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Boys Wear Skirts To Protest School's Anti-Shorts Policy Amid Heat Wave

Huffington Post - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 15:15

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Dozens of boys in southwest England have defiantly swapped their pants out for pleated skirts after being forbidden from wearing shorts to school, despite a heat wave.

The students at Isca Academy in Exeter said they borrowed the skirts from sisters and female friends to protest the school’s dress code policy, which requires boys to wear the leg-covering garments while girls have the option of pants or skirts.

“We’re not allowed to wear shorts, and I’m not sitting in trousers all day, it’s a bit hot,” one of the boys told the BBC on Thursday.

The boys’ protest ended up going viral, with a photo of them lined up in skirts scoring more than 71,000 likes on Twitter as of Thursday afternoon.

Boys at Isca Academy in Exeter wear skirts to school in protest at not being allowed to wear shorts in hot weather.

— Simon Hall (@SimonHallNews) June 22, 2017

Some of the boys’ mothers have sided with their sons.

“The girls are allowed to wear skirts all year round so I think it’s completely unfair that the boys can’t wear shorts,” Claire Reeves told Devon Live. “Boys just don’t have the option, and I am just really concerned about how the heat is going to affect him.”

As Reeves noted, the protest came as the country battles scorching temperatures that have reached the 90s.

Despite that potential health threat, Reeves complained that the school threatened to place her son in isolation all day if he showed up wearing shorts. If she kept him home, it’d be considered an unauthorized absence, she told Devon Live.

Students credited a teacher with suggesting they wear skirts instead of pants, though it’s believed that it was suggested in jest. After that, several boys showed up wearing the breathable garments, then dozens more followed.

When at least one of them said they were told that they couldn’t wear the skirts with hairy legs, they fetched razors and shaved them, the boys told Devon Live and The Guardian.

Fellow mom Claire Lambeth said she’s proud of her 15-year-old son, Ryan, who she said was one of the first to wear one.

“Ryan came up with the idea of wearing a skirt so that evening we borrowed one. He wore it the next day – as did five other boys. This morning there were about 50-60 of them in skirts,” she told The Guardian. “I didn’t expect it to take off like that. The school is being silly really – this is exceptional weather. I was very proud of Ryan. I think it was a great idea.”

Headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website this week, that she would be “happy to consider a change” in the school’s dress code in the coming weeks, but not without consulting both students and their families.

In the meantime, students are allowed to remove their ties and undo the top buttons of their shirts, her letter said.

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A National Imperative: A Deep Summer's Breath

Huffington Post - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 14:50
Our national discord weighs on all of us but none more than the fresh, young minds of our nation.

El Govern extiende las becas a los másteres obligatorios para ejercer la profesión

El País - Educación - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 14:14
La Generalitat mantiene congelados los precios de matrículas universitarias y aumenta las bonificaciones solo a las rentas bajas

Standing Up When You Are The Silent Minority

Huffington Post - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 09:56

I write a lot about not only accepting your reality but embracing it. The good and the bad. The idea is to accept so that you can learn from your life situations and embrace so you can find value even when things feel unbearable. I call it The Gift of the Struggle. It’s what gets me through a lot.

But there are times when you should not accept. Times to stand up and speak out against that which is wrong and unjust. I work hard to teach my five kids to use their voices and stand for their beliefs. This balance between embracing your reality and knowing when it is time to reject it is sometimes a difficult line to walk.

Yesterday, however, the choice was clear. My son, an incoming senior in high school brought me a copy of his AP Government reading list.

“The reading list is pretty bad,” he said. “I think you need to take a look.”

Bad was an understatement. There were FIVE titles from Michael Savage. One from Ann Coulter. One from Sher iff Richard Mack. The list goes on and on – 31 options. They were anti-climate change, anti-liberal, pro-Christian, etc. This is a public school, by the way. Of the 31 choices, there were probably two that I found acceptable and they weren’t ideal. There was not one academic book on the list and zero historical/intellectual options.

Here is my point of view: I encourage my children to read things they disagree with. To listen to those with opposing perspectives. To be open to ideas other than theirs, but to stand up for their beliefs respectfully. This list did not encourage that philosophy. It presented one side. And one side filled with pop culture personalities who spew hate and rhetoric – not intellectual, respected authors who offer well-educated ideas from different points of view. And how is my 17 year-old son, who is the Southeast Regional Director for the State of Alabama for High School Democrats of America supposed to sit in this class and feel he has a voice?

Take a look at the list:

I posted this list in a closed progressive group in which I participate. The reaction was fierce. Outrage. Incredulity. Action. It was intense and it was immediate.

I immediately emailed the teacher and copied the principal on it asking questions. Giving the teacher a chance to offer an explanation. No response. Here is my email:

Mr. Ponder,

My son just printed the AP Government and Economics reading list and I have a few questions. The list is predominantly populated with one perspective. A conservative one. I would like to know your reasoning for choosing this list and what perspective you plan to teach these books from. Can you identify the value you hope to offer in terms of choosing this list?

Can you let me know why there are no titles that would offer an alternate perspective or a balance to the list you have provided?

If you had provided both points of view in your selections and had students chose one from each perspective, I would see the value in debating the points of view and showing students the presentation of opposing views. But that is not the case here.

Also, several authors are not those I would expect to see from an academic class. Those chosen are more pop culture type pundits rather than those who would offer academic, intellectual schools of thought on conservative policy.

There are several books on the list written by people I find truly offensive and believe are hateful in rhetoric and philosophy. How will these books/authors be handled in your class?

I welcome your discussion as I was truly shocked at the political slant in your selections.

I believe in giving people the chance to respond before I act. When the teacher did not respond, I called the principal. He said, and I believe he was sincere, that this was the first he had heard of the list and he was retracting the assignment and planned to speak with the teacher. I inquired about what I should do if this teacher taught his class from this perspective, and he told me he wants to know. I believe that.

Here is what I find interesting. As this post went around the internet, there were many who had experienced this teacher. Their children were not surprised about this list. They indicated that he taught class from his right-wing perspective for more than a decade and that this reading list had been used for several years. Many parents were uncomfortable and talked to their children about how to handle his class. But as far as I can tell, no one complained to the school. No one confronted the teacher. If they did, they did it quietly.

I have some thoughts on the reasons for this. I live in Spanish Fort, Alabama. It is a VERY conservative area of the country. I am not conservative at all. When I first moved here from Pensacola, FL five years ago, I did not realize I would not find any like-minded people – because they were all staying under the radar. If you are a liberal here, you tend to just be quiet to avoid conflict with pretty much everyone you know. When you unexpectedly find a fellow liberal, it’s a little private party where you jump up and down…on the inside.

This attitude of hiding has created a culture of a silent minority. Parents seem to hesitate to speak out. I think there is fear of a negative impact on our children if we complain about a list like this. That fear is not unfounded. But is that enough to remain silent?

