Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Feudal Prince Marty And His Amazing Statistical Technicolor Dreamcoat

If the lottery is a tax on people who can't do statistics, Marty Chávez would make a great lottery director.

Jack King at the Journal
has a great little story of Feudal Prince Marty's gloating over test results for AIMS (Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science) 11th graders versus those for APS high school juniors.
In a letter this month to the Journal, Chávez said AIMS's scores on the state Standards-Based Assessment tests given last March were "stunning."

"Eighty-one percent of AIMS students scored at the proficient or higher level in reading, while only 59 percent of all APS students ranked proficient or higher," the letter said. "Fifty percent of all AIMS students scored at the proficient or higher mathematics level while 44 percent of all APS students scored proficient or higher."

The letter continued, "There is no mystery (emphasis mine) here. Highly qualified, unselfish and dedicated staff, high performance expectations, committed parents, motivated students and a competent administrative staff and board that demand accountability at all levels are the ingredients for academic success from our students."
And there's no mystery, Marty, when you have 32, as you note, "motivated students", willingly attending an "Institute for Math/Science" scoring better overall on standardized tests than 4,526 APS 11th graders with wide-ranging "motivations", many of which do not include college, math, science or anything past struggling to graduate high school. How many identified "Special Education" students took the SBA at AIMS Marty? How many "English Language Learners"?

Oh wait, here is the overall data from the NM PED. First of all, it's confusing because the numbers don't match. Must have been some non-11th graders tested. Or maybe this isn't about the numbers, statistics or anything real. Maybe, just maybe, it's about preying on those equally poor at statistics who can be bullshitted by shameful statistical rigging followed by marketing blather about "dedicated staff...and demand accountability...".

Don't try to bullshit a bullshitter, dear Feudal Prince. I teach "Gifted" students. I teach at a school with almost 25% of the student body considered "Gifted". Guess what? Our test scores are higher than many similar schools with identical socio-economic/ethnic demographics. Obviously it's just gotta be because of the "dedicated staff...and demand accountability...." yadda-yadda-yadda!

Frankly, it's just gotta be because I'm a "dedicated teacher" and teachers at those other schools aren't dedicated and, honestly, suck. That must be true because my school scores are higher than those schools. What schools? Why, the schools with lower scores, obviously! How do we know the teachers suck? Duh? Because the test scores are lower!

Teaching Statistically Warped Samples of Smart/Motivated Students + Standardized Testing
= Political Profit!

Teaching Non-Distorted Statistical Samples + Standardized Testing
= Professional Shame and Ignominy!

That's easy addition there, Marty. Maybe you and I should go into selling hedge funds together. I hear it's an even better way to make tons of money bullshitting people who can't do math. We can probably use your slick web site and associated documents as a "prospectus". We'll just switch the words "rigorous academic curriculum" with "unending profits even in down markets".

P.S.: To those who think President-Elect Obama will sweep "No Child Left Behind" away instantaneously with a magic wand, consider how Feudal Prince Marty, a "Democrat", is using NCLB as a political tool. NCLB ain't going away, folks, not as long as the bullshit artists are painting pretty pictures with the numbers.

P.P.S.: A big shout-out to Early College Academy Principal Scott Elder, who summed up the testing scam better than I ever could in describing why his school's scores are better than APS:

"You have students who have self-selected to come here. You have engaged students and parents involved in their children's education. Our curriculum is more career-driven, there's more emphasis on math and science, we don't have a lot of electives and all those electives are academic subjects,"
Well done, sir. Well done.
Your honesty and insight is very much appreciated by those of us teaching at those sucky, horrible, awful regular 'ol APS schools.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Mailing From Resolution Row

Prologue: Outside of "Election Day 2008" this has been just about the crappiest year I can remember. Just imagine if we were 23 days or so from having Sarah Palin as Vice President...

Crappy years only help to prod my prodigious ability to make resolutions I do not keep. Here's an example from two years ago, again proving that as an "historical document" blogs can be damn embarrassing. Yet I feel compelled to rush into the self-promising breech and again make grandiose statements that will end up crashing against the rocky shores of reality and bad metaphors by the middle of January. Or earlier.

So here goes, and we'll start small to build up the self-delusion of "hey, I can do this!":

  • I resolve to get back to this unkempt blogging thing. Weeds have grown through all the cracks of Burque Babble, dishes are piled up in the "other places to visit" section and the place, outside of the goat photo, just looks like hell. I pledge to get to the blogger layout with some pliers and a "Silkwood" shower hose and spruce things up;
  • I resolve to "win" my bet with a friend and get down to 165. A regular reader and I went camping last summer and made the simultaneous observation that we were both fat slobs, incapable of going above 11,000 with anything less than an oxygen tank, sherpa and gondola-lift. We pledged to get down to 165 (that's pounds, not kilograms) by Memorial Day, 2009. Well, I'm about halfway to the goal myself, and this regular reader looks to be kicking my weight-loss ass. I better pick it up a notch, or down a belt notch or two this Semester or I'll never hear the end of it from my camping buddy;
  • Just to play it safe regarding the point immediately above, I pledge to make frequent offers to my camping buddy to "go get some beers and nachos" at Two Fools, then claim a "cold" when I get to the bar. I pledge to sniffle convincingly while my friend piles 90 Schillings and sour cream/faux cheese fried tortilla chips down his gullet. If I don't make 165, everyone else is going down with me...;
  • I humbly pledge to go the entire remainder of the school year without killing a teaching colleague. As regular readers may have surmised (all three of you!), things have been tough 'round the 'ol school ranch. I hereby resolve to take a step back, stop sending incendiarily obtuse e-mails, refrain from creating ornate turf-intrusive proposals and basically just do the smart thing and stay within the "teaching box" at all times;
  • Okay, let's be serious here and acknowledge that that latter part of the resolution above just ain't gonna happen. Let's just leave it at "without killing a teaching colleague". That's at least somewhat realistic.
  • Along the lines of the two above, I think Burque Babble is gonna have to change a little. As I suspected, the act of writing specifics about my profession/job solves nothing, informs no one, and only serves to make the little throbbing vein in my forehead grow larger and throb more menacingly. I therefore pledge to avoid the mental quicksand of discussing "bad teachers", "block scheduling", "Instructional Councils", "instructional coaches" and "principals". I'll stick to larger, hazier, more imaginary educational topics such as Robert Lucero. Compared with writing about "bad teachers", dishing out prose about Robert Lucero is like writing for "Mad Magazine". Easy. Fun. 66.6667% less brain throbbing.
  • Instead, I pledge to continue, as singer-songwriter Greg Brown would say, to "tell it all in my new book". After debating the fact/fiction question regarding a "stinging expose of public school education and the lives/loves/highs/lows of the dashing/cretinous people who work there" I think we're all better off with a "fictional" portrayal. This of course means I might need to change "Robert Lucero" to "Bob Brightstar", but that's manageable;
  • I pledge to never, ever state a finishing date for "my new book". I also pledge to never mention "my new book" here again. These will be, by far, the easiest of this year's resolutions to keep;
  • And back to the whole "blog" thing, I'm thinking 2009 will require more funny and less "what Scot seriously thinks". Now that I consider it, any year is probably better off with less of "what Scot seriously thinks". With that fact in mind, I resolve to avoid endless pontifications with sketchy logic and just write more overtly useless, allegedly "funny" crap. With the emphasis on "allegedly";
  • And lastly, there are the cycling resolutions...
  • I resolve to increase my average of bike commutes to work this Semester to over three per week. I think I was at about 2.5 for the last Semester (that cold snap at the end was a killer). The lengthening days are my friend here, and the realization that I was a far grumpier teacher on the days I didn't ride should help me improve my commuting average. In fact, my students may take up a collection to pay for any new tires/panniers, etc. I need. A grumpy Mr. Key is to be avoided even as significant expense;
  • Oh yeah...I resolve to be less grumpy in 2009;
  • Back to the cycling thing, after having done a ton of research toward a bike tour of France this Summer, the Great Recession/Depression II/Bushession whatever you call it, has put the kibosh on Europe. Sooooo...I pledge to tackle the Adventure Cycling Association "TransAmerica" East to West from Newton, Kansas to Astoria, Oregon, taking the Amtrak out to Kansas to start and again taking Amtrak back from the West Coast. That's right at 2,500 miles, which, at 50 miles per day, is right at 50 days. Combining two or three days of camping with the occasional hotel/hot shower and it should be affordable, life-affirming and a little bit scary. A perfect combination for a year that promises to be more than a little bit scary overall.
Okay, that's enough bullets and more than enough empty promises for 2009. I hope my dear readers will not return to this blogpost later in 2009 and send me emails asking "well, did you keep resolution X?" That would be oh so gauche. Which reminds me:
  • I forgot to mention that, despite not going to France in 2009, I want to keep working on my complete mangling of the French language. The laughs I get from my French-speaking wife when I try to say words like "aujourd'hui" are just priceless. One of these years I pledge to make some French folks in France laugh just as hard.
And now I'm off to tend to the blogging garden, plot my never-finished novel, ride a bike and count off the passing kilometers in French while trying to pronounce "panniers" correctly. Good luck on your own resolutions, folks, and feel free to join me down at Two Fools for some waist-expanding beer/nachos if your own resolutions end up as pointlessly unfulfilled as mine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well, Winter Break Does Have the Word "Break" In It

