Monday, 20 February 2017

Misty day

A cold, misty morning at Glen Park this morning.

New NSW syllabus

The New South Wales Higher School Certificate syllabus has been given a radical overhaul for the first time in 16 years, with a renewed focus on "rigour, thoroughness and depth" in classic learning areas and major changes in year 12 science and history teaching.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) will today publish new syllabus materials in 22 separate subjects across English, maths, the sciences and history.

A breakdown of how English, Maths, Science and History subjects will be changed.
However, aspects of the math syllabus are yet to be finalised, with consultation continuing over calculus teaching after a backlash from teachers and academics unhappy with the draft new syllabus which was issued late last year.

NESA chair Tom Alegounarias described the changes as a "major shift".

"We reviewed the whole HSC, we looked at what the community is demanding for now and in the future," Mr Alegounarias said.

"The major shift is towards greater depth, rigour, and mastery of content learning.

The new syllabus is a move away from a "social context" approach to teaching that critics — particularly in science academia — argued had led to a "dumbing down" of subject matter.

More complex topics will be introduced across the maths and science syllabuses in response to criticism that students were ill-prepared for university studies in science, engineering and maths.

There will be a common syllabus introduced across the maths subject levels, and the marking of higher level subjects will be pegged against the lower level subjects in a marking scale designed to reward achievement at higher maths levels.

This is partly a response to a trend in which talented students undertake lower levels of mathematics study in the belief that it will result in a higher Australian Tertiary Entrance Rank.

A group of students who self-documented their entire final year for the ABC give their thoughts.
"What we want is students to study at the right level of the course, and at the highest possible level of study," Mr Alegounarias said.

"That's the rationale, that's why we're putting all the courses on a common scale."
NESA is still consulting with teachers over the new maths curriculum amid earlier criticism that there were major problems with the draft syllabus.

SCEGGS Darlinghurst principal Jenny Allum said not all of the issues with the maths syllabus had been ironed out yet.

"I think [the draft syllabus changes] are an improvement on the older drafts but they still leave quite a bit to be desired," Ms Allum said.

"I'd be sorry if we're consulting on the calculus courses but not on the general mathematics too."

There is also a major overhaul to the physics syllabus to focus on the science of physics and its mathematical bases.

It comes after University of NSW (UNSW) quantum physics professor Michelle Simmons derided the "feminisation" of physics during this year's Australia Day address.

Her comments attacked the way students were directed under the NSW syllabus to write essays about the historical aspects of physics.

Professor Simmons described that aspect of the syllabus as a wrong-headed attempt to attract more girls to physics.

The standards authority has conceded major problems in the physics syllabus.
"We think physics has been diluted," Mr Alegounarias said.
"There was an emphasis in previous generations of emphasising the social context in which you studied physics. This is a return to the science of physics."

Professor Joe Wolfe, a professor of physics at UNSW, welcomed news of the syllabus changes and said the NSW Year 12 physics syllabus had been widely panned.

"I thought students had been defrauded about the nature of physics," Professor Wolfe said.

"People were telling them that physics was this qualitative subject with lots of history and social aspects, and leaving out the analysis and the quantitative calculations.

"And that made physics at university a huge shock. It left students badly prepared."
Bryony Lanigan, a third year student in the UNSW a Bachelor of Advanced Science in Physics, said she was pleased to see changes to the physics syllabus at NSW schools.

"I think the idea previously was if we cut out the maths, the girls will like it more, but funnily enough that's not the case," she said.

"I think it's an insult to women to say we'll dumb it down and then they'll like it more."
Removal of 'context' also applied to English and history
The English and history syllabuses have also been overhauled.

In English, there will be a renewed focus on text, language, writing and vocabulary. Common module areas including Journeys, Discovery and Belonging have been abolished.

Are rote learning, controlling teachers and a "fixation" on standardised tests crushing children's creativity?
"The context, the sociology if you like, around the text is being removed," Mr Alegounarias said.

"It's the text and what makes it powerful that will be the centre of the study."

The history syllabus has been amended to incorporate an "overarching narrative" about the development of modern liberalism and modern democracies.

There will be less topic options on offer but greater depth in the syllabus.

Students will also be required to study Asian history or a non-Western module, and the focus on Aboriginal history will continue.

Looks like NSW is catching up with Victoria especially with a focus on in-depth learning and the study of Asia. A focus on the contribution of Menzies is bizarre and more to do with the current government in NSW and Howard's tired old 'history wars'.

Mind boggling

The Catholic Church is continuing to cover the legal bills of convicted paedophile and Christian Brother Robert Best, who has admitted to sexually abusing a further 20 boys in his care, a Victorian court has been told.

Best, 76, admitted on Monday to 24 charges of indecent assault against the boys, mostly aged between eight and 11 years old.