The silver lining of the hostile political climate we are now enduring is that people are coming together for a cause. Through these closed political social media groups, I have discovered that there are a lot more people like me in lower Alabama than I ever knew. The support and common ground we have found in knowing each other has empowered more and more of us to become active locally and to speak up for our beliefs – even in the face of name calling (which has occurred to my own 19 year-old daughter in the discussion of this list). What has the world come to when a teenager is called names by a middle-aged man for expressing her point of view? Her point of view that the silent minority shared and became the vocal minority for?

I have to say, I am proud of the swift action the community took to right this wrong. And it goes to show that when people come together for a common cause and take action, change can be swift and decisive. Onward.

This was originally published on

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¿Sabes qué es una factura sin IVA?

El País - Educación - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 07:25
El Parlamento vasco avala introducir un módulo de educación cívico-tributaria a los alumnos de cuarto de la ESO

Cinco alumnos detenidos por ‘hackear’ el correo de decenas de profesores para robar exámenes

El País - Educación - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 05:30
El pirateo masivo en un centro de Pontevedra afectó los correos electrónicos de los profesores del IES Manuel Barros de A Estrada

Aplazado el requisito de acreditar el B2 de inglés para obtener el título universitario

El País - Educación - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 04:33
La comunidad universitaria aprobará hoy una moratoria de cuatro años, después de las quejas de los rectores

El sentido del humor es un comodín fantástico a la hora de educar

El País - Educación - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:53
Los padres deben tomar conciencia de que instruir es una carrera de fondo y que son educadores 24 horas al dia, siete días a la semana

Colleges face challenges when producing historical theater

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:00

In a scene in the widely produced musical The Fantasticks, three men, one dressed as a stereotypical Native American, abduct a young woman and refer to what happens as a “rape.”

Both the show’s lighthearted treatment of the “rape” and the Native American costuming choices and depiction were likely not awkward to overwhelmingly white audiences back in the 1960s, when the musical was first produced and started to attract fans. But for contemporary audiences, such elements land differently.

Native American high school students walked out of a performance of The Fantasticks at the University of Wyoming last week.

Theater will sometimes shock and infuriate its spectators, and that includes those who protested the Public Theater’s run of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in New York. The titular character wore an elongated red tie and coiffed helmet hair indicative of President Trump, prompting outrage at his assassination.

Experts in the field of collegiate drama said institutions grapple with countless factors when selecting their seasons, among them how to handle racism, sexism and homophobia in plays with such biases evident, and how to cast shows that would have once had all white actors. They further must think about the political implications of productions.

Gregg Henry, artistic director of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, said that institutions have become much more attuned to issues of equity and diversity when building their theatrical lineup, though some more homogenized areas of the country haven’t needed to yet. (By coincidence, a different Gregg Henry, an actor known for his work on Scandal and Gilmore Girls, played Caesar in the Public Theater's production this summer.)

In recent years, students have become much more resistant and won’t “put up” with insensitivity in theater, Henry said.

Henry empathizes with the students who walked out of the University of Wyoming production, because the struggles of Native Americans have been overlooked and the population has been underrepresented in popular culture, even as The Fantasticks plays into stereotypes amid a larger love story plot, he said.

“Wyoming has a huge population of Native Americans, and if the university is trying to open their doors to that population of students, this is probably not the best way to do it,” he said.

The rights to most shows must be purchased and explicit permission must be obtained to alter the script.

The cast, crew and production team of The Fantasticks noted this in a lengthy defense of the show in the Laramie Boomerang. Their challenge in producing the show, they said, was providing context.

“The use of ‘Indians’ as stock characters, alongside pirates and bandits, as a shortcut for exotic and dangerous outsiders, is now coming to the fore as problematic. Whether it is unquestioned, as in Peter Pan productions the world over, or painfully obvious, as it was for our audiences on opening night, this kind of portrayal deserves consideration. In this case, it is an actor playing a two-bit actor playing a stock character from his traveling troupe, and truly reductive and indicative: a caricature. With historical productions, we see a point in time that is different from our own, and character portrayals that can be painful to watch to 21st-century audiences.”

Inserts will be placed in the programs warning patrons about the controversial pieces of the show going forward.

Tony Hagopian, the business and communications director for the University Resident Theatre Association, an organization of 40 or so member graduate theater programs, said institutions try to deliver holistic education to their students, with experiences in everything from Shakespearean classics to contemporary work.

Students learn text analysis with Shakespeare, a lesson that extends far beyond a single production, and with more recent plays, they are exposed to current issues and how to work with contemporary playwrights, Hagopian said.

They can benefit from a show like The Fantasticks, which contains meaty roles perfectly catered to young college actors, and experience the magical realism concept becoming more popular in today’s shows -- where life is essentially portrayed as real-world with some surrealistic twists, he said.

“In some ways it’s tough, some of these things we may not think of as controversial or problematic, if you’re just considering a play on paper,” Hagopian said. “It’s pretty rare that we’re going to provoke our audience. So, it’s more about the process for handling these things when they arise, because it’s usually going to be a surprise to you.”

Colleges and universities know they must teach their students about these “foundational plays,” said Henry.

But performing plays that feature enslaved people on a plantation, for instance, could prove difficult, he said. Institutions want to provide diverse and challenging parts for students of color and not pigeonhole them.

Marketing also figures into decisions -- though it’s not the primary aim to sell tickets, programs “need to fill the house,” Hagopian said.

Shows have previously been canceled over community backlash.

Stanford University in 2014 canceled a production of the musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, based on the former president's life, after protests that the production was offensive to Native Americans. (Defenders noted that the bias against Native Americans in the show was largely an indictment of Jackson and other American politicians who treated them as less than human.)

Britain's University of Bristol in 2016 halted performances of the opera Aida after criticism that white actors had been cast in key roles designed for people of color.

Shakespeare's plays, which are in the public domain, can often be molded to fit an artistic vision, and Henry anticipates many iterations of Julius Caesar, and other politically geared productions, at the Kennedy Center’s fall festival in light of the partisan climate -- it’s impossible not to think of the current administration when producing Julius Caesar, because it’s a fallback play to anyone who wants to discuss the death of democracy.

Both Henry and Hagopian said they were frustrated by the hot-button Trumpian symbolism in the New York production overshadowing the message of the play. Caesar’s assassination happens at the end of the first act -- and the criticism has not focused on the aftermath of losing the leader, on which the second act centers.

“There’s a lot of interest in political theater,” Henry said. “I think we’re going to be running into a lot of it, whether that’s directly into it, or coming at it from the side, with contemporary playwrights grappling with it in a new way.”

Editorial Tags: ArtsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Survey of parent postdocs reveals lack of access to paid parental leave, pressures to return to work

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:00

Postdoctoral fellows hopefully enjoy close mentor-mentee relationships with the principal investigators on their research grants. Few would probably expect those investigators to show up at the hospital after a baby arrived, asking when they planned to return to the lab, however. Yet that’s what happened to one survey participant in a new study on parent postdocs from the National Postdoctoral Association and the Pregnant Scholar project of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings.

