Thursday, March 22, 2018

An Officer With a Gun Saved Students' Lives Today

An armed resource officer shot and killed a Maryland assailant.

A 17-year-old student opened fire this morning at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. (Caveat — details on these things are always sketchy this early.) He wounded a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, whom was his target, and she remains in critical condition. The school resource officer, a local deputy sheriff, confronted, fired on and killed the assailant. Having an armed officer on campus saved lives today — but only because he was willing to respond, unlike the Parkland, Florida, deputy and other officers who failed to do so.

Following the adolescent Second Amendment puppet protests last week, and ahead of this weekend’s March for Our Lives — another puppet protest, it’s worth noting that the demands of these leftist political props includes this policy objection: “Any legislation that would aim to fortify our schools with more guns.” Again, as in many other assaults in so-called “gun-free zones,” students in this case survived because the Maryland school was fortified with an armed officer. Food for thought for any teens honest about saving lives instead of serving as political pawns.


Race riot at Minneapolis school

And all the authorities did was talk.  You can't punish blacks, you know

Safety concerns arise as violence continues to escalate at Southwest High School.

On top of an already failing administration, Southwest High School staff are struggling to maintain peace between students. Last Friday, March 2, multiple fights broke out during the school’s second lunch period. Despite attempts to sweep the issue under the rug and downplay the violence, persistent students and parents forced the administration to address the situation.

Videos of the fight posted online forced the administration to hold an emergency meeting.

The highly anticipated fight between two students who have been off-and-on friends for years became physical during lunch last Friday. According to school officials, they knew of the impending conflict at least a week prior. The day of the incident, the administration claims that they reached out to the students “every hour” before the fight broke out. Unfortunately, the efforts were not successful and the violence erupted anyway.

The fight was not limited to the two students, who were reported by classmates to be a Somali-American and an African American. Over 20 students joined the chaos soon after the first punches were thrown and the original videos that surfaced were titled “Somalis vs. Blacks.” The original videos have been taken down due to pressure from school administration. The school’s resource officer was present in the cafeteria. In an attempt to control the situation, school officials put the cafeteria into lockdown for 15 minutes after the allotted 30-minute lunch period, keeping any students from leaving or entering, including the ones not involved. All staff members that were not otherwise occupied were called to action.

The police were not called, but 15 student resource officers from other schools were called for backup. In an eyewitness video taken by a student, the administration’s inability to diffuse the skirmish in a timely, appropriate, and safe manner was made clear.

As punishment for the students’ actions, hall passes were banned for the rest of the week, bathrooms were locked, staff “runners” were ushering students to the bathroom during class and the upcoming pep-fest was canceled. Many students are frustrated that everyone in the school is being punished for the actions of a few. The teachers and administration refuse to discuss students’ concerns over the incident even if they no longer feel safe at school.

On Thursday, March 8, the Southwest Community meeting, originally planned to focus around other issues at the school, was refocused to address Southwest’s culture. Approximately 250 students, parents, staff and concerned members of the community attended the meeting held by Minneapolis Public Schools district administration.

To start the meeting off, the area superintendent, Carla Steinbach, introduced herself and the goals of the meeting. “We have to be okay with non-closure because tonight might be the first of many meetings. I’m hoping it is actually, it could be an opportunity,”  Steinbach said.

The superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, Ed Graff, was not present at the meeting Thursday night. Tara Fitzgerald, the assistant principal of Southwest explained the situation.

“During the middle of B-lunch, we have three lunches--A, B, and Ca fight broke out between two students. Specifically, two at the far end of the lunchroom and as they started fighting, other students got into the fight to support their friends in that fight. Staff was present throughout the entire lunch,” Fitzgerald said.

Many parents voiced their opinions on how the situation was handled.

“[My daughter] does not feel safe at school right now, and canceling the pep-fest, not having passes, and sitting at lunch are not long-term solutions and it is not fair to the vast majority of students who are doing their jobs,” one mother said.

All of the speakers from the school district were quick to dismiss any assumptions that the altercation was racially motivated. Many parents disagreed with the school staff due to video evidence and reports from their children.

Although problems with racial tensions were denied, the speakers continued focus on the issue of race. The tone remained the same for the rest of the meeting. There were no concrete answers and the only solutions offered other than punitive actions imposed on the entire student body were “restorative practices” instead of consequences directed at the two perpetrators. 


Australia: University of Sydney debating club determined to discriminate on race, class and sex

One would have thought that the best way to stop discrimination would be to stop discriminating

The politics of race and gender have arrived at the University of Sydney’s oldest debating club, which this year will field teams of debaters comprised mainly of “non-cis-males, wom*n, and persons marginalised by white ­supremacy” as opposed to the best debaters they can find.

The University of Sydney Union, which describes itself as “one of the best debating ­institutions in the world”, says its affirmative action policy will ­ensure that teams heading to the Australian Easter Debating Championships (or “Easters”) for novices next month will include more “persons of colour” and others from “minority ethno-cultural background” as well as born-women, and others who don’t identity as “cis-male”.

(A cis-gender person identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. Wom*n is used to include females, trans women and anyone who identifies as a woman).

There are quotas for people from non-elite public schools too, who get in on the grounds that they are “disadvantaged in debating ­opportunities”.

The union, which boasts of being an equal world record ­holder when it comes to making the finals at the world debating championships, will also employ “equity officers” to attend the tournament to assist those who find debating “intensely competitive and stressful”.

“This can intentionally or ­unintentionally lead to people feeling victimised,” the union says. But the equity officers will ­provide “safe avenues” to voice concern.

Sydney University student Nina Dillon Britton praised the ­initiative, saying affirmative ­action policies had fostered a ­diverse and inclusive environment. “I’m a female debater and it created a culture where more women were able to put themselves forward,” she said. “We have to recognise sub­conscious bias and stereotypes, which mean women and people of colour are disadvantaged when they speak.

“We shouldn’t just be happy with only allowing privileged ­people; we should be encouraging as much diversity as possible in ­debating.”

However, Sydney University Liberal Club president Joshua Crawford criticised the quotas, saying they were “an affront to fairness and merit”.

Mr Crawford said it was a ­“disgrace” that some students, “who have worked tirelessly to ­become some of the university’s top debaters” would be prevented from being on the team because of their gender.

“It is equally abhorrent that there will be female debaters, who have every right to be on the ­debating team by their own ­merits, who will now have the legitimacy of their position ­questioned.”

Media personality and former Sydney University debater Adam Spencer said that if the community overwhelmingly wanted the changes, “then good luck to them”. But he argued that the ­selection for the world debating championships should continue to be merit-based.

“You should send your very best team at any given time to the world championships, which is the jewel in the crown of debating,” he said.

Spencer won the world’s best speaker award in the 1996 world championships.

No union officer was available to comment on the diversity requirements when contacted by The Australian yesterday.

The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Association, or AIDA, which this year chose the University of Sydney as host for the Australian Easter Debating Championships, was not available to comment either.

AIDA president Stephanie White said the conveners of the Easter tournament — that is, the University of Sydney’s Easters 2018 team — were best placed to answer questions “and they will be in touch”, but they were not.

The affirmative action guidelines are complex, and may prove difficult to implement in some circumstances.

For example, the proportion of debaters who identify as non-cis-male across all teams attending Easters must be no less than 50 per cent. One third of tournament adjudicators must also identify as non-cis-male.

In addition, each of the top three teams must also have “at least one debater who identifies as being a person of colour, from a minority ethno-cultural background, or marginalised by white supremacy”.

Teams must also include ­debaters who attended “a school meeting the criteria listed in section 5.6.8 of the regulations” which basically means a disadvantaged public school, as ­opposed to a private school.

The University of Sydney Union expects to send 11 teams of three speakers each, and 11 ­adjudicators.

The union pays the fees, which are as much as $380 per person, but the union will fund only those teams where the “proportion of non-cis-male, wom*n-identifying people” reaches 50 per cent.

