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Showing posts from May, 2019

Wake Up! DepEd, Philippine Schools Are Failing

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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

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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?

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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…

Compulsory Military Training in Philippine Schools

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Legislators in the Philippines recently approved a bill mandating military training for all senior high school students. House Bill No. 8961 requires all grade 11 and 12 students to undergo a 2-year mandatory basic Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) during which students will be provided instruction on the "ethics of service, patriotism and nationalism, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, ethical and spiritual values, personal discipline and leadership, and creative thinking for scientific and technological development". Of course, this comes with drills and uniforms. Honestly, this is what military training is all about and "creative thinking for scientific and technological development" is simply being too wishful. When I was in high school in the Philippines, we were both required to take military training and perform service in the community through the Youth Civic Action Progra…

Climate Change Is Real

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In 2017, a survey showed that the percentage of Americans who believe that God created man in present form reached a low of 37 percent.  In March of 2019, a poll showed one-third of Americans still do not believe global warming is caused by human activities. It is not surprising then that a study finds a significant association between those who deny evolution and those who deny climate change. It is indeed unfortunate to see substantial "antiscience" in a developed country like the United States. However, what is more alarming is that less than half are worried about climate change. And among those who are worried, very few are probably aware of what it would take to stop carbon dioxide emissions. Andres Jimenez, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 38, states that "The time to fight climate change, preserve resources, and invest in renewable energy is now!" And he is correct.


Whether it is doable or not, that is the question. Most of our carbo…

Is My District a Stronghold of Discrimination? Apparently, It Is.

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My house belongs to the 38th District of Virginia. A Democratic candidate, Kaye Kory, for the State Delegate of the 38th District recently described the neighborhood with these words: "Little River Turnpike is a highly developed drag where it’s common to see Hispanic immigrants waiting for work outside the Home Depot." In the description, Kory also mentions the premier high school in the United States, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where only 2% of low-income children are enrolled.

Thomas Jefferson High School Student Demographics
The above lies in stark contrast with other high schools in the neighborhood, Annandale, Justice and Falls Church:
Annandale High School Student Demographics

Justice High School Student Demographics

Falls Church High School Student Demographics
Kaye Kory labels herself with "progressive leadership for a progressive district". This is not progressive leadership for a progressive district. Danieli Evans Peterman, a Ph…

Budgets and Values

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"Putting one's money where one's mouth is" is an old saying that prescribes us not to just talk about problems, but actually do something about it. This instruction may be useful in making someone honor their commitment but an additional exercise that may be enlightening is to look at where one puts his or her money. After all, where we spend money speaks volume with regard to what we deem worthy. The budget of a government reflects its values. The Philippines relies on the community during a week in May to prepare classrooms for the school opening in June. It is called "Brigada Eskwela". For the Department of Education, "Brigada Eskwela" brings together the community to help prepare classrooms. For the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, "Brigada Eskwela" is a “mere band-aid solution” to the “convulsions” of the country’s educational system. Basic education in the Philippines sits on the shoulders of the national government, but "Briga…

Congratulations, Karen Keys-Gamarra

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Karen Keys' Gamarra captured last night the largest number of votes, endorsing her for one of the "at-large" seats in the Fairfax County School Board. Gamarra has been with the school board for one and a half years and yet, has initiated and supported the following:
Presented a motion to amend the opioid curriculum to make sure our students understand the dangers of casual drug use of any kind including the use of marijuana, new levels of potency and its impact on addiction leading to opioid use.Sponsored a budget amendment to provide more behavior intervention teachers to improve the experience of our special education studentsSponsored a budget amendment to reduce discipline referrals and increase restorative efforts.Sponsored a budget amendment to maintain Title I funding for our high poverty schools.Sponsored a motion to address disparities in advanced academics by increasing access for all students (study in progress).Focused on anti-bullying efforts and greater unde…

We Must "Walk the Talk"

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Decade after decade, it is the same story. It is true that segregation is no longer dictated by law, but it is now indirectly enforced by housing prices, school programs, and zoning policies. We have candidates for school boards who appear to be championing equity in our schools. The sad bottom line, however, is that things have hardly changed. In "Who Gets Served in Gifted Education? Demographic Representation and a Call for Action", it is clear that the under-representation of low-income children, English language learners, students with disabilities, Blacks, and Hispanics in advanced academic programs persists.


And the state of Virginia is no exception:


In Virginia, Asian American children are seven times more likely to be identified as gifted or advanced than a child considered either as an English language learner or as a child with learning disabilities. It is also guaranteed that this disparity really draws a line based on family income.