“So, what, about two to three weeks and you will be back?” the scientist reportedly asked the postdoc in her hospital bed. It’s the kind of “ridiculous,” professionally unacceptable treatment postdocs sometimes encounter due to a widespread lack of understanding or will to understand what their rights are, said Julie Fabsik-Swarts, executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association. And if you’re a father, Fabsik-Swarts said, “there’s no prayer you’re getting much time off in most places. You have to feel for this set of highly educated, highly trained people who have dedicated their time and resources to being a researcher -- in many cases, to help this country. They’re being treated awfully.”

The new report, called “Parents in the Pipeline: Retaining Postdoctoral Researchers With Families,” is based on the first-ever national survey of postdocs with children, which yielded responses from 741 postdocs about 800 birth and adoption experiences. A handful of participants participated in follow-up phone interviews, and the report relies on additional association data about postdoc benefit policies nationally.

The paper urges institutions to update outdated policies to reflect a new reality: that the average postdoc spends four to five years in that position and most are nearing 40 years old by the time they find a permanent job -- meaning postdocs increasingly are parents.

“The average postdoc today can’t postpone solving the puzzle of work-life fit until tenure,” the report says. “To add to the challenge, parents of this generation,” more than their parents' generation, “feel the need to be more present for their children. For postdocs, the buzzers on their biological and research clocks are undeniable -- and in conflict. Yet despite these shifts, many institutions make no provisions for parental leave or accommodations for postdoc parents.”

A primary finding concerns the climate for pregnant workers who need health-related accommodations. While postdocs who requested pregnancy accommodations were provided them 93 percent of the time, they were less likely than other kinds of workers to request them. Just 40 percent of postdoc mothers did, and those in university appointments were especially unlikely to ask for help.

“I was too scared to let my colleagues in the laboratory know that I was expecting until I couldn’t hide my pregnancy further,” one woman said.

And that postdoc who was visited at the hospital by her investigator? She didn’t feel she could say no, so she got a release from her doctor saying she could return to work after four weeks, despite having had a C-section birth with complications. Another respondent said lack of leave left her health “in tatters.”

While these postdoc mothers continued their research, other survey respondents said they were pushed out because of their pregnancies or postbirth needs. One mother reported losing her appointment after her boss said he was “so sorry” about having no more funding. But the investigator soon hired a new postdoc to replace her. Another mother said that her boss referred to her children as her “constraints” and withdrew funding from her contract to fund another postdoc.

Fathers also reported encountering hostility toward their new family roles. “Peers often phrase paternity leave as if it’s a ‘vacation’ or you’re at home doing nothing,” one father said, adding that the prevailing mind-set “can lead to a view that you ‘aren’t serious about science’ since you took time off.”

Men are less likely than women to have access to leave and family-responsive policies, according to the study. “There is no such thing [as] leave for fathers,” said one postdoc dad. “They won’t even allow use of sick leave.”

Respondents of all genders stressed that “family-responsive accommodations,” such as scheduling flexibility or the ability to work from home, were essential to their success. If such accommodations had not been provided to one engineer, for example, he would “strongly consider leaving.” Another “would not have been able to continue” and yet another “would just have to quit.”

Parents of color reported facing hostility due to their new-parent status or pregnancy more often than their white counterparts, surprising the study’s authors. Postdocs of color are less likely to ask for parental leave or accommodations and are twice as likely to be discouraged from taking leave when they do ask.

“The impact of the hostility and lack of support for new-parent postdocs is profound,” the study says. “One in 10 postdoc fathers and one in five mothers reported that their [principal investigator’s] response to their new-parent status negatively impacted the quality of their appointment over all. This number is far higher for postdocs of color. For some, the challenge wasn’t worth it; ‘Don’t bother doing a postdoc,’ a neuroscientist advised aspiring postdocs who want to have children. Instead, ‘Work at McDonald’s,’ which would pay you equally or more, would give you more respect and [offer] a ray of hope through promotion.”

Simple Fixes

What will it take to retain postdocs, who each represent decades of study and approximately $500,000 or more in educational investments? “Simple adherence to federal law would go a long way,” the study says, noting that data reveal numerous institutional violations of antidiscrimination laws.

“Much of what postdoc parents need is common-sense: formal pregnancy and parental-leave policies that follow the law, changes in scheduling, and an end to the hostility and stigma that all too often attaches to the basic human need to have a family,” according to the study.

Other major findings include little to no access for postdoc mothers to paid maternity leave. Over half of institutions surveyed (53 percent) provide no paid leave to postdocs classified as employees, while postdocs categorized as trainees and individually funded postdocs fare even worse. Externally funded postdoc moms have it worst of all, with 74 percent of surveyed institutions offering no paid leave to them. Paid leave time, when provided, was often described as too short. Many mothers reported having to “fight” for the leave they needed, and a smaller subset reported losing their jobs as a result of their investigators’ negative reaction to their pregnancy or need for time off. One in five mothers reported that their bosses’ responses had a negative impact on the overall quality of their appointment.

Well over half of institutions surveyed provide no paid leave for postdoc fathers. Eighty-five percent of institutions provide no access to paid leave for externally funded dads. Many postdoc fathers also reported having no access to other kinds of paid or even unpaid time off, such as sick or vacation days, to help welcome a new child home. One in 10 fathers said their investigators’ response to their new parenthood negatively affected their appointments. The rate for fathers of color was one in five.

Many postdoc mothers had no access to paid time off at all to care for children, including sick or vacation time. Externally funded postdocs, again, had it worst, with 53 percent of institutions excluding them from paid days off.

Regarding unpaid time off upon a child’s birth, a right in theory assured by federal law, benefits vary greatly by funding sources. Five percent of employee postdoc mothers do not have access to such time, compared to 23 percent of institutional trainees and 44 percent of externally funded postdocs.

Over all, postdocs reported confusion about whether or not their institutions had parental leave policies applicable to them -- even after having gone through the process themselves. Human resources offices reportedly often misinterpret relevant laws and “struggle to navigate the varying grant-related policies that apply to postdocs,” according to the study. This is complicated by different funders having different policies for leave.

Additional problems include investigators’ reported unwillingness to grant accommodation requests, such as postdocs’ ability to work from home until their children are old enough to attend child care, or to attend work on different days of the week. Several postdocs reported leaving their positions when these requests weren’t met.

On-campus child care was also scarce, with postdocs commonly reporting being on waiting lists for a year or more. Other care was also expensive, with it in some cases costing 50 to 100 percent of postdoc salaries.

Postdoctoral positions were originally intended to be temporary stops for advanced training on the way to a permanent position. Now, critics say, they’re the backbone of a system dependent on if not addicted to cheap labor, with postdocs often spending years upon years in such positions instead of months. The National Institutes of Health, for example, established a rule saying postdocs can’t work there for longer than five years, unless they’re promoted to research fellows, which gets them a maximum of three more years. Altogether, that’s longer than a tenure probationary period.

