On August 25, 2008, two little boys walked into public elementary schools in Southeast Washington, D.C. Both boys were African American fifth-graders. The previous spring, both had tested below grade level in math.
One walked into Kimball Elementary School and climbed the stairs to Mr. William Taylor’s math classroom, a tidy, powder-blue space in which neither the clocks nor most of the electrical outlets worked.
The other walked into a very similar classroom a mile away at Plummer Elementary School. In both schools, more than 80 percent of the children received free or reduced-price lunches. At night, all the children went home to the same urban ecosystem, a zip code in which almost a quarter of the families lived below the poverty line and a police district in which somebody was murdered every week or so.
At the end of the school year, both little boys took the same standardized test given at all D.C. public schools—not a perfect test of their learning, to be sure, but a relatively objective one (and, it’s worth noting, not a very hard one).
After a year in Mr. Taylor’s class, the first little boy’s scores went up—way up. He had started below grade level and finished above. On average, his classmates’ scores rose about 13 points—which is almost 10 points more than fifth-graders with similar incoming test scores achieved in other low-income D.C. schools that year. On that first day of school, only 40 percent of Mr. Taylor’s students were doing math at grade level. By the end of the year, 90 percent were at or above grade level.
As for the other boy? Well, he ended the year the same way he’d started it—below grade level. In fact, only a quarter of the fifth-graders at Plummer finished the year at grade level in math—despite having started off at about the same level as Mr. Taylor’s class down the road.
This tale of two boys, and of the millions of kids just like them, embodies the most stunning finding to come out of education research in the past decade: more than any other variable in education—more than schools or curriculum—teachers matter. Put concretely, if Mr. Taylor’s student continued to learn at the same level for a few more years, his test scores would be no different from those of his more affluent peers in Northwest D.C. And if these two boys were to keep their respective teachers for three years, their lives would likely diverge forever. By high school, the compounded effects of the strong teacher—or the weak one—would become too great.
Rep. Walden Bello: “The Real Issue in the Sarah Raymundo Case: Academics versus Yahoos”
Read / download this letter in PDF: Walden Bello on Sarah Raymundo
The Real Issue in the Sarah Raymundo Case: Academics versus Yahoos
By Walden Bello*
Should President Emerlinda Roman fail to reverse the decision of Chancellor Sergio Cao to refuse tenure to Ms. Sarah Raymundo of the Sociology Department, this will be the final act of an academic tragedy.
Never has a tenure decision-making process been as flawed as this one. Allow me to cite the crucial points in this sorry affair:
- The majority of the department, by a margin of 7-3, votes to give tenure to Ms. Raymundo.
- The minority subverts this decision by manipulating Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lorna Paredes into sending the decision back to the majority to justify—a move that was unprecedented. Confusion ensues.
- The College Executive Board (CEB) of the College of Sciences and Philosophy upholds the majority decision to grant tenure by 7-1, with three abstentions.
- The Chancellor disregards this decision of the college’s highest governing body and decides against tenure.
But the blatant irregularity of the process should not obscure the key issue in the Raymundo case. Beyond all the procedural controversies that surrounded the affair was the fundamental substantive question: did Ms. Sarah Raymundo deserve tenure on the basis of her academic record? It was the position of the minority on this issue that was, in effect, legitimized by Chancellor Cao’s decision to refuse tenure.
The minority in the tenured faculty never formally based its opposition to Ms. Raymundo on academic grounds. How could they since Ms. Raymundo had an excellent publications record and superb scores on teaching evaluations, indeed probably the best in the department? Instead, the minority focused on an issue that was marginal if not irrelevant to the tenure process: that Ms. Raymundo allegedly lied about her association with a press conference on two students that had been abducted by the military. In any context, this would be a minor disciplinary matter that would be handled as such. Ms. Raymundo’s guilt or innocence on this matter should have been ascertained in disciplinary proceedings separate from the tenure process. Instead, the minority elevated this alleged infraction, for which Ms. Raymundo’s culpability had not been settled, into their key and only consideration in their recommendation for denial of tenure, arguing that Ms. Raymundo did not deserve it for “ethical” reasons. This might be difficult for people outside the department to believe, but this alleged infraction was the only basis of the minority’s recommendation to deny tenure! Could Chancellor Cao really be serious in dignifying this position?
Why did the minority act the way it did? Let us no longer tiptoe around what was really involved in the Raymundo case, which made the stakes so high. In disregarding Ms. Raymundo’s academic achievements and blocking her tenure for an unproven allegation, the minority was exhibiting a behavior that had long frustrated their other tenured colleagues and the junior faculty. They did not care about academic excellence. Most of them had poor teaching evaluations from students and their publications records were practically non-existent. The last major sociology texts they read, according to some students, probably dated two decades back. Two were in fields that were only marginally related to the discipline of sociology. Only two of them were trusted enough to handle a graduate class by their colleagues. They were not concerned with intellectual exchange, which is the lifeblood of any academic department, and they had reduced departmental life into bureaucratic humdrum. For them, being a member in good standing in the sociology department meant conforming to rules, not intellectual achievement.