I've always been a big fan of that joke/observation that someone, somewhere right now is being treated by the worst doctor in the world. Unless, of course, the worst doctor is on vacation.

I didn't say it was a funny joke.

Well, your humble blogger just finished his worst of the nine semesters spent at his current school of employ. Reasons for this determination range from health problems of co-workers to mental problems of co-workers to my problems with co-workers to the mere existence of those co-workers.

Oh well.

Another joke/observation line that seems appropo to the whole situation is that anyone with any decision-making role in a organization will piss off 20% of the workers in that organization per year. So by year five you've pissed off 100% of the workers, and it's time to get another job.

This is year five for me.

Fortunately, the economy is taking care of the "time to get another job" problem, what with Rio Rancho suggesting experienced teachers just take a semester off, and even Mr. Moneybags Albuquerque Academy instituting a hiring freeze.

Fellow employees, looks like we're stuck with each other, unless the "recession proof" theory of public school teacher employment proves to be fallacious. Meanwhile, a big Winter Break shout-out to all the were-just-about-to-retire public school teachers who are now going to extend their careers somewhat-to-mostly against their will.

It's gonna be a lovely Spring Semester. But for now it's Winter Break and let us all recharge our mental batteries as full as possible before resuming the ongoing systemic cluster#^&* that is the best, if crude, description of the glorious School Year 2008-2009.

Hmmm, looking back at the above paragraphs, I understand some readers might get the impression your humble blogger may be in need of a psychiatrist, even if that psychiatrist is the worst in the world. Ah, it's not that bad. Hell, I could be at West Mesa HS.

Another joke that just isn't funny. Have a good whatever you want to call the next few days. I'm planning an internet-free mini-vacation up north, replete with Richard Russo, snowshoeing and perhaps one or two or three glasses of barolo before the roaring fire. Cheers...even if it's not especially cheery these days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today in Unintentional, No Make That Very Intentional Art

I was bopping around "Democracy for New Mexico" tonight and came across this oft-uploaded pic of NM Secretary of State Mary Herrera (above). And I finally made the connection. Isn't the infamous Herrera photo actually a Cindy Sherman artphoto? You know, Cindy Sherman...

the post-modern conceptual artist who takes pictures of herself as various characters (example above)? I can't believe it's taken me this long to figure out that Herrera is totally into the ironic feminist art scene and allowed commissioned Sherman to satirize the whole "Secretary of State" female objectification mindset.

Brilliant, Secretary Herrera. Simply brilliant. And here I was thinking she was just an incompetent, inexplicably chosen bureaucrat who couldn't run an election to save her life. Boy, have I been successfully duped.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Block Scheduling "Things I Wrote Elsewhere"

I'm stealing John Fleck's great blogpost title idea as a way to explain away the extreme dearth of things emanating from 'round these parts in recent days/weeks. When you spend most of your non-recreational time pounding out amazingly banal, arcane stuff like:
  • "Math & LA/Lit teachers will teach three main classes, and with supposedly 27 kids per class, and 81 kids total;
  • SS, Science and Electives teachers will teach six main classes, and with the same 27 kids per class that's roughly 162 students;
  • The number of additional staff & rooms required to get Math/LA teachers down to 81 kids per teacher is patently untenable
  • Compared with the current schedule (and discounting the effects of the rather uncertain "skinny" period for Tier II interventions, etc.), the proposed schedule reduces student contact time for SS/Science/Electives teachers by a little over 45 minutes per week (240 minutes v. 196 minutes);
  • Math student contact time (again, not including the "skinny" period which is primarily full of Tier II reading/Math and a bunch of singleton electives) would increase from current levels by roughly 110 minutes per week, not even including the Tier II intervention time;
  • Interestingly enough, LA/Lit student contact time for non-Tier II intervention students is reduced by around 130 minutes per week in the proposed schedule."

In other, more comprehensible words, the block scheduling brouhaha at my school is taking up important time that could be spent writing silly things about snow, Robert Lucero and thrown shoes.

I highly doubt these missing silly blogposts are missed, just as I doubt poorly constructed bullets like "The number of additional staff & rooms required to get Math/LA teachers down to 81 kids per teacher is patently untenable" will have any impact whatsoever regarding the schedule at my school next year.

Funny. Blogposts and school-wide emails seem to have just about the same level of impact/importance. Hmmm...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Leonard DeLayo and Other Foggy Memories

So I'm half-interestedly going through the online newspaper this morning, looking at this and that when I come across:
Leonard DeLayo and Aggie Lopez, who sat on the board together in the 1990s, are running for the North Valley seat that will be vacated by Berna Facio.--ABQ Journal, 12.17.08
And when I saw the name "Leonard DeLayo" I came very, very close to ruining my laptop computer. Now people will often casually say they read, heard, saw something that had them "spitting coffee on the keyboard", but in my case we're talking an almost literal event. As in I had to quickly put my hand over my mouth and suffer hygienic personal humiliation as a small amount seeped out of the mouth and into my hand. Sorry for the detail, but we're talking close call.

We're talking a Vesuvian explosion of coffee-expelling funny here.

