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Showing posts from 2021

Structured Literacy: The Teaching Approach to Reading that Science Recommends

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 A new spotlight from Education Week  is now available and it is about the Science of Reading . A registration form is required to access the above spotlight. It has been several decades yet schools are still not tuned to what science suggests regarding how we should teach reading to young children. Schools often exert effort on encouraging children to read books that they find interesting. Parents are asked to read to their children. Unfortunately, there is no focus on the method science tells us is most effective. Even here in Fairfax county, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently wrote to the school superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS): "Literacy is a human right. Without it, we are condemned to a life of greater struggle and fewer opportunities. We have waited long enough, and we refuse to wait even one more day." The NAACP provided a litany that shows how FCPS has neglected black children for the past 14 ye

We Have Our Worries

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Ned was one little lucky boy. He had a friend named Lily who was there to stand by him. I was just reading a short story entitled " Nervous Ned " by educator Sarah Wysocki . Ned was a young boy who was constantly bombarded by anxious thoughts. His anxiety was so much that it took a lot of of his energy and time. Ned received plenty of encouraging and reassuring words from his parents, but it took another child, a young girl named Lily, for Ned to see that everything was indeed alright. These stories do help young minds gain hope and comfort in the scary world we live in. I wish we had something for everyone who feel hated and discriminated in our society. Unlike the little boy Ned, minority children do have real reasons to be anxious. And so do the parents of these children. Melinda Anderson at Mother Jones captures a sample of this "grounded on reality" anxiety in her recent piece, " Why Black Parents Aren’t Joining the Push to Reopen Schools ".  Anderson

We Are Asking So Much From Our Teachers

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Blended learning aims to combine the best of two worlds: face-to-face and online instruction. It is never about doing both at the same time. Doing face-to-face and distance education at the same time is hybrid learning, and this could easily be the worst of two worlds. Yet, here we are. We have teachers who meet face-to-face a group of students on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a different set of students on Thursdays and Fridays, while at the same time, broadcasting the lesson to another class of students who have opted to stay virtual all week. It is true that a teacher has one pair of eyes to see and one pair of eyes to listen, but a teacher has only one heart. Back in September, Julie Mason at WeAreTeachers  described this predicament quite vividly, "She wears an earbud in one ear so she can hear her kids online and her face-to-face learners at the same time." Of course, there are some who claim they could help teachers with this dilemma: Above copied from Dyknow The challenges

The Covid Pandemic and Inequity in Education

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Years ago, my daughter was invited to transfer to another elementary school for an advanced academic program. The principal at her current school then, Brian Butler, convinced me to have my daughter stay in the same school. Butler is one principal I knew who would give my daughter the opportunity and tools to realize her potential. It is not a special treatment. It is just the way Butler treats each student. This month marks the return to in-person schooling in Fairfax county, but we do have the choice of keeping our children in a virtual setting. There is considerable demand for in-person classes and with mitigation strategies, not every child can go in-person. My children have been thriving in an online environment and I am currently holding all my classes and office hours virtual so I am quite available to serve as a monitor to my children at home. Thus, we chose our children to stay virtual, hoping that the opportunity will be made to two other children out there who need face-to-f

COVID Situation in Fairfax County

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If you do not read past the headline, you may get comfortable with the idea that we are no longer under the threat of coronavirus. The governor of Virginia has just relaxed restrictions and Fairfax county public schools are scheduled to return to in-person classes next week. The introductory paragraph of the governor's new executive order, however, tells a sobering picture:  "Even though case counts are decreasing, there is still a cause for concern and a need for continued restrictions. Virginia’s seven-day moving average of new COVID19 cases is still more than 2,000 per day, which is higher than at any point in the first nine months of the pandemic. Virginia’s seven-day PCR percent test positivity rate is 8.3 percent. The statewide rate of COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations (3.8 per 100,000) is still above the threshold of concern (3.5 per 100,000)." We are not yet in a position that is better than either March or September last year when schools have gone virtual. There is

