shows how from primary school through to university the Australian education system is failing to consistently get the basics right. No wonder Australia's school results have been declining in the international rankings.

It is a crucial problem that literacy and numeracy are not being taught as well as they could. They are the foundations of a proper education.

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Friday, March 17, 2017


Silencing of speakers far more common at colleges for the very privileged

The Brookings Institution has put together an interesting analysis of colleges where students have attempted to shut down or shout down speakers. Using some data gathered by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Brookings made a chart showing a correlation between students from wealthier homes and the tendency to disinvite speakers. Here’s Brookings’ description of the chart:

In the figure below, we plot every university in America based on the proportion of students from families with incomes in the top quintile (vertical axis) and from the bottom quintile (horizontal). Marked in red are the “disinvitation colleges” described above. The pattern is clear: the more economically exclusive the institution, the more likely the students have attempted to hinder free speech.

Note that this is not measuring student performance on standardized testing or grades. This is purely looking at family income of the students attending these schools. It’s the most privileged kids who are most likely to be arguing for silencing views that aren’t sufficiently progressive.

There is an obvious irony here. The students shouting down speakers and demanding safe spaces are more likely to come from wealthy homes. And don’t suggest these students have rejected privilege because they know it is bad from their own first-hand experience. Remember, these are young adults who are currently enrolled in schools that cater to the wealthy. They aren’t criticizing privilege after having abandoned it. They are living it. That’s certainly the case at Middlebury College where, as I noted last week, tuition (plus room and board) costs about $65,000 a year.

Looking at this chart, you have to wonder if some of what is driving this campus shout down behavior on the left is simply guilt. No doubt these students really believe the things they say they do about income inequality, racism and intersectionality. And yet, many of them must be aware that, by their own lights, they are part of the problem. What is needed then is some form of progressive absolution, preferably one where someone else pays for their sins. That would certainly help explain the demi-religious character of these protests. These students aren’t just making a point, they are driving out a scapegoat.

No doubt there are many progressive students at other colleges, the ones that don’t cater exclusively to the wealthiest homes. Perhaps those schools can’t afford as many controversial speakers or perhaps the students there don’t feel the same need to prove their bona fides as the progressives from wealthier backgrounds do.

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UK: Tory revolt forces rethink of education funding plans

Justine Greening, the education secretary, has been told by many MPs they cannot accept cuts to the budgets of schools in their constituencies

Plans to change the way that schools are funded are widely expected to be withdrawn by the government amid mounting protests from Conservative MPs.

A senior Tory MP told The Times that the scale of dissatisfaction among colleagues was so great that ministers would have to revise their proposals. They could backtrack within weeks.

Revising the funding formula would be controversial because it almost certainly would mean cutting additional funding for children from less well-off families, given that no extra money was announced in the budget.

Ministers have hosted a series of meetings with Tory MPs, who have told them that they cannot accept cuts to the budgets of schools in their constituencies. This month Justine Greening met MPs from the northwest, including George Osborne, the former chancellor, who told the education secretary wryly: "Now you see why I didn't do this."

The coalition government twice abandoned similar attempts to replace the system of giving block grants to local authorities to distribute money to schools with a national funding formula. Ms Greening already has delayed its introduction until next year.

In another blow to the proposals, the f40 group of largely semi-rural and rural local authorities, which claim to do worst under the existing system, attacked the formula, saying that it risked "replacing one unfairness with another".

"We are alarmed that so many schools are losers and we fail to understand why this should be the case when those schools were already poorly funded and well below the national average," 38 of the council leaders said in an open letter to Theresa May.

They included the leaders of large Tory councils such as Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and North Yorkshire.

Critics have long complained that London and other urban areas get more than shire areas under the present system, with Tower Hamlets in east London getting the equivalent of œ7,000 per pupil, while Wokingham in Berkshire gets œ4,000 per pupil.

The new national formula lowers the proportion of per-pupil funding from 76 per cent of total school revenue to about 72.5 per cent, to give greater weight to additional needs such as deprivation and low prior attainment. This is likely now to be reversed.

A consultation paper said: "The formula will recognise educational disadvantage in its widest sense, including those who will not be benefiting from the pupil premium but whose families may be just about managing."

David Laws, the former Liberal Democrat schools minister and chairman of the Education Policy Institute think tank, said: "Delivering a new schools funding system at a time when education budgets are under severe pressure is highly challenging politically. If the government seeks to pacify Conservative MPs by shifting money away from more disadvantaged areas, then this would undercut the government's stated intention to try to boost social mobility."

An education department spokeswoman said: "We are consulting on the factors that will make up the formula and we know it is important that we get this right. This second stage of the consultation will run until March 22."

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Undisciplined Australian classroms holding kids back

I have been saying this for years -- JR

Things you would find in a classroom: a student pointing a replica gun at the teacher, an entire class deciding to ignore the teacher in silent protest, chairs thrown, threats and overturned desks.

Teachers came forward to tell the ABC about the biggest classroom disruptions they experienced.

It did not stop there. One teacher had three Year 9 boys skip her class and smear their poo all over the school gymnasium walls, while others had been cursed with the full spectrum of offensive profanities.

The list went on…and on.

Therefore, it would not come as a surprise that two global reports have revealed Australian classrooms are among the most disorderly of the OECD nations.

Australia has a "problematic situation" in terms of classroom discipline, according to the report on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

"About one-third of the students in advantaged schools, and about half of those in disadvantaged schools, reported that in most or every class there was noise and disorder, students didn't listen to what the teacher said, and that students found it difficult to learn," the report said.

Tasmania and New South Wales are problem areas

About 14,500 students from around 760 schools participated across Australia in PISA. Using science classes as a sample, it said on that average:

 *  More than 44 per cent of Australian students indicated there is noise and disorder

 *  Half of students in Tasmania and nearly half of students in New South Wales reported this problem occurring most frequently

 *  Students in Tasmania most frequently reported students don't listen to what the teacher says (48 per cent)

 *  In contrast, students in each of Victoria and Western Australia (30 per cent) and the Northern Territory (29 per cent) were least likely to report the teacher waits long for students to quiet down

Dr Sue Thompson from the Australian Council for Education and Research (ACER) said the environment is challenging for teachers.

"Level of noise and disorder reported in the classroom is one of the highest in the OECD [countries] and it's a problem at grade 4 and grade 8 level as well as at year 9 and 10 level," she said.

The respect is gone

The PISA report stated nearly 40 per cent of students in Australia attended schools where the principal indicated student learning was hindered by "teachers not meeting individual students' needs."

Principals also flagged inadequate infrastructure "hindered teacher capacity to provide instruction", with the issue identified by 25 per cent of principals of students from disadvantaged schools compared to 12 per cent from advantaged schools.

But one caller the ABC said there was another factor at play disrupting the learning process. "I think the respect [for teachers] has gone," she said.

She added that teachers often tried everything they could to engage students. "We split them up, move them around, try and put seating plans in place, engage them one to one. When you've got 30 of them in a class though you've got all different needs at once," she said.

Discipline is the issue

Dr Sue Thompson said the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) also revealed the impacts of classroom disruption.

According to the TIMSS there was "a clear relationship between the achievement of Australian students and principals' reports of school discipline problems, with fewer discipline problems associated with higher achievement".

The Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said teachers and principals need more support, as well as parents playing their part in addressing the issue.

"Parents must be part of the solution this cannot be something that rests on the shoulders of teachers and principals alone because attitudes, respect are of course formed as much in the home environment and the rest of life as they are in the school community itself," he said.

He said he would examine whether policy needs improving, and discuss the issue with his state and territory counterparts.

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