Leonard DeLayo? That Leonard DeLayo? As in the guy who received the strange vodka/pills-induced emails from Superintendent at the time Brad Allison? The same Leonard DeLayo who sat on the Board for 20 or 200 years and helped make APS the glorious insitution that it is? That Leonard DeLayo?

Seeing that name brings back such memories. Oh, those were the days. Just thinking about the whole Brad Allison debacle can't help but put a smile on my face. Then there's those halcyon days back in the 90s, with me teaching for peanuts and DeLayo making sure the peanuts were nice and roasted.

Trouble is, one's memory gets cloudy and I can't remember exactly why I was so excited to see that Mr. DeLayo didn't run for School Board a couple of years ago. Maybe enough voters will have the same memory fog and say to themselves "Hey, Leonard DeLayo! I remember that name. For some reason the name makes we want to spit coffee all over this School Board ballot, but I can't remember why. But I do remember the name, and aren't memories great?"

Given that roughly .0003% of registered voters will take part in the upcoming School Board election, it will only take about three people having this mental association game for DeLayo to get back on the board.

If that happens...I expect those peanuts to be not only roasted, but well-salted Mr. DeLayo. Now why was I spitting coffee again?

P.S.: Aggie Lopez? That Aggie Lopez? Is this all some big, meaningful joke to let us know that however bad we think things are now, it only pales in comparison with how bad things were back in the 90s?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Day: The Eternal Question

Scenario: Your typical Albuquerque "snow storm". A couple of inches, leaving things frozen and icy in the early morning. But you know, everybody knows, that by ten or so the roads will be almost dry to bone-dry.

You're an APS teacher. What do you hope/pray/wish for? Is it the two-hour delay or the full-blown cancellation?

Two-Hour Delay
  • Pro: No stupid extra day at the end of the year that everybody knows is just a stupid tacked on day and is roundly resented by student, teacher and administrator alike to the point that almost all teachers show movies and have "free days" out of meteorological spite;
  • Con: "Abbreviated Day" is a complete waste of academic time, consists of crazed middle-school students careening even more wildly through the halls/classrooms as their vicious hormonal cocktail is now spiked by sight/interaction with snow/snowballs/putting snowballs down other students pants; crazed situation is exacerbated by each class period lasting about six minutes as school stupidly tries to cram every period into the "Abbreviated Day".

Full Cancellation

  • Pro: See "Con" above; allows teachers plenty of time to post silly blogposts about snow days (this could be considered a "Con" as well); allows all to frolic in snow without some of us having to stop Johnny from putting snowballs down Timmy or Tammy's pants (which will suck the absolute love of snow right out of ya).
  • Con: See "Pro" above; extra days at end of school year threaten certain planned trips to fly to France and go bike touring the very second school is over; full realization during "extra days" at end of semester that the whole idea of adding school days to improve education is a bogus premise in the extreme; realization (both good and bad) that schools only really accomplish something for maybe 100-110 school days a year and that 180 days is overkill designed more for babysitting than academics; possible professional suicides resulting from aforementioned realization.
Always a tough call. Personally, I think the best solution is the full cancellation combined with the "already purchased plane ticket". That's where Teacher X buys a plane ticket to France that leaves the very day following the originally scheduled last day of school. Full cancellation snow days occur and Voila!, *"I'm sorry, but I purchased these plane tickets and they're not refundable, and it will cost me thousands and thousands more, and did I mention that my Great-Grandfather is buried in France and I've never seen his grave and I promise to make it up, really I do! Really!"

*Not that this ever happens, or that I am condoning this action if it were ever to occur. Which it doesn't. Ever.

Have a good Snow Day everybody. See you in classrooms on May Twenty-WhatevertheHell, and remember...I reserved the DVD player to show "Shrek 3" on that extra day first.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Robert Lucero Gets An Early Christmas Present

Something to whine about. I'm sure he's been on all the TV stations by now with his B/M (not meaning bowel movement) constitutional, melodramatically bemoaning the striking down of the silly constitutional amendment that any 6th Grade Civics graduate could see was unconstitutional. That is, if 6th graders were still taught Civics.

As mentioned here before, he certainly seems to live for this stuff. Maybe this time he and his horribly mistreated Westsiders will follow through on their threat to break away from APS. Given the likelihood public schools will get zero additional dollars for anything in the upcoming Legislative session, I'm personally throwing in a dollar to help pay for the Westside split. I'm just that kind of guy.

Or maybe Board Member Lucero and the horribly mistreated could join in with Rio Rancho. That district has the kind of forward-thinking ideas that could get Lucero on television to say silly things all the time.

Meanwhile, no word on the constitutionality of my proposed amendment for the 2010 ballot calling for an end to the mistreatment of cute little puppies, and a brand new Lamborghini for all New Mexicans named Scot Key.

P.S.: As I eerily discovered via the internets some years ago, the 12th District Attorney of New Mexico is also named Scot Key. Even has only one "t" in the first name. No relation whatsoever unless some alien abduction I don't know about is involved.

Somebody also recently told me a guy with my name is working at KUNM. That's not me, either. Sounds like New Mexico might have to pony up for at least three Lamborghinis if my proposed amendment passes. Money well spent I say, and still cheaper than an APS breakup. I even promise to let other New Mexicans borrow the car every once in a while. Even Westsiders. Really. I promise.

P.P.S.: How much money did it cost to have the silly constitutional amendment put on the ballot? Was it more than the cost of a Lamborghini when all the time/effort/ink printing, etc. is added up?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

[Expletive], Cubs [Expletive]

And, in a blast of vulgar language, Ms. Blagojevich eggs on her husband when he reportedly threatens to prevent the Tribune Company from selling the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field unless The Chicago Tribune fired editorial writers who had called for the governor’s impeachment. Ms. Blagojevich is quoted in the complaint as saying that the state should “hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive] ... [expletive] them.”
--NY Times, 12.10.08
My thoughts about the Cubs, exactly, Ms. B.

Actually, it takes a bit of Wheel of Fortune-esque sentence completion to determine exactly which expletive best fits where. How many combinations can you come up with that make sense? Fun for the entire rough-talking family.

And that's just part of the fun of this scandal. Spelling Blagojevich is another, as is figuring out the identity of "Candidate 4". Perhaps the best thing about this whole debacle is the knowledge that Albuquerque/New Mexico might be bad, but at least it's not Chicago/Illinois.

P.S.: Maybe with"[Expletive], Cubs [Expletive]" Ms. Blagojevich is simply singing that famous Steve Goodman song "Go, Cubs Go", and the feds mistook "Go" for something else.

Hey, it could happen. For instance, I've always wanted the Cubs to "Go Somewhere", if you get my rough-talking meaning. Meanwhile, any Steve Goodman reference is a good excuse to play a Goodman tune, even if it my single least-favorite song by him...

Almost To the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Finish Line

One more IEP to go for this Semester. One! I can see the bureaucratic end zone now, just becoming visible behind a blur of "Least Restrictive Environments" and pointless signatures.

Hard to write much of a blog when one is writing so many IEPs. There's the time-consumption element, sure, but even more than that is the writer's block impact that comes from viewing and creating so much educational boilerplate mumbo-jumbo.

There really should be a new line of fortune cookies produced with random snippets from IEPs alongside the "lucky numbers". Along the same line, it now strikes me how similar the wording of IEP "goals" and such is similar to the typical astrology forecast.

