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Warning:  Some fans of Michael J. Fox’s early work might be offended by this blogpost.  But have you seen the movie?

About one billion years ago in Internet time, there was a so-so novel turned into an utterly awful movie starring Michael J. Fox.  Bright Lights, Big City is/was young, unafraid and only slight terrible in its pretentiousness.  Then somebody decided that Michael J. Fox should play the lead in the movie version.

And that gets us to Apple Computers, Pearson and the Los Angeles Unified School District.  For the big city school district that is LA has taken the brash idea of “a computer for every student” and almost, only inches away now, made it a reality.   Yet there are problems, as noted in today’s New York Times.   The District is suspending its contract with Apple.  Attacks are being made on a bidding process that has left Pearson providing digital curriculum.

It’s the same scenario playing out in just about every district and state education office around the country.  Corporations, Apple and Pearson prime among them, are getting contracts of all sizes to create online standardized tests, curriculum and other bright blinkin’ lights o’ the Internet, as schools desperately try to stay relevant and keep test scores up.  What’s more, it is the lobbying efforts by corporations such as Apple and Pearson that is driving much of the push for not only the computer/Internet, but the testing itself.

Preying on the “Johnny can’t read; sky is falling” mantra now in place (and forgetting that many, many Johnnies couldn’t read in earlier decades as well), TechNTesting companies (TNT) are achieving “vertical integration,” providing both the cause (ongoing proof that Johnny can’t read via standardized test scores) and purported solution:  Technology (cue Jazz Hands!).  Besides, Tech/blinkin’ bright lights/drugs/Kiefer Sutherland (Fox character’s bad influence side-kick) are KEWL!!!11!!  Right kids?  We are “down” with what’s “steezy, yo!”

What’s this got to do with Michael J. Fox and “Bright Lights, Big City” you might ask.  Well, if you’ve had the misfortune to see the film, Fox is horribly, horribly miscast as a young club-hopping horn-dog falling into substance abuse.  If you read a bit of backstory on the movie, pretty much EVERYBODY involved in making the movie knew that Fox, now a bigger and bigger star via “Family Ties,” was horribly miscast.  Fox had no more business playing a club-hopping horn-dog than Pearson Education has in putting “education” in the title of its TechNTesting subsidiary.  Fox is wretched in the film;  Pearson and Apple are beyond wretched at providing Johnny can’t read solutions.

In short, here’s a more precise picture of how the current corporatizing of education is like “Bright Light, Big City”

  • TechNTesting is like the cocaine
  • “Johnny can’t read” is like the empty void and addictive qualities of the mind that makes cocaine seem like a good life-choice
  • Michael J. Fox is like the Los Angeles Unified School District and every other district/state education office in the country
  • Kiefer Sutherland is like Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation (trust me, if you go frame-by-frame, it’s unmistakable)
  • A billion dollars for TechNTesting in LA is like a lot of money

On some gut level, everyone in K-12 education today knows something is wrong here.  That somebody is taking advantage of us and leading us to some form of cocaine addiction, rehab and memories of being in a very bad movie.  But we can’t stop, because we don’t what to do.  And Apple/Pearson and TechNTesting Inc. are here to “help,” just like that guy on the other side of the fence outside the middle school selling bags.  Little bags at first…

 

Remember that “job fair” Albuquerque Public Schools held last month, and how the general feeling was that it was a success and everything was just about normal?  Remember when APS Public Information Officer Monica Armenta was quoted in the following paragraph by KOB?

Armenta said there’s more jobs to fill this upcoming school year than last, but not by much. The reason? It could be anything, like teachers retiring. “It’s not unusual to have a lot of turn over,” said Armenta.

Remember that?  Well, here’s a look at the current, 8.24.14, openings from the APS Jobs Page:

APS jobs 8.24.14For those not wishing to click on my state-of-the-art Paint cropping work above (or break out the magnifying glass), it shows 288 total openings, including 97 in Special Education and 70 in Elementary.

Just remember to think like Monica Armenta and Tom Jones.  Just remember all is well, there’s nothing to see here and…

Damn.  Guess I didn’t make the cut with my application for the APS Interim Superintendent job.  Me and apparently five others who unsuccessfully threw our hats, so to speak.  I knew putting “not Winston Brooks” and “will not force employees to clear snow off my driveway” as “Biggest Strengths” was taking a risk.  Answering “Where would you like to be in five years?” with “Watching the APS Central Offices as they are professionally imploded on Livestream from my chateau on the banks of Lake Como” probably didn’t help either.  Well, back to working at my school, I guess.

