Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You Say A Whack Job, I Say Amato

Every city has them. A small, small number of eccentrics who perform the role of "gadfly" in the community. To anyone who pays the least attention to matters political or social, the mention of the gadfly's name is usually good for a chuckle, if not a hearty laugh followed by the retelling of an anecdote involving the gadfly. We might not respect this eccentric, but we are entertained by them, even as we cringe our way through one of their obscure and obtuse criticisms of how the city/state/nation/world/solar system/galaxy/universe is run.

Take Geraldine Amato, for instance, Albuquerque gadfly extraordinaire.

It's unfortunate and probably because of an "international bankers conspiracy", but there isn't a Wikipedia entry yet for Geraldine Amato. Googling the terms "Geraldine Amato Biography" leads nowhere, except for the happy and then very sad recollection of Geraldine Ferraro, former Vice-Presidential candidate. If I ever repent significantly from my dedicated life of sloth, I promise that my very first Wikipedia authorship will be on Geraldine Amato.

Why is Ms Amato worthy of effort? Well, if you had ever seen an Amato performance at a ABQ City Council meeting, public access rant, Sheriff candidates forum, or any of the myriad places she's spoken, rambled, mumbled and spoken some more you wouldn't be asking that question. She is political eccentrism personified. She is every bit a political performance artist, a gadfly in the truest Platonic sense rousing the complacent who control our fair city. Or maybe she's just entirely off the deep-end and I'm missing the boat, so to speak.

I bring up Ms. Amato today in response to a story in today's ABQ Tribune. It seems that the City Council is considering ways to limit public comment during its meetings, citing that current rules allow for the "public" to speak not only for two minutes during the oft-hilarious and cringe-worthy "public comments" segment at the beginning of meetings, but also for up to two minutes on any three issues considered by the Council at a session. That's eight possible total minutes per ABQ gadfly, and Councilors are getting tired of five hour weekly sessions that still don't fully cover agendas.

Now Ms. Amato is not the only frequent-to-the-point-of-ubiquitous speaker at these meetings, but after her years of gadfly performances one wishes the Council could somehow package the new comment rules into an ordinance, and call this legislation: The Geraldine Amato Public Comment Ordinance (or GAPCO). It would be an utterly fitting honor to bestow on an ABQ/Bernalillo County public figure who has set an Olympically-high obscure and obtuse standard for other gadflies to compete against.

A full recounting of Ms. Amato's positions would not only exceed the recommended word count for blog entries (by several fold), but would also lead to the need for innumerable references and cross-references on subjects as diverse as the Metropolitan Jail, the Border Patrol, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the Carlyle Group, and ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan. Then there's the fact that only Ms. Amato could perform such a linkage; this humble blogger can only feebly ladle at the surface of the ocean that is Ms. Amato's world view.

To get a real idea of what's she talking about (or as real as is possible given the circumstances), you gotta check out a cowgirl-hatted, hair-braided Amato speaking live. Go to a City Council meeting or at least watch it on cable channel 16. Flip past the public access channel and see if the bizarrely sexist "Chicano TV" is over and you might see Ms. Amato speaking before that 100,000th rerun of Don Schrader and the "Naked Man" show. And yes, we can't let an ABQ gadfly post go by without a Don Schrader mention, and we'll get to him in more detail some day soon.

And lest the reader think this post is just a big 'ol laugh at Geraldine Amato's expense, what makes her a real gadfly instead of merely a kook is that many people AGREE with her on several positions. She rails against government, international corporations, the military, and a disregard for common people. It would take a pretty big tent to cover all the folks who oppose those entities and ideas. But Amato doesn't stop there. Her peformance art twist is to take those fairly popular sentiments and imbue them with a long-winded grandiosity that starts with Orwell and ends with Emily Littela.

I'd love to have some video/audio examples of Ms. Amato in action, but, uh, I don't. I don't tape City Council meetings. I guess my politi-dorkiness hasn't quite reached that point yet. Still, all is not lost. Amazing written records of Ms. Amato's views can be found in those little Q&A pieces done by the local newspapers. For instance, in her last race for County Sheriff (an office she has run for, unsuccessfully, many times) she responded to the question " Please list experiences you have related to the position you are seeking" by answering "Being victimized by agents of the current legal regime's unlawful government". She goes on to answer the question " What new initiatives should be taken to combat crime related to methamphetamine use?" with the answer that "Isn't this the drug fed the troops by the Pentagon brotherhood over the years? That's who introduced it to our society, and that's who needs to be stopped." She closes by answering the paper's rather more pointed final question, namely, "In the past you have run unsuccessfully for offices including sheriff, district attorney and mayor. What makes this run more likely to be successful?" by pithily responding "Nothing personal, but you're an idiot."

And that was my single favorite quote from this year's primary cycle. In fact, I think it's in my top five, all time. Which get me longwindedly back to the City Council trying to change the rules for public comment at its meetings. Having been at a few Council meetings, and having watched parts of many more at home, I can understand the Councilors attempt to reduce the amount of "public" input. Yes, a few speakers (Geraldine Amato prime among them) do seem to rant on every subject. Yes, at least ten times during "public comments" I have to frantically change the channel away from a particularly wacky speaker going on about the Volcano Heights Sector Plan being the work of Satan or something. Still, I defend the right for the "public" to speak, and speak frequently at the Council meetings.

I could say that my desire to maintain the level of public input at these meetings in based on a First Amendment basis, or some Thomas Paine-influnced belief in the common man, but, to be honest, my interest in saving the Geraldine Amato's of Albuquerque at these meetings is that the performances are, with fair regularity, so darn interesting. Embarrassing, over-the-top, lacking in direct evidence, often completely unrelated to the issue at hand, but interesting. That's especially important in the media-savvy environment we live in now, with everything political so smoothly packaged, so sound-bite friendly. Gadflies like Geraldine Amato are anything but smooth, and I take their rough, chunky rants as a sign this country hasn't totally lost its principle of freedom of speech or its at-times kinky desire to view and enjoy eccentrics in our midst.

On Hoaxes and My Main Man Marty

Two quickies this morning:

1. In a time in which the term "operation" principally means dead bodies, sectarian violence and such, an "operation" by the Yes Men is certainly a beautiful thing. These guys are just about the closest thing to a hero I have.

My almost hero, near-heroically scamming local news in New Orleans

2. Pardon my cognitive dissonance, but I'm suffering from some sort of political vertigo or lumbago or embargo or something...Martin Chavez and I agree on something. A few months back some of us noticed that Bill Richardson appeared down in Las Cruces and waffled bigger than IHOP on the issue of cockfighting, saying "'I have not made up my mind on that". Now, Mayor Chavez appears before an animal welfare conference and brings up Big Bill's cockfighting waffle (which, yes, would be an excellent name for a punk band and alot of other things) as a stumble to Richardson's presidential aspriations.

"You can't be president of the United States if you think cockfighting is a good thing," Chávez said.

Of course having Feudal Prince Marty say that to an ANIMAL WELFARE CONFERENCE is classic Marty, as he prefers the political slam dunk when only players from his team are on the floor, but I'm really glad he brought it up, somewhere. I still belong (and I use the word very loosely) to a near-moribund Yahoo Group called "Bill Richardson for President". When the cockfighting waffle was brought up there months ago, the Richardson faithful present pooh-poohed the importance of Big Bill's non-stance.

Now Marty has elevated the self-esteem of those who do think the non-stance matters. Am I wrong to tie my self-esteem to what Feudal Prince Marty thinks? Is there a rather large potential psychological risk here? Probably. But for today I'm walking with an extra giddy-up in my step knowing that Marty and I are seeing rooster-claw-to-rooster-claw on this thing.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Heather, Big Pharma, Coleman Stove Connection

For some reason this picture of Heather Wilson seems appropo to this post

In the "Thanks for Nothing" Politiics Division, news finally hits that Heather Wilson's "Vote for Heather Because of Medicare D" spots were not only paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which we already knew because it's written at the end of the ad), but also funded in part by Big Pharma.

I know. You're shocked and might need a Xanax or Xerxes or whatever this week's hip anti-anxiety drug is called. Or maybe you have a political jadedness quotient of more than .001 and already figured the Pharma connection to those ads within .001 seconds of seeing them.

No, I'm not shocked by the connection. However, a few things do shock me about them:
  1. Why would Heather Wilson want to take any credit, or be in anyway affiliated with a program as unpopular as Medicare D?
  2. Doesn't that kind of remind you of George H.W. Bush's politically tin ear when it came to the economy in 1992? Now if only the Democrats could invent a slogan or two about that...
  3. Speaking of political tin ears, evidently the national U.S. Chamber of Commerce has about as much political sense as Teri (Stalin in a tight dress) Cole and her dictatorially mismanaged Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
  4. Oh, sorry, number 3 wasn't a question. Neither was number 4.
  5. A human behavior question: if Big Pharma is so unpopular and widely despised for their oil company-esque profits why do people keeping taking the drugs they sell? It's like we're addicted to them or something...
  6. Big Oil question...see question number 5.
  7. Speaking of addiction, is it possible that the U.S. Chamber can run some Heather spots paid for in part by the American Crystal Meth Producers Association? Not only could the ad feature Heather's Big Pharma connection as it ties into pseudoephedrine, but they could also highlight Heather's support of Big Oil and how it helps provide Coleman fuel in the meth-making process. In an election this close, it could come down to the Meth Head vote.
I realize that the level of Medicare D loathing is being debated right now, and that some enrollees seem to be liking the program (emphasis on "some"). By the way, if you ever want to creep yourself out go to a site like "Pharma Marketing Blog", and read a few entries. For special creepy fun, change all the mentions of Xanax, Paxil, Vioxx and such to Heroin, Cocaine, Meth, and Crack. The copy reads exactly the same.

To me, the tin ear here is that far from the majority of senior citizens have enrolled, and many seniors haven't because of fears/hatred about the program. Then's there is the non-senior population, which has an even more negative view of the program to the extent that Patsy Madrid can get an "Amen" and "Go Tell It Sister" just for bringing it up in a public setting. In fact, if Patsy doesn't bring it up early and often at every single Wilson/Madrid debate in the next two months I will personally throw my Coleman fuel stove through the television.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Burque Babble Touring Company and Road Show

Attention Burque Babblers/Babblistas/Babbalothians:

I'm taking this schtick on the Bloggin' Road for a couple of weeks, sitting in for Emily Esterson (yeah, the Emily Esterson who's my wife) at New West. Seems she's in Germany and they evidently don't have electricity or the "internets" over there, and she roped me into doing it. Actually, she's attending a bunch of horse shows on a working vacation, one she deserves especially if it's a bit weak on the working part.

So, I'll be dual posting my stuff here and at New West (you didn't think I would actually work harder doing this, did you?). Just wanted you to know here at the Babble in case you happened across the much nicer Bloggin' pasture of New West, saw some tripe you'd already seen here in the Bloggin' ghetto, and got some cognitive dissonance weirdness or something as a result.

Readers can be assured that the quality of entries will not be artificially raised during this period; you can rely that the postings will be of the same mediocre quality that has made Burque Babble one of the 4-5 million best blogs in Albuquerque. They'll just be mediocre blog entries with those really pretty orange backgrounds they have at New West.

Then my wife will get back from Germany and things will get back to normal. In more ways than one. Now please excuse me, I have to go put on my bloggin' tuxedo, tails and top hat. They're a pretty formal bunch over there at the Land of Orange Backgrounds.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

All The Veiled Innuendo That's Fit To Blog

My damn personal vow to educate the youth of America has left me too busy to do much, but I did see Joe Monahan's piece on Jeff Armijo today. It reminds me of the following analogy:

Journalism is to Blog as Surgeon is to Dude Who Attempts to Dig Bullets Out With a Pocketknife From Fellow Jewelry Store Robber's Stomach In The Back Seat Of A Car

And, of course, we bloggers wouldn't have it any other way. Well, to be honest, I kinda wonder about that, but let's stick to the Monahan "piece" for a moment.

I have absolutely no dog in the NM State Auditor Race hunt. I couldn't care less about Democrat Jeff Armijo or whomever the Hell he's running against. In fact, mentioning anything NM political aside from the all-important Madrid/Wilson race seems distracting and frivolous. For instance, I tried to watch the ABQ City Council meeting last night on Channel 16, and, despite all those people during Public Comments bad mouthing Michael Cadigan (for reasons still unclear to me) like he had personally killed their children or something, all I could think about was how messed up I thought it was that Madrid was running a TV ad where Heather Wilson appears visually larger and more often than Madrid does.

Like I said, I don't care about Jeff Armijo. Still, reading Joe Monahan's "chatter" (note: that's the same term used by those NSA guys snooping info about Al-Qaeda) about Armijo's "problem" was disturbing. For those too lazy to click and read the link, here's the vague heart of the "matter":

The sources tread cautiously on the nature of the "situation," but say Armijo has been advised by Dem loyalists that an abandonment of his candidacy should be considered. The sources say that the problem does not involve business, but centers on "a personal relationship" of Armijo's.

There's another 250 words or so, but they continue just as cryptically as the sentence above. Nothing definitive and then a discourse on how the State Democrats might have to react to this new "ethics situation". It really gives the term "veiled innuendo" a new dimension.

Monahan's toe-dip into the world of possible libel brings up the following:
  • What is the role of bloggers, and by what legal standards should they operate?
  • Okay, that's a boring question...how about this one? Is this an affair we're talking about here? Joe Monahan..cough twice if it's an affair. Cough three times if it's a really kinky one.
  • Who's running against Jeff Armijo? Okay, that one is answered in the Monahan piece but I ignored that entirely as I sought more dirt in the "story".
  • I might be down on blogger journalism right now, but wasn't there a similar Manny Aragon story in the Tribune some months ago, right before the Highlands resignation stuff hit the fan? A story with a title like "Aragon Controversy Swirls Below Surface of Actual Journalism"? I looked over and over at the Trib site and can't find it, but I remember something like it. Can anyone help me out here?
  • Yes, I do realize that JoeMonahan might be going heavy on the veiled innuendo here, but at least his post wasn't about John Mark Karr, or what John Mark Karr had to eat on the plane, or how many electrolysis treatments John Mark Karr has had, or included 20 minutes of embedded video of that Thai Air jet sitting on the runway/gate at LAX with John Mark Karr sitting in it.

Okay, let's just agree that neither blogging or journalism is perfect. Each has its good and bad days, and I admit that right this second I'm wondering whether JoeMonahan.com had a good or bad one today.