“At least four non-cis-male women-identifying people must be selected in the top three teams,” the guidelines say.

There must be “one non-cis-male women-identifying person in each funded team.”

At least one third of ­adjudicators must be “women-identifying”.

It requires some juggling because the various rules must also be applied in a way “that does not disadvantage” those people who have already been included on the basis of gender, racial and socio-economic discrimination.

“The proportion of people who identify as being a person of colour, from a minority ethno-cultural background, or marginalised by white supremacy … must be at least 25 per cent,” the guidelines say.

“At least one person who identifies as belonging to one or more of the aforementioned groups must be selected in the top three teams.

“At least half the quota (must) be filled with people identified as non-cis-male (rounding up).”

Teams must also include ­students from “high schools that are recognised as being disadvantaged in terms of debating opportunities” and 15 per cent of places must be from a reserved for student from a comprehensive school.

In addition, “the minimum number of non-cis-male identifying adjudicators sent shall be equal to the number of adjudicators sent divided by three”.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Teacher on Leave After Questioning Whether School Would Let Pro-Life Students Walk Out, Too

Rocklin High School in Rocklin, California, placed a teacher on paid administrative leave after she let students discuss the politics of the National School Walkout, which took place around the country yesterday morning.

Julianne Benzel told CBS13 that she suspects she got in trouble for suggesting that schools administrators who condoned the student walkout might be practicing a double standard.

"And so I just kind of used the example which I know it's really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time," said Benzel. "[If] a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided 'I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes' and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?"

Her students saw her point, and the discussion—which took place last week—was fruitful, according to Benzel. But on Wednesday, the teacher received a call that she had been placed on leave.

Officials did not specify what the problem was, but offered the following statement:

"A Rocklin High School teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave due to several complaints from parents and students involving the teacher's communications regarding today's student-led civic engagement activities"

Students' free expression rights should vastly outweigh the state's interest in locking kids up all day, and letting them peacefully protest gun violence seemed like the right call to me. But if it's OK to protest, it should also be OK to have a discussion about the protest. As long as no student was unjustly disciplined for political speech, it seems to me like there's little reason for parents to complain or for Benzel to be in trouble.


Houses Passes STOP School Violence Act

In a vote of 407 to 10, the U.S. House on Wednesday passed a school safety bill aimed at preventing school shootings by providing training to law enforcement, school personnel, and students.

H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act, amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to revise and reauthorize through FY2028 the Secure Our Schools grant program.

The measure would create a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement on early identification and intervention when signs of violence arise. It calls for the creation of a coordinated reporting system and implements FBI & Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they occur.

It was introduced by Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), a former sheriff of Jacksonville, Fla. He said the bill focuses on prevention of school shootings.

“We must prevent it before it occurs, and so that’s what this bill does. That’s the goal of this bill is to provide prevention within our schools,” Rutherford said during a GOP press conference after the bill’s passage.

“If there is any place our children can feel safe, it should be our schools. The STOP School Violence Act takes a multi-faceted approach that will help prevent school violence before it takes place,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

“It gives law enforcement, school officials, and students the training, technology, and resources they need to identify and prevent threats. This is a common-sense approach to combatting senseless violence. I want to thank Sheriff Rutherford for his leadership on this vital issue,” Ryan said.

The bill also calls for “the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence,” which will include cell phone apps, hotlines, and websites.

President Donald Trump applauded the House for passing the bill, calling it “an important step towards keeping American students safe.”

“This legislation helps protect our Nation’s youth and educators by authorizing State-based grants that will support evidence-based violence prevention programs,” he said in a statement.

“It is critical that we strengthen our laws in order to aid our law enforcement, address the needs of individuals struggling with serious mental illness, and develop proactive strategies for identifying and preventing violence in schools,” Trump said.

“This Administration is pleased with the progress we have made toward securing our schools over the last few weeks alone, and looks forward to working with the Senate to protect America’s students,” the president added.


Parents Barred from Questioning Gender Identity Changes During Fairfax County Committee Meeting

Parents concerned about new sex education guidelines for Fairfax County public schools, located just outside of the nation’s capital, were not allowed to question any of the voting committee members during the last meeting.

The Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC) was considering a motion to eliminate the terms “biological gender” and “biological sex” from the curriculum and replace them with “sex assigned at birth” when security for the Fairfax Public Schools building informed committee members the room had reached capacity so they would have to remove members of the public.

“We should always be using the term sex assigned at birth rather than biological sex. Biological sex is a meaningless term,” committee member Daniel Press said before a security officer entered the room.

Committee Chairperson Elizabeth Payne moved to pause the meeting. Some committee members asked the officer to check if there was another open room in the building to accommodate everyone. Others suggested adjourning or taking all of the parents out of the meeting instead of choosing who could stay.

“It’s not a school board meeting where you can sign up to speak,” committee member Joan Daly said to a parent in the audience who had noted that the meeting is open to the public.

“It’s your responsibility to have a room that caters to the public,” said Andrea Bayer, a parent at the meeting.

“You’re not allowed to give responses,” Press said to Bayer. “You’re essentially not supposed to be here. Somebody else has your term,” Bayer replied. “And you want to redefine sex, good lord.”

Security threatened to call the police on Bayer for refusing to leave the room.

Bayer was referring to Laura Hanford, who was informed last month that the district had terminated her position in the middle of her term. The school board member who appointed her had resigned and the new member appointed Press.

Hanford told PJM she introduced a motion at the January meeting to strike the term “sex assigned at birth” in sentences throughout the grades 6-8 curriculum and replace it with “sex.”

If the committee approved her motion, part of the “lesson objectives” would be changed to, “Transgender will be defined as an individual whose gender identity, how they think of themselves as a male or female, is different from the individual’s [biological] sex.”

Hanford’s position was terminated before the next meeting.

“Suddenly, a week before the meeting when we were supposed to consider them, I receive a letter from the clerk of the school board saying I had been replaced, so it didn’t smell right,” she said.

Hanford decided to attend last month’s meeting after her termination and told PJM her motion was postponed indefinitely and not debated.

After it was determined that Thursday night’s meeting would move to a different room, Bayer eventually agreed not to speak and only continue video recording.

Payne summarized the gender identity motion initiated by Press.

“The motion on the floor is to change 8th-, 9th- and 10th-grade lesson objectives to strike the use of the term biological gender or biological sex and replace it with sex assigned at birth,” she said before the committee overwhelmingly voted to approve the motion.

Following the meeting, Press posted his reaction along with a link to a YouTube video of his remarks about the motion.

“The work our committee does in advising the School Board and staff is important, and it is and should be open to the public. Of course, it would have been nicer if one of the citizens were not literally standing right behind me filming close enough to potentially read personal and business messages on my phone, so I'm glad we moved to a larger room. (Hopefully in the future we will stay in the larger room, and it will be arranged so people won't be able to literally look over our shoulders),” Press wrote.

“Anyway, this was posted by someone apparently opposed to using the scientifically correct terminology for sex assigned at birth, which I proposed to correct in the curriculum materials. My motion passed 21-3, so it's pretty clear it's not some sort of radical concept, but some people will continue to attack me for this. That's fine, as long as the attacks remain verbal and not physical,” he added.

Bayer said parents are not allowed to ask questions or comment during the meetings and suggested a formal “Q&A session” at every future meeting.

“Daniel Press had been waving and making faces at my camera (phone) and then he started making comments when I told people not to leave,” Bayer said, referring to the break in the meeting due to the size of the room. “There are 30+ people on that committee and they only secured a room that held 50.  So I responded to his comments, and he and the other members didn’t like my responses.”

Hope Wojciech, a parent who attended the last few meetings, also said the committee should dedicate a portion of future meetings to taking questions from parents in the audience.

