Wednesday, March 23, 2016


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is a bit confused about what a double dissolution implies

Two analyses of educational testing (NAPLAN) data:  An intelligent one and a dumb one

The Grattan institute has issued a  vast and discursive research report which Alexandra Smith (below) has tried to summarize.  She fails.   It said nothing much about "disadvantaged" schools.  What it focused on was educational performance after year 3. It found that the gap between low achieving and high achieving schoolkids gets greater with every year after level 3.  But the authors have no idea why and offer policy recommendations that are therefore useless.  The Grattan Institute is a Left-leaning outfit.

Any student of IQ, however, knows what is going on.  As Charles Murray showed 20 years ago, the genetic influence on IQ increases steadily with age -- up to about age 30.  Genetics steadily overcomes environmental influences.  And then there is the related  Chimpanzee effect, the general rule that final IQ will be reached more slowly the higher is the final level. So dumb and bright individuals may start out at a similar intellectual level but the bright individual will steadily pull ahead of the dumb one.  And school performance is heavily influenced by IQ.

So the findings of the first analysis are fully explained by IQ.  Both smart and dumb kids get brighter up to a point but the high IQ kids get MUCH brighter.  And no-one has ever found a way to change that.  As Jesus said, "For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath" (Mark 4:25).

The second analysis below is also explained as an effect of IQ.  Maths and reading skills are central to IQ so that they were found to be highly genetic in origin is yet another one of thousands of findings that have shown IQ to be highly genetic in origin.

1).  Bright kids fall behind at disadvantaged schools

Bright students at disadvantaged schools lag at least two years behind their peers from wealthier schools and struggling students from poor backgrounds continue to fall behind with each year of school, a new analysis of NAPLAN data reveals.

The analysis, in a report by public policy think-tank the Grattan Institute, found that the learning gaps between Australian students of different backgrounds are "alarmingly wide" and worsen as students move through school.

Even if students were doing as well in Year 3, those from a disadvantaged background make one to two years less progress than students whose parents have higher levels of education, the report says.

Bright kids in disadvantaged schools suffer the biggest losses, the report says, making 2½ years less progress than students with similar capabilities in more advantaged schools.

"When kids are performing at the same level from the same starting point, it is pretty shocking that they can then fall behind 2½ years depending on what school they are at," the director of the institute's school education program, Peter Goss, said.

The spread of student achievement more than doubles as students move through school, the report says.

The middle 60 per cent of students in Year 3 are working within a 2½-year range, the report says. By Year 9, the spread for these students has grown to 5½ years.

"The report also shows that in a typical Year 9 class, the top students can be more than seven years ahead of the bottom students," the report says.


2). Maths and reading skills found to be 75 per cent genetic

Australian research into the academic performance of twins in NAPLAN tests has revealed that skills in maths, reading and spelling are up to 75 per cent genetic.  Genetics also had a 50 per cent impact on writing skills.

In stark contrast, the influence of teachers and schools on students was only found to be around 5 per cent, when looking at why children performed better or worse than their peers.

The research has been conducted by Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne and colleagues at the Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders, and the University of New England.

Byrne is a guest on this week's episode of Insight, sharing his views on how research into twins can deepen our understanding of the general population.

The research will shortly be published in full, with much of the peer review process complete. Some parts of the study have already been published.

Byrne and his colleagues were allowed access to around 3000 sets of twins and were able to look at their academic performance in literacy and numeracy NAPLAN tests in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

The results were surprising.

Families, teachers and schools had a much more modest contribution when explaining the difference in academic performance of children in the same grade or class. 

The majority of difference between students’ abilities in literacy and numeracy were instead attributable to their genetic make-up.

Writing skills were the least influenced by genetics – only about 50 per cent.  Genetic influences on reading, spelling and mathematics abilities were found to be between 50-75 per cent.

The findings back up earlier research done in the UK.

“Genes are the things that are, for the most part, driving differences among children, and not different teachers or even different schools,” Byrne told Insight’s Jenny Brockie, during filming of the show’s feature on twins.

Byrne says his findings “undermine the idea that a really, really big player in how well children are doing is teacher qualifications and a teacher's education.”

He stresses that the research does not show teachers’ influence is negligible; rather, it shows they are uniformly well-trained and high-performing, keeping students’ academic performance at national standards regardless of which teacher children are given or which school they go to.

“Teachers really matter,” he reiterates.

