Showing posts from 2019

Today, We Remember

There is gender diversity and earlier this year, the World Health Organization has finally removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of illnesses.  The American Medical Association and other medical, mental health, and health care organizations have stated, "...We now recognize that being transgender “implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities”—and that stigmatizing transgender people also causes significant harm." Up till now, sadly, there are still plenty of people who cling to the wrong notion that gender diversity is a disorder. Transgender individuals have lost their lives. Some have been the object of scorn and hatred.

In the county I live in, we even had candidates for the school board who were openly disdainful of transgenders. Fairfax county still has a lot to do to protect transgender individuals. A recent report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation gives a failing mark to Fairfax coun…

The Problem of Being a Black Child in the United States

Racism has not been completely extinguished in our lives. Racist structures may have been dismantled but our underlying biases that invigorate racism remain strong. The achievement gap between black and white children in our schools lingers. Enrollment of black children in advanced academic programs continues to be low. Our partiality is clearly underscored in the fact that black children are more likely than white students to be suspended. In fact, recent research shows that the black-white achievement gap profoundly correlates with a black-white discipline gap.

The above graph should bring to mind a profound sadness. Almost all the points lie above the zero-line of the y-axis, black-white achievement gap. In this national survey which includes 2000 school districts across the country, one is considerably hard-pressed to spot a school where black children outperform white children. Similarly, there are also very few schools where white students are disciplined more than black student…

Teachers Will Give Their Lives to Save Children

We have first-grade teachers Victoria Soto and Kaitlin Roig, music teacher Maryrose Kristopik, principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, Special Education Teacher Anne Marie Murphy. All of these individuals risked their lives to protect their students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Three of them, Mary, Dawn and Anne lost their lives. On the other hand, the security officer during the Parkland shooting, Scot Peterson, is facing charges that include culpable negligence for his inaction during the massacre inside the school he was assigned to protect. We do understand the consequences of not acting to protect our children, but equally infuriating is the fact that we have politicians who would not even risk their career to help secure our children inside schools. We are not even asking them to give up their lives to save children. We are simply asking them to pass legislation that makes sense at the price of losing support from gun lobbyists.

Yesterday morning, young…

We Must Not Deny Our Children Their Childhood

Amidst the college admissions scandal, Neale Godfrey at Kiplinger asked this question, "Are you at risk of being a 'payoff' parent?" We want our children to succeed. And in wanting, we look for ways to give our children a leg up. Even in soccer, we send our children to "travel" teams. We are not satisfied with recreational teams. We always want the best for our children so that they will be ahead of their peers. As Godfrey points out, we may be "helicopter" or "lawn mower" parents right now, but in the end, we actually risk becoming "payoff" parents. There is, however, one more important risk that we take when we try to make our children better than others, we may be denying them their childhood.

Preschool is important to prepare children for basic education. Kindergarten, after all, has become so demanding both academically and socio-emotionally. So it has become clear that for students to thrive in their primary years, they m…

The Reason Why We Cannot Fix Inequity in Advanced Academic Programs

The previous post on this Blog "We voted for ONE Fairfax" elicited this comment in a Washington DC online forum: "The School Board has contributed to this mess. NO doubt there is too much Advanced Academic Program (AAP) --they have watered it down. Why? Because they were trying to get more minorities in the program. What happened. They got more Asian and White kids in the program who don't all belong there." Having spent a year in a committee of parents advising the school board on AAP, I have seen plenty of reasons why the county had not been able to fix inequity. Of these various reasons, however, there is one, unless addressed, would always spell failure in any effort to increase the number of underrepresented students in AAP. That reason is tradition. Former principal Brian Butler comments on a post made by newly elected school board member Ricardy Anderson, "It’s a great opportunity for Ricardy to transform a traditional system that holds on to tradit…

We Voted For ONE Fairfax

Elections unfortunately do not solve problems. What we do after the poll matters. However, we do bring what we value to the ballot box and it is crystal clear that yesterday, we, at Fairfax county, voted for equity, diversity and inclusiveness. The paths to these values are not easy. These values will challenge some of our strongly held preconceived notions. For this reason, it is imperative that we listen to what evidence tells us. The Washington Post states that the Democratic supported candidates winning yesterday pushes the Fairfax County School Board further to the left. This is not about left versus right. The winners of yesterday's school board elections rejected elitism, intolerance and division. Our new school board embraces "education for all". Our new district representative, Ricardy Anderson, for instance, wrote this last night, " we work to close the achievement gap that cripples our most vulnerable."

