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Why Do We Keep Doing the Same Things That Are Already Known Not to Work in Education?

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If you are renovating a home, you would not pay a contractor if the work does not yield good results. If you are on a drug regimen, you will not be advised to continue with the same course, if positive outcomes are not observed. Ingrid McCarthy at STEM Sellshas some highly inspirational words to share: "We can't keep doing things the same way and expect different results." Yet in the field of education, we seem unable to apply the same principle as we stubbornly cling onto schemes that simply do not work.



One good example is gifted education. It is widely known that enrollment in gifted, talented or advanced academic programs has gross underrepresentation of the poor and certain minority children. This underrepresentation, of course, mirrors the well known academic achievement gap associated with poverty and race. This is only expected since there is really no other way but to look at achievement when screening for gifted students. What will be surprising is if these two…

Lacking Attention Or Motivation: We Should Tell Stories in Our Classrooms

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A mom and a teacher, Shari Gent, provides nine tips to help kids who struggle in starting and completing tasks in one of the recent issues of ADDitude magazine. While most of her suggestions involve rewards and a change in mindset, one seems to have a high probability of working and may apply, in fact, to all students: "connect uninteresting activities to areas of interest". Children diagnosed with the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are capable of demonstrating at least in a few activities focus, organization and motivation. These are often activities that are of great interest.


Thomas Brown, a clinical psychologist specializing on ADHD, notes this similarity among all children, regardless of whether they have ADHD or not in his article, "The Mystery of ADHD Motivation, Solved". All children are motivated in tasks that they are interested in.

While Brown does describe the lack of motivation insightfully, comments from readers clearly indicate a wan…

Voter Education in Basic Education

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In tomorrow's election in the United States, the party that manages to convince their supporters to go out and vote will win. Society does reflect a situation in which we have already acknowledged that convincing people that our values matter do not work and what simply works is exciting people with what they already believe in. Such is the enigma of moral education. Richard Weissbourd shared a story in the Harvard Education Letter years ago: "I asked my six-year-old daughter and a few of her friends a question posed in a popular character education program: “Should you be honest with your teacher if you forget your homework?” One of my daughter’s friends hesitated slightly but then piped up: “Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear, or do you want me to tell you the truth?” Emboldened, another friend stated flatly, “I know that you want me to say I should be honest, but nobody is honest about that.” Weissbourd cited research that showed students "felt only patr…

Advanced Academics: Examining Our Mindset

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"Without examining our theories and thinking, focusing on policy and resource issues will do little to change the reality of learning inequality."  This is indeed a profound statement of Anthony Muhammad in the preface of his book Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap: Liberating Mindsets to Effective Change. And I find advanced academic programs as one of the best areas in basic education where Muhammad's words must be heard and seriously considered. It is a fact that minorities and low-income children continue to be underrepresented in these programs, yet we persist in finding ways to alleviate the problem without addressing the heart of the matter: Our continued belief that there are always children who are exceptionally superior in intelligence compared to their peers in a classroom. With this mindset, we then device screening schemes through which we can identify these children early on. And when we find our selection is biased towards socioeconomic status or race, w…

The Drawback of Advanced Academic Programs

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As parents, we simply want the best for our children. The adage that says children need to be challenged is fairly common among both parents and educators. Thus, it is only expected that we want our own children to be attending schools with high scores in standardized tests and challenging learning experiences. An article in the Washington Post five years ago illustrates how great a length a parent will go to simply to place his or her child in an advanced academic program:
"When a contributor to a local parenting listserv recently solicited recommendations for an “educational consultant” to help get her child into Fairfax County’s program for “gifted” students, readers were quick to attack.
“My God!” wrote one parent, “this is wrong!”" Sadly, that one parent who says, "this is wrong", is more likely an exception. Labeling students and creating tiered schools unfortunately can actually harm basic education and a recent 50-year longitudinal research study shows that…

Parents' Engagement in Their Children's Education

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Two nights ago, I attended a meeting of the Title I Parents Advisory Committee of Fairfax County Public Schools. Title I schools in the United States are schools that have at least 40 percent of its students qualifying for either free or reduced-price lunch. Title I schools are provided additional funds by the federal government to help address the academic achievement gap based on family income. The main topic of that evening's meeting is parent engagement, as numerous studies have shown, parent engagement correlates with succesful academic outcomes. One issue raised in that meeting is the difference between parent's involvement and engagement. A large percentage of students' parents often come to school events such as Bingo Night, Talent Shows, Multicultural Dinner, and other social gatherings but when it comes to meetings of Parents Teachers Associations, the attendance is usually low. To analyze the relationship between what a parent does and how a student performs in…

A Recent Graduate of DepEd's K to 12 Speaks Out

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A former associate editor of the Bedan Roar, a publication of the San Beda Manila Senior High School, recently wrote an opinion on DepEd's K-12 on CNN Philippines. Feeling despondent, Cristina Chi writes in her first paragraph, "Today, it appears that the first students to graduate from K to 12 have been forgotten and swept in the dustbin of history. After enduring two additional years of high school where the implementation was unclear for teachers and students all throughout, the guinea pigs of the K to 12 reform have every right to be distressed at the Department of Education’s lack of evidence of its success."


Although Chi laments about how ineffective DepEd's K to 12 has been, her article is actually a good example of critical thinking and writing. So, perhaps, going through a poorly designed educational system can ironically lead to learning how to think critically. Chi exemplifies how a student can excel not because but in spite of an educational system. But h…