Most Recent Graduates Now Have Jobs
A government study released last Tuesday shows that most of the graduates who entered the labor force within the past few years (2008 being the earliest graduation date included as a point of study) have found jobs. According to the study, most recent college graduates (85%) have a full-time job, 8% work multiple part-time jobs and only 6.7% are unemployed or looking for work. These numbers are very encouraging for educators everywhere, showing that past changes in the curriculum from the years 2004 onward have been very good for students. The report included 17,000 recent graduates.
New research now suggests that attaining higher education (college and post-grad degrees) usually pays off for graduates. This debunks the more popular notion that gaining an education has little or no bearing on whether or not an individual is able to attain a job. This previous conception stemmed from Census and Labor Data released in 2012 by the Associated Press saying that half of recent college graduates under 25 were unemployed. This study was released by the AP, citing researchers at Northeastern University, Drexel University and the Economy Policy Institute.
The recent study also took this data into consideration, saying that the previous study may have failed to mention that in general, recent college graduates always have a 2% lower employment rate than other graduates because they are still inexperienced. Considering this base variable allows researchers to see the truth behind fresh graduate employment statistics.
In a 2014 analysis for the New York Federal Reserve, Jaison R. Abel, Richard Deitz and Yaqin Su say that the data released which sensationalizes unemployment rates is over-hyped. They report that the phenomena of there being a certain part of the market that is unemployed is one that cannot be ascribed to a single recession or event: sometimes, the individual plays a very big role in whether or not he/she is able to land a good job.
For example, no visible pattern was seen with regard to the income and course correlation of the individuals. This shows that student initiative, grades and performance have more to do with landing a job than a broad general truth as suggested by the study released by the AP.
Furthermore, the study stresses that most of the graduates who were interviewed and who participated in the research effort didn’t mention whether or not their current jobs were linked to what major they took up. This further supports the evidence which questions whether or not the STEM course classifications are as important as most education officials suggest. Instead, researchers stress that the attainment of a college degree seems to have bearing on employment because it’s able to ensure employers of something that is beyond just what or how much the graduates know: it also shows them that the individual is able to follow through with tasks and finish what they started.
Researchers as that this study be considered when coming up with possible new policies and programs to help supplement the current educational system. Throughout the years 2004 to 2011, a lot of changes were made to the college education curriculum which supported holistic development: teaching students from across different majors classes in other disciplines while focusing on their major subjects.
Critics site that one of the weaknesses of the recently conducted study was that it only studied employment and not how long students were able to keep their jobs, the effects of student loan debts and whether or not they were satisfied with their income—moreso, whether or not they had additional help from family members.
The United States Makes Moves to Simplify Financial Aid for Students
A recent article by the New York Times showed that the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) form which contains more than a hundred questions about educational attainment, income and financial assets can be simplified so that students only have to answer two questions to determine whether or not they qualify for financial aid. The FAFSA’s main goal is to get more low-income students into college by providing them funding via programs, most popularly, they offer the Pell Grant which offers financial compensation and support with a low-return policy. That said, the complexity of the form becomes a problem as it turns a lot of high school graduates from low-income backgrounds off—a survey conducted last year on FAFSA’s Twitter account showed that the more than a hundred questions about (often) non-existent assets pains the students both on an emotional and intellectual level.
The study also showed that simplifying the form would boost student interest and participation by as much as 25%. Furthermore, when previous grant holders were reviewed, the study showed that whether or not a student has a lot of assets hardly changes the amount given to them as the Pell Grant is awarded based on what the student needs and whether or not the student shows a lot of promise—not whether or not the student has a lot of assets. The Pell Grant also only qualifies students with an upper limit of $60,000 worth of income a year, meaning the FAFSA form isn’t even needed to determine eligibility. The $60,000 income ceiling comes exclusive of tax, meaning that the ceiling is actually even higher than stated and already controls for the financial variable.
Lately, the US Department of Education has been looking for a way to simplify the form in the interest of making student aid more desirable, feasible and convenient. Some schools have suggested coming up with school-specific forms but this is a big problem as this is exactly how FAFSA began in the first place: specialized financial aid forms decentralizes loan applications and becomes very difficult to monitor, let alone screen. Most education officials and the heads from major colleges and universities throughout the US agree that a unified form is still very important both with the efficiency and effectiveness of considering applications from students. However, the form has to be very simple. The survey showed that most people agree that the form only has to ask two questions: first, how much their yearly salary is and second, how many members they have in the family—this looks into whether or not they need the aid, how much they need and also how willing they are to pursue their studies.
FAFSA agrees that this might be the answer to the lack of student participation in federal financial aid for students. However, they are looking into other factors like additional funding for the Pell Grant and re-evaluating the block of schools that use FAFSA. They want to expand but still keep everything under wraps: one important thing is that, should there be an influx of applicants, they will be able to handle the volume both on human resource and financial levels. The Department of Education urges schools to sign up and make their students eligible for FAFSA: now that the form is going to be simplified, the Pell Grant offers numerous benefits that by far, outnumber the costs and inconveniences. FAFSA hopes to implement the new form by 2015.
High School Graduate Does the Most Inspiring Thing
Austin Coppola, a recent high school graduate just earned his diploma from the Fairport High School (FHS) in Fairport, New York. The really unique thing about Austin Coppola isn’t just his big heart, there’s also the fact that he has a twin brother named Ty who has Down syndrome. Before his ceremony, he said that he would not be marching unless he was allowed to take Ty with him. His brother, Ty, did not graduate from Fairport. But Austin insisted that his brother, who’d faced a whole lot of challenges, was even more deserving of the respect and recognition that he would be getting. Austin says that while yes, he does deserve his diploma, Ty has worked hard in a way that most people won’t be able to handle.
In the ceremony last week, both brothers went up on stage, dressed in a cap and gown to receive Austin’s diploma. When the brothers went up on stage, the entire audience stood up and started clapping. Austin was brought to tears, tweeting that the entire ordeal was wonderful and had him at the brink of tears. In an interview with WHAM-TV, Austin says that it’s very important to him that Ty is able to share all of life’s important moments—as his twin brother, he feels like it’s his duty to share a lot of opportunities with Ty that, given his condition, he isn’t able to witness on his own.
Cheryl Coppola, the twins’ mother says that she’s grateful to have such great sons. She says that more than anything, she is grateful for Austin’s compassion for his brother. Despite the fact that their age gap is only a few seconds apart, they have for the last 17 years, lived very different lives. She admits that when Austin first approached her with the idea of asking the school to let Ty march with him, she was hesitant—she was unsure whether or not the school would allow it and also felt that Austin would miss out on having his own shining moment to himself—but Austin really stuck with the idea and put his foot down, refusing to participate otherwise. She says that she is always taken aback at the close relationship that the boys have, despite Ty’s condition. Cheryl Coppola goes onto say that Austin’s empathy and Ty’s resilience makes them an incredible pair.
In an interview with a local newspaper, Austin said that the most special thing about the entire ceremony was hearing his brother’s name called. More than 550 people were present at the Blue Cross Arena for FHS’s commencement exercises last week. FHS school officials say that they were really happy with their decision to allow Ty to march. They go onto say that they are very proud of Austin and that everything he’s achieved—both intellectually and emotionally—is a testament to the human ability to empathize and persevere against adversity. Cheryl Coppola says that when the boys were marching, she thought back to what Austin told her: that in a way, Ty had worked much harder than himself.
Top State Schools Struggle to Settle Tuition Policies
Leading desirable schools in the states of Michigan and Colorado are looking for a good policy to apply when it comes to students settling in-state tuition when the students have either moved away or come from different home states. Settling this might save students more than $100,000 overall in student debt. The key to this is finding a good way for out-state students to establish residency before they get accepted into school, making the in-state policies apply to them. However, this is proving to be a challenge as states on the east coast have recently tightened their regulation of state changes: a lot more is needed than just car registration or a driver’s license, these days—students have to establish more than 1 year of residency through bills, receipts and other documents. Recent research has shown that along with this, you also need to establish that you’re financially independent from your parents who don’t live in the state. This makes it very difficult for college kids whose parents pay for or help them out with their tuition.
