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Our first repeat screening in the Film Festival because, well, we educators are definitely in some sort of “crazy house” here.

The United States Department of Education has rejected Colorado’s request for waiver based on the State’s prescient idea that fewer than 95% of its kids/parents might want to take its stupid standardized test for 2015.  US Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the Feds “have an obligation to step in” if kids/parents don’t want to take his stupid standardized tests.

We’re in full “Nurse Ratched” Mode here, folks.  Again from Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), here’s Jack Nicholson trying to rally the “crazies” to overcome Ratched’s objection to watching the World “Oh Say Can…” Series.  That this scene, both as film and institution, is so poignantly appropriate to our educational times is professionally somewhat shattering.

The highlight of the testing week here in New Mexico has been the copying gunfight between the New Mexico Public Education Department and all Albuquerque Public Schools employees not named Brad Winter.  Unlike the Sergio Leone film, *Eli Wallach, so to speak, seems to have won the three-way fight (let’s have APS’ RoseAnn McKernan play Lee Van Cleef, just because she comes out of the deal as a total badass and I’d love to buy her a cup of coffee to hear the real story of how all has gone down).

From 1966, it’s the final scene in “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”:

 

Have a good weekend, everybody…

 

*Eli Wallach, what a freakin’ fantastic actor!

 

Yesterday, the Festival looked at how the film “Office Space” was like “real life” for APS employees.  Today, it’s even more like it, unsurprisingly.  In short, the End-of-Course exams we weren’t going to administer, due to the NM Public Education Department not getting them out on time, will now, also, be administered.  Thank God!  The Film Festival therefore rolls on all the way to the very last days of school.  Testing overlords be praised!

Yes, we NM educators are going to pool our printing resources, gird our copying loins and, together, achieve the totally not impressive feat of reproducing a vast array of tests that still don’t have “blueprints” to follow in terms of teachers actually knowing what material is covered by them.

What film does this elicit for today’s screening?  Well, when the going gets this absurd, you gotta go full absurdity.  So we’re pulling out the Monty Python today like that cyanide pill we hide in our cloak just for this purpose.  From a film I watched as an 8th grader that I can honestly say changed my life (and the jury is still out on whether that change has been a good thing), here’s one of the many scenes we could play in response to the madness that truly is your public schools circa-2015.  Testing overlords, brave and resolute as you are, we humbly submit the following scene as depiction of your brave leadership and bravely unwavering stance that kids and teachers be bravely tested to death.  Cue the minstrels…

And as an added feature, here’s “the two Johns” the “twin quasars of rock” They Might Be Giants performing “Everything Right is Wrong Again” live in 1987.  The song title pretty much sums it all up.

Sometimes the news just fills out the Film Festival lineup itself, and, sometimes, we don’t need the clip because we’ve all seen it and been there.

We’re there again, fellow Albuquerque Public Schools employees:  We’re living/working in a direct “Office Space” (1999) experience of holographic (with “Sense-a-Round”) realism.

Okay, we’ve all seen the film and know “The Printer Scene.”  Well, take that scene, put APS Superintendent Brad Winder in the role of Lumbergh (yeah, the guy in the suspenders) and you’ve got today’s story from the Albuquerque Journal on whether or not we in APS will be giving End-of-Course (EOC) Exams in the next week or two or three.

Here’s the Lumbergh/Winter money quote:

But interim Superintendent Brad Winter said Tuesday evening that the district is still trying to get the tests printed for all students.  He acknowledged that a memo went out this week to the staff indicating that the EOC exams would not be given to most students. But on Tuesday he called the memo premature, and said, “We are doing everything we can. We are not sure we are going to get it done, but we think we will be able to do it.”

Thanks Lumbergh/Winter!  Now that I think about it, Superintendent Winter matches Lumbergh eerily, right down to his tendency for a certain slickness in his sartorial choices.

For those not involved and uninformed on what’s going on here, here’s the crux of the biscuit:  New Mexico Public Education Department has ratcheted up the number of EOCs as a dizzying pace the last few years.  The idea behind them is that teachers suck, that teacher-developed Final Exams suck and that PED just has to use outside tests to replace this universal suckiness.

There…I think that pretty much sums it up, and in very professional language/jargon as well.