This is where the challenge begins. How do…

Those Who Do Not Have A Voice Need Our Votes

So much is at stake this coming Tuesday in Fairfax county. The results of this election will decide whether our schools march forward or take a step back against equity and inclusiveness. There is a dramatic difference between the two sets of candidates. One group aims to bring our community to work as one while the other stokes the flames of divisiveness and intolerance. One calls for our commitment to protect and serve all our children while the other caters to our prejudice and opinions. In education, it is important that we are guided by evidence and research, yet our county currently has candidates spawning lies and misinforming the public. All of the children need our support. There is absolutely no room for bigotry. Candidates who resort to spewing lies and sowing division do not deserve our vote.

Seriously?  Are these issues more important than the achievement gap between races, between poor and rich children? Are these more important than the academic challenges we now face?

The Cure To An Ailing Nation's Report Card: Address Inequity In Our Schools

The current Hunter Mill District Fairfax County School Board Member Pat Hynes, while sharing the previous post on this blog, Advanced Academic Programs Hurt Basic Education, wrote:

If some kids are always reading below grade level, maybe that’s because we never hold them accountable for more. Labeling, sorting, and separating kids fosters a fixed mindset in teachers about their kids and, tragically, in kids’ own self awareness.

With Pat Hynes not seeking reelection, Hunter Mill now has a choice between two candidates. No longer having Hynes on the school board can easily mean losing an individual on the board who recognizes and understands the scourge of inequity in basic education. Standing up for equity in our schools is clearly not a glamorous task. In Fairfax county, for instance, one can win the ire of its Chinese American Parent Association:

Unfortunately, one of the candidates vying for Hynes' position simply echoes the above sentiment. Saying that the move for equity is sim…

Advanced Academic Programs Hurt Basic Education

The Nation's Report Card actually provides strong evidence against advanced academic programs. In a post on this blog a year ago, "Gaps Are Increasing in the Nation's Report Card", a troubling trend has become evident, low achieving students are scoring even lower over the years. Well, the 2019 results are now available and the scores are sadly continuing with this trend. And the reason behind this trend maybe simple: Schools are providing two different curricula - and the instruction depends on whether the student is deemed low-achieving or high-achieving. This outcome should not come as a surprise since this is what happens with ability-grouping in basic education. It benefits no one but harms students who are struggling.

This time, I will not be citing a cartoon nor a comic strip, but a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics.

And below are directly copied from the report:

With these in mind, it now makes sense why parents try their best to have…

Advanced Academic Programs Only Contribute to Inequity

It has been three decades since Robert Slavin at Johns Hopkins University told us in "Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis" that there is no educational benefit in grouping students according to what we perceive as their academic abilities. On the other hand, there is a clear drawback: Inequity in basic education. Receiving responses that are sometimes quite virulent on posts where I call for removal of advanced academic programs makes me realize that some parents actually fear public school education. Basically, parents fear that the curriculum provided to the students not deemed advanced is bad. This is the same reason why bringing equity to education is sometimes viewed as catering to the lowest common denominator. I guess I would be equally concerned if my child not deemed advanced is then asked to go through the word "the" as practice for sight reading over and over. Is this fear grounded on reality? Sadly, in…

All Children Are Gifted

School districts in the United States provide a different academic track for students deemed advanced compared to their peers. The notion that there are children especially endowed with superior intellect is widely accepted as truth. Yet, as Wendy Berliner and Deborah Eyre say in "Great Minds and How to Grow Them", most children are capable of high academic performance. Even "Big Nate" of Lincoln Peirce claims that it is all a matter of wanting to become one.

The fact that enrollment in advanced academic programs throughout the United States can be easily traced to parents providing excellent opportunities and preparation for academics to their children strongly supports the idea that academic performance can be nurtured. Schools therefore should be able to do so much more than what parents could. Sadly, schools tend to marginally add to what parents have done already. As a result, academic achievement gaps only increase with years of education.

Worrying about exce…

Vote Ricardy Anderson for Fairfax County School Board (Mason District)

"If you are in the Mason District of Fairfax County please vote for Ricardy Josma Anderson! She is a former principal who will advocate for All children not just certain children!" - Brian Butler I also strongly endorse Ricardy Anderson for the Mason District seat of our School Board. Vote on November 5. Please vote for the future of our children.