The big question on everyone’s minds: is that really all it takes?
For example, Jake Wells, a student from Washington who left to attend the University of Colorado Boulder had a lot of things on his mind during his first year of college: changing states was definitely the last of those things. However, as his years at the university progressed he noticed that more and more of his classmates were making this move—and availing of huge tuition price cuts. However, no matter how many times he applied for residency in Colorado, he was never able to get it. When he asked his classmates how they’d gotten residency, they all said that they had either a parent, family friend or lawyer helping them. It was because of this that Jake started In-State Angels upon graduation in 2011—the agency aims to help out-state kids gain residency through legal means by acting as the middle man between the kids and the state.
A recent development on university websites is the existence of a separate page which helps students understand in-state and out-state policies regarding tuition. There are also websites on the topic that were set up by state bodies, such as the College Board website or Finaid.org.
Mr. Wells says that the biggest antagonist when it comes to settling tuition policies for students who’ve undergone a change-of-state isn’t the state but the schools themselves. He urges universities to settle and solidify their policies. Since opening In-State Angels three years ago, he’s noticed that most universities are very hesitant to forego tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees so that if you don’t deliver an over-average residency package, even if your state of residency hasn’t changed, the universities can still choose not to honor this. This is why, he says, all of the documents and proposals that In State Angels submits for reviews are at least 300 pages long.
University administrators have had a number of responses to this claim. Deana Williams, who coordinates the residency papers at the University of Austin at Texas says that this is ridiculous as the main goal of the registrar at universities is to try and help students. Far from playing games or trying to be gate keepers, she says that the universities simply follow policies that are already in place.
Jim Rawlins, the director of admissions at the University of Oregon says that the entire thing scares him—he says that Mr. Wells is making claims to something that he doesn’t see properly and this can be very dangerous, especially if he is leasing these services. Mr. Rawlins says that he was baffled by the entire ordeal, although he does agree that students need to be in the know if they’re going to be applying for state residency.
Michael Olivas, professor of Law and an expert at in-state residency from the University of Houston says that the tightening of requirements should be seen as something that students welcome and try to keep up with as opposed to something they seek to defy. He says that students should, instead of hiring different agencies or lawyers, read the rules and do their best to follow them. On a practical level, he says that universities can’t completely rule out the existence of agencies and third parties because people who have the capacity to afford that kind of service will always have the option of utilizing their resources. What they should do instead, he advises, is tighten and settle the clarity and specificity of their tuition policies for both in-state and out-state students.
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President Obama’s New Initiative Stresses the Need for Equality
President Barrack Obama’s latest initiative which will be launched on Monday stresses the need for equal access to quality teachers, across social-economic standing and ethnic backgrounds. The program called Excellent Educators for All aims to provide students from all backgrounds with good teachers by making the standards for education more stringent. By the beginning of 2015, all state schools will be asked to send in evaluations of all their teachers as well as plans for educator equity. This is also partly based on a law which was put into effect during former President George W. Bush’s era—the No Child Left Behind Act which requires states to reward and punish schools based on standardized test scores.
To help state schools come up with their plans, the Department of Education will be releasing a $4.2 million Education Equity Support Network that aims to supplement the knowledge and knowhow of educators throughout the United States. While these plans are already ready for implementation, there still isn’t any word as to how the Department of Education will be specifically defining “quality teachers.”
Arne Dunan, the Secretary of Education says that they are trying to develop the program as they go along. Although surely, efforts will be made so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t left with inexperienced and under-qualified instructors. National surveys and federal data have shown that the most important core subjects are often those that are taught by teachers who aren’t properly certified, leaving a gaping hole in the education system.
In 2006, the Bush administration required states to detail their plans for evaluating teachers in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, however no follow-up was strictly enforced and very few changes came about as a result of the act. Arne Duncan says that it’s painful to watch students being put at a disadvantage by laziness—the state motto for this project is we have to do better.
Last week, the President had a dinner with teachers from different state schools. In his opening speech for the evening, he said that this new policy would be addressing the problem which is that kids who need good teachers the most are the ones being deprived of teachers who will help them learn. The key, President Obama said, is to highlight the problems and the key areas for improvement. The more the problem is ignored, the bigger it will continue to become.