Most members of the minority were, in effect, non-performing assets or, to use a kinder term lifted from Jonathan Swift, yahoos. Conscious of the power conferred by tenure, most of them terrorized junior faculty with their demand for conforming to rules, being the cause of a series of departures of bright and motivated young faculty. Not surprisingly, Ms. Raymundo, with her intellectual achievements, was seen as a threat by this anti-academic faction that championed mediocrity–one whose addition to the tenured faculty would have tipped the balance in favor of the pro-academic grouping.
The pro-academic grouping within the senior faculty, in contrast, saw Ms. Raymundo as an indispensable asset to the department, as one who could contribute to the revival of intellectual exchange and innovation in the department. This grouping, which was composed of Profs. Laura Samson, Filomin Gutierrez, Gerry Lanuza, Josephine Dionisio, and myself, saw the battle over Ms. Raymundo’s tenure as having implications beyond her. We saw ourselves as fighting not only for the future of a brilliant young colleague but for the future of the department itself.
The majority’s will was thwarted by an irregular decisionmaking process that was capped by Chancellor Cao’s copout. But this painful story would not be complete without calling attention to the role of some members of the tenured faculty who had endorsed the original majority decision but abstained in succeeding decisions. Academics well known for their contributions to Philippine sociology, they proved to be ethically supine, unable to display the courage to stand up for their convictions. Unwilling to antagonize the minority, they retreated from endorsing Ms. Raymundo and tried to project themselves as being ”above the fray.” They threw Ms. Raymundo to the dogs, and they will forever have that on their conscience.
The Sarah Raymundo case is reaching its final stages. Will President Roman reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice and reassert UP’s commitment to academic excellence? Or will she, like Chancellor Cao, render the final act in yielding the sociology department to the reign of the yahoos?
*Walden Bello, PhD, now serves as a congressman for the party-list Akbayan! The author of 15 books and numerous papers and articles on international political economy and other topics, he was a member of the tenured faculty of the Sociology Department from 1997 until May of this year. An editor of the Review of International Political Economy, he won the Gawad Chancellor Award for Best Book in 2000 and was named the Outstanding Public Scholar of the International Studies Association’s Political Economy Section in its 2008 Convention in San Francisco.
Bakit naisip ko bigla dito yung song na Little People you tube sa baba:
Little Person by Jon Brion
I’m just a little person.
One person in a sea.
Of many little people.
Who are not aware of me.
I do my little job.
And live my little life.
Eat my little meals.
Miss my little kid and wife.
And somewhere maybe someday.
Maybe somewhere far away.
I’ll find a second little person.
Who will look at me and say.
I know you.
You’re the one I’ve waited for.
Let’s have some fun.
Life is precious.
And more precious with you in it.
So let’s have some fun.
We’ll take a road trip.
Way out West.
You’re the one.
I like the best.
I’m glad I found you.
Like hanging round you.
You’re the one.
I like the best.
Somewhere maybe someday.
Maybe somewhere far away.
Somewhere maybe someday.
Maybe somewhere far away.
Somewhere maybe someday.
Maybe somewhere far away.
I’ll meet a second little person.
And we’ll go out and play.
I’ve always wondered how overbearing Filipino Parents are compared to other Asian American Parents. Care to enlighten me? Interesting read!!!
When your parents were growing up, the only people who lived somewhat comfortable lives were either corrupt government bureaucrats or the well-educated elite who went to top-ranked colleges. Chances are, your parents didn’t have insider connections to government bureaucrats, because otherwise they would’ve been living a comfortable life back in their home country and wouldn’t have wanted to get out of there. That means, in their eyes, there was only one path that could lead to a comfortable life in the future: Doing well in school and getting admitted to an elite top-ranked university. This isn’t just idle speculation, either. Your parents actually saw what happened to their classmates who got bad grades and were unable to get into a good college — they are now ass-poor, living in unhealthy wretched conditions.
Seriously, this is no joke. When your home society doesn’t provide any opportunities for personal advancement, the only way to make a decent living is to play by the rules of the establishment. And when the establishment relies purely on grades, standardized test scores, and college reputation for assigning jobs, then no wonder your parents are so obsessed with those things! They don’t realize that in America, the C-average students who went to community college can actually live a decent life rather than rotting away in sewage-ridden slums. No matter how many times you tell them that you won’t be homeless even if you don’t attend a top-ranked college, they will never genuinely believe it; their traumatic childhood experiences left a far more powerful impression than your words ever will.
This actually made me somewhat sad. I remember meeting people from other colleges in UP (College of Arts and Letters etc) who really dreaded taking Math 1 and Math2 , the basic math course of the University of the Philippines General Education program, then they instituted RGEP (forgot what this means) wherein students got to choose the basic or general education courses they took. I feel this is contributing to the lack of whole roundness of UP grads, and in a way is leading to a decline, We often hear “I’m just not good in math etc” but the reality is if we try hard enough we can overcome our fear of math and other subjects. The truth is that I find math hard , but I do not let that fear control me. RGEP was a way for people to evade, sometimes I fear for our future.