One of the report’s major recommendations is that every campus create an office for postdoc services and assistance. But does creating offices for postdocs and otherwise shoring up institutional policies regarding postdocs risk further institutionalizing what’s been called the “permadoc” problem? That's where young scholars linger in postdoc assignments, lacking the opportunities to truly launch independent careers. Those involved with the study said ignoring the problem does more harm than anything, and that centralizing services for postdocs may help prevent their exploitation.

“The postdoc position is supposed to be a training position, and having a postdoc office is just a natural extension for that, making sure that these graduates have everything they need -- whether it’s advice on maternity or paternity leave or advice on their benefits based on how they’re categorized on campus,” said Kate Sleeth, associate dean of administration and student development and professional education at Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope and chair of the National Postdoctoral Association’s Board of Directors. Sleeth spent seven years as a postdoc and said she found her own campus postdoc office helpful in that it made her aware of benefits she didn’t know she was entitled to.

“A lot of the time, rules and policies exist, it’s a just a matter of whether postdocs are aware of them,” she said. “They’re really there in an advisory role, to give the postdoc advice. If something should happen, they can advise the postdoc on what to do.”

Jessica Lee, the report’s lead author and a staff attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings, said many of the problems identified in the report are linked to some institutions’ failure “to catch up to the new reality of longer-term postdocs and provide the formal support policies or structures they need.” Policies established when postdocs were more likely to be transient and male don’t meet current needs, and institutions that “turn a blind eye to postdoc needs, for fear of institutionalizing the postdoc, may be turning a blind eye to discrimination,” she said.

The hostility of many primary investigators toward postdoc parents, for example, is “unacceptable and in many cases illegal, and it is not only the [investigator] that is on the hook. Universities must prevent and respond to discrimination, and one of the best ways to start is by establishing clear policies that set the standard.” Whether a postdoc parent has a positive experience -- as many subjects did -- or leaves research entirely shouldn’t depend on the “goodwill” of the investigator.

There must be “structures in place to provide guidance and accountability,” Lee said. “We expect no less for our students and faculty and we should expect no less for our postdocs.”

ResearchEditorial Tags: Career AdvicePostdocsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 2Advice Newsletter publication date: Thursday, June 22, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Helping Postdocs With Children

Three major publishers sue college store company over textbook counterfeiting

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:00

Amid other woes as their core business shrinks, textbook publishers say they lose tens of millions of dollars a year when students buy pirated versions of their works. Technology and improved distribution have made it easier for counterfeiters to make and sell their alternatives, and while publishers have ramped up their own defensive tactics, the producers of the faked texts are often faceless and nameless.

Some of the other players in the counterfeiting chain -- the producers frequently sell to wholesalers, who sell to distributors, who ultimately sell to consumers -- have names and faces, though, and the publishers have stepped up their efforts to encourage, or force, them to try to combat piracy. In recent months, Cengage and McGraw-Hill said they would institute new measures aimed at identifying pirated materials. And three publishers -- Cengage, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education -- reached an agreement with the distributors Chegg and Ingram to embrace a set of Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices that will involve significant changes in how the distributors operate.

On Wednesday, though, after what the publishers said were unsuccessful negotiations, they sued another major company in the educational materials space, the bookstore operator Follett, for copyright and trademark violations involving "the distribution of unlawful counterfeit copies of educational textbooks" produced by the three publishers. "Defendants refuse to conduct due diligence on their suppliers and fuel the counterfeit market by relying on the process of buying and inspecting counterfeits instead of not buying them in the first place," the complaint alleges.

"They desire to have the largest possible margin on the books, and to do that, they're buying from the lowest-priced sources," which are illegitimate ones, said Matt Oppenheim, a lawyer representing the publishers.

In a statement, Follett said it takes piracy seriously but that adopting the publishers' preferred approach would "cripple the campus store’s ability to provide lower-cost course material options, leaving students little choice but to buy higher-priced texts from the publishers."

Battle of Behemoths

At a time of great public concern over rising tuition and student debt, there is some irony that both sides in this dispute between major companies cite the greediness of the other. Oppenheim conceded as much in an interview, up to a point. "Yes, all companies are profit minded," he said. "But there's a line you don't cross: doing things that are illegal."

The publishers assert that by selling students books that have been pirated, Follett is clearly violating federal copyright and trademark law, as one can be liable without having any intent or prior knowledge.

The publishing companies said they took a series of steps aimed at working with Follett before filing the lawsuit, including training its employees on avoiding buying pirated books and identifying them once they've been purchased. But ultimately, the parties ended up "at loggerheads," said Oppenheim.

"Defendants have continued their practice unabated, contending that they adequately ferret out many of the counterfeits they receive by inspecting at least some of the books for authenticity upon receipt," the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims that the publishers bought "counterfeit copies of at least 46 textbook titles" from Follett's stores and websites this spring, as well as receiving other pirated books from customers who had bought them from Follett. "But this is a mere snapshot," the complaint states. "The true scope of [Follett's] distribution of counterfeits is likely much greater and not precisely known to defendants, who fear that what they know to date is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg."

Follett took a very different approach than Chegg and Ingram did when the publishers approached those companies in a similar way, Oppenheim said.

Adopting the "best practices" -- which include requiring and revealing much more identifying information about whom they buy books from, and inspecting purchased books much more rigorously for counterfeits -- required Chegg and Ingram to "make changes in way they conducted their business. They squared up, took responsibility and took steps to address" the problem, he said.

Pushback From Follett

In its statement, Follett acknowledged that counterfeiting "hurts everybody in the industry" and said it had worked for decades to combat piracy. But the bookstore provider focused most of its response on explaining why the strategies the publishers are pushing on textbook resellers are self-interested.

"The publisher group had been pressuring Follett and other campus retailers and text distributors to adopt certain 'best practices' created by the publishers that Follett believes would effectively restrict access to low-cost used and rental course materials on campus," the company said. "Follett’s mission is to serve the physical and digital course material needs of its higher education institutional partners and their students through cost-saving options that include used textbooks and Follett’s text rentals that offer an average savings of nearly half the cost of new texts from publishers."

Asked in a follow-up email to respond to the lawsuit's allegations and to detail how it is combating counterfeiting, Follett said that "identifying books as counterfeits is as much art as science," but laid out its process for trying to do so. The company regularly inspects books, with special attention to those believed to be "frequently counterfeited"; quarantines "all similar textbooks" from any shipment found to contain a faked book; and either destroys or sends back to the publisher all such textbooks.

The company did not respond to any of the specific allegations made by the publishers, who are seeking monetary damages as well as an injunction to force Follett to stop buying counterfeited textbooks.

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Two more professors find themselves targets of physical threats and harassment

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:00

Trinity College in Connecticut shut down Wednesday over threats directed at an associate professor of sociology who shared a controversial article about race, violence and politics on social media. A professor at Syracuse University also is being targeting online for her involvement in a counterprotest to an anti-sharia event. They're the latest professors to face physical threats or harassment, or both, for their political speech.