As for the four finalists (suavely copy/pasted from the Journal):

  • David Atencio, a former Jemez Valley superintendent from 2008 to 2013. He has served in the Laguna Department of Education from 2013 to the present.
  • Diego Gallegos, owner of AMADO Consulting, and a former APS assistant superintendent for school and community support from 2008 to 2012. Before that, he was the APS assistant superintendent for continuous improvement from 2005 to 2008.
  • Veronica Garcia, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. Garcia was the state’s education secretary from 2003 to 2010. From 2010 to 2011, she was CEO and president of Comprehensive Consulting Services. Garcia has also worked in APS, including a stint as Rio Grande High School principal from 1992 to 1995.
  • Brad Winter, APS Chief Operating Officer from 2008 to May 2014 (retired). Prior to becoming COO, Winter also oversaw the district’s master plan, and its maintenance and operations department. He began his career at APS in 1992 as a dean of students at Highland High School.

I have a personal favorite among the four, but that fandom is based on damn little information.  Who is it?  I’ll give you a small hint.  No Y chromosome.  Got it?  Really?  You need another hint?
Have a great weekend, everybody.

My favorite part of the job requirements for Interim APS Superintendent is that they are still requiring the following:

PHYSICAL DEMANDS: The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by the incumbent to successfully perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation:

  • The employee must occasionally lift and move up to 25 pounds in supplies which requires bending, stooping and lifting.
  • The employee must use hands and arms to manipulate objects.
  • The employee must use keyboards, tools and other controls.
  • The employee must sit and stand for long periods of time.
  • The employee must have normal vision and hearing with or without aid.
  • The employee must be able to move about assigned location unaided during the day.”

Because we all know how important lifting 25 pounds is in this job.  I mean, it’s just a given that someone who couldn’t lift 25 pounds couldn’t possibly do a better job than Winston Brooks, Brad Allison, Joey Vigil and other past APS Superintendents.  Stephen Hawking, for example, would be absolutely incapable of doing a better job than the aforementioned past Superintendents.  I apologize for even bringing up this most obvious fact.  *Or should I say “Burly Person’s.”  Dr. Beth Everitt might have been no great shakes, but the last few men in this gig have not exactly edified the position.

 

To be or to opt-out (via this poorly written form): that is the question.

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer

the soul-crushing boredom of outrageous testing

or to sign forms against a sea of Pearsons

and by opposing end up probably sitting in a room by myself doing word searches.  To opt-out, to sleep in the only little room on campus where there is no testing

for hours;  and by this sleep to say we end

The madness and the millions of dollars spent

on testing instead of actual education – ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished!  If only I knew what the word “consummation” meant.  To opt-out, to nap

to nap, perchance to protest – ay, there’s the rub

For in that sleep of protest what bad school grades may come

When many have shuffled off this mortal circling of answer “C” (heavy and dark),

Must give us pause.   There’s the respect

That makes calamity of making our teachers put up with the onus of becoming a “D” school (whatever that means).

For who would bear the whips and scorns of Skandera,

The PEDs wrong, the proud Governor’s contumely,

The pangs of despised educators, NCLB’s delay,

The insolence of VAM, and all the crap

That kids, parents and educators have to take these days,

When we can end it all with the filling out of this poorly written

form which does not include the word “bodkin”?  Who would cower before Pearson

But that the dread of something after opting-out,

The Purgatorial state of having no PARCC score in “the system,” puzzles the school counselors

And makes us rather bear testing for hours and hours

Than fly to freedom that we think might involve being put in that especially smelly little room the PE teacher puts the mesh volleyball shirts.

Thus conscience (and fear of bad smells) does make cowards of us all,

And thus the mighty “I hate testing” trash-talking we spout

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of actually having to fill out the poorly written form and turn it in.

And enterprises of great effort in providing this opt-out option turn awry

And end up with us still circling answer “C” (heavy and dark).– Soft you now,

The fair Principal Ophelia!  Old Bat, in thy steel-trap memory,

Be all my sins most definitely remembered.

 

 

 

Heck, let’s just cross-post this thing.  Apologies, but maybe some of you folks haven’t run across the latest ill-informed editorial from the libertarian-meets-Gene Autry Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board.  Below is a little response from your humble blogger about it.  Somebody has gotta get these folks a tiny bit closer to living in the 21st Century and away from their apparent reliance on  “Howdy Doody” for insights into today’s youth and education.

 Quoting from the editorial:

“The Twitter debacle prompted the board to decline extending Brooks’ contract, instead placing him on an improvement plan. And while everyone can and should strive to do better, that’s not really what taxpayers want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for while their kids can’t read a cereal box or make change for a dollar.”

Dear Editorial Board: Your “cereal box/dollar” reference is cute and melodramatic, but not quite accurate. Have you taken a look at the actual questions from a NM SBA? Have you taken a standardized test sometime in the last few decades? Not that it’s a great test or anything, but making informed statements requires looking at the actual test. Here’s the 2014 practice test for 11th in NM.

http://www.ped.state.nm.us/assessmentaccountability/assessmentevaluation/sba/Practice%20Tests%202010/NM_10-11_Gr11_PT_Eng_w_AnsKey.pdf

And below are links to half of the more newfangled “Common Core” test (with annotated graded responses) from 2014 in New York for 8th Graders in both English Language Arts and Math. No, we’re not testing on reading a cereal box here or making change for a dollar. Whether we should or not is another discussion, but, dear Board, get an idea of what’s actually going on before making such an uninformed melodramatic statement.

https://www.engageny.org/file/103121/download/2014_ela_grade_8_sample_annotated_items.pdf’

https://www.engageny.org/file/103151/download/2014_math_grade_8_sample_annotated_items.pdf

 

Maybe they’ll read this little comment, take the actual tests and completely transform the Board’s position on standardized testing, educational reform and Hanna Skandera.  Wake up, Scot, now you’re living in Howdy Doody Time.

While the focus over the last week, and particularly the last 24 hours has been on Winston Brooks, the bigger story in NM public education is, by far, Hanna Skandera admitting PED mistakes in calculating teacher evaluation scores.   One can argue on the impact large district superintendents can have on schools. but Mr. Brooks has had pretty much zero impact for just about all of his six-year stint at APS.  A few lawsuits, a buy-0ut and another good ‘ol boy is shown the door.  Yeah, everybody, except for Mr. Brooks financially, would have been better off if we’d never replaced Beth Everitt as superintendent, and instead simply placed a brick or chia-pet in that chair at Central Office.  Still, the only real news here is the money spent and gossip potential among APS employees.   Speculating on just what the hell happened between Brooks, his wife, the District, etc. is good for laughs and snark, but doesn’t really matter much in terms of educating young people.  It doesn’t really matter at all.

On the other hand, PED Secretary-Designate Skandera has FINALLY fessed up that PED botched the teacher evaluations.  On one level, I FINALLY have some respect for this woman and her staff.  How could anyone have any before, given the self-righteous disdain PED has had for teachers and districts since Day One of her horrible reign.   Naturally, Ms. Skandera picks the greatest news diversion possible to announce what she and staff have OBVIOUSLY known for weeks/months, but at least in this instance she’s expressing something close to a human emotion other than sneering, condescending hatred.

But perhaps I’m being too kind here.  Exactly what day do you think Skandera and Co. first realized how stupid it was to create and require idiotically rapid deadlines for districts to submit figures?  It sure as hell wasn’t August 15th, 2014. What month was it that Skandera and Co. first, internally, came to understand just how ridiculously large a test score/teacher evaluation process check they had written, one they could not POSSIBLY cash?  At what juncture did they continue to mouth absolutes and acrimony to the press about how recalcitrant, oppositional and incompetent teachers and districts were, while KNOWING that the entire system of testing/evaluations was horribly flawed?

Yeah, I’m calling Hanna Skandera and Co. liars.  Just in case you were wondering.

Robert Nott’s piece in the New Mexican is excellent, including this little gem, date foremost:

“Superintendent Boyd’s position is incorrect,” department spokesman Larry Behrens told The New Mexican on Aug. 8.

That’s August 8, 2014, folks.  That’s about a week ago.  Mr. Behrens and the PED house of cards continued to prevaricate right up to Winston Brooks Day.  I guess they figured it was the best possible news cycle, with the least possible damage.

Well, nice try.  And you might be right, cynical and disingenuous PED.  Maybe Skandera’s mea culpa won’t grow legs and become a millstone for you and the Governor’s re-election effort.  You might get away with it…just like Winston Brooks got away for quite a while with bumbling his way through mistreatment of women and inability to keep his foot out of his actual and virtual mouth.  But, just like Brooks, there will come a day, maybe only a few months away, where Hanna Skandera, Larry Behrens and even Governor Susana Martinez will be out of their current positions, and their haughty brand of lies, spin-control and teacher vilifying will be gone.   And that day will be far, far more important to public education here than Winston Brooks Day.