It also strikes me that I've never written about these heinous beasts before. Maybe when the finish line is actually crossed I'll get around to a few words on the countless words and meaningless process known as "Individualized Educational Plans".

That said, just typing the consecutive letters I-E-P makes me sleepy. Maybe not such a riveting topic. Now off to yet another less-than-riveting 7:45 a.m. IE zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...snore, snore...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Joe Strummer: Fame Is A Dish Best Served Take-Out

Back some years ago I wrote movie reviews for a series of now-defunct publications. Here is my review of Julien Temple's "Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten".

It's good. Depressing.

I could add the requisite 747 words missing from the above review, but those days are over. As is "The Clash", Joe Strummer and an increasing number of print information sources. Maybe The Future Won't Be Written At All.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bike Commuting With Clip Pedals: Day 1

Do I really need to write anything other than the title above?

Probably not.

I certainly hope nobody saw me slowly, inexorably plummet against the guard rail at Rio Bravo and the Bike Path last evening. Or continue my two-stage fall from the guard rail onto the bike path surface itself. I think the guy fishing along the ditchbank didn't see me, because I didn't see him laughing his ass off.

Pride largely intact, I rode home whereupon my wife laughed, even when I showed her the immediate bruising.

(insert nonexistent photo of immediate bruising here)

Perhaps clip pedals are another example of humans taking a very fun activity and masochistically twisting it to the point of not being fun.

Or perhaps I am the most uncoordinated ambulatory person in the Universe.

Have a good weekend everybody.

P.S.: More bad teacher pontifications to follow...when the bruises (especially the job-related mental ones) heal.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

APS Writes A Block Scheduling Check And I Wonder If It Will Bounce

"Albuquerque's 13 traditional high schools will all switch to a new seven-period block schedule next year, as approved Tuesday by principals."--Albuquerque Journal, 12.3.08

Well that was fast. Or methodical, meaningful and something else that starts with the letter "M" if you believe the "APS/AFT Block Schedule Task Force" really exists(ed).

I may be in the minority here, but I, for one, welcome our new (possibly imaginary) Task Force overlords, and like the new high school schedule. I don't even mind that it's standardized across schools. I also like it (with somewhat shorter blocks) as a model for our middle schools, including my own. I do have a few questions, however, questions that I could just ask the "APS/AFT Block Schedule Task Force" if I could find more than two references to it via Google. So instead I ask them here:

  1. Do teachers get a daily "prep" period in this schedule, or every other day?
  2. Overall class loads for "regular education" teachers determine individual class sizes and the number of teachers/rooms required by a school. If teachers get a daily prep, that means they teach 2 only blocks a day (and possibly a 51 minute daily class). That's four total classes over the two days of A/B block. Which means each class will be forced to have 35 kids in it, or we gotta hire a bunch of extra teachers (and find rooms for all these teachers). And now the question...right?
  3. If teachers only get a prep every other day of the A/B portion (every day but Friday), that means they have five total classes (not including the 51 minute class), and from an overall class load perspective makes more sense. Five classes of 25-28 kids puts a total class load at around 125-140. But is that even legal? Can teachers only get a "prep" every other day?
  4. Who is teaching all those 51 minute daily periods? Everybody? Some people with others getting to use the time for a 2nd "prep" for "collaborative planning"?
I'm not saying these questions/obstacles are deal-breakers, I just want to know the answers/solutions. In fact, the whole thing makes me want to move from my current middle school to a high school just to see what happens. I also have to be honest and say that while I might have concerns about middle schoolers sitting in a classroom for 75, 80, 90 minutes in a block, the idea of teaching three classes a day (in middle school the blocks would be shorter, hence another class), and having a 75, 80, 90 minute "prep" everyday sounds pretty sweet.

More objectively, I have to return to the kids squirming in seats for such long time issue along with the costs. APS Head Honcho for Something I Can't Remember Linda Sink was recently quoted as saying the A/B block was expensive (see hiring teacher comment in question two above). Now the high schools are going to an A/B block (with the martini olive of a "C" Friday schedule plopped in). How is that not just as expensive? How does the District pay for all the teachers/rooms needed to create this schedule while also preventing massive class sizes and/or teacher class loads?


Monday, December 01, 2008

The APS Kremlin Issues a Communique

Your well-established blog standard operating procedure goes something like this:
  1. Pithy, witty blogpost title;
  2. Short intro to source of outrage;
  3. Quote from which outrage is generated;
  4. Outraged statements mocking the subject of the quote or the quotemakers themselves;
  5. Pithy, witty conclusion including phrases like "Sigh." and "I have now banged my head into a wall so long it's starting to feel good."
But I've been staring for days now at this cryptic press release from APS regarding standardizing high school schedules, and I can't do it. I can't just pick a quote from it, and do the B.S.O.P. listed above. My reason is that I'm pretty sure the entire press release is one of those World War II-era coded messages, created by one of those Rube Goldberg looking contraptions.

Oh yeah, this is a blog...I can just put a picture of such a machine here:

A Lorenz SZ42 crypto machine, or so this site says

And the true genius of the "coding" in the APS release is that it's cryptic meaning is unquestionably linked, interwoven actually, into the Albuquerque Journal story on the subject from some days ago. The only problem is, I don't have an APS "Enigma" machine, and can only discern that a relationship between the two documents must exist. Unknown, to me, is the integrated meaning behind these two, superficially different, documents. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN! IS IT SAFE?! TELL ME, IS IT SAFE?!? I'm Laurence Olivier with a dentist's drill, and Winston Brooks or Winston Smith or somebody is Dustin Hoffman, and I not giving anybody any &*(%^$# oil of clove until somebody tells me what the Hell it all means!

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an overreaction. Nevertheless, dear reader, help me and my frayed conspiratorial nerves here. Below is a reprint, in toto, of the APS release from 11/25. I realize that it's pretty long, but this is crypto-Science were talking here. Besides, APS is a governmental entity and it's not like I'm unlawfully copy/pasting copyrighted material here. It's a "press" release, after all.

Now to serve as the code breakers who will unlock the Kremlinesque meaning behind it all, you need to read the following text while, in another browser window, also be reading the Albuquerque Journal story by Andrea Schoelkopf (which is copyrighted and requires your 14,674th viewing of that "Exonerated" ad prior to reading). Even the casual among us will note a bizarre, unmistakable relationship between the two pieces, but I'm hoping, just hoping, someone out there...a Good Will Hunting type math/logic genius (and Euclid only knows how many thousands of these types read Burque Babble) will unlock the mystery, connect the dots and lead us to greater understanding.

Lastly, for the teachers out there we have extra credit. Can anyone answer the following question regarding the proposed block schedule: Do teachers get a "prep" period every day or every other day in this plan (Friday being assumed as a prep day for sure)?

And now, finally, the Book of Revelations, aka "APS Considers New Standardized High School Bell Schedule" (in fabulous, state-of-the-art italics):

Proposal Combines Traditional and Block Schedules

Albuquerque Public Schools is considering a standardized, seven-period bell schedule for all high schools in 2009-2010 that combines traditional and block scheduling.

"APS high school principals and other district administrators have worked long and hard on developing a standardized bell schedule that will benefit all of our students," said Superintendent Winston Brooks. "The schedule now under consideration accommodates remediation but also allows for lengthened class periods that research shows improve learning."

Under the proposed schedule, students would go to first, third, fifth and seventh periods on Mondays and Wednesdays; second, fourth, fifth and sixth periods on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and all seven periods on Fridays.

The proposed schedule for all APS high schools is as follows:
Monday: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th periods
Tuesday: 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th periods
Wednesday: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th periods
Thursday: 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th periods
Friday: all seven periods

Each school would be allowed to determine what classes are offered during fifth period, which meets daily, but most principals have agreed the time would be used for remediation or subjects such as algebra or foreign languages that benefit from meeting every day.

Friday and fifth-period classes will be about 50-minutes long. All other classes will be about 100-minutes. Research shows that extended class periods allow teachers to engage students in more interactive learning such as projects, labs and experiments.

Other benefits of block scheduling include a reduction of instructional time spent on classroom administration such as attendance; greater continuity of lessons; and improved discipline due to the reduced number of class changes.

The proposed schedule has seven periods, which will benefit incoming freshmen who are required by the state to earn 24 credits to graduate, one more than current high school students. The seven-period day also allows for more remediation and electives than the six-period schedule that some APS high schools now have in place.

The new schedule will provide teachers with individual planning periods as well as collaboration time with others teaching the same subjects.

Superintendent Brooks and APS leaders also want to standardize the schedule for all high schools so that students can transfer from one school to another without losing credits.

Currently, seven APS high schools: Atrisco Heritage Academy, Cibola, Highland, Rio Grande, Valley, Volcano Vista and West Mesa--are on some version of a block schedule in which classes meet every other day. Four high schools: Del Norte, La Cueva, Manzano and Sandia--are on traditional schedules with six periods a day. Two APS schools, Albuquerque High and Eldorado, follow a modified block schedule that has six periods three days a week and three periods two days a week.

"One of our goals is to make it easier for students to transfer between schools, but more importantly we want to implement a schedule that meets the needs of all types of students and learning," said APS Chief Academic Officer Linda Sink.

Sink noted that area high schools have been discussing block schedules with their communities for the past year.

The Union/APS Block Schedule Task Force, made up of teachers and principals, is meeting with APS administrators this week to discuss the proposed schedule and will make a recommendation to high school principals next week.

P.S.: That last sentence was news to me. I didn't even know there was a "Union/APS Block Schedule Task Force". That's not surprising, there's so, so very much I don't know. What's surprising is that my school has been trying to create a new block schedule for weeks...coulda used a "Union/APS Block Schedule Task Force" we could. Woulda come in right handy. A "Task Force" and all. Right up the alley of what we've been trying do, block scheduling and what not. Might have been nice to have been invited to such a "Task Force", if you must know. Quite nice. Empowering even.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Teachers, Part 6 of ∞ : Block Scheduling

For weeks now my school has been in the throes of a schedule change panic dictated by the fact a huge percentage of our students can't read, write or do 'rithmetic. To be honest the complexity of the possible changes, the interplay between those changes and No Child Left Behind, the uncertainty of NCLB given the election outcome, etc. has left me unwilling to "blog" about the situation, much less share the long, long scheduling Excel spreadsheet I uselessly tinker with in my spare time. That spreadsheet is about as close to an electronic sleeping pill as you can get.

But now I see the Journal has addressed the issue and the APS teeth-gnashing over what to do, at least at the high school level. And like one of those court cases where a witness unwittingly brings something up that then allows the opposing counsel the chance to dredge up all sorts of crap, I now feel somehow justified in boring the complete utter Hell out of you, dear reader, with terms like:
  • A/B Schedule
  • 8 Period Day
  • Alternate Day "Queen" Block Schedule
  • "Lang-Lit Blocks"
  • Rotating Science Labs
  • 4x4 Schedules
  • Copernican Plan and Modified Blocks
I know, it sounds like a combination of chess strategies and ordering Chinese food. And like Chinese food, dinking around with school scheduling can be addictive. Or maybe I just have some sort of geek addiction gene.

And I know many folks out there have an aversion to this sort of math-meets-politics (and that's exactly what it is), because I see first-hand a great number of teachers at my school avoiding involvement in the "school scheduling committee" like it was some new form of bubonic plague. Instead, many/most of my colleagues prefer to say "well, they seem to want us to have schedule X", and "they are going to make us lose our electives teachers".

Much more comfortable to simply bitch and moan from the barricaded comfort of their own classroom than engage in something so mathematically complicated and politically messy. Advocate for their own teaching subject? Oh, that is simply not done! Argue for dramatic changes that will address shortcomings outside of one's own subject? Absolutely not!

The upshot of this dynamic is that I've noticed the following perfectly executed "Sicilian Defense" in place when it comes to bringing up scheduling changes at my school:
  • School scheduling is complicated, and the counselors do the scheduling;
  • Math is hard, and I don't teach Math, and scheduling involves Math, and it makes my head hurt;
  • School scheduling impacts teachers, class sizes, etc., and I don't want to be involved in any decisions that will lead to losing teachers or making teachers do anything different, and, besides, that's the Administration's job;
  • We don't know what the District wants, and let's just wait until they tell us because of the points above;
  • George W. Bush is leaving, thankfully, and No Child Left Behind might be dead, and Winston Brooks is pretty old and looks to be about a year or two from retiring;
  • Ergo, Therefore, Hence, And because of all this.....let's not do anything.
And it's this brilliantly executed "Sicilian Defense of Inertia" that I bring up as an example of "bad teaching". For a billion different reasons, the psyche of your typical APS teacher has been pummeled to the point to which one ignores the many positive things that changes could bring, and instead mentally bunkers down into a mediocrity that both feels comfortable and allows for incessant bitching and moaning about all the things that "The District" and "The Administration" should be doing, but isn't.

In fact, it's exactly that bitching and moaning which provides the professional comfort. If we as teacher actually wielded any power/decision-making then we could be blamed for any problems created. Much better to do nothing and snipe about the horrible injustices around us.


And here I find myself doing something along the same lines. I have been hesitant to bring this crap up via the blog, and curb my tongue at school because of the paradigmatic perception that teachers who want to talk schedule "have an agenda" and are selfish. Am I not becoming, or already am, exactly like one of them?

Well, I do have this excruciatingly boring Excel spreadsheet with a 8-period day on it, along with example schedules for both teachers and students. It includes rotating Science labs, an outline for a 81 student cap for Math & Language Arts/Literature teachers, and "double-prep" Fridays for teachers. It's full of little arrows running toward "black boxes" with titles like "funding" and "FTEs" on them.

Still, I think I better hide this spreadsheet. Much better to wait for the "authorities" to come up with a plan. Better to hide here in my bunker and hope the whole Winston Brooks thing blows over. Better that than go crazy, hop out of the bunker and face the inevitable stream of philosophical bullets that will rip me to metaphorical shreds once I climb over. Boy it's muddy in this bunker. Cold and muddy. Damn that "District". Damn it to Hell.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eclipse Aviation: The Drinking Game

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez, who stressed the purpose of the bankruptcy is to keep the company operating. As long as the company continues, he said, "They're so heavily invested here, they can't leave. (blogger emphasis) Those employees will keep earning their paychecks." --from "Jet Maker Files For Chapter 11 In Hope of Staying Alive", Richard Metcalf, Albuquerque Journal 11.26.08
No, Mayor, you're so heavily invested politically in Eclipse you can't see straight. Meanwhile, we're so heavily invested as taxpayers that you're hoping we keep drinking the BS Kool-Aid you're serving.

