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Showing posts from April, 2018

Colleges Are Ripping Off.. ...What We Do With Numbers

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A friend on Facebook brought to my attention an article from a conservative website, Intellectual Takeout. The article, How Colleges Are Ripping Off a Generation of Ill-Prepared Students, was a commentary authored by a professor of economics at George Mason University, Walter Williams. It was originally published in another right-wing site called The Daily Signal. In the article, Williams was accusing colleges of admitting students who could not even read nor write nor do arithmetic. Williams arrived at this conclusion by comparing scores in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), high school graduation rates, and enrollment in colleges. Williams noted that the fraction of students entering college is far greater than the fraction of students reaching proficiency in either math or reading NAEP exams. Obviously, Williams did not know what the levels in an NAEP exam really meant, or he was simply misleading readers.

Here is the description on the NAEP website regarding the…

The Philippines Wants to Go Back to a Prehistoric Writing System

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ABS-CBN News in the Philippines reports, "The House Commitee on Basic Education and Culture has approved a bill seeking to declare Baybayin, a pre-Hispanic writing system in the Philippines, as the country's national writing system." The bill will require products manufactured in the Philippines to inscribe "Baybayin" scripts on their containers and labels. It also mandates local governments to include "Baybayin" scripts in street signs and public buildings. Newspapers and magazine should also include a "Baybayin" translation of their official names. Lastly, it directs government agencies which include the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to disseminate knowledge and information of the "Baybayin" script in all levels of education, public and private.

Bonifacio Comandante wrote an article on the "Baybayin" script in the Esquire magazine of the Philippines. The article, The Life, Death and Resu…

Is Philippine Basic Education Really This Bad?

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In any democratic society, basic education prepares its younger citizens for civic engagement. The election process is one of the most important elements of democracy. For elections to be successful, voters need to be knowledgeable of both candidates, mainly their qualifications, their issues, their stands, and their proposals. This is what democracy needs. In the Philippines, it seems that the mere shading of ovals in an election ballot is already too much to ask. The threshold placed by those who are reviewing the vice presidential election results is already low, fifty percent. Vice president Robredo is asking for less strict rules in the threshold of shading of ovals. 25 percent shaded should be enough, according to Robredo. Is it really true that Filipinos are so incompetent that they cannot fill those ovals properly? Over so many years, millions of children, starting in the elementary years, take standardized national exams. These exams use answer sheets that are far more compli…

Why Students with Disabilities Are Performing Poorly

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The previous post highlights the fact that in the United States, scores of students with disabilities in the national test are falling behind the scores of students with no disabilities. When a gap in academic achievement shows up between two groups of students, one cannot avoid but ask how and why. Students with disabilities are of course neither necessarily nor naturally less gifted academically than students with no disabilities. Students with disabilities may have special needs or require accomodations, but the lower scores do not automatically suggest that these needs are currently not being met inside the classroom. It is a possibility but there are certainly other reasons that may lead to poorer academic perfomance among students with disabilities. One factor that strongly correlates with performance on these tests is attendance. A recent post on this blog also shares the fact that students with disabilities are more often suspended than students without disabilities. Therefore…

Gaps Are Increasing in the Nation's Report Card

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The results for the 2017 NAEP Math and Reading Assessments are now available. These scores are regarded as the Nation's report card in the United States. Fourth and eight graders have taken exams in both reading and math, and the recent scores are actually showing a decreasing gap between black and white students. Although the difference in scores between black and white children is shrinking, gaps remain and this time, the gaps are actually much more troublesome. The gap is increasing between high and low performers. If the race gap is diminishing, where is the additional gap coming from? Scores of students with disabilities are on a downward trend.

Here is the black/white gap for fourth graders:

Below shows the increasing gap between low and high performers:

In mathematics (4th grade):


In reading (4th grade):


The following shows the trend for students with disabilities suggesting that the increasing gap seen between low and high performers is partly due to either a deteriorating…

Data Breach Versus Fake News

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A senator in the Philippines who touts himself as a strong advocate for education just recently demonstrated amazing ignorance regarding social media. The Inquirer quoted Senator Bam Aquino, "We’re glad Facebook has decided to enter into a local fact-checking coalition in the aftermath of its failure to protect millions of personal data from being exposed." Privacy protection of Facebook users is totally a different issue from fake news. On privacy, Facebook users need to be more aware of what they actually share with their friends and the public on social media. On fake news, Facebook users need to exercise a bit more skepticism and a lot less gullibility. 



