My Son Was Watching Netflix's "Mr. Iglesias"

My son was laughing so hard yesterday afternoon. He was watching this comedy show from Netflix called "Mr. Iglesias". Iglesias was a social studies teacher and the first scene had him summarizing American History in a a few minutes, pointing out that the first few presidents of the United States wore powdered wigs, a tradition that stopped with Monroe, but reincarnated recently with a wig dipped in 'cheetos' dust. My son thought that was really funny. With all the humor aside, the show actually deals with issues affecting basic education. Kathryn Milschewski of Carthage College writes, "Overall, “Mr. Iglesias” highlights important educational issues and helps viewers to see education through a new lens. Though, at times, the characters might seem over the top and unrealistic, this is a comedy show at heart. Viewers are supposed to laugh at the characters and have fun while watching each episode, while still learning important lessons."

There are indeed plen…

Advanced Academic Programs Are For The Rich, Not The Gifted

The devil is in the details. There is the long standing argument that enrichment programs in basic education are intended for children who show great promise in academics. A new study now shows that such programs actually favor wealth over abilities. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), Jason A. Grissom and Joshua F. Bleiberg from Vanderbilt University, and Christopher Redding from the University of Florida find that socio-economic gaps in enrollment in gifted programs persist even after considering a student's achievement levels. With equivalents scores in reading and mathematics, children from wealthy families are much more likely to receive gifted services than children from poor households do.

What comes as a surprise in this new study is that the socioeconomic gaps are in fact bigger with White and Asian American children.

In the above graph, the disparity between poor and wealthy White American children is astronomical. A weal…

Equity Is Not Reducing Schools to the Lowest Common Denominator

I thought the recommendations made by New York City's School Diversity Advisory Group are clear: "Because we believe all students deserve to be challenged, we recommend that the Department of Education resource community school districts to pilot creative, equitable enrichment alternatives to Gifted &Talented, resource community engagement and implementation appropriately and measure, track and publicize impacts; discontinue the use of the Gifted & Talented admissions test; and institute a moratorium on new Gifted & Talented programs, while phasing out existing programs." Even Andy Smarick at the Atlantic correctly gets the message, "The panel would instead prioritize schoolwide enrichment programs so a diverse student body could learn together under one roof." Yet, Smarick still makes the claim that equity contradicts excellence. It only seems a contradiction if we keep thinking that public basic education is a "zero-sum game". Education …

Partisan Politics and School Boards

Paul Muschick at the Morning Call made it clear, "Partisan politics is a disease that shouldn't be spread to Pennsylvania school boards." Here, in Fairfax county, the election for school board is non-partisan but there is a growing concern that a candidate's party affiliation needs to be identified. Democrats, for instance, are worried that a minority candidate maybe mistakenly construed as a Democrat simply because the candidate is not a White American. Nonetheless, partisan politics should be quite obvious with just a little bit of attention. Down-ballot candidates receive endorsements from top ticket politicians (Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, State Legislators) while campaigning at the same time for the party. The patronage politics is actually quite clear. Muschick thinks partisan politics is a disease in school boards because board members will no longer be elected for who they are but for what their party believes in. And that is tragic. I …

School Start Time and Daylight-Saving Time

Growing up, I briefly experienced daylight-saving time (DST) in 1978 when it was enforced by the Marcos administration. Here in the DC area, we continue to observe daylight-saving time. This year, it runs from March 10 to November 3. This means, we lose one hour of sleep sometime in March and regain that hour some time in November. Our candidate for representative to the school board, Ricardy Anderson, includes in her platform, school start times for middle school. Recommendations made by health professionals are clear with respect to aligning school schedules to a child's biological clock. Fairfax county uses a staggered schedule for its elementary, middle and high schools to meet school bus resources. Apparently absent in these considerations is the fact that we in fact enforce on all children an hour disruption every year in March. Schools clearly start one hour earlier sometime in March when daylight-saving time begins.

Moving the clock an hour ahead, which happens in the Spri…

Do We Need Leaders?

Paul Garrett Professor of Political Science at Whitman College, Shampa Biswas, recently wrote a thought-provoking commentary at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Since basic education prepares the future members of society, adding "leadership" to a curriculum or program only seems natural. Yet, in "Stop Trying to Cultivate Student Leaders", Biswas makes the case that student leadership training "impedes student learning and can do harm in the world". With achievement gaps favoring the privileged, it is only expected that the same children deemed qualified for advanced academic programs will be afforded opportunities for leadership training. After all, this is how elitism really works. It is, without doubt, geared toward inequity. But where does Biswas get the notion that it can "impede learning and do harm in the world"? This is important, to see that elitism is also harmful to society.

The school is a learning community and leadership is not s…

"For Silly Things Like ADD..."

At a debate among candidates for school board in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), one candidate, Vinson Xavier Palathingal, while commenting on Fairfax having more students under special education than its neighboring Montgomery county, referred to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) as a "silly thing". When called on this insensitive and offensive remark in a post on Facebook, Vinson responds, "How many lies are you saying about me? Do you understand that I was referring to ADD in my family? Omg.. may god forgive you for spreading such blatant lies for politics. You all are better than seasoned politicians and no wonder why FCPS is going down. Those who are interested in truth, please watch the video before you come to conclusions." So I did watch the video just to hear what was actually said. But one does not really need to watch the video for it is already clear in Vinson's response. A disability whether it pertains to a child within or outside one's o…