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Lawmakers Should Refrain from Prescribing a Curriculum

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It would be absurd to suggest that a legislative body can create or amend laws of nature. Yet, in education, lawmakers seem confident enough to dictate what should be taught inside a classroom. The Subcommittee on Education of the Virginia legislature is currently considering a bill sponsored by Del. Shelly Simonds that requires "each student in grades six, seven, and eight, starting in the 2025–2026 school year, to complete at least one semester-long or year-long computer science elective course or introduction to technology course." Before the election, Simonds was serving as member of the school board and before that, she was teaching Spanish in an elementary school. It is unfortunate that despite her experience as an educator, Simonds thinks a lawmaking body can serve as an authority on education. There are plenty of reasons why Virginia House Bill 694 should not be passed, and even the chief executive officer of code.org, Hadi Partovi, says "no", when asked th…

Another Meaningless Ranking of Schools

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Reducing a school's standing to scores in standardized tests is wrong yet these pointless exercises continue. Niche has recently provided its list of top schools in the country for 2020. This particular ranking weighs state assessment results for half of the score with the other half relying on teachers' data (salaries, absenteeism, test results, survey responses from students and parents), "rigorous analysis" of academic and student life based on reviews by parents and students, racial and economic diversity, and additional survey responses. These surveys obviously depend on participation and there is no evidence that these meet proper statistical practices. In fact, Niche probably does not even have any survey data on a significant number of schools. Still, a simple ranking attracts attention especially when it presents itself as scientific or authoritative. Well, it is not. And it is completely meaningless.

Seeing a school through your own eyes is so much more dep…

FCPSOn: One Laptop for Each Student in Fairfax County Public Schools

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FCPSOn, the program of Fairfax County public schools (FCPS) aimed to "provide students with equitable access to meaningful learning experiences and technology to support their learning", was first introduced several years ago in some schools in Chantilly. Since then, the program has been evaluated by a team of researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins. In their most recent evaluation, the researchers conclude, "Guaranteed access to a personal computer has succeeded in “leveling the playing field” among students of varying socio-economic backgrounds, learning interests, and needs". FCPSOn is scheduled to be implemented in all middle schools starting next school year. CoveringTheCorridor reports that in the proposed budget, $4.0 million would be used for this expansion. One of my son's teachers in middle school was therefore looking forward to next year when each and every student in her French class would have access to a …

Why a Growth Mindset Is Important?

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A meta-analysis on growth mindset interventions has shown that these have very small effects, if there are any, on student performance and learning. The analysis includes 162 independent samples, with 273 effect sizes and a total sample size of 365,915 students. Paul Thomas, a professor of education at Furman University, therefore concludes that we must abandon the "Growth Mindset". Paul is indeed correct in stating that character education of our children towards a greater acceptance of the "Growth Mindset" probably will not solve the problems our educational systems face. Making students embrace failures as opportunities to grow instead of being limits of their abilities" is not likely to increase learning outcomes. Education, after all, is much more complex than an act of will. The achievement gap between rich and poor children is not due to a difference in mindset. We know the real reasons and it is not character. It is a matter of privilege. Nonetheless, …

Why Science Education Matters in the Early Grades

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There are a lot of things to be learned about ourselves and the world we live in. There are zoos and museums where we could bring our children. While children see these wonderful things with their own eyes coupled with our own interests and excitement, knowledge is, without any doubt, gained. And knowledge counts, especially in reading. We often confuse reading comprehension with literacy. These two are not identical. Reading comprehension is so much more than being able to read words. Reading comprehension requires us to derive meaning from text. Such process requires us to draw from what we already know. With the poor performance of students in the Philippines in reading comprehension exams, there is unsurprisingly a greater call for "learning to read". Some even go as far as blaming the mother tongue - multilingual based education. All of these fail to see that reading comprehension is not equivalent to being proficient in English. Reading comprehension relies on backgrou…

Why Are We Against Eliminating Advanced Academic Programs?

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There is no question that gifted programs are under-representing racial groups and low-income families. Yet in this obvious case of inequity, so many are quick to voice against the removal of advanced academic programs in our public schools. Very recently, the Department of Education in New York has approved a plan by an elementary school in Brooklyn to scrap its gifted program. New York Daily's post on Facebook so far have received scores of angry emojis. The most common indignant response goes along the line of equating the move to greater equity as simply serving the lowest common denominator, in other words, lowering the bar for all students. This is really frustrating as research shows gifted programs do not even produce academic benefits suggesting that people are attached to these gifted programs perhaps for pure vanity.



Nevertheless, we are missing an important move P.S. 9, the school in Brooklyn, is making:


The school is adopting an enrichment program available to all stu…

Do We Really Know How To Evaluate Teaching?

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There are various ways through which teachers are often gauged. First, tests on both content and pedagogical knowledge can be administered. Second, student scores on standardized exams can be utilized. And third, teachers can be observed while they are teaching in their classrooms. In the United States where student achievement is often incorrectly equated to teacher effectiveness, considerable time and effort have been devoted to teacher evaluation. This is challenging especially in the early grades of basic education since standardized testing does not normally begin until the later elementary years. In kindergarten and the early years of elementary school, the subjects taught do not have that much depth and breadth for teachers' exams to be meaningful. Thus, observing teachers in their classrooms has become the widespread method of evaluating teachers in the early grades. The Gates Foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in finding the best teacher evaluation pract…