And yes, I'm also wondering if it was a kinky affair or just the regular kind. That is, if it was an affair. Are you coughing, Joe? Was that a cough, or two coughs? Were you just clearing your throat?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New Mexico: A Vanishing Podunk In The Desert

What's this I hear about New Mexico going to two automobile license plates? If it ain't bad enough that we're gonna get more than one area code, now we gotta consider getting all cosmopolitan by stickin' another license plate on the front of our cars. What's next, High Occupancy Vehicles lanes? Light rail? Thai restaurants in the South Valley?

I'm afraid NM is losing that inefficient, podunk feel that brought many of us here in the first place. It's like those East/West Coasters moving into the desert and trying to plant ivy plants and madrona trees all over the place. I can feel our Southwestern Hick atmosphere slipping away like a stupid teenager in a flooded arroyo.

Thankfully, we haven't turned all HOV lanes and pad thai yet. As I've mentioned before, NM has a stunningly high number of folks who not only don't have two license plates on their car, they don't even have one metal license plate. Instead, there is a piece of paper illegibly stuck inside their dark-tinted rear window. Or, they don't got nothing. No distinguishing license plate number A Tall, paper or plastic or metal.

I know this ain't a huge revelation, but large swaths of New Mexico are gentrifying, with all the good, bad, ugly and snobby that comes with it. In my personal heart of hearts I have to admit that I think the good outweighs the bad/ugly in the gentrification equation here. At the same time, riding my bike in the early morning through parts of town still largely untouched by Starbucks, Thai restaurants and mixed-use lofts painted in pastel colors is pretty darn cool. It's like taking a long trip without the passport and confiscation of your tootpaste.

Well, it's cool until I almost get run over by a car with an illegible paper license plate. That's when I immediately start day-dreaming about a light rail station in the South Valley with gourmet coffee shop, Thai restaurant, and wine bar attached.

I buy that morning's New York Times while I wait the two-three minutes until my train arrives, and gnosh on samples of cherry blintz while sipping an organic Sumatran-French roast blend. I make a quick reservation for that evening at the Thai restaurant using the public-accessible wi-fi laptops at the station, plunk my bike on the train and look at all the new crawling ivy and madrona trees that line the route where the car salvage yards used to be.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Robert Vigil: The Sequel To Drool Over

Man, I absolutely cannot wait for "Robert Vigil II: This Time It's Personal!". I usually don't get into trials, criminal or civil, but this Vigil shindig has everything, including current NM State Treasurer Doug Brown in today's Tribune describing the Vigil reign with quote phrases like "rogue clique", "systematic, pervasive corruption" and "closest thing to a soverign nation I could think of".

Now that's good stuff, and we haven't even mentioned the bugging equipment, altered personnel files and "indications a worker's computer had been hacked in order to plant inappropriate material on it". Now that's some good politiporn (trademark pending) right there.

But, like those TV ads for colon cleaning products that's not all. If you order now, you also get free Vigil blowback into the Wilson/Madrid U.S. House race. No confirmation, by the way, on whether the Wilson campaign has perfected technology which would allow Wilson and her Sandia National Lab henchmen to place a 3-D holographic image of Robert Vigil inches away from Patsy Madrid at all times, day and night. Of course, the team at SNL is working with the infamous "Smug Vigil With Hands in Pockets, Expensive Suit" photo that we see over the shoulder of every talking head newsperson when they are reading a Vigil story. Here is that photo now.

Now every great political downfall trial needs a comic relief character, and ably filling that role is noted publicity-addict Sam Bregman. Warming up the Vigil II frenzy like any good comic, Bregman argued for a change-of-venue outside of New Mexico because Vigil's picture has been in tons of Wilson ads bashing Madrid. Sam Bregman saying the case has become too high-profile to be fair is like Jeffrey Dahmer saying Milwaukee has become too dangerous because of all the mass murderers.

And that's another reason "Vigil II: This Time It's Personal" is so great. It's NOT a mass murder trial. It's not O.J.. It's not Scott Peterson. It's just good ol' fashioned political corruption, and lots and lots and lots of it.

There's so much, in fact, that one trial couldn't hope to capture it all. Maybe that juror from Roswell who hung the first trial knew that and acted in the best interest of all us politiporn addicts. I personally thank Delmus Holdson of Roswell for taking that important action in the first trial and making this second trial possible. Of course, I'd thank Mr. Holdson more if he would volunteer to pony up the money for this second trial, but maybe the court could sell the proceedings Pay-Per-View.

I, for one, would pay $14.95 a week for unlimited access to "systematic, pervasive corruption", especially if includes significant "
indications a worker's computer had been hacked in order to plant inappropriate material on it". Hell, I'd drop my Netflix for a few months for a big steaming ladle of Vigil action. Who needs movies when you got "rogue cliques"?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Marty Gives APS A Mid-Term

So APS Superintendent Beth Everitt recently turned in the five-page essay that Professor Marty assigned her on the topic: "Why Should I, Fuedal Prince Over All I Survey, Endorse Your Bond Election?" I'm sure Dr. Everitt and her staff not only did a bang-up on the essay itself, but put it in one of those super nice report covers. Maybe the ones that have the long metal spikes to go through the three holes and a nice professional gray-but-see-through front. I'm betting they spent minimum $2.99 on the report cover. Minimum.

The Journal listed several questions Professor Chavez posed to APS, and short-hand versions of the answers Dr. Everitt and her staff gave to the Prof.'s questions. Those questions/answers included why the proposed Bond doesn't include separate money for charter schools, what the district is doing to build new Westside schools faster, and plans to lower dropout rates.

You can read those questions and the short-hand answers here, but the posing of those questions by Professor Marty gives me the idea of assigning the Feudal Prince himself a test on aspects of his administration.

Here are some questions I would include in my own multi-part test for Prof. Marty:

Short answer

1. How's that downtown arena coming along?
2. Isn't the pressing need to quickly build Westside schools a direct result of your administration doing nothing to control the growth of that area, choosing instead to politically lead a developer land rush for your ever-richer real estate maven supporters? Thanks to Coco for that question.
3. Back to Downtown: How's it going on the plan to reduce the number of downtown bars from the current ratio of 10 to every non-bar business?
4. Name a single popular idea, event or initiative to have occurred in the last 20 years in Albuquerque that you have not taken complete credit for. (Note: If necessary, simply write "none" on your paper for this question).

Five paragraph essays (remember your topic sentence is important!):

5. Discuss the whole ABQPAC thing in detail, using comparison and contrast to illustrate differences between wielding wide-ranging political power over a city using coercion and political contributions and the non-political overseeing of a school district where all children are supposed to be guaranteed equal levels of service. Be sure to use terms like cronyism, money-funneling and sweetheart deals in your response.
6. Outline how a public official might start a weblog that purports to be a means to connect with citizens, but instead merely offers you a soapbox to praise yourself and criticize schools. Be sure to include a description of how shill commenters can help enhance the blogging public official's image by gushing adulation in a Rush Limbaugh caller type manner.

I won't be quite as impatient as Professor Marty was with APS. In setting a deadline for this assignment 'll give the Feudal Prince until the end of the 1st Nine Weeks. I'll also let him recycle and use that $2.99+ fancy report cover Dr. Everitt and staff used. After all, I 'm a tough grader, but fair.

P.S.: After much ado, fire, brimstone and enough grandstanding to build a downtown arena ten times over, Feudal Prince Marty and his "Educational Council" approved funding to 71 after-school programs at city elementary and middle schools. Almost all programs were funded, but one of the few that wasn't was a "Lego Club" which evidently was not deemed "academically rigorous" enough. I'll leave the "Are Lego's Rigorous?" question alone, and focus on another question. Was all the overblown self-righteous indignation worth rooting out and subduing a Lego Club?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Can't Pass Up A Porter Wagoner Reference

Nice personal reflection in the SF New Mexican from Steve Terrell about the special place in his heart held by country-western singer Porter Wagoner. Good to see others have a strong penchant for the old days of Porter and Dolly singing and pitching Breeze Detergent on Saturday night TV. His story/post definitely brought back some strong pompadour/sequin memories for me...and it's good to see Wagoner has a new record out.

Porter's not everday music, at least for me, but sometimes you just need to get schmaltzy and weird and Wagoner's right there to fill that quirky need when you have it. Thanks to Mr. Terrell for reminding me of that.

I Wany My Bal-Co-Ny

Between the restart of the J.O.B. and the neverending need to kill the weed forest in my yard the blog has suffered a bit. Maybe the world is actually a better place without another 2,000 word misssive on standardized test scores. I dunno.

Real quick...I notice in today's Journal that Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta is leading the charge for yet another attempt to renovate the Hiland Theatre into a bona-fide performing arts center. $10 million is the estimate to do the job right, and I'm guessing that doesn't mean a Just-Like-the-Lensic-incredible job, but more like a We'll-Make-the-Hiland-Smell-Go-Away-and-
Stick-Some-New-Chairs-In-The-Joint kinda job.

My suggestion: Let's just buy the Lobo Theatre. We should have done it years ago, it's already cleaned up, and it's more conducive to showing films than the longer, skinnier Hiland. There's also that balcony. Gotta have a balcony.

Okay, back to killin' weeds and edumucating chilluns.

P.S.: I can't remember...does Hiland have a balcony? If so, it doesn't matter...I want a memorable balcony, and I remember many hours draped over many chairs and the balcony rail at the Lobo. All I remember about the Hiland is that it smelled even worse than the Lobo did.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Another Day, Another Terrorist History Timeline Entry

Now that we're again in a 24/7 Anderson Cooper CNN Fear Frenzy, some context and history might be in order. From everything you see on the 24/7 Fear Channels you might get the impression that acts of terrorism against the West are a brand-new phenomenon worthy of 24/7 Fear (not to mention significantly higher television ratings).

But that's not the case. Not by a long shot. I'm not saying it should make us feel any better, but here are a few links to webpages with terrorist timelines for attacks in the United States and around the world. Some entries include a short explication of the event in question. I list four below because some include events missed or left unexplained by others:

Significant Terrorist Attacks Against the United States and its Citizens 1946-2001, from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Another, less thorough list from Infoplease.com

Another timeline with events for more than the United States from a Wikipedia entry (of course, it is Wikipedia but you get the idea)

Another quite thorough timeline from folks at the Crimson Bird Book Store in Stanfordville, NY. I like this one the best.

Again, I don't expect glancing at the above links (and there are tons and tons of others, as you might expect) to make you feel any better about today's events in the U.K. or any other terrorist action. Still, I do think it's important for us to get off this "these are the possible end times!" theme regarding this issue. Focusing, re-focusing, dwelling and obsessing on actions of the last five years like they are some entirely new, greater depth of "Evil" misses the historical context. There's been crap like this going on for years, the only difference seems to be that the terrorist are getting better at killing their enemy, in large part because they don't mind killing themselves in the process.

Oh, one more thing. I really hope this is the time, the "crisis", that shows the American people can see through the BS that Cheney-Bush vomit forth about Democrats being Soft on Terror and Republicans being the only way to prevent Al-Qaeda from strolling up Main Street U.S.A., bombs a-strapped. Of course we know they will say it, in fact Cheney has already said that Lieberman losing his primary fight was helping Al-Qaeda. I'm just hoping and betting that this is the time the average American understands that Everybody wants to stop terrorists, and that the use of fear and terror as a public opinion cattle prod to ensure continued Republican control is despicable.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Far Fewer Than 32 Short Films About Everything

1. Today marked Day Two of implementation in my plan to bike/bus to work this school year. Since I live 10.8 miles one way from work, yes, I do expect everyone in the blog studio audience to say "oooooohhhhhhh" in the adulatory fawning & cooing manner common to informercials on colon cleaning products. Actually, it's not that big of a deal, except that:
  • I am one sweaty, sweaty dude, especially in these days o' humidity in 'Burque. Don't sit next ot me at staff meetings.
  • MLK is under construction under the train tracks, quite a few small lakes still exist on roads like Isleta Blvd., and as lakes dry it becomes more apparent that ABQ has a exponentially growing number of pot-holes. Also, the continuing "drive a car, drink a beer, smash the glass bottle against the guard rail" ritual is in widespread practice, especially on Rio Bravo (does "Rio Bravo" mean "River of Death" in Spanish?
  • Speaking of death (and no, the rides really have been nice, great even), the corner of Lomas and Girard has already almost been the site of my gruesome death twice. In two days. Given my school is at that street corner, I'm surprised we don't lose 50 or 60 students a year to it.
2. As a blogger and alleged member of the Political Left I am supposed to have been watching with utmost fascination and rooting interest the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont race in Connecticut. I am supposed to be chewing fingernails over tonight's primary results. I am supposed to be posting hourly updates to Daily Kos on how this race signifies the dawning of the "Age of Blogquarius", a golden time bestowed not only with peace and understanding, great sex (fairly obscure pop movie reference), and a greater fashion leniency toward tie-dye shirts and rose colored glasses, but a time in which 'netroots politicians will smash the entrenched milque toast lackeys and take over the political scene.

Sorry guys, I just can't get my Blogquarius mojo working here. Ned Lamont is a zillionnaire. He's no Abbie Hoffman and he's no Paul Wellstone. Yes, Joe Lieberman makes me ill at this point in a way I thought was only reserved for hearing/seeing George W. Bush (or merely hearing the word "Cheney"). Yes, I hope Joementum loses tonight. But seeing this as some tectonic plate movement in the history of American politics...I'm not seeing it. I'm not feeling it.

3. The New York Times has another great story on athletes cheating. No, it's not about Floyd Landis or Barry Bonds. It's about chess players. For those who check out the link, notice how long the tournament officials stand outside the alleged cheaters bathroom stall waiting for the dude to open the stall door. Definite flimic possibilities.

4. American drivers and world financial markets are abuzz with the news that BP will have to shut down a major pipeline from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Instantly, the news has become stories about use of "emergency stockpiles" and placating stories stressing U.S. drivers will still be able to fill-up despite the shutdown, etc. Nowhere do you see anything like: "Hey this oil pipeline corrosion just points out how stupid the whole oil from Alaska thing is to begin with. Maybe we should just conserve and spend major bucks converting to other resources/technologies." Nowhere. Especially from those "Democratic" politicians you would think might actually bring up a position other than "Oh my God! A disruption in oil production! Run for your lives! Oh, wait, there will be enough they say...okay, no need to say anything. Move along, nothing to see here."