Trinity College

The Trinity professor, John Eric Williams, last week shared a link to a Fusion piece called “Bigoted Homophobe Steve Scalise's Life Was Saved by a Queer Black Woman." It points to the fact that Scalise, the Republican congressman who was recently shot at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., has previously opposed extending protections to LGBTQ people and reportedly once spoke at a meeting of white supremacists, while one of the black law enforcement officers who rescued him is a married lesbian.

Williams shared the article through an embedded link in Medium, accompanied by commentary from an author called Son of Baldwin, entitled “Let Them Fucking Die.” Baldwin’s piece argues that “indifference to their well-being is the only thing that terrifies” bigots, and so people of color should “Let. Them. Fucking. Die” if they’re ever drowning, “teetering on the edge of a cliff” or caught in various other emergencies.

“Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous,” Baldwin wrote. In sharing Baldwin’s link to the Fusion article, Williams also used his “Let them fucking die” comment as a hashtag, and wrote that it is “past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”

That post and a similar one prompted critical reports on conservative websites suggesting Williams was advocating violence against whites. “Less than one week after a gunman opened fire on more than a dozen Republican members of Congress on a Virginia baseball field, a Connecticut college professor said that first responders to the shooting should have ‘let them die’ because they are white,” The Blaze reported, for example.

Williams told the Hartford Courant that he was writing about white supremacy, police killings of unarmed black people and other forms of institutionalized racism, and not saying that members of Congress should have been left to die because of their race. "This is about free speech as well as academic freedom," he told the newspaper. "From my perspective, I'm considering whether I should file a defamation [claim] against these guys," he added, referring to news sites that suggested otherwise.

"The black community is beside itself all over the country with the constant killing. It doesn't matter what we do, we still be killed, we still go to jail. Just being black and living is a crime. That's what seems to be the problem," Williams added, saying his status as scholar obliges him to "speak up about the kind of destructive behavior that white supremacy is dealing on people on a daily basis."

The various reports led to threats against Trinity and death threats against Williams, according to the Courant, prompting the shutdown so that law enforcement officials could investigate what they described as “nonspecific, noncredible” threats. The campus is expected to reopen today.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity’s president, said in a statement that the dean of faculty is reviewing the matter to see if any college policies or procedures were violated, and that she’d personally told Williams “his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment.” No matter its intent, she said, “it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.”

Two state lawmakers reportedly have called for Williams’s termination.

Syracuse University

Dana Cloud, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse, is also facing online harassment and physical threats for calling for protesters to stage a counterprotest against an “anti-Sharia law” rally in Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this month, according to her supporters. Cloud, who believed that protesters were using unsubstantiated threats of rule by Islamic law to conjure anti-Muslim sentiments in the area, participated in a nonviolent counterdemonstration and on Twitter asked others to join her. When the opposing group started disperse, she tweeted, “We almost have the fascists in on the run. Syracuse people come down to the federal building to finish them off.”

Campus Reform, another conservative publication, later published an article about the tweet, alleging that “finish them off” was a “veiled call for violence.” Other websites and commentators have since followed suit, and Cloud has received threats. Hundreds of students and scholars have also expressed support for her in a petition that says, in part, that the “hate mail and threats directed against [Cloud] are not isolated phenomena, but part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against those standing in solidarity with Muslims and other oppressed groups. Professors who speak out against racism and bigotry around the country are being targeted by right-wing media and activists.”

The petition mentions other professors, including Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of Princeton University, who have faced physical threats for their speech in recent weeks. In another example, Sarah Bond, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Iowa, faced harassment after Campus Reform reported that she said the equation of white marble with beauty contributes to white supremacist ideas today. In fact, she'd written that such statues were originally painted in different colors and that paying more attention to that fact might undercut how racist groups or individuals have over time pointed to white marble as the classical ideal.

“These attacks are evidence of a disturbing rise in the confidence of right-wing extremists around the country,” reads the petition in support of Cloud. “We demand that Syracuse University and the broader academic community defend and protect her and all faculty in the exercise of their academic freedom, their right to extramural speech and the exercise of their conscience in civic life.”

Syracuse said in a statement that it “condemns, unequivocally, any threats directed” at Cloud, and that she has clarified that her remarks “were not intended to invite or incite violence.”

Cloud did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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New government system rates British universities on student outcomes and teaching

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 02:00

Gold, silver and bronze.

The British government releases the results today of its new three-tiered rating system of teaching quality at universities. The government rating exercise sorting institutions into gold, silver and bronze categories has been controversial on a number of counts and echoes similar accountability movements in the U.S., including performance-funding initiatives at the state level and the Obama administration’s scuttled attempt to create a national college ratings system.

It remains to be seen how much influence the British ratings will have with students and their families, but results of the Teaching Excellence Framework, or TEF, as it is known, could eventually have financial consequences for universities. Future TEF results could be linked to universities’ abilities to raise tuition by differential amounts as early as academic year 2020-21, after the completion of an independent study.

In the meantime, it will no doubt be widely remarked upon that the results of the first round of the exercise do not follow traditional reputational hierarchies. The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford both scored a gold, but so did many less well-known, regionally focused universities, while the internationally recognized London School of Economics and Political Science settled for a bronze. Two other members of Britain’s elite club of Russell Group universities, the Universities of Liverpool and Southampton, also were rated bronze. A total of 295 institutions opted to participate in the ratings, and, excluding those that earned provisional ratings due to insufficient data, about a quarter each of participating institutions earned gold and bronze awards, and the remaining half silver. No institution got anything less than a bronze.

The TEF ratings are based on relative, rather than absolute, measures of quality: universities are compared on six core quantitative metrics against benchmarks calculated to account for the demographic profile of their students and the mix of programs offered. In other words, a university rated gold doesn’t necessarily have better student satisfaction data, retention rates or employment outcomes -- all core metrics factored into the survey -- than a university rated bronze. Rather, a university with a gold rating may have been judged to perform better on those measures than would have been predicted based on the profile of the students they serve and the programs they offer.

All this means that some teaching-intensive universities that do a good job teaching students from a wide array of backgrounds but don’t factor into the international rankings, which largely reward reputation and research output, have a chance to rise to the top. Indeed, the British government says that its purposes for the TEF include raising esteem for teaching and recognizing excellence in the classroom. “The Teaching Excellence Framework is refocusing the sector’s attention on teaching -- putting in place incentives that will raise standards across the sector and giving teaching the same status as research,” Universities Minister Jo Johnson said in a statement.

But in the views of many observers, the TEF suffers from the same problem that perpetually plagues efforts to put in place meaningful university ranking systems, including in the U.S. -- a lack of adequate data about teaching quality and student learning gains.

“The Teaching Excellence Framework would have comprehensively failed if it had simply replicated existing hierarchies,” said Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a British think tank. “It was always designed to do something different to other league tables and rankings -- namely, to show where there are pockets of excellence that have been ignored and to encourage improvements elsewhere.”

