I’ll admit it, for the past ten years or so I’ve taught “The Gifted.”  Actually, this year I’m doing a little something different (more about that another time), but my background is in dealing with little people a whole hell of a lot smarter than your humble blogger.  It’s a wonderful letting go of ego and a helluva lot of intellectual tap dancing improv.

Teaching “The Gifted” is different and one of the ways that is true, I guess, is “test preparation.”  Much of traditional test preparation is sorta like those DIY home improvement shows on TV.  Tricks and little things to remember like “look for the answer that is close to the right one, but involves doing an operation wrong” and “the answer is always ‘C’.”  What we talked about instead  in “Gifto” class when it came to preparing for tests, especially the “standardizes” ones, was creating a mental picture of the test-maker and test-grader.  What do those folks look like?  What is their favorite TV show?  Who is their favorite author?  And..how much do they get paid to get through a huge stack of these boring-as-hell tests?   Knowing who is making/grading the thing helps informs kids wishing to make a 98% instead of a 95% percent on tests like that.   And that, as is the nature of the world, “The Gifted” especially, is darn important.

Which gets me to the lovely, juicy blow up over AP U.S. History curricular changes up in suburban Denver.   Everything we thought was true, kids.  The testmakers/graders really do look and think like that!   Or at least some of them do, and what’s “right” to some ain’t “right” to others.  In class we’d call this way of the world beautiful grounds for a debate or classroom discussion.  We’d talk about the difference between the two.  But in testing, such as an AP test, there’s no debate/discussion…there’s just a score, a score based on circling little good points (in the view of the testgrader, using a little “rubric”) and counting up the circles.  And when it comes to subjects like U.S. History, you can bet there’s discrepancy on how many points get circled because what’s “good” to one grader is “bad” to another.

The fight up in Denver is, in my mind, about the most important fight anyone can have about anything.  Discussing and debating the importance of civil disobedience and its responsibilities, limitations and essential importance is the single-most discussion/debate a society can have.  At the same time, AP and other “Standardized Tests” exist in an artificial vacuum devoid of such discussion/debate.   Hell, look at the word right there:  Standardized.  Got it?

That’s something to keep in mind as we go to fewer multiple choice questions on PARCC this year in New Mexico and elsewhere and expand the open-ended questions.  While the importance of knowing one’s testmaker/grader is still very important in terms of determining where the heck a multiple choice question is coming from (I’d cite plenty of examples, but you know that’s against the rules), that importance expands geometrically (or more) when it comes to open-ended answers.  One thing I’ve told younger teachers, the ones without gray hair who teach “regular” classes, repeatedly:  Open-ended answers are the best thing ever, but what do you do with the ones you don’t agree with?  The really stupid answers?

Thanks and applause for the folks up in Denver fighting to keep those “stupid” answers around.  You know, “stupid” answers like Rosa Parks and Gandhi and the civil protests still yet to come…hopefully.


P.S.:  And yes this extends to other sides of the philosophical hall and academic setting.  How does the student pointing out holes in climate change “theory” get scored by the Science teacher?  Or on a Science “standardized test”?  Oh..wait,  Science is rarely tested.  Hey, Social Studies is almost never tested aside from AP, either.  Get it?  Does that tell you pretty much all you need to know?

I was going to write about Rio Rancho Public Schools and their move to petition NM PED to slow down on the standardized testing/teaching evaluation process, but that story’s had about as much traction as a 23 hp tractor on a sandy horse arena.  So, instead, let’s take a brief look at another aspect of Standardized Testing 2014:  Tale of the Blinking Lights (Brought to you by MICROSOFT AND ITS NEWLY BOUGHT GAME MINECRAFT!).

Yup, we’re gonna test 100% online in 2014-2015.  This PARCC test is cheaper when you do it online (thanks to savvy tech marketing by folks interestingly affiliated with Bill Gates), so districts are gonna spend far more time and money figuring out how they can get their existing stocks of computers/internet to handle it.  Zero thought will be given on how to better teach using computers, etc., but a hell of a lot will be given on how much time we can close the Library/Computer Labs down to run the cows students through the immunization chute Library/Computer Labs to get it all done within the testing window.


Much thought and argument will be given to ideas such as whether we should not have school bells for three weeks during testing, what type snack is less likely to gum up computer keyboards while being more likely to provide the Adderall effects desired in terms of improving test performance, and whether Computer/Typing class should be taught in the large or small gym (or maybe outside in a tent like a Baptist revival meeting).

Naturally, if as much time/effort/money/resources was given to how we might better teach students using technology, those computer carts/labs wouldn’t be unused nearly as often.  But that’s just teaching, this is STANDARDIZED TESTING 2014 (brought to you by DEPENDS THE ADULT UNDERWEAR GARMENT!) .