5. For a guy who is a "Liberal", it's remarkable how often Democrats bother me.

6. If you spend time here at Burque Babble you're almost certainly a fine diner of ABQ blogs, and thus already know that Duke City Fix has been down for about two days now. They have a little explanatory "massive security attack" blurb up about the problem, and that's it for now. Just as you probably have, I've checked out the site about 500 times since Sunday to see if it's back up. The Fix has had its ups and downs over the blog years (i.e., months, maybe a year or so?), but it's been a dependable source for more information about 'Burque than you get at any other blog (especially 'Burque Babble). I'm kinda missing it these down days, even if I don't really care too much about ABQs presence on a "Top Ten Places for Business Singles With Herpes" list. Hopefully, it will get those 'Net Blue Meanies soon and I can get my weekly food lesson from Andrea Lin. I need all the lessons I can get.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Fun With Test Scores

You might have run across my post late last week looking a bit deeper at the standardized test scores. Since that post I've had a question or two about what it all means, both in terms of whether it's true that the scores are/aren't truly getting worse, and how does it all plug into an equation of whether a school is "good" or "bad".

With those questions rolling around in my weak brain, I went back in and spent a bit more time comparing 2005 test scores with 2006 (the testing is done in Spring of a School Year...so that's "last year's numbers" and the just released figures that made the papers, etc.).

I have all these figures scribbled on various pieces of scrap paper like I'm taking a Math test myself, but I'll try not to overburden you with too many numbers, dear reader. To get to something approximating an answer to the questions, let's first look at scores for entire school populations, then tackle more on last week's topic of identified school sub-groupings like "Students with Disabilities" and "English Language Learners".

Overall School Scores
  • 21 APS schools flunked at least one of the standardized testing components (Math/Reading) in 2006. This is up from 12 in 2005.
  • One of the many reasons for this, and perhaps the biggest, was that the necessary goal percentage was raised by around 4 percent.
In getting the numbers above, I disregarded the very small speciality schools like Freedom High (by the way, I haven't looked at the charter schools at all). While there is no single reason for each newly flunking school, Polk Middle School illuminates what I mean by the goal percentage being raised.

In 2005, Polk's overall school percentage in Math was 8.24%. In 2006, it was 9.9%. Yet, in 2005, Polk "passed" with its 8.24%, and "failed" in 2006 with it's higher 9.9%. That's because the test evaluators are raising the "Annual Yearly Progress" goals every year. Polk's Math expectations went from 10.58% in 2005 to 15% this year.

Careful readers might be asking..."Well why did Polk "pass" with a 8.24% in 2005 when the expected goal was 10.58%?" Good guestion. That's where we get back to the statistical work I droned on about last post. Namely, Polk's "Lower Bound Confidence Interval" for Math in 2005 was only 7.02%. They got 8.24%....so they passed. This might lead to a few follow up questions:
  1. Isn't setting a goal for only 7.02% (or 10.58%, or 15% for that matter) to show proficiency in Math ridiculously low?
  2. How do the test evaluators come up with the rising expectation percentages every year?
  3. Will Polk be publicly recognized for the well over 10% rise in their math proficiency scores even though they "failed" while passing with a lower score the year before?
Answers: (1) If you ask me, yes; (2) I don't know; (3) You can't be serious

By the way, almost the same exact thing happened with Polk's Reading scores. The scores were roughly flat for the two years at 28/29 percent, but the rising expectation goal caught them and they went from "pass" to "fail" with roughly the same score.
  • This rising expectation goal was not the only reason for the jump in school failing overall. For instance, James Monroe MS failed its Math score en masse because it was caught offering an unauthorized overnight break in the Math test.
  • Other schools like La Luz ES, Lowell ES, and Pajarito ES scored just flat-out scored dramatically lower in Reading. Lowell, for instance, dropped from 50% proficient to 30%. You might wonder why such a drop should occur, and that gets me to looking again at those school subgroups.
  • Speaking of subgroups, the single strongest correlation in a school passing the test overall is the percentage of "English Language Learner" (ELL) students they have.
This last point is probably the most provocative statement I'm making in this entire two-part inquiry. At the same time, it's so painfully obvious. Take the school down the street from my house, Harrison MS. Of its 520 tested students overall, 182, or 35%, were classified as "English Language Learners".

Given the obvious obstacles an "English Language Learner" has to overcome to become equally proficient with English speaking children, its utterly unsurprising that this correlation exists. But, noone will talk about it in terms of these tests scores. One wonders if the racial components and layered nuances of such a correlation make it too dangerous to bring up in public. The same can be said about the "Students with Disabilities" issue.

By the way, I didn't break it down on a complete "elevation/ELL student" basis, but it's worth pointing out that the sole middle school to pass this year, Desert Ridge MS, has only 45 ELL students in its testing population of 1,146. La Cueva, the only high school to pass had an overall tested population of 1,034, and 35 ELL students. In fact, La Cueva didn't even report a pass/fail score for its ELL population because the number tested was below that of statistical significance.

Testing Population Subgroups

Those who soldiered on and finished my last meandering post might remember that I focused much attention on "Students with Disabilities", i.e. Special Education students. As I mentioned at that time, many schools were identified as flunking overall because their SpEd subgroup failed. Let's get a bit more specific:
  • In a quick count, I show 21 schools that passed overall and with every subgroup except "Students with Disabilities". Because of this the school is designated as failing.
  • 8 schools passed every barometer except "English Language Learners" (ELL).
  • Many smaller schools didn't get counted for subgroups like those above because the number of students in these subgroups was too small to be statistically significant.
  • Remember: the goal expectations were also raised for these subgroups in tandem with the school overall.

Scot Divergently Rants A Bit

Keep in mind that when talking about these groups I am not ranting that we shouldn't count these subgroups, or that I have something against either population. I am instead ranting that not enough 30-second soundbite news is delivered about the fact that many of the 83 (or whatever) schools shown to be failing are doing so only because of the scores of these subgroups. And now more questions:
  1. Do I think the scores are too low in these subgroups and that much work needs to be done? Yes, absolutely.
  2. Do I, in my heart of hearts, think it's fair that SpEd and English Language Learner students be held to the same expectation goal as the overall student population? No.
  3. Am I shocked that reading scores in particular are very, very low for English Language Learner students? Again, you can't be serious.

Scot Tries To Conclude By Getting Back to a More Dry, Objective Analysis

So, if I remember correctly, there were two questions:
  1. Did APS schools test scores go down, or not?
  2. What constitutes a good or bad APS school?
Question One: I'll be honest and report I haven't seen or broken down the entire district to see if the entire district population proficiency percentage went up or down. For interesting reasons, this testing just doesn't get spoken about that way. It's always school-by-school, so the answer tends to run at the 30-second soundbite level to "how many schools failed this year".

If the reader can take anything from these two long diatribes on the subject, your humble blogger would ask that it it be this: determining whether schools are doing better or worse is far more complicated than a simple list of "those who failed". And I haven't even gotten into factors like transient school populations, the fact that testing follows the school and not the kids who actually take the tests, etc. And as a punchline, I reiterate that APS has already said they are changing the test for Special Education kids next year. So the rules change, the parameters change, the test subjects change, the test is itself always in "beta". It all changes, yet this standardized test is considered the only true accountability measure we have for school performance.

So, to finally answer the question...some schools did better, some did the same, and some did worse. Overall, it's actually a wash, but for the factors listed above it will be seen by media and those make hay from pontificating about how "public schools suck" as worse overall. Period.

Question Two:

It might sound flippant, but if a parent was to look at these test scores as a determinant as to where in Albuquerque they should move to from out of town (a question asked by a respondent to the last post), the obvious answer would be near a school at 5,200 feet or higher and with low numbers of English Language Learner students. Of course parents shouldn't merely look at the scores on these, just as they should have better criteria than elevation and avoiding foreigners.

The fact is that there are good schools in all parts of Albuquerque, whether the test scores indicate it or not. And yes, there are bad schools in Albuquerque, run by unimaginative adminstrators and full of teaching burnouts.

My suggestion to parents looking at schools is to be somewhat like someone looking a good restaurant. Like schools, there are plenty of good restaurants in the "bad" part of town, and vice-versa. To find a new good dining spot one has to research beyond the Health Safety Report, reading reviews and checking out the number of cars in the parking lot. Just as restaurants might have a line out the door, some APS schools have a waiting list for kids to transfer to. Finding out information like that can successfully guide school/location choice much more than a simple newspaper list of "failing" schools. In fact, as pointed out in a recent Journal story, many of the most in-demand schools for transfer are schools that didn't "pass" this year's standardized test.

In regards to full disclosure, I admit that I teach at such a school. Jefferson MS didn't pass this year (our "Students with Disabilities" scores were too low), and we have a waiting list. I also admit that part of my motivation in writing these thousands of words on the subject of tests was generated by my reading of the Journal story with my school listed as "failing". Given that fact, I hope I have been objective enough to demonstrate not simply that the "tests are stupid" , as we teachers and other Bush/No Child Left Behind detractors are wont to scream, but much more complicated and thought provoking than a pithy newspaper headline and 500 word story can adequately present.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Truthiness According to John Dendahl

Proving once again that he is actually head writer for "The Colbert Report", part-time gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl has blamed NM teachers for low test scores because (quoting from today's Journal story):

"'Public school teachers skimp on basics because they are too busy teaching 'the three S's --sexuality, self esteem, and Socialism.'" He added in a phone interview that "most of the teachers in schools are of a socialist inclination...they do indeed brainwash children against the capitalist system.'"

Later in the day he toned down his remarks, supposedly, to mere apoplectic ranting via email:

"'It is my impression— from conversations with parents, some personal experience in classrooms and a great deal of reading— that many teachers, perhaps a majority, neither understand nor support the capitalist system,' Dendahl said in the e-mail. 'Many advocate views on economics that are socialist. Some punish students through the grading process for expressing conservative opinions.'"

Head Writer Dendahl reminds me of those dysfunctional family members who burn with repressed resentment, then spew out their resentment when the family has a big argument. You just know this guy has seethed with politico-economic theory hatred toward teachers, and the test scores have provided the mechanism for him to finally let go of this passionate Mel Gibson getting arrested by a Jewish cop level anger and rage.

And no, I don't know what Dendahl has against teaching self-esteem.

As for sexuality and Socialism, Dendahl and other intellectual Don't Ask Don't Tell types consider the bringing up of either subject to be the equivalent of advocating for it. The only correct way to properly teach these two subjects (which we all know only leads to pregnancy, homosexuality and voting Democratic) is to not teach them at all. In the case of Socialism, simply bringing up the concept is automatically a "brainwashing" attack on Capitalism. Or so the argument goes.

And no, I don't know what Dendahl has against teaching self-esteem.

I rambled on about the test scores themselves in the last entry, and won't rehash my harping about the simplistic nature of the "analysis" of those scores by Head Writer/Politicians like John Dendahl here. I will say that I expect more of the same level "analysis" from all sides of the "debate" on the issue, and that is really the only depressing aspect for me of the whole testing imbroglio. And yes, it's really depressing.

So it's fortunate that Head Writer Dendahl goes so over the top that the arguments swing back from depressing to howlingly funny. Just like that Stephen Colbert guy. I'll continue to admire Head Writer Dendahl's work on "The Colbert Report", and if I'm wrong, and Dendahl isn't actually Head Writer for the show, I certainly will give a sparkling recommendation that Stephen Colbert hire him after Dendahl gets his ass handed to him in the November election.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The New Tests Scores Are Here! The New Test Scores Are Here!

Update 9:45 A.M., Friday, August 4th: I see that Gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl has used the Test Scores Card, slamming Big Bill Richardson for the high failure percentage of New Mexico schools. Typical, of course, and obviously if the failure percentage was lower Big Bill would be using large chunks of his millions in campaign funds to gloat about it. I'm not naive enough to think test scores won't be used for political purposes. I just wish some public official or news source would go beyond the microscopically shallow scores bad/scores awful/scores not so awful "analysis", and take a deeper look at the numbers.

The following meandering ditty makes a feeble attempt to do some of that. You'll notice I don't state a strong opinion on whether standardized testing is worthwhile, who is to blame for low scores, or if No Child Left Behind is the mental spawn of an educational Satan or merely a good accountability tool. While I have definite opinions on those subjects (hell, I'm a K-12 teacher), there's plenty of polemics on those topics elsewhere.

Pehaps my naivete is my gut feeling that getting a little deeper into the numbers here might lead to a burgeoning, more thorough dialogue on the subject. I have a dreamy mental picture of Big Bill and John Dendahl at a televised debate arguing about standard deviations and "lower bound confidence intervals". Okay, that's too dreamy...but we number lover guys have dreams, too. Aw heck, let's get on with the ditty.

Standardized Testing.
Where to start? It's one of those overarching, overwhelming, oversomething topics that gets boiled down to far too overly simple in the media. And I can understand that, to an extent.

Amy Miller has a story on how many APS schools "failed" (83), and she does a good job in pinpointing the subtest area responsible for most of the "failures", that of "students with disabilities". You think I use too many quotation marks and parentheses, well wait until you see an "education" post. She also mentions what is to me the initially most startling fact in the report: only one high school (La Cueva) and one middle school (Desert Ridge) came through unscathed.

That means other way-the-Hell-up-in-the-Heights schools like Eisenhower Middle School didn't pass in all areas, particularlly with "students with disabilities". Hoover MS didn't pass. Madison MS didn't pass. Sandia HS didn't pass.

And yes, those facts lead to a certain amount of gleeful laughter by folks living further down the long alluvial fan hill. Especially by teachers at schools whose elevation is not quite 5,200 feet. Which reminds me that even "flighters" escaping to the West Mesa are not immune. LBJ Middle School didn't "pass" either.

I teach at somewhere around 5,000 feet. Why does that matter, you might ask? What does elevation have to do with passing standardized testing? For those to whom the answer is not immediately obvious, I apologize because I'm not going to take the sidetrack to answer that here. I only bring it up: 1. because it's interesting to me from a sociological perspective; 2. it shows one of the approximately 4.5 million intervening variables that get in the way of a truly scientific method for determining the quality of a particular school. I realize 4.5 million is a big number, but I wonder if I'm hyperbolizing.

Which brings me to the test reports themselves. The NM Public Education Department (PED) has a handy-dandy site full of .pdf files for each district (and charter schools). Each school then has its own handy-dandy (and easy to read, btw) single page outlining school status (pass or "Meets AYP", or fail "AYP Not Met"), and below that a statistical breakdown for the school and each subgroup.

Now I admit I'm a bit of a numbers guy. Not too knowledgeable, but really into trying to figure out what the data means. For instance, some of you know that I play this real geeky baseball game called Strat-o-Matic. Again, I don't want to sidetrack, but Strat is a game that, through highly complicated cards and dice rolls, tries to correctly simulate the yearly stats for real baseball players going back to Honus Wagner and such. It's D&D for baseball nerds.

I only bring this up as a prelude to the admission that I can spend hours going through the numbers on these PED reports. No, that's not necessarily a good thing, but If you are at all interested in really understanding this whole "standardized testing" thing you should do the same.

As an alleged "professional educator" who has been forced to sit through several staff meetings on details of such reports, I might have a bit of a leg-up here. But, as a public service, I will spare you from attending those incredibly boring meetings and explain a few things on the reports themselves. Yes that means you gotta actually look at the reports.

I'm assuming those who don't want to look at them stopped reading this post hours ago. Amy Miller at the Journal has the same exact problem regarding the attention span of readers, and I totally understand. I also promise two things: 1. I won't cover everything; 2. I won't give you the company line BS definitions for some of the terms/numbers.

The Meeting Goals Yes/No Part

Actually this top section is pretty straightforward. The results are stated for the entire school population, then broken down into eight sub-groups, ranging from "Caucasian" to "Economically Disadvantaged". Let's focus on the one sub-group of "students with disabilities" because it's the one that caused so many schools to "fail". First, "students with disabilities" means Special Education students. For reasons of obfuscatory political correctness the test reports say "students with disabilties". Stuff like that drives me crazy.

Second, when we say Special Education students here we're not talking about ALL Special Education students. SpEd kids are grouped (whether teachers and administrators care to admit it) into four groups: A, B, C, D. Group "A" SpEd kids need the least help from SpEd teachers, with the needs increasing as the alphabet continues. "D" kids need the most support, with some of them being in Special Education classes all day long.

In terms of standardized tests, "students with disabilities" refers ONLY to SpEd kids from the "C" and "D" levels. One sidenote: In New Mexico "Gifted" is considered part of Special Education (that's not true in most states). Ergo, "Gifted" is a "disability". I cannot count with the most powerful computer in the world how many boring meetings and private discussions I've had on this subject over my 13 years of teaching "Gifted" students. I get depressed just thinking about it. The important thing to keep in mind in terms of standardized tests is that almost all "Gifted" kids are in levels "A" or "B" in the SpEd letter hierarchy. So gifted kids test scores don't count with the "students with disabilities".

So by the time you whittle the "students with disabilities" subgroup down to only "C" and "D" level kids you are talking about a pretty small percentage of the total school population. And it is this very small percentage that has caused many APS schools to "fail" in this year's report. Not that we're holding it against these SpEd kids, or anything. Really, we're not, and you merely insinuating that disgusts me. Seriously, I hope no teachers resent these "students with disabilities", but given human nature it's inevitable that some will. I guess I'm just a negative thinker that way. But let's move on.

In some cases, "students with disabilities" wasn't the "problem", such as Rio Grande HS where the overall school population didn't meet proficiency goals. I count up 27 APS schools as failing either Reading/Math or both to this extent, and many of those were schools like Sierra Alternative and New Futures where students have bigger issues than whether they know how to use a semicolon. If you go through the list, notice how many of these schools are in the South Valley. Harrison MS, Pajarito Elem., Ernie Pyle MS, etc. Then there is Polk MS where a staggeringly small 9.9% of the student body met proficienty in Math. Which gets us to the actual numbers/stats.

The Numbers/Statistics Part

As prelude, let me acknowledge that I am not a professional statistician. My only Stat class was in a graduate program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in which most of the class refused to learn standard deviation because they were convinced it and other statistical concepts were conspiratorial inventions of large multi-national corporations and over evil-doers. Nevertheless, the teachers were really good, and even I understood it and a few other things by the end of it. Still, I"m nowhere near an expert here, just someone who digs looking into the numbers.

Just at random let's take a line from the statistical analysis for Reginald Chavez Elementary. I pick them because I never taught there, know nothing about the place, don't even know where it is. Now, you've probably figured out that I can't figure out a simple way to copy/paste the .pdf files into this overly long blog entry, so you won't be surprised when I simply retype the line from the report thusly:

Subject: Reading
Group: Hispanic
Number Tested: 123
Percent Proficient: 38.21
"Annual AYP Goal": 45.00
"Lower Bound Confidence Interval for AYP Goal": 34.98

So what the heck does this mean (and yes, I realize many Babble readers had far more Stat work during college than me and are ridiculing me for being so pedantic, condescending and so darn teacherly in general)? Well, simply put, in terms of specified Hispanic students Reginald Chavez Elementary "passed" the standardized test in Reading.

More interestingly, the reason it passed is not because a sufficient percentage of its Hispanic were "proficient" (and by the way, I'm not 100% sure, but I'm pretty sure "proficient" meant "at grade level" in the subject...this gets dinked with every year it seems). The school and its Hispanic population "passed" because the precentage of students demonstrating "proficiency" was slightly higher than the required percentage minus one standard deviation based on the number of students in that sub-group tested.

Okay, now we're in two camps: the "WTF?" camp and the "Duh!" camp. The "WTF?" folks didn't quite get that last sentence because it was either horribly written (a given) or they didn't have that Stat class during college. The "Duh!" folks probably left many paragraphs ago, so let's focus on the "WTF?" folks.

What that gobbledy-gook above means is that the required percentage of students proficient in a sub-group (like "students with disabilities" or "Hispanic") depends on the number of students in that group taking the test. That's because the overall "AYP Goal" (and you'll notice that differs between schools) is based on ALL the students in the school. The smaller the sub-group is, the less statistically sure we are that group should be evaluated identically to a more statistically sufficient number. Through some Statistics mumbo-jumbo, a "lower bound confidence interval" is established that is one standard deviation lower than the required, and this lower number becomes the new required percentage. So...45% of Reginald Chavez Elementary Hispanic students don't need to be proficient. Only 34.98% do. Since they had 38.21% proficient...YEAH!, THEY PASS!

Reginald Chavez Elementary is interesting (and I swear I just picked it for the simple reasons listed above) because not only did the Hispanic Reading score fall into the gap between the "lower bound confidence interval" and the supposedly required percentage, BUT THE ENTIRE SCHOOL DID. To wit, from the report:

Reginald Chaves Elementary Reading: All Students
Number Enrolled in AYP Grades: 184
Number Participated: 182
Number Tested: 136
Percent Proficient: 38.97
Annual AYP Goal: 45.00
"Lower Bound Confidence Interval for AYP Goal": 35.44

Okay, I've introduced a few extra lines here, namely having to do with the number participating and "tested". You'll notice that 182 students participated, but only 136 count as "tested". That's because schools only count the scores of students who attended that school the entire year. This makes sense, but it leads to a very interesting statistical situation, especially in elementary schools.

Elementary schools are smaller than middle and high schools. As such, the statistical "confidence" of a school's score is less. Therefore, the gap between the required percentage and the "lower bound confidence interval" is bigger. Now...add the fact that in Reginald Chavez Elementary's case the number actually counting for statistical analysis is only 136, and that gap balloons to almost 10 percent, EVEN FOR THE ENTIRE SCHOOL.

With gaps that wide, Reginald Chavez fits snugly between the "required" and "lower bound..." and passes with a 38.97%.

