As a way of both preparing for my last three weeks of K-12 teaching and reminding myself why it’s my last three weeks of K-12 teaching, I am spending a fine cloudy Fall Sunday morning staring at:

parcc pricing tiers

In case you haven’t stared at the above, it’s the “expanded opportunities” made available for states this year when purchasing PARCC testing materials. It’s not visually arresting stuff, nothing like any of the recent horrific videos available on a number of horrific topics, education included.  The graphic above will not “go viral” and lead to President Anybody declaring anything. It’s just a boring table with a few bullets, of the non-video violence type, and mentions of “tiers,” “item bank” and other terms sure to put just about anyone to sleep.

All of which is probably the number one reason Hanna Skandera still has her job, if you ask me.

Why do I REALLY want you to ask me that question? Because if you look, really look, at the above as part of a delicious day-before-going-back-to-teaching Sunday breakfast, you might conclude along with me that PARCC isn’t long for this world and Ms. Skandera is gonna be out of at least one of her jobs (Shilling for PARCC; NM Education Secretary) in the not-too-distant future.  What you might need is some annotations to weed through the sales verbiage.  Here is a humbly submitted partial list of annotations:

  • Expanded Opportunities” really means: “We give up on the whole ‘national test’ idea and won’t you just buy some PARCC-flavored shit, please, won’t ya, pleezeeeee!?!”
  • “‘State-customized’ PARCC assessment” means exactly what you think it means.  See above bullet.
  • Option to build on core PARCC blueprint” means we bolded this to further emphasize our Wizard of Oz pretending that “core PARCC blueprint” means anything. Also “build” here means “jack all to Hell…we don’t care.
  • States can make comparability claims on the entire test” means “States can make claims because we say so, despite the fact that it’s delusional to even consider the idea that all these different tests will be at all comparable.”
  • (Note: Tier 1B states must adhere to Tier 1A procedures…)” actually means “We just put this parenthetical in here to give everyone the impression we know what the Hell we’re talking about.”
  • Autonomy to procure vendor” under “Tier 1 ‘Complete Test Form'” means “You can buy any test, anywhere, from anybody (i.e., not Pearson) and call it ‘PARCC,’ just please call it PARCC, please, pretty please!”
  • Ability to purchase questions as coherent sets of test content” means, “again we bolded part of this to add emphasis to something we all know isn’t true, in this case pretending that PARCC has ever been ‘coherent’ and our telling you to make it ‘coherent’ in such a bolded fashion is both fatuous sales talk and a word we can use in bullshitting the press into believing all this has any statistical validity whatsoever.”
  • Ability to make comparison claims” under “Tier 2A” versus “Would not be designed to…” under “Tier 2B” obviously means “if you buy from Pearson you get to make disingenuous claims of comparability, but only if you buy from Pearson.”

Hopefully these humbly submitted annotations add a bit of understanding to the graphic above.  But what of that talk above about Hanna Skandera and her jobs? Well, it’s my naive and unprovable position that if the graphic above somehow “went viral” and 100% of New Mexicans read and understood the graphic above, along with a bit of research into all the times Ms. Skandera has been quoted in her role as Chief Salesperson for PARCC/Pearson, that darn close to 100% of New Mexicans would see that: A. PARCC is set to be even more of a sham in 2016 than it was this past school year; B. Hanna Skandera should spend a great deal more time helping her staff do what they’ve been hired to do (e.g., fund Special Education properly, calculate teacher evaluations correctly, set cut scores for EOC tests, etc.) and a great deal less time shilling for PARCC/Pearson.

In sum:

  • The graphic above is a sales pitch purporting to be an educational tool.
  • So is Hanna Skandera.

Now we just need some viral video to book-end these two sentences.  Maybe we could also add a Grumpy Cat meme with “coherent sets of test content” and other phrases liberally sprinkled.  I’ll leave that stuff to our social media director.  I gotta go (have the pleasure to) teach class for three more weeks. Wish me luck in “building on the core PARCC blueprint.






My Thanksgiving meals (emphasis on the “s,” as I’m into about the sixth course of leftovers this Friday afternoon) have left me just about unable to reach my hands to the keyboard.  The word “girth” comes strongly to mind here.

So no long diatribe and I’ll instead largely copy/paste part of this recap of how Ohio K-12 officials are responding to the release of PARCC scores.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Ohio and New Mexico’ public education department weren’t largely comprised of members of the same political party.  Ohio, unlike the increasingly isolated NM/PED, dumped PARCC immediately after administering this past school year, and perhaps this is freeing up Ohio school officials a bit more to say what everyone really thinks of PARCC, NM school officials not named Hanna Skandera included.

“I met with the state’s assistant superintendent, with other local superintendents and the overall sentiment was the same: This testing information is not valid,” said Elyria Superintendent Tom Jama. “Everyone knows it is not valid, but it is still being used.”

Why isn’t PARCC valid in Ohio?  Same factors as in New Mexico for starters: opt-outs, students who put “zero effort” into the test, 8th Graders taking Algebra no longer lumped with 8th Grade scores, etc.  More holistically, Avon Lake Superintendent Robert Scott points out PARCC’s true worthlessness exactly how you wish Santa Fe’s Joel Byrd and APS’ Raquel Reedy would:

“Focus on testing wastes the most valuable resources we have in education — the energy and time of our teachers and students,” he said. “There is a place for reliable and valid state and national testing, but it has to be only part of the plan focused on the success of all students. A test never taught a student.”

Meanwhile on the ever-more-lonely, icy educational planet that is New Mexico, we’re still stuck with Hanna Skandera’s garbage about  a “new proficiency baseline.”

I can’t say I’ve ever dreamt about moving to Ohio before.  Better sleep off all these leftover meals and dreamily imagine life in Toledo, Columbus or Elyria…wherever the Hell that is.


In defense of the news-gathering organizations involved, the Winston Brooks “story” at present is more about release of public records than insight into why Winston Brooks got canned with a $350,000 cherry on top.  Maddening in the lack of detail as the inadequate list o’ aggrieved ones “stories” at KOB and the Journal are, we might be less mad if more detail were given in how resistant governmental entities are in releasing such information.

One is reminded of the Santa Fe Reporter’s Peter St. Cyr and his difficulties in getting information regarding NM’s medical marijuana program.  All this obfuscation and blocking has many New Mexicans, including me, in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the Albuquerque Journal and other media outlets that far more transparency is needed.

Of course true transparency is a more convoluted achievement than merely unredacting names on a memo. Just taking a closer look at variation in today’s Winston Brooks “story,” one can see the Journal painting APS School Board Chair Dr. Analee Maestas in a slightly different, more positive, light than does KOB.  For instance, the Journal has this direct quote:

“We wanted additional facts in order to get information, in order to get guidance and direction in terms of the allegations that had been given to me,” Maestas said.

Whereas KOB paints, perhaps accurately, Maestas as more than a bit of a bumbler:

Maestas told attorneys she couldn’t remember the names of two others who lodged complaints, and one came in through a hotline used to report fraud, waste and abuse.


Maestas admitted under oath she initially did nothing with any of the complaints she heard, saying she “kept it to herself.”

Taxpayers shelling out for Winston Brooks’ rather lavish retirement are left wondering just what the heck happened and these two stories today don’t do much to stop the wondering.  As to what we do know, that the name Winston Brooks should leave a metaphorical bad taste in everybody’s mouth is a foregone conclusion. The point of the story now is really the process of rounding up the bunglers who let the debacle go on so long and so expensively. Taxpayers currently are left with the distinct impression that continuing reluctance by Maestas and others to release details has more to do with hiding the bungling than it does with any employee rights Winston Brooks has.  Which gets us to the single most remarkable tidbit so far:

The deal also called for him to get a positive letter of reference and a promise that the report would be kept somewhere other than in his personnel file. The district promised it would not disclose it even to future prospective employers.

Whoever authorized a deal with such ludicrous provisions should have quit, attorneys be damned, before signing off on it.  That it certainly appears the primary person signing off on the deal is my School Board representative is even more maddening than the lack of more detailed information so far.  If Analee Maestas politically survives the stories to come, methinks it will be far more due to her ability to restrict the flow of news than her acumen in handling the Brooks situation.


“Don’t our kids and their parents deserve to know how they stack up against students in other states when it comes to subject matter mastery and college readiness?” — from Albuquerque Journal Editorial, October 22, 2015

“PARCC announced Thursday that it will now offer states the option of buying parts of its testing system and choosing their own vendor. Previously, states could purchase only the entire system, and they had to use Pearson for test administration.” — Catherine Gewertz, EdWeek Blog, November 12, 2015

So much for “stack up against students in other states.”  It’s every state for itself…again.

Perhaps prime among arguments for the poorly selling snake oil that is PARCC was the idea that not only would we have a “Common Core” of curriculum across the United States, with PARCC we’d also have a “national test.” Well, the snake oil is selling in fewer and fewer states, and now, to keep the PARCC market from complete collapse, the idea of a “national test” has been unofficially dumped.

Let’s let executive vice-president PARCC salesperson PARCC governing board member Hanna Skandera explain:

New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, a member of PARCC’s governing board, said in an interview that PARCC had made the change in response to feedback from states that have been asking for more options. They timed the new choices so that states could consider them as they enter the procurement cycle for assessments for 2016-17, she said.

I hardly need point out that “more options” means different test questions designed by different vendors who will, naturally, think their questions “better.” In other words, completely different questions. In other words, each state gets their own test.  In other words, that “stack up against students in other states” promise? Ah, not so much.

One might even connect the dots further and conclude that “more options” leads back to the same awful, horrible, hideous, “soft bigotry” (that Journal editorial quote will stick with us for quite a while) system we supposedly had prior to the glorious idea that was “Common Core” and PARCC. Well, it does, doesn’t it?  No, I’m sure Salesperson Skandera will tell us, repeatedly through the Journal and elsewhere, that the various tests will still “be aligned with Common Core.”

Nice try, PARCC.  Nice try. The extravagant twisting of the word “aligned” in these future assertions will surely be amazing in their contortions.

Unfortunately, not enough of us are noticing the twists and spins, as many in K-12 so loathe it all by this point we’ve stopped paying any attention whatsoever. We can’t do that, teachers/administrators.  We must not only continue to notice, but relish, these marketing moves which not only poison the stated goals of the snake oil sales force, but also illustrate just how remarkably desperate the standardized test industry is.

It’s grasping at new lies just like your most “exceeds expectation” liar.  Eventually the lies get so out of hand that new lies contradict old ones and fully expose what the real original intent was in the first place.

This has never been about a “national test” aligned to a “Common Core.”  This has always been only about the money.


So keep it up, Salesperson Skandera and PARCC sales crew!  Your desperation is making that original intent clearer and clearer every day, at least to those who pay attention. We’ll be paying attention, won’t we?





“A program launching this coming summer will give general education teachers the opportunity to add a special education license by completing four classes.” –from “RRPS to offer special ed training” by Kim Burgess, Albuquerque Journal, 11.15.15

I can think of almost no job with such employment security, other than nurse worldwide and cop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  If you young folks ever want to feel wanted professionally, get a Special Education (SpEd) teaching license and you can pretty much walk into any town and ask the receptionist at the school district HR when you start.  Because that’s the interview, you asking the question.

Why the job security? Well, there is the small detail that being a Special Education teacher has always been very, very hard.  Now that difficulty has exploded into sad realms such as testing and teacher evaluation, not to mention more Special Education paperwork than ever before.  Technically, I’m a Special Education teacher, because we in New Mexico are just about unique in glomming “Gifted” with Special Ed., but my job is sooooooooooooooooooooooo much easier than any true Special Education teacher’s.  Sure, I do an IEP here and there, and can write a mean IEP goal that says pretty much absolutely nothing, but sure as hell has some “measurable outcomes” in it.

But IEPs, and much, much more complex IEPs than I ever write, are just a small piece of a Special Education teacher’s job. I’ll save a complete “Ode to the Special Education Teacher” for some other time, and will only point out that such a piece of poetry would have to be very, very long, given all the tough duties that come with the job.  I admire those who do it, and we all know the tendency is for many of them to do it for only a few years before it all gets too much and they leave SpEd or the profession altogether.

So Rio Rancho Public Schools wants to address its relatively small shortage of SpEd teachers (RRPS has 8 SpEd openings, APS has about 70) by offering a fast-track to certification. Good luck with that, RRPS. I notice the requirement is that teachers be certified in Regular Education (i.e., have a teaching licence) before becoming eligible for the fast-track program.  It’s a bit unclear from the Journal story, but I’m guessing “classes” in the quote above refers to four semester-long classes, not four individual class periods.

Still, I don’t know many teaching colleagues who would take such a deal if it meant only four class periods. Actually, I don’t know any and wonder if any exist. The biggest reason is the aforementioned difficulties in the job; the second reason is that even four class periods of teacher training is usually like 10 human years in terms of soul-crushing boredom and uselessness.

So it would seem a proposition to an experienced, licensed regular ed. teacher that they experience 10 years of soul-crushing (at least) in order to get a SpEd license isn’t exactly, on its own, a compelling one. Maybe there’s some $20,000 carrot in the fast-track program not mentioned in the story, but you’d think that would have been mentioned.

By the way, I don’t know if I’d teach Special Education in its current misery, even for an additional $20,000 a year.  Not even $20,000 a month more, actually.

But who knows, maybe some regular education teachers are just aching to switch to teaching learning disabled kids as the kids take standardized tests specifically designed to point out, emphasize and revel in their learning disabilities.  Maybe there’s some folks who just really want to see kids cry as they are flummoxed with test after test after test, while also losing their electives because it has been determined they need more “intervention” in subjects that they already despise and in which they have already been determined (through a SAT process, evaluative testing and IEP committee agreement) to have learning difficulties. Maybe there are eight RRPS licensed teachers who really want to spend weeknights sitting in CNM classrooms hearing/reading about strategies to address the needs of Special Education children, who will then happily go on to NEVER use any of these taught strategies because schools have gone to “inclusion” in an attempt to save money because the NM PED seems morally unable to fund Special Education in a legal manner, as eloquently pointed out by ABQ’s Katie Stone.

Yeah, maybe there are such people out there.  Or maybe there were, up to about ten years ago when the very hard became the truly impossible to endure.  I remember many fine SpEd colleagues from those days and admired their work…until they left.

Good luck with that, RRPS.


First, the only “news” contained in this blog post:  Your humble blogger is retiring from teaching, effective January 1, 2016.

By this point, there are nearly countless excellent, eloquent communications from public school teachers so fed up with the state of the profession that they feel no other option than to quit/retire. The sheer mass of these statements certainly paints an illustrative picture of how disturbingly altered the profession has become over the last decade or so.  These well-written going away communiques also consistently point out how damaging, both academically and psychologically, the moves in educational “reform” have been not only on teachers, but, most importantly, on the kids we teach.

These earlier announcements have done this so well, I’ll just refer to them via the links sprinkled above and relate a very simple thought or two instead as my inadequate contribution to this unfortunately ever-growing literature.

I won’t bore you with the long period of metaphorical teeth-gnashing, blog ranting and outrageously irritating flip-flopping leading up to my decision, finally, to retire early.  All I’ll write is that it hasn’t been pretty and has had definite impacts on my psyche and relationship with those around me.  Instead, I’ll fast-forward to the exact moment I went from gnash/rant/flip-flop to “aha, time to let go.”

I was standing in the library computer lab “administering” the online portion of the “6th Grade ELA Interim Assessment” on the morning of October 20, 2015 to some incredibly eager and wonderful kids I’ve had the chance to work with since early September.  I’m doing the “testing coma” walk-around, that slow crawl amidst the kids in the lab, being sure to look strangely authoritative while living up to my sworn promise to not look directly into the sun which is the test itself.

I am doing this walk, and teachers will understand best why “coma” is about the only way to describe it, when it comes to me.  I will be doing this walk pretty much from now until the end of the school year.  Not every day, but enough days to heavily cripple any actual teaching I might do, any academic impact I might have, any true sense that I am really hired to do anything but this coma-inducing walkaround.  I considered the “Interim Assessment,” the paper version of this first one, the two sections of the next “Interim Assessment at the end of January, PARCC, EOCs…

And despite the coma, or maybe because of it, I have that “bathtub EUREKA moment,” but without the nakedness and screaming through a Greek city.

I can’t do this anymore.  

I think I actually said this out-loud (I can’t precisely recall), loud enough to be heard by several students in the pin-drop quiet “testing area.”  I can’t recall, because I was having one of those out-of-body experiences where I basically was Archimedes running naked through Syracuse.  I wasn’t a very good “test administrator” for a few seconds while a plethora of images, a series of pre-professional death flashbacks ran through my head.

Teaching at Hayes Middle School in 1995, using nothing but a complete lack of professional ability and a 14.4k modem on one Tandy computer. Working at Amy Biehl High School in 2002 as a “science teacher” in a way that probably put science instruction back decades, if not centuries. Standing in a District Court courtroom downtown in 2009, while mock triallers I had some small part in guiding spiritedly argued against each other wearing suits, ties and power dresses. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird out loud in a Jefferson Middle School classroom year after enjoyable year to vaguely interested students in my very bad Alabama accent and even worse beat-up brown plaid arm-chair.

I came back from my coma/reverie and was able to silently look my eager and wonderful 6th Graders in the eye and say to myself:

I’ve felt really bad about the idea of leaving you eager and wonderful kids in mid-December, but I have to.  I just can’t do this anymore.  

Most importantly, I could look them in the eye and know it was okay, both for them and me. That the guilt I might feel in leaving was outweighed by the simple knowing that it has to be this way. I immediately went from the numbness of the test administrator’s coma to emotionally drained, yet happy soon-to-be-ex-teacher.  It really was over.


Going on 23 years ago, I matriculated in the UNM/APS Special Education Intern Program, having come from Olympia, Washington with the idea of teaching on the reservation after an eye-opening experience among the indigenous people of the Guatemalan Highlands.  I had no idea what the hell to do with myself, actually, but the teaching on the rez idea sounded good when I told it to people, and gave others a proper false sense of my ambition and clarity.

I won’t go so far as to say the Intern Program was a good one (has there EVER been a good K-12 teacher preparation program?), but I did get a job out of the deal, first working as an intern at West Mesa High School in 1993-94 for the princely sum of about $600 a month (that’s gross, not net, pay).  I also had the great fortune to meet and attend class with other interns, a couple of whom I still “see” when I run across their name in the paper or Internet.

One of these folks is currently a very successful educator, a true leader in education administration.  I won’t embarrass that person by naming them here. Anyway, I can’t recall where we had this short conversation (Was it after one of Dr. Pepe’s rather uninspiring lectures? Maybe it was at some meeting with our ill-named “mentor”), but I certainly recall we got to talking about our futures. The upshot was at some point one or both of us made the observation that…

there’s no way I will be doing this in 20 years.

The statement was actually part of an overriding ethos, one based on observation that teachers with more than 20 years of experience sure looked burnt-out to us interns and that we never, EVER wanted to end up looking like them/that.

I’ve thought about that sharing of ideas and sentiment ever since.  And while I’ve come up with about 73 trillion dumb ideas over my professional life, I’ve gotta say this “ethos” that my intern colleague and I came up with still has validity.  Or at least it does from my continued observation of teachers, including, frankly, myself.

Public school teachers should be eligible for retirement in 20 years.  Hell yes they should be paid more, treated better and all that, but they should also be eligible to retire in 20 years with full pension, not 25.  As I understand it, military folks get to retire in 20 years, and while plenty of armed forces personnel truly defend our country in ways teachers never do, a very high number of military don’t come any closer to front line duty than your typical public school teacher does.  Some don’t come nearly as close, in a manner of speaking.

