I’m nowhere near finished researching the changes possible with the passage of the ill-named “Every Child Achieves Act.”  For one thing, it’s still quite a fur piece from President Obama’s desk at this point.  For another, the wording, as is always true for these things, is just vague and open-ended enough to allow wiggle room the size of an airport.

There’s also differences of opinion on what it means for the Senate to have not passed an amendment “legalizing” opting-out, and whether the infamous 95% participation rate rule is dead, in hospice or just left to the States.

All that said, it’s that last phrase that sticks with me from my research so far.  To overly simplify the incredibly complex and half-done:  “ECAA” just throws the ball back into the States’ court (perhaps tennis, perhaps courthouse).  Republican support for the measure is centered around “getting the Feds out of education” and ECAA, as it written now, does that. Democrats seem deeply split on testing, with a sizable number supporting the idea that it is only through standardized testing that the “achievement gap” will be eliminated.

Reflecting this split, the bills (House/Senate) as I read/research them waffle on testing, specifics, thus seeming to empower the States even more.

Again, more research and finality is needed.  I’d appreciate any feedback/insights/ranting to clarify as we go toward President Obama’s desk with this.  That said, right now it’s my thinking that the potential passing of this bill in anything close to its current form means the following for us here in New Mexico:

  • The quicker Susana Martinez is no longer Governor of New Mexico, the better;
  • If any of you see a job posting for “educational expert” at some think-tank or political action committee, please pass along the name of Hanna Skandera to the hiring committee;
  • The next Governor absolutely must be vetted, informed and held accountable (with measurable outcomes…okay, I’ll stop) on issues pertaining to education and standardized testing; and,
  • The “Gary King 2014” lesson must be burned deep into the brain of all Democratic voters.  Deeply. Never. Again.

One upshot of all this is that we on the Democratic left of Hillary Clinton continue to be in a strange educational policy bed with Republicans in terms of opposition to testing.  The Rs keep stealing the covers, but we on the Democratic left of Hillary Clinton are almost certain a Bernie Sanders as the D candidate in 2016 means Republicans will steal the whole bed, bed stand, alarm clock and glass of water with our teeth in it.  As most of you know, the second largest teacher’s union, the American Federation of Teachers, already announced its endorsement of Ms. Clinton.  Given how early they did it, I’m surprised they haven’t already announced their endorsed candidates for 2020 and 2024 as well.  More on that, later.

Where were we?

My bicycle tour of 2015 is over, the watching of the far less important Tour de France is mid-Pyrenees and all that means it must be time to start thinking about K-12 education again.

Really?  Do I have to?

It is a bit of a daunting proposition, to wade once again into the shark-infested, sewage-filled waters of Educational Policy circa-2015.  Still, heart of hearts and all that, I love it (cue psychoanalysis).  Summer 2015 has the Feds debating long-awaited updates/changes to ESEA  via the “Every Child Achieves Act,” once again titled to ensure eventual, inevitable lack of success. We also have the New Mexico release of PARCC scores and school “grades,” about which we know less than ever, thanks to the wonderfully transparent “outreach” of the Public Education Department.

It’s a fun time to talk public schools, folks, really it is.

So I guess I’ll get back into it, although you’ve already found hundreds of other places that do it well, very well, in fact.  The one thing we have going here is that “we” have a New Mexico/Albuquerque focus here at Burque Babble, and there is a bit of a dearth when it comes to a local look at these issues. Instead, there’s the occasional national/worldwide piece, such as this one in Slate, pointing out just how stupid New Mexico is.

We don’t need outsiders (“carpetbaggers” you might call them) to point out how stupid we are.  We can DO THAT OURSELVES, AMERICA!

So let’s get started.  Put on these shark/sewage-repellent goggles, folks, you’re gonna need ’em.

Let’s have a perfect ending(s), at least cinematically, to our very imperfect Film Festival and school year. There will almost certainly be “afterparty” clips next week, but 57 days “celebrating” anything is enough…just ask the parents of a currently graduating 2015 high school Senior. How many ceremonies must one sit through?

But I both digress and whine, and we don’t want to end on such a note. Let’s instead indecisively look at two of the most perfect film endings ever, right down to Marilyn Monroe riding a bicycle (sorry, obscure bike nerd reference) and my all-time favorite actor, Jack Lemmon, prominently holding a bubbling champagne bottle. Oh, and two of the greatest closing lines in the history of everything.

Your humble bike and film nerd blogger actually spent way too much time thinking what this last clip should be. When faced with the indecision that comes from such pondering there is only one choice: Billy Wilder.  We’ve featured Mr. Wilder’s work with other screenwriters (“Ace in the Hole”), yet his collaborations with I.A.L. Diamond, particularly the “early, funny ones,” are written and directed to a level of perfection almost never achieved either before or since. The problem was determining which of two early Wilder/Diamond films to go with.

So I’m going with both.

First, there’s Marilyn riding a bike (and it’s technical riding, too, steep downhill single-track and wearing a tight dress and heels, no less!), a feature almost unnoticed amid the nutty madcap that is the ending of “Some Like it Hot” (1959). Yeah, there’s the line at the end, but I prefer to think this scene fits NMPSPE 2015 best for its forcing teachers/kids to figuratively wear flapper dresses (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that) in an effort to survive/satisfy the MAFIA that is the New Mexico Public Education Department. Oh, and there’s the final line, too.

