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Standardized Exams Cannot Measure Excellence

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We would like to measure the fruits of our effort. We would like to gauge how our schools are doing. Thus, we have standardized exams that are supposed to be much more objective than grades given by teachers. Consistency unfortunately does not automatically translate to accuracy and there are obviously limits in how much information test scores can actually provide. First, a single exam given to all students has an intrinsic limitation in coverage. Consequently, these exams are often geared toward determining deficiencies and not mastery. It is indeed a huge mistake to equate standardized test scores with excellence. In fact, recent research has shown that a standardized exam like ACT (originally American College Testing) cannot reliably predict college graduation rates.


The above graphs show how college graduation rates correlate with high school grade point averages (left) and scores in the ACT exam (right). Each of the gray lines is a high school. The ACT graph has much less variab…

An Important Survey from Fairfax County Public Schools

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Parents of students enrolled in elementary and middle schools in Fairfax county now have the opportunity to have their voices heard with regard to the county's Advanced Academic Program. This time, the county is asking every parent not just those who have children deemed talented or gifted. It is an important survey as it poses questions regarding equity in the county's schools. I sincerely hope that every parent responds to the email and fill out the survey.

Here is the email (The links on the image below will not work on this blog - you will need to open the email that was sent to you by Fairfax County Public Schools).


The important equity question on the survey are as follows:


And to help you answer honestly the above question, how you answer these other questions may help:




How Do Senior High School Students in the Philippines Perform in a General Mathematics Test?

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The PISA 2018 results placed 15-year old students in the Philippines near the bottom (outperforming only one country, the Dominican Republic) in its mathematics exam. These results show that mathematics education in the Philippines is failing in the first nine or ten years of basic education. Senior high school students in the Philippines are between 17 and 18 years of age and because of DepEd's K to 12, now have the opportunity of two more years of basic education. It is therefore important to see if these added years make a difference. With different tracks in senior high school in the Philippines, it is appropriate to gauge how students perform in a test that involves only general mathematics. With PISA, there is likewise a question of alignment between the test questions and the curriculum in Philippine schools. Thus, constructing an exam that is completely aligned with DepEd's K to 12 curriculum can avoid this problem. Leo Mamolo of Visayas State University did such an as…

What Causes the Black-White, Poor-Rich Gaps in Basic Education?

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In the United States, gaps are obvious in public school education on a variety of measures. On average, Blacks score lower in standardized tests. With regard to school suspensions, Blacks receive a lot more than Whites do. In gifted programs, Blacks are underrepresented. Blacks are also more likely be retained in a grade than Whites do. On the other hand, white students are more likely to be enrolled in advanced courses than Black students. The same gaps appear between children of low- and high-income families. Thus, it is convenient to blame out-of-school factors for these gaps since  correlations between gaps and race, and between gaps and socio-economic status, are fairly strong. It is sadly a convenient excuse. By scratching deeper into data, researchers have found that most of these gaps are actually products of our discretion. This is the conclusion made by Kenneth Shores, Ha Eun Kim, and Mela Still in a paper to be published in the American Educational Research Journal. We are …

School Choice: Ignoring Evidence

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It all seems fashionable now to reject evidence except when the evidence supports what we want to believe. The economy must be doing very well. We are told to just glance at the stock market indices. The numbers are indeed in record territory. These numbers, however, do not really tell the complete story. Stock prices are probably high because there is an excess of capital due to federal measures as well as tax breaks. In fact, considering not just the price of shares in publicly traded companies but also their earnings paints a very different picture. We may actually be approaching a moment of rude awakening. Ignoring evidence, simply because we want to, will not lead to better outcomes. What is happening in the stock market unfortunately has been happening for a long time in education. Diane Ravitch's new book, "Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools", is in stark contrast with Trump's approbat…

If You Are Chinese, You Should Not Attend School

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Yes, it does sound not just silly but profoundly offensive, but a university in the Philippines has just made an announcement asking all its students who are Chinese nationals to self-quarantine from January 31 to February 14. I am also seeing posts on social media that there is a shortage of face masks in the country. And social media Rappler shares concerns of some celebrities regarding the inaction of the government, adding volume to the statement, "It's the government that will kill us." Misinformation spreads faster and people are quick to draw policies based on misinformation. This is what happens when the educational system of a country is failing.




First, the correct policy for any school is to tell its students that if they are feeling ill, they should not attend school. A self-quarantine measure based on nationality does not make sense since those who are infected do not necessarily belong to one race. Second, face masks are not generally intended to protect an …

We Do Not Want Our Children To Learn With Poor Children

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I might have been quite different from my classmates in college. Ateneo, after all, is an elite school attended mostly by children from wealthy families. Back then, while my classmates were focused on a paper they were writing for either philosophy or theology, my mind was often wondering whether we had something for our next meal. Clearly, I probably had a perspective different from what most students in Ateneo had. I was therefore offering diversity. And diversity is good. Plenty of research shows that diversity is good in education. But poor children do have worries other than their homework. Just imagine if my classmates finally figure out how many shirts or pairs of pants I actually have. As a result, we often exhibit behavioral issues in schools. Advantaged parents therefore have a reason to want their children enrolled in schools with less underprivileged students. Not wanting your child to be in a classroom with either less privileged pupils or Blacks or Hispanics is definitel…