Furthermore, the President addresses what he calls a reluctance of a lot of education officials to get moving—he says that a lot of the objections to the policy have come from a place of complacency and unwillingness to work. A lot of the time, the complaints which have been voiced out have been about the tediousness of the process and the cumbersome measures that would have to be taken. The President says that it’s this kind of thinking that makes it more difficult for progress to begin where state education reforms are involved. As of November 2013, the plan has gone into full implementation mode and is going to be refined and completed throughout the rest of 2014.
The National Education Association, the country’s biggest and arguably most influential teacher’s union is on board with the plan. President Dennis Van Roekel says that they’re a hundred percent in agreement with the President’s concerns. They say that equal equity and distribution of good teachers throughout the states are a must if they’re to salvage what American education means and stands for. Mr. Van Roekel says that their main concern is that clear accountability for the project—they want to make sure that clear roles are assigned to people, bodies and groups so that there is someone responsible for every aspect of the project. The thing, Mr. Van Roekel says about government efforts is that they tend to change with whoever is in office.
One of the most voiced out complaints about the project are that it is being put into full force so late into President Obama’s term. However, the President says that this shouldn’t hamper any of the progress—a lot can be done in the remaining time and short deadlines should never get in the way of working toward a better and brighter future for American students everywhere.
New York School Chancellor Advocates Balanced Literacy
Carmen Fariña, the new schools Chancellor has publicly announced her advocacy for Balanced Literacy—a new type of storytelling technique that aims to increase the reading comprehension skills of students. A demo held at P.S. 158 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan featured Tara Bauer, who began reading to kids from a book on sharks. A few minutes in, she hands the book to one of her students and shifts from leading the session to simply mediating between students, helping them navigate tough words and decipher more complex sentences. Balanced Literacy is one of the educational techniques which are recently being absorbed by different schools throughout the city. Carmen Fariña also stresses that this technique allows kids to choose the books which are going to be read to them—something that exercises their judgment as well as develops and defines their interests.
The New York City Education Department turned away from Balanced Literacy a few years ago, on the basis that the technique was too unstructured to succeed within the Common Core-driven type of education currently being implemented throughout NYC. However, Ms. Fariña who is a veteran in education, says that this is a big mistake: it’s only learning techniques that are open and which allow the students a certain amount of freedom to choose what they want to read and develop the skills that they’re good at (much in the “real world” scenario) that kids will be able to truly learn. In her nearly 6 months as Chancellor, she has significantly reduced the use of standardized tests. Among other changes that Carmen Fariña has implemented are more seminars and training sessions for teachers as well as an increase in parent-teacher interaction.
She says that Balanced Literacy will be especially helpful for immigrant students who may need transition reading—that way they can choose something that they understand which they can use as a jumping off point for learning to read fluently in English. She also says that more than just grammar or strict rules in spelling and punctuation, what truly helps literacy and fluency is context and interaction: something which Balanced Literacy classes will encourage. In a place like New York where a huge chunk of the population belongs to the immigrant category, this is very important. 2003 saw Balanced Literacy become a mandated policy, although it was taken down in 2007 in favor of stricter standards. Ms. Farina sights the fact that numbers haven’t gotten better, since.
Furthermore, she says that it definitely does not take away from the Common Core. Despite the fact that the Common Core is heavily standardized, the two methods have the same goal: for kids to learn in the best manner. She says that Balanced Literacy in fact, tips the scales and provides children with a holistic approach to reading and comprehension.
Lucy Calkins, a prominent teacher at the Teachers College, Columbia University says that she thinks Ms. Farina has the right steps in mind. She says that the biggest problem with how kids learn about reading (and how teachers learn to teach kids about reading) is that they implement the strict answer policy whereas with most complex works of fiction and non-fiction there is no direct answer. Instead of developing discussions and encouraging thinking about work in-depth, this kind of teaching instead encourages kids to scan books as they would questionnaires or tests, looking for answers instead of paying attention to the text and what it’s actually saying. Ms. Calkins says that while the Common Core might be more numbers-based, it is definitely not more comprehensive. In fact, she calls it myopic and focusing on the wrong things—statistics instead of actual learning.
