Showing posts from January, 2020

If You Are Chinese, You Should Not Attend School

Yes, it does sound not just silly but profoundly offensive, but a university in the Philippines has just made an announcement asking all its students who are Chinese nationals to self-quarantine from January 31 to February 14. I am also seeing posts on social media that there is a shortage of face masks in the country. And social media Rappler shares concerns of some celebrities regarding the inaction of the government, adding volume to the statement, "It's the government that will kill us." Misinformation spreads faster and people are quick to draw policies based on misinformation. This is what happens when the educational system of a country is failing.

First, the correct policy for any school is to tell its students that if they are feeling ill, they should not attend school. A self-quarantine measure based on nationality does not make sense since those who are infected do not necessarily belong to one race. Second, face masks are not generally intended to protect an …

We Do Not Want Our Children To Learn With Poor Children

I might have been quite different from my classmates in college. Ateneo, after all, is an elite school attended mostly by children from wealthy families. Back then, while my classmates were focused on a paper they were writing for either philosophy or theology, my mind was often wondering whether we had something for our next meal. Clearly, I probably had a perspective different from what most students in Ateneo had. I was therefore offering diversity. And diversity is good. Plenty of research shows that diversity is good in education. But poor children do have worries other than their homework. Just imagine if my classmates finally figure out how many shirts or pairs of pants I actually have. As a result, we often exhibit behavioral issues in schools. Advantaged parents therefore have a reason to want their children enrolled in schools with less underprivileged students. Not wanting your child to be in a classroom with either less privileged pupils or Blacks or Hispanics is definitel…

Elections Have Consequences

The words of Emma Lazarus, "Give me your tired, your poor...", are now truly silent. The United States Supreme Court just ruled (narrowly, 5 to 4) in favor of Trump's policy of using public benefits against those who are applying for permanent residence. It is now lawful for the government to deny a green card application based on the use of public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, and others. With how the Trump administration views immigration, it is not unlikely that reduced or free lunch in public schools or even education itself will likewise be denied to the tired and the poor in the near future. Trump is the president of the United States because of electoral votes and the Supreme Court has tilted to the right because of Trump. Elections have consequences. However, this is sadly just the tip of the iceberg. If these are merely consequences of an election, then all we have to do is to wait for the next election. The bigger problem is that a c…

A Response to "Lawmakers Should Refrain from Prescribing a Curriculum"

The following is a YouTube video from Glenn Davis, responding to the previous post on this blog:

Virginia Delegate Glenn Davis addresses concerns on mandatory coding curriculum, education and class electives during the 2020 General Assembly session. In 2013, Glenn was nominated without opposition and was overwhelmingly elected to represent the citizens of the 84th House District in the Virginia General Assembly, where he serves on the Appropriations, Education and Public Safety Committees.

Lawmakers Should Refrain from Prescribing a Curriculum

It would be absurd to suggest that a legislative body can create or amend laws of nature. Yet, in education, lawmakers seem confident enough to dictate what should be taught inside a classroom. The Subcommittee on Education of the Virginia legislature is currently considering a bill sponsored by Del. Shelly Simonds that requires "each student in grades six, seven, and eight, starting in the 2025–2026 school year, to complete at least one semester-long or year-long computer science elective course or introduction to technology course." Before the election, Simonds was serving as member of the school board and before that, she was teaching Spanish in an elementary school. It is unfortunate that despite her experience as an educator, Simonds thinks a lawmaking body can serve as an authority on education. There are plenty of reasons why Virginia House Bill 694 should not be passed, and even the chief executive officer of, Hadi Partovi, says "no", when asked th…

Another Meaningless Ranking of Schools

Reducing a school's standing to scores in standardized tests is wrong yet these pointless exercises continue. Niche has recently provided its list of top schools in the country for 2020. This particular ranking weighs state assessment results for half of the score with the other half relying on teachers' data (salaries, absenteeism, test results, survey responses from students and parents), "rigorous analysis" of academic and student life based on reviews by parents and students, racial and economic diversity, and additional survey responses. These surveys obviously depend on participation and there is no evidence that these meet proper statistical practices. In fact, Niche probably does not even have any survey data on a significant number of schools. Still, a simple ranking attracts attention especially when it presents itself as scientific or authoritative. Well, it is not. And it is completely meaningless.