The stubbornness stems not fro…

The Search for an Educated Voter in the Philippines

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It is easy to claim that gifts and favors decide which candidate will win in an election in the Philippines. This is actually very simplistic. Using policies and performance as guides in fact do not offer a clearer way for voters to decide. In so many ways, in a developing country where there are so many needs unmet, prioritization becomes an overwhelming task. A flyer intended to inform voters in a municipality in Ilocos back in 2016 illustrates this challenge:


One candidate, Cornelio Carta,, Jr., favors health, education, agricultural assistance, peace amd security, and community events while the other candidate, Riolita Balbalan, focuses more on helping the needy, water and sanitation, roads, and community facilities. Balbalan won the election in 2016. Recently, Carta run again for mayor but lost again while Balbalan won as vice mayor. Given the wide range of responsibilities shouldered by a local government, it is not easy to pick and choose. One can only guess that a voter will p…

We Hold Elections Inside Schools in the Philippines

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During election day, Filipinos have the opportunity to visit public schools because voting precincts are located inside classrooms. It is therefore highly likely that Filipino voters are aware of the conditions of public schools in the Philippines. And some are a bit surprised to see two different classrooms. In the photographs below, Senator Bam Aquino (left) and Bongbong Marcos (right) vote in an elementary classroom in Tarlac and in Ilocos Norte, respectively. Some people could see a difference between the two classrooms.



Here is the current president, also voting in an elementary school in Davao City.



So Filipinos had a chance to see their schools. Public school teachers serve as election officials in the Philippines so Filipinos not only have seen the classrooms but also the people who take care of our young. We entrust to these teachers the future of our children and yes, we also entrust to these teachers our votes. The question remains however, whether we actually see.


Elections in the Philippines: Miseducating the Filipino

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Since education assumes a very important place in a society, it is without doubt dependent on politics. Today is the first day of early voting for endorsing candidates to the school board in Fairfax county by the Democratic party. And in the Philippines, on Monday, the people will elect both national and local leaders. A high school classmate of mine is running for membership in the local council of the city of Manila and in one of my posts, he wrote, "Ibulid mo sa kahirapan ang tao, pakainin mo ng limos, pabobohin mo, paasahin mo, itolerate mo ang mga mali, magbebenta ng boto yan, palaging aasa sa politiko, at tuwing eleksiyon dahil gutom, ibebenta ang boto. Walang matinong politiko ang maiboboto." (Throw the people into poverty, feed them with alms, make them ignorant, give them false hopes, do not correct their wrong ways, then they will sell their votes, they will always rely on politicians and on every election because they are starving, they will sell their votes. Thus…

Karen Keys-Gamarra for Fairax County School Board (At-Large)

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I strongly endorse current school board member at-large Karen-Keys Gamarra. Fairfax county needs someone who will faithfully implement the One Fairfax policy on inclusion and equity. This matter is important especially in basic education. Karen Keys-Gamarra is committed to providing the best learning opportunities not just for a chosen group but for all students enrolled in Fairfax County public schools. I first met Karen Keys-Gamarra in person during a school board meeting back in December. It was in that meeting that Karen Keys‐Gamarra requested the Board to consider a work session to discuss "inequities of opportunity and access for historically underrepresented populations to Advanced Academic Programs". In addition, Karen has always fought for maintaining Title I funding for high poverty schools in the county. From promoting restorative efforts and reducing disciplinary or punitive measures to protecting the rights of special education students, Karen has always champio…

When We Are Looking Yet Cannot See

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"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." In education, we do not seem to follow this simple rule. We can never address the problem of inequity in education if we continue with practices that undermine fairness. We can pretend as much as we want that we are advocating for education for all but our practices remain the single loudest testament to what we actually embrace. In education, there are gaps in achievement and excellence based on family income or race. Everyone can see this. What we often fail to see is that we insist with programs that are clearly discriminatory. The Advanced Academic Program in my county is a glaring example.


Compared to all students, children from low income families (Those who qualify for free or reduced meals (FRM)) are three times less likely to be enrolled in levels 3 and 4 of the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) in Fairfax county. The likelihood of either a Black or a Hispanic child being…

What is in a Score or Grade?

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It is that time of the year. Some students are taking standardized exams and it is near the end of a school year so students are about to receive their final grades. Getting admitted to a college depends on these two so it is important to know what information one really gets from a student's score in a standardized test and from a student's grade point average (GPA). These two measures are already known to correlate with a student's graduation rate from college. This can be seen from a graph drawn by Preston Cooper in Forbes Magazine based on data presented in a study by Matthew Chingos.


From the above graph, it is clear that high school GPA is a much more discriminating tool and is a better predictor than scores in a standardized test when it comes to success in college. Except for the fact that students who score less than 800 are sharply less likely to finish college, there is not much difference among students who score above this threshold. As someone who has worked …

Equity in Education: Income and Race

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Diversity is important in education. Jeanne L. Reid and Sharon Lynn Kagan at the National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, Columbia University cite several research that demonstrate that "peer diversity may also offer important social benefits to all children, irrespective of their socieconomic status." Diversity offers opportunities to hear and see different perspectives. While we pay attention to integrating schools in terms of race, we cannot neglect other forms of segregation. One form, which clearly is on the rise based on a recent work by Reardon et al. is segregation by income. They find that "that income segregation has increased sharply in recent decades among families with children and that income inequality is a strong and consistent predictor of income segregation." This is residential segregation but since schools are often assigned to a child's zip code, residential segregation can lead to segregation in schools.

Achievement gap…