“It is evident from the last two meetings that they would benefit from more discussion, and perhaps that could be inspired by allowing questions from parents who are observing,” she said. “There appear to be several committee members who do not speak during the meetings, do not appear interested and may be there just fill a seat or cast a vote.”


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

'I need a college degree to make this?' Second grade teacher vents fury by posting her paycheck

She's right. But the solution is not necessarily to increase her pay.  Rather she should have been allowed to teach after only a summer school on teaching.  That 4-year degree she did WAS a waste.  She could have been earning during those 4 years and would now have NO debt to pay off.  With money in the bank and  no debt she would be doubly better off

An Arizona teacher has gone viral after she posted her $35,621.25 salary revealing her shockingly meager $131.25 pay raise despite completing 60 hours of professional development work.

Elisabeth Milich, a second-grade teacher at Whispering Winds Academy in Phoenix, took to Facebook to educate her followers on the pitiful compensations Arizona teachers receive.

Milich took to Facebook to post a picture of her $35,490 per year salary and how it would rise, albeit minimally, after she completed 60-hours worth of professional development courses.

Such courses are often taken to boost a teacher's skills as well as salaries.

'I’ve debated about posting this but in the end want to show what a teaching salary really looks like in Az. This is my new pay after taking a few professional development classes,' she wrote.

'I actually laughed when I saw the old salary vs. the new one. I mean really, I need a college degree to make this? I paid 80,000 for a college degree, I then paid several hundred more to transfer my certification to Az,' she added.

Her pay stub revealed her income would jump to $35,621.25, a difference of just an additional $131.25 next year.

'I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip I use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on. I love teaching! BUT…the reality is without my husband’s income I could NEVER be an educator in this state!' she added.

'I’m sad for my single mom teacher friends working three jobs to make ends meet! Something must be done…otherwise our poor children will be taught by unqualified, burned out, and just plain bad teachers! P.S. No one goes into teaching for the money, by all means…but we do need to eat and have a home!' she said.

Milich worked for the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix.

She added hearing Arizona Governor Doug Ducey boast that teacher’s pay had increased this year also encouraged her to go forward with the post.

'Our teacher pay last year went up 4.4 per cent to an average teacher pay of $48,000. Now that’s not enough,' Gov. Ducey said while on KTAR radio earlier this week.

She pointed out that her numbers are far from that, falling nearly $13,000 below the 'average' and that her increase will be barely more than $100.

'I don’t know who they’re talking about. Because I know what I live. I see my printout. And I can’t tell you how many hundreds of teachers have said mine looks exactly like that,' she said.

The median salary for Arizona elementary school teachers as of last year, adjusted for cost living, was $42,474, according to Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

The media salary for high school teachers was $47,890. 

Although she privated the post since its gone viral, her message is part of a larger movement brewing in Arizona and across the states for greater pay for public school teachers.

Last week Arizona teachers saw a #RedForEd movement in the form of protests and walk outs as an outcry against low pay.

Teachers in the movement say that the meager wages contributes to a shortage of qualified educators. 

'I just posted it to bring awareness,' Milich said reflecting on the post. 'When you see it in black and white and you see what your raise is, it is just laughable,' she added.

A similar movement rippled through West Virginia as well, striking for higher pay. 


High School Students Tear Down American Flag, Brawl While Protesting for School Safety

High school students supposedly protesting for gun control to ensure school safety resorted to violence and vandalism at an Antioch, Tennessee high school Wednesday.

As local NBC station WSMV reports, videos of the rampage have surfaced on social media:

“While most Mid-state student walk-outs advocating for gun policy changes were peaceful and productive, videos have surfaced on social media of some Mid-state students perpetrating violence.

“At Antioch High School, social media videos captured a brawl inside the school. Outside, videos show students can be seen tearing down an American flag.”

A Metro Schools spokesperson acknowledged the violence and destructiveness of those protesting for gun control:

“Unfortunately, some students on our Antioch campus today chose to protest in ways that significantly disrupted school operations and threatened the safety and order for other students and staff within our school.”


Stacey Solomons’ reasoning for homeschooling her boys

THIS UK mum-of-two took her boys out of school, stating she had their best interests at heart. This is the outcome of their homeschooling experience.

THE life-changing decision I’ve made for my boys is controversial ... but it’s the right choice for them.

Friends have started to ask why I’ve taken my children out of school and whether I’ll be expecting a fine.

The truth is that they no longer go to school. Last September, the boys and I decided that we were going to try homeschooling.

Before I get started, I would like to say that every child is different and therefore responds differently to methods of teaching. Also, this wasn’t a decision we made lightly. It’s one we’ve been pondering for a few years.

Both of my children — Zachary, 10, and Leighton, five, — have been in school since the age of four and Zachary went to the childcare at the college I attended as soon as he was six months old.

They’ve both enjoyed their time at school but, as they got older, there were a number of things I began to question.

When Zachary was halfway through Year Two he began to lose some of my favourite parts of his personality.

Before that, he was often cheeky and making jokes, he never worried what people thought of him. He was a happy-go-lucky child, always inquisitive and wanting to know everything about everything.

We couldn’t even go into the supermarket without him asking about every product and where it comes from.

But he would come home from school embarrassed to make jokes and be silly and he became very quiet and a little sad. We spoke about this a lot and he explained to me that his behaviour was deemed naughty and disruptive by teachers and not cool by his peers.

He said when he asked questions, he felt they were silly. One stuck out for me in particular. They were studying the Egyptians and he asked, “But where did the Egyptians come from?” He was told to ask a sensible question.

Now, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I’m school bashing or teacher bashing it’s quite the opposite.

Teachers are amazing. They are underpaid and overworked and I can absolutely see why extra questions and cheekiness is intolerable and messes with the routine.

The average school class has 27 children, with one teacher and one support teacher. Sometimes I struggle to get my two to sit and study for 20 minutes so I can’t imagine how difficult and stressful it must be for teachers to try to teach up to 30 different children with varied needs for six hours a day.

As time went on and Zachary got older it became uncool to be clever so his grades started dropping and his attitude rising. Yes, even at 10. I didn’t want to believe it started that early either but apparently it does!

That’s when I thought, “OK, what are we doing here?”

Homeschooling has always been at the back of my mind, because whenever I am with the boys and we are out in different environments their senses heighten and their enthusiasm to learn is at its best.

At first I thought it was just because they were with me and they would have been excited to be with me no matter what we were doing.

Much to my dismay, this wasn’t the case. It didn’t matter who took them to the museums or for long walks or to the observatory — they responded the same way.

This was one of many thoughts re homeschooling.

Another being, “What are they actually learning?” There are so many things I think are imperative to my children’s learning that just aren’t a part of the curriculum and lots of things I personally don’t think are necessary on there.

So we decided to homeschool and our adventure began.

It’s not easy. School is actually really convenient. You drop your children off and head to work and pay for the childcare in between.

Childcare is ridiculously expensive — it’s enough to make you consider not working because you have to pay so much — but I am in a very privileged and uncommon position.

My mum is incredible, she is able to be there whenever I need her and I am extremely lucky. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.

Also my job (as a columnist) allows me to have more time off with my children and I realise not everyone is in the position to do that.

Once I knew I had childcare in place, I had to work out what they would be learning and how.

Tutoring is very expensive, so I only have a tutor once a week to follow the curriculum for maths, English and science.

You don’t have to follow any curriculum at all if you don’t want to but I have decided to keep up the core subjects just in case the boys want to go to secondary school at some point.

This means they will be able to take GCSEs and A-Levels if they decide they want to do that.

Other than that one day, their learning is fluid and geared towards things they’re interested in and excited about.

At the moment that consists of astrophysics (space), biology, technology and Mandarin.

We do lots of space projects and visit the Observatory regularly because they love it and while they love it they may as well learn it.

For biology, we take lots of nature walks and they LOVE learning about the ocean so we are often seeing my sister Sam, the marine biologist of the family, for lessons on all things ocean.

