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Blogger’s Note:  The New Mexico Public Education Department has added a new rule to the annual nondisclosure agreement signed by public school teachers in the state.  This rule demands those signing not “disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of standardized tests.”

New Mexico Middle School Teachers, this morning I’m really talking to you.  I’d like to take just a minute or two of your valuable time to “parage” a bit about how Standardized Testing 2015 is really about the best thing that’s ever happened to testing.  You see, I think we need to turn that testing frown upside-down.  March through May of 2015 might very well be the greatest ten weeks or so you’ve experienced as a public school teacher.  Let’s look at it week-by-week.  I know, after taking a minute to look through the weekly calendar of sorts below, that you’ll be thanking and applauding the non-educators, politicians and multinational corporations that synergistically came together to institute the norms, core competencies and best practices that rolled together we can very simply call:  PARCC/Spring Break/PARCC/EOC Days (that’s PSPE…or “PissPee” if you’d prefer…try it, it’s even more fun when said that way!)

  • Week One:  March 2-6:  After weeks of buzzing excitement, three days of school earlier in the year getting to pre-pre-test for it all, and countless meetings, Professional Development opportunities and Test Security forms to gleefully sign, PissPee finally starts like opening presents under the tree and tinsel on Christmas Morning.  The 8th Graders get first crack at the new online test, while the 6th and 7th Grader longingly wait for their chance.  The school, as it will be for pretty much the entire next three months, is COMPLETELY QUIET.  Those noisy kids are a thing of the past, and you, desperately overworked middle school teacher, can relax in that quiet, either getting to proctor the online test by walking and drinking your morning and afternoon coffee, or teaching the old-school way, before computers, because they are all being used for the test.  Think about it:  here’s you chance to dust off those old lesson plans, the ones were you get to lecture and show movies.  You know, like teaching used to be “back in the good ‘ol days”!
  • Week Two:  March 9-13:  Now it’s the 7th Graders turn to explore new worlds of testing challenge.  8th Grade teachers, don’t worry about having discussions about the testing you just took, as the rules clearly state you and your students can’t talk about it.  Whew!  There’s one less thing to worry about, right?  Instead, before the next round of testing, you can do a unit you’ve always to do.  As long as the unit isn’t noisy and involves no moving about the school, anything goes, as long as it also doesn’t involve a computer.  Keeping this in mind, this 8th Grade teacher is already dreaming about that paranormal unit we’ve always wanted to do, the one with the week-long seance.  It’s perfect for these conditions!
  • Week Three:  March 16-20:  Time for the little ones!  Sixth graders get to learn to type through testing!  As resources and other factors, such as body development, have made it impossible to require typed papers before, the little guys now get a chance to act all big and wrap their tiny hands around mice and keyboards.  It’s almost as exciting as sitting on Santa Claus’ lap!  Meanwhile, it’s probably time to get those opting-out students out of that little room next to the Counseling Office, the one with the mop and cleaning products.  They had the chance to be in that nice, quiet room for quite some time, as they’ve chosen to “opt-out.”  A few blinks of the eye as they adjust to the light and they’re officially back in school in no time!
  • Week Four:  March 23-27:  Time for make-ups for those rapscallions and sleepyheads who missed a test or two.  Also, this is important time for testing on the odd-chance that the computer system couldn’t quite handle the load of wonderfully, interestingly A/V-rich testing videos and simultaneous users.  If things “blowed up,” we’ve got it under control!  And if not, that means a solid week of non-testing curriculum right before Spring Break.  Or not, we’ll let you know around March 20th!  Oh wait, I almost forgot, Week Four also includes the good ‘ol 7th Grade Science “SBA.”  Yeah, just like previous years!  Here’s a chance to revisit testing days of yore lovingly looking at the old-timey answer booklets in which students will make their circles “heavy, dark and completely fill the circle”!  6th and 8th Grade teachers, you’re completely unaffected, except for those rapscallions noted above.  This is as good time as any to point out that you teachers haven’t had as much to grade these days.  Heck, you’ve most likely HAD NOTHING TO GRADE for weeks now, between the testing, old school lectures, movie-watching and quiet seances.  3:05 in the afternoon comes and you head home, teachers, empty-handed…day after testing day.  What could be better than that!
  • Week Five:  March 30- April 3:  Spring Break!