“The reason why a child knows more at the end of a school day than they did at the beginning is because of the work the teachers do.”

“I think it's good news for teachers that within this country the quality of training is similar enough and good enough to produce rather even-handed effects on the children who are your charges.”

Byrne says the findings are important “for the education system to understand that genes matter”, but cautions against being pessimistic about genetic predisposition.

Chris Watt, Federal Secretary of the Independent Teachers Union, says this kind of research confirms what teachers have known for a long time: that some children are born with advantages, when others are not, and there needs to be greater resources that allow them to factor those differences into their teaching.

"At the end of the day, a school can only do so much," he says.  "There's a whole of lot things that need to be right for kids to be learning properly. We have to pay attention to those issues before they step foot inside a school."

He's confident educators will be able to adapt their practice to these sorts of results, however. "Teachers are always changing the way they go about teaching, picking up new skills and strategies," he says.

Byrne agrees. "My guess is experienced teachers have developed good ways to adjust the curriculum for students who start out weaker in a subject."  "But my guess, too, is that most feel that if they had more time and back-up they could accomplish this even more convincingly."

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and the Australian Education Union (AEU) were also contacted for comment.

Byrne says the involvement of twins in his research has been incredibly important.

“They are the perfect natural experiment. We use their data to extrapolate across the wider population.”

Because twins almost always share the same environment going up, and a large portion of their genes, comparing their differences and similarities can tell us much about whether certain behaviours and abilities are the product of nature or nurture.

For example, he found that twins – whether identical or fraternal - performed equally as similar to one another even when they were in different classes and schools.

Insight guest and school principal Jennifer Lawrence – herself a twin – said she found this to be the case when looking at her twin daughters’ academic results.

“When Abbie and Emily were in Year 3 they were separated for the first time,” she says.

“I had this terrible feeling that I would be disadvantaging one over the other because maybe one would get a better teacher than the other, but their NAPLAN results were almost identical in that year.”


Turnbull shows his smarts

Catching his opponents by surprise, Malcolm Turnbull has seized the political initiative with his constitutional strike creating a political “win-win” for the government, but the Prime Minister’s real purpose is obvious and that is a July 2 double-dissolution poll on his critical industrial bills.

Turnbull has been planning a possible July 2 double-dissolution election since last December. But he has now outsmarted his enemies and his critics. He has put the Senate on notice — pass the government’s bills or face the people.

Having been attacked for his slide towards indecision, Turnbull’s advice to the Governor-General yesterday is a bold show of strength against a recalcitrant Senate, with Turnbull setting out his de facto election manifesto. It is long past time that this Senate was challenged. It is entirely appropriate that the current parliament end with a double-dissolution election given this is the most ­obstructive Senate since 1975.

Turnbull has a cause — he will wedge Labor, not just on negative gearing, but also on union power and its craven weakness before the CFMEU. Bill Shorten said Labor wasn’t afraid of a double-dissolution poll. But Labor, if it is smart, will persuade the crossbenchers to buckle and pass the bills.

If the showdown comes, it will be the seventh double dissolution since Federation and the first for nearly 30 years. By securing the proroguing of parliament and its recall from April 18 to reconsider the industrial relations bills, Turnbull has achieved what neither Labor nor the Greens believed was possible — he has got his Senate voting reform and he will get his industrial bills on any list for a double-dissolution election.

Turnbull wins either way. He either gets his legislation, notably the resurrection of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, or he gets a double-dissolution election on the industrial bills and can pass them at a post-election joint sitting.

Turnbull holds all the cards — he has no reason to accept amendments that ­seriously weaken the ABCC bills.

There are only two scenarios: the Senate crossbenchers can take flight to coward’s castle to save their political necks and pass the industrial bills or Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers will reveal the sheer extent of their ­appeasement of the CFMEU by opposing the bills to restore law and order to the construction ­industry.

The initial response from most crossbenchers and the Greens ­yesterday was defiance, warning the idea of double dissolution doesn’t frighten them. Turnbull was denounced as a “union-bashing” bully who used the same tactics as the unionists he deplored. This sort of political trash typifies the Senate. The truth is Turnbull has been completely consistent about a double dissolution — saying it would depend entirely on whether or not the Senate passed his industrial legislation.

If only three of the eight crossbenchers vote against the bills they are defeated and senators John Mad­igan and Glenn Lazarus were emphatic yesterday that they cannot support the current ABCC bill.