For tech, Apple run free weekend classes for kids to learn coding and my brother works in IT and is trying to show them how to build apps and create things online. (I have absolutely no idea so I’m learning with them!)

With Mandarin we have ventured into online videos because we haven’t found anyone in our area who teaches it but we are still on the lookout. The younger they learn a language the better, and as Mandarin is the most widely spoken language I think it would put them in good stead.

One of the biggest misconceptions about homeschooling, and the ones my friends seemed most concerned about, is that children won’t socialise and will have a limited ability to communicate when they get older.

I can honestly say this is a myth. There are so many homeschool communities all over the country, where you can socialise and even arrange group lessons at much lower cost but still a very small ratio of students to teachers.

My boys socialise with plenty of kids their own age, including friends from their old school as well as the many children we meet through the homeschooling community.

Also, socialising with adults isn’t a bad thing. When my little brother was born, we were all grown up and he learned to communicate at a staggering rate because he talked to adults. The boys are extremely sociable — in fact, I can’t shut them up and I wouldn’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we are incredibly privileged to live in a country where education is free to everyone, no matter what their background.

That is amazing and schools do a brilliant job. It’s just that, at the moment, homeschooling is the right choice for us.

Yes, it’s controversial and not everyone will agree with me but parents have to make their own decisions. No one should judge them and you shouldn’t feel judged. When it comes to raising your kids, I firmly believe people should do it their own way and not judge what everyone else is doing.

Luckily, my family have all been very supportive of me and have respected our decision and, while some friends have questioned it, they have been understanding.

Ultimately, I have no idea how this relatively new step in our lives will pan out, but right now my children are happy and healthy, enjoying life and learning and that’s all I can hope for.

Everything I have ever done for and with my children is with their best interests at heart and I think that is all parents ever do.

Every single child is different so you just have to go with it and do whatever you can and that is enough.

You’re all doing an amazing job, and I don’t think it matters what anyone else is doing! We are all winging it and there’s nothing wrong with that.


Monday, March 19, 2018


Four current reports below

Graduates slam ‘meaningless’ degrees, dismal career prospects and crippling debt

Data released by the Good Universities Guide late last year revealed about 30 per cent of undergraduates left university without any job prospects and struggled to break into the competitive job market.

While Charles Sturt University had the best employment outcomes followed by Charles Darwin University and Notre Dame, Australia’s worst-performing institutions were Southern Cross University followed by Curtin and La Trobe.

Research from the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University also revealed that between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of recent graduates in full-time employment dropped from 56.4 per cent to 41.7 per cent, with the 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey finding the courses with the lowest full-time employment rate immediately upon graduation were creative arts and science and mathematics.

However, Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said an improving labour market had led to a “steady improvement in graduate job rates”.

“The data shows that graduates, like everyone entering the labour market, need time to establish their careers,” Ms Jackson said.

“But this immediate outlook can shift quickly — within three years of finishing their studies, nine in 10 graduates are employed full-time.

“Employment rates after four months differ by field, but after three years, graduates with generalist degrees have largely closed the gap.”

Nevertheless, Queensland mum of three Susan Jane still hasn’t found work more than six years after graduating.

In 2009, she hired a manager for her natural therapies business, rented out her home and moved from Gympie to the Gold Coast to pursue her dream of studying at Griffith University.

As a 48-year-old mature-age student, Ms Jane enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in Public Health, majoring in Health Promotion.

At the time, Ms Jane and her fellow students were told there was an abundance of jobs in the industry.

But by the time Ms Jane graduated at 50 in 2011, a change in government had already ended the Health Promotion career boom, with the private sector quickly snapping up experienced workers from the public sector who suddenly found their positions redundant.

It meant recent graduates were forced to either relocate to other states, or abandon their careers altogether.

Ms Jane said she had given up looking for a job she was qualified for two years after graduating in the top five per cent of her cohort.

She has never worked in the field, and is saddled with a $25,000 HECS debt she has little hope of paying off.

“I absolutely loved uni; I worked three jobs doing it, and I went in with the right attitude because I wanted to get ahead,” Ms Jane said.

“They told us there were heaps of jobs available and because it was a new area, they were screaming out for people.

“I did three years of full-time study, but by the time I finished, there was absolutely nothing there at all.”

Ms Jane said out of her university peers, she only knew of three people who had found jobs in health promotion — although all three had moved across the country to Victoria.

She stressed that her studies had been a positive experience that had given her a lot of confidence, and that she did not blame the university for her career outcomes.

But she said given the rapidly changing nature of work, it made more sense for universities to provide broader qualifications in areas such as “leadership” or other areas that would be useful in a range of careers, instead of providing rigid degrees for specific careers.

Since graduating, Ms Jane has published a book and now organises personal development and goal setting workshops in schools and in the community.

She said she had used the skills she learned while studying as much as possible — but admitted her struggle to find a job had been “challenging”.

“I wasn’t expecting to add more financial stress — getting a degree was supposed to ease that,” she said.


Nightmare of the 'ed tech' jungle

Regarding the recent backlash against the common sense suggestion by the Australian Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, that schools should ban mobile phones:

We were told by academics this would ‘take us back in time’, ‘there are so many new ways that mobile devices can add to the classroom’ and ‘we can’t let fear control everything we do’!

Yes, pity those poor students who lived before the 2000s and didn’t have access to the vital educational resource of smartphones. How did students ever learn before education apps were invented?

A Melbourne school recently banned student mobile phones, and the principal said the effects during recess and lunch were startling: ‘I hadn’t anticipated the level of noise. There was laughter, people were actually interacting and socialising.’ What a crazy idea. More radical than the Communist Manifesto of 1848. But that school is not alone in scepticism about the benefits of technology in classrooms. The prestigious Sydney Grammar School in 2016 banned laptops in class, and required students to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10.

Cases like these provide some perspective on the fashionable trend of schools using education technology, or ‘Ed Tech’ as hip people call it.

According to the latest international education datasets, Australian schools use classroom technology far more than most other countries

But there is very little evidence to indicate more computers in classrooms actually improve student results. Recent studies have come to conflicting conclusions, but there is no clear link between school technology usage and student performance. While the novelty of the latest technology may get people excited, that doesn’t mean it helps students learn.

Furthermore, ‘21st century learning’ isn’t cheap. Investments in technology — like laptops and tablets for every student — can become obsolete quickly, require a great deal of maintenance, and are expensive.

Just look at the Rudd-Gillard governments’ ‘Digital Education Revolution’ program, with an original cost of $1.2 billion which blew out to over $2 billion. Remember the incredible transformation of schools and all the amazing improvements in student results? Neither do I.

Interestingly, some studies suggest education technology in fact has a negative impact on student achievement.

And recent research has found students using laptops in class has a damaging effect on other students who aren’t using laptops because they increase distractions (this concept has been called ‘the new second-hand smoke’).

It’s not hard to understand why. Try sitting at the back of any lecture theatre in a university these days. Most students have their laptops open — so they can ‘better follow the lecture slides’ and ‘take digital notes’ — but all you will observe is a sea of scrolling Instagram feeds, not to mention multiple people with earphones plugged in and surreptitiously catching up on the latest Walking Dead episode. Generally the poor lecturer at the front is completely oblivious and carries on about his fascinating area of expertise, satisfied because at least all the students are quiet.

A similar phenomenon occurs in many school classrooms. Some teachers are happy their students have laptops because it helps keep them serene during lessons; and of course students aren’t wasting time since the school’s IT system blocks social media sites (and obviously, the kids will never figure out how to get around it, right?).

Most fellow young people I talk to agree laptops are a source of distraction that hinders rather than helps learning. It’s mainly only cool older education academics with a piercing in their ear (or other places) who still go on about the supposed monumental benefits of 21st century learning.