Instructional Continuity - COVID and Snow Days

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My son woke up today during the usual time so he could attend his virtual classes. I told him that there were no classes today because of snow. He gave me this blank stare and said, "But we are virtual". Well, this apparently is not the case in Fairfax county. Both in-person and virtual classes had been canceled. For Georgetown University, Main and Medical Campuses are closed but with Instructional Continuity. We use virtual classes, which we are currently using this semester due to the pandemic, because we believe in the importance of instructional continuity. "Classes will continue virtually as scheduled." ___________________________________________________________ Here is an old post from this blog on instructional continuity. When Storms Interrupt Learning in Classrooms January 25, 2016 A post on this blog more than a year ago talked about  Instructional Continuity . The article was in response to flooding brought by heavy rains in the capital region of Manila i

What It Takes To Reopen School Buildings

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Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized that for school buildings to reopen, there must be a "commitment to implement community-based policies that reduce transmission when SARS-CoV-2 incidence is high". There are two elements here. The first is that people should be doing their best to prevent transmission of the virus. The second element is the current incidence of COVID in the community. Both highlight the most important key: disease transmission. Some have used percent positivity rate as a measure for transmission. This is only accurate if there is universal testing. Without widespread and regular testing, setting a given positivity rate as a threshold does not really hold any meaning because percent positivity is a function of both transmission and testing. During the week of January 24, 94 students at Georgetown University tested positive for the coronavirus. The university acted quickly by suspending all hybrid classes until Februar

Black History is World History

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This month is Black History month. I have seen several posts on social media enumerating black people who have been successful in a variety of fields such as science, medicine, technology and sports. It is good to celebrate successful people of color. However, history is so much more than just a "list of greatest hits". History is looking at the past in an unvarnished fashion. History is about learning from where we were so that we could find ourselves in a better place in the future. Most importantly, black history is world history. Basic education therefore is not served if we place black history as apart from our story. I went through basic education learning about the Roman Empire, Medieval Civilizations, and various wars, but I never came across a map that showed what we actually did in Africa not so long ago. Above copied from Facing History The map alone tells so much about our world, how Europeans divided an entire continent among themselves. Here is another map: Abov

Should Fairfax County Schools Switch to In-Person Classes?

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Fairfax County switched to a virtual environment back in March of last year. The county had about 10 confirmed COVID cases during that time. During the week of Labor Day in September, Fairfax county was seeing on average 70 new COVID cases per day. Fairfax county public schools opted stay virtual. Now, school officials are once again planning for a return to in-person instruction some time this coming March. Today, the county is reporting  more than 250 new COVID cases. There is no doubt that current COVID transmission in the county sits at a high alarming level. The situation is not better compared to either March or September last year.  Above copied from Fairfax Health District The above graph clearly shows that COVID case counts in the county are at their highest level, higher than last April, and much higher than last September. Experts are worried about variants from Brazil, South Africa and Britain. With the United States leading the world in number of COVID confirmed cases, the

Academic Freedom and Radicalization

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There is no doubt that for higher education to flourish, there must be a free exchange of ideas. Sadly, institutions of higher education are finding themselves in societies where violent extremism also exists. Universities cannot serve as a fertile ground for recruitment of new members into extremist organizations. Academic freedom is a responsibility. It must be earned. Such burden ultimately rests on the shoulders of both educators and authorities. In the recent months, the Philippines government has increasingly brought attention to allegations that universities are serving as recruitment grounds for violent groups such as the New People's Army. The dilemma of safeguarding academic freedom amidst radicalization, however, is not unique to the Philippines. Countries in Europe are also grappling with this issue.  And in the Middle East, the questions has not been as stark, as laid out in an article written by  a former president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and a Freed

We All Must Choose Wisely

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Educating children is an important obligation of society. As President Joe Biden states in his inaugural speech, "Each of us has a duty and responsibility to defend the truth and defeat the lies". Education is a choice between lies and truth. This week, this choice has been laid before us. One side talks about White Supremacy. The other talks about a "a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother" who "can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one". Education is about finding who we are. Education must tell us the realities of the past and the truth that we are still striving, growing and learning. We all must choose wisely.  One side rewrites history while the other simply tells. The 1776 report, now rightly abandoned by President Biden, is not intended for cultivating a better education for our children. Its main purpose is to derail our path to that more perfect union we all aspire. The following excerp

Philippines' Poor Performance in Math and Science Is Much More Than Just A Language Problem