Seeing a school through your own eyes is so much more dep…

FCPSOn: One Laptop for Each Student in Fairfax County Public Schools

FCPSOn, the program of Fairfax County public schools (FCPS) aimed to "provide students with equitable access to meaningful learning experiences and technology to support their learning", was first introduced several years ago in some schools in Chantilly. Since then, the program has been evaluated by a team of researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins. In their most recent evaluation, the researchers conclude, "Guaranteed access to a personal computer has succeeded in “leveling the playing field” among students of varying socio-economic backgrounds, learning interests, and needs". FCPSOn is scheduled to be implemented in all middle schools starting next school year. CoveringTheCorridor reports that in the proposed budget, $4.0 million would be used for this expansion. One of my son's teachers in middle school was therefore looking forward to next year when each and every student in her French class would have access to a …

Why a Growth Mindset Is Important?

A meta-analysis on growth mindset interventions has shown that these have very small effects, if there are any, on student performance and learning. The analysis includes 162 independent samples, with 273 effect sizes and a total sample size of 365,915 students. Paul Thomas, a professor of education at Furman University, therefore concludes that we must abandon the "Growth Mindset". Paul is indeed correct in stating that character education of our children towards a greater acceptance of the "Growth Mindset" probably will not solve the problems our educational systems face. Making students embrace failures as opportunities to grow instead of being limits of their abilities" is not likely to increase learning outcomes. Education, after all, is much more complex than an act of will. The achievement gap between rich and poor children is not due to a difference in mindset. We know the real reasons and it is not character. It is a matter of privilege. Nonetheless, …

Why Science Education Matters in the Early Grades

There are a lot of things to be learned about ourselves and the world we live in. There are zoos and museums where we could bring our children. While children see these wonderful things with their own eyes coupled with our own interests and excitement, knowledge is, without any doubt, gained. And knowledge counts, especially in reading. We often confuse reading comprehension with literacy. These two are not identical. Reading comprehension is so much more than being able to read words. Reading comprehension requires us to derive meaning from text. Such process requires us to draw from what we already know. With the poor performance of students in the Philippines in reading comprehension exams, there is unsurprisingly a greater call for "learning to read". Some even go as far as blaming the mother tongue - multilingual based education. All of these fail to see that reading comprehension is not equivalent to being proficient in English. Reading comprehension relies on backgrou…

Why Are We Against Eliminating Advanced Academic Programs?

There is no question that gifted programs are under-representing racial groups and low-income families. Yet in this obvious case of inequity, so many are quick to voice against the removal of advanced academic programs in our public schools. Very recently, the Department of Education in New York has approved a plan by an elementary school in Brooklyn to scrap its gifted program. New York Daily's post on Facebook so far have received scores of angry emojis. The most common indignant response goes along the line of equating the move to greater equity as simply serving the lowest common denominator, in other words, lowering the bar for all students. This is really frustrating as research shows gifted programs do not even produce academic benefits suggesting that people are attached to these gifted programs perhaps for pure vanity.

Nevertheless, we are missing an important move P.S. 9, the school in Brooklyn, is making:

The school is adopting an enrichment program available to all stu…

Do We Really Know How To Evaluate Teaching?

There are various ways through which teachers are often gauged. First, tests on both content and pedagogical knowledge can be administered. Second, student scores on standardized exams can be utilized. And third, teachers can be observed while they are teaching in their classrooms. In the United States where student achievement is often incorrectly equated to teacher effectiveness, considerable time and effort have been devoted to teacher evaluation. This is challenging especially in the early grades of basic education since standardized testing does not normally begin until the later elementary years. In kindergarten and the early years of elementary school, the subjects taught do not have that much depth and breadth for teachers' exams to be meaningful. Thus, observing teachers in their classrooms has become the widespread method of evaluating teachers in the early grades. The Gates Foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in finding the best teacher evaluation pract…