Yummy, yummy. I think the floating turd makes it taste even better, don't you?

While in the reality-based world aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia is quoted as saying:
"It beats Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy) and it buys them a little time to find more people who enjoy throwing their money away."
and then there's this:
As for New Mexico's $19 million investment in the jetmaker, State Investment Council spokesman Charles Wollmann said $5.6 million is secured debt and thus expected to be repaid. The rest probably will disappear.
Better throw some vodka into that Kool-Aid to "liven" it up, Mayor. It, like Eclipse, is tasting kinda dead to me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Researching the Cure: Classroom Claustrophobia

You might have noticed a sizable drop in the number of posts, recently. Where have I been, you might ask? Well, like many/most/almost all public school teachers heading into the latter parts of a November my mental energies have been centered on everything but public school teaching.

Looking back at my Orbitz activity over the last few years, there is a significant spike in "My Trips" planning right around this time. Every year. Forget Winter Break, forget Spring Break....these professional duty avoidance daydreams are all about the next Summer.

The research reverie this deep Fall is of a Summer '09 cycling through France. This is the perfect type of trip for a November daydream research-a-thon, as it involves lots of detail, rampant choices to make (fly to Lyon?, or to Toulouse?, how do you pronounce "Toulouse"?, etc.) and the review of similar trips done by similar-minded geeky types who are all too happy to recount their own trips.

My two hour or so a day habit is now centered at Crazy Guy on a Bike, with copious side-journeys to see if British Airways has dropped the price of travel yet (they haven't). Plug in twenty minutes or so of French instruction at the BBC, and you've wasted an evening that would otherwise go to watching "Law & Order", blogging...or solving the world's economic dilemmas.

Or grading papers. Yeah, there is that. As a "writing" teacher there is always that. Hmmm...maybe I could check out the reviews of the airports near Lyon instead of grading....let's check Skytrax for Geneva or Basel....

P.S.: Now that you asked (okay, you didn't ask but you were just about to think about me), I'm trying to go with British Airways to France instead of Air France or such because BA told me they wouldn't charge extra to haul my bike to Europe. My former favorite Euro carrier Lufthansa told me it was to cost $200 for such a service. Damn cost-efficient Germans. It strikes me now that I haven't even researched Air France for such info, assuming they would charge as well. Better go waste some time investigate that now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time-Wasting Journeys In Music

In one of those circuitous weekend Internet rambles, I have finally stumbled across what every self-respecting "Deadhead" found long ago, the Internet Archive treasure trove of Dead shows. As I am neither a "Deadhead" or self-respecting, this is not surprising, but XM Radio merged with Sirius.

Okay that doesn't probably make sense. You see, XM merged with Sirius and Sirius has a Grateful Dead 24/7 channel that is now also on XM. Earlier this weekend I was listening to "State College 5/6/80" (and, naturally, you have to say things like "State College 5/6/80" when writing/talking about these things) while throwing the massive number of glass receptacles I've engendered over the teaching semester into the recycling bins at the nearby Walmart.

Despite never really getting "into" the Dead, per se, the concert sounded pretty good. I started hunting around the 'Net upon my return, and came across the Internet Archive site. With the help of my former "Deadhead" wife (who talks in some sort of East Coast "Deadhead" code, using terms like "SPAC"), I started downloading a few concerts and am now well over a Gig o' stuff.

I can't say "Fire on the Mountain" is going to replace Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations or Miles leading the 65-68 quintet in my personal pantheon of music, but these old Dead shows are fun in a noodling-around sort of way, even without the requisite mind-altering chemicals. It's also a kick to hear the crowd during the show, especially as one remembers the folks screaming "Right on!" and "Scarlet!" are now in their 40s-50s and beyond.

And because the Dead is all about sharing the music (or was until there was a nasty battle over the aforementioned Internet Archive site, as I also discovered), and because I've wanted to play with some music embeds for a while, here's "Fire On The Mountain" played at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on December 12, 1978.

And for those with even more time to waste, here's an August 8, 1971 version of "Mountain Dew" played at the Hollywood Palladium...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Governor Creates New Mexico UnRebate Program

Fresh on the heels of a Rebate Program to address skyrocketing gasoline prices, certainly-soon-to-be-outgoing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today announced creation of a new "UnRebate" program designed to address plummeting gasoline prices and the general fact that the State is quickly going into the financial toilet.

"By latest estimate, the State is five hundred million in the hole," the Governor began a press conference dedicated to the measure. "Oil is fifty five bucks a barrel, and we're only getting about four and a quarter for natural gas. What we need, right away, is a government economic stimulus package to prevent the "Land of Enchantment" from becoming the "Land of..." at this point the Governor, admittedly distracted in recent days by all the possible positions he might fill in the Obama Administration, stopped the press conference to ask spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos for help.

"Gilbert...hey, what's a good line to use here? Land of what?"

"Land of Utter and Complete Governmental Implosion," Gallegos replied.

"Nah, too long. Forget fancy titles. We're talking 'Land of No Enchantment' here, 'Unenchanted Land", 'La Tierra sin Encantado' or some such."

The Governor continued with a four point "UnRebate Plan" to revitalize the State.

"First, we're putting an immediate stop payment on all the checks we just sent out for the earlier Rebate Program. Boy was that a stupid idea. And don't go trying to cash those things after hearing this announcement. We already talked to all the banks, so if you waited until now, tough. Haven't you poor bastards learned not to stall when you're handed some free money from the Government?

"Second, we're instituting a new program in which everyone who filed a 2007 state income tax return must start writing us checks, deadline December Fifteenth of this year. Just as with that Rebate Program idea, we're tying the amount immediately owed to a person's income and number of dependents. Those making under thirty thousand will only owe us a hundred bucks. Between thirty and one-hundred thousand you owe two-fifty and if there is anyone left out there making over one-hundred you're basically gonna need to shell out a grand at least. We're in trouble here. On the dependent kid front, I decided to change things up a bit there, and we're just gonna charge a flat $100 per kid 'crappy fuel price surcharge'. That makes the math easier, and besides it's all these kids causing us to spend so much money on public education anyway.

"Third, just as with the old Rebate Program, we've designated a Special Day to mark "New Mexico Tax UnRebate Day". That day is the aforementioned December Fifteenth. To be honest, the whole Special Day thing never took off with the Rebate Program. Do any of you reporters even remember what day it was supposed to be? I'll buy anybody here a margarita if they can guess the date, seriously. Nobody? Nobody? October Eighth, it was October Eighth. Man, was that whole program a cluster.....anyway, and I don't want anybody to start calling this Plan a 'tax'. It's not a tax. It's an 'UnRebate', and I think patriotic and forward-thinking New Mexicans will understand that and eagerly participate in the program.

"Oh, and lastly part four of my plan, and this is the best part I think. I want every New Mexican to start writing letters, emails, text messages and whatever Hell else communication methods you kids are using today to President Elect Obama and convince him to hire me as Secretary of State instead of Hillary or John Kerry or whoever the Hell else he and his team are thinking of. See New Mexico, if you help me become Secretary of State I will promise to talk to everybody in Washington. I'll talk to all those Treasury types throwing around billions for bailout this and rescue that. I'll talk to everybody in Congress, including those on the committees trying to oversee the bailout. And I'll most certainly talk to our President-Elect and Joe Biden and anybody else who'll listen that New Mexico needs help.

"Just as importantly, I'll also talk to leaders of other countries around the world. In fact that will be my job. And in those talks I'll paint these foreign dignitaries the prettiest picture of New Mexico that ever been verbally painted. I'll be a freakin' Vermeer meets Renoir of picture painting, and I'll just bet that once these foreign leaders hear my story they'll be falling over themselves to help revitalize New Mexico's economy through the purchase and takeover of the many dirt-cheap and bankrupt firms that have sprung up while I've been your Governor. Worried about Eclipse Aviation or Advent Solar? Well make me Secretary of State and you won't need to be. I'll have some Canadians or North Koreans bailing those firms out pronto. And that's a promise."

The Governor then quickly left the podium as he was called by Mr. Gallegos and other staffers. Mention was overheard by several press members present that President Elect Obama "or someone who was close, or fairly close, or at least in zip code proximity to Obama" was on the line wishing to speak to Richardson.

Gallegos came to the podium, reminded reporters gathered that "December Fifteenth is New Mexico Tax UnRebate Day" and began to recite a short list of special ceremonies taking place on the newly created "Day".

In Which Robert Lucero Gets "Slapped in the Face" and Seems to Like It

Any bettor will tell you there's no such thing as a "lock". Nothing is certain. But there is one thing darn stinkin' close to it: if one sees APS School Board member Robert Lucero talking on the evening news, the viewer stands an almost certain chance of hearing something stupid being said.

Last night Mr. Lucero, that Lone Ranger (for now) of the Westside, was spouting off to the cameras that his supposedly maltreated part of town was getting a "slap in the face" just because the School Board didn't immediately sign off on increasing the APS board to nine members, give the Westside the addition two members and provide the petulant Mr. Lucero an impromptu party with cake, pointy hats, confetti and little slide whistles.

This is of course all the result of that bizarrely worded Constitutional amendment ballot issue that eeked by in the election earlier this month. More mature members of the School Board, such as Marty Esquivel, pointed out, at least indirectly, that this was the most poorly worded Constitutional amendment ballot issue in the history of New Mexico, and that nobody knew what the Hell to do with it.

Or maybe that's actually just my interpretation of what Mr. Esquivel said.

Perhaps you recall this ballot was the one that said something like:
The proposed amendment would increase the size of certain school boards to nine members and conduct the election by mail-in ballot or as otherwise provided by law.
You don't have to be any sort of constitutional law scholar to notice that this is one poorly worded amendment.

I did some checking and found that Westside legislator Bernadette Sanchez was chief-sponsor of this amendment proposal back in the 2007 Legislative session. Interestingly enough, if you go through the history of the amendment proposal you don't find the red herring second part of the amendment (the "mail-in" part) until the final version. Who put that second part in...the part that many of us voted for ("hey, mail-in ballots sound like a good idea...what the Hell is the is 'certain districts get increased board members crap?'")?

Meanwhile, back on the evening news, Lucero is pouting as he loudly disclaims that he's gonna get his Westside legislators to "break up the District". And presumably mysteriously tack something like re-legalizing drive-through liquor stores into the bill somehow.

But I noticed something in that Lucero pout last evening. If you look closely enough, and no that's not something I would normally recommend, you couldn't help but notice a wide-eyed grin just behind the pout. When he says "split up the District" that goofy grin gets a little too close to the surface to remain invisible.

Methinks not only that Robert Lucero protesteth too much, but that he enjoys both the cameras and the "slap in the face" a bit muchly as well. There something very Shakespearean about all of this, right down to the mysterious person who inserted the "mail-in" ballot provision. Mystery, pathos, mistaken identities, farcically contrived situations...all very Shakespeare and very APS School Board.

With Lucero as either Falstaff or Puck. I can't decide which. I am more certain that all the world is but a stage, a fact that makes Robert Lucero very, very happy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fantasy Energy Team Update: $55 and Hurting

Less than four months ago I wrote a post entitled "My Fantasy Energy Team is Hitting Over $140". I wrote, as plenty of analysts did, about $200 a barrel oil coming any day now.

I see at Bloomberg this morning that oil is $55 a barrel. $85 dollars down from $140, carry the one....that's...a 61% decrease in about 135 days or so. Besides proving, once again, that I'd make a lousy commodities trader (and that most commodities trading analysts would make lousy commodities traders), what does it all mean?

I haven't a clue, but doing a bit of bikeriding yesterday around the kitsch that is Mesa del Sol I saw big, shiny manufacturing centers looking pretty empty amid even emptier sunny Mesa. In particular, I came across this optimistic sign at the Advent Solar plant that read "Parking for Advent Solar Customers Only". Sure it was Sunday, and almost everything in the whole planned development was empty, but given what my bikeriding friends told me about Advent, those parking space might not be filled for quite a while at $55 a barrel. European frenzy for solar energy or not.

And there's a construction site here, and a half-finished airport terminal-looking building there. With the wind flapping the surveying flags, largely untouched concrete slabs, and periodic happy-happy signage "Green Means Mesa del Sol", the overall effect for me was that of some forlorn real estate boondoggle far, far from town.

But then again, I'm the one who was hoping for oil to get to $200 a barrel four months ago. What do I know about economic development? Maybe fairly rich people will start buying airplanes. Maybe even richer people will start going into space instead of going to Vail for the weekend. And maybe the planned development that is Mesa del Sol will one day be more than a set of scattered monoliths amid a sea of sand.

Probably because I know nothing about economic development and am a bit more knowledgable about classic cinema, the only thing going through my mind while tramping around the place yesterday was that old joke Charles Foster Kane uses an an answer to a young reporter's question after Kane's trip to Europe in the early 1930s:

Reporter (Bones): How did you find the business conditions in Europe?
Kane: Uh, how did I find the business conditions in Europe, Mr. Bones? With great difficulty.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Love In a Time of Educational Cholera

It's been a week since the last posting here. A blogging vacation, at least for me, comes without warning and without all that messy planning and vacation daydreaming. I just woke up with an election hangover, putzed around the mental house for a day or so, and decided to crawl back under the prosaic covers.

It also didn't help that I felt like I was getting a cold for a day or so back there, my morning time has been taken up biking into work and a bunch of other banal yadda-yadda that would constitute Too Much Information in a lousy journal, much less your #1 blogging source for incredibly important information about your world and possible other worlds.

But I'm tanned, rested and ready now. It also helps that I got a nasty flat going down the Boulevard of broken glass that is the Isleta Blvd. bike lane yesterday, and have to drive to work today.

Meanwhile, you might be saying "who cares?", and perhaps you're following that bored question up with "meanwhile, how is the world of K-12 public education going?"

And my response to the latter question's hard to tell.

I could go into a thousand different directions of murky light here.