Along with the Greens, they are pushing for a wider anti-corruption body, a proposal that is unnecessary, dubious and designed to avoid the real issue — the need for measures to address the crisis in the building industry.

The government will be seen to negotiate in good faith with the Senate. But Turnbull’s plan is to confront the crossbenchers, not accommodate them. He told the Governor-General the purpose of the new parliamentary sitting was to give “full and timely consideration” to the industrial bills. These words are vital. Turnbull makes it clear he intends to give the Senate every reasonable chance to pass the bills.

Given the character of this ­Senate you can guarantee every delaying measure imaginable, but Turnbull has given himself ­sufficient time to establish “failure to pass” for a second time.

The theme of his campaign will be economic growth and jobs. “The construction industry is vital to the transition to the new economy,” Turnbull said yesterday. He laid an explosive charge against Labor, the Greens and some of the crossbenchers — they oppose the ABCC bill partly because “the construction unions are big supporters of their political machines”.

“This is an opportunity for the Senate to do its job of legislating rather than filibustering,” he said. “The go-slows and ­obstruction by Labor and the Greens on this key legislation must end.”

There is no constitutional case against the government’s tactic.

As Attorney-General George Brandis advised the Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove, the technique of proroguing and recalling the parliament has ­occurred 28 times since Federation.

Sydney University law professor Anne Twomey said that it was a “normal parliamentary procedure”.

There is nothing remarkable about the Governor-General­ ­accepting Turnbull’s advice.

The documents ­released yesterday show that Turnbull and Brandis prepared the ground ­thoroughly with Sir Peter. It is ­obvious Turnbull has spent some time examining the precedents.

By bringing the budget forward a week to May 3, Turnbull better prepares the ground for a double dissolution.

He has a week before he needs to call the double dissolution before the May 11 deadline.


South Australia father has smacking verdict overturned

A father found guilty of assault for smacking his 12-year-old son as a form of discipline has had the verdict overturned.

South Australia's Supreme Court has ruled the actions of the Air Force pilot, who smacked his son three times, were not unreasonable for the purpose of correcting behaviour.

Justice David Peek said the smacks, one to the boy's bare thigh and two to his shorts, left some redness but no bruising and did not warrant the guilty verdict.

The incident happened in 2014 after a dispute over a takeaway meal when the father, who was divorced from the boy's mother, moved to discipline his son over what he considered his disrespectful behaviour.

The following day the boy took himself to his mother's home and later went to a police station to lay a complaint.

A magistrate subsequently found the father guilty of criminal assault but did not record a conviction or impose a penalty.

In his judgement on Monday, Justice Peek found that the suffering of some temporary pain and discomfort by the child would not transform a parent attempting to correct a child into a person committing a criminal offence.

"In all of the present circumstances, it was established on the evidence that the actions of appellant were bona fide for the purpose of parental correction and that his conduct was not unreasonable," Justice Peek said.



Three current articles below

Will plants' response to increased CO2 make heatwaves more intense than thought?

The report by Peter Hannam below seemed like a possible real concern if ever we do get global warming.  But I somehow knew that they would have ignored something important so I looked up the underlying journal article -- abstract thereof also reproduced below.  It is all just modelling rubbish.  When Warmist models show predictive skill will be the time to take notice of them.  It hasn't happened yet.

But there is something amusing in the article nonetheless. They seem to base their claims on how an individual leaf stoma reacts to higher CO2 but forget to look at  the whole plant.  That higher CO2 levels will produce bigger plants and hence more stomata seems to be overlooked.  With more stomata the overall water release may remain unchanged.

Warmists are such a laugh!  Junk science all the way.  It's such junk that even a humble social scientist like me can see through it.  And shifty old Peter Hannam swallows it all hook, line and sinker.  He must never ask any questions

Peter Hannam

Heatwaves in the northern hemisphere may become as much as 5 degrees warmer than previously estimated by mid-century because plants' response to higher carbon dioxide levels has been miscalculated, according to new research by Australian scientists.

As atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas increase, plant stomata – the tiny pores on leaves that open to take in CO2 and let out water vapour – won't need to open as much.

"There's less water vapour being lost so you have a net warming effect," said Jatin Kala, a lecturer from Murdoch University and lead author of the paper that was published Monday in Nature Scientific Reports.

The researchers used data from 314 plant species across 56 field sites to examine how plants responded. Existing climate models had assumed all plants would trade water for carbon in exactly the same way.