Hillman said the gold ratings are hard-won and well deserved. “Nonetheless, in this early guise, the TEF is far from a perfect assessment of teaching and learning,” he said. “While it tells us a lot of useful things, none of them accurately reflects precisely what goes on in lecture halls. I hope university applicants will use the results in their decision making, but they should do so with caution, not least because the ratings are for whole universities rather than individual courses.”

A Controversial Rating

The methodology for the TEF includes both quantitative and qualitative components. There are six core quantitative metrics: retention rates, student satisfaction data on measures related to teaching, assessment, and academic support taken from the National Student Survey, and data on rates of employment or postgraduate study six months after graduation taken from the Destination of Leavers From Higher Education survey.

Universities are judged on their performance on these metrics, both overall and in relation to various demographic groups, in a statistical calculation intended to control for different universities’ student characteristics, admissions requirements and academic programs. This process generates a “hypothesis” of gold, silver or bronze, which a panel of assessors then tests against additional evidence submitted for consideration by the university (higher education institutions can make up to a 15-page submission to TEF assessors). Ultimately the decision of gold, silver or bronze is a human judgment, not the pure product of a mathematical formula.

Chris Husbands, the chair of the TEF panel and the vice chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, acknowledged that the process has been controversial, with a number of different objections raised.

“The first is a philosophical one as to whether you can make reliable judgments about the quality of teaching across an institution,” he said. “The second has been the government’s decision to classify the institutions as gold, silver or bronze. You’ve got some very complex institutions. My own institution has 33,000 students across something like 20 different departments, and we’re expressing a single judgment.”

“And the third, this is not an inspection-based system. So the panel have not looked at teaching in any lecture room in any of these universities. What we have done is to look at the outcomes of teaching and to project what were the institutional processes that produced this outcome.”

All that said, Husbands argues that the rating process brings value. “What the TEF does is to focus attention on the relationship between institutional policies, what institutions say they do, institutional practices -- which may or may not turn out to be the same as policies -- and student outcomes,” he said.

“It’s forcing universities to think clearly about the relationship between the activities they undertake and the way they describe them and the outcomes the students achieve. And although I can be self-critical about many aspects of the metrics, that connection between what an institution says it does, what an institution actually does and what outcomes it achieves for its students seems to me to be worth having.”

Husbands added, “What the TEF has been is a massive pebble chucked into the pond of U.K. higher education. I suspect that though we could have had years of piloting, actually just making the decision -- 'we are going to do this and we’re going to make this happen' -- is the way to make real change happen.”

“What I do believe is the TEF says something about the environment that we create for our students, the sorts of students we can attract here and what we do in terms of adding value to them by the time they leave,” said Robert Allison, the vice chancellor and president of Loughborough University, which received a gold rating. Allison added that he has no doubt the U.K. government will make continual improvements to the TEF, as it has with a research-oriented equivalent, the REF.

Others are less convinced of the TEF’s value. The National Union of Students issued a statement describing it as "another meaningless university ranking system no one asked for, which the government is introducing purportedly in the name of students. Yet students have walked away from it, with thousands boycotting one of its key components, the National Student Survey."

The student union accused the government of having "ignored the concerns of students, academics and experts across the country who have warned against the introduction of the TEF, arguing that its measurements fail to capture anything about teaching quality. Until this is addressed, this ranking system is nothing but a Trojan horse to justify raised tuition fees and treat the higher education sector like any other market, to be ineptly measured and damagingly sold."

“Crucially, this is a pilot year for an exercise that is really untried and untested,” said Tim Bradshaw, the acting director of the Russell Group. “A lot of the measures that make up the fundamental baseline of the TEF are proxies, and not all of them proxies for anything to do with teaching excellence.”

Bradshaw pointed out that half of the quantitative metrics that feed into TEF come from a student satisfaction survey, and he said that a student who took a particularly challenging course might well be unhappy, but for a good reason -- “We were challenging them; we were stretching them.” Bradshaw also said he was concerned about the potential that the nuances of benchmarking and the fact that the ratings measure relative versus absolute performance might be overlooked by students, including prospective international students who just see a gold, silver or bronze rating attached to an institution.

“The TEF is a pilot year; it’s one amongst many different sorts of sets of data one can look at,” Bradshaw said. He noted for example the release last week of new graduate earnings data: the data, for example, show alumni of LSE, which got a bronze on the TEF, toward the very top of the income strata five years after graduation compared to other graduates of social science and economics programs.

Universities UK, the umbrella association for university leaders, also stressed in its response to the TEF that this is a trial year for the exercise. "These new Teaching Excellence Framework ratings are based on a number of publicly available data and are intended to complement the range of other information available to students. They are not a comprehensive assessment of a university's academic quality," the group's president, Julia Goodfellow, the vice chancellor at the University of Kent, said in a statement.

"It is important that the data used are appropriate, robust and take account of the considerable diversity within our university sector. The challenge will be to develop the system to ensure the information is properly communicated and helpful to students in the decision-making process."

A U.S. Perspective

Could -- should -- something like the TEF be replicated in the U.S.? Former President Obama's administration got major pushback from universities when it proposed creating a college rating system, an effort it eventually abandoned in favor of releasing a revamped and expanded consumer information tool called the College Scorecard.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University who researches finance and accountability policies, said he sees parallels to state-level performance-funding formulas, which tie some funding to measures of outcomes, and to the push by some in Congress to set minimum quality standards for accreditors. "U.S. higher education policy has focused more on trying to identify the worst actors than [doing] finer gradation among higher-performing institutions," he said.

"It would be logistically difficult and expensive to do certain parts" of what the U.K. is doing, Kelchen continued. "For example, doing national surveys of former students would be expensive. We would need to be better at being able to track student outcomes. The College Scorecard was a step, the program-level gainful-employment data represents another step, and individual states have the kinds of data systems that are needed, but not all those systems talk across state lines. If the federal government wanted to do something like this and was willing to invest significant time and money, they could do this probably in about five years or so, but I don’t think anyone in the federal government wants to do this sort of systematic look at all colleges. I think it’s much more at the federal level about trying to identify the lowest-performing institutions, while maybe some states may try to be more nuanced in their approaches."

"If we ever tried to do red light, green light or they’re trying gold, bronze and silver, I think a lot of heads would roll," said Mark Schneider, a vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research and a former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics under the George W. Bush administration.

"Colleges and universities are really very powerful, and the organizations that represent them, especially the not-for-profits, are very powerful and they are trying very hard not to be judged. You saw what happened with the Scorecard. It was going to be a ranking system and then it turned into an informational system, and that was the end of that. Theoretically it was going to be tied to Pell Grant and Title IV [federal financial aid awards]; that got scotched almost immediately."

Jamienne Studley, a former deputy under secretary at the Department of Education during the Obama administration, said from her perspective the federal college ratings effort foundered on data limitations, specifically constraints having to do with data definitions that only captured first-time, full-time students who start in the fall and a lack of sufficient information about student preparation levels.