Of course, education technology is not useless. In the right circumstances, and in moderation, it can be beneficial to student learning. But the focus should be on using it better rather than using it more. Technology addiction is already a problem, and ‘Ed Tech’ (with its limited benefits) could create even more young people who are hopelessly attached to technology, at the expense of deep subject knowledge.

The best way to help students be prepared for the 21st century is to ensure they leave school good readers, fluent writers, competent in maths, and with a sound and well-rounded knowledge of the core disciplines. These are the fundamental skills people will always need to be successful. In contrast, learning with, and about, new technologies can quickly become outdated, due to the rapid pace of technological change. A wise senior teacher once revealed to me the greatest irony of education: ‘If you teach kids the latest thing, then that will be the first thing you’ve taught them which becomes out of date.’


Private sector innovation in education

The federal government is implementing Turnbull’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, but the real innovation is that the National STEM Education Strategy is prioritising industry collaboration and pathways to employment rather than ‘fads’ such as iPads and mindfulness.

Following the success of the US education program Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) — which partners high schools with industry to develop STEM skills — the federal government has provided $5.1 million in funding to pilot the program here, with 14 Australian sites to be operating by mid-2018.

The P-TECH program has students undertake hands-on workplace learning and receive classroom instruction focused on the STEM skills employers need.

Despite the programs benefits, taxpayer support for P-TECH must be removed. It is inappropriate to use taxpayer funds to provide industry participants the opportunity to future-proof their workforce at the expense of their competitors.

P-TECH has already had early successes. The Skilling Australia Foundation reports that while government funding for the Geelong pilot expired in June 2017, the program continues to operate with financial support from local industry and community groups.

As the excitement about STEM continues, it is easy to miss what is truly important about P-TECH: industry collaboration. Workplace learning has been a central component of vocational — and to a certain extent, university — qualifications, but has been ignored at school level.

The workplace learning component of P-TECH should be extended. Students would benefit from the opportunity to undertake workplace learning in sectors that have not traditionally participated in work-based learning at school level, such as logistics.

On-the-job training teaches students the relevance of their education to the employment landscape and prepares them for the workforce.

Further, the implementation of hands-on learning in communities with high youth unemployment would strengthen local economies and teach at-risk students the benefits of work.

As industry develops new pathways to employment, it has never been more important that Australia avoid the latest education ‘fads’ and deliver tangible outcomes for students by expanding workplace learning.


Prominent lawyer to investigate sacking of an elite high school deputy principal for the cutting of a student’s hair

Ray Finkelstein QC, will be investigating the sacking of a long-standing deputy principal at Trinity Grammar. A letter was sent to the school community on Friday afternoon, informing them investigation proceedings will begin immediately.

Mr Brown, known as Brownie, was dismissed from his position at prestigious private boy's school Trinity Grammar in Melbourne's east last week.

A group of 50 former captains and vice captains have penned a heartfelt letter calling for the reinstatement of a long-standing teacher.

The letter accompanies a student protest on Tuesday in which students donned brown armbands and smart casual attire in support of their fired deputy principal.

He was sacked after video surfaced of him trimming a student's hair with scissors before school photo day at the beginning of term.

The decision to let Mr Brown go outraged parents and students, who have started an online petition and wore brown armbands on Tuesday in protest.

The letter was sent to the principal and the school council chair on Monday, and raises concerns held for the direction of the school.

'We are writing to express our profound disappointment at the School Council's decision to dismiss Rohan Brown after an exemplary 30 year career,' they wrote.

'Many of us are former students of Rohan's and have directly witnessed his exceptional personal qualities.

'His defining characteristics define the school's traditional core values: he is courteous, fair and humble, wholly dedicated to the wellbeing of the school's students. 'He can be firm, but he is not a bully. He wants boys to be their best.'

The letter went on to question the school's aims, and noted a change towards a performance-based school.

'In recent years, the school's executive leadership has made clear its intention to change the school's vision and direction.

'This has seen a dramatic shift from Trinity's position as a non-selective, not-elite school dedicated to holistic personal development, to an institution focused on "exceptional" performance defined by ATAR excellence, growth and profit.'

Students taking part in the brown armband protest insisted they did not want to disrupt class, but felt the need to make a 'unified statement of solidarity'.

'He is a pretty integral part of this school. We all really love him, he is such a big presence at the school and he will be sorely missed,' a student told the Today show.

'He was only upholding the school rules and the school values, which he loves and cares about so much,' said another.

'A lot of the boys are planning to have a protest at the school and everyone is wearing brown arm bands for Mr Brown and we all think that the punishment clearly does not fit the crime,' said a third student.

The armband protest comes after hundreds of angry parents and former students challenged the decision at a special meeting on Friday 9 March.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people have signed an online petition urging the school to 'Bring Brownie Back.'

Trinity Grammar will now appoint an independent expert to review its procedures, ABC News reports.

On Monday, the school's headmaster Dr Michael Davies issued a statement saying students, staff and other stakeholders will be consulted about the review

He added the school 'takes seriously its duty of care to students, staff and the wider community.'

Dr Davies said: 'We have reached out regularly to the boy involved in the February incident, over the past few days. 'We have also been in touch with Rohan Brown over the weekend.'


Sunday, March 18, 2018

School officials are telling parents the walkout is meant to memorialize the Parkland shooting victims, when in fact it's about pushing gun control legislation

Parents across the country are being urged to let their children participate in the National School Walkout on March 14. Yet, few parents (and kids!) understand the walkout’s true mission. At my children’s elementary school in Northern Virginia, school officials are telling parents the walkout is meant to memorialize the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Yet, according to the National School Walkout website, the real mission of the walkout is to demand Congress pass more restrictive gun laws. The website specifically states: “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation … Congress must take meaningful action … and pass federal gun reform legislation.”

So, the children walking out of the classroom on March 14th won’t be spending the time in quiet prayer or reflection. Instead, school kids (even those in elementary school) are going to be used as props by professional anti-gun activists to push for specific legislation.

Some schools are even aiding in the effort by coordinating with the walkout organizers, providing “safe spaces” for kids who participate in the walkout, promoting the event on school Facebook and Twitter accounts, and allowing school buses to transport kids to and from gun control rallies.

Considering that many public schools are helping to rally more kids to the cause and are even supplying school resources and personnel time to the effort, tax payers should ask: Is this an acceptable use of school funds? More importantly, why is a publicly funded school supporting one side of a very contentious and complex constitutional matter?

Some might even wonder: What other political causes can I expect my public school to promote? Should conservatives in politically red areas of the country expect schools to help transport kids to next year’s March for Life? Or how about for the inauguration on the Mall when Trump is reelected in 2020?

Educators should also be concerned that the politicization of this issue avoids the nuance of what went wrong in Parkland that allowed the terrible shooting to occur, and what policies might actually help prevent the next one.

For instance, we now know that between 2008 and 2017, the Broward County sheriff’s office received 45 calls from concerned citizens related to the Parkland shooter and his brother. Social workers visited the his house multiple times. Yet, none of these reports (which included threats of violence and warnings that these troubled boys had access to weapons) were entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If these many incidents had been logged into NICS, the shooter wouldn’t have passed a background check, and he wouldn’t have been able to purchase a firearm.

This isn’t just a problem in Broward County. According to a 2016 audit by the Justice Department, all 50 states are guilty of not properly submitting records to the database. Even mental health information largely goes unreported. Considering this, parents might want to ask if their own police departments and social service networks are consistently reporting incidents to the NICS.

They also might want to consider that at Parkland, three Broward County Sherriff’s deputies stood down outside the school, which allowed Cruz to continue his killing spree. Pushing for better police training and more effective communication with local schools is another area where parents should focus.

And there are more important areas to explore, such as the actions of the armed school resource officer employed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Instead of trying to keep students safe (as he was trained to do), he huddled in a stairwell with his gun holstered. In light of this, parents might want to ask questions about the level of training their school’s resource officers are receiving.