However, Ms. Calkins does agree that these two concepts can coexist: she says that Balanced Literacy combined with the Common Core would be a way of enlarging the tent of education to accommodate the different learning styles and people who are attending schools.
“Real Life” Math Curriculum Implemented Throughout the UK
A new math core curriculum is being introduced this September—this centers around teaching students practical math in an effort to keep them from dropping the subject at age 16, when the students are given the option of choosing their subjects.
Up to 5,000 students are going to be taking the qualifying tests for these “real life” core math lessons. Among developments in these lessons are understanding financial investments and analyzing economic trends. The number of students who are going to take this new class is expected to quadruple over the next few years with an expectancy of 200,000 pupils by the year 2016.
The new curriculum is designed to get 16 to 18-year-olds interested in math and to keep them studying the subject even in sixth-form. Educators say that even if they decide against taking a full A-level in the subject, at least it will give them more knowledge and will keep them from giving up math entirely.
This move was a response to two things: first, to the high dropping rate of math subjects in sixth-form and A-levels and second, the fact that a survey showed that large numbers of schools in the UK send kids off to university and the workplace with lackluster math skills—furthermore, the UK is lagging significantly behind other countries when it comes to the math skills of their students. In 2013, more than 580,000 kids in the UK took GCSEs in math and only 82,000 (or 14.28%) were able to take it at A-level.
Contrasted with the selections made by students in other countries, these numbers are dismal. For example, in countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland and Korea 50% of the student population kept studying math throughout their secondary education. In Japan, this number is at an all-time high with 85% of students taking math all the way until they head into university (sometimes, even after).
Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said that too many kids drop math as a core subject at the age of 16 and this severely limits their career options. She chalks this up to the fact that not a lot of thought and effort has been put into making math fun and practical. Kids don’t know why this will help them in the future and it becomes seemingly useless to them. These new core math subjects will fill in that gap between math and usefulness, giving young people the chance to perform better at school, get better jobs, earn better salaries and ultimately, attain a better quality of living. Their main goal is to have a majority of students taking A-levels in mathematics by 2020.
She says that they want to change the question on kids’ minds when they think of sixth-form and math: instead of asking themselves whether or not to take math but rather which math to take. The class is currently targeted toward students that gain A, B or C grades in their math GCSEs but don’t take the subject at A-level.
So far, more than 178 schools and colleges have gotten on board with the new qualification. The course includes 180 learning hours or two and a half hour lectures per week. It covers the full range of math subjects—while the class is new and puts a fresh spin on math, it also plans to retain the basic things that kids need to know such as algebra, ration, proportion and rates of change as well as geometry, probability and statistics.
The new curriculum will have the same 20 percent minimum as the A-level courses to be able to train students to achieve at a better capacity. The Department of Education is going to be taking a survey after the first round of administrating this new “real life” math curriculum to see how the qualifier can be improved in years to come.
Homeless Man Works to Spread Literacy by Giving Away Free Books
A man called “the Pavement Bookworm” by local media and a documentary of the same name is two things: homeless and extremely hopeful. Philani Dladla is proof that it just doesn’t do to judge a book by its cover. Looking at him is one thing: he usually goes around wearing a flat-billed baseball cap, a colorful striped shirt and a lot of beads around his neck—knowing him is another: Philani has dedicated himself to the spread of literacy throughout the low-income student populace. For Philani Dladla, books are more than just interesting stories: they say that they’re what saved him from drugs, poverty and alcoholism.
Young, homeless and without the ability to pay for higher education, Philani Dladla was once on the brink of self-destruction. He was on the cusp of serious addiction when instead of doing drugs, he began to read: all the time, as much as he could.
Philani Dladla has made it his life’s mission to spread education to students from disadvantaged backgrounds: one way or another.
