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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?

The friendly folks at Albuquerque Public Schools “Employee Assistance Office” have just announced a “Workshop on Dealing with Difficult People.”

The announcement says the workshop will be held at “City Center, Room 210W.”

No word on if “City Center, Room 210W” is basically the size of a soccer stadium in Rio.  It better be.  These days more than ever.

 

P.S.:  Sorry so short, but the teaching business sure be puttin’ a crimp on my “free time” these days.  Maybe this “workshop” would help.  Maybe being in another business would help more.

 

Alrighty, the sun is going down literally (although given its very weak effort, I’d have to say Mr. Sun could have largely not bothered going up at all today) and metaphorically on our glorious Winter Break, 2013-2014.  A good time was had by all, even by those of us who coughed and coughed and coughed up strangely colored clotted mucus for most of the fortnight.

It’s time to get back to work.

And tonight’s work, for many local teachers, will be completing the very so-called “Required Trainings.”  It’s kinda hard to describe to outsiders what the “Required Trainings” are, especially because if I started copy/pasting the “Trainings” that would be in violation of one of the “Trainings.”

So I’ll have to speak in generalities, a bit.  Here goes:  The “Required Trainings” are the stupidest part of any job ever held by anyone at any time in recorded history.  Or even unrecorded history.  

Yeah, that about sums ‘em up.

Put a bit more specifically, “Required Trainings” are “on” (and I use the preposition “on” EXTREMELY loosely here) subjects such as kids with asthma, workplace harassment, internet protocol and all sorts of other miscellaneous stuff outside of the central workplace idea that teachers teach stuff.  And the subjects covered are serious ones, well, some of them are.

What’s hilariously unserious is the training “methodology” employed.   There are videos to watch on each subject, followed by a little multiple choice quiz for each.  What’s wrong with that? Nothing, until one considers some basic questions of standardized test creation that don’t seem to come up much in the brouhaha around standardized testing.  Namely, what’s on the test?  What are the specific questions?  How hard are the questions and do they require any “depth of knowledge” brought on by watching the little videos?  Any knowledge whatsover?  Or could the quizzes really be passed by anyone smart enough to know the District doesn’t want to kill and/or be sued by every person/entity in existence?

I could answer these questions, but, according to one of the “Required Trainings,” I’d have to kill both you and myself if I did so.  So I won’t.  I’m not answering those questions.

Besides, I’m too busy answering the “Required Trainings” quiz questions, at least for the next nine minutes or so.  There are nine or ten “Trainings,” with quizzes of roughly ten questions each…yeah, it should take every bit of nine minutes to finish them.  Maybe eight.

Welcome back, everyone.

 

 

 

 

One doesn’t want to limit their life and attempt such limits on others by proclaiming things like:  There should be no flutes in jazz music.  Such declarations have no place in a art form that is all about freedom and expression.

I, myself, have been guilty of such snobbery.  Which gets me to this week’s Distraction.

As tends to be the case, life on Earth has ended for more and more of our aging jazz greats.  Multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef recently joined those no longer on Earth and his passing, naturally, got me thinking about flutes in jazz.

Nope, I still don’t like them all that much.  I still recall trying to get my head around some Lateef tunes, meaty stuff with Detroit soul muscle combined with strong tendons of African, Caribbean and multitudes of world music influence.  Really good stuff…but I could never get over that flute.  My limitation and failure there.

Still, Dr. Lateef showed grace on those, like me, with small musical minds.  He played lots of things, including many “non-Western” instruments like the shofar.  Here, he’s on one of my favorite instruments, the oboe.  I could wax, poorly, poetic about the oboe, but instead I’ll just cut to the video and we can see/hear Dr. Lateef wax beautifully poetic instead.  In a 1972 quartet with Kenny Barron on piano, here’s “In the Evening.”

 

Here’s the whole televised session.  Have a great weekend, everybody.

 

P.S.:  Do yourself a favor and listen to a “hated” instrument this weekend.  I’m going for maximum mind expansion by viewing as many of these 44 jazz flute pieces as I can make it through.  I’ll admit it..the very first one is a mighty struggle.  Captain Ahab level…