(To Be Continued Tomorrow, or Monday if the blogger doesn’t feel like working on the Weekend)

Blogger’s Notes:  The New Mexico Public Education Department has added a new rule to the annual nondisclosure agreement signed by public school teachers in the state.  This rule demands those signing not “disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of standardized tests.”  Also, use of a “Korean style” name here in no way is meant to stereotype or demean Korean people, only its Northern leadership. 

Glorious Leader Su-San-PARCC of the Democratic People’s Republic of New Mexico has announced a 57% reduction in standardized testing this year, asking all public workers to firmly unite behind Leader to stamp out poverty and lack of education through streamlined, more productive testing protocols.  A large demonstration was held by thankful public workers surrounding the Roundhouse demanding that recalcitrant political infidels stop fighting Glorious Leader’s educational initiatives and provide needed support to guide the Revolution toward purer testing of our children who are the beautiful future of our shining Democratic Republic.

Chanting “All Hail Leader PARCC and the Beautiful Lotus Flower of Multiple Choice,” Su-San waved to the throng as her motorcade impressively made its way down Canyon Road in our Republic’s capital.  Teachers wearing bright buttons noting “PARCC Makes All Workers Feel Good” covered the motorcade route with millions of origami swans  created by newly licensed and properly re-licensed teachers at their Professional Development Reeducation Centers (PRDC).  These centers provide necessary electro-shock reinforcement therapy to elevate love for Su-San and better understand relationship between standardized testing and improved milk and wheat yields.

Glorious Leader stopped before her thousands of public worker supporters to announce that she and her brilliant leadership team had ingeniously devised a way to double or triple the number of tests, test questions and time spent testing while nevertheless achieving a “57% reduction in overall testing.”  Teachers attending the rally hearing this news were seen swooning in delight, ecstatic that all New Economic Policy goals could be achieved with “less testing than ever before.”

A few raggedly dressed ruffians, thought to be teacher scofflaws bent on undermining the Revolution, were seen leaving the demonstration in vans to attend needed reeducation.  Public workers rightly threw cabbages and vibrantly chanted “PARCC…PARCC…PARCC…PARCC!!!” at the ill-dressed scaliwags as they entered the waiting vehicles.

In an effort to dedicate pretty much the entire academic year to getting ready for a test that everyone is either scared about or pretending to be scared about, schools are setting aside “PARCC Test Prep” days this Semester.  One might be only slightly irritated by this development until one realizes that it’s really not the questions or “Common Core” or “literary analysis using close reading” we’re prepping for, it’s the use of computers in taking the tests.

So, in addition to wholesale changes at schools just to take PARCC (creating “labs” for testing, moving teacher classrooms to make room for such “labs,” closing libraries for weeks at a time, forcing tech teachers to work with kids in gymnasiums, etc.), the 19th PARCC Nervous Breakdown includes paranoid disruptions of some of the few days not already spent rotating kids through computers to get this damn thing over with.

Because all of this isn’t really based on taking the damn test.  Or the impact the scores will supposedly have on teacher evaluations, student performance, future careers, the weather and price of tea in China.  No, it’s really all about the logistical dance of rotating 830 kids through 150 computers.  How do we do that?  What are the ramifications of doing this?

Hence the three days of “PARCC Test Prep” this Fall are kinda like a three-day fire drill.  Or that rather silly “Earthquake Duck & Cover” thingamabob we had a few days back.  “In the case of an actual PARCC Testing Emergency, students need to know where to safely read online passages and drag-n-drop answers despite conflagration, police chasing meth heads through your school building, seismic activity or even nuclear annihilation.”