It will be so exciting I’m guessing there will be Live Streaming of the testing in its entirety.  We’ll also have two seasons to show for your Live Streaming enjoyment this year, with a pre-season schedule in March and the playoffs in early May or so.  There will also be a daily posting of the “Disabled List” featuring schools where the tech done blowed up and students will be unable to test at the necessary pace to finish their immunizations tests in time.   Will that old Mac Book computer cart that Ms. Raymond let the kids mishandle EVERY SINGLE DAY for three years be able to handle the fancy Blinking Lights of PARCC?

Bring you popcorn, immunization, sports testing fans, it’s gonna be a great show.  And to kick things off, let’s hear a bit of Roy Rogers and Crew:

A busy week, punctuated like a punch to the nose with too much “professional development.”  Why is “PD” so bad?  Why is it invariably “taught” exactly the way we’re told to NEVER teach?  One wishes the PED Death Eaters would descend upon a typical APS “PD.”  They’d hand out “minimally effective” evaluations like handbills outside a Las Vegas casino.

This morning…more “PD.”  So not much time to think/write.  I wanted to get into the recent Rio Rancho schools formal request to slow down the PED’s Death Eater Evaluation Train (PEDDEET).  Not enough time…but plenty of time, I guess, to have “PD” people lecture, castigate and read every bit of PowerPoint slides at me.

Here are some others, with more time and brains that I have, complaining about teacher “PD.” 

But it’s Friday…let’s have a Distraction.  As it’s also my birthday, I get to be even more self-centered than normal.  I don’t have video, but let’s get away from “PD” listening to what’s probably my all-time favorite Lightnin’ Hopkins tunes.  Have a great weekend, everybody.


As we are always saying in K-12 education:  “Won’t somebody think about the late-70s ProgRock?”

The latest brouhaha in Albuquerque Public Schools is about paper.  Trees.  Yes, about the legendary Canadian three-piece ProgRock outfit Rush.

Okay, it doesn’t have anything to do with pretentious songs fraught with fake meaning.  One could more piercingly say the paper/copy fight is about the uselessness of textbooks, teacher v. District control, bad contracts with Xerox, and any number of things.

But it also involves paper.  I’ll come out of the leafy closet and admit that I’m THAT guy.  The guy who is always clamoring that we must print fewer things and trees and clear-cuts…and has even been known to attach photos of clear-cuts like below to emails about copies.


I know, what a jerk.

Still, lost in the brouhaha is the idea of conservation.  It’s all about numbers, exceeding that number and whether that number should exist.  Nowhere in the fight has there been any mention of reducing the number via even the simplest ideas, such as two-sided copying.  I don’t know about your school, but my fellow staffers have a 2nd Amendment-type fervor toward the one-sided copy.  They will start two-side copying when the gummint takes their icy, cold dead fingers off the “print” button.  One-sided copyin’ is a fundamental right of ‘Mericans.

We basically have one of them there “militias” at my school, preserving the right to waste paper.  Maybe your school is different, but I doubt it.

So too, the District, to my reading, has NEVER brought up ideas about conserving paper/copy usage.  It’s all about vague dictates, which, of course, the District hides from.  The District is like one of the pretentious tree-types in that stupid Rush song, I can’t recall whether it’s the Maples or what (as I never, ever, want to hear that song again), acting like a little passive-aggressive little brat, the kind with deciduous leaves and a copious canopy.  It’s not about educating teachers, or sharing ideas:  that would be insane.  No, instead it’s about power and dictates and cracking down and “NO!”.


Shit…it’s IS all about that stupid Rush song!



Your humble blogger, and others, have continued to point out the combined brain drain and lack of even somewhat warm bodies when it comes to filling teaching positions within Albuquerque Public Schools in recent months.   For example, here.

Today, KOB-TV is ON THE CASE, probing, delving and investigating as only a local TV affiliate can.  Which is to say, not very much probe and damn little delve.

Here’s the hard-hitting report (I can’t bring myself to watch the video, which isn’t strange, as I haven’t seen a local TV news show in, geez….it’s going on three or four years now).

So brandishing the uber-facts of the many current vacancies, APS responds with:

The district says this happens every year, and that despite the shortage, students are still getting the education they deserve.

You’ve probably noticed this is a paraphrase and not even a direct quote.  Guess the reporter’s pencil couldn’t write that fast.  Naturally, the report generally takes this balderdash as incontrovertible fact and generally pats us readers/viewers on the head as if to say (in a lilting falsetto, while holding a wand festooned with a bright, shiny star at the end), “there, there, worried news observer, the APS news fairy has announced all is well.  Be comforted, if ill-informed!  Now stay tuned for a special report on the Green Chile Harvest!”

Saying something snarky like “we’ve always been at war with Eurasia” would be a waste of time here, wouldn’t it?


P.S.:  Note the comments to the story, including one with a bit of actual math that goes beyond the APS drivel so well sucked and regurgitated by the “reporter.”


