Showing posts from 2019

A Child Is Born

Christians all over the world celebrate a great evening tonight. Our faith tells us that salvation has entered this world through an infant. Yet grace has come to us through a helpless and perhaps, snotty young child. It is a child no different from those we regard as a member of a low-income family that will probably qualify for a reduced-fee or even free lunch. It is a child who is likely to be an English-language learner. Will this child then have the grit to thrive in basic education? Or will this child be placed in a class of low expectations? Denied of privilege, this child may not even be prepared to enter kindergarten in a school where life begins as a race, a competition where getting ahead is key to academic success. How does a child of poverty cope with a world where life is a zero-sum game? How can a child surmount these challenges if the only way one child gains something is for another child to lose something? With this in mind, our faith shows likewise how important equ…

"Achieving Equity and Excellence"

In an interview, Douglas Reeves acknowledges decades of scholarship on various successful schools where poverty is high. Looking at the research, Reeves finds that there are systemic elements throughout these excellent schools: nonfiction writing and collaborative assessment. These are strongly correlated with mathematics achievement, reading comprehension, and science and social studies scores. When students are given the opportunity to write, they achieve greater learning. When teachers work together to decide what students should be learning, it also leads to better outcomes. These elements are likewise present in high performing educational systems in the world. Take away the wealth, take away resources, what is common across these successful schools is effective teaching and learning. Reeves says we need to treat each child as "rich". Only with such perspective, do we remove all assumptions that deter us from teaching each child. Looking at a mountain of data is researc…

A Lesson for Our Children: Might Does Not Make Right

We already live in a society where market forces prevail and self-interests are paramount, leaving almost no room for altruism, but there always comes a time when we have to choose between living by the rules of the market or by the rules of our community. President Trump ends his impeachment protest letter to Speaker Pelosi with the following, "One hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another President again." What lesson would our children learn from Trump's impeachment? The answer should be clear, "Might Does Not Make Right". There is a "good" that is beyond our ego. And life should not be lived as a simple series of transactions. Life should not be a mere sequence of "quid pro quo".

Last night, Trump was in a rally in Michigan and he said the following:

Even up to the time of the impeachment vote, President Trump is displaying his tra…

A School District Should Take Student Learning Seriously

Former Mason Crest Elementary School principal Brian Butler reminded me of a post I made on this blog years ago, A School That Takes Student Learning Seriously. One thing I mentioned in that post is that teachers need to be given time to work together and learn from each other. At the heart of each meeting is finding ways to ensure each and every child succeeds. Such effort demonstrates that the school is indeed taking student learning seriously. This morning, I was in a meeting with some of my son's teachers. During the meeting, I inquired about a reading comprehension exam my son took last week. My son was not happy with the exam and one example he gave me was about a passage that talked about a rusty old classroom that had student desks full of graffiti that looked like hieroglyphics. One question asked what this meant and the three choices my son remembered were (a) The room has not been cleaned often; (b) The room has been vandalized; and (c) The room has a rich culture. Ther…

Important Lessons from Our Children

My 10-year old daughter wanted me to read something last night. It turned out she had been working as a co-editor of her school's newspaper this year and the third issue just came out. There was a piece on the environment, but what caught my attention was a page describing several clubs at the school. My daughter wrote specifically about the "Kindness Club". These days, I would, every now and then, see a post on Facebook from the Philippines clamoring for the return of teaching good manners and right conduct (GMRC) in schools, but as the Department of Education has clarified: "Age appropriate values education and the lessons that are relevant and appropriate for our learners are being taught to students from kinder to grade 12." There is nothing wrong in teaching GMRC except that sometimes, our behavior simply becomes beholden to a set of rules. Children learn not because they wanted to, but because they ought to. Worse, it occasionally degrades into a sense of…

A Decade and Billions Lost

Silander and Välijärvi conclude in their chapter in a book on PISA assessment, "An evident strength of the Finnish basic education system is attributable to teachers’ high professional competence and their strong ethical commitment to their work." Sahlberg's "What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?" frequently highlights the view that the Finnish main advantage in education is the quality of its Finnish teachers. Having excellent teachers, however, does not grow on trees. It took Finland a decade of education reform. First, a single, mixed-ability, nine-year comprehensive basic education for all children was introduced. Second, teacher training was removed from colleges and transferred to universities. Third, reform in higher education placed research on top. The results are clear. While maintaining above-average performance in PISA exams, Finland also demonstrates equity in basic education.

The Philippines went through an education reform …

DepEd Misses the Point Again!

In describing the reading comprehension exam, PISA notes, "The ability to locate, access, understand and reflect on all kinds of information is essential if individuals are to be able to participate fully in our knowledge-based society." The PISA 2018 was taken by 15-year old students in the Philippines who are either in 9th grade or 10th grade in 2018. These students therefore started seeing the new K to 12 curriculum when they were in either 4th or 5th grade. Clearly, these students have not been under the mother-tongue based multilingual education that DepEd's K to 12 heralded in 2013. When DepEd suggests that the medium of instruction maybe responsible for the poor performance of Philippine students in PISA 2018, it is clear that DepEd itself fails to locate, access, understand and reflect on information. And when someone does not know what, how and why, that individual cannot teach. It is a case of the blind leading the blind. This is the real reason why we are fail…

