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Pride Night, 2014

Tomorrow night, my little nub of the K-12 educational universe is having “Pride Night.”  It’s quite the traditional at my school.  When I first got there in 2004, I spent the first two or three years thinking “Pride Night” was a pretty darn impressive showcase for our LGBT community.  I really did.  How foolish of me.

Then I came to understand it was actually about “things we are proud of doing at my little nub.”  Over the years I’ve been both directly and indirectly involved, but recent years have seen a perceptible wane in our unique offerings, so this year’s “Pride Night” reflects the new K-12 reality.  Nowadays, it’s pretty much just the band, orchestra and a few appropriately selected offerings:

Standardized Testing Pavilion:  A large room is devoted to showcase students using #2 pencils to circle their multiple choice answers, heavy and dark, making sure to fill the entire bubble.  To add the proper ambiance, attendees will be given numbing agents and a “fruit snack” to aid with “mental activity.”  Teachers will act as “proctors,” incessantly reminding everyone to not go past the “STOP” sign after question 23.

Teacher Evaluation Showcase:  A Laurie Anderson-esque multi-media slide show/film/flow chart will vividly demonstrate the myriad formulas used to determine teacher effectiveness under the new evaluation protocols.  Ringing the cafeteria setting will be teachers re-enacting their emotions about the process in a “Stations of the Cross” configuration.   Crowns of thorns and prodigious amounts of produced blood will be much in evidence.  A “Hanna Skandera” effigy will be hung while “she” flagellates station sufferers with a cat o’ nine tails.   Wailings and Gregorian Chants will be broadcast over the event in Sensurround between continuous-loop soundbytes of Governor Susana Martinez press conferences.

Lost Electives Treasure Hunt:  Given clues and a curricular map, attendees will desperately search for all the electives lost in the last few years at my school due to increased testing requirements and teacher licensure scrutiny.  Special prizes will be given for “Find the French Class” and “Uncovering the Lost Film Elective.”  All winners will receive a special choice to receive a “Forced Elective” prize, consisting of a Slinky, regardless of what they actually prefer.

“Data Room” Haunted House:  Adults over the age of 21, but only who dare, will enter this room festooned with black lights, dry ice fog and a bewildering set of handwritten “data” on SBA scores from 2011-2013.  Halloween sound effects records will play while those who dare enter are shocked to involuntary urination with obscure numbers and meaningless category groupings.  Nurses will be on-hand for those who succumb to the fear, madness and tendency to urinate uncontrollably.   Caution:  No one will be admitted after the start of the climatic “Q3 Math Matrix” scene!

 

 

A few weeks ago my students, me and a few hundred thousand of our closest Pearson drone friends nationwide conducted the “PARCC Online Field Test” to help norm Pearson’s testing and figure out whether the K-12 Internets would blowed up.  It was an unseemly experience.

But nowhere near as unseemly as seeing this linked page from the NM PED from Pearson about Common Core. 

In it, “Senior Fellows” from the Pearson so-called think-tank “America’s Choice” (naturally trademarked) Sally Hampton and Phil Daro complete their satanic contract in a series of videos that prove there is literally no low to which “educational consultants” will not stoop in their unseemliness.  One very much needs a Silkwood-level scrubbing after seeing these videos.  I only hope Ms. Hampton and Mr. Daro scored some damn cool seats in the Fourth Level of Hell  (Greed) for their participation.

And I say that as one who likes the gist of  “Common Core.”  Quite a bit, actually.  Only the “Core” at its essential “core” these days seems taken up less with what’s needed academically, and much more on making Pearson and other scuzzy outfits money.  Once we leave it all up to Pearson, we’ve really just donned the face tattoo and admitted that the whole educational charade is nothing but a money grab.  Right?  I could almost palpably sense the tattoo being applied as I succumbed to participate in the “Online Field Test” a few weeks back.  I had to keep checking the mirror to make sure there wasn’t some Tyson-esque residue, or an inked tear below my eye.

But wait, here’s a chance to see some Pearson “webinars” on Common Core!

God, make it stop…only it can’t and it won’t and it don’t stop.  And I mention that only to end on an upbeat Beastie note.

 

 

EoC: End of Coherence

Recently in “Making Things Up as We Go Along” (a.k.a. the New Mexico Public Education Department), the brand-new “passing” scores came out for another set of high school “End of Course” exams.  The Albuquerque Journal did a good job of pointing out (i.e., laughing at) a previous set released in January.  Included in this latest glub, glub in the eternally shifting quicksand of testing are Algebra I, Economics and New Mexico History.  Just as was the case with the January release of “passing scores,” the percentage needed to pass this latest set is laughably low.  Algebra I, for instance, requires 18 correct out of 37 questions.  I’m no Math teacher, but that’s barely 50%.  But that’s nothing…New Mexico History only requires 18 out of 44, or just about 41%.  *To pass.  As in getting credit for the class.