Americans ought to vigorously debate these issues, but we should also recognize that new laws won’t make a difference if they go unenforced. Moreover, there are already 300-plus million guns in the United States. That means regardless of how we restrict gun ownership, we need to be prepared to respond to acts of violence in the future.

Sadly, many parents have decided to pass on these hard questions and instead join a movement that is using children as props in a complex policy issue. We can all agree that children deserve safety and security at school. There are ways to help move toward that goal, but taking advantage of our kids for political ends isn’t one of them.


5 Ways Obama’s Discipline Policy Made Schools Less Effective and Safe

As is typical with so many other policies, federal meddling in what should be a local matter leads to poor results.

This is the conclusion reached Monday by a Heritage Foundation panel about a school discipline initiative, launched by the Obama administration, that suddenly became the subject of national debate after the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

A “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education in 2014—designed to crack down on racial disparities in school discipline and reduce the “school to prison pipeline”—created negative unintended consequences, according to Manhattan Institute scholar Max Eden, who was on the panel.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recently suggested in a memo to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the guidance to schools led to “systematic failures” to report the Parkland shooter to legal authorities.

Eden and other panelists explained the specific problems the Obama policy created for schools around the country. They identified these five issues, among others:

1.) Schools Feared Investigation, Adopted Lower Standards for Discipline

Gail Heriot, a University of San Diego School of Law professor and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was part of the panel and explained how the Obama administration used the guidance as a potential cudgel against fearful schools.

In particular, Heriot said, the threat of an Education Department investigation had a chilling effect on schools that intended to discipline a minority student in particular.

“If the federal government had said, ‘Don’t discipline minority students unless it’s justified,’ it would have sounded reasonable,” Heriot said.

But how schools read it, she said, is more like “Don’t disciple a minority student unless you’re confident you can persuade some future federal investigator, whose judgment you have no reason to trust, that it was justified.”

The nature of bureaucracy, Heriot said, means that it’s “inevitable” for those trying to follow such guidelines to overreact.

Schools simply avoided disciplining troubled students because they were fearful of being caught up in a costly investigation, panelists said.

Eden, the Manhattan Institute scholar, also spoke about the chilling threat of investigation. The Obama policy was not guidance, he said, “these were orders.”

Any time a school had a racial disparity in school discipline cases, administrators faced an investigation, so the best way to hold down the number of punishments was simply to lower standards, Eden said.

Investigations began as well-intentioned means to find discrimination, Eden said, but after the Obama administration guidance, investigations “became pretext for prosecutions intended to force school districts to adopt lower standards.”

“These investigations hit hundreds of districts, serving millions of students,” Eden said. “The scope of it is breathtaking.”

2.) Unwillingness to Punish Minority Students Put Other Minority Students in Danger

A breakdown of school discipline made it more difficult for serious students to succeed in schools that serve mostly low-income families with high levels of minority students.

Virginia Walden Ford, a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, also runs a program in Little Rock, Arkansas, that mostly serves low-income black and Hispanic students.

Ford described how students in Arkansas that she spoke to would often stay home because they were afraid of other students picking fights, and had concluded that teachers wouldn’t do anything about it.

One girl explained to Ford how students at her school didn’t feel safe “because the kids that were creating a lot of the discipline problems” got “a slap on the hand” instead of real punishments.

“There were no consequences to their actions,” Ford said, and this creates an environment in which good students feel “unsafe.”

Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said there are “very good reasons to be concerned about exclusionary discipline, but there are equally good reasons to be concerned about the concern.”

Most educators want students to be more civically engaged, said Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher at a South Bronx public school. But, he said, it sends an awful message to children when the place that they do engage are places where they “feel unsafe, where they are bullied, or, God forbid, harmed, and there’s no meaningful consequence.”

3.) Teachers Feel Like They Have Lost Control

The guidance to schools from the Obama administration took discipline decisions out of teachers’ hands and put them in the hands of bureaucrats, critics said.

The discrepancy in school discipline is based on disparate rates of bad behavior in classrooms—black, white, asian, and other ethnic groups have different levels of discipline problems—and teachers are reacting to this.

Teachers are simply “identifying the students who are actually misbehaving,” Heriot said, “and especially for the worst offenders, it tends to be the same kids.”

“Once prior behavior is taken into account, race drops out as a predictor, entirely,” Heriot said.

But now it’s more difficult for teachers to use their best judgment to discipline students and it’s leading classrooms to get out of control, panelists said.

Classrooms are becoming a “battleground,” not a “safe haven,” Ford said.

“We’ve seen it since the Obama administration policy: Teachers are afraid to do anything, say anything,” Ford said, adding, “They’re not safe because they can’t make decisions on how to discipline kids.”

Students who misbehave understand that teachers can’t do anything to them, so bad behavior escalates and makes schools a poor environment for education, Ford said.

4.) Arrests and Suspensions Went Down, So Did Academic Standards

The Obama administration policy pressured schools to reduce arrests and suspensions. That occurred, panelists said, but the discipline problem escalated, and many schools suffered academically.

“A significant portion of the achievement gap is actually a time-on-task gap,” Pondiscio said he surmised. “And much of that time-on-task gap is caused because of disruptions in the classroom.”

Getting climate and culture right in the classroom is a delicate task for teachers, Pondiscio said, and it is often more important than the actual content of instruction.

Eden said “lazy reporters” focused on selected statistics that show suspensions going down, and then they insinuated it is a sign that schools are getting safer.

Eden said he reviewed data on school districts after the Obama guideline was put in place. From the little data that existed, he found “across the board” drops in achievement, higher levels of truancy, and in some cases, more time spent out of school specifically for black students because more serious incidents were taking place.

“When schools aren’t allowed to enforce basic norms, serious problems increase,” Eden said.

5.) Federal Meddling Leads to Local Failure

Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with the Obama guidance on school discipline is that it injected federal meddling into an issue best handled by states and localities, panelists said.

“A lot of this guidance comes with the discomfort of the excesses of ‘zero tolerance,’” Eden said.

Zero tolerance policies are the other side of the same coin, he said, explaining that they also took power out of teachers’ hands and forced them to take actions against students.

If we don’t want police to be stepping into classrooms, it’s important to allow teachers to use greater discretion about how they discipline students, Eden explained.

Additionally, policies that worked well in some areas failed in others because of the differences among localities, panelists said. The federal government is poorly equipped to handle these nuances.

“When a locality makes a mistake,” Heriot said, “it’s a lot easier to correct at a local level than when the federal government says, ‘You must do this.’”


PTA Responds Like Lightning After de Blasio Pulls Cops from Schools

A New York City Parent Teachers Association demanded city cops patrol a Queens high school, the New York Post reported Sunday.

Francis Lewis High School’s PTA in Fresh Meadows, Queens, is urging politicians to allow armed cops at their public school, following the Parkland Massacre, the New York Post reported.

The New York Police Department recently removed Sgt. Paul Esinet, 50, a well-respected high school cop, from his position.

The officer was reassigned due to Mayor de Blasio’s policy of using unarmed community policing units to patrol neighborhoods and high schools.

Esinet was a popular guard at Francis Lewis and put more than a dozen years into the job.

He regularly attended school meetings to help make the campus safer, staffers said.

PTA co-president Linda Lovett said a petition was circulated then submitted with more than 1,100 signatures to the Department of Education to bring an armed cop back to the school. “The community officer is in no way an acceptable replacement,” the petition reads.

The PTA has serious concerns regarding the lack of security at the overcrowded Queens high school with more than 4,400 students.

“It’s ridiculous,” Lovett said. “All over the country, they are telling you ‘arm the teachers; get an officer in your school.’ New York City had a designated officer and they are actually cutting the program … they are making us less secure.”

Staten Island City Councilmen Steven Matteo and Joe Borelli and Borough President James Oddo also asked de Blasio to have an armed police officer at each of New York City’s 1,700 public schools, at the state Senate Feb. 28.

