Showing posts from October, 2013

Teacher Preparation in the United States

There are various websites that help ranked services, from plumbers to hotels, one can get a quick glimpse at the quality by looking at the number of stars given in the ratings. The National Council on Teacher Quality has recently released "Teacher Prep Review 2013", and the results are shocking. The following figures tell the story:

The standards used to evaluate teaching schools in this report are quite high and some are very specific with respect to the kind of training a teacher-student is provided. For example, within content preparation in elementary education, programs are judged in relation to English-language learners, struggling readers, and early reading. Unfortunately, in a large number of cases, the ratings are impossible to make because the data are simply not available:

How About K-14?

President Obama has been touting a school in New York City. It is a school in Brooklyn called "Pathways in Technology Early College High School". It is a school that offers Grades 9-14, six years of high school. It is a program that adds career or college-readiness to the United States K-12 education system. The school's additional two years are heavy on co-op and internships. Mentors from industry like International Business Machines (IBM) are part of Grades 13 and 14. When the high school graduation rate is an issue of concern, adding years to basic education must come with a strong incentive. The additional years must provide sufficient reason for parents and students to bear the additional years. For taxpayers, additional years in public schools must be justified as well. The school still has to graduate its first class. The promise is that graduates from this school have a better, more secure job prospect. This does sound similar to some of the arguments made by th…

Reading a Primary Source

In some of the posts in this blog, a primary source is highlighted. A copy of the abstract is usually provided in these instances. The abstract is basically a very short version of the paper. It contains the objectives, methods, results and significance of the work described in the paper. Reading primary sources is quite challenging. As noted in a previous post, "Vocabulary and Learning", abstracts of scientific articles contain on average 128 rare words per 1000. That is more than ten percent, that is, in each sentence composed of ten words, it is very likely to find one word most people have not encountered before. 128 is an average number and the actual number depends on the field. Papers in the natural, biological and medical sciences are more likely to contain highly technical vocabulary. Since this blog particularly pertains to basic education, I am assuming that the primary sources I cite in this blog are still within the reach of readers of this blog.

Papers in physi…

Standardized Tests: What They Really Are

A standardized test is an examination that is given under well defined conditions. Its results are supposed to be interpreted in a consistent manner. Students are asked the same questions. The results should not be dependent on the grader of the examination. For this reason, standardized tests are usually composed of multiple choice questions. Standardized tests meant to measure learning in a given discipline at a defined level of schooling must strongly correlate with each other.

During my final year in high school, I took several tests, admission tests for Ateneo and the University of the Philippines, National Science Scholarship test, State Scholarship test, and the National College Entrance Examination. Too many tests - that was all I could remember. These tests told the same story about me. Luckily I was not under the weather when I took any one of these exams. Otherwise, an exam I took on a day I was sick might have yielded a different result. In essence, since these exams were …

Barangay Elections and How the Philippines Treats Public School Teachers....

This headline says it all....

The following is a statement from the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) of the Philippines:

TDC Press Statement
October 27, 2013

Public school teachers, under the law are deputized as poll workers and tasked to supervise the whole process, from opening up to the closing of polling precincts. In between, teachers must ensure that the choice of every voter has been cast and counted. But in order for us teachers to do this, we expose ourselves to all sorts of dangers- health risks, harassment, legal charges and physical attack.

The past elections were witness to the violence and danger our teachers suffer. Every election, there were reports of those teachers who were hurt, intimidated, met accidents and worst, killed in line of duty. There were heroic stories like the teacher who died and burned along with a classroom in Batangas, a DepEd supervisor who was killed after elections in Maguindanao, a group of tea…

Child Labor in the Philippines: Still Extreme

We do enjoy our clothes, shoes, toys and electronics. In a global market, people are becoming more aware and concern of where these products are being made. One important piece of information that consumers need and want to know is whether child labor is involved. Maplecroft has been providing this information to the world in terms of an index on child labor. This index measures the risk that a company has child labor present in their supply chain in each of the 197 countries covered. In 2012, the Philippines was mentioned when Maplecroft introduced its index for that year:

The Philippines ranked 25th among 197 countries. In the 2014 index, there are now 83 countries deemed as "extreme risk". And the Philippines continues to be among the "extreme risk" countries:

"The Child Labour Index 2014 evaluates the frequency and severity of reported child labour incidents, as well as the performance of governments in preventing child labour and ensuring the accountabilit…

NCLB: No Country Left Behind

"Critical Thinking" is not necessarily criticizing the person behind the lectern. We all have a tendency to begin with our own ideas which are shaped by our own interests, experiences and understanding. It is this tendency that makes it quite difficult for us not to be selective in the arguments we choose. We only see what we would like to see. Critical thinking, unfortunately, is not equivalent to rejecting claims when these do not agree with whatever we want to see. Critical thinking begins with neither a rejection nor a blind acceptance of a claim. Critical thinking must always starts with recognizing the credibility of the source and apparent validity of the claim.
Last Spring semester I had the opportunity to teach a class whose students are among the first generation that has completely gone through the "No Child Left Behind" era in the United States.
Instead of sharing what I experience I will just copy a recent post by Aaron Barlow, Associate Professor of …

Learning Materials in the Philippines: "The Dog Ate My Homework"

Last month, this blog featured an article by Joy Rizal lamenting the fact that even after four months into the school year, pupils in the Malaybalay school district still have not received learning materials. The following is a letter written by Joy Rizal to Socorro A. Pilor, Executive Director of Instructional Materials Council Secretariat, DepEd Philippines. It is in response to the explanations provided by the executive director with regard to students in Malaybalay not having any of the learning materials. Apparently, when DepEd issues a press release that says, "As of last school year, the book-student ratio is 1:1 in both public elementary and secondary schools,” it means something else.

Here is the letter:

Youth Rep Urges Congress to Investigate Anomalous P10-B CHED-PCARI Project

The following is a repost from the Kabataan Partylist of the Philippines web site, 18 October 2013:
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has filed a resolution urging the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education to conduct an investigation on the alleged anomalies hounding the P10-billion Philippine-California Advance Research Institutes (PCARI) project which is being implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

House Resolution 386 calls for a comprehensive congressional review of the PCARI, following allegations of corruption and various anomalies that involve high-ranking CHED officials and partly led to the resignation of two CHED commissioners and a CHED director.

“The P10-billion PCARI project is riddled with anomalies and legal infirmities. The way its implementation is designed – wherein foreign institutions pre-selected by PCARI focal persons can access large chunks of public funds without the benefit of a public bidding – makes the project highly vulner…

Absenteeism in Preschool: Problems that Begin in the Early Years

Something is not necessarily better than nothing. This applies to early childhood education. Quality matters. A school environment and culture that fail to stimulate learning leads to a lack of engagement. Lack of engagement leads to an ineffective education. Absences even in preschool and the kindergarten years matter. Attendance in school is the first measure of a student's engagement. Missing even just one out of every ten school sessions can seriously deter learning. This applies not only to high school or the later years of formal schooling. The importance of attendance likewise applies to the early years. The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) has recently published a report illustrating the negative impact of absenteeism in preschool:

One of the main findings of the report is summarized in the figure below:

In all four learning areas, attendance in preschool appears consequential. The effects of missing school are even more dramatic with stud…

Learning Gaps As Early As 18 Months

Since the early years, zero to five, are now known to affect brain development, education research and policies are now increasingly taking note of this stage in life. What studies have shown so far is that learning gaps begin to exist in these years. While this blog is strongly advocating attention to early childhood education, it is equally important to emphasize that learning is still a lifelong process. What happens between zero to five does not seal the future. Thus, before citing another article that demonstrates learning gaps in the early years, it maybe useful to recall words of Dr. Jack Shonkoff, dean of the Heller School of Social Policy and Management and professor of human development and social policy at Brandeis University:
Do you think there is a "myth of the first three years?"It depends on what you mean by a myth. So if you ask me is it a myth that what happens in the first three years determines everything that happens afterward and the window shuts at age t…

Hitting Home: Fairfax Schools Cuts

Fairfax county in Virginia is where my family lives. My son goes to Mason Crest Elementary School, a school in the county's public school system. The county is home to the 11th largest school division in the United States. It is also home to the largest fleet of school buses. With regard to quality of education, Fairfax County Public Schools are among the best. The following scores from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) demonstrate that students in Fairfax county perform as well as the top ranking countries. Fairfax county scores are well above the average scores of students in the US.

MeanShanghai-China   556600575Hong Kong-China 533555549Finland       536541554Singapore526562542Korea539546538Fairfax County 530540537Japan520529539Canada524527529New Zealand521519532Chinese Taipei 495543520Netherlands508526522Australia                    515514527Liechtenstein499536520Switzerland 501534517Estonia501512528Germany 49751…

From the Eyes of the Poor

President Obama sends his children to Sidwell Friends School, a PK-12, co-educational Quaker day school with campuses in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland. Sidwell Friends, a private school, charges about US$ 35,000 a year in tuition. The school is home to the Kogod Arts Center which includes a 415-seat professionally equipped theater, an art gallery, and newly constructed state-of-the-art classrooms and studios.
Obams's daughters are not the first members of the White House family to attend the school. The Capitol-File magazine writes:
In 2008, when the White House announced that Malia and Sasha would be enrolling at Sidwell (joining three of Vice President Biden's grandchildren), The New York Times called it the Harvard of Washington's private schools. Forbes referred to Sidwell as "the latest distinguished darling for political parents."But long before the Obama girls, or even Chelsea Clinton and Albert Gore III, Sidwell boasted first-family headliners …

Teachers Impoverished, Neglected

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMILThis is a repost from MANILA – Without teachers, there would be no doctors, nurses, lawyers and even the president of the country. For public school teachers, a manifestation of gratitude is to show them their importance. But for the broadest alliance of teachers in the country, they are, instead, being neglected by the government. While the Department of Education held a grand celebration of World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5, which was held at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) staged a protest action on the eve of World Teachers’ Day, Oct. 4. Amid the heat of the sun, public school teachers marched from EspaƱa Avenue to Chino Roces (former Mendiola) bridge, carrying banners “Rechannel pork barrel funds to education!” Public school teachers once again register their demands to the government for salary increase. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/
“We are here to expose the real situation of p…