A Filipino tutor has proven that social background and lack of equipment have nothing to do with teaching science as he helped an entire class in Texas pass the state’s standardized examinations.
According to a report on Galveston county’s Daily News, when Rhante Lubrico first went to the newly-formed island charter school in Galveston, the Ambassadors Preparatory Academy, it didn’t have any science labs or microscopes. Worse, Lubrico held classes in a trailer.
Fresh from the Philippines, Lubrico was recruited over the Internet to teach fifth graders science. His students were from the low-income and African-American populations that school superintendent Pat Williams said historically struggle on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TAKS test.
Worse, only four of Lubrico’s students knew anything about science.
Williams said Lubrico started the school year teaching his fifth-grade students on a third-grade level. He tested his students at the beginning of the year to gauge how they would fare on the TAKS exam and only two passed.
The school head said Lubrico, 37, is her most exceptional teacher.
The Philippines’ loss was definitely the United States’ gain as she found Lubrico through an online recruiting Web site.
Lubrico said he left since he was frustrated with the education system in the Philippines, where he worked for 14 years as a public school science teacher.
He said the government did not provide teachers with the resources they needed so he agreed to come to Galveston.
For the first two weeks, students thought Lubrico was mean, Williams said. They called him "Mr. Homework."
But as time went by, they warmed up to him.
The dreaded homework was partly the key to his success. He gave the students homework they were sure to understand because it was a review of what they learned that day in the classroom, and that gave them confidence.
Lacking a big budget, Lubrico improvised and drew all of his own science posters and other visuals. Because he didn’t have science labs, Lubrico packed his students in a van and took them to the University of Texas Medical Branch, where they used microscopes.
He studied the state’s science curriculum and taught every concept to his students. Then he went beyond the curriculum. He developed his own test-taking strategy he called RUUNER — an acronym for read, understand, underline context clues, eliminate choices and review.
He convinced his students that science is the easiest exam of all — all they had to do was understand the concepts and facts, he said.
By the time the TAKS arrived, Lubrico’s students were ready.
"‘This is easy,’" Lubrico recalls his students telling him.
One student not only answered all the questions; she explained in the empty space next to the questions why she chose the answer. Another student wrote a note to the people who would grade the exam: "Dear TAKS people, this is so easy for us," Lubrico said.
By the time school was over, Lubrico had given the students not only a solid understanding of science, but also confidence they didn’t have before, Williams said.
"He made them believe in themselves," Williams said. "He made them believe they could do it."
Nine months after Lubrico discovered that only four of his students knew anything at all about science, Lubrico got the results back from the science TAKS exam — 93 percent of his students passed.
Scores on the TAKS science exam traditionally have been so low that the state considers a school acceptable if 40 percent of students pass. Statewide, 81 percent of fifth-graders passed the science exam, according to preliminary results from the state.
Out of Lubrico’s class of 15 students, 14 passed the exam. The only child who didn’t pass qualified for special education.
Thirteen students answered every question correctly. One student missed one question.
But Williams wants more.
The results for the charter school, only a year old, will not count toward the school’s rating. Per state policy, the school will remain unrated until it completes its second year.
Williams said she wants to strive for an exemplary rating. Based on the school’s results this year — 93 percent passed science, 72 percent passed reading, 58 percent passed math and 83 percent passed writing — the charter school would have been rated acceptable.
She said it is not acceptable to expect that a certain number of students will fail.
"I’m not satisfied until 100 percent of the students pass," she said, "These are just state standards that we should be well above. I’m not bragging about this because I want 100 percent passing rate."
While most public school districts have preliminary results, official results won’t be available until the end of summer.