Needle-leaf forests, tundra and agricultural land used for crops would likely suffer the biggest temperature increases. Heatwaves from Europe to China were likely to become 3-5 degrees hotter than the already higher base expected from global warming, Dr Kala said.

"These more detailed results are confronting but they help explain why many climate models have consistently underestimated the increase in the intensity of heatwaves and the rise in maximum temperatures when compared to observations."

The results do not necessarily apply to southern hemisphere regions to the same extent. "We don't have an observation of how Australian vegetation will respond to rising CO2," he said.

CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science developed the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) model used in this study.


Impact of the representation of stomatal conductance on model projections of heatwave intensity

Jatin Kala et al.


Stomatal conductance links plant water use and carbon uptake, and is a critical process for the land surface component of climate models. However, stomatal conductance schemes commonly assume that all vegetation with the same photosynthetic pathway use identical plant water use strategies whereas observations indicate otherwise. Here, we implement a new stomatal scheme derived from optimal stomatal theory and constrained by a recent global synthesis of stomatal conductance measurements from 314 species, across 56 field sites. Using this new stomatal scheme, within a global climate model, subtantially increases the intensity of future heatwaves across Northern Eurasia. This indicates that our climate model has previously been under-predicting heatwave intensity. Our results have widespread implications for other climate models, many of which do not account for differences in stomatal water-use across different plant functional types, and hence, are also likely under projecting heatwave intensity in the future.


Earth hour skepticism

The Sydney skyline during Earth Hour in Sydney over the weekend

THE organisers of Earth Hour have hit back at criticism that the now nine-year-old campaign is a “silly fad” that should be “ignored”.

On Sky News’ Viewpoint program last night, host Chris Kenny joined social media naysayers and called out the campaign for being a “pet rock”.

Meanwhile, Earth Hour organisers have criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for not switching off over the weekend “despite countless requests…to protect the places we love” and despite international momentum including support from the United Nations.

Today, Earth Hour Australia’s Manager Sam Webb responded to the criticism, calling out Australian leaders - namely PM Turnbull - for “still dragging their feet”.

“There are some very cynical people in the world,” Ms Webb told

“There are also those who have very closely held interests that are threatened by the move away from fossil fuels on to clean, renewable energy. Sadly, a small number of powerful people make a lot of money from creating the pollution that is causing global warming and they are doing all they can to keep polluting, with no regard for the devastating impact this is having around the world.”

Ms Webb said Australian leaders aren’t keeping “up with the demands of the Australian people by putting strong policies in place to transition Australia as a whole away from dirty fossil fuels that are causing rising temperatures and more extreme weather, and onto clean, safe, renewable energy”.

Opponents have long fought against the campaign since its inception in 2007, arguing that switching off for an hour one day a year will make no difference to the planet’s fragile ecosystem, and in fact, could cost the planet more by switching your lights on and off.

“We need something more. Much more. An hour is just a gimmick,” wrote the Australian Business Review’s Daniel Palmer in a 2013 editorial.

“It’s a bit like the Valentine’s Day of the environmental movement. Aside from the strident environmentalists, most people who commit to it are ‘guilted’ into it. Flowers on Valentine’s Day can’t make up for 364 days of selfishness, just as turning the lights off for an hour can’t make up for 8,759 hours of lazy energy inefficiency (or 8,783 in a leap year).”

But Ms Webb says the awareness that Earth Hour generates does more for the planet than not doing it at all.

“One of the most valuable things about Earth Hour is that it is a catalyst for millions of people to have a conversation about climate change, what this means for us in Australia in particular, and why it is so important that we take action now to ensure we avoid the worst impacts of rising temperatures and extreme weather that we are currently facing,” Ms Webb said.

“We need moments like Earth Hour each year to ensure that climate change stays at the top of the agenda and so that we can continue to demonstrate to our leaders that there is huge support in the Australian community for transitioning away from dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas that are causing the impacts of global warming and onto clean, renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, that Australia has in abundance.”

Earth Hour could not confirm to how many Australians participated in the event this year, citing its most recent figures dating back to 2014, which “found that 1 in 3 Australians, or over 7 million people, took part in Earth Hour Australia”.

The campaign began in 2007 when 2.2 million Sydneysiders switched off their lights. By 2014, they told, over 7 million Australians had joined the switch across the country.


