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Do Teachers Really Matter?

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A study in Texas shows that Teach for America (TFA) is making a significant difference in the learning outcomes of students in basic education. Beth Hawkins of T74 reports that students taught by TFA members perform significantly better in eight subjects that include math, science and English. The only subject in which no positive impact is observed is reading. The comparison is made against students taught by teachers who were not affiliated with TFA. Presumably, these are teachers who went through the traditional route of training and education.


Although TFA lists the following minimum requirements:

In order to be considered for admission to the TFA corps, you must have abachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 and U.S. citizenship, national/legal resident status, or be a DACA recipient. 

One can assume that TFA places a premium on academic excellence. One simply has to look at the tips the TFA website provides to applicants:


Although, it may seem encouraging to see th…

Why Advanced Academics Should Be Provided to All

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What students learn in a classroom obviously depends on instruction. Resources can definitely influence effectiveness of instruction. For these reasons, both curriculum and infrastructure can undermine equity in basic education. Parents know this so when they try to get the best opportunity for their children, they are not merely acting based on vanity. Differences in opportunities are the main drivers of gaps in achievement. We see this in early childhood education. Young children raised in families that can afford enriching activities are often better prepared when they enter kindergarten. Inequity is not just a perception. It is real and it has consequences. Thus, when school children are provided different curricula and different resources, we simply should not expect similar outcomes. This is why it is important that advanced academics be provided to all and research supports this.

The most recent example from research is teaching early algebra. In real life, students are first s…

Teachers Are Role Models

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"There were a million black boys last year who wanted to play basketball in the NBA. Of that million only 400,000 will even make it to play high school ball. Of that 400,000 only 4,000 will make it to play college ball. Of that 4,000 only 35 will make it to the NBA. Of that 35, only 7 start. And the average life in the NBA is 4 years. So the real problem is that we have a million brothers looking for seven full time jobs that last 4 years and yet last year we had 100,000 jobs available to be a computer programmer, engineer or doctor and only 1,000 brothers qualified. So our appeal to black males is to realize the odds, that which you do the most is that which you will do best. ... So we have the ability in either math or science or music and sports. That which you do most, is that which you do best. If you play basketball from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock you will be a very good basketball player. If you went home and went to the library you would be a good scholar. We need mor…

Honesty Versus Competence

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"Donald Trump won the electoral college against most predictions. Looking at the voters’ pre-election evaluations of the candidates on key characteristics, we discover that most voters generally perceived Trump as more honest and trustworthy but less competent than Clinton." This is what Fabio Galeottia and Daniel John Zizzo wrote in their paper, "Identifying voter preferences: The trade-off between honesty and competence". The authors did note that although Trump won in electoral votes, Clinton won the popular vote. Is competence more important then for voters? While Galeottia and Zizzo worked on an experiment involving college students to find what is more important to voters and found that in this specific study, voters tend toward honesty, one must note the fact that even in this seemingly homogeneous group of voters, it is still plausible to categorize voters into the following groups: ‘Profit-maximizing’, ‘Absolute competence’, ‘Absolute honesty’ , ‘Relative …

The Problem Is Not the Curriculum

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After citing current disheartening data for basic education in the Philippines, senator Gatchalian asked for a review of DepEd's K to 12 curriculum. Here we go again. This is exactly the perspective that brings us farther from actually addressing the problems of elementary and high schools in the country. The solution does not lie in the curriculum. The solution requires that we transform the schools into genuine teaching and learning institutions. For these, resources are needed. These should be provided first. Second, we must embrace the fact that instructors need to be empowered so that they can become effective teachers of our children. A curriculum obviously cannot address these two important steps.


Resources cost money so we should not waste any more funds that do not really address the problem. There is no other way to solve shortages in education. These needs simply must be met.

It may sound as an overused idiom, but effective teachers do not really grow on trees. Genuine …

DepEd's K to 12 Initial Results

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This blog started about seven years ago. One of its first posts was an opinion article I wrote and was previously published by the Philippine Star. In that article, I emphasized that DepEd's K to 12 was not the solution to the problems plaguing basic education in the Philippines. Now, the initial results are out and the outcomes are dismal. Scores in the National Achievement Tests are down, passing rates in the licensure exams for teachers are now at their lowest level, and employment data indicate that high school graduates are unable to find work.


Senator Gatchalian, a staunch supporter of K to 12 during its initial implementation, shared these grim outcomes recently. In his presentation, he shows how scores in the national assessment for both grades 6 and 10 have dropped since the implementation of DepEd's K to 12:


Gatchalian also mentions that it is now far easier to become a lawyer, citing that the current passing rate for teachers is only 27 percent.