One thing I’ve noticed about all this Making Things Up as We Go Along stuff is it tends to induce high degrees of laughing and crying.  Often simultaneously.   When things reach a certain level of absurdity, the human mind can only respond by going to its emotional extremes.  Screw Joseph Heller, we’ve reached Catch-44 here.  We’d almost call it PTSD, but we all know how fundamentally stupid it all is, so instead we’re just ashamed we ever take it seriously.  In advanced cases, sufferers report smashed computer monitors and strong tendency to imbibe copious amounts of fermented beverages.

And yes, I am expecting some sort of grant to fund my further research into this phenomenon.  God knows I’ll need after my “VAM” score arrives.  More about that in a future post, along with more simultaneous chortling/sobbing and/or guffawing/wailing.

One result of all this Making Stuff  Up is that the PED’s “End of Course” webpage is surely getting plenty of hits daily.  It has to be, as everyone has to check it every day to see what new Stuff Has Been Made Up.  An amazing amount of Made Up Stuff can be found there, but nothing quite reaches Catch-44 absurdity like the “Administrative Guides” for 4th/5th Grade P.E. and 6th-8th Grade Art.

I dare you to read both of them and not break out simultaneously laughing and crying.  I double-dog dare you to make it through the Art “Still Life” scoring section.  For those who need translation help in unlocking the teacher lingo, here’s the skinny:

  • The teacher sets up a scene with fruit in bowls and other “still life” staples
  • Kids draw the fruit in bowls, etc.
  • Two teachers, one being the Art teacher (more than likely) score the kid’s drawing of the fruit in bowls
  • Being a Middle School EOC, the scores on the test are COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS to the student, as they are only used to EVALUATE THE ART TEACHER
  • Did I mention the Art Teacher is one of the scorers?

There are other signs this “Administrative Guide” was written by folks suffering some sort of opiate-induced fever dream, but it’s just all in a day’s work for the folks Making Things Up as We Go Along.  I can hardly wait to check the EOC webpage again tomorrow.   More madness from PED means more grant money for me.

 

*As you probably know, Albuquerque Public Schools is protesting these EoC Exams in that they are not tying them to passage of the class.  PED is mad about that.  There is pouting involved.  Threats are being made about taking balls and going home.  Whimpering is also being heavily employed.

 

 

You don’t take a vote until you already know the vote.  It’s the political version of the lawyer’s “you never ask a witness a question you don’t already know the answer to.” And there ain’t no sense taking a vote, State Senator Linda Lopez, unless you know the vote will come out exactly the way you want it to.

I’m currently mid-ocean in Robert Caro’s oceanic Master of the Senate, and one can only imagine what LBJ would make of yesterday’s non-event up in Santa Fe concerning long-term political fiancé PED Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera.  One can bet there would be swearing, and I don’t mean swearing-in.  One can bet there would be extreme verbal cruelty. LBJ was really, really good at both of those things. But one can also bet there wouldn’t have been any vote.  He was a “Master” on that score.  About the only thing yesterday’s kabuki theater accomplished was serving as a masterful window into the future, a future in which Democrats, the teachers’ unions and various other opponents fall perfectly into the hands of Governor Martinez and fail, miserably, to unseat her in November.

Maybe I’m being a bit unfair, as anyone mid-ocean in Master of the Senate would probably be observing yesterday’s shenanigans.  Maybe Ms. Skandera has awakened this morning with her self-esteem all kerfluffled and decided she’s had enough of waiting at the bureaucratic altar.  Maybe she’ll announce this today and that will lead to that down the road, and Senator Lopez has got this all figured out toward an election win ten months from now.  Maybe she, too, is a Master of the Senate, Roundhouse edition.

Somehow, I doubt that.

The only realistic way to change anything in regards to all this would be for U.S. Senator Tom Udall to make the insane decision to dump his Senate seat for a run at NM Governor. Too bad he’s far too smart for that.  One does wonder how yesterday would have gone if the good Senator had been in charge, however.  Or if yesterday would have happened at all.

Where’s Winston?

In these troubled teaching times, one needs all the inspiration they can get.  One needs a soothing voice out there to tell us everything is gonna be all right.  You know, like a Bob Marley of education.

And APS Superintendent Winston Brooks has been that Bob Marley this school year.  Telling us not to quit.  Talking us off the proverbial ledge and celebrating our successes, no matter how seemingly insignificant those “successes” have been.

But ever since “oink, oink,” it just hasn’t been the same.  That comforting voice has become more sporadic and now, in recent weeks, seems to have been silenced altogether.  We’re into our third week of Spring Semester…and nothing yet.  Despair.  Hopelessness.

Maybe the guy is busy.  Perhaps it’s only because his beloved Kansas City Chiefs lost in the playoffs.  It could be that when people start using their office assistant email accounts to indirectly proclaim things that a slight bit of internet paranoia is at play as well.