Why Students from the Philippines Perform Poorly in PISA 2018

Education certainly depends on many factors, so finding one reason why students from the Philippines perform poorly in PISA 2018 is possibly a wrong approach. Except in this case, the performance is poor across the board (reading, math and science) and the distribution is narrow although there is clearly a substantial inequity in education. Even students from high income families who are attending well-equipped schools are failing in these tests. Thus, there is clearly something in Philippine schools that is causing this failure to be widespread. It cannot be the curriculum because this is usually implemented non-uniformly across schools. It cannot be resources because even advantaged students are scoring low. The answer is going to hurt, but we cannot solve our problems without facing them first. The clue lies in looking at Indonesia whose students have always been scoring low in PISA. Argina and coworkers have traced Indonesia's scores in PISA to one factor: Teacher Quality. Bac…

PISA 2018 and Ability Grouping: A Case Against Advanced Academic Programs

The "Standards Movement" in education works on the premise that schools are not performing well because we have not tested the students enough. It is obviously possible for schools to not perform well for reasons other than not having exams. However, the disdain for the "Standards Movement" should not be equated to a disdain of standardized exams. Standardized exams, after all, are assessment tools, and it is still possible to draw useful insights from the exam scores, if we know how to look for important clues. For example, there is an unfounded notion that ability grouping, which leads presumably to a much more homogeneous classroom, can produce better learning outcomes. One can check if this notion holds true by looking at an international standardized exam like PISA 2018. PISA 2018 shows that this is not true.

Since PISA 2018 data also include the school a student attends, it is possible to gauge whether a given country has more high performing students concent…

DepEd Will Also Fail in PISA Reading Comprehension, Math and Science Exams

PISA assesses a student's ability to distinguish fact from opinion (reading comprehension), a student's ability to make sense out of numbers (mathematics), and a student's ability to make observations and draw conclusions (science). With the dismal performance of Philippines' students in the three PISA tests, the Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd) is demonstrating with their responses and comments that education policy makers and educators in the Philippines are likewise going to fail in these exams.

First, no one has really appreciated how sobering the results are. Although the country is last in reading comprehension, and second to last in both mathematics and science, the much more important point is what the scores are telling us. "Fewer than 1 in 5 students in the Philippines have the minimum level of reading skills for further education", according to PISA. Below is the grade distribution (All of the data and figures shown in this post are…

DepEd's K to 12 Is a Failure?

House Representative France Castro equates the poor performance of Filipino students in PISA 2018 to a failure of the DepEd's K to 12 curriculum introduced in 2013. Back in 2012, I wrote "First Things First: A Commentary on K+12", where I stated, "The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students." PISA 2018 basically tells us the same story: Philippine students are at the bottom in these international standardized exams. Both Thailand and Indonesia outperformed the Philippines in TIMSS (the international standardized exam for math and science) back in 1999. PISA 2018 shows similar results. Whether DepEd's K to 12 exacerbated the problem is not clear, but what is obvious is that the new curriculum did not make t…

PISA 2018 Results: Philippines Ranks Lowest in Reading

For the first time, since the adoption of the new K to 12 curriculum, the Philippines participated in an international assessment of basic education. The Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students around the world in three subjects: reading, mathematics and science. The results are dismal for the Philippines. Students in the Philippines scored lowest in reading, and second lowest in both mathematics and science. 15-year old students are near the end of junior high school in the Philippines, demonstrating convincingly that Philippine basic education has serious problems in the early years.

The following are the key findings:

Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated in PISA 2018. Over 80% of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading, which is one of the largest shares of…

We Should Not Deny Teachers the Opportunity to Excel

According to Barber and Phillips, high performance and rapid progress are possible only with a fusion of support and pressure. Both resources (support) and expectations (pressure) are necessary. What resources do we then provide teachers? And what are our expectations? We do not increase our expectations by providing less resources. Such is simply cruel. We do not increase resources by expecting less from our teachers. Such is utterly complacent. Sorting students according to what we perceive as their performance is an example of what not to do in education. We are attempting to make classrooms more homogeneous because in our mind, we think that will make teaching easier when in reality, we are lowering expectations. Effective teaching means having the student in mind first, meeting the needs and aspirations of each one, and aiming for the best for all. Advanced academic programs shove a label on each child, completely dismissing the fact that teachers can make a difference.

Our new r…

We Are in Big Trouble!

Information nowadays is literally at our fingertips. Back in 1997, Jan Hawkins lamented the fact that schools were trailing behind in the internet revolution. She imagined all of the compelling opportunities for both students and teachers provided by advances in educational technology. She indeed saw technology only as a tool, reminding that we needed to use it intelligently, but she did not foresee how technology could be used to destroy truth and therefore society.

For several years, I worked in helping establish classrooms with computers and internet connectivity in elementary schools in the Philippines. At that time, I knew that it was important that these new avenues for both information and communication are vetted. Yet, what often caught the interest and time of both students and teachers are social sites and information sources that are hardly trustworthy. And fast forward to present days, the situation has become more dire.

Without the prohibitive cost of printing and watchfu…

Philippine Educators, The Real Question Is Do We Need Tulfo To Tell Us What Is Wrong

There is a channel on YouTube, called "Raffy Tulfo in Action" that has millions of subscribers in the Philippines. The program often covers issues and activities that are of interest to the public. It goes without saying that the program has the same sensational flavor as a syndicated tabloid talk show like that of Jerry Springer in the United States. Recently, a video of Tulfo won the ire of so many. The episode garnering so much attention makes public a grandmother's complaint about how her grandchild was treated in school by a teacher.

One of the comments goes like this: "Let’s dislike this video as a form of protest. We shouldn’t let this slide. Let’s call everyone to dislike. Today’s kids have no discipline because of these kinds of parents. Your kids reflect the kind of discipline you show your kid."

The site Rachfeed had the following to say with regard to the reaction of the Philippine public:

The school is a place where our children learn. And children…

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…