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Showing posts from August, 2020

"What About Us?"

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Pretentious advocates of equity may sell you "school choice". Do not be fooled. As we witness a display of arrogant and wishful thinking during this week, I received yesterday a copy of a book that captures what really takes to achieve limitless possibilities. In the new book from Solution Tree, "What About Us?", it becomes crystal clear that at the heart of a successful school is a spirit of teamwork where teachers learn from each other by humbly sharing practices based on evidence and courageously learning from their mistakes. "School choice" only encourages competition, which is simply the opposite of what is badly needed to support every learner in our classrooms. It is not competition, but collaboration that is imperative. The problems basic education face cannot be solved by one teacher in isolation, a predicament any contest dictates. The challenges we face cannot be solved by schools competing against each other for there is simply so much to lear…

When Both Faith And Science Are Abandoned

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We can definitely choose to live in an alternate universe, where the United States of America does not lead the world in the number of cases of COVID-19. We can pick instances to prove a point. We can pick someone, including myself, to demonstrate that some individuals can climb out of poverty. Why stop there? There is always a possibility, however minute, that a poor individual can hit the jackpot in a lottery. "You’re far more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime (1 in 12,000) than win the lottery (roughly 1 in 258.9 million)." Who cares? But even faith should not change the words, "For God so loved the world" into "For God so loved America". Yet, we do it. We can easily abandon both faith and science when we choose to live in an alternate universe, one that fits every single prejudice we have. We can choose to live in a fantasy world. Everyone has that right but we must choose leaders who uphold the truth. It is not true that "this el…

What Online Education Has Forced Us to Do

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It is difficult to see what is good with regard to having education confined to an online setting. My son was watching some sort of an orientation from his high school two nights ago and it was painful. The presentation was simply a transplant from what schools in our area normally had done in-person. In-person was not as mind numbing since one could always smile and socialize with other parents and for students, with their friends. Without the opportunity to mingle with other parents and students, there was nothing really "live" in that synchronous session. Yet, there must be something good about the learning platform that the pandemic had forced on all of us. Alfie Kohn talked about three things on his blog, all of which concerned grades. Fall semester had not started yet for me, but we had to give qualifying exams to our PhD students. So I had to write my own exam and in an online test, a multiple choice format was the easiest to compose.

Assessment is of course required i…

How Much of Learning Would Be Lost This Coming School Year

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Basic education in both US and the Philippines this year will be largely online. I have heard from several experts on online education that takes at least a year just to develop an online course. Certainly, what we will see in a few weeks is not really online learning but just an emergency type of instructional continuity. There is simply not enough time to build online courses and provide the necessary training to instructors. With this in mind, the learning loss this academic year in elementary, middle and high schools can be significant and researchers at McKinsey & Company have recently warned, "These effects - learning loss and higher dropout rates - are not likely to be temporary shocks easily erased in the next academic year."


So even with average remote learning, which is probably already a high bar for schools to reach since there are just barely weeks to prepare, a student stands to lose 3-4 months of learning. In the Philippines, remote learning faces huge chal…

Inequity in COVID-19 School Closures

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As schools decide to hold virtual classes, it is important to look at what has transpired back in Spring. Online learning as it happens inside a child's home is sensitive to the resources a household can provide. Obviously, there is access to technology. Likewise, parents are now a much bigger factor in their child's education. There are, of course, differences in what parents are able to do to assist in their children's education on top of the technological demands of online learning. How various households have accessed the internet during last Spring when COVID-19 abruptly moved classrooms online offers a glimpse of the inequity schools should anticipate this coming Fall. The differences based on socio-economic status is significant as shown by a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Children from wealthier households are clearly provided more resources. 



The study looks at search engine results during the time COVID-19 closed schools in Spr…

We Must Act Collectively

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With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the US and other countries, it becomes apparent that non-pharmaceutical interventions work only if these are all observed simultaneously. Most schools are currently planning to hold virtual classes only. This intervention has been recently associated with a 62% reduction in COVID-19 incidence rate and a 58% reduction in the number of COVID-19 related deaths. These reductions are clearly substantial, but these are obviously associated with effects from other interventions. Students are asked to sacrifice significantly this coming Fall with schools remaining closed for face-to-face instruction. It is a travesty if schools remain closed while bars remain open during this time. The reopening of schools hinges on the current incidence of COVID-19 in the community. Schools remain virtual so that community transmission is avoided. It is only fair that the community practices the other necessary interventions so that there is hope that students would …