Actual matriculation through classes and teacher lesson planning really is of secondary importance, except for that day or two when teachers are “observed” by their evaluating administrator.

Meanwhile, soon-to-be-second term Governor Susana Martinez tells us that we have less testing now and other frankly incredible tales that have no relation whatsoever to life in a New Mexico K-12 public school in 2014-2015 (Warning:  Viewing the clip below may cause intense loathing and involuntary placement of an ice pick through the viewer’s vitreous humor).

In a further effort to “lessen” testing in New Mexico, the State’s Public Education Department recently released a new swath of “End of Course Blueprints” for many, many new tests, including several at the middle school level instituted solely to evaluation teachers.  These include tests in Culinary Arts, Driver’s Education and Ceramics.   No, I am not making this up.   The upshot of this is that schools will have another week or so of intense logistical plate-spinning trying to figure out how to administer all these tests to kids who just got through two three-week cycles of testing surrounding a one-week respite in Spring Break.

You know, it’s all about, as Governor Martinez says “to the parents out there,” finding out if children are learning.  It has absolutely nothing to do with preventing teachers from actually teaching as many days as possible, while also providing the illusion of “doing something” about education as we engorge test companies and computer salespeople with money and political power.  Absolutely nothing.

So let’s enjoy “PARCC Test Prep” this Fall as a tasty three-day appetizer to a Spring Semester smorgasbord of computer-based testing goodness.   It makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Governor Martinez continues to “fix” behavioral health services here in New Mexico.  Unfortunately, Attorney General Gary King should be finishing up that audit sometime in the 2020s or so, a wee bit after the election next month.

Nice work by Patrick Malone and the New Mexican, by the way.  I think it’s time for me to stop being such a cheapskate and just pay for the damn thing (instead of just seeing the five articles a month for free).   There’s an analogy between me and Governor Susana Martinez in there somewhere, but I don’t want to think about it.

 

Our continuing series of reports on how many people don’t want to work for the Albuquerque Public Schools continues.  When last we looked at the APS Jobs page, things had gotten so bad, so long into the Fall Semester that KOB-TV actually did a story about it (one in which the District and the story in general felt it was a non-story).

Well, the non-story continues.  Not that anybody cares.

A few days back, the number of total open “Certified” jobs crept below 200.  Surely total employment was almost at-hand.  Since then, there’s been a slow rise back above 200 to this:

 

jobs 10.15.14

That adds up to 210 Certified openings, with 69 in SpEd, 17 in high school, 12 in middle school and a pesky 29 in elementary.  Looking back at our last snapshot of 8.24.14 we see:

APS jobs 8.24.14A goodly decrease in elementary openings, some help in SpEd and about the same number in mid/high.    You might also notice there’s still 10 counseling jobs open;  the reason for that might be because this is the worst job on the planet Earth.  Just a theory there.

So who cares?  Well, quite obviously pretty much nobody.  Not shown is any sort of quantified look at the experience, passion and qualifications of those newly hired these days, or the experience, passion and qualifications of those who left to create these openings in the first place.  Nobody cares about any of that, because that would involve mental activity more complex than simple things like a school’s “grade” or a list of PISA scores for Shanghai and Finland v. USA USA USA.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Just about nobody even bothers looking at the list of PISA scores.  What I can’t count is the number of parents who tell me they’ve studied the PED school “grades” and made educational decisions about their child based on them.  It’s a high number.  It’s a number of parents who have kids in the school system and are “researching” whether schools are good or not.  Do they know about the number of job openings, the qualitative and/or quantitative impact of the huge experience/brain drain that’s occurring in the schools right now, or how many subs and half-interested dabblers in the educational profession are teaching their kids these days?

No, but they damn sure know my school got a “B.”

Despite the fact nobody cares, your humble blogger will continue periodically posting the job openings in the District.  It’s like one of those Zen gardens, I suppose.  Rake some sand, watch nothing grow.  Exactly like that, in fact.

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.

cow

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: