"Them That Has, Gets"

It is a phrase that summarizes well a rule in organic chemistry, Markovnikov's rule, the carbon that has more hydrogen gets the hydrogen. Sadly, this rule likewise applies to basic education. Achievement and skill gaps between poor and rich children are already present even before kindergarten. And it has long been accepted that these gaps only grow with years of schooling. A study that started in 1982 even demonstrates that the difference between disadvantaged and better-off students grow during the summer months.

Recently, Paul T. von Hippel and Caitlin Hamrock have questioned the validity of the summer learning loss. In a study published in the journal Sociological Science, these authors conclude that the summer learning loss is simply an artifact of how children are tested.

Interesting to note is the quote at the beginning of the article, "Give me a child until the age of seven, and I will give you the man." In this paper, the authors actually suggest "that read…

Gaps in Science Education

Disparities in both reading and mathematics performance are well known. These gaps exist between Whites and Blacks, between Asians and Hispanics, between rich and poor, and between native English speakers and English language learners. What is perhaps less discussed is that this disparity is likewise evident in science. After all, achievement in science is dependent on both mathematics and reading. The gaps in science test scores are as wide as those in reading and mathematics. These have been illustrated by Paul Morgan and coworkers in an article published in 2016 in the journal Educational Researcher

Race Gap
Income Gap

Language Gap

With the accompanying analysis of the above data, the researchers make the following observations:

A significant knowledge gap already exists when children enter kindergarten.Growth in science is dependent on a child's progress in reading and mathematics. The fact that the knowledge gap in the early years predicts performance in eight grade is extremely…

"The Cult(ure) of Homework" and Detention

"The Cult(ure) of Homework" is the title of the first chapter in Cathy A. Vatterott's "Rethinking Homework". In this chapter, Vatterott highlights the following widely held but unexamined preconceptions:  (1) We must extend learning beyond the classroom; (2) Activities that are intellectual are more valuable; (3) Children learn responsibility through homework; (4) More homework means greater rigor; and (5) Homework means better teachers and students. These preconceptions are really nonsense. One thing, however, is certainly true: Homework can increase inequity in education. Vatterott correctly states, "Despite there being more diversity among learners in our schools than ever, many teachers continue to assign the same homework to all students in the class and continue to disproportionately fail students from lower-income households for not doing homework, in essence punishing them for lack of an adequate environment in which to do homework." I had to …

The Current State of Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education in the Philippines

Equity in education demands no less than the complete abolition of linguistic hegemony. Unfortunately, with the bulk of scholarly and scientific work published in the recent decades, English has become an effective international medium. In the Philippines, the DepEd K-12 curriculum has embraced a mother tongue based education to help children feel at home in their schools and, at the same time, preserve and nurture the various languages of the country. The program has been in place for about seven years now so it is timely to assess its current standing. The Philippine Institute for Development Study (PIDS) reports that nearly all public schools (99.5%) claim to be implementing a mother tongue program in kindergarten through third grade. Of course, with more details, the program looks less rosier. More than half still do not have the books written for this program.

PIDS uses a list of four activities as a minimum requirement to consider a school as fully implementing a mother-tongue b…

"That Little Girl Was Me."

During the presidential debate of the Democratic Party, Kamala Harris threw a knock-out punch at Joe Biden, "That little girl was me." Commentators quickly recognized that the former vice president was slammed on his trivial attitude toward school segregation. In my opinion, however, the more important statement that Harris made was this, "We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly." Harris is right. For so many decades, schools in most districts in the United States have remained segregated. In some states, it is called "gifted programs" while in other districts, like Fairfax county, it is called "advanced academic program". Brian Wright and coworkers noted in a paper published in Gifted Students of Color, "that to be indifferent to this persistent lack of equitable access and opportunity to gifted education is to engage in an active and conscious state of aloofness and inattention in order to maintain the status quo." It is…

A World of Problems We Only Promise to Address

Gifted or advanced classes exemplify the absence of equity. The segregation of neighborhoods represents the epitome of income inequality. Climate change is caused by the way we live. These issues are now part of our social consciousness. In the recent primary elections in Virginia, candidates may have touched on one if not all of these concerns. Our future leaders have no choice since the world seems to agree that these are indeed the pressing issues of our times.

Mentioning the issue is one thing. Doing something about it is another. Each one of these huge problems has a solution and yet, we often end with undelivered promises for the actions required truly entail a change of heart, an overhaul of one's mindset.

Abandoning advanced or gifted class is definitely an alluringly simple answer to addressing inequity in education. After all, research has shown convincingly that "expert performance is predominantly mediated by acquired complex skills and physiological adaptations&q…

A New Way of Recognizing Students

This morning, the administration of Poe Middle School gave excellence awards to its seventh grade students. Unlike previous years, the awards this year were not described in the usual terms of scores in exams or grades in courses. It was nonetheless a recognition and its message was clear. Yes, the students got good grades but the awards were about the student's journey into learning. The awards ceremony I witnessed took Carol Dweck's advice of "Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence" to a palpable level. The administration at Poe Middle School described the awards as "aligned with Fairfax County's Portrait of a Graduate and International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Traits.

Fairfax County schools provide the following profile for an IB learner:

IB Learner Profile The aim of the IB programs are to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful…