The Academies Bill

May 26, 2010

 

 The Educational News

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Who’s involved? English Education Secretary, Michael Gove

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What’s being proposed? The Academies Bill; all schools will have the opportunity to become an academy. (Presented to Parliament on Thursday).

What is an Academy? State-funded school with high degree of autonomy, much like an American charter school

What does this mean in layman’s terms? Schools will have more control over the curricula and teacher and staff pay.

The Pros? The freedom will allow schools to raise standards in new and creative ways and allow flexibility to provide for students.

The Cons? The change may fragment state education. Also underprivileged area may not benefit, as the best teachers get pulled to the academies (which receive more money).

How does School Choice International weigh in?

England certainly needs to strive for quality and equal education for all, regardless of the student’s socio-economic situation. A country’s ability to provide a high standard of education to all its citizens allows it to be successful in today’s global market; India’s tech boom is a case in point.

As long as this bill does not negatively impact the underprivileged, this bill could improve the English education system immensely. Giving schools more autonomy means differing curricula, more schooling options for children, and more opportunities for teachers to showcase their teaching abilities in new ways.

School Choice International believes in best fit when placing children in schools—students have a better chance of finding a good fit when there are more options. For instance, an outgoing child may like hands-on teaching style in one school’s curriculum, while a quieter child may thrive in a school that encourages discipline and structure.

Good luck England!

See the full BBC article here

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Boycotting Standardized Tests

May 13, 2010

Recently about 1,900 schools in England

boycotted the Sats.

What are the Sats?

They are NOT the American college admission exams called SATS.

The Sats are national assessments taken by 7, 11 and 14 year olds. Basically they test reading, writing and math in 4 exams that last less than an hour each.

The exams are sent to external markers who grade the papers. The results also form School League Tables, which allow schools to be compared.

What is the controversy?

The Pros

Parents like the Sats because it allows them to compare schools and as well as keep tabs on their child’s performance.

The government likes the “factual statistics,” which allows some transparency on schools’ effectiveness.

The Cons

Teachers and staff feel they have to “teach to the test,” rather than creating the best curriculum for their child.

Pupils face immense pressure to perform well on test day.

There are also concerns about the fairness of the marking.

How does School Choice International weigh in?

It is hard to ignore the multitude of studies on the (extreme!) inefficacy of standardized tests in predicting future academic performance. Standardized tests have also long been criticized for gender, culture and class bias.

“Longstanding gaps in scores between males and females of all races show that females on average score 35-40 points lower than males on the SAT I, but receive better high school and college grades.” www.fairtest.org

Regardless, at School Choice International, we believe strongly in best fit when we place a child in a school. Some students might thrive in a highly competitive environment, while others may find it stifling and have high levels of intrinsic motivation. Tests like the Sats tend to create excitement around schools that score well, but not excellent schools that cultivate well-rounded students.

How do YOU weigh in?

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Read the full BBC article.


Report Cards from Around the World: Staffordshire, England

November 20, 2009

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~ A Spot of Tea ~

~ 6th Stop ~ England ~

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You may be familiar with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but do you know where they were originally bred? Staffordshire, a county in the West Midlands region of England, has a little over a million residents living in 2 cities and about 6 towns. Known for its porcelain and cathedrals (and a rock formation called The Roaches), Staffordshire has its fair share of tourists. In terms of education, the county has a handful of independent schools and two major universities Keele University and Staffordshire University.

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Report Card Basics

  • Type of School: Independent Local School
  • Academic Year: 1999 – 2000
  • Class: 3rd Year (8th year of education)

Here’s the report card! The blue numbers highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

1. 14 Years Old in… Year 3

The top of this report card reads. “Third Year Progress Card,” which would indicate elementary school to an American. However, in England, the Year 3 can mean the third year of secondary school, which is 8th Grade in the U.S.

2. A Letters & Numbers Report Card

Unlike some 7 to 11 page report cards we’ve seen so far, this report card consists of just 1 page of (mostly) letters and numbers. While the card contains much less comment space than the Australian report cards, the grading system is much more flexible than India’s card of exam scores. The focus of this report is student’s measurable performance and effort.

3. A is for Excellent!

Unlike the U.S., the British system does not have a grade point average (GPA) system, which correlates to the letter grade. The letter system in this report card seems more flexible (and some would argue more subjective) than a number based on 100, for instance an 88 percent (which is a B+ in the U.S.). Not that American students have anything to complain about; British students will sit for Board Exams, which can be very competitive and strictly scored. Note that the effort grade—based on a 5-point system—receives as much space and importance as the performance grade.

4. I’m Giving You an A… I mean a B… How about an A/B?

Another example of the flexibility of this reporting system is the use of an A/B. In many American schools (especially where the grading system is computerized, and every box needs to be filled.

5. Classes ~ E, H, G, F, RE… Take A Guess!

On this report card, the course names are abbreviated to a letter or two… so the students better know what classes they are taking, so they can tell their parents. Here’s my best guess as to what all the abbreviations stand for:

E – English

H – History

G – Geography

F Foreign Language

RE – Religious Education

M – Math

P­ – Physics

C – Chemistry

B – Biology

We’ll see how close I got… UPDATE ~ All the classes are correct!

See Report Card from: Zomba, Malawi; Sydney, Australia, week 1;    Sydney, Australia, week 2;   Dalhousie, India; Kathmandu, Nepal;    Soro, Denmark

Report card analysis to look forward to: Palestine, Canada, Mexico and more!