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Friday, December 12, 2014

Limits needed on high-stakes testing*

Testing is important. In fact, it is employed almost everywhere in business and industries, occupations or professions.

In the case of education, students are tested to gauge their range of learning and to find out if they understand what has been taught by their teachers.

The common pen and paper or online testing have become the norm in education, and test resulkts are recorded for various purposes. Test scores are looked at as if they are the ultimate indicators of learning and teaching.

Not to discount the pen and paper test, but there are other ways to evaluate learning. One is active classroom observation and participation, particularly graded individual classroom recitation. Asking students questions is a form of testing. Observing one student helping another to solve a problem is testing. And giving an essay-type test in the classroom is another way of testing students' critical thinking, thought-organization, mastery of the language and communication skills.

Students and teachers are under a lot of pressure from all sides of the education spectrum, especially with the mandated state and federal standardized tests that take precedence over individual lesson plans. Hence, they are teaching their students to the tests. And, thus, their students' test scores become the basis for evaluating teacher performance.

Some people are quick to point their fingers at educators for students' failures. But who is to blame?

Blaming teachers for students' failure to pass standardized tests is absurd and counterproductive. What teacher would want his or her students to fail in class? Students are their responsibility in school. But that doesn't mean teachers are responsible for everything in their students' minds. Students have minds of their own.

Students have the will to learn or not. They even have the ability to disrupt a class and, therefore, jeopardize the day's learning for those who want to learn. What about the responsibility of that student, his or her family, other entities or agencies charged with helping to educate our students?

The National Education Association is launching a campaign to end "toxic testing," the abuse and overuse of high-stakes standardized tests. With its new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul the No Child Left Behind program and to end mandates that require states to administer outdated tests that aren't aligned to school curricula.

Furthermore, NEA is "calling on lawmakers to repeal requirements that state standardized tests be used to evaluate educators, and instead implement real accountability in our public education."

Eskelsen Garcia said high-stakes testing is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn. "It's corrupting the collaborative relationship we have with each other as we're told to compete against each other---district against district, school against school, teacher against teacher, and support professionals against each other."

It takes a village to raise and educate a child. Our teachers do all they can to help make their students successful.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Count Your Blessings*

Arguably, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by some rag-tag pilgrims, Plymouth colonists, who gathered together to give thanks for bountiful harvests and to count their blessings for having 47 out of 103 pilgrims who survived their first winter in the New World.

That summer of 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, Massachussetts, decreed that everyone should celebrate their improving situation. Pilgrims gave thanks and extended their fellowship to the Native Americans who reached out to help them survive the winter. It was a time for great feasting, wonderful fellowship, and cultural exchange.

The menu was very special and everyone helped to prepare the feast. The American Indians brought wild turkey and venison (deer meat). The men provided wild geese, ducks, and fish. The women prepared the food and made cornmeal bread and succotash (a cooked dish of kernel of corn mixed with shell of beans, especially lima beans, and often with green and sweet red peppers).

Children gathered nuts and wood for the open fires, where the meat was roasted on spits. Everyone sat around large tables outside and feasted, sang hymns of praise and had a wonderful time.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of observance.

The credit really should go to a lady, Mrs. Sarah J. Hale of Philadelphia, who authored "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and edited "Godey's Lady Room," which had a circulation of 180,000. She wrote letters to all governors, as well as to the president, and also many editorials for her publication, all devoted to bringing about a national day of Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions, giving thanks, and having a great time. There's that televised colorful, and magnificent television parade during the day in New York and much-anticipated football games in the evening, across the country, while families are feasting, enjoying lots of fun, friendship and food.

During the season of thanksgiving, many of us stop and take time to reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves. And many enjoy family, feasts, fellowship, and fun over a long weekend celebration.

This Thanksgiving, don't forget to give thanks and count your blessings.

May your Thanksgiving be joyful.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, November 26, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Science Education matters*

Science teachers and educators around the Commonwealth gathered together at the historic Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, Roanoke, Virginia,  for a three-day professional development institute (PDI), November 20-22.


Sponsored by Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST), this yearly educational event helps science teachers get new ideas to enhance their teaching, while they  experience a cutting-edge technology and earn recertification points or extra college credits.


Educators network with fellow science teachers from all over the state and hear nationally known keynote speakers and presenters who are expert in their own field. Participants also see exhibits from different exhibitors, corporate member-partners and sponsors, and organizations that support science education.


The institute aims to expand and promote excellence in science education, as well as science literacy in Virginia.
 