The Climate Council’s Memory Hole

Mandrake the Magician has nothing on Tim Flannery & Co when it comes to vanishing acts, from geothermal investors' equity to those frothing predictions of endless drought and "ghost cities". But the excision of sceptic Judith Curry from a list of female climate experts takes the cake

When a three-year-old tells whoppers it can be cute. It’s not so cute if the whopper-tellers are scientist Tim Flannery, aged 60, and his Climate Council. Flannery is Chief Councillor of the crowd-funded body, which is dedicated to “accurate and authoritative information on all aspects of climate change”.

His Council website has this item:

"19 climate champions, who also happen to be women… To celebrate International Women’s Day, here’s a list of nineteen women kicking goals in the climate change debate — from scientists to politicians, diplomats, community organisers and more"

It begins, “This article originally appeared on the International Council for Science’s Road to Paris website.” Click through to that site (a spin-off from the International Council for Science, ICSU) and you find the original was not about 19 women but was headed, “20 women making waves in the climate change debate"

Even more mysterious, the Climate Council website has a Facebook prompt headlined: "Kicking goals: 20 climate champions, who also happen to be women…From scientists to politicians, community organisers to diplomats – here are 20 women fighting for climate action around the world.

But click it and the original 20 women suddenly become the Climate Council’s 19.

So what’s going on? The ICSU’s 20 women were meant to reflect women’s contribution to the “diversities of the climate debate”. The 20 included distinguished scientist Dr Judith Curry, who doesn’t toe the doomsters’ party line on climate. The Climate Council simply couldn’t bear to list her – even though she has a peer-reviewed publication list of 150+,  dwarfing that of the other women cited in the top 20 (or top 19).  So the Climate Council simply clipped her from 20 women minus one -- notwithstanding the ICSU’s copyright.

The Climate Council’s tampering was done without public acknowledgement or apology to the original compilers.

The Climate Council’s deletion of Judith Curry from the 20 Women list bears a family resemblance to the revered Soviet practice which saw photos that originally included purged-and-shot apparatchiks doctored, the unwanted individuals’ images made to disappear. At least the Soviets owned the photographs they doctored. The Climate Council doesn’t own the ICSU 20 women list and has no more right to delete  a woman it hates than to insert its own choice into the list. Perhaps we’re lucky the Council didn’t decide to re-make the list into 20 by replacing Curry with its winsome CEO Amanda McKenzie, who is more the telegenic cutie. That way, the odd, eye-catching numeral 19 could have been avoided.

The Climate Council’s monkeying with a third party’s survey-based list hardly validates its claim:

"We exist to provide independent, authoritative climate change information to the Australian public. Why? Because our response to climate change should be based on the best science available"

The ICSU list has this to say about Dr Curry – words Flannery and the “scientific” Climate Council felt duty-bound to expunge:

"Blogger and scientist favoured by sceptics. Judith Curry is fast becoming the go-to scientist favoured by the more sceptical ends of the climate debate, though she is more than capable of making a name for herself in her own right. An established climate scientist, well known for her research on hurricanes and Arctic ice, Curry is currently Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Troubled by the way those who do not fit with scientific consensus are treated by the scientific community and broader environmental discourse, she regularly speaks up for the role of dissent and free speech in climate science. It is fair to say this doesn’t always win her friends in either science or the green movement. Curry is an active blogger, reflecting her commitment to transparency of the debate within science…"

Pit Dr Curry against other women on the 20 list, and it would be no-contest.  The only other listee of similar stature (about 140 publications) is Joanna Haigh FRS, a solar expert and ex-president of the Royal Meteorological Society. Among the others, lightweight author Naomi Klein never managed to finish her BA at the University of Toronto.  Sharan Burrow, ex-ACTU boss, makes the list but her credentials stop at “high school teacher”. Listee Naomi Oreskes calls herself a science “historian” and carries on about climate skeptics being the same as tobacco lobbyists. Then there’s US EPA boss Gina McCarthy, who doesn’t know what percentage CO2 comprises in the atmosphere. Annie Leonard is boss of Greenpeace US.

The Climate Council not only solicits donations from the public, but these donations are tax-deductible. Perhaps our gutsy Prime Minister could check whether the Council’s tax-deductibility is still appropriate, given that it appears to have hired a green-tinted Mandrake the Magician to enhance a penchant for putting propaganda ahead of science and stuffing inconvenient sceptics down the memory hole.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

No comments: