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“Those meddling kids!” — (Hanna Skandera, in bed sheet as “ghost” in episode entitled “Shaggy Breaks Down a Parking Lot Gate”)

As we wind down the prologue to the tragicomedy known as “New Mexico Testing 2015: Waiting For PARCC,” things are crazy and there seem to be no Scooby Snacks anywhere.  I could go on and on, but I understand some of you might be following events on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and don’t need some 2004-era blog to know which way the NM standardized testing wind is blowing.

So I’ll make it short and offer up a Scooby Snack to #NMPED Secretary @HannaSkandera all the way from Maine.  Let’s call it a maple-flavored Scooby Snack.  What is it?  It’s a compromise to extricate yourself, Ms. Skandera, from the house arrest position you’re in both literally and politically by taking such a hard line with what #PARCC means for New Mexico students, teachers and schools.  Let’s just get to the news story from the Portland Press Journal in snowy Maine (I want to simply copy/paste the entire article, but that’s not cool…go read the damn thing yourself!)

The Maine Department of Education will suspend the A-F school grading system this year because students are taking a new assessment test and the state will not have enough data to measure their progress, education officials said Monday. …

The next round of report cards will be issued in the fall of 2016, after students have taken the new Smarter Balanced tests for two years, acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin said in a memo to school officials. …

School officials say the move to suspend the grades for a year makes sense. “The state early on acknowledged that it would be impossible to compare the results” of the two tests, said Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster. “They weren’t even going to try.”

Any questions on your “exit strategy” for NM’s debacle this year, Mr. Skandera?  Enough “template” for a compromise here?  My humble suggestion to you is to basically reprint Maine’s press release, replace “Smarter Balanced” with “PARCC” (Maine is doing the other “national” test), get on a balcony overlooking the protesting meddling students and proclaim exactly what Maine just announced to its frost-bitten citizenry.

Is the Maine delay a perfect solution?  No.  Is it infinitely better than what New Mexico looks to be getting this year?  Absolutely.

You can do it, Ms. Skandera.  I know it seems like you’re backing down, losing face and giving in to those meddling kids (and their teacher union dog, too!).  But you’re not.  You still get your tests and the whole scheduling fiasco and the data to go into next year hammering and yammering just as you’ve always done.  Delay is the right thing to do, Ms. Skandera, and you know it.

 

P.S.:  Ms. Skandera, if you happen to be “hip” to the “Scooby-Doo” world, here’s another way to put it:  Be more Velma Dinkley and less Daphne Blake.

 

 

 

Been so long, I almost forgot my WordPress password.  Things over at Twitter @jscotkey have proved even more fun that I anticipated, especially if you include phrases like “horribly depressing news” and “anxiety” in your definition of the word “fun.”  So meet me over there someday, if you’ve a mind to.

The little ditty below doesn’t fit the 140 world, so I’m running it here.  As everyone knows, whenever “we” did something it was better than it is being done now.  Music was better.  The air might not have been cleaner, but it smelled better somehow.  Just as the best high school ever just always happens to be the one we are currently attending, there’s a tendency for us to think things have just gone to hell recently and aren’t like the good ‘ol days.

This is especially true with a certain subset of humans (although “bots” are most likely involved as well) who tend to rabidly follow education news, especially news about public schools where there still exists those quaint entities known as “unions.” They follow this news not because of a desire to become union card-waving public school teachers themselves (Heaven Forbid!), but instead because they remember the “Good ‘ol Days” and decry how things have just gone to Hell since they walked the 20 miles in the snow to their one-room schoolhouse.

These “Fightin’ Keyboardists” assail public school education as a colossal failure made inevitable by increasing governmental incompetence and increasing powerful and paranoid communist unions bent on destruction of our American Way of Life.  When one feels up to it, one might read some of the Internet commentary by these Fightin’ Keyboardists.  It is full of

  • “When I went to school, I don’t remember anybody not graduating!”
  • “Kids can’t read today, unlike my old school where kids actually learned and turned out people like me!”
  • “Unions have control of our educational system and are continue to drive it into the ground.  Look at those test scores!”

And so forth, and so on, and so infinitum.  Not wishing to cite a certain person of a certain political ideology, for it is an immediate “Godwin’s Law” violation to do so, I’ll just mumble that others have noted the retelling of a lie enough times tends to make folks understand that lie to be the truth.  With that in mind, below are four corrections to misconceptions many have today concerning public education in this country.

One additional note before we get into the list.  A big key to perpetuating the perception of public school failure is to keep changing the test, cut scores, etc. to make certain there’s never a true apples-to-apples set of data over time.  It might seem counter-intuitive, but NAEP’s unchanging long-term status, despite being a “standardized test” itself (and therefore lumped in as “evil” by those opposing use of such tests), is the best evidence that “failure” relative to the good ‘ol days is just a bunch of bullshit.  As for whether all such tests are, by their very nature, bullshit, is a great discussion for another time.  Here we’re simply using the same level of argument employed by The Fightin’ Keyboardists:

1.  If you’re over 30, public school is much more rigorous and academically challenging today than when you attended public school.  While not a perfect indicator, the numbers from the College Board on Advanced Placement classes and scores show the dramatic rise in offerings/scoring over ten years from 2003-2013 (latest such report).  For instance, the number of tests receiving scores of 3 or more has more than doubled in those ten years. Moreover, The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment finds that “Dual enrollment had an annual growth rate of over 7% during the intervening 8 years since 2002-03.”

2.  Graduation (“completion rates”) rates are actually higher and drop-out rates lower than when we went to school.  Here’s a screenshot of one page of  this 2009 report on the subject from the U.S. Department of Education.  Note that improvement in dropouts shown here is true throughout the ethnic demographics.  As might be expected from the graph below, the report also notes rising “completion rates” (think “graduation”).  Tracking graduation rates is truly one of the hardest research questions (and education has plenty of them), but this report and others show that dropping-out has always been a concern.  Even back in the “Good ‘ol Days.”

dropout rates 1972-20093.  Test scores have improved since you and I went to school way back when. Here’s the most recent long-term NAEP report, with scores in Math and Reading going all the way back to 1971.  Note that even the flattened 17 year-old scores are still that, not going down, while the younger kids scores are dramatically higher than the good ‘ol days of “Bullwinkle” and “Johnny Quest.”  Of the four corrections sought here, this is the one with perhaps the biggest disconnect between general perception and actual reality.  This is especially true for those of us from the Fightin’ Keyboardists demographic (i.e., 50 and above).  I graduated high school in 1979, right alongside many of the Fightin’ Keyboardists.  I sat beside them and they tried to copy my answers in English class (fortunately, my handwriting was so poor that they were stymied).  Students were “dumb” back then, too.  In fact, more of us were “dumb” than today.  Deal with it, old people.

4.  Unions are not the problem when it comes to academic performance.  Returning to NAEP and its 8th Grade reading scores in 2013, just to pick one test example, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont (all very strong teacher union states) score 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th highest respectively, while weak teacher union states like Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mississippi…well, you know.  I’ll admit this is “Fish in a barrel” easy from an argumentation standpoint, but NOBODY IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING will simply point this simple fact out a few billion times in a few billion public settings.  I’m not asking for someone to make the observation that, “Hey, if stronger unions mean higher scores, we should probably have REQUIRED union membership in New Mexico!”  Oh no, no, no.  That would be crazy talk.  Let’s just leave it at “no correlation” between Unions and scores, for now at least.

Those wishing to follow-up with others, far more eloquent, noting the disconnect between the perception/rabble-rousing of “failure” and the actual reality might start here at Diane Ravitch’s blog and go from there via the typical Internet surfarama experience.  I’ll admit I tend not to read Ravitch and her like-minded advocates, merely because I know I’ll just end up:

  • Nodding my head in agreement until it falls off;
  • Finding things that fit in my hand; and,
  • Throwing those things through any wall, window or skylight that happens to be nearby.

Still, there’s plenty of stuff out there that makes a far better case than outlined here.

Meanwhile, enjoy your last week before #PARCC, New Mexico teachers, although you know the Library really has already been closed for weeks now, what with all the “practicing.”  We’ve been in the icy grip of #PARCC for weeks now.  Still, we’re gonna make it through this.  We really are.  Really.  Besides, my guess is that we have students right now who will someday be able to tell young whipper-snappers decades from now, “Yup, public schools really were worse back when I went to school. Back in the days of the PARCC Testing Wars.  You should have been there.  It was awful.”

Hmmm…I don’t know if that look into the future is making me feel any better.

I’ve spent the last three weeks away from WordPress over at Twitter;  just in case you were wondering.  It’s fun over there;  much more hi-speed and you don’t have to contend with the actual creation of prose, or WordPress (which seems glitchier and glitchier these days, don’t it?).  Instead, you get to spend 10 seconds writing fairly regular sentences of 280 characters in length, followed by 10 minutes of trying to get them to fit in 140 characters.  Nothing you didn’t already know, but just explaining my whereabouts.

So that’s whither me?  How about whither public school education in New Mexico?  A far more interesting, yet depressing topic, and one that no number of characters can fully sum up.  So in Twitter-esque we’ll just 140 or less by writing:  Things be screwed up.

I’m just gonna leave it at that, lazy me, and direct you back to the Twitterverse, where I and a few other folks are digesting and performing other bodily functions on trying to deal/figure out what the state of public school education is and will be.  So far, it involves wearing gas masks and lots and lots of antibiotics.  Things be screwed up.

I’ll pop back over here from time to time, deal with WordPress a bit and luxuriate in the freedom of >140.  Still, given all that’s going on right now, it’s hard to see unraveling any true sense of things in under >140,000,000,000.   And who wants that, me included?

Twitter handle:  @jscotkey (and no, I don’t really enjoy writing/mentioning that “at sign” much…btw, did you know the symbol @ is called the “apenstaartje” in Dutch?)

Meanwhile, enjoy your February all, and teachers:  Remember to never take off the gas mask.  Ever.  Especially for the rest of this Semester.

 

P.S.:  I’ve also taken, as you might have noticed, to writing overly long and uninformative comments to @ABQJournal stories on education.  I do so with the misguided notion that I might actually be informing some readers of that publication in ways they don’t seem to experience from the actual stories.  There’s also the fact that more folks are almost certainly reading those misguided notions than tend to drop by here.  What a marketing genius, misguided, I am!  What a “social media” maven!  Okay, I’ll stop there;  the laughing at myself is making it too hard to type.

 

 

A poll of Burque Babble readers would probably reveal there are very few Burque Babble readers, while also pointing out that a very high percentage of those few who drop by are are New Mexico K-12 teachers.  Hello, New Mexico K-12 teachers!

In what may be a fairly regular “feature” (or just a one-shot deal), we’ll go insanely wonky here on Sunday nights, delving into some of the minutiae of the profession circa-2015.  Tonight we’ll take a bit deeper look into teacher evaluations, a subject that very, very few citizens know much about beyond the term, and that it now has something to do with test scores.  More interestingly, I’d say a good 80% of actual K-12 public school teachers in New Mexico don’t really know much beyond that, either.

Why is that?  Well, you may be shocked to learn I’m going to blame the New Mexico Public Education Department for that.  I know, shocking isn’t it?  As the few of you here have grown extremely tired of hearing over the years, Burque Babble doesn’t think PED does a very good job when it comes to…well much of anything, but here we’re talking again about its almost unprecedented inability to communicate effectively.

This staggering inability is especially true (and I use the word “true” because I think a poll of New Mexicans, including those working at PED itself, would show that 100% of us agree that PED just can’t communicate for shit) when it comes to the teacher evaluation system.  The roll out of teacher scores at the end of School Year 2013-2014 was an excellent case-in-point.  Despite the incredible complexity of calculations central to the process, including “value-added” measures of student test score progress, principal observation evaluation numbers, and little add-ons, such as attendance inputs, the upshot of PED’s release of “official” scores consisted of principals handing out one-page print-outs with a bunch of numbers leading to an overall number.  Little to no explanation of anything could be found anywhere, not to mention the fact that much of what could be understood was simply out-and-out wrong.  My personal favorite was a teacher discovering that PED thought she was teaching at another school altogether.

These mistakes were supposedly corrected, but all we learned about those corrections came from a series of newspaper stories/guest editorials in which PED officials said it was all the Districts’ fault and the Districts saying at least part of it was PED’s fault.  This accomplished zero on the individual teacher level and, throwing a somewhat educated percentage out there, I’d say at least 85% of NM public school teachers have little to no grasp of exactly how their final evaluation number came to be.  It’s not that they are dumb.  It’s just that they haven’t been informed.

One complicating matter in all this is the use of “Graduated Considerations,” which I’ve referred to from time to time (and will not define now, as this is “wonky time” and all).  The number of such “considerations” was rather large, leading to a series of oblique, CIA-style references, such as my own, which reads “Tag 9.”  Tons of teachers got these “Tags” and the one-pager has a little asterisk note:  “This Tag refer to your level of Graduated Considerations.”  Naturally, the one-pager leaves it at that and, naturally, that means the score recipient has to go to the PED website to find out just what the Hell their “Tag” means.

I think I can see a few of you laughing now.  I brought up the PED website.  Do I really have to say anything else?  No…we’re wonky here and we already know that the PED website is the worst website in the history of the Internet?  Okay, good.

So, in other words, nobody with “Tags” really knows exactly how their teacher evaluation score was determined, or if it was determined correctly.  Many would consider this a laughable and, perhaps, legally actionable situation.  But time moves on and we got these things minutes before Summer Vacation and then it’s Summer Vacation and who wants to even think for one second about “Tag 9″ and then the School Year starts and everyone is too busy and let’s just get this over with.  This widespread thought process is used, one might argue, by PED to allow itself to do an even lousier job of communicating.  Some, including some who read this blog, DID correspond with PED trying to find out what “Tag X” meant and why the print-out said they taught at a different school and all that.  These missives were met by PED with the level of condescension, unfriendliness and overall lack of information that continues to define PED and its staggering inability to communicate effectively.

Which gets me to New Jersey.

Here is a webpage/.pdf entitled “User Guide for the 2013-2014 Teacher Median Student Growth Percentile Report.”  As the teacher wonksters can easily parse teacher-speak, many of you can tell this means only one thing, New Jersey uses “Value-Added” measures to evaluate teachers, just like New Mexico (cue “boo!” and “hiss!”).  As misguided as this may be, I’d like my fellow wonksters to spend a minute or two looking at this NJ doc.  Notice how it’s written, with statements like:  “A central tenet of AchieveNJ is that educators are never evaluated on a single factor or test score alone, but on multiple measures of both effective practice and student learning.”  Notice how much NICER and BETTER this sentence is written than any NM PED document ever is.  Notice also the many links to further information one can click upon.  Do I understand all of this document?  No.  Am I in favor of all this?  Definitely Not.  But my point is this:  This is the goddamn Rosetta Stone compared to ANY correspondence/website from NM PED.  If PED put out one document with anywhere near this detail and written in this tone, I’d fall out of my proverbial chair, eat my proverbial hat, and write an actual letter of thanks to Hanna Skandera with little dinosaur stickers and “Good JOB!” in red pen all over it.

Oh, one more thing.  I found this webpage/.pdf via a link provided by the consortium of newspapers known as NJ.Com.  Yeah, I got this by reading a newspaper story (“Google Alerts” is your friend) and the newspaper story had links in it.  It can be done, certain New Mexico newspapers…it can be done, both in terms of educating readers and linking text to URLs instead of just copy/pasting the URLs!  Really!  You can do it, Journal!

All of which gets me to the latest wonderful piece of PED communication, one that puts such a huge derisive smile on my face, I think I’ll just post it on my wall at work…it’s just so damn funny and emblematic of how messed up PED is when it comes to this using language thing to get ideas across to, like, people and stuff.  As you wonksters probably have guessed, it’s the infamous “Day at the PARCC” announcement:

dayatparcc

Now I don’t know enough about the timeline regarding the posting and postponing (at least in APS) of this “invitation,” but this flier/flyer has all the hallmarks of PED.

  1. Condescension:  It’s written like you’re seven years old;
  2. Lack of Information:  The “More Information Coming!” mentioned at the bottom, from all reports, never came.  Also, I’m guessing 92% or so of all NM teachers never ever saw this flier/flyer;
  3. Unfriendliness:  “Participation is mandatory for all schools with grades 3-11″ (bolded, naturally)

The combination of all three:  Syrupy-sweet condescension with flat-out wrong bullshit and little flavor crystals of “mandatory,” all add up to a one-page tasty microcosm of your New Mexico Public Education Department at its communication-failing worst.

So what is to be done?  What changes can be made to improve how PED communicates with its teachers, students and community.  Over the years, many who oppose the policies of Hanna Skandera have focused on trying to have her essentially voted out of office via lack of confirmation by the NM Senate.  I’ve always thought that was the wrong way to go.  It personalizes policy, galvanizes support for the person in question, and doesn’t address the important policies themselves.  I mean, who would Governor Martinez appoint AFTER Skandera was booted?  It ain’t gonna me, or anybody thinks like me.  What those in the Legislature should do, in my humble opinion, is address those policies and legislate changes to them that better serve our students and state.

For example, Ohio, another state “doing” PARCC, recently passed  a bill mandating that 3rd Graders will take the old, pre-PARCC Reading test this year, pushing the PARCC Reading test back to next Fall. That sort of legislative specificity has been missing in New Mexico, even with a Democratically-controlled House and Senate.  Yes, Governor Martinez would act differently in response than her fellow Republican, Ohio Governor John Kasich.  He signed the bill.  Martinez wouldn’t, but what would happen would be a greater conversation (yes, that means communication) on the specific elements of all this, instead of the vapid, detail-free attacks on Skandera herself (everything from “Moo! Moo! Oink! Oink!” on down).  This lack of real discussion on issues of what PED does, and how it affects New Mexicans, is missing and serves to keep a very, very low informational bar in place, one that has allowed PED to continue its staggeringly poor level of communication in recent years.

 

If you’ve been on the planet long enough, say more than five to ten minutes, you’ve probably figured out that humans are flawed beings.  Knowledge of this, over time, accumulates and by the time you’re, say, 53 years-old (just to pick a completely hypothetical number), you’ve got quite the mountain of evidence.  Humans are messed up, to use the accentuated parlance of our times.  Okay, cue the picture:

 

kalinowski picture

 

Here is the mug shot, as you probably already know, of Mr. William “Kal” Kalinowski, an English teacher at LBJ Middle School who has had a little run-in with the law concerning embezzlement and fraud.  His legal case has been on-going and the question for APS has been whether he should be allowed to continue teaching while it does.  Unlike 99.9% of the Internet in all legal matters, I’m not going to speculate on his guilt or innocence, and will instead ponder what 100% of the Internet does in all such matters involving visuals:

What would my mug shot look like?   And would I look at obviously guilty as Mr. Kalinowski appears in his mug shot?

The answers to these questions are:  1.  A Hell of a lot like Mr. Kalinowski;  and, 2.:  Yes.

There are differences, and my wife would probably lie and tell you the differences are night and day, but I kinda look like William “Kal” Kalinowski.  Throw me in front of a police measuring graphic and hand me a strange contraption to hold up with “Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility” on it, including a long number, and I’d probably look 99.9% like Mr. K here.  Hell, my last name even starts with a K.  (I don’t think I’m balding as much, though, and vanity compels me to bring this up to you immediately)

So Mr. K (not me) looks guilty as Hell here and like he should be scaring kids in a gymnasium Halloween Haunted House instead of teaching ‘em English.  I’ll grant you that.  And we’ve all lived long enough to know humans are flawed, even if many of us (particularly me) are not nearly smart enough to embezzle anything and kinda wish we were smart enough to embezzle stuff.

So what to make of all this?  Should Mr. Kalinowski be allowed while his case is prepared for trial?  Honestly, Hell if I know.  Do I like the idea that alleged embezzlers are teaching the same subject at the same grade levels I’ve taught the past ten years?   No, I do not like that idea.  Am I fearful that I and other teachers will be ridiculed and painted with the same moral brush given this news story?   Sure, I am.

At the same time, we humans have that accumulated knowledge that we are flawed.  Everybody mentioned in the Journal story, APS Boardmembers included, are flawed.  I’m flawed.  The flaws are just a matter of degree, and while I totally agree the degrees matter, sometimes it’s hard as Hell to figure out to what degree a certain human is flawed (I realize I’m starting to sound like Kurt Vonnegut here…let’s call it a homage).

Take Mike Bachicha here.  He’s currently the principal at LBJ Middle School.  He might very well be the least flawed person mentioned in the Journal story or, indeed, the entire world.  I have no idea.  All I and anyone with Wi-Fi knows is that Mr. Bachicha and another administrator at Sandia successfully sued APS after Winston Brooks supposedly said somebody was sleeping with somebody and somebody called somebody a “son-of-a-bitch” and somebody was doing improper things and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah to the tune of Mr. Bachicha getting $170,000 in settlement because he went from a high school principal salary to a middle school principal salary.

Just to be clear here for those suspecting I’m being deliberately vague and slipping in “inside information” here as a teacher:  I truly know absolutely nothing about either the Kalinowski or Bachicha case.  Nothing.  

And while it might appear I’m commenting on those specific cases, I’m really not.  Instead, I will close with two observations that have nothing to do with the specifics of these cases and more to do with the reflections of your typical 53 year-old accumulator of evidence pertaining to humans:

1.  It’s really hard to look good in a mug shot;

2.  Work with enough humans in a large organization long enough and you’ll almost certainly have a veritable mountain of evidence to support the claim that life is far, far more like a cheesy telenovela than we would ever want to admit.

Art reflects life, and we’d like to think auteurs like Kubrick or Kurosawa do this best, but APS is just one of countless examples that life is better reflected by “Gran Hotel.”

Es cierto.

 

Oh, where have you been, my schoolteachin’ son?

Oh, where have you been, my underpaid one?

I’ve stumbled in prep for online testin’ a’ plenty

I’ve read and I’ve calibrated seven vague standards

I’ve plunged in the depths of the mighty PARCC practices

I’ve stared in the dead eyes of countless dozen test takers

I’ve changed ten thousand lessons ‘cuz Skandera said so

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard drive’s a-gonna crash.

 

Oh, what did you see, my schoolteachin’ son?

Oh, what did you see, my underpaid one?

I saw a newborn sixth grader filled with the test worry

I saw a gold highway of school funding bequeathed to corporations

I saw 19 school classrooms changed into just tech labs

I saw countless computers with no student ever on ‘em

I saw harried counselors runnin’ whose job’s now just testin’

I saw ten thousand teachers with their lessons all broken

I saw true learnin’ and experience taken away from young children

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard drive’s a-gonna crash.

 

And what did you hear, my schoolteachin’ one?

And what did you hear, my underpaid one?

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’

Heard the roar of a wave that will drown all the learnin’

Heard one hundred Pearson sales folks whose tongues were a-blazin’

Heard ten thousand teachers whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

Heard one kid opt-out, I heard many principals laughin’

Heard the song of a test hater who died in her observation

Heard the sound of a wonderful teaching clown who now works for Intel

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard drive’s a-gonna crash.

 

Oh, who did you meet, my schoolteachin’ son?

Who did you meet, my underpaid one?

I met a young child beside a dead art project

I met a white Apple thrown into a black salvage trash can

I met a young teacher whose education values were burning

I met a young 7th Grade girl, she gave me some real hope

I met one man beautifully wounded in classroom discussion

I met another man who was senselessly wounded by VAM

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard drive’s a-gonna crash.

 

Oh, what’ll you do now, my schoolteachin’ son?

And what’ll you do now, my underpaid one?

I’m a leavin’ my school now before online testin’ goes crazy

I’ll walk to the site of my closest Pearson sales office

Where the employees are plenty and their hands always full of money

Where the pellets of PARCC poison are flooding their bottom line

Where the Common Core meets with the false god of “data”

Where the cut score’s face is always well hidden

Where creativity is ugly, where critical thinking’s forgotten

Where green is the color, where billions in profit the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it to the stock market so all stockholders can see it

Then I’ll stand at the Board meeting until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my plea well before Security takes me in hand cuffs

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard drive’s a-gonna crash.

Just FYI as we go into 2015 (Happy 2015, Ya’ll!):  Burque Babble will, in an attempt to be less informative than ever before, be using Twitter @jscotkey a bit more and this blog a bit less (is it possible to be a “bit less” than zero?).  Shorter things haphazardly put together (i.e., my blog entries heretofore) with lots of links will tend toward Tweets with those links embedded, and I’ll save longer, equally haphazard, blog posts for commentary (i.e., ranting) extending past the 140 character limit.

For example, as we ramble toward “Testing Semester 2015:  Damien’s Revenge” with its ninety-eleven standardized tests (funny story:  we got information late last semester on our 8th Graders taking NAEP again this year…we’d forgotten all about NAEP, or at least I had…NAEP!  So quaint and so much now simply another toxic tree stump of useless to put atop the stinking bonfire that is “Testing Semester 2014:  Damien’s Revenge”)…

Now wait.  Where was that sentence going?  Let’s start again.

