November 10, 2010

U.S. lags behind many nations in math achievement

 The nation has fewer high achieving math students than many other countries and falls 31st out of 56 countries, according to a new study. In other words, only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at an advanced level in math compared to 28 percent of Taiwanese and more than 20 percent of students in Finland and Korea.  The study, done by the the journal, Education Next, and Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance, was released yesterday and included some dismaying results.

For those who think that perhaps the results reflect the country's diverse population that includes immigrants and a high percentage of minority students living in poverty, the researchers say you are wrong. When the researchers looked at the performance of white students only, they found that just 8 percent were advanced in math. Among students with at least one parent who had been to college, only 10 percent were math achievers.

And how to Maryland students do? Not so well. The state came in behind Lithuania, Ireland, Norway, Poland and Hungary.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the World

December 30, 2008

On math test, redemption for Borat's Kazakhstan

With little happening in education locally during the break, we turn our attention to global matters... I didn't have a chance earlier this month to write about the release of the TIMSS math and science test administered in 2007 to fourth- and eighth-graders in dozens of countries worldwide. (Yes, it took a year to release the results.)

If you don't know already, the United States at least performed above average. Fourth-grade math scores, for example, were better than 23 other countries, worse than eight and not measurably different than four. Our math scores were better than the last time the test was administered, in 1995; our science performance was about the same.

But perhaps the most interesting bit of news came from Kazakhstan, the country humiliated by the Borat movie. Contrary to its cinematic depiction, Kazakhstan had the fifth-best fourth-grade math scores in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. Though statistically similar to No. 9 Netherlands and No. 10 Lithuania, the United States officially ranked 11th.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:16 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the World

September 15, 2008

Victims of bureaucracy, stuck in the Philippines


Aileen Mercado, the Filipina teacher I profiled throughout the 2005-2006 academic year, completed her three-year commitment to the Baltimore schools in June. By that time, she was well-established here, not only as a special education teacher, but also as the elected leader of the organization representing all the city's Filipino teachers and as an elected member at large of the Baltimore Teachers Union. Her husband and three young children joined her here two years ago, and her children were thriving at their schools in Perry Hall.

As a result, Aileen was one of many Filipino teachers from the first batch Baltimore hired who decided they wanted to continue on. But now, she and at least four other teachers are caught in a bureaucratic entanglement that has left them unable to return to the United States and left their classes staffed with substitutes. (An earlier version of this entry erroneously reported that all five teachers were working in Baltimore; in fact, the other four work for schools in California.) In the Philippines waiting for word on the government's processing of her paperwork, Aileen is home-schooling her two daughters while her son is attending school with a cousin, even though schools there are on a different calendar.

The bureaucracy here is complicated. Aileen and the other four teachers came to the United States on international exchange visas that require them to return to their home country for two years afterwards — or to obtain a waiver of that requirement. Before they can obtain new work visas, the teachers must present proof of that waiver.

The Philippine government has already issued Aileen a statement that it does not object to her returning to the United States, which is necessary for her waiver to be processed. Other teachers were granted visas to return to Baltimore while their waivers were still pending because they had those non-objection statements.

But when Aileen and her four collegues were interviewed at the U.S. embassey, they were told they had to wait until the waiver process is complete, an undetermined number of weeks. The reasons: All five teach special education, and special education teachers are needed in the Philippines, too. The embassy representative told Aileen he was concerned that, if he let her go, she'd stay in the United States illegally in the event her waiver is not approved. That doesn't make sense, given that she already has the document she needs to get it; it's just a matter of waiting for the processing to be complete. E-mails from school system officials attesting to her honesty (which I can also vouch for) have been sent to no avail.

After working in two city middle schools that shut down, Highlandtown and Canton, Aileen is supposed to start teaching this year at the new Afya Public Charter School. I asked Will McKenna, Afya's principal, how her absence is impacting the school. "Not having Aileen is immensely disappointing to us," he replied in an e-mail. While he said the school has been lucky to pick up a good substitute to cover her assignment for the short term, "we’re trying to build a great program for the long term and Aileen is such an important part of that work," he wrote. "The other thing that’s hard is being in limbo. I’ve worked on this now for about a month, talking with Senator Mikulski’s office, working with Dr. Alonso, etc.; and there were times when I thought her return was imminent and times, like now, when I have no idea. That’s hard for sure — the waiting and not knowing." He said he and Aileen talk regularly, and she's done a great job sending back lesson plans. "I know this hurts her as much as it does us — more so, probably."

For the first story in the series I wrote about Aileen, published back in August 2005, keep reading. The picture above was shot by Sun photographer Chris Assaf at Highlandtown.

Continue reading "Victims of bureaucracy, stuck in the Philippines" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:06 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the World, Baltimore City

September 3, 2008

Who wants to teach in Japan?