This comparison, by …

Facts Before Critical Thinking

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"Factual knowledge must precede skill" is one of the guiding cognitive principles that Willingham uses in his book, "Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers". The reason behind this principle is simple: How can one think if there is nothing to think about. There is an ongoing disdain for facts retrieval practice in basic education. A popular mantra is "to teach children how to think and not what to think". Obviously, simply forcing students to memorize a set of facts is not sound education. It is, however, only with background knowledge can a mind begin to make connections, analyze, and construct new knowledge. Teaching facts is important. I think the real problem is we often lack direction or purpose when we teach facts. What facts should we teach our students? And as Willingham notes, "This question often becomes politically charged rather quickly". In the Philippines, this becomes all so real as illustrated in the f…

Children Are Naturally Attracted to Good

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Psychologist Travis Langley asked this question: "Why write about heroes and villains in days when they seem hard to tell apart?" Heroes are those who inspire us while villains are those who strike fear in us. It seems simple enough for children to recognize superheroes and the villains they fight. Perhaps, as we grow older our thinking becomes more complex that we stop seeing morality in black and white but in different shades of gray. About three years ago, Yale researchers Arber Tasimi and Karen Wynn showed that "children and even infants, although motivated by material rewards, are nonetheless willing to incur costs to avoid “doing business” with a wrongdoer".

This morning, I saw several photographs posted and shared by a teacher and children books' author, Genaro Ruiz Gojo Cruz. One picture that really drew my attention is shown below:


The photograph came with this caption from Cruz, "Nang makita ko ang mga batang ito na nagtatakbuhan patungo sa kubol…

Ricardy Anderson: Making "One Fairfax" a Reality

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"Every student should have access to grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers with high expectations, every day, in every class—regardless of their race, ethnicity, or any other part of their identity. Every student and family is an authentic partner and should have real opportunities to shape the experiences students have in school, receive accurate and accessible information about students’ progress, and have a legitimate role in decision-making." These are the two commitments that school leaders should make according to TNTP, an organization in the United States that advocates equity in education. These commitments have been drawn from a study across several districts in the country that unfortunately show minority children, English language learners, and those who qualify for free or reduced lunch are given "watered down content even when they take rigorous course sequences."

Reading this report makes it even clearer why …

Grades Do Not Define Who We Are, How We Regard Grades Does

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Across the Pacific, a senatorial aspirant claims on a Facebook page to be "one of the first female graduates from an Ivy League School—Princeton University, graduating with honors". The same Facebook  page posted a couple of weeks ago a photo of a letter from Princeton's Class of 1979, to lend support to the claim of the daughter of former president Marcos of being an alumnus of Princeton. Since Princeton includes degrees/honors awarded as well as dates of attendance in a student's "directory information" in its Policy on Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, it is possible for the public to know if the claim is true or not. So now we have it in a story published in students' newspaper in Princeton, "Filipino governor, senate candidate falsely claims to have graduated from U.":


The source cited by the students' newspaper is Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.

Back here in the United States, a former lawyer of United Stat…

Ricardy's Platform: "One Fairfax" Is About Removing Gaps in Opportunity

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Anyone who follows basic education in the United States knows that there is an achievement gap that correlates with either socio-economic status or race. What someone may miss is the fact that there are likewise opportunity gaps. We can talk however long we want about how poverty negatively influences education but if we neglect to see that children of privilege are often receiving more opportunities, there is really no hope in reducing the achievement gap. It is really simple. One of the major reasons why there is an achievement gap is that there is likewise a gap in opportunities. On November of 2017, the school board in Fairfax County adopted a resolution called "One Fairfax" which includes "Education that promotes a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture where all feel valued, supported, and hopeful, and that every child is reached, challenged, and prepared for success in school and life." It is a good resolution, but we cannot deny the fact that Fairfax cou…

"The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations"

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Jerrold Jensen writes in the Foothills Sun Gazette, "Former President George W. Bush occasionally used the expression “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Interpreted, it means we often look at people or places and an inborn bias causes us to form an unfair expectation of lower results. Studies show that if leaders or instructors have low expectations, the actual results of their followers or students will be lower."  Jensen's commentary comes with data showing that a high school where nearly 80 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced meals, Dinuba High School in Tulare County, California, has 65 percent of its 2018 graduates deemed "college/career ready". This is much higher than the average over the entire state of California, which is 42 percent.  So with this, Jensen remarks, "...Dinuba High School just blew away the competition when measuring college/career readiness. It appears that leadership expectations are especially high—and are b…

"Should Formative Assessments Be Graded?"