The County Court heard the abuse took place between 1968 and 1988 while Brother Best was a principal, teacher and year level co-ordinator at four schools: St Alipius at Ballarat, St Leo's at Box Hill, St Joseph's at Geelong and St Bernard's at Essendon.

Best was sentenced to 14 years and nine months jail in 2011 for sexual crimes against 11 boys during the same period. 

His latest guilty pleas take the total number of victims to 31.

Ship in a bottle #3

Ship in a bottle now finished and on display and looks great!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Government attack on racism

Racist tirades on public transport, bigotry in schools, and discrimination in the rental market face a crackdown as part of a state-wide push to counter the rise of the far right in Victoria.

Amid concerns the community has reached a tipping point, the Andrews government will today launch a new campaign to reframe the debate on multiculturalism in the wake of events such as Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and the growth of One Nation.

"I see this in part as a struggle between fear and hope," said Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott, who will unveil the strategy with Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday. "It's important for the future of our community that hope wins."

The campaign begins  on Sunday night with a television ad featuring Victorians from diverse backgrounds, and an underlying message of shared values and common goals.

"No matter where we're from, we all do our bit, making Victoria the best place on earth – so let's be proud of it," says the voiceover.

A $1 million anti-racism action plan has also been developed with a focus on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The plan includes:

* New measures to crack down on commuters who racially abuse people on public transport.

* A broad-ranging review to stamp out discrimination and "unconscious bias" against some people who seek approval to rent a home.

* A revamp of the Respectful Relationships school curriculum to teach students about prejudice and discrimination.

* "Bystander awareness training" to help people respond accordingly when they experience or witness racism.

* Tougher complaint mechanisms to ensure the reporting of racism is taken seriously by authorities.

Over the next few months, the government will work with Public Transport Victoria to develop new measures to combat racist incidents on trams, trains and buses, although it is too early to say if this will lead to tougher fines and penalties.

Some famous superheroes knew about the damaging effects of racism and bigotry even back in the 40s-50s!

More teachers and nurses anyone?

How much could  the Commonwealth Bank’s 1/2yr profit pay for? Over 30,000 teachers or nurses!

DeVos sees what she wants to see

Newly minted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had a hard time getting inside the District’s Jefferson Middle School Academy last week when protesters briefly blocked herfrom entering. But at the end of her visit — her first to a public school since taking office — she stood on Jefferson’s front steps and pronounced it “awesome.”

A few days later, she seemed less enamored. The teachers at Jefferson were sincere, genuine and dedicated, she said, they seemed to be in “receive mode.”

“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child,” DeVos told a columnist for the conservative online publication Townhall. “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

DeVos, who has no professional experience in public education, is an avowed proponent of voucher schools, charter schools, online schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools. Teachers across the country have been galled by what they see as her lack of faith in — and understanding of — the public schools that educate nearly nine in 10 of the nation’s children.

Jefferson educators found her comments about their work hard to take: On Friday evening, the school responded to DeVos via its Twitter account, taking exception to the education secretary’s characterization of Jefferson teachers.

“We’re about to take her to school,” the first of 11 rapid-fire tweets said.

The tweetstorm singled out teachers like Jessica Harris, who built Jefferson’s band program “from the ground up,” and Ashley Shepherd and Britany Locher, who not only teach students ranging from a first- to eighth-grade reading level, but also “maintain a positive classroom environment focused on rigorous content, humor, and love. They aren’t waiting to be told what to do.”

“JA teachers are not in a ‘receive mode,'” the tweets concluded. “Unless you mean we ‘receive’ students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.”

An Education Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. But DeVos weighed in on Twitter Saturday morning, saying Jefferson’s teachers are “awesome” and that they “deserve more freedom to innovate and help students.”


A policy manifesto from an influential conservative group with ties to the Trump administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urges the dismantling of the Education Department and bringing God into American classrooms.

The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction. 

Names of the council’s members are closely held. But the Southern Poverty Law Center published a 2014 membership directory showing that Stephen K. Bannon — now chief White House strategist for President Trump — was a member and that Kellyanne Conway — now counselor to the president — served on the council’s executive committee.

DeVos was not listed as a member, but her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, was named on the council’s board of governors. Her father-in-law, Amway founder Richard DeVos Sr., twice served as president, most recently from 1990 to 1993. And she and her husband have given money to the council as recently as 2007 through their family foundation, according to federal tax records.

The council’s “Education Reform Report” says it is intended to help DeVos and Trump map a path toward change. The proposal to abolish the department dovetails with the long-held views of many Republicans, and Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign that the agency could be “largely eliminated.” But Trump has given no sign since taking office that he aims to act on that idea, and DeVos embraced the mission of the department when she took office last week.

From the Washington Post