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Showing posts from November, 2016

What an International Standardized Exam Is Telling Us

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Emma Brown of the Washington Postshares in "U.S. students still lag many Asian peers on international math and science exam" results from the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS. The article cites David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, who says, "...he is now hopeful that new science standards that have been adopted by a growing number of states — and that push students to solve problems and learn about science by doing science — will make a difference, prompting bigger gains in the coming years." Such observation, of course, naturally comes if one only looks at the average scores, and not considering what the exam is all about. It is always easy to point one's finger at the curriculum or how a subject is being taught. But this is wrong. The TIMSS exam is content-based and curriculum coverage is more or less similar across the countries participating in the exam. The curriculum is th…

Why Equity Matters in Education

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I need not drag my daughter in the morning to go to school. She always looks forward to spending time with her friends and teacher. School is definitely a second home for her. The LA Timesalso talks about another young girl, Giuliana Tapia. This girl became scared of school after finding out that she was among the few who could not sing the ABCs in her class.

Academic gaps can be seen as early as kindergarten. In the case of Giuliana, with a dedicated and thoughtful teacher combined with parents who recognize what the situation needs, the child appears to be able to catch up. The photo above says it all. Giuliana finds welcoming arms in teacher Maryellen Whittingham. It should be obvious that it is necessary for a school climate to be inviting to young children. Otherwise, a lot of effort and time are going to be spent just to start a lesson.

Children learn with other children inside a classroom. It is sort of an ecosystem, no child is really isolated from the others. A child who is …

What Solves Poverty

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Quite a number of people believe that education is a vehicle for upward social mobility. And it is not difficult to cite specific cases to prove this point. Anecdotes, however, can be quite far from the entire picture. Take, for instance, the suggestion that the reason why Asians are doing well compared to other minority groups in the United States is the Asian's high investment in education. Asians study hard and do well in school. Indeed, such a thought is quite inviting especially when so many specific cases can be easily cited. Careful research, however, points to a different reason. Asians are doing well in the United States simply because this group is no longer on the receiving end of discrimination. Nathaniel Hilger of Brown University shows this convincingly in his working paper, "Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans".

The reason why Asian Americans are doing better then African Americans becomes very clear in one of the figures Hilger…

Black Friday Is a Big Sales Event in the US

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Apparently not in the Philippines. Instead, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers is encouraging the education sector to join in a day of protest against the recent burial of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.



#MarcosNoHero Education Sector to join the November 25th Black Friday Protest, 4pm at Luneta! ACT FOR PEACE·TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2016 The education sector is one with the Filipino people and victims of Martial law in denouncing the Supreme Court Decision allowing a hero’s burial for the fascist, plunderer and tyrant Ferdinand Marcos. We have not forgotten and will continue to resist attempts to rehabilitate the Marcoses.

“This direct act of contempt against the historic judgement of the Filipino against the Marcos dictatorship must be stopped at all costs,” Mr. Benjamin Valbuena, President of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said. President Duterte’s open support for the Marcoses and rants against us seeking justice reeks with contempt for the people who suffer…

We Want Our Youth to Become Engaged Citizens

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Children are indeed introduced to Social Studies even in elementary school. When we study the past and current events, we are, of course, bound to stumble upon troubled incidents. Although unlike films or television shows, these issues do not come with ratings such as PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned, a rating in the Voluntary Movie Rating System indicating that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13). Children are still very much in early stages of development both socially and morally. Children are very much impressionable. After all, being easily influenced is a sign of youth. Children could be easily used to channel our own biases and judgments. For these reasons, teaching children how to become engaged in civic matters is particularly challenging.

Back in 1979, Nancy Eisenberg-Berg wrote a research article in the journal Developmental Psychology. She found that elementary school children think quite differently from those in high school. She wrote:
Elementary …

There Is a Difference between Education and Indoctrination

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Second grade students participated in an election in an elementary school in the US. They voted to have either a "pajama" or "crazy hair" day. In the Philippines, there were elementary pupils holding banners on the street that said "Marcos No Hero". 
My daughter participated in the election and she was unhappy with the result. She wanted "crazy hair day". There were more than one section in second grade and "crazy hair day" actually won in her section, but overall the results were different. This is education at work.
In the Philippines, below was a comment from a parent:
There is a huge difference between education and indoctrination.


