"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Who Is Counting Correctly, BS Aquino III or Public School Teachers?

During the recent World Economic Forum, Philippine president Benigno S. Aquino III delivered the following message:

"...Since taking office, our administration has cleared the accumulated backlog in classrooms, books, and chairs, which means that our students can go to school with the minimum expectation that they will have everything they need to succeed...."

Screen capture from GMA YouTube video
GMA news reporter Dano Tingcungco, however, provides a different picture:

Screen capture from GMA YouTube video
The numbers from Batasan Hills National High School speak differently. 12,600 students in 98 classrooms translate to more than a hundred students per classroom. This high school is not located in a remote area far from the seats of power in the Philippines. In fact, the school sits almost next to the legislative session hall of the Philippine Congress, the Batasang Pambansa Complex.

Google Map Batasan Hills National High School

Batasan Hills National High School has been long known for overcrowding and classroom shortages even during the previous Arroyo administration. With the coming additional years in high school, things may get worse. Additional two years translate to students staying fifty percent longer in high school. Assuming no dropouts, the Philippines K+12 new curriculum requires a fifty percent increase in resources, across the board, for all high schools. Unfortunately, no one seems to be worried about this. People probably just do not care if worse becomes worst.

In case there are doubters out there that do not believe school resources have an impact on student learning, ASCD has an article that accurately summarizes what is known regarding how resources (classrooms, textbooks, buildings) affect learning outcomes. The article "A Research Synthesis / Unequal School Funding in the United States" by Biddle and Berliner combs through published research, selecting only those that are properly designed. These studies provide conclusions that are strongly supported by data. One such study is by Mullin et al.:
TIMSS 1999 Mathematics Benchmarking Report, Eighth Grade Achievement Results for US States and Districts in an International Context. April 2001. Mullis, Martin, Gonzalez, O'Connor, Chrostowski, Gregory, Garden, Smith.
Biddle and Berliner cites the following observations from the above study:
The two best-scoring entities in the United States were the Naperville, Illinois, Public School District and the self-proclaimed “First-in-the-World” Consortium (composed of school districts from the Chicago North Shore area). Both of these entities have high levels of funding and serve low numbers of impoverished students, and both earned high achievement scores comparable to those of Hong Kong, Japan, and other top-scoring countries. In contrast, the two worst-scoring U.S. entities were the Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida and the Rochester School District in New York. Both of these receive low levels of funding and serve many poor students, and each earned low achievement scores similar to those of the worst-scoring nations in the study—Turkey, Jordan, and Iran.
The raw data from Mullis et al. do show a very strong correlation between math achievement scores and availability of resources as illustrated by the following tables:

First, here is the table showing which schools in the US are affected by shortages. Delaware Science Coalition, Miami-Dade County, Project SMART Consortium, and Fremont/Lincoln/WestSide are the schools systems reporting appreciable shortage or inadequacy.



And here are the scores:


The schools in the United States that suffer shortages are found near the bottom. In fact, both Rochester City School District in New York and Miami, Florida are not too far above the Philippines. Iran performs slightly better than Miami, Florida.

Resources like classrooms, ventilation, desks and textbooks are crucial for education. We need to correctly count these resources. Otherwise, we will not see the real problems. Unlike President Aquino, public school teachers in the Philippines are seeing the real problems. We need to listen to those who actually understand and accept facts. We simply cannot solve problems that we think do not exist. 

And if we do not count these correctly - we might even suggest an inappropriate solution like adding more years to basic education...



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