The only hang-up with this line of thinking is that while it’s perhaps arguable that some teachers “suck” and ill-prepare students for course materials, it is 100% categorically true that PED “sucks” at its job of providing information on..uh…anything.  EOCs included.  As the number of demanded tests has risen, teachers around the state have frequently consulted a webpage (Note:  The Internet is not a strong suit of the NMPED) to gain information on exactly what sort of questions might be on these brand-new EOCs.  Final versions of these “blueprints” on just what the heck might be on these tests still haven’t been posted for ALL new tests for school year 2014-2015.

But we’re supposed to give the damn tests anyway.

As the Journal story points out, PED has followed up the Blueprint ineptitude by not creating and distributing tests to schools/districts in anything approaching anyone’s possible interpretation of the phrase “timely manner.”

But we’re supposed to give the damn tests anyway.

It’s like this with EVERYTHING from PED, including teacher evaluations, which are compiled so ineptly that PED won’t even let anybody see/understand exactly how the final evaluation number/level is determined.

But we’re getting the damn evaluation anyway.

This would be as funny as “Office Space,” and really it is funnier than “Office Space” (which could, let’s face it, have used better sub-plots), if only we teachers and our schools didn’t look like the schmuck here.  PED’s Olympic level of unprofessionalism paints teachers and schools with a “suck” brush that should be solely stroked and swathed on the New Mexico Public Education Department itself.

But we also have Lumbergh/Winter.  Thanks Brad…thanks for enabling this ineptitude and pushing all this work on us.  Thanks.

 

To mix my movie metaphors, in this scene from George Roy Hill’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969),  I think we teachers under the PARCC “rules” are actually Logan, the giant kicked in the crotch by the lovable rascal Butch Cassidy as he, once again, changes the rules.  But to misquote Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction,” we teachers are trying, we’re trying real hard Ringo to be Paul Newman.

Right down to the metaphorical kick in the crotch.

1-2-3-Go!

 

Let’s look at how things are going for the Undynamic Duo of PARCC and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) standardized tests:

  • States are leaving both “consortia” in increasing numbers;
  • One, SBAC, didn’t get the “Interim” practice tests out until it was time for the real thing, the other hasn’t even determined what a passing score is on its tests;
  • Unprecedented numbers of kids/parents are refusing to take them, despite oodles of strident threats about “lost funding” from doing so;
  • Many States are deciding that scores from them won’t be used, as originally planned, for student advancement and teacher evaluations;
  • PARCC SpEd accommodations specifically identified in legally-binding IEPs , such as text-to-speech to have passages/questions read via headphones, don’t work properly; and,
  • SBAC is such crapware the whole thing has blowed up on several occasions and States are deciding whether to even bother at this point.

Yeah, other than the above, things are going pretty darn well for PARCC & SBAC. Concerning the relationship between United States students, parents and educators, perhaps Woody Allen in “Annie Hall” (1977) succinctly sums things up best:

 

My school gets to revisit the Dead Shark Known as PARCC starting tomorrow. It’s gonna be pretty darn smelly around the ‘ol Library and Computer Labs by the end of our revisitation. what with all that rancid flesh. You’ll barely be able to smell the burned broccoli cooking in the school cafeteria over the stench of Dead Shark.

Whoo.  Hoo.

 

“Ephemerality. Transitory. Hailing. Faux. Plinth. Aerogel. Latter. Sufferance. Paroxysm. Veriest. Trifle. Merits. Furlong. Tramps. Inordinately. Prowess. tutelage.”  –6th Grade English Language Arts vocabulary words on the New York State it isn’t PARCC but it’s really PARCC Test, 2015

By George, I think I’ve got it!

The fundamental goal of PARCC and other Pearson standardized tests!

It’s all being done so we’ll better appreciate Gilbert & Sullivan! Not to mention the ability to talk like a Victorian Englishman in general, major or minor.

To wit, let us paroxysmically hail the prowess of George Rose tramping for a furlong or two through a faux desert in 1983’s film version of “Pirates of Penzance” as his character inordinately recaps the merits and trifles of ephemerality sought not only in military officers of the Victorian Period, but precisely the tutelage beseeched in the veriest plinth of our current transitory epoch of standardized testing, despite the sufferance and need for myriad aerogels by both Mr. Rose and test-takers alike, particularly the latter.

 

Anglophilia gone amok!  It all makes sense to me now!  America shall become the World-Wide Leader in Gilbert & Sullivan productions and re-take our rightful role as the sole wielder of hegemony via operettas throughout the Seven Seas!