Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Future of Nation Is in Its Schools...

It that's true, then the U.S. is in big trouble.

Seventeen of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with the lowest graduation rates reported in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, issued by America's Promise Alliance, found that about half of the students served by public school systems in the nation's largest cities receive diplomas. Students in suburban and rural public high schools were more likely to graduate than their counterparts in urban public high schools, the researchers said.

Interesting. And what, exactly differentiates the student bodies in urban and rural/suburban areas? Might it have something to do with the students themselves? Well, the study didn't address that. Not surprisingly.

The report found troubling data on the prospects of urban public high school students getting to college. In Detroit's public schools, 24.9 percent of the students graduated from high school, while 30.5 percent graduated in Indianapolis Public Schools and 34.1 percent received diplomas in the Cleveland Municipal City School District.

Researchers analyzed school district data from 2003-2004 collected by the U.S. Department of Education. To calculate graduation rates, the report estimated the likelihood that a 9th grader would complete high school on time with a regular diploma. Researchers used school enrollment and diploma data, but did not use data on dropouts as part of its calculation.

Many metropolitan areas also showed a considerable gap in the graduation rates between their inner-city schools and the surrounding suburbs. Researchers found, for example, that 81.5 percent of the public school students in Baltimore's suburbs graduate, compared with 34.6 percent in the city schools.

Again, those pesky suburban school children. One wonders why they do so much better as a group, than school children in urban schools.

Studies like this will raise all sorts of alarms - and feed academics, policy wonks and politicians fresh material for yet another round of demands for more funding, small class sizes, more after school programs, etc.

But these often demanded solutions don't actually solve the problem. Take small class sizes, for instance. For several years now, public school advocates and officials have been claiming that reducing the number of children per teacher will enhance the learning experience, foster closer supervision and interaction between pupils and teachers and raise test scores. In short, oversized classes are responsible for poorly performing urban public schools. Adding more teachers will work miracles!

It's a nice, clean, politically safe explanation for the problem and a solution that bothers no one, and pleases the teachers' unions mightily. The problem is, it's nonsense. And they know it.

For 20 years, a large study of class size in Tennessee, known as Project STAR, has raised hopes that reducing the number of children in inner-city classrooms to 17 or fewer would yield significant increases in achievement. It was by far the most authoritative finding in favor of reducing class size and was generally considered one of the most important educational studies of its time.

But a Northwestern University researcher, looking closely at the same data on thousands of students from kindergarten through third grade in 79 schools, has concluded that high achievers benefited more from the small classes than low achievers. Since low-income students in urban neighborhoods have lower achievement, on average, than students from more affluent families, the finding in the March issue of Elementary School Journal contradicts assumptions that class size reduction might have a significant effect on the gap between rich and poor students.

"While decreasing class size may increase achievement on average for all types of students, it does not appear to reduce the achievement gap within a class," Spyros Konstantopoulos, assistant professor at Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy, said in a statement released by the university.

The $3 million Project STAR study was launched in 1985. It was unusual for the large size of the sample of students, for the long, four-year period in which their progress was recorded and for the random assignment of students to three kinds of classes -- small (13 to 17 students per teacher), regular (22 to 25 per teacher) and regular with aide (22 to 25 students with teacher and full-time aide). Classroom teachers were also randomly assigned, giving the study a scientific validity rarely found in educational research.

Several researchers concluded that the results left no doubt that small classes had an advantage over larger classes in primary-grade reading and math. "Given that class size reduction is an intervention that benefits all students, it's tempting to expect that it also will reduce the achievement gap," Konstantopoulos said. Previous reviews of the data, however, provided weak or no evidence that lower-achieving students benefited more than others, and his study, he said, buttressed those findings.

Of course, educators will stick with the "class size" argument and policy solution as long as they can, regardless of results (just as they have with every other previous failed gimmick to avoid the truth).

Policy wonks will continue to analyze every aspect of classroom experience and teaching techniques, trying desperately to determine why "urban" students continue to underperform they rural/suburban peers. Indeed, they will analyze everything, save the children themselves. That is the one forbidden topic.

Because the results could never be said aloud.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Britain Awakening?

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose apparent goal while in office - much like his predecessor - is to destroy everything that is uniquely and unequivocally English in the UK, especially its people, has been confronted by an astonishing report from the House of Lords that makes a mockery of his party's lies about immigration.

The devastating cross-party report went on to:

•Dismiss Ministers' "preposterous" assertion that migrants boost the economy by £6billion a year;

•Reject Government claims that foreigners will help to defuse the pensions timebomb;

•Demolish the "fundamentally flawed" Downing Street argument that migrants fill vacancies in the economy;

•And warn that migrants will force up house prices by 10 per cent in the next two decades.

The Lords' report had the PM's ministers scurrying away from the light.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne has also waded into the row this morning by claiming the inquiry put forward many of the points he had made when he was first appointed in 2006.