If only those people knew that many computer scientists feel the same way. We are in awe. At one level, we feel like this is way over our heads, too. How could these programmers done so much with so little? Wow. But then we take a breath and realize that we have the tools we need to dig in and understand how this stuff works. Having some training and experience, we can step back from our awe and approach the code in a different way. Like a scientist. And anyone can have the outlook of a scientist.
I only ask the very hard question , or rather I only try to answer the HARD questions during my birthday, which as more than a week ago, I’d be lying if I thoughts like this didn’t enter my mind.
I was brought up to believe that I am special. I was told that I am unusually smart and gifted. Whether or not this is true, it has given me a deep-seated expectation of myself to do great(ish) things, to achieve a bit more than the average Joe, to stand out from the crowd, to gain recognition.
Most people of course achieve very little that is noteworthy beyond the solid humble everyday victories of a quiet life. I’m sure that most people do not have a sense that this is in any way insufficient. I’m also sure that many of these average achievers have talent and potential far beyond that needed to live a standard life. They just don’t expect of themselves to do any more than the average person. I believe they are by and large content.
The skills and training I have are not much sought after. There is very little professional demand for me. This clashes badly with my grandiose ideas about myself. I achieve things that I am proud of on a small one-man-project scale, but few care, and I gain little recognition. I am frustrated.
I’ve been mulling taking up graduate studies for over a year now and the only reason I am vacillating a decision is I’m afraid of being underwhelmed.
Teaching was not the only criterion of assessment. Research was another and, from the point of view of getting promotion, more important. Teaching being increasingly dreadful, research was both an escape ladder away from the coal face and a means of securing a raise. The mandarins in charge of education decreed that research was to be assessed, and that meant counting things. Quite what things and how wasn’t too clear, but the general answer was that the more you wrote, the better you were. So lecturers began scribbling with the frenetic intensity of battery hens on overtime, producing paper after paper, challenging increasingly harassed librarians to find the space for them. New journals and conferences blossomed and conference hopping became a means to self-promotion. Little matter if your effort was read only by you and your mates. It was there and it counted.
Wow, this really hit home, part of me at least accepts that a big part of who I am now is till because of things that happened as far back as 7 years old. Hope the society I grew up in is much worse than the society that people growing up now is going to be exposed to.
Second, it is very difficult to have a great deal of power in this society if you are not exquisitely well-prepared to compete when you are 25–which requires that you have or be able to rapidly acquire patrons and that you went to and took advantage of a good college or did something else functionally equivalent, which requires that you applied yourself in high school, which is very hard to do unless you got a solid foundation in terms of basic skills and study habits in elementary school. This means that i people who are scared off from going to college because of the debt it incurs have a very small shot at large amounts of upward mobility, and ii the decisions people make when they are seven about how to spend their time shape their lives for the next seventy years. In even a half-good society, one should not be able–it should not be the rule–that one can greatly narrow the possibilities for one’s life by what one does or fails to do at seven.
I’m a big West Wing Fan, and in someways it has shaped how I view things. I still remember a scene where Sam Seaborn‘s declarations, I pay a lot of taxes and I love it! I may have an unhealthy regard for my abilities but I have no doubt that in the crucial ways I am me because i was fortunated enough to be born to my parents. I was lucky, this was no fault/act of mine. Taxation is a transfer, I love paying taxes, just hope there was more ways to ensure that the transfer is not a transfer to the swiss bank acounts of government officials! .read the whole thing!
In the case of healthcare, the claim is also supported by this paper (pdf). One reason for this is that the poor under-estimate their ill-health and so are less likely to make claims on the health system. Another reason is that the rich live longer (pdf) than the poor, and the bulk of health spending on most individuals comes late in life.
“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”
remember sir Ken Robinsons TED talk here, of how schools kill creativity, he says something there like “college produces college professors”, I love my professors but sometimes feel this sentiment. same with the board exams, the EE board exams produces exam takers/passers not electrical engineers. red the half of the post i didnt grab
In praise of dumbing down
Complaints about “dumbing down” have become a cliché. However, in narrow technical terms, the dumbing down of exams could be a good thing, as this recent paper explains.
The intuition is simple. Exams can only measure a subset of the skills required for most jobs. If you set tough exams, people with good skills which the exam doesn’t test will either fail or not even enter. The result is that employers who look for exam grades plus other skills will not get a pool of able candidates.
In such cases, the dumbing down of exams can help. They’ll allow those people with good but non-tested skills to now acquire credentials as well. And as these people can now get jobs ahead of good exam-passers with poor other skills, so labour productivity might improve. This would happen if the decline in average tested skills is small, relative to the improvement in average non-tested skills of the new exam-passers, or if non-tested skills are very important for job success.
It’s possible, therefore, that dumbing down can be good for the economy.
So much for theory, what of practice?