"Those two constraints meant that time and again, even when we had a good idea like clusters, like red, yellow, green, or gold, silver, bronze or any other permutations, as close as we would get to, 'oh, we could do it this way,' it would founder on the data that was available to us, and our fear that we would do something that would work backward for students and the schools we were trying to serve instead of forward," Studley said.

Backward, she said, in that “if you can't include information about student preparation that’s wide enough and informative enough, then the danger that places that can cherry-pick students would just not take students who are more challenging to educate or that cost more to educate was very frightening.”

"What we’re all looking for are ways to understand what people know and can do when they finish an educational experience, and that’s still very hard to get at," said Studley, who's now an independent consultant and national policy adviser for the nonprofit organization Beyond 12. "So many of the metrics that we look at have to be proxies for the basic know and can do: Is your employer satisfied, do you report five years later that you feel prepared for the things you’re called on to do in the workplace, did you pass the licensing test in your field that tests practical knowledge of nursing or engineering? It's very hard to get at that fundamental [question of] where do people learn important things and where do they learn them in ways that have the most effect and significance. That’s still the thing we’re circling around."

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For The Future Of Education, Answer The Calling To The Classroom

Huffington Post - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 16:06
Today, the educational environment is plagued by teacher shortages and uncertainty; our top priority should be building a

The 395 Kids Philando Castile Left Behind

Huffington Post - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 14:23

It was a few weeks after his death in July 2016 when Sakki Selznick learned that her daughter had been giving imaginary high-fives to Philando Castile.

Castile ― or Mr. Phil, as students at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School would call him ― often greeted students with high-fives while they waited on line to get breakfast in the cafeteria. Now that Mr. Phil was gone, Selznick’s young daughter worried she’d never get one of his famous high-fives again. One evening, she explained, she was thinking about it and she’d started high-fiving the air, hoping Mr. Phil would respond somehow.

A magical high-five didn’t arrive. Through tears, Selznick explained to her daughter that she would not be getting one.

Jeronimo Yanez, at the time a St. Anthony police officer, shot and killed Castile last summer during a traffic stop. Castile, 32, left behind not only a girlfriend and her daughter, a mother and a family, colleagues and friends, but also 395 adoring students at the Saint Paul, Minnesota, elementary school where he worked.

The students have spent the past year mourning Castile, a loss that was felt anew last week with the news that Yanez had been acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Now that Castile’s killer has been found not guilty, the young children are grappling with another uncomfortable truth: The justice system doesn’t always deliver justice.

In a country where many schools are segregated by race and class, J.J. Hill is a small bastion of diversity, a Montessori school that draws from surrounding progressive neighborhoods. About 47 percent of the students are Asian, black or Hispanic, with a number of Somalian and Hmong immigrants. The rest of the students are white. For the most part, everyone gets along, parents say. The fact that this harmonious racial coexistence does not extend beyond the school’s four walls is a reality students had to confront when a cop killed their nutrition services supervisor last summer.

For some white families, it was surprising that an incident of stark police brutality could happen to someone in their circle. The shock mobilized them to action via protests and petitions. For some black families, the reality of police violence was something for which they had long prepared their children.

But the fact that it happened to Mr. Phil ― a man whom parents describe as exceedingly gentle and unfailingly kind, a man who did everything “right” ― was something no one could have prepared for.

Selznick, who is white, previously lived in an all-black neighborhood in Los Angeles. She says she isn’t naive about the harsh facts of police brutality. But when a jury found Yanez not guilty of second-degree manslaughter last week, she felt like she had been tricked into the idea that there would be some sense of justice. Earlier reports of a deadlocked jury had given her hope. “I got snookered,” she said.

When Selznick’s 10-year-old daughter learned of the verdict, she seemed overwhelmed. She said she could no longer remember Mr. Phil’s face. Selznick’s 16-year-old son, who also knew Castile, almost put a hole through the wall in anger.

“They’re right at the age where they believe there will be social justice,” Selznick said. “That’s a lie.”

Zuki Ellis’ son, entering fourth grade, isn’t likely to forget about Castile’s death any time soon. Ellis is black. She’s never tried to conceal from her son the realities of racism or police brutality. But this was the first time anything had happened to someone so close.

“He has the same question a lot of us have: How does something so awful happen and no one is accountable for that?” Ellis said. “How do you kill Mr. Phil and nothing happens?”

They’re right at the age where they believe there will be social justice. That’s a lie.
Sakki Selznick

This year, when kids at J.J. Hill had to face school without Mr. Phil, regardless of their race, some students emerged from the experience as changed individuals.

Tony Fragnito, a small business owner who is involved in local politics, says his two boys, one going into third grade and one into fourth, were noticeably different. They were more somber and had less energy when they got home from school. Then, in November, the election happened, building on the trauma of Castile’s death. After Donald Trump won, Fragnito’s younger son packed a suitcase and said he was moving to Canada with his Somali friends from school because “it’s not safe for them anymore.”

Andrew Karre, a children’s book editor, recalled that when his 9-year-old son found out about Castile’s death, he asked a simple but difficult-to-answer question: “Why was the police officer scared?” Karre’s son followed Yanez’s trial on public radio. When the verdict was announced, the family headed down to the Capitol to protest. Given the facts of the case, Karre said, his son was troubled by the outcome. 

John Horton, a teacher at J.J. Hill who also has two kids enrolled, said Castile’s death would often come up in class. The children drew connections to Castile when learning about civil rights issues. They tried to make sense of Castile’s death in relation to a larger context of injustice. But for many, he said, it still seemed senseless.

“I think a lot of the adults are still trying to work through it, and the kids see this,” Horton said. “They see the instability and the not understanding from the adult side.”

The school has mostly dealt with the grief head-on. Teachers got special training, and counselors were available for therapy throughout the year. A handful of teachers sported pins with Castile’s face on them. There is a bench in his honor, and a tree in his name.  

But some parents are still struggling to provide answers to questions they can’t figure out themselves.

“It has been a hard year,” Ellis said. “I don’t imagine the next year will be easier.”

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My Daughter’s Favorite Teacher Is Transgender. Here’s Why That Matters.

Huffington Post - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 14:16
"Her empathy has been especially meaningful to our family this past year, as our girls have faced particular challenges as Muslim kids."

Un juez avala que un profesor interino cobre su sueldo en verano

El País - Educación - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 09:52
El magistrado da la razón a un docente y obliga a la Comunidad de Madrid a abonarle cuatro veranos y contárselos en su antigüedad

Florida: Death To Public Education

Huffington Post - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 09:52
Florida has long struggled to take the lead in the State Most Hostile To Public Education contest, with North Carolina, Wisconsin

Florida: Death To Public Education

Huffington Post - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 09:52

Florida has long struggled to take the lead in the State Most Hostile To Public Education contest, with North Carolina, Wisconsin and Nevada giving some real competition. But last week, Florida’s legislature and governor took a decisive leap forward.

Let there be no doubt ― no state is more hostile to the very idea of public education than Florida.

