Friday, March 24, 2006

Working for the Broken Man: Epilogue

Ah, the day before Spring Break. Magic words for anyone caught in the three month K-12 death march from the beginning of January to now. I know we're whining, but it's a long haul, and one that has folks questioning careers, sanity and the purpose of life.

About one-third of the folks at my little school are sick, but it's hard to tell how much of that is due to viruses and bacteria and how much of that is a deep, abiding hatred for the institution and its fellow occupants.

We need a break. Of course, we needed a break about three or four weeks ago. We especially needed a break two weeks ago after the coma-inducing drudgery of our standardized testing finally ended. But no, we shuffled on for two more weeks, looking more and more like zombies with each passing day.

Some people like to pretend that all planning in education is "for the children", but having Spring Break at the end of March is clear indication of that fallacy in thinking. For more evidence, just look at the daily schedule of APS schools where high schoolers start their educational day at 7:30 A.M. in large part because of busing and parent schedules, and in no part because 7:30 A.M. is when students learn best.

But it's the day before Spring Break. We're gonna make it now.

My last two entries have been about K-12 education and I find myself unable to stop writing about it. Maybe that's because I need a break, but it also seems the rest of the world can't stop writing about education as well. Maybe the entire world needs a Spring Break.

Anyway, in addition to what I wrote on earlier this week, we have had the following:

  • FP Marty Chavez says he wants public input via the Internet for his plan to Mayorally appoint APS Board members. ($$ reg. req.). The city will have a special site (up on Tuesday) for public comments. Here's hoping the comments are more plentiful and productive than the ones at the ABQ Trib and SF New Mexican sites.

  • Slightly buried in a story on APS plans to redistrict the school boundaries in the Four Hills and Singing Arrow neighborhood is the factoid that "only 26 percent of the 223 students living in Four Hills currently attend their assigned schools". (more $$ req. req.) This startling number stirs a goulash of controversial topics, including "white flight" the importance of neighborhood schools, and the value of public schools in general.
In my opinion, the core of the story is its illustration of how important being entrepreneurial about school choice is. The dropoff of Four Hills kids at its "district" schools has been going on for at least a decade. Only now does APS start talking about a redistricting plan to address the situation?

Many just look at the situation as another example of stumbling, "broken" APS. But let's turn that around. APS is a ******* bureaucracy for Buddha's sake. Whaddya expect....streamlined efficiency? Neighborhood schools are important members of a local community on a number of different levels. They are a vital reflecion of the neighborhood, and need local community support. Still, if the neighborhood school is lousy teachers, parents and especially kids are better off going somewhere else instead of waiting for a bureaucracy to improve the neighborhood school. Period.

Since moving to the South Valley six years ago, I have repeatedly searched out teaching at my neighborhood schools. I interviewed and such from time to time, and have asked around on many occasions for insights. It is with sincerely deep regret that I say: I don't want to teach in the South Valley anymore. It's a bummer, but I'm certainly not going to start working at a SV school and wait for the bureaucracy to improve it. Parents, and especially children shouldn't wait around for that, either. The Four Hills story is crystal clear evidence of that.

  • Then there's the reason I started thinking/writing about all this a few days back: Horizon Prep High School. As most of you know, Horizon High is a charter on Isleta Blvd (right down from my house) that had a bit of an accounting problem some time back. Something about miscalculating the actual number of students and a few hundred thousand dollars. Nasty business. Anyway, in a rare show of bureaucratic moxy the NM Education Department (I refuse to use their new name, reasoning that they will only change it again in a year or so) and APS revoked the school's charter. The school was scheduled to close on Friday, like it was Circle K or something.
But now APS has decided to allow Horizon High's next door neighbor, Horizon Academy South, to take over control of the school. You might notice the similarity in names..these Horizon folks have started quite a few charters both in ABQ and in Arizona where the outfit originates (as I understand it). APS gave Horizon $70,000 in emergency funds, probably just to avoid the hassle of taking in all the transferring students for the seven weeks after Spring Break.

Why is this story interesting? Well, on a selfish level, the school is just down the street from me and I was personally looking forward to an improvement in the awful traffic on Isleta resulting from the Horizon schools. More importantly, those who incessantly bash APS or any district need to remember the case of Horizon. What would the reaction be if APS schools said it would have to suddenly close on Friday? Who would be there to bail them out? I like the idea of charter schools...Hell, I worked at one for three years. But if people want more choice and freedom in selecting where they go to school they need to do significant research. They can't just make knee-jerk reactions like "it's a small school, so it must be a good school". Or "there test scores are bad, so they must be bad." It's been my experience that most parents never get past this overly simple "analysis". Caveat emptor applies to more than just automotive repair.

Have a great Spring Break everyone! May we all like each other and the buildings in which we spend so much time a bit more when we get back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live down the road too-- my kid used to go to the school-- notice the savior principle now driving a BMW roadster... hmmmm interesting