Of course, on a general level, this 20 years ethos may or may not be good fodder for an educational policy debate, but, on a personal level, it’s an idea which has never left me.  I just wonder if 25 years of doing anything is a good idea (and yes, this wondering, at times, includes other long-term commitments, such as parenting, marriage and home mortgages).  Personally, I’ve kinda shocked myself that I’ve stuck with public school teaching this long.  Now, in New Mexico, newbie teachers are expected to stay even longer before being eligible for full pension. 30 years. My mind and heart reel at the thought.

Hence, in addition to the entire profession going into a toilet bowl of standardized testing addiction, there’s also been this itching to get on to something else.  Yes, this itch is centered upon my on-going 20 years to retirement ethos, but it’s also just an itch, one that has gotten more and more irresistibly compelling to scratch with every added evaluation domain, test window and school “grade” report.

I just gotta scratch this thing. It’s driving me crazy.

And no, I don’t actually have any more real idea of what to do next than I did when I told people I was going to teach on the rez back in 1993.  I might do a bit of this and I might well end up having to do a bit of that, but I do know that I’m not gonna work on the Maggie’s Farm of New Mexico public school teaching no more come Winter Break, 2015.

It has been an unbelievable pleasure to work with my students over this almost 23 years. I can’t express how much better my life has been for this opportunity.  Thank you all.








Teachscape for Comedians

Dear Mr. Carlin:  Below please find the template to complete your required joke/bit evaluation for Domain I next month.  Note that I’ve helped you by filling in a bit of the information myself.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

—Sister Mary Elephant, Principal

November 10, 2015

To:  Licensed Comedian

From:  New Mexico Public Comedy Department & Teachscape  

Re:  Domain I Comic Evaluation Matrix

Domain I will be scored by your assigned comic evaluator using the following evidence:

  1. Comic bit plans made available to observer during walkthroughs.

  2. 2 comic-selected performance/show (8:00 or 11:00 ) bit plans uploaded, by the comic, to Comicscape under Domain 1 Artifacts

  3. 1 comic-selected OJI (Overarching Joke Insight) Primary Plan uploaded, by the teacher, to Comicscape under Domain 1 Artifacts.

Comedy Bit:  Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television

Comedian:  George Carlin

A hard copy of the bit plan should be available to observers at all times and include the following elements:

  1. Date – Is this a single joke or a complete comic bit?

  2. Concert City/Venue

  3. Standards – Adopted Marx/Dangerfield/Rock Comedy Standards (This includes hat dropped before faux mirror,  I tell ya, I get no respect, I LOVE Rap Music, but I HATE defending it) (Domain: 1 A, and  C)

  4. Daily Comic Objective (DCO) – What will audience laugh at and be able to recite upon completion of this bit? How does this relate to the Standards?  (Domain: 1 A, B)

  5. Differentiation/Sheltering –  Who are audience members to whom I will need to differentiate or provide sheltering in understanding the bit, and how will I support their needs? Who are my audience members with suppressed sense of humor, what accommodations will I make for them and how will I connect the DCO to their LSH (Lack in Sense of Humor) goal? (Domain 1: A, B, C, E and F)

Sequence of Comic Delivery: (Sequence of learning Domain: 1B)

  1. Bell Ringer / Warm up  – How will I assess audience member prior knowledge and experience with FCC rules on obscenity? What prerequisite skills and knowledge will audience members need to practice prior to attending comedy show aligned to the Daily Learning Objective? (Domain: 1B)

  2. Setup with estimated time allocations– What engaging and rigorous preliminary jokes and witty observations will audience members hear and respond to reach the DCO?  How will the audience be grouped and how will the jokes play in the balcony (if any)?  How will I determine factions of audience response to possibly offensive material? What comic resources and analogies will I use, including those available beyond my typical comic material? (Domain 1: B,  C, D, and F)

  3. Punchline – How will audience members walk out of the comedy club; what specific joke lines will they share out and discuss regarding the bit? What will I do to close the bit? What will audience members do after the show? (Domain 1: A and B)

  4. Applause/Assessment – How will I know whether each individual audience has met the MLO (Maximum Laugh Outcome)?  What data will I collect to determine that students met the MLO? (Domain 1: A, C, F)