This year’s theme is Sparking Innovation: Enhancing Student Learning Experience for Everyone.   


Science education matters. That’s why this group of talented teachers and educators converged in Roanoke.


While my wife Freny, a chemistry teacher, was busy attending sessions, I had the opportunity to ask a number of participants why they believe science education matters.


John Richardson, a faculty member of Ferrum College and Virginia Tech, said: “The idea of informed citizens is the most important consideration. I focus on climate change to a great extent and the importance of a “knowledge-based’ is critically important to make political decisions based on science.”


Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, wrote: “Education is power. Science is fundamental in the advancement of our society. We must work (hard) to prepare our students so they can continue to contribute to the advancement of our society.”


Fifth grade teacher Ravi Nair of Hanover County said, “As we prepare students for the future, certain process skills will be needed. These skills can only be developed by providing students with meaningful experiences that involve critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.”


Marsha Brown, fifth grade teacher at Tanners Creek Elementary School in Norfolk, wrote: “ Science education matters because science is everywhere. It helps students understand the natural world. Science encourages them to become life-long problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
Joseph Wieland, a Biology graduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, opined that science education matters because it “extends your questioning (beyond) what you already know and what others say, based on facts and opinions. It teaches you how to question to get new ideas and information.” [He said that questioning expands your specific knowledge of other branches of science like biology, chemistry, etc.]


“We have kids in different classes who have slightest idea about issues like Ebola virus, global warming, health care and space program, and they’re uninformed,” said George Dewey, a physics teacher from Fairfax. “They don’t know what and who to believe. That’s where science education comes in.”


One of the association’s standing committee chairs on policy on awards and grants, Dewey said that science educators try to stress logical thinking process as one of the keys in learning. He said critical thinking is a byproduct of science education.  


A Science Instruction Specialist from Campbell County, Lanie Patrick said, “Science education is the epitome of thinking, asking questions, and finding answers. It’s what we know about our world and how we understand it. Science (education) is learning.”


[Karen Leslie, a middle school physical science teacher and a colleague of Patrick, said that science education matters because it stresses critical thinking and critical thinking is important in education, work, and learning.]


To all teacher-participants in the VAST event, thank you for all that you do to spark and enhance our students’ learning.  


[Venue for next year’s VAST conference will be at Westfield Marriott Washington Plaza in Chantilly, VA, Nov. 19-21, with its theme Designing Inquiring Minds.]

-Chris Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, November 25, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com

NOTE: Below are photos from the 2014 VAST PDI at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Roanoke, VA. Photos copyright 2014 by Chris Quilpa


















Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What A Good Education Can Do*

In celebration of American Education Week---November 16-22, 2014---I’d like to share with you my thoughts on education.
I was the first from my family of 11 children to earn a college degree in 1977. Studying from one public school to another in elementary and high school, while working to earn a living, I managed to make good grades and graduated with honors, from among 700 graduating seniors.


As a self-supporting student, I enrolled in and graduated from a private (Catholic) college. [The school, Divine Word College of Vigan, in Ilocos Sur, Philippines, is managed by the Society of the Divine Word (Latin: Societas Verbi Domini  or SVD) priests-administrators. SVD, popularly called the Verbites or Divine Word Missionaries or Steyler Missionaries, was founded in 1875 in Steyl, Netherlands by diocesan priest Arnold Janssen, now Saint Arnold Janssen in the Catholic Church.] After college, and passing the board exam for teachers, I taught in private and public high schools, and also in college (as an English college instructor), while pursuing my graduate studies.


In 1983, I immigrated to the U.S. and, after working for two years in San Jose, California, joined the U.S. Navy and retired in 2005, after 20 years of honorable military service.


Here’s what I learned about  education:


A good education liberates us from illiteracy, poverty, mediocrity, ignorance, intolerance. Equipped with necessary skills like speaking, reading, writing, arithmetic, one can earn a living and improve his economic condition. With further education and advanced skills, we become more tolerant, (respectful) and understanding in our dealings with fellow human beings.


A good education encourages us to excel, to succeed, to give and keep on giving without expecting anything in return. We’re driven to do our best when we’re challenged and inspired. We remain focused on our goals.


Education helps us aim to achieve and accomplish something that makes us and others feel better. We just don’t focus on ourselves anymore but on others who will ultimately benefit from the good deeds we do.


A good education empowers us to be a good example for others. Using the educational skills we have, we inspire others to do the same. Through our examples, we become catalysts of change and reform in the lives of others, especially the young ones. They emulate what they see in us.


A good education can lead us to a successful life. Of course, we have varied perspective of what success is. For me, success is not how much money I have but how I have made my life better for me and others.


To many, success is defined in terms of material wealth, power and prestige. To some, it may mean a long-time dream realized---having a college degree, spouse, decent house, car, and a family to cherish. To others, success means having accomplished so much that they devote their time to help alleviate the economic conditions of other people.


A good education can take us to foreign places and give us new experiences that change our lives forever. What we have learned from books, our teachers, the Internet, social media can motivate us to do more. That is, we become missionaries, adventurers, tourists, explorers, entertainers and so on.


With his knowledge, experiences, expertise, and values, man’s life is enriched, thus, leading the way to his enlightenment and transformation.


That’s what a good education can do.


To all teachers, thank you for your commitment to education.

-CHRIS QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, November 18, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering on Veterans Day*

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, World War I  formally ended with the signing of Armistice between the Allied troops and Germany. Thus, on November 11, each year, we commemorate Armistice Day, now commonly known as Veterans Day to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.


[Compared to Memorial Day (which is an annual federal holiday in the U.S., observed nationwide on the last Monday of May to honor all of our deceased or fallen Service men and women), Veterans Day became an official legal holiday to honor all of our U.S. veterans, past and present.]


To all veterans of war and peace, Thank you for your service and sacrifices. To those who are no longer with us, “May they rest in peace. Amen.”


On this Veterans Day, here’s a poetic tribute to all of our veterans:


Victorious Veterans


Victorious veterans/ Of yesterday and today/ Who fought for freedom/ Peace and prosperity/ Life and liberty/ Who served proudly with dignity/ Yet, survived and succeeded/ To win victory for our country For the whole humanity---/We’re so proud of you!


You served and volunteered/ To protect and to defend/ Our nation, our Constitution/ Our people our world/ With so much love/ Pride and patriotism/ Valor and vigilance/ And you survived/ The scars and scourge/ The atrocities and bitterness/ Of war---big or small/ In Vietnam and Korea/ Granada and Panama/ In the Middles East/ And other crises---/ National and international…


The experiences and memories/ In those battlefields/ Concentration camps/ And war zones/ And of our beloved ones.../ They can never be forgotten/ For as long as you live, /For as long as memories linger/ On and on, ad infinitum/ Valiant veterans/ Hailed and honored/  Revered and respected/  Recognized and remembered/ Today, always, and forever.


On this very special day/ A memorable Veterans Day/ We salute you/ And thank you so much/
Veterans of all times; / For your courage and dedication/ For your service and devotion/ To our people and our nation./ We proudly honor you/ The unsung heroes of war and peace/ Of the past and the present/ The ideal and inspiration/ Of all generations/ Of all times!


Gone But Not Forgotten…”


Like us, you had dreams/ Loafty goals and ambitions/ Visions and missions/ For a better life-world.


You volunteered to serve/ To protect and to defend/ Our freedom and our liberty/ Our nation  and the Constitution/ With hope and honor/ Pride and power/ Valor and vigilance/ Without fear and reservation.

You endured the pain/ Sun, wind, snow, and rain/ And you enjoyed the game/ Of love, life, and fame. / You endured the agony/ Of a war-torn country;/You suffered tremendously/ To the end…


You left us everything / But images and memories---/ Dusty ribbons and uniforms/ Faded jeans and shirts/ Letters and photographs/ All to cherish and treasure.


Gone but not forgotten/ You---our unsung heroes/ Of war and peace---/ Our inspiration in life/ Today, yesterday and tomorrow!


-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, November 9, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Vote's Our Voice. Let's Cast It Today!

Today is Election Day across America. (Midterm elections, that is.) It is the time to cast our vote and exercise our right of suffrage. The right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed to us by/in the U.S. Constitution, with Congress having the sole power to enforce this right by appropriate legislation/s.


Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, mentioned about the right to vote. At that time, only twenty-one year old male persons born or naturalized in the United States and the State wherein they reside, with the exception of those who participate in rebellion or other crime, can participate in any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State.


With the birth of women’s suffrage movement, that started by Lydia Taft of Massachusetts in 1756, and subsequently by other well-known female suffrage advocates and activists such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, the right to vote for women gained momentum. Governor John Allen Campbell of the Wyoming Territory was the first governor to approve the first U.S. law granting women the right to vote  on December 10, 1869. Other states, like Idaho, Utah and Colorado, followed suit. Eventually, on June 4, 1920, Congress approved, and ratified by some states, The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibited state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting.
 
The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870 by the U.S. Congress, states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, ratified January 23, 1964, states that the right of the citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.


