Equity: One Issue Fairfax County Public Schools Could Focus On

Public education is first and foremost, for the common good. Schools matter to all of us. But achieving the common good requires equity. It is only in a diverse and inclusive community can we truly achieve equity. Thus, in this coming election of members for the board of Fairfax County Public Schools, one issue could easily sum up a campaign for any candidate: Advancing equity in our schools. I think this can cover all the challenges the county currently faces. We must provide excellent opportunities for learning to all children regardless of family income, parent educational attainment, race, and gender. Anything less than equal opportunities is unacceptable. Hindrances to equity unfortunately abound for it is only expected that each and everyone of us to have the knee-jerk reaction of "What about us?" Thus, in some ironic fashion, pushing for equity can divide us.

The politics of division is especially useful in a democratic society where the majority wins and lands in con…

Lessons From Our Children

The previous post on this blog, "Why Labeling Students as Gifted Is Wrong", received this comment from former Mason Crest Elementary School principal Brian Butler: "Maybe we will start to listen because it’s shared by a student, a young girl who was labeled “gifted!" What the student was saying, however, was exactly what evidence-based research had been informing us over the years. Nonetheless, there are indeed lessons to be learned from our children. My daughter has taught me more than once. She could really be a source of wisdom and this week, a story she wrote reminded me of one important thing we all need to teach our children. Here is her story which I think pretty much sends the same message as Linda Creed's lyrics in the song, "The Greatest Love of All".

One Eye Curse
By: Amelia M. de Dios

Long ago in New York City there was a wealthy family (The Jeffersons). They had everything but they were mean to anyone that was not as wealthy as they were. …

"Why Labeling Students as Gifted Is Wrong"

This is a video worth watching....

Active Versus Passive Learning

In "The Dangers of Fluent Lectures', I think Colleen Flaherty extracted the correct message from a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the difference between how much students have learned and how much students think they have learned: "A study says smooth-talking professors can lull students into thinking they've learned more than they actually have -- potentially at the expense of active learning." Instead of focusing on the difference between strictly didactic lectures (passive learning) and those that allow students to work in groups, hold discussions and solve problems on their own (active learning), Flaherty sees that the difference really lies in how much students think they really have learned. Students can first be given the opportunity to solve problems on their own before being provided the answer or students can be spoon-fed. In the former case, students receive a more honest assessment of what they know…

Inequity in Our Schools

Surely, it is not a straight line but there is definitely a correlation. Schools with children who qualify for free or reduced-fee lunch have teachers with fewer years of experience. This is the situation in Prince William County elementary schools in Virginia according to InsideNova:

What Lessons Should We Really Learn From Successful School Systems?

For improvement, we often look around us and copy what seems to work better. This happens as well in basic education. The challenge in education, however, is that schooling is not one specific task. It cannot be distilled in one activity or even one policy. Education is a system composed of many parts that work together and affect each other. Lifting one specific aspect is not necessarily the same as copying the entire system. And if done carelessly, we may even be attributing success to the wrong aspect. Take, for instance, the curriculum. We may hastily ascribe the apparent success of schools in Finland to what they teach and how they teach. What if the success of these schools really hinge on how well prepared their teachers are? In this case, what they teach and how they teach really do not matter. What really makes them successful is that the teachers are better trained. Simply copying Finland's curriculum therefore is not a recipe for uplifting schools without considering th…

What Would Fairfax County Do With Its Advanced Academic Program?

Near the end of last year, the school board of Fairfax county decided to review its advanced academic program. Part of the decision is to seek advice from experts in advanced academics programming and equity. The board wants to hear what experts have to say. Well, experts in another school district in the United States, New York City public schools, have already spoken. Their recommendation is the immediate elimination of "gifted programs". One can guess then that in the near future the board at Fairfax county will face the same question New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is facing: Should one implement what experts recommend when the recommendation can possibly lead to political suicide?

One simply has to look at comments posted on news articles reporting this recommendation to grasp the strong objection to this recommendation. Here are examples from the Washington Post:


The “progressive” race to the bottom continues....Ohhhkay... time to acknowledge the 800-pound go…