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The former principal at Mason Crest Elementary School, Brian Butler, sent me a link to an article in Solution Treethat addressed the question, "Should formative assessments be graded?". It was an article written by a former school administrator, Tom Schimmer. I almost did not continue reading the article since it started with this response, "The short answer to this question is no." But I did continue and later in the article Schimmer changed the response to a maybe. Still, the article seemed to dwell unnecessarily on the difference between orthodox and reality. While citing that research had shown the importance of feedback supposedly in the absence of grades, Schimmer was trying to make the point: "With all of that said, classroom teachers don’t live in the orthodoxy of anything, and while there are important lessons and cues research has bestowed upon us, many of us have also learned that assessment is often context-dependent and nuanced." We often mak…

Ricardy’s Platform for Fairfax Schools

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RICARDY FOR SCHOOL BOARD·TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2019 Ricardy J. Anderson, Ed.D. To ensure that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) offers opportunities for and equitably serves all students, I will initially focus on the following priorities: · Strategic Implementation of One Fairfax: I want to make One Fairfax a reality for Mason Kids by equitably equipping our teachers and staff with needed resources to facilitate the delivery of personalized and individualized instruction to students in 21st century facilities. We must stop the practice of asking our PTAs/PTOs to provide funding for essential resources and services to schools. We must establish the expectations that research based and effective strategies will be provided at all schools across the county. · Protect Needs-Based Staffing: We must ensure Title I and other needs-based funding are aligned with Mason District needs. · Teacher and Staff Compensation: Teacher quality significantly impacts student achievement. We must in…

Whom Should We Elect to the School Board? Ricardy Anderson

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Electing an individual to the School Board is similar to asking the question "What should funders fund?", a question recently discussed by psychologist Daniel Willingham in his blog Science & Education. Initially, Willingham's "knee-jerk" response to this question is "funders need to stop being idiots". He then explains that what he really means is that nowadays, most programs not directly linked to an improvement in student learning are often funded. He offers the following to explain how we can influence student learning:

Federal à State à District à Principal (Admin) à Teacher à Student Learning

Obviously, the sphere of influence becomes smaller as we go from Federal down to a State, down to a District, down to a Principal, and finally to a teacher, who probably influences the learning of only about 25 students. Naturally, we are then attracted to the level that can bring the biggest impact. A principal, for instance, can influence not just one …

In the Philippines, Some High School Students Cannot Read

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The previous Aquino administration in the Philippines had this dream, "Every Child a Reader by Grade 1". Dreams, however, become reality only with correct actions and genuine effort. And in education, such goals can only be reached with adequate resources. For instance, when schools are forced into multiple shifts because of congestion, instructional time is severely compromised. The shortage can be exacerbated by adding more years to basic education and at the same time, imposing a performance merit system based on mass promotion. Years after the introduction of K to 12, Kara David documents a disconcerting situation in one of the high schools in the capital region of the Philippines: Students currently enrolled in seventh grade cannot read.

The documentary shows high school students who are struggling in phonetics in their mother tongue.



One child tells the story of lessons on basic reading being rushed through third grade as the cause of being left way behind. One can th…

Reason for Non-Vaccination: "Mother Was Busy"

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Outbreaks of measles are being reported worldwide. Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease so its resurgence can be attributed to "gaps in vaccination coverage". Hundreds of cases of measles have already been confirmed in the Philippines, and some are quick to blame the dengvaxia fiasco as the main culprit behind why a significant number of children have not been vaccinated against measles. It may be true especially in Europe or in the US that parents have been refusing to have their children vaccinated for fear of side effects, but this is not necessarily true in the Philippines. In fact, a much more logical conclusion is the the Philippines' Department of Health not simply doing its job. Indeed, this is the real reason based on data collected by the Department.


The above two figures show that more than two-thirds of measles cases involve individuals who have not been vaccinated and of these two thirds, the primary reasons for non-vaccination are: (1) not eligible for …

We Need to Pay Attention to Details

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When something involves several factors, we need to be careful in drawing conclusions. In the physical sciences, experiments are designed to focus on one factor at a time while controlling others when the object of the investigation is multivariate. Basic education is an example of a complex system. For this reason, before we declare that we have found a silver bullet, we need to pay attention to details. Megha Satyanarayana wrote recently an article in the Chemical and Engineering News that shared an apparent successful innovation in chemistry undergraduate education at the Michigan State University. In "Stop. Draw. Discuss: How high school approaches are helping fix undergraduate chemistry", the following comments from a 20-year old student are highlighted:
“It was interactive. We could talk to the people sitting next to us. It’s not like learning facts. It’s more like common sense, or reasoning,”
Helping students to become more engaged with what is being covered inside th…

Manila Bay: A Lesson Worth Repeating

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In a previous post, Do Not Use the Word "Trash": A Lesson On Water Pollution, I wrote, "While it is straightforward to see why floating trash in our rivers is bad, it requires much more to appreciate how nitrates and phosphates from the fertilizers we use can have a significant impact on water quality. It is not as obvious as throwing a plastic bag into a river, but the effects can be as devastating with pollutants that we cannot see." I should add that we also need to worry about bacterial coliform that come from both human and animal waste. Picking up solid waste from a body of water is easy, removing invisible water pollutants which can be more harmful than the visible ones requires much more time and effort.

Social media have been flooded with pictures from Manila Bay showing how people working together have miraculously transformed its trash-filled shore into something less obnoxious to the eye.


Indeed, this is worth celebrating. However, one must be reminded …