First of all, happy September everyone!  It’s my favorite month for a variety of reasons, weather prime among them. 

I like the idea of “things I posed elsewhere” and am stealing it this morning (and perhaps forever).  Below is a little ditty I wrote as an online comment to the Journal’s obit story on the SBA published this morning.  Many might feel writing comments to the Journal is about the lowest form of Internet life possible, and you might be right.  Still, I do discern a real exchange of ideas there and am strangely optimistic that the conversation there can rise above “Liberals suck, no you suck!” 

I am incurably optimistic that way;  funny how we cynics are really the most optimistic among us.

Anyway, here’s ya go:

Good to see the Journal and the public, via this newspaper, starting to get some depth in terms of coverage/analysis of standardized testing. Still, there’s one continued piece of the narrative which is going unexamined. In this story, the narrative continues like this:

“As for the slight decline in the overall proficiency rate during the Martinez administration, Skandera said that was due to the students who were taking the SBAs on computers.
When excluding those students, the percentage of students scoring at grade level in reading increased 0.8 percentage points over the past four years. In math, the percentage of students scoring at grade level grew by 0.9 percentage points.”

This assertion has been unchallenged here and elsewhere, despite the fact the PED has not presented the data supporting it. All we have is a spreadsheet column in this past year’s SBA number of the percentage of students taking the test via computer. There’s no direct breakdown of how those computer-based test-takers did.

Here’s that link.

All you can really tell in this regard from the spreadsheet is that computer-based testing in 2014 was largely a small-district phenomenon, Farmington aside. Cherry-picking the numbers, and the students who constitute those numbers, only helps to provide an excuse to PED for this year’s lousy scores, while also vaguely foreshadowing next year’s excuse when, supposedly, 100% of NM students will be taking PARCC online.

Until PED stops using the numbers simply to benefit their own narrative, we as teachers, parents and students will be left in the dark on what’s really happening here. Interestingly, whenever PED is pushed for information beyond their narrative, they get defensive and squawk as Mr. Behrens does here about “defenders of status quo.”

Nobody is “status quo,” Mr. Behrens. EVERYBODY wants the standardized testing system to evolve past the current status quo, one in which PED cherry-picks release of data in order to dictate the narrative and vilifies anyone, particularly teachers and administrators, who question its methods and/or release of data.

Until everyone is presented a fuller, clearer picture of what’s going on, Mr. Behrens, you and PED will continue to get logical, thoughtful questions, respond to them in shrill defensiveness and further drive a spike between those providing/receiving education in New Mexico and your increasingly, and unnecessarily, self-alienated state agency. The act is getting old, PED. Real old.

Old people, like your humble blogger, will often speak of “the pendulum.”  We speak of it to the point where young people have another very good reason never to put up with listening to old people.  But we oldsters can’t help it, for we’ve seen “the pendulum” swing back and forth too many times.

The K-12 standardized testing pendulum inched away from its further position (let’s call it to the right) the other day when our good friend, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, was noted as saying the following:

“I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support and more,” Duncan said at the Jefferson Academy Middle School in Washington.

Duncan said there is a recognized and growing concern that the quantity of required testing is troubling, in some cases repetitive or “not sufficiently helpful for instruction.” He said the department will work through the fall to reduce over-testing.

“Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress,” Duncan said.

Taken on its face, those comments are a darn big swing (to the Left, I suppose, although it gets REAL confusing in terms of direction these days).  Sec. Duncan is basically copping to the accusation that standardized testing and tying tests to teacher evaluations is out of control.  The person singly most important in making this happen is admitting it’s all “not sufficiently helpful for instruction.”

We old people can quickly spot a pendulum moving back to center and, eventually, just about as far away from center toward the other horizon.  We can’t spot much;  we can’t see too good in general, but we can see that pendulum.  As one who attended a circular elementary school with no walls between classrooms (thus allowing for excellent long-range viewing of 16 mm films in “classes” several “classrooms” away), it’s pretty easy to see we’re about ten years away from “open classrooms” again (with “SSR” and “Honor Cards” sure to follow).

Still, Duncan’s in a bit of a pendular pickle, so to speak. He’s admitting that standardized testing is out of control, but is still banging away with the standardized testing stick tied to the federal funding carrot.  Washington State and now Oklahoma have had their NCLB “waiver” taken away, Washington simply because of its failure to do exactly what Duncan faults in his quotes above:  tying testing to teacher evaluations.

Watching and listening to Mr. Duncan tap-dance his way through this inconsistency in coming weeks/months will be great fun for old and young educational professionals alike.  Youngsters, when you hear Mr. Duncan, or his inevitable replacement starts talking about using one of these:



you’ll know the pendulum is back to good ‘ol 1972, again.  The McGuffey Readers are probably not far behind/ahead.


Have a good weekend, everybody.