Showing posts from 2019

"Them That Has, Gets"

It is a phrase that summarizes well a rule in organic chemistry, Markovnikov's rule, the carbon that has more hydrogen gets the hydrogen. Sadly, this rule likewise applies to basic education. Achievement and skill gaps between poor and rich children are already present even before kindergarten. And it has long been accepted that these gaps only grow with years of schooling. A study that started in 1982 even demonstrates that the difference between disadvantaged and better-off students grow during the summer months.

Recently, Paul T. von Hippel and Caitlin Hamrock have questioned the validity of the summer learning loss. In a study published in the journal Sociological Science, these authors conclude that the summer learning loss is simply an artifact of how children are tested.

Interesting to note is the quote at the beginning of the article, "Give me a child until the age of seven, and I will give you the man." In this paper, the authors actually suggest "that read…

Gaps in Science Education

Disparities in both reading and mathematics performance are well known. These gaps exist between Whites and Blacks, between Asians and Hispanics, between rich and poor, and between native English speakers and English language learners. What is perhaps less discussed is that this disparity is likewise evident in science. After all, achievement in science is dependent on both mathematics and reading. The gaps in science test scores are as wide as those in reading and mathematics. These have been illustrated by Paul Morgan and coworkers in an article published in 2016 in the journal Educational Researcher

Race Gap
Income Gap

Language Gap

With the accompanying analysis of the above data, the researchers make the following observations:

A significant knowledge gap already exists when children enter kindergarten.Growth in science is dependent on a child's progress in reading and mathematics. The fact that the knowledge gap in the early years predicts performance in eight grade is extremely…

"The Cult(ure) of Homework" and Detention

"The Cult(ure) of Homework" is the title of the first chapter in Cathy A. Vatterott's "Rethinking Homework". In this chapter, Vatterott highlights the following widely held but unexamined preconceptions:  (1) We must extend learning beyond the classroom; (2) Activities that are intellectual are more valuable; (3) Children learn responsibility through homework; (4) More homework means greater rigor; and (5) Homework means better teachers and students. These preconceptions are really nonsense. One thing, however, is certainly true: Homework can increase inequity in education. Vatterott correctly states, "Despite there being more diversity among learners in our schools than ever, many teachers continue to assign the same homework to all students in the class and continue to disproportionately fail students from lower-income households for not doing homework, in essence punishing them for lack of an adequate environment in which to do homework." I had to …

The Current State of Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education in the Philippines

Equity in education demands no less than the complete abolition of linguistic hegemony. Unfortunately, with the bulk of scholarly and scientific work published in the recent decades, English has become an effective international medium. In the Philippines, the DepEd K-12 curriculum has embraced a mother tongue based education to help children feel at home in their schools and, at the same time, preserve and nurture the various languages of the country. The program has been in place for about seven years now so it is timely to assess its current standing. The Philippine Institute for Development Study (PIDS) reports that nearly all public schools (99.5%) claim to be implementing a mother tongue program in kindergarten through third grade. Of course, with more details, the program looks less rosier. More than half still do not have the books written for this program.

PIDS uses a list of four activities as a minimum requirement to consider a school as fully implementing a mother-tongue b…

"That Little Girl Was Me."

During the presidential debate of the Democratic Party, Kamala Harris threw a knock-out punch at Joe Biden, "That little girl was me." Commentators quickly recognized that the former vice president was slammed on his trivial attitude toward school segregation. In my opinion, however, the more important statement that Harris made was this, "We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly." Harris is right. For so many decades, schools in most districts in the United States have remained segregated. In some states, it is called "gifted programs" while in other districts, like Fairfax county, it is called "advanced academic program". Brian Wright and coworkers noted in a paper published in Gifted Students of Color, "that to be indifferent to this persistent lack of equitable access and opportunity to gifted education is to engage in an active and conscious state of aloofness and inattention in order to maintain the status quo." It is…

A World of Problems We Only Promise to Address

Gifted or advanced classes exemplify the absence of equity. The segregation of neighborhoods represents the epitome of income inequality. Climate change is caused by the way we live. These issues are now part of our social consciousness. In the recent primary elections in Virginia, candidates may have touched on one if not all of these concerns. Our future leaders have no choice since the world seems to agree that these are indeed the pressing issues of our times.

Mentioning the issue is one thing. Doing something about it is another. Each one of these huge problems has a solution and yet, we often end with undelivered promises for the actions required truly entail a change of heart, an overhaul of one's mindset.

Abandoning advanced or gifted class is definitely an alluringly simple answer to addressing inequity in education. After all, research has shown convincingly that "expert performance is predominantly mediated by acquired complex skills and physiological adaptations&q…

A New Way of Recognizing Students

This morning, the administration of Poe Middle School gave excellence awards to its seventh grade students. Unlike previous years, the awards this year were not described in the usual terms of scores in exams or grades in courses. It was nonetheless a recognition and its message was clear. Yes, the students got good grades but the awards were about the student's journey into learning. The awards ceremony I witnessed took Carol Dweck's advice of "Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence" to a palpable level. The administration at Poe Middle School described the awards as "aligned with Fairfax County's Portrait of a Graduate and International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Traits.