I don’t know…but baby, it’s cold out there in that January of an educational land.  And that voice we so readily used to warm our metaphorical hands is missing.  Silence.

Woe is us.  Time to put on bigger mittens and trudge into the arctic wind.

In an effort to become less cynical and more inspired, your humble blogger went to the NM Public Education Department website.  Yes, I know.  It’s like seeking inspiration about humanity by going to a bar parking lot at closing time on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Anyway,  I hadn’t been for a while and seeing what’s up at PED seemed like a good idea, what with the Department’s increasing insistence in changing its long-held image as a bunch of incompetent nincompoops nobody in their right mind would put in charge of anything, much less education.  All I can say is that the website does nothing to change this long-held view.

I’ll restrain myself from comments regarding the PED main page.  Just look at it and guess what year that picture was taken of Hanna Skandera.  Hey, I’m an old guy now.  What was vibrantly red and brown years ago is all white now.  To quote Leonard Cohen, “I ache in all the places I used to play.”  It happens…but that picture of Skandera is about as old as a Loverboy record.  Okay maybe not quite that old.  But it’s old.

Anyway, enough about the main page.  Let’s, instead, just from grins and grimaces, take a look at the “Technology Footprint” page.  Whatever the Hell that means.

And after looking at the page for about ten minutes, I can report:  I still don’t know what the Hell it means.  Oh wait, I think the mysterious lack of any real information along with the sidebar “legend” including categories such as “Meets PARCC and SBA Bandwidth, but lacks adequate Devices” seems to indicate that “Technology Footprint” has something to do with a lack of up-to-date computers and bandwidth in our public schools.

Hey, that’s a sentiment I can get behind!  Just like PED, I’m concerned that many classrooms don’t have the computers and bandwidth to take advantage of all the fantastic educational/research opportunities that exist for kids to use every day!  I’m worried, like PED, that daily instruction suffers here from a lack of up-to-date stuff!  I just know, like PED, that our lessons for kids could be so much more effective and resonant if only we consistently had up-to-date access to everything on the Internet everyday, in every classroom.  Yay PED for pointing this out!

Oh…wait.  

Staring at the rather useless “Technology Footprint” map and legend, you know, the one with no real information on it, I notice that categories are all things like:  “Meets PARCC and Device criteria, but not SBA Bandwidth (>20 and <55 Kbs).”  So all they care about, when it comes to “Technology” is that we have enough for standardized testing like PARCC and SBAs.  Oh.  The whole page has nothing to do with actual teaching and everything to do with having enough computers and bandwidth to administer the new standardized tests.

Thanks PED.  Got those priorities straight now.  Oh yeah, one more thing…your “Technology Footprint” webpage sucks.  That’s the technical term for such a page.

 

P.S.:  The page announces that “Complete Results will be published Nov 10, 2013.”  You know, two months ago.  Uh…umm…maybe they meant the year 3013 or something.

It’s like many of us have been “draggin’ Central” up and down ala “American Graffiti” for the long, long years since the weirdness of “No Child Left Behind” became the true Orwell of Hanna Skandera, and, all the sudden, the Journal puts out a thumb and asks for a ride.

Sure, come on in, ABQ Journal.

Jon Swedien of the Journal has a story today in which the focus isn’t on simply having a standardized test, but is instead on what’s in the test and how they’re scored.

Oh… imagine that.  I feel I’ve suddenly entered one of my professional dreams (which are far too many of my overall dreams, truth be known) and I’m floating, floating, floating toward something, almost logical, like the tornado in “The Wizard of Oz” in reverse…

Beautiful.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Swedien, “how you’d like to ride around for a while?”  I admit we don’t have a boss souped-up car or anything, but the current teaching milieu has its own elements of, uh, danger and lawlessness.

The info box with the story is especially LMFAO funny/dreamy, as they say:

Passing scores 
These are the passing scores for end-of-course exams given to New Mexico high school students in core subjects:

English III Reading

Passing score: 25 out of 37 questions

English III Writing
Passing score: 15 out of 30 questions

Biology
Passing score: 20 out of 50 questions

Biology (second section)
Passing score: 22 out of 50 questions

Chemistry
Passing score: 12 out of 48 questions

Chemistry (second section)
Passing score: 13 out of 50 questions

Algebra II
Passing score: 20 out of 50 questions

Integrated Math III
Passing score: 10 out of 50 questions

U.S. History
Passing score: 26 out of 50 questions

Source: New Mexico Public Education Department

Beautiful.  Just beautiful.  C’mon in Mr. Journal Reporter…the water’s anything but fine.  In fact, it’s full of sharks, to continue the blockbuster 70s film references.

Not that I wish you to end up like Quint, or anything, Mr. Journal Reporter Swedien…

 

P.S.:  The Chemistry scores above, in particular, are something else, ain’t they?