I could write a little something about the Educational Assistant sick-out yesterday (RR), but, to tell the truth, I don't know much about that situation other than these people are paid at a level of pathetic usually reserved for people bussing tables at restaurants. I will also say that I have a great deal of respect for the folks who decide to stick with being an Educational Assistant, but wouldn't do that job in a million, billion, planets light years away, lifetimes. Pay is one of the reasons, but I also don't care for the way many Educational Assistants are treated by the teaching staff at many schools. It's complicated, but there is a definite professional class system in place. Educational Assistants are victims of that class system. I'll just leave at it.

I could also go into a long harangue about public school teacher licensure, and how No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has endangered my ability to teach this little film class I have. Problem is, relating the story would be both incredibly boring and would take 5,000,000 words to properly explain. Let me put it into a short series of simple math equations and leave it be:

"Regular Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement = Eligible Gifted Teacher
"Special Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement = Eligible Gifted Teacher
"Special Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement Not Equal Eligible "Regular Education" Teacher
Radio/TV/Film Minor in College Not Equal Anything Useful in K-12 Public Education Whatsoever

Lastly, I could go on and on and on about what has really taken up quite a bit of time the last week or so, the impending switch to a "block schedule" at my school. Again, I realize the term "block schedule" equates to "narcolepsy" for many fine readers out there, but I feel the need to mention that my school is roiling (in part because I just like the word "roiling") at the prospect of schedule changes made necessary by being in NCLB "corrective action" Hell. There have been two basic responses to these impending changes:

  1. A large group of smarter teachers has determined that forestalling a move to block schedules for as long as professional possible is the way to go, hoping that the ever-fickle District and other political entities will move on to something other shiny object of educational reform before we have to do anything.
  2. A much smaller group (pretty much limited to your humble blogger) wants to use this as an opportunity to create a schedule that works for our unique (and yeah, I hate that word too) school before the District and other political entities dictate a cookie-cutter block schedule that ruins what's makes my school "unique" in the first place.
I know, I know...not only am I tilting at windmills in full Don Quixote regalia, but being naive to the point of incredulity. Truth is, your cynical, sarcastic, negative humble blogger is at heart a naive idealist who stupidly refuses to knuckle under to a bureaucratic culture.

Stupid naive, cynical, romantic, sarcastic blogger person.

Not to mention the fact that windmill tilting is a time-consuming activity, what with all the trips to the store to buy new lances, as they constantly get snapped off by the bureaucratic windmills. Sometimes one wonders if the Dulcinea of Education (whatever that is) is really worth it.

Frankly, Cervantes or Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be much better at telling any of the stories above. Not that I need to tell you that.

Have a good weekend everybody. I'm going to Knight Errant Castle Depot for another set of lances.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Oh Yeah....Well, Your Mama Is A Conservative

“Conservatives tend to be happier than liberals in general,” said Dr. Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. “A conservative outlook rationalizes social inequality, accepting the world as it is, and making it less of a threat to one’s well-being, whereas a liberal outlook leads to dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a sense that things need to change before one can be really happy.”
--from "Obama and McCain Walk Into a Bar...", John Tierney, New York Times 11/09/08

A student and I were having a conversation on almost this very topic Friday. Actually, now that I think about it, I was having a conversation with myself about it, while the student looked alternatively perplexed and smirk-laden. I believe the student also used the term "you're strange" at certain points as a form or rebuttal.

More to the point of our/my discussion...does "rationalizes social inequality" equate to optimism or pessimism? And what is meant by "really happy"?

Obviously more French Roast and a very large government grant will be needed to further examine this question. Meanwhile, how can I get this "Dr. Martin" gig at the University of Western Ontario?

P.S.: Maybe it's because I consider myself something of a "liberal", but I don't find the NYT article "joke" below funny.

"If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone."

Perhaps I need to do a better job of "rationalizing social inequality".

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Twenty Degree Barrier

I'm trying to stick to a 20 degree barrier this school year for riding the bike to work. Wunderground's "Alameda and the River" location says 28.5 degrees right now at 6:26 in the A.M., so I better hit the showers for a pointless body cleaning before getting simultaneously sweaty and icy along the river bike path.

Happy commuting, all. I'll be listening for the cranes/geese hanging out in the now-dormant chile field between 2nd and the bike path while I ride. Wearing that thick balaclava makes it hard to hear much, though.'s all about the layering...have a good weekend, everybody.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Great Moments in Politics and Consumer Electronic Branding

"However, (Michael) Goldfarb did concede that (Randy) Scheunemann's campaign e-mail was cut off, and his blackberry (my emphasis) was taken away late Friday. Goldfarb admits that senior McCain aides were mad at Scheunemann, and wanted to fire him, but he insists they stopped short of that, and instead simply turned off his campaign communication."
--from "McCain adviser disputes campaign sources, denies firing", Dana Bash,, 11/6/08

That is just so funny on so many levels. Picturing the visual of the solemnly relinquished Blackberry makes me think "The West Wing" needs to come back, pronto. Cut away to the IT person deleting "" off the mail server, fade to black, go to commercial.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Those Darn Kids!

According to

Vote by Age, 18-29:

Obama 66%, McCain 32%, Other 2%

This demographic accounted for 18% of the vote.

In 2004, this bunch o' youngins accounted for 17% of the vote and broke 54%/45% for Kerry.

Thanks young people. Some of us oldsters knew you could do it.

P.S.:  Glad to be wrong in many instances, particularly in the Teague/Tinsley race down south.  Congrats to a D-only New Mexico Congressional delegation!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008: Psychotic Guesses and Prognostication Dung

Have you had trouble sleeping the last few nights? Caught yourself tip-toeing out of bed to check the 'Net at 1:30 a.m. to see if some sort of "October Surprise" has snuck up on us in the middle of the night? Have blogpostings with titles like "New Mexico Possible Democratic Sweep" made you alternatively giddy and fearful, causing you to firmly place your hands on your workdesk like your trying to keep the dishes from falling off the table during an earthquake? Do you find yourself muttering "don't breathe, because this wonderful situation certainly can't last"? in a mantra-like manner?

Moreover, are you supposed to be grading tons of papers this morning, and find that you can't because you instead want to check Google Maps to see where Dixville Notch, New Hampshire is exactly, how far it is from a "Red State" and are seriously considering if the 23 voters of Dixville Notch might have a coattail effect on Harry Teague's race in NM-2 over 2,300 miles away?

If your answer to any of the above questions is "yes", I hardly need to tell you that you have a problem handling good news. You are a distrustful person. You, quite obviously, have experienced life as a "liberal" in the early years of the 21 Century.

If you answered yes to all of the above, try to get at least one glance at the beautiful New Mexico Fall morning between the 3.73 million refreshes, pageviews and political disaster scenarios you will inevitably perform over the next 14 hours or so. And help me grade some of these papers while I hammer out some utterly unscientific guesses as to who will win what 'round these parts.

  • Nationally, Obama 329 EV to McCain's 209. Being from the South, I have no faith in Georgia going Blue, and Florida is a liberal's "Chinatown". As in "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."
  • Same with Missouri. I'd love to see it, but even my Mom's Obama vote doesn't make it happen.
  • As for the nationwide popular vote, who gives a rat's ass about that? Obviously the Supreme Court doesn't, so why should I?

U.S. Senate:
  • I spent the mid-80s stalling my