Fairfax County schools provide the following profile for an IB learner:

IB Learner Profile The aim of the IB programs are to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful…

How Do Children Learn Math

Similar to constructing a house that starts with a foundation, the mathematical skills and knowledge of a sixth grader are influenced by what this sixth grader knew or learned during preschool and the early elementary years. Grade six pupils in the Philippines average less than 35% in the 2017 National Achievement Test. With this poor performance, it is useful to examine the relationship, if there is one, between early math knowledge in kindergarten and first grade, and later math achievement at the end of elementary school. Such a relationship, called a "math trajectory", can be useful in pinpointing which items in early math are highly predictive of math performance in sixth grade. Bethany Rittle-Johnson and coworkers have recently mapped a "math trajectory" for low-income children by following the progress in math of over 500 children in Tennessee from ages 4 to 11. Since these children come from a disadvantaged background, their path in math is likely to be sim…

Comfort Rooms versus Faculty Offices

Due to plumbing and other required fixtures, comfort rooms are more expensive to build than regular offices. Back in 2015, Figueroa and coworkers find that while 50 out of 75 provinces in the Philippines satisfy the recommended number of pupils per classroom only 7 meet the number of toilets necessary for schools. The recent move made by teachers of converting comfort rooms into faculty offices, characterized by the secretary of education as dramatic and touching, seems to illustrate both a lack of awareness of how important comfort rooms are for students in schools and the uniqueness of these rooms when it comes to plumbing and fixtures.

There is no question regarding how much the government is playing catch-up with resources required in basic education. Even with funding, providing these facilities still requires actual construction, and the Philippines simply lacks the capacity to achieve this with a highly centralized bureaucratic system. All of these will therefore take time.


The Dismal State of Philippine Basic Education Is Aquino's Legacy

When the new DepEd K to 12 curriculum was introduced, it was clear that the government would not be able to deliver what it promised. Shortages were already widespread as the number of school-aged children had expanded considerably. Both addition of kindergarten and two years of senior high school were expected to exacerbate the problems in Philippine schools since the government was still catching up to the needs of the old 10-year curriculum. Yet, despite these extravagant revision, the new curriculum was ill-planned and foolishly implemented. This could no longer be denied as illustrated in the poor performance of students across the board on the national achievement tests. This is Aquino's legacy. The Duterte administration with its education secretary Leonor Briones are now tasked to save a sinking ship.

To illustrate what the government must do to rescue its failing education system, we should look with a healthy dose of realism at the following post on secretary Briones'…

A Propaganda Can Backfire

Angela Phillips can find support for her assertion in the recently concluded senate elections in the Philippines. She writes in a chapter in the book Political Communication in Britain, "... a campaign that relies mainly on attacking the opposition, without also providing positive reasons to vote, often backfires...." There is a fine line separating propaganda from evidence-based research. Propaganda often has a negative connotation. In the Philippines, the problems plaguing basic education require our attention. As members of the academic community, we must insist on pursuing the truth. Education, however, falls within the social sciences. Raising our children is shaped by our values. Addressing these problems, without doubt, likewise falls inside a political arena. We must be thoughtful then and work hard to ensure that we are not already starting with an answer to the problem and are simply relying on picking evidence that supports our predetermined conclusion.

Recently, …

Why Philippine Schools Are Failing

It is likely that there is more than one factor behind the dramatic drop in scores in all subjects in the National Achievement Test taken by six grade students in the Philippines. Still, it is also possible that there is one dominant factor. There is the notion that drills are boring and schools must jump right away into whole language,  critical thinking, and discovery-based learning. In reading, for instance, there is an emphasis on developing "literacy", instead of first simply honing skills. Schools are making the wrong assumption that these skills are innate. As another example, in mathematics, while addition maybe intrinsic, multiplication is definitely not. And with literacy, it has long been known that learning to read is not a natural process. Our brains are simply not wired for both reading and multiplying. And we already know this from research yet we insist on skipping this important stage.

In a post on this blog three years ago, Learning to Read: One of DepEd…

Wake Up! DepEd, Philippine Schools Are Failing

While some activists are bickering about the removal of Filipino subjects as required courses from higher education and the secretary of education Leonor Briones says "While were picking up on Science and Technology, we should not forget sports, culture, and history", we are totally missing the fact that basic education in the Philippines has recently taken a nosedive because of DepEd's K to 12 curriculum. National Achievement Test scores especially in mathematics and science have dropped drastically to 37.30% and 30.94%, respectively. These scores are not even half the passing score in these tests.

The Grade 6 scores should be alarming especially when compared to years prior to the new curriculum.

The dramatic drop occurs across all subjects, with marked deterioration in mathematics and science. This shows that the spiral curriculum is not working. When students do not reach grade level in these subjects, the spiral only becomes a "broken spiral". It is not po…

The Problem of Language in the Philippines

In Broward County in Florida, there is a Dual Language Program that starts at kindergarten. Like other school districts in the United States, a dual language program is not offered to all students. The program is limited since it often requires teachers who are either gifted-certified or endorsed. At the least, the teachers need to attend professional development and periodic curriculum training. In Broward, classroom instruction in the target language requires a minimum of about 2 hours per day. Across the Pacific, back in 2010, the Liberal Party candidate for president, Noynoy Aquino, in providing a blueprint for basic education, stated, "We should become tri-lingual as a country. Learn English well and connect to the World. Learn Filipino well and connect to our country. Retain your dialect and connect to your heritage." In Philippine politics, unrealistic promises are really common. But, in this case, it is not only unrealistic, but also hegemonic. The idea that the Phil…

Have We Given Up On Our School?

It was an evening party for my daughter and her teammates in basketball and soccer. Most of the girls were going to Mason Crest Elementary School and everyone seemed happy with the school. However, there is another school that serves our neighborhood and it is Annandale Terrace Elementary School. Unlike Mason Crest, Annandale Terrace did not receive glowing remarks from the adults who were in the party. One remark I heard was that people had already given up on Annandale Terrace. Like Mason Crest, Annandale Terrace is a Title I school, a school where a significant fraction of children enrolled belong to low-income families, but unlike Mason Crest, Annandale Terrace has nearly 80 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-fee lunch. Based on state test scores, Annandale Terrace students score far below the state average in reading, math and science. A comment posted on GreatSchools summed up what I have heard regarding Annandale Terrace:

It is true that schools like Annanda…