Participating in a Rally Versus Attending Class

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Students are staging protests in the United States and in the Philippines. In the US, pupils are unhappy with the results of the presidential election, while in the Philippines, the youth are expressing their outrage against the burial of a former dictator in a cemetery meant for heroes. How some school administrators in the US respond to these rallies is somewhat different from those in the Philippines. Students seemed to be encouraged to join protests in the Philippines while in the US, students are not.
In the Philippines:

In the US:
Students have the right to express their rights as well as frustrations. However, these must be voluntary and not encouraged by school officials and teachers. Excusing absences for those who attend demonstrations is one thing, cancelling classes is different. Stating that there are "bigger lessons to be learned outside the classroom now" means only one thing: One is imposing one's political beliefs on the students. This is blatantly wrong.

A Black Male Principal, My Children Must Be Really Lucky

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The demographics of teachers and students in US public schools are clearly not matched. Although more than 40 percent of students in public schools belong to minority groups, about 80 percent of teachers are white. Of course, a dearth in principals of color is only expected from a shortage of teachers of color. Indeed, based on a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, Results From the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey, 80 percent of school principals are white, only 7 percent are Hispanic, and only 10 percent are African American. Noting that no more than 2 percent of teachers in the public education system are black men makes one realize how highly unlikely it is to find a black male serving as a principal. The principal in the school my children attend is truly a rarity.

It is indeed rare, but is it good for my children? A study published in the Educational Researhersays so. Based on data obtained from the Measure of Effective Teaching study which includes more …

Are the Schools in Virginia Becoming More Racially and Economically Segregated?

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Public schools in Richmond City in Virginia had a total enrollment of 23987 for the school year 2015-16. Among these students, 3075 are Hispanic and 17927 are African American. These groups combined therefore make up 88 percent of the student population in the city. With this, it only follows that schools in Richmond City will have a large percentage of Hispanics and Blacks. Nearly every student (97.6%) enrolled in Richmond City schools qualifies for either reduced-price or free lunch. Yet, the Washington Post as it reports on a study made by the Commonwealth Institute seems to make a big deal out of this piece of statistics in its article, "Virginia’s schools are growing more racially and economically segregated": Richmond Public Schools, where about 75 percent of the student body is black and nearly every child qualifies for free or reduced-price meals, had the highest number of isolated schools in Virginia, with 29. (The report defined an isolated school as one where mor…

How Do We Teach Our Children in the Philippines about Martial Law?

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My son, when he was in fourth grade, learned about the Native Americans who lived in Virginia, the early settlement in Jamestown, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction. That was at least two hundred years of history. Fifth and sixth graders in the Philippines, on the other hand, in the new DepEd K to 12 curriculum, are supposed to learn about Philippine history. This, of course, includes the Marcos dictatorship and Martial Law. 
Native Americans, the early colonists, slavery, and the Civil War are equally difficult topics to discuss with young minds. Fortunately, those years are much more distant to an American child, than the Martial Law years are to the Filipino youth. The recent election in the United States, however, is very much in the present. How teachers in the United States deal with this situation perhaps offers a clue on how schools in the Philippines may deal with teaching Marcos and Martial Law. Below is an example, from the principals of Mason Cre…

Optimistic but Heartbroken

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"Though heartbroken at this result, this was about economic change and a yearning for change, not an undermining of all things we hold dear like public schools", Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in an email that I received last night. I was interviewed today at Georgetown and was asked to send a brief message to president-elect Donald Trump. I said, "I hope you keep in mind that you won in the election by a razor-thin margin. That small margin came from working families who had placed their hope in some of the promises that you made. Their schools and communities are counting on you."
While Trump has said so many things during his campaign, most of these are not the wishes of the majority. With a ton of issues, we often tend to focus on one and ignore the rest. This frequently happens when we are trying to elect an individual or when we are faced with a proposed legislation that tackles too many things. One great example is …

President-Elect Donald Trump and Basic Education

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At this point, it is difficult to say what a Trump presidency means for basic education. As a starter, the role of the federal government on basic education is really small. This is very different from the Philippines where its president with the Department of Education dictates what happens inside public schools. In the US, local school districts do. Still, what a president says may have an impact on how the public generally views public education. In this respect, it may actually be good that Donald Trump has not said so much about education during his campaign. We therefore can only wait on what he says as president.