But there’s also Wilder/Diamond’s next film, an even better one in many ways, particularly its finding romance in realistic scenes of modern business dysfunction and moral corruption. “The Apartment” (1960) is arguably an even better film than “Hot” and that’s amazing, given its core theme of adultery. Center to its figurative purpose here in the Festival: How do we personally and professionally survive the Fred MacMurray’s/Hanna Skandera’s of the world? How do we avoid literally shooting ourselves and just enjoy playing some cards with Shirely MacLaine in a pageboy haircut?  How do we stop kvetching and blogging about all the malfeasance and educational maltreatment of Standardized Testing Gone Wild…and just “shut up and deal”?

You can probably tell I’m still working on that. I’m still working on being a better Jack Lemmon. We’re all still trying to get over dealing with Fred MacMurray.  But ya gotta stop sometime.


Have a great weekend, everybody.



We’re having the final Staff Meeting of the school year this morning and the birds are outside my window furiously chirping at the Too Damn Early hour of 5:30 a.m. Definitely time to get off this educational rocket sled to nowhere. I hear tell one or more Albuquerque Public Schools will be forced to administer End of Course (EOCs) exams right up to the final last half-day of middle school on May 22nd. Tomorrow, my school is distributing yearbooks on a day with both EOCs and the wrap-up of our somewhat time-honored tradition of having kids go off-campus to conduct mock trials at a local courthouse (this year it’s the NM Court of Appeals).

Things be crazy and the wear/tear shows everywhere you look.

Embodying that wear/tear this early morning is The Band’s Richard Manuel. From Martin Scorsese’s take on the “The Last Waltz” (1976), here’s Manuel looking impossibly good for someone on a eight-bottle a day Grand Marnier habit. Maybe it’s the beard or the snazzy as Hell suit jacket, but you can hardly tell Richard has almost been dead from booze, grief, cocaine and Los Angeles since the early 70s. His look and performance on “The Shape I’m In” is an amazing illustration of the, sometimes creaky, perseverance of both humans and the human spirit, and this clip goes out to all of us in the New Mexico teaching profession who have, somehow, professionally survived to Day 173 of the absolute stupidest, craziest, most soul-crushing year any of us can ever remember.

♫Ohhhhhhhh…you don’t know the shape I’m in…..♫

This one goes out to all the New Mexico teachers who don’t quite fit the numbers and profile needed to be found consistently “effective” in the horribly constructed, statistically irrelevant and arrogantly flaunted bullshit that is the *Public Education Department Teacher Evaluation System.  Of course, that category includes just about all teachers, so let’s narrow Dustin Hoffman here in David O. Russell’s 2004 oft-reviled (I’m guessing Hanna Skandera isn’t a fan, for instance) “I Heart Huckabees,” as cinematic manifestation of those teachers who resolutely continue to teach “the blanket” instead of PARCC test prep or EOC study sheets.

Alright…time for me to get ready.  Only eight more school days  to teach “blanket.”  And just like the previous 172, I’ll love every one of them.

*The blackboard in the back also serves to symbolize the math/statistics behind the “System.”  I’ve checked exactly one teacher evaluation so far and found that the math in it is 100%, absolutely, incontrovertibly…wrong.  The numbers just don’t add up properly.  Period.  Makes you wonder just how garbage the numbers are within the black box that leads to what teachers see in their “informative” five-pagers.

I swear it’s taking longer to finish Testing Season 2015 than it takes this damn 747 to take off.

Urban freeway traffic is the focus of the still frame of the clip above from Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 look at modern life, “Koyaanisqatsi,” but it’s the damn airplane I remember most from this scene. Philip Glass singers and that damn airplane. Only trouble is, we can’t have Philip Glass playing through the school intercom system. Hell, we can’t have school bells most days of Testing Season. Disrupts the testing process; you know, what used to be called the “educational process.”

When is this damn airplane gonna take off?

Day Two of EOC testing for my school today. Yesterday we learned we’re to give EOCs to kids who just enrolled at our place in the last week or so. Test ’em all, let Skandera sort out the teacher evaluation scores, I always say. Okay, I never say that. Not once.

When is this damn airplane gonna take off?

You know when Testing Season 2015 is over? When the kids ain’t coming to school anymore. We’re gonna test ’em right up to the shaving cream/water balloon fight at the nearby park. Hell, we might give ’em an EOC on shaving cream/water balloon fighting. Why the Hell not? We’re testing Art, P.E. and Home Economics. If we can test creating a still-life, chin-ups and making pancakes, we can sure as Hell test throwing water balloons.

Do I have to ask the question again? You know, the one about the plane? Let’s change the question to this: Can I just get off the plane? Now?

I’ll be even more brief than this short scene from Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (1957).  The character Death saws down the tree holding an actor who is first blithely unaware, then unable to argue his way out.  His upcoming performance at the All-Saints Festival is cancelled on “account of death.”  Teachers, as we administer our own destined for one-quarter bell curve-ordained deaths via EOCs this week, grab that tree…or, perhaps, consider a hasty unplanned descent before it all comes crashing down.

Me, and a few hundred/thousand of my teaching colleagues are in varying states of climbing down.  Some are choosing well-timed jumps down to land on Death himself.  We call this option the “Rule of 75.”