Can I give you a quick list of the many ways that Florida has spat on public education in the past? They tried to undermine the teaching of science. They have remained studiously devoted to the idea of the Big Standardized Test, even though they can’t seem to get one right (and even to the point of cancelling actual education and requiring students to pledge allegiance to the test). But their devotion to the BS Test is so great that they hounded the mother of a dying child and went to court to keep children out of fourth grade who had demonstrated mastery of reading― but not on the BS Test. They have committed to a merit pay plan (well, with every kind of commitment except funding) that is one of the dumbest and most insulting versions of the oft-disproven concept of merit pay ever seen. They have turned recess into a political football. They have stood in a courtroom and declared that teacher-given grades are meaningless.  They implement bad retail management practices in their education system. They serve as the home base for FEE, the astro-turf edu-group that was supposed to help propel Jeb! Bush to the White House (as well as other failed astro-turf for the Common Core failures). In the face of a teacher shortage, they got rid of tenure and have since used it make the shortage worse by purging teachers who speak up about abuses they see. They host some of the research in How To Replace Teachers (and Students) With CGI Avatars, as well as some disastrously failed Gates “research” about teaching. They are pioneers in the destructive and not-remotely-useful A-F school grading system. And while they have pursued these new horizons in the destruction of public schools and the teaching profession, they’ve also kept the door open so that good old-fashioned racist underfunding of public schools can continue unimpeded.

But then, letting terrible crap happen without standing in its way (well, unless it’s those third graders trying to avoid passing the Big Standardized Test) is what Florida does best. They have left the field for charter schools wide open, while doing their best to hamper public schools so that charters would look by comparison. Which is a challenge, because in Florida we have so many awesome charters to choose from. How about the charter that fired an English teacher for assigning actual reading?  How about a charter organization making money for a former model, but not actually educating anyone? Or a charter that’s run only to enrich a family, but which fires its whole staff. Or a charter that abruptly closes mid-yearHere’s an entire report that captures pages of Florida charter frauds and scams, because none of these examples is unique within the state. 

And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regularly holds Florida up as an exemplar.

But for some of Florida’s education ― well, “leaders” isn’t exactly the word, so let’s call them Buckaneers, after the brave pirates who used to raid Florida in days of old, and yes, I spelled it with a K on purpose ― anyway, those guys didn’t see enough destruction happening fast enough, and so, HB 7069.

Florida HB 7069 is everything there is to hate about the legislative process. The Miami Herald figures there are pieces of 55 old bills stapled together in this ugly dog. Cobbled together in some collection of dark back rooms, it offers a giant poop sandwich with a pickle on top, in hopes that people who like pickles will buy it.

Except that, in the end, the Florida GOP didn’t make any real effort to sell it to anyone, though some of the charters that stood to profit from it assigned letter-writing duties to their parents. And some newspapers played along ― the Orlando Sentinel, in a truly amazing display of journalistic malpractice, covered the story as a bill “to scale back testing.” The whole business came down to an 11th-hour hope that if enough opposition could be mustered to the bill, Gov. Rick Scott would accidentally follow his naked self-interested into doing the right thing and veto this unholy bastard of a bill.

That did not happen. In fact, because simply signing the bill wasn’t enough of a big fat “F@#! You!” to all supporters of public education, Scott signed the bill in a Catholic School, like the faithless jerk who cheats on you with some loose sleazebag, and then brings the sleazebag to the family picnic, just to rub it in your face.

The bill includes hundreds of pages, but opponents and supporters agree on what it does― the bill shifts millions of taxpayer dollars from public education to the charter industry. Senator Linda Stewart summed it up pretty well here in her comments:

The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

Opposition to the bill was widespread, and the cause for its support was not hard to figure out. Check out some of the leaders of the initiative. There’s House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose wife runs a charter school in Pasco County. (He’s also the guy who reportedly insisted on the “poop sandwich withy pickle” political strategy for creating the bill). There’s Rep Manny Diaz, who runs a pretend college that lets charter students pretend they are taking college course. There’s bill co-sponsor Rep. Erik Fresen, who works as a $150,000-a-year consultant for Civica, an architectural firm that specializes in charter school buildings. Diaz and Fresen also work for Academica, a big time Florida charter chain. And the legislators did consult some folks as well, according to Gary Fineout, an AP reporter who has covered many Florida crazy-pants education stories:

Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee, said legislators met with charter school operators and asked what it would take for them to set up schools in the neighborhoods now served by traditional public schools. He said one answer was that they needed help paying for new buildings to house the school.

Voila! HB 7069 gives charters the ability to just go ahead and suck up tax dollars for purposes like buying or building facilities.

The bill also provides the cynically-named “Schools of Hope,” which is an unbridled license for charter schools to expand in markets where the public school has been sufficiently weakened ― and no requirement to accept the students from that community. The state’s voucher program has been expanded. And a charter no longer needs the permission of a local district to expand ― just its money.

There are yet more amazing features (after all, it’s almost 300 pages). Charter schools get to “grade” districts (but not, of course, vice versa). Title I funds are up for redistribution. New charters may ignore local zoning laws. Charters may of course hire any warm body they like, regardless of qualifications. And in a particularly baldfaced unsupportable move, HB 7069 says that if Chris does a lousy job as a student at Gotrox Charter Academy, then goes back to public school, the public school has to count all of Chris’s failure in their public school grade.

It is true that HB 7069 does stop short of, say, allowing charter operators to take the food from in front of students in public school cafeterias. Nor does it allow charter operators to attack public school buildings with tanks or bazookas. But charter advocates are peeing themselves with glee. It is absolutely open season on public education in Florida, with the traditional system to be replaced with a corporate marketplace with a single purpose ― to make a bunch of money while pretending to sort of educate a select few students, kind of.  Students will be at the mercy of whatever the market wants to offer them, while the children of the rich will head off to private schools. What happens when the state burns down your public school and no reputable or competent charter wants you? Some Floridians are about to find out.

There is no pretending this will serve students. Florida’s education system has already been failing masses of students by gutting public schools and replacing them with unregulated, unqualified, unscrupulous charter operators, and this bill openly and deliberately accelerates that process. North Carolina has been trying hard to show us what one-party rule with no regard for democracy or the rights of citizens looks like, but it turns out they are just wanna-be’s compared to the money-hungry back-room operators of the Florida GOP. I have seen on the twitterverse that some legislators may have voted for this abomination thinking that Scott would veto it (which ― really? Have you met your governor) and that other folks failed to speak out because they really like pickles and didn’t believe the poop would be that hard to choke down. Shame on all of them.

I know there are still good schools and good teachers left in Florida, but their uphill struggle only gets steeper from this point. After last week’s action, I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to teach in Florida, nor their children to go to school there.

And do not forget ―

This is what Betsy DeVos thinks is an example for us all. This is what she thinks the whole country should look like.

Originally posted at Curmudgucation

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Un profesor condenado a 15 años de prisión por abusar sexualmente de cinco alumnas

El País - Educación - Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 09:09
Los hechos ocurrieron entre 2011 y 2013 y cuatro de las cinco víctimas eran menores de 13 años


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