Trump did release a plan for his first 100 days in office. And that plan contains several legislative proposals relevant to basic education:
School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings educat…

Voters Have Spoken

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Quite a number of states have ballot issues relevant to public basic education. As mentioned in previous posts, Maine raises the question of increasing taxes on its wealthy to fund public education, California wants to lift the ban on multilingual education, and in Fairfax county, consumers in restaurants are asked to pay additional tax to support its public schools. While it is clear that Trump has won the presidential election, what is becoming evident with education is that the public is not really in favor of increasing taxes to provide additional funds for public education. In a way, results on election ballot issues on education are in line with the candidate Americans chose to be the next president.

Here are the results.

Oklahoma rejected a 1% sales tax increase to fund public education.Missouri rejected a tax increase on tobacco to fund early childhood health and education.The Jefferson, Falls City and Central school districts in the state of Oregon voted against bond measures …

Make the Wealthy Pay More for Public Education

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While most will be glued to their television tomorrow night to find out who the next president of the United States will be, one particular state has questions in its ballots worth looking at. Yes, the state of Maine is asking whether marijuana should be legalized. That, however, is not the most notable question, in my opinion. Far more outside the ordinary, Maine is also asking its residents if they want a new way of counting votes in which voters may cast ranked choices. In this scheme, multiple rounds of counting are going to be employed in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a winner by majority becomes clear. The state is also proposing that the minimum wage be increased, not just once, but annually until 2020. This blog is on education so the question on Maine's ballots that really catch my attention is question number two: “Do you want to add a 3 percent tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct suppo…

DepEd's K to 12, After Four Years

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Though data on learning outcomes are not easily available, some details regarding how the new curriculum of the Department of Education in the Philippines are now being told in scholarly publications. For instance, Lartec and coworkers have published their findings regarding the pilot schools of Mother Tongue - Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) in Baguio City. The paper, "Strategies and Problems Encountered by Teachers in Implementing MotherTongue - Based Instruction in a Multilingual Classroom", provides qualitative data that suggest the following problems: the absence of books written in mother tongue, lack of vocabulary, and lack of teacher-training. 
These problems especially the lack of qualified teachers should not be surprising. Even in a developed country, where multilingual education is being pursued, having an adequate number of teachers trained is a problem. The state of California this coming Tuesday is asking its citizens to vote for multilingual education…

"Meals Tax" in Fairfax and Who Pays for Public Education?

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About 80 to 90 percent of public school funding in the US comes from state and local taxes. Based on the data from the National Center for Education Statistics, in fiscal year 2010, the federal government contributed about 12.5 percent, state governments accounted for 43.1 percent, and local governments 44.3 percent. No one can argue that public education benefits all of society, but the question of who pays more remains to be addressed. Taxes come in different flavors. Some are progressive - those who are wealthy pay a larger percentage of their income, while some are regressive - those who are poor shoulder a larger tax burden relative to their income. Taxes can likewise be discriminatory when it targets a particular company or industry.

Matthew Di Carlo in his article, "Who Pays for Education?", posted in the Shanker Institute blog, looks at school funding from the point of view of who carries a bigger burden relative to what they earn. His analysis, which is not surprisi…

Not All Opinions Are of Equal Value

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While a great number of out-of-school youth in the United States cite falling behind school work or getting poor grades as main reasons for leaving school, in the Philippines, the major reasons provided are marriage and financial difficulty. The difference between the reasons given by Americans and Filipinos on why they quit school is really dramatic. It suggests that the underlying reasons behind the out-of-school problem varies greatly between the two educational systems. Of course, surveys are shaped by the questions provided, and in some cases, responses are even provided as choices. If I have to hazard a guess, it is very likely that Filipino students who drop out are also not doing well in school.

We quit often for the following reason. We think we will not succeed. We also give up when we feel that the reward we may get at the end does not justify the effort we need to exert. With regard to schooling, children who are disengaged and at the same time, struggling with the academ…

Out-Of-School Children and Youth in the Philippines

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Data and statistics help us see what is really happening but these still need to be collected properly and more importantly, analyzed thoughtfully. The number of children who leave school is a significant metric for any educational system. School leavers constitute an anathema to the mantra of education for all. The Philippines currently faces significantly low and seemingly stubborn cohort survival rates for both elementary and secondary education.

The numbers above are helpful for these show how many students actually finish both elementary and high school at the designated number of years. Thus, at the end of high school, more than 21 percent of the students do not finish on time. What is quite remarkable is that this number is not so different from the percentage of youth (aged 15-24 years old) who are not attending school, have not finished any college or post secondary course, and are not working: 17.5 %


Having these two percentages quite close to each other only suggests that m…