During my time off, I had the fascinating opportunity to tour a handful of elementary schools in rural Japan as teachers prepared for the students to return there. Some differences with American schools:

1) Afraid that teachers will get too comfortable in their jobs, the Japanese powers-that-be transfer them to different schools within the area every few years. And first-year teachers are always transferred somewhere else for their second year.

2) Students are off for just about six weeks in the summer, which falls in the middle of the school year, and teachers work year-round, planning lessons while the kids are on vacation.

3) So committed is the community I visited (a town called Yakage in the Okayama prefecture, roughly between Osaka and Hiroshima) to the concept of neighborhood schools that class sizes vary wildly so students can attend the school closest to their home. I saw one school that has 40 kids to a class and another a few miles away with an average class size of 10. I heard about a class with only one child.

4) While discipline isn't perfect, teachers are generally revered by their students and in society. (This is also true in the Philippines, which explains why many of the Filipino teachers here experience culture shock when they enter American classrooms.) The same Japanese word, "sensei," is used to refer to teachers, doctors and priests.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:04 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the World

January 8, 2008

‘Subprime’ chosen word of the year

For all you wordsmiths out there, I thought you would appreciate this post.

The American Dialect Society chose the word “subprime” as the 2007 Word of the Year at its annual convention Friday.

Members of the society chose “subprime”, an adjective that means "a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage or investment" because of the public's concern for a "deepening mortgage crisis," according to a statement released by the group.

"Facebook," "green," "Googleganger" and "waterboarding" were runner’s up. Read more here.

Last year, the organization chose "plutoed," which means "to be demoted or devalued."

What is your favorite word of the year?

My vote goes to green. Everyone seems to be tossing that word around with regularity nowadays. 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the World, Trends

December 10, 2007

U.S. fourth graders lag behind international peers in reading

Want your fourth grader to be a better reader? Send them to Russia, several provinces in Canada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, or Luxembourg. Take your pick.

According to results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy test, U.S. fourth graders – who took the test last year -- are lagging behind their international peers. Read more about the results here and here.

The results should be distressing to No Child Left Behind supporters because U.S. students scored about the same they did in 2001 – even though the federal act has placed more of an emphasis on reading since then.

I can’t wait to see what the readers have to say about this study. I’ve been reading the comments that Liz’s post yielded last week, and they got quite spirited.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:54 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the World, Testing

December 3, 2007

Teddy bear teacher goes home

Gillian Gibbons was on a flight back to London, according to this story from CNN. Our earlier entries about her are here and here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the World

November 30, 2007

"Teddy Bear" teacher sentenced

The British teacher in the "teddy bear" case has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after a Sudanese judge found her guilty of insulting religion for allowing a teddy bear to be named "Mohammed," according to media reports. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, also faces deportation from Sudan after her prison term, her lawyer told CNN.

The teacher --- who was not convicted of two other charges brought against her, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs --- was spared from being sentenced to 40 lashes.

Click here for video coverage of the latest development:

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the World, Teaching

November 27, 2007

An unbearable situation

Sudanese officials say pooh to a class teddy bear named Mohammed: They've arrested a British elementary school teacher for allowing her 7-year-old charges to name a class teddy bear after Islam's Prophet. She's charged with blasphemy. Check out a Reuters article here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:09 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the World

November 13, 2007

Link between Finland school shooting and thwarted Pa. attacks

Here’s an update to two stories that you have been reading about on this blog.

CNN is reporting that a jailed Pennsylvania teen, who is suspected of plotting a Columbine-style attack on his old school, was in communication with the student who killed eight people in a shooting last week in Finland.

The pair met through the social-networking Web site MySpace. Read more here.

As you may remember, Dillon Cossey, 14, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment after his arrest last month.

His mother Michele Cossey, 46, is accused of buying him a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle and black powder used to make grenades.

Cossey was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, fatally shot three women and five boys before turning his gun on himself last week.

The AP reported that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Auvinen.

November 7, 2007

YouTube, Finland school shooting linked

At least eight people were killed today when an 18-year-old gunman went on a shooting spree at a school in Finland.

At least 12 people sustained minor injuries during the shooting.

The suspected shooter is in critical condition. A hospital official would not say how he was injured. The AP is reporting that police sources say he tried to take his own life.

The AP is also reporting that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

YouTube has appeared to have removed 89 videos linked to his account shortly after the shootings. Many of the videos feature Nazi imagery.

There seem to be a few similarities between this case and past American shootings.

The Columbine kids also expressed a fondness for Nazis. The Virginia Tech shooter videotaped himself shortly before that massacre.

Guess this most recent shooting dispels the belief that school violence is an American problem.

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