De Blasio refused, saying the policy would be too expensive, claiming that it would cost the state $12 billion annually, he wrote in a letter in June 2017.

NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel is not aware of any school that has a full-time police officer, he said. “I hope the NYPD and the administration listens to parents and students in the Fresh Meadows community and allows this officer to stay where he has obviously had such a positive impact,” Matteo said.

“Sadly, we live in a world where horrific attacks on our children have become a regular occurrence, but fortunately we also have the greatest police department in the world to protect us.”


Friday, March 16, 2018

‘60 Minutes’ Snubs the Facts on Education

Beth Richardson is committed to her son’s success. She expected Jed to do his homework once in school, so she did her homework first on the schools near their South Carolina home.

“I visited every single school that was available,” she says. She wasn’t satisfied with Jed’s assigned school, and her research led her to East Point Academy. East Point is a charter school—an independent public school—that provides instruction in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

“They are definitely absorbing the language both verbally and in writing,” Richardson told me in an interview when Jed entered the school in 2013. “I think they are teaching first grade at a second grade level—they are teaching one grade ahead.”

Earlier this week, CBS’ “60 Minutes” grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on why she supports the idea that families like the Richardsons should be able to choose where and how their children learn.

Reporter Lesley Stahl said traditional public schools are doing better today at educating students, and that allowing families to make choices results in less money for traditional schools.

Stahl didn’t provide evidence for these claims, so her line of questioning is worth a closer look.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, a reliable indicator of average student learning state by state, 12th-graders are scoring the same today in reading and math as they did in the 1970s. And while scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have trended upward, the most recent results showed lower scores in math with mixed results in reading.

One data point doesn’t erase a trend, but whatever gains students may be realizing in lower grades appear to be lost by the end of high school.

Test scores aren’t the only way to measure success. One reason we want children to work hard in school is so that they can have more opportunities later in life.

Research on private school options found that students that chose a private school were more likely to finish high school and even enter college than their peers in traditional schools.

Students from low-income families in Washington, D.C., that used a K-12 private school scholarship graduated from high school at higher rates than their peers who didn’t use a scholarship. Similar results can be found in Milwaukee and New York City.

Later in the segment, Stahl says that when some families choose something other than an assigned public school, traditional schools are “left behind” and “can end up with less money.”

But Washington’s budget for the Department of Education sees consistent increases. The Trump administration’s recent efforts to trim spending are notable because budget increases are so familiar.

Regardless, if Stahl is pointing to Washington’s budget, she’s looking in the wrong place. State and local taxpayers account for most—90 percent—of education funding for K-12 schools.

Per student spending around the country also goes only one direction: up.

In 2016, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey led an effort to add $3.5 billion from state reserves to K-12 schools over 10 years, in addition to regular budget appropriations. Schools in Washington state saw a $4.57 billion increase in the latest budget, a jump of 25 percent, according to experts at the Washington Policy Center.

Nationwide, per student spending has increased nearly 30 percent since 1990 after adjusting for inflation.

Stahl’s comment that education research is “complicated” glosses over increases in taxpayer funding for education, uninspiring-to-mixed results, and examples of remarkable student success when parents have opportunities for their child’s education.

But the significance of average scores and percent funding increases is lost on parents that just want their child to succeed. “The ability to provide this in South Carolina is so wonderful, it is exactly what Jed needs,” Richardson says.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in [her city] and to be able to take advantage of this opportunity,” she says.

“60 Minutes” should have another look at the facts and then ask why every parent can’t say the same thing as her.


An Education in School Safety
There was a time when secretaries of education could focus on things like curriculum and better learning environments. Betsy DeVos would probably like to trade places with some of her predecessors when the job’s biggest demands were raising national test scores — not keeping children safe. Unfortunately for her and every other administrator in America, the world of education has changed — and it now has a lot more to do with combatting violence than fighting mediocrity.

It’s been almost a month since the latest wake-up call that something in America has gone terribly wrong. There are 17 more empty seats around dinner tables in Parkland, Florida, victims of a story that started in Columbine and continues to break hearts from Connecticut to Virginia Tech. In the days since a 19-year-old walked into the halls of his old school and started snuffing out the futures of so many innocent classmates, the entire nation has been grasping for solutions to spare other parents the unimaginable pain of losing a child. President Trump is a father too. And in the weeks since Florida’s heartbreak, he’s made it clear that he’s willing to cross any aisle and consider any idea to make sure the evil that happened in Parkland doesn’t happen again. At least as far as he can help it.

Over the weekend, the White House rolled out its newest plan for school safety. In it, DeVos explains, are a number of concrete steps the government and state leaders can take to harden their campuses against threats. As he’s said since the beginning, President Trump thinks it’s time to launch “rigorous firearms training” for teachers who volunteer to carry guns at school. “For those who are capable,” Secretary DeVos told reporters on a conference call, “this is one solution that can and should be considered. Keep in mind that among the ranks of teachers are military veterans who have had extensive training. Every state and every community is going to address this issue in a different way.” As the administration has reminded people, President Obama wanted to arm more people after the Sandy Hook tragedy — but he focused on school resource officers, which, as we saw in Parkland, may not be as effective as highly trained teachers themselves. What the White House doesn’t want to do is take more guns away from school officials. “A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us.’”

Another piece of the president’s plan is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, which would be chaired by Secretary DeVos. The commission, administration officials say, would focus on several areas, like age restrictions for certain guns, entertainment ratings systems, violent video games, mental health treatment, funding for states to create threat assessment teams, and other recommendations. Apart from that, the president will keep the wheels in motion on tougher background checks, outlawing bump stocks, state-specific “risk protection orders,” and a formal review of the FBI’s tip line, which could (and should) have helped stop the attack in Parkland.

Fortunately, the president understands that these are important steps — but hardly the only ones. “The president,” assured Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, “is determined to get to the root of the various societal issues that lead to violence in our country. No stone will be unturned.” Like us, he knows that Americans are facing a deeper problem than guns or even federal and state cooperation. If we want to reduce violence, we have to rebuild the family. That means an honest conversation about how the past several years of religious intolerance and outright hostility has kept this nation from focusing on what’s important. If Congress wants to stop these tragedies, then it has to start by encouraging the two things — faith and family — that can address the real problem: the human heart.

We can’t use laws to do what only God can. We have to get back to a basic understanding of right and wrong. As President George Washington warned in his farewell address, morality cannot be maintained without religion. If we want to become a more honest and decent people, the kind who care about human worth and dignity, then we can talk about access to guns — but we’ve also got to talk about access to God.

Nothing we do will matter if we don’t acknowledge that America has lost its way. As my friend Ken Blackwell says, “You can’t run faith out of the public square and not expect to have these sort of consequences.” So let’s protect our schools. Let’s harden the targets. But let’s work on softening hearts too.


Trump’s School Safety Plan Includes Hardening Schools, Strengthening Background Checks, Mental Health Reform

The White House on Monday rolled out President Donald Trump’s school safety plan, which focuses on four areas: hardening schools, strengthening background checks, mental health reform, and reviewing funding proposals for preventing school violence.

The president’s plan to harden schools includes providing firearms training to “specially qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis” using Department of Justice assistance programs that will allow schools to partner with local law enforcement.The administration plans to support military veterans and retired law enforcement who want to transition into a career in education.

As part of an effort to strengthen background checks, the president is calling on every state to adopt Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), which allows the police - with court approval - to remove guns from people who are a demonstrated threat to themselves or others and to temporarily prevent certain people from buying new weapons.

The president also supports improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as proposed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), which holds federal agencies accountable for reporting information to NICS and incentivizes states to improve reporting.

Trump also supports the framework of the STOP School Violence Act, which gives state-based grants to implement evidence-based violence prevention programs.

The president is proposing increased integration of mental health, primary care, and family services, as well as support for programs that utilize court-ordered treatment. The plan also calls for a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other statutory and regulatory privacy protections.

Finally, the president is calling for the establishment of a federal commission chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “to address school safety and the culture of violence.” It will study and make recommendations on a number of areas, including: age restrictions for certain firearm purchases; existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment; the effects of press coverage of mass shootings; repeal of the Obama administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies; and the effectiveness and appropriateness of psychotropic medication for treatment of troubled youth.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

College Students Freak Out, Destroy Equipment When Biologist Explains That Men are Taller Than Women

When a college or university invites a speaker who challenges the preconceived notions of the student body (or some small part of it) there may be trouble. Campuses once known for their willing to allow free speech are now functioning as echo chambers where even the most well accepted scientific principles can wreak havoc on students’ fragile minds.

Consider this case from Portland State. It happened when James Damore came to talk about diversity at his former employer, Google. That alone was going to draw the opposition. Damore, though, wasn’t the one who caused the most disruption. It was a woman, a biologist, who talked about some basic distinctions common in men and women.

Sexual dimorphism, as these differences are collectively known, is easy enough to understand. The well accepted scientific principal is characterized by distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes, and the more familiar difference between the sexual organs. This is easy enough to see in birds, for example, where the males and females are often completely different colors. In humans, though the fact is capable of inciting violence.

That’s what’s happening at Portland State University after a student group invited former Google engineer James Damore to speak on campus about diversity. Damore had the spotlight shine on him after he got fired over a 10-page Google memo he wrote criticizing the company’s internal gender diversity policies and accusing the tech giant of “alienating conservatives.”

Dr. Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist, began talking about some differences between men and women. She even acknowledged that it struck her as odd to have to defend this notion that men and women are different.

As she spoke of differences in height and muscle mass, a few students stood and voiced their protest. Though there were not many, the students caused a scene. One went to the PA system and threw it from the table. The sound for the event was cut as a result of the damage.

“Event organizer, Andy Ngo, knew there would be controversy, but didn’t expect to become a target of the sometimes-violent and virulently leftwing Antifa group,” Fox reports.

As the protestor was being detained, she threw around the usual rhetoric. “Even the women in there have been brainwashed!” she explains. Others hurled insults at the police, and threw around terms like “fascists” and “Nazis.”

Protest flyers for the event read: “We have to work together to show James Damore and the PSU Freethinkers that they can’t get away with dressing up bigotry and calling it science.”

Portland State, in an attempt to make everyone happy, set up three different alternative events.

Portland State spokesman, Chris Broderick, told Fox the university itself stands opposed to Damore’s “ideas as sexist stereotypes.”

Damore, for his part, feels like his comments have been misconstrued. The memo he wrote about men and women working at Goolge got him fired.

“They’re worsening the divisions and generating outrage by misrepresenting what I’ve said,” Damore said. “I encourage any students to actually read what I’ve written, watch my interviews, and come to my event with questions and an open mind.”

“How many people who are upset about the memo have actually read the memo?” Peter Boghossian, the professor hosting the event told Fox News. “When we’re not willing to discuss difficult, complex issues, extremists step in with solutions.”


Male H.S. Dropouts Earned More in 1973 Than Female College Grads in 2016

Males who completed no more than 3 years of high school had a higher real median income in 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, than female college graduates had in 2016, the last full year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In 1973, according to the Census Bureau’s Historical Income Table P-17, men 25 or older who had completed one to three years of high school had a median income of $41,645 in constant 2016 dollars.

That was the peak year for the median income of male high-school dropouts.

In 2016, according to the Census Bureau’s Historical Income Table P-16, women 25 and older who had earned a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $41,045 in constant 2016 dollars.

Thus, according to the Census Bureau, in 1973 men who had completed no more than three years of high school had a median income ($41,645) that was $600 more than the median income in 2016 of women who had earned bachelor’s degree but not graduate degrees ($41,045).

Starting in 1991, the Census Bureau made some adjustments to the way it categorized people’s educational attainment in its historical income tables. (“Data after 1990,” says Table P-17, “are not completely comparable due to changes to the educational attainment questions.”)

Table P-16 lists the median income for the post-1990 categories of educational attainment with 2016 being the latest year for which the data is available.

In 2016, men 25 and older who had stayed in school until sometime between the 9th and 12th grade, but who had not earned a high school diploma, had a median income of $23,165 (in constant 2016 dollars).

That was $18,480 (or 44.3 percent) less than the median income men who had finished not more than three years of high school had earned in the peak year of 1973 ($41,645).

Females 25 and older who had stayed in school until sometime between the 9th and 12th grade but did not graduate, had a median income of $13,666 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That was $32 (or 0.2 percent) less than the median income of females who had not finished more than three years of high school in 1973 ($13,698).

Men 25 and older who were high school graduates or had earned a GED had a median income of $33,516 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That was $18,804 (or 35.9 percent) less than the 1973 median income of men who had completed four years of high school ($52,320).

Women 25 and older who were high school graduates or had earned a GED had a median income of $19,904 (in constant 2016 dollars) in 2016. That is $728 (or 3.8 percent) more than the 1973 median income of females who had completed four years of high school ($19,176).

Men 25 and older who had earned a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $63,269 in 2016. That was $4,058 (or 6 percent) less than the 1973 median income for men who had completed four years of college ($67,327).

Women 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree (but not a graduate degree) had a median income of $41,045 in 2016. That was $11,031 (or 36.8 percent) more than the 1973 median income of women who had completed four years of college ($30,014).

The Census bureau defines “money income” as “the income received on a regular basis (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains and lump-sum payments) before payments for personal income taxes, Social Security, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. It includes income received from wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and tips; self-employment income from own nonfarm or farm businesses, including proprietorships and partnerships; interest, dividends, net rental income, royalty income, or income from estates and trusts; Social Security or Railroad Retirement income.”

It also includes welfare, disability, unemployment and other benefit payments.


My Bill to Expand Education Options for Military Families

Rep. Jim Banks   

All across America, military families are making personal sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a veteran who served overseas and away from my family, I know the toll service takes on those who wear the uniform and their families.

But military families should not have to sacrifice the quality of their children’s education to serve our country.

Currently, more than half of military families live in states with no school choice options whatsoever. For these families, if a child is assigned to a poor-performing local school, they must pay out of pocket for better alternatives—an option that is not feasible for many who are enlisted.

Our military is already struggling to recruit the best and the brightest to serve. Research shows the number of active-duty troops is at the lowest level since 2001, and the average age of those enlisted has steadily grown.

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There is good reason to believe that the lack of education options for military families contributes to these results.

A survey conducted by the Military Times found that 35 percent of its readers would consider leaving the military due to the lack of education choice, and 40 percent have declined or would decline a career advancement if it meant their child would be forced to leave a higher-performing school.

The decision to serve is already a difficult and life-changing one for many families, and there shouldn’t be additional, unnecessary barriers. To address this issue, I recently introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act.

This legislation would provide military families with the option of opening an education savings account that could fund education expenses such as private school tuition, textbooks, online classes, private tutoring, and college tuition. These accounts would be tax-free and give families the ability to tailor their child’s education to their needs.

Education savings accounts would use a small portion of funding from a federal program called Impact Aid. This program provides school districts with revenue lost due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property. Under Education Savings Accounts, that funding would directly benefit the individual student rather than the school.

Recent analysis has shown very limited impact on these schools, even when assuming a much higher utilization rate than we have seen from education savings account programs that are currently in place. Furthermore, no Impact Aid funding that goes to non-military-connected students would be used for this program.

The most important responsibility of the federal government is to maintain a military that is able to protect our country. We cannot continue to push away high-quality recruits by restricting the educational options available to their children.

The Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act will ensure that this does not happen.

As a nation, we can show our support for the men and women who serve by giving them the choice of how to best educate our next generation of leaders.