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With the dismal performance of students in the Philippines in the 2019 TIMSS, it is timely to reflect on why basic education in the Philippines is failing. Surely,  there are factors  that correlate with low scores in math and science. These are parental education, number of books available at home, availability of computers and internet, and the general attitude of students toward mathematics. These factors indeed require an Herculean effort to overcome for any educational system. Developing skills in math and science requires support from home, but this cannot be used as an excuse for the failure of a school system. One must not disregard, for instance, the fact that teachers in the Philippines themselves do not do well in exams in mathematics . There is likewise a tendency to find fault in the testing itself. Language is one excuse. When reasons are too obvious, it is not really helpful to look further. When students from the Philippines took the exam in their language, they actuall

"I Still Have A Dream": Equity In Education

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"I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream." These were words spoken in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. At that moment, after about a hundred years after emancipation, we were all made aware that the bank of justice was way behind schedule as Black Americans were still "sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination" .  But more than fifty years after those words were spoken, the dream had remained elusive. Aspirations come early in life. Parents wish nothing but the best for their children. Yet, we continue to charter the course of so many children based on their skin color or socio-economic status. Martin Luther King's dream can never be achieved without equity in education.  Above copied from History More than a year ago, a panel in New York City took the bold step of recommending that advanced education programs, such as those designed for "gifted" or "talented" studen

Opinions Are Not Facts and Lies Are Not Opinions

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We have so much lessons to learn during these past couple of months. So many things appear unprecedented yet bear chilling echoes from the past. We have seen insurrections before. We have witnessed fascism and racism. The reason why these evils prevail is our abandonment of truth. Critical thinking is not lacking because of a dearth in human knowledge. Critical thinking is lacking because of widespread deception. We already have inherent biases, choosing only what we like to believe. Combine this with lies and we have a toxic medium of misinformation. Last night, I gave my 11-year old daughter an opportunity to watch NEWSMAX. NEWSMAX is currently rated as unreliable with the following characteristics: "Selective or Incomplete Story, Unfair Persuasion, Propaganda". The topic that was being discussed was a tweet made by the National Rifle Association (NRA) stating that President-elect Biden was going to destroy the 2nd Amendment. My daughter, being young, is not familiar with t

There Is No Easy Solution

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It takes about 6 full days of walking to go from Cairo to Jerusalem, yet the book of Exodus talks about forty years in the desert. That means someone in the early teens reaches the promised land in middle age. Forty years can easily mean a generation, illustrating perhaps what it takes for a society's deliverance. There is apparently no shortcut. Fast forward to the twenty first century, forty years seem too short as we continue to display horrors of the past without any remorse, only with pride and a misguided certitude. "Arbeit macht frei" (Work brings freedom), the slogan for Camp Auschwitz adorns the shirts of an individual referred to as one of the "patriots" and "wonderful people" by President Donald Trump.  Above copied from Twitter "It's just a great honor to have this kind of crowd and to be before you and hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious Rep

We Must Not Propagandize to Our Children

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My children watched the horrific acts yesterday at the United States Capitol. This past summer, both of my children participated in a "Black Lives Matter" protest rally in our little town of Annandale, a few miles away from Washington, DC. Today, my daughter shared with me a note she received from one of her former teachers in grade school, telling her that Americans should a learn a thing or two from our family. I am tempted to tell my daughter that Black grief is not a threat and White rage is not sacred. This morning, my daughter's class spend time discussing yesterday's events in social studies. According to her, some of her classmates equate the various "Black Lives Matter" protests with yesterday's insurrection. We are asking last summer that our society begins to respect and treat Blacks. Yesterday, people are asking to destroy our democracy. There is a huge difference. Here is an advice from a child psychologis t, Janine Domingues  Domingues adds

Opening Schools in Fairfax County

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The county intends to use three indicators in deciding whether schools will open or remain virtual in the near future. These indicators are: (1) The number of new cases per 100,000 residents, (2) The percentage test positivity, and (3) Self-assessments conducted by safety teams on five mitigation strategies. These strategies are: Proper use of masks or face coverings; Social distancing; Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; Cleaning and disinfection; and Contact tracing in collaboration with the health department. Schools cannot strongly rely on mitigation strategies for the simple reason that unlike hotels, restaurants or amusement parks, students and teachers are expected to be inside confined buildings for tens of hours per week, week after week. Moreover, a vaccine is already on the way and waiting for all teachers and staff to be vaccinated is perhaps no longer than the past four months already spent virtually. The two objective indicators, cases and positivity, are currently ex