As we ramble toward Spring Semester, I’ve had a few chances to pleasantly check in from the tranquility of my South Valley Man Cave (SVMC) on the good ‘ol Public Education Department website for the State of New Mexico.  Why, you might ask, would I use up valuable Winter Break time doing this?  I’m sorry…I really don’t have an answer for you other than force of habit and a masochistic streak wider than the Suez Canal.  So, sitting in my indoor winter layering of thermals, more thermals and sweatpants, I’ve looked around the PED site from time to time to see if I missed anything, especially as I basically just called “bullshit” on PED’s recent “outreach overture” a week or so ago.

And no, as you probably already guessed, I didn’t really find much new information about anything.  EOCs?  Nothin’.  EOC passage rates from last year?  Zip.  Teacher VAM scores as they consist of data from SYs August 2013-May 2015?.  What, are you kidding?

I did, however, run across something fairly interesting on a topic I hadn’t really thought much about.  How are principals getting evaluated?  Having absolutely no interest myself in ever, EVER becoming a principal, I just figured they’d be evaluated the way they always have been, namely via vindictive “principal shuffling” and stories in the newspaper about horrible things they’ve done.

But no, there’s a “Summative School Leader Workbook” that outlines in 24-page .pdf detail the thorough and frankly somewhat bewildering evaluation process for our beloved public school principals.  The key in searching, by the way, is to use the term “school leader” instead of principal.  I guess PED/NM TEACH (the hatchet organization under whose name this stuff is often developed) uses “school leader” because some schools, particularly charter schools, don’t call their principal a “principal” because they are far too cool to do that.  Whatever.

Anyway, the Workbook details look quite a bit like the Teacher Evaluation System, with a few items specific to principals, regardless of the title you give ‘em.  Things like whether one’s teacher observation scores mesh well with their standardized test score “Value-Added Measure” or VAM.  If you’re a principal giving observation scores out of whack with their VAM, you get dinged a bit for that (page 13, if you’re scoring at home).

And, somewhere (page 10, specifically) in those 24 pages of dense, bullet-filled, matrix-overladen rubricmaker’s wildest fantasy is the following statement under #7 in “Graduated Considerations” (remember that term, teachers?  It’s the catch-all for any calculation of scores differing from the original set-up; i.e., where they get to just make stuff up, basically):

7. Charter School – School Leader Charter school principals who report directly to their board are not evaluated under the EES system, but rather are evaluated by their board. If a charter school principal, however, reports to anyone other than directly to the board, that school leader would be evaluated under the NMTEACH Educator Effectiveness System and any applicable graduated considerations would apply.

So, in other words, you know all that VASTLY IMPORTANT DATA that PED is basing 50% of teacher and principal evaluations on, and THIS INCREDIBLE, INGENIOUSLY THOUGHT-OUT MATRIX of rubiriffic rubriocity that is the ALMIGHTY IMPORTANT BACKBONE in making true the PED motto of “Children First, New Mexico Wins!” a reality.  You know, that VASTLY IMPORTANT DATA AND MATRIX?

Well, it all don’t mean shit if you’re at a charter school. 

You don’t have to play PED’s game.  You’re exempt.

Instead, “School Leader,” just keep it buddy-buddy with the Board…Hell you probably picked half of ‘em in the first place and, if not, they hired you and wouldn’t want to look like complete idiots in dumping you anyway.  Does the name Scott Glasrud come to mind?  If left up solely to “his” Board, Mr. Glasrud would still be running those schools, selling those no-bid contracts and making more money than entire staffs at some places.  He was cool like that.

But hey, New Mexicans, it’s okay.  They’re charter schools.  They deserve the special treatment of a “small school adjustment” here and a “don’t worry about Value-Added Measures” there.  It’s those “real” public schools we have to worry about.  Charters are the future and we just need to squeeze those “real” public schools a bit harder, and a bit harder and…

Therefore, if I ever was to get the rather pathological condition known as “Gotta be a Principal-itis,” I am making damn sure my applications and CV go only to New Mexico charter schools.  Well, while also seeking immediate medical and psychological treatment for my sure to be life-threatening condition.  Now if I could only find a doctor to cure me of the mental skin condition known as “Searching PEDariasis.”