If a senator could not see the obvious difference between these two issues, what could one expect on issues that are more complicated like education? Perhaps, the oversight was simply due to an extreme excitement that Facebook had chosen to partner with media obviously aligned to his party. However, his past actions on ed…

School Suspensions: Are These Discriminatory Or Simply Wrong?

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A recent report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) brings me back to a post I made in this blog last October; How We Discipline Students in Schools Is "Trump-Like". When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump mocked a judge for simply being a child of Mexican immigrants, we took notice. In 1972, when a black woman was told that nothing was available for rent in a Brooklyn complex managed by Donald Trump’s real estate company while a white woman was shown two available apartments in the same complex a few days later, the federal government filed a discrimination case against the Trump firm. And when Trump seemingly made fun of a reporter with a disability, we quickly denounced it. Yet, when we look at how our schools exercise disciplinary action, we see something frighteningly similar.


The findings made by GAO based on the Department of Education (Education) national civil rights data for school year 2013-14 are practially identical to the r…

What the Philippines Could Learn from the United States

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There is no question that the Philippine basic education system needs our attention. K to 12 education in the United States likewise faces serious challenges. One big thing that the US has as an advantage is that it is a much wealthier country. Nevertheless, basic education in the US still requires our attention. Incidentally, what the US needs to examine is also relevant to the Philippines. So perhaps, the Philippines can learn from the mistakes that the US is making.

Natalie Wexler, an education journalist, recently wrote an opinion in Forbes.


The three mistakes are:

The real problems begin at the high school level.The most important factor in educational achievement is a highly effective teacher.Education needs to be data-driven. The above also contains links that illustrate how much emphasis legislators, nonprofit organizations, education policy makers are giving on these items. The main problem is that none of this really addresses the problems of basic education.
As stated in so …

When Resources Are Limited....

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When it rains, it pours. In education, struggling schools are often the ones facing so many problems. The top performing educational systems across the globe are mostly found in high income countries while poor countries frequently deal with schools that miss the passing mark. Even in the United States, school districts that do not do well are found in neighborhoods where the poverty rate is high and college education among adults is low. One obvious reason is the lack of resources. And to exacerbate the situation, there is gross inefficiency and sometimes even corruption. The Philippines is one example. Resources are already severely limited and in addition, a sound management is grossly lacking. Take, for instance, a school in its Samar province, the Lungib Elementary School. A budget of more than 2 million pesos has been allocated to building classrooms in this school and after several years, all the school has to show are bits and pieces of walls left abandoned for grass, vines an…

How Does the Philippines Currently Stand in Terms of Equity in Education?

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Educational systems should aspire for two things: quality and equity. Although the Philippines has not participated recently in international exams, there are existing measures by which one can still compare the Philippines against other countries. And in a study that examines educational systems in 67 low and lower-middle income countries, the overall picture is not encouraging. Philippine basic education seems to suffer in both quality and equity, and these challenges, as stated numerous times in this blog, exist at the primary level of basic education.

Pauline Rose, Ricardo Sabates, Ben Alcott and Sonia Ilie from the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, University of Cambridge, have collected the most recent data (2016) from 67 low and lower-middle countries, examining learning outcomes for primary school children from both rich and poor families. The results are summarized in the following figures:

The above graph shows the learning outcomes as measured by nat…

Be Careful What You Wish For: Asking for More Non Teaching Personnel

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There is no question that teachers in the Philippine public schools are both underpaid and overworked. Class sizes are so much larger in the Philippines than in the United States. To alleviate this sad plight of instructors in the Philippines, a representative from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers is asking for an increase in the number of non teaching personnel who will attend to clerical and administrative tasks. The amount of paperwork is apparently a huge burden to teachers as schools continue to suffer a lack of technical support, equipment, and internet connectivity. This is another instance in which a problem is correctly identified. Unfortunately, the proposed solution is not. Overburdened by forms simply cannot be solved by adding more bureaucracy. It will only get worse.




I am reminded of the photo shown below that has gone viral a few years ago.


The situation in the United States in both higher and basic education offers a preview. The Delta Cost Project at the American In…