So what you ask? Or, bringing the "Duh!" folks back into the mix, you might be asking who cares? I'll close with some weak-ass attempts to answer both of those questions:

  • The shocking thing about Standardized Testing 2005-06 isn't that so many high schools and middle schools failed, it is that so many elementary schools passed.
  • A big reason elementary schools did better was simply because elementary schools are smaller.
  • Throughout the district scores for "students with disabilities" were atrocious, except for schools with fewer than 30 tested "C" and "D" level SpEd kids. These schools didn't have a yes/no next to this sub-group because there weren't enough tested kids to be statistically accountable. Note that in many cases these scores were atrocious as well, they just didn't lead to a big "NO" next to that sub-group
  • Interestingly, Amy Miller's story in the Journal quotes APS testing guru Rose-Ann McKernan as saying that a new "assessment" (that means test) is being created for SpEd kids next year. In other words, this year's test sucked for SpEd kids and we're gonna make it easier to pass. This being the case, should we even have to count this year's scores for SpEd kids? And what does this say about the overall usefulness of these tests as accountability measures if we run "beta" versions out that we later find to be too difficult? Or too easy?
There are easily another 50,000 questions I could pose and then poorly answer on the subject before lunch, but this post has gone on long enough. Also, the Reginald Chavez example above is just one of the literally thousands of interesting little number-crunching nuggets of goodness that can be mined from these test score reports. I strongly suggest anyone interested to arm themselves with massive amounts of caffeine and skepticism and wade through all the APS scores.

I realize that the local media can't take time/space to undertake such a statistical frog-gigging expedition, but anyone who either puts stock in these tests/reports and/or cares about K-12 education should get their mental feet wet awhile checking these out.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sandia Climb Update

I know many of you are hanging on, unable to breathe, waiting to hear word on whether I "summited" Sandia Crest via bike today. I humbly report that I was successful. Albuquerque is as green as I have ever seen it, and the sight from the Crest among scattered tourists was damn nice given that greenery and the fact that brown cloud was reduced due to the rains. It was an all-around nice feeling.

A few seconds after stopping amongst the tourists to sweatily witness this sight, our collective reverie was broken as a heavily grunting cyclist powered up the American for Disability Act ramp and joined us wheezing and moaning in an orgasmic fashion not commonly heard during daylight hours at Sandia Crest. The ultra-triathlete uber-human then expectorated repeatedly, continuing to wheeze, grunt and exhale violently.

I silently walked my bike down to the parking lot, cruised down the mountain and left the ultra-triathlete uber human to sweat, grunt and spit on the nice older folks from Minnesota and other tourists. Guess I'm just not uber-human enough to be THAT kind of cyclist.

Oh, and tomorrow I'll get to those standardized test results, "Adequate Yearly Progress" and all that. Right now, I just want to lie down. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but I gotta milk this for something. Go get me a drink.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Climb Every Mountain, Stop Every Insidious Inner Voice

There are so, so many topics I could write about this early evening. Another rainstorm blowing through the South Valley with comcomitant sewer problems, another volley of Israeli airstrikes and 10,000 troops posed to grab as much Lebanon as possible before a "cease-fire", another day of carnage in Iraq (oh, I already wrote a little snippet about that), another stupid bill by Senator Ted "Incredible Hulk" Stevens (AK).

Update Interjection 11:20 P.M.: Or I could have screamed "The Test Scores Are Here! The Test Scores Are Here" and starting ranting about sample sizes, "Adequate Yearly Progress" and other rant-worthy topics ad nauseam. I'll save that for tomorrow, if I can keep from throwing the keyboard through a window in overwhelming righteous rage.

So naturally I'm now instead going to write about my bike ride tomorrow. After years of just thinking, talking and boasting about doing it, tomorrow morning I'm gonna bike climb those 14 or so miles from South 14 to the top of Sandia Crest. Now, I wrote it and "published" it, so I am obligated to do it.

My bike at the edge of the tent city, Buffalo HS, Buffalo, Wyoming

A few weeks back, as those ridiculously few regular Babble readers will remember, I participated in the "Tour de Wyoming", a six-day, 350 mile ride through the Big Horn mountains. By "participate" I mean to say I started the Tour. I did not finish. I will tell you that the reason I did not finish had nothing to do with the fact the Tour featured a claimed 27,000 feet of climbing over the six days. Really, it wasn't the climbing. In fact, I did what was probably the hardest day (okay, I cheated and "sagged" the last eight miles of climb), and could have done more. Really. Honest.

No, I quit the Tour because you would show up exhausted from a half day of riding (to beat the 95 degree Wyoming heat), then be stuck in a tent right next to other tents throughout a 95 degree day, sleep fitfully in an only slow-to-cool-at-all evening, then pick it back up at 5:30 A.M. again. The worst part was the afternoon, spent trying to read a book in a tent registering 107 degrees (actual recorded temperature on two different occasions). The temperature combined with the fact you were three feet away from another tent, and another, and another colorfully splashed across a podunk high school campus didn't help, either. Some people are into such crowds. As for me, it felt as close to being a Hurricane Katrina refugee as I want to get.

So no, it wasn't the 27,000 feet of climbing. Really.

About two-thirds up Powder River Pass, Wyoming

Still, a gnawing part of me feels I'm about 20,000 feet of climbing short. You know, the gnawing part of one's self in which things like wimping out well before the end of something take up far too much of one's brain activity. The part that can quick-as-a-wink mentally respond to future situations with the rejoinder that "you didn't finish the Tour de Wyoming". For example:

Scot's Brain: Damn! I forgot to get cat litter at the store!
Insidious Other Part of Scot's Brain: You know why you forgot? Because you didn't finish the Tour de Wyoming!

Trust me, the above scenario has in the last two weeks played out in situations as diverse as cutting myself shaving, overly raising my voice to my wife, and the cat barfing on the futon. Yes, the cat would not have barfed if only I had finished the Tour de Wyoming...

So, in order to quell the insidious other part of my brain I am finally going to do the climb to Sandia Peak. No, I am not doing it from my house in the South Valley. Don't ask me that question again. I will drive to that bagel store that's been closed for years at the South 14 turnoff, then skadaddle past Tinkertown and several "autotour" signs (which I have never figured out the meaning of), and hopefully past the ski area and right up to the base of the radio/TV towers.

Hopefully, as in if I don't the insidious other part of my brain will be unrelenting. I actually attempted this climb a week or so ago, hauling the bike up to the eternally closed bagel shop only to find out I had a slow leak in my back tire. Not being inclined to change a flat, especially at the start of such a karmically altering ride, me and the insidious other part of my brain loudly cursed in unison and I drove crestfallen back to town. Get it? "Crestfallen". Okay, that was unnecessary.

But tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow I will not have a flat and I will zoom past Tinkertown and struggle past the other aforementioned sites and signs and make it to the top. The very top, no Sag wagon needed. I will then zoom down the mountain freed from that insidious other part of my brain for about as long as it takes before I do something else which makes me feel somehow inadequate or incomplete.

I'm guessing that feeling will return sometime before I get back down to Tinkertown, but considering that I'll be going 40 MPH downhill, those 8 minutes or so of insidious-free brain time is gonna be marvelous.

Increasing Degrees of Separation

Now that Fidel has temporarily relinquished power to have some surgery, the news has another story to plop above the daily Iraqi Civil War story. The Israel/Hezbollah conflict has been so helpful in this regard, but could use all the help it can get.

Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" has a daily "Moment of Zen"...well Iraq has the opposite in its daily "Moment of Carnage". Here's today list via the BBC.

Remember, we're helping obliterate them there so we don't have to deal with them here. Or better yet, just don't remember anything at all. Just go about your daily lives. Besides, the Iraqi people deserve it because they had Saddam. And Saddam is evil. Tell you what, let's just focus on the not remembering angle and leave it at that.