A Standardized Exam That May Actually Be Useful In Answering Who Could Teach Algebra

My son is taking algebra in middle school. A lot of schools across the United States provide an opportunity for students who have demonstrated good performance in elementary mathematics to enroll in an algebra course in their middle school years. These students can furnish a good set of data to evaluate what teacher characteristics correlate with student performance in algebra. A study with this goal has been recently published by Marzano Research in conjunction with the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. The study looks at all middle school students who have taken algebra in the year 2015 in the state of Missouri. The data surprisingly include a substantial number of underrepresented groups as well as economically disadvantaged students. And across all students, there is one characteristic of a teacher that correlates with strong student performance in algebra. Here is the shocker: It is how much algebra a teacher knows. It is not the level of certifica…

A Review of the Philippines' K to 12 Program

Members of the House of Representatives in the Philippines are apparently eager to review the country's K to 12 basic education program. The Department of Education (DepEd) recently issued a statement saying it is willing to work with legislators on a "dedicated review session" that "will provide an appropriate venue to comprehensively discuss concerns about the program and plot out corresponding solutions". The statement also mentions an additional P650 million in the proposed DepEd budget to improve DepEd's K to 12. It is simply amazing that in the Philippines, an executive branch can do a review of its own program with legislators without an independent expert review. This is not evidence-based research and to place billions of pesos on a program that has not been adequately vetted is purely irresponsible. Not only does the K-12 program use most of the national budget, its effectiveness or lack thereof can have a profound impact on the future lives of a …

What Is In A Name? Our Bias

Adam Alter's response to the question, "What's in a name?", is "Everything". We can pass judgment based simply on a person's name. Alter's article talks more about how names given to hurricanes influence donations. Apparently, if a hurricane shares the same initial as a person's name, that person is more likely to help the victims. Our biases toward names, however, can have a much more nefarious root. For instance, we can compare the two names, Greg and Darnell. Greg is typically a White name while Darnell is typically Black. Attach either one of these names in a teacher referral for discipline to a principal and one can find that the punishment is influenced by the name. The name Darnell gets the shorter end of the stick. This is precisely what researchers in Berkeley have recently found in a study of how middle and high school principals in a school district in the Southeastern United States make disciplinary decisions.

Our implicit bias makes…

My Son Was Watching Netflix's "Mr. Iglesias"

My son was laughing so hard yesterday afternoon. He was watching this comedy show from Netflix called "Mr. Iglesias". Iglesias was a social studies teacher and the first scene had him summarizing American History in a a few minutes, pointing out that the first few presidents of the United States wore powdered wigs, a tradition that stopped with Monroe, but reincarnated recently with a wig dipped in 'cheetos' dust. My son thought that was really funny. With all the humor aside, the show actually deals with issues affecting basic education. Kathryn Milschewski of Carthage College writes, "Overall, “Mr. Iglesias” highlights important educational issues and helps viewers to see education through a new lens. Though, at times, the characters might seem over the top and unrealistic, this is a comedy show at heart. Viewers are supposed to laugh at the characters and have fun while watching each episode, while still learning important lessons."

There are indeed plen…

Advanced Academic Programs Are For The Rich, Not The Gifted

The devil is in the details. There is the long standing argument that enrichment programs in basic education are intended for children who show great promise in academics. A new study now shows that such programs actually favor wealth over abilities. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), Jason A. Grissom and Joshua F. Bleiberg from Vanderbilt University, and Christopher Redding from the University of Florida find that socio-economic gaps in enrollment in gifted programs persist even after considering a student's achievement levels. With equivalents scores in reading and mathematics, children from wealthy families are much more likely to receive gifted services than children from poor households do.

What comes as a surprise in this new study is that the socioeconomic gaps are in fact bigger with White and Asian American children.

In the above graph, the disparity between poor and wealthy White American children is astronomical. A weal…

Equity Is Not Reducing Schools to the Lowest Common Denominator

I thought the recommendations made by New York City's School Diversity Advisory Group are clear: "Because we believe all students deserve to be challenged, we recommend that the Department of Education resource community school districts to pilot creative, equitable enrichment alternatives to Gifted &Talented, resource community engagement and implementation appropriately and measure, track and publicize impacts; discontinue the use of the Gifted & Talented admissions test; and institute a moratorium on new Gifted & Talented programs, while phasing out existing programs." Even Andy Smarick at the Atlantic correctly gets the message, "The panel would instead prioritize schoolwide enrichment programs so a diverse student body could learn together under one roof." Yet, Smarick still makes the claim that equity contradicts excellence. It only seems a contradiction if we keep thinking that public basic education is a "zero-sum game". Education …

Partisan Politics and School Boards

Paul Muschick at the Morning Call made it clear, "Partisan politics is a disease that shouldn't be spread to Pennsylvania school boards." Here, in Fairfax county, the election for school board is non-partisan but there is a growing concern that a candidate's party affiliation needs to be identified. Democrats, for instance, are worried that a minority candidate maybe mistakenly construed as a Democrat simply because the candidate is not a White American. Nonetheless, partisan politics should be quite obvious with just a little bit of attention. Down-ballot candidates receive endorsements from top ticket politicians (Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, State Legislators) while campaigning at the same time for the party. The patronage politics is actually quite clear. Muschick thinks partisan politics is a disease in school boards because board members will no longer be elected for who they are but for what their party believes in. And that is tragic. I …