The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified July 1, 1971, states that the right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.


There we have it, in the Supreme Law of the Land, the proof that guarantees our right to vote.


Let’s not take our right to vote for granted. We, the people, have the power to effect change and reforms in our government. Our right to vote cannot be denied. Hence, we have to exercise this right, the right to elect who will serve, lead and represent us.


With our vote, we can make a difference not only for ourselves but for others. With our vote, we are empowered to make our city, community, country better.
On this Election Day, let us rise to the occasion and cast our vote to the best candidate who, we believe, can deliver our interests---sound fiscal responsibility and accountability, better schools achievement, economic job opportunities, better health services for all people, law and order, equality, education, and empowerment for all citizens.


Our vote is our voice, a powerful voice that can make or unmake a candidate or politician a public servant. Our vote can unseat an incumbent who does not meet our expectations. Our vote can install into public office a newcomer or challenger who is ready to work for us with his or her zeal and passion to serve the public. Our vote determines what our future city, community, country be, with the best possible candidate we elect.


Let’s get out, go to the polls, and vote today! Don’t let this once-in-a-while civic event pass. Who knows, we might meet/encounter an old or new friend at the polling place.


Our vote counts! Let’s give the Board of Elections Committee, election registrars and his or her team the opportunity to count and tabulate our votes.


-Chris A. Quilpa is a retired U.S. Navy veteran who currently lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com


Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Happy All Saints' & Souls' Day, too!

Strange false faces, costumes, too / Let’s go out and all say Boo! / I’m so scary so are you! / Boo! There you go! Treat or trick?”


Happy Halloween, everyone! Are we ready with our candies to give out or share? How about our children? Are they ready with their Halloween costumes or outfits? Have we decorated our front doors or yards with seasonal flags, carved pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween decorations?


In my walking around my neighborhood the past days, I have noticed some houses with artsy, colorful, kind of ugly and scary decorations displayed on their front yards. I saw a big spider web that covered almost entirely one of the windows in one house. There were decorations of creepy creature-like zombies in another house’s front lawn. But, of course, we have seen big pumpkins on the front doors of other house.


I  imagine there will be young and older children in their Batman, Superman, Captain America and/or little princess attire. Some will be dressed up in just casual outfit with their plastic or canvas bags on hand, hopeful for an assortment of sweets or goodies.Likewise, there will be those older kids dressed as ugly, scary beasts, vampire-like creatures or witches.


Children will be going door-to-door around the neighborhood, escorted by their parents, greeting the homeowners with a shout of “Trick or Treat!” while the latter have prepared some chocolates, candies, goodies and all sorts of sweets to give away.


The tradition came to North America from Ireland more than a century ago. Today, it has become a big business industry, from Hollywood to the aisle of the nearest discount store. But kids of all ages get a kick out of the cheap thrill of a good ghost story, and they abound this time of year. It’s just an indication that fear is part of life. Hence, we’re good at laughing out our fears on!


I do believe that it’s normal to be afraid sometimes, and it’s okay to have fun with that fear sometimes. Yes, we do celebrate, and capitalize on, the “ugly” and “scary” part in us! Isn’t that awesomely strange or weird? Yeah, we’re humans with fears and insecurities. But, we have a way to deal with our fears and that is, to laugh at our fears on! Thus, this celebration of Halloween is a manifestation that we know how to deal with and capitalize the business of fear.


On the other hand, back in the days when I was younger, in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, I don’t remember having this Halloween event for children. Instead, we go clean public cemeteries the last week of October. Then, we paint or repaint the gravesites or tombs of our dead loved ones in anticipation of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2. In addition to remembering our deceased loved ones, we also give honor to the Church’s saints. We believe these saints inspire and guide us in our daily lives. We ask (for) their intercession so that our prayers become meaningful, and we hope our prayers and hopeful wishes will be granted.


In the Philippines, we go to the cemeteries in late afternoon, lit candles at the tombs and offer prayers, flowers for our dead. (In other parts of the country, people have this practice of offering food for their dead. They place food items on the tomb.) At times, Mass for the dead is said in the public cemetery by a town priest or pastor, who then blesses and sprinkles “holy” water on the gravesites.


The two-day Church observance is a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with friends and family members who may have been away from the community. Public and private schools and universities are closed. It’s like Memorial Day in the Philippines. But, they observe it not only for one day but two consecutive days.


To all the kids in all of us, have a safe, fun Halloween! And to all Catholic Christians and other Christians around the world, Happy All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day!

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, resides in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.