Thus far, Mr. Dladla has done this by giving away free books to passersby and holding impromptu book club meetings with strangers passing by his self-assigned spot of pavement, which changes from time to time: he says that reading is a very important part of learning empathy and being able to persevere through the difficulties of life. Philani gives away most of the books to people who ask and even reviews books on-the-spot for those who ask him about them. As a way of earning money for himself and a lot of his homeless friends, the Pavement Bookworm leaves out bin for people to donate money to him as he reviews books. He says that it’s very important for literacy to become widespread despite the fact that a lot of people remain formally uneducated—only through having the ability to read and write are people able to truly understand the world and how to become good people. Furthermore, he says that the people he likes reaching out to the most are people who aren’t educated formally or who are thinking of quitting school: before they get to that point, he says, they need to know that it is worthwhile to educate yourself and that literacy is the only way that you can pull yourself out of poverty.
He goes on to say that reading is a habit that you can definitely form, no matter what your age: read every day, read as much as you can and it becomes a lifestyle, an irrevocable part of your life. Furthermore, Philani’s says that you don’t need to be rich to save the world—last Monday, James Patterson donated 45,000 books to schools all over New York. Mr. Dladla says that he really admires this about the author and that he hopes his smaller project will have a similar impact. A documentary shot about Philani Dladla is going to be released later this year.
True to the rationale of his project, Mr. Dladla’s efforts are very quickly becoming widespread. Through the help of the documentary being released worldwide, the Pavement Bookworm is quickly gaining popularity and funds—being able to help out homeless students everywhere. Philani Dladla was recently visited by author Steven Sidley (best known for his novel Entanglement) who spend a few hours talking with him about books before gifting him the latest addition to his collection.
Philani Dladla says that he is very happy about all the media attention and he hopes that the Pavement Bookworm will become something with a bigger audience, being able to inspire people from all around the world to keep reading and to continue learning. Education is extremely important, Mr. Dladla says—we get it in every which way that we can.
Disadvantaged Youth in London Outperform Most Students
According to a study published Monday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), most kids from disadvantaged backgrounds are outperforming their peers with more resources. The IFS attributes this to the variety of kids attending schools in the disadvantaged schools of London as compared to other areas of the country. Furthermore, they say that the improvement in the primary school programs has highly impacted the way that kids are able to perform. The study was able to see that rapid increases in pupil performance, particularly in the disadvantaged sector, have been taking place since the early 2000s. This has been found to be most especially true in schools found in inner London.
The research showed that disadvantaged pupils in London achieved significantly better test scores than other kids in England. In 2012, for example 54% of inner London kids who were below the poverty line were able to attain GCSEs at scores of A-C, including English and Math whereas in outer London, only 47% of kids were able to do this—in the West Midlands, the rate was a lagging 40% and in other regions outside the capital, only 30-35% students were able to gain these GCSEs.
Of that 54%, 13% were included in the upper cusp, getting grades of A-B in 8 or more subjects including English and Math. This percentage is very high, especially compared to the rest of England where the statistic of kids with these kinds of scores are only 3-6%. The IFS speculates that this might have to do with higher levels of participation in schools where the environment is closer-knit.
The multicultural dimension is another thing which the IFS are taking into consideration. Asian immigrants throughout London have been performing very well. Their presence within the inner London schools might have to do with both the raise in statistics and the improvement of other students’ work. The study also showed that by the time most inner city kids are 11, they were already performing better in both English and Math than other kids throughout England.
The IFS paper was also able to look at where there was the most improvement. Very particularly, there was a big improvement in key stage 2 English scores for disadvantaged kids between 1999 and 2003. The same demographic was followed throughout the years and the same pattern was seen for stage 4 scores in the period of 2004-2008. Since 2003, key stage 2 math subjects have been consistently higher for London (particularly, inner London) compared to the rest of the country’s scores.
This trend of disadvantaged pupils doing well seems to be trickling into other parts of England, as well. The study found that as of 2013, there was also a huge increase in the test results of the disadvantaged kids from Manchester and Birmingham—although these were nowhere near the scores of kids from inner London, the study states that it’s definitely a good start.
Luke Sibieta, who authored the report and who currently sits as program director for the IFS says that the progress in inner London—most especially in secondary school, where most scores tend to dip elsewhere—is outstanding. He ends the report, saying that whatever is being done in London education-wise should definitely be done elsewhere if England wants to improve scores everywhere.