"The report actually confirms that about £6billion was added to the economy in 2006, that is a big number," he told GMTV.

"What it is also saying, though, I think, is that we should be taking into account the wider impact of immigration when we set immigration policy - now I think that is absolutely right."

His remarks came as the report, by the Lords economic affairs committee, which includes former Chancellors Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont, economists and captains of industry, said immigration had had "little or no positive impact" on the living standards of the existing population.

Indeed, the report found that immigrants were hurting many native Britons.

Some British workers were even seeing their incomes fall, while up to 100,000 youngsters have been unable to find work.

And, by pushing up house prices, migrants will keep young families off the housing ladder, the committee found.

With migration swelling the population by 190,000 every year, Labour has been keen to stress the economic benefits, not least over pensions.

But the peers said the argument did not "hold up to scrutiny" because the migrants will grow old and claim pensions of their own.

The committee has among its ranks Labour and Liberal Democrat members with impeccable economic and business credentials. Many of them were the most trenchant in their remarks.

Downing Street's claim that migrants fill job vacancies in the economy was ruthlessly exposed.

The peers said that despite the influx of more than 700,000 workers from eastern Europe since May 2004, the number of vacancies has remained at between 600,000 and 700,000.

Allowing more and more migrants into the country created the need for ever more jobs because the new arrivals consume as well as provide services, the study found.

It called on the Government to set an "explicit target range" for immigration and set the rules to keep within that limit - effectively a cap.

Such a move has been stubbornly resisted by Ministers, who say it could damage the economy.

The Lords' report is stunning because it so drastically breaks with the government party line that immigration is an unalloyed good for the UK, and seeks to sandblast away the economic lies that have been constructed to support the party line. Of course, the establishment types who support the party line do so for ideological reasons (read: multiculturalism and political correctness) and for naked business interests (immigrants drive wages down). The same situation applies in the U.S. where business interests have aligned themselves with the radical multicultural left to leave the borders wide open to Mexico - or anyone else who wants to run across.

The House of Lords has put immigration back on the front table of national debate in the UK, and have made it politically acceptable to support immigration restriction. The report is an act of courage - a last, desperate attempt to save Britain from the tsunami that threatens to sweep it away.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Anatomy of a Hate Crime

Madonna Constantine is a professor at Columbia University in New York. She is also a perfect example of what happens when political correctness, multiculturalism and leftwing politics intersect at an institution of higher learning. In October 2007, Professor Constantine allegedly found a noose hanging from her office door. She immediately alerted Columbia University's security and, apparently, the media. Perhaps not in that order. As she must have expected, she was suddenly showered with sympathetic press attention, like this fawning article in The New York Times:

“People have cried in class,” said Dr. Constantine, 44, a professor of psychology and education who specializes in the study of how race and racial prejudice can affect clinical and educational interactions. “Uncovering those issues, students often get to a place where it can be painful.”

In an interview in her office, a suite peppered with academic tomes and mugs from psychology conferences, Dr. Constantine said she remained mystified over who could be responsible for leaving a noose dangling on her office door at Teachers College this week.

“I really don’t have any idea of who could have done that,” she said. “Is there anything that I’ve experienced that’s close? I would say no.”

As she gave a round of interviews yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice joined the investigation into the noose being conducted by the Hate Crimes Task Force of the New York Police Department.

But even at this early point, the investigation has prompted a clash between the university and the NYPD.

In the noose case, Mr. Browne said yesterday that the police were “disappointed and surprised” that Teachers College had refused to turn over its security camera footage without a subpoena. “It is always important to get information as soon as possible,” he said. “You don’t want to give the perp time to concoct a story or cover their tracks.”

But Susan H. Fuhrman, the president of Teachers College, said she was “surprised and distressed” to learn of the police criticism. She said the subpoena policy was standard for educational institutions, adding, “We have students here whose privacy we try to protect.”

She said that the college was committed to cooperating with the police and that by the time the police arrived with the subpoena early yesterday evening, the college had already downloaded the video to hand over to officers.

“There’s been open communication all along with the Police Department,” she said.

At the time, a number of New York commentators thought this explanation sounded odd, since any cameras at the university would have been located in public hallways where students would have had no expectation on privacy. But Columbia was eager, almost hasty, to assure everyone that good professor's reputation was unimpeachable.

As for Dr. Constantine, Dr. Fuhrman said she had heard “nothing but accolades” from her students. “She’s well respected in her field,” she said. “Probably her work engenders passionate debate, but I could name 100 other people here who you can say the same thing about.”

And what exactly was Professor Constantine teaching at Columbia? What vital areas of research was she conducting at the famed university?

One key concept in Dr. Constantine’s scholarship is “racial microaggression,” which she explained as the often subtle ways in which racial differences can plague relationships between even well-meaning therapists and their clients, or supervisors and their trainees. For Dr. Constantine, colorblindness is neither possible nor desired.

“We have some of the most well-meaning, well-intentioned students I have ever met, and I really enjoy working with them,” she said. “Well-meaning and well-intentioned doesn’t mean effective.” Proclaiming oneself to be colorblind, she added, “is not a helpful perspective in counseling and therapy.”

Does Dr. Constantine think her work could be connected to the noose, hardly a microaggression, but, in her words, “a very, very aggressive act?”

“I haven’t ruled it out that it’s connected,” she said. “I teach courses on racial and cultural issues.” She added, “There are things that I say that have pushed people’s buttons, because it challenges the status quo.”

Ah, yes. There it is. Professor Constantine was being persecuted for her heroic quest to study racism at Columbia University. Really, she is just another Martin Luther King Jr.

“Your scholarship is evaluated differently,” she said. “People think that I and other black scholars are studying issues of race because we’re black and because it’s personal. But if I’m studying racism, that’s not about me, right, that’s often about white people, who have certain types of attitudes about people of color, and so forth.”

Dr. Constantine was promoted to a full professor in 2003. But her time at Columbia has not been conflict-free. In May, she filed a defamation lawsuit against another professor in her department.

No detailed complaint has been filed in the case, and Dr. Constantine, who was accompanied during the interview by her lawyer, Paul J. Giacomo Jr., declined to elaborate on the case.

One can reasonable guess what Professor Constantine's research is all about (blame white people for everything) and exactly of what value it is to the university (read: none, save for getting to claim a black professor).

The case of the noose on Professor Constantine's office door faded from the news and was all but forgotten until February when Columbia University revealed that, contrary to statements from university officials at the time of the noose incident, there was significant reason to be skeptical of her claims. It turned out that the noose allegation came just as the good professor was facing a serious university investigation for numerous charges of plagiarism.

The case of a Columbia University professor who reported last fall finding a noose outside her office door has taken an odd turn. The professor, Madonna G. Constantine, has been reprimanded for two dozen instances of plagiarism, according to a spokeswoman for the university.

That news was first reported by the university’s student paper, The Columbia Spectator, which obtained a copy of a memorandum informing faculty members of the findings. The university is not revealing what punishment Ms. Constantine, who is a professor of psychology and education in the Teachers College, will face — only that it falls short of dismissal. The university spokeswoman, Marcia Horowitz, also declined to release examples of the alleged plagiarism.


When asked for comment today on the plagiarism charges, Ms. Constantine sent a 475-word written statement in which she questions the neutrality of the investigation and calls the administration’s memo “premature, vindictive, and mean-spirited.” She also contends that there has been “a conspiracy and a witch-hunt” by people, whom she does not name, in the Teachers College. Ms. Constantine writes that she plans to appeal the findings of the investigation.

The investigation into the plagiarism accusations was conducted by a law firm, Hughes Hubbard and Reed, and began in 2006. Ms. Constantine had been aware of the investigation, according to Ms. Horowitz. The spokeswoman called allegations of a conspiracy against Ms. Constantine “absurd.”

Notice that although Professor Constantine is caught blatantly plagiarizing the work of others, Columbia doesn't plan to dismiss her. Why? She is black; she'll scream racism; and she's doing nothing important anyway, so just let her be and avoid the cost of the lawsuit.

Today comes word that the NYPD isn't prepared to sweep the noose incident entirely under the rug:

A Manhattan grand jury has subpoenaed the university records of the controversial black Columbia Teachers College professor who found a noose hanging from her office door - signaling that the investigation is broadening to examine possible links between the teacher, her closest friends and the racially charged incident, The Post has learned.

According to sources, the subpoenas obtained recently by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force and prosecutors demanded the college hand over a laundry list of records pertaining to embattled professor Madonna Constantine, whose colleague found a 4-foot hangman's noose on her office doorknob last October.

The incident happened at the height of the school's probe of plagiarism charges against her.

Last month, Teachers College announced that Constantine was responsible for two dozen incidents of stealing the work of a faculty member and two students under her tutelage, including lifting passages from their dissertations and hijacking their ideas. Constantine has denied the charge.

In addition to the plagiarism report, investigators want to examine all the information gleaned during the university's probe and by a law firm and private investigator hired by the school to investigate the plagiarism allegations.

They also want Constantine's financial contract with the school - which would include her salary, benefits and pension - and any other administrative personnel and academic records.

Sources said the records would provide investigators with a timeline on the tightly guarded 18-month plagiarism probe and what Constantine - one of only two tenured black Teachers College professors - stood to possibly lose if she were found guilty and her job were threatened.

The NYPD is operating under the assumption that either the professor, or a "sympathetic friend" put the noose on her office door as a means of averting attention from, and possible derailing, the plagiarism investigation that threatened professor Constantine.

This will come as little surprise to many skeptical New Yorkers, who strongly doubted that the KKK was operating on Columbia's campus. But no one should be surprised that someone thought they could help the professor by manufacturing a racial incident. After all, even after being charged with plagiarism by her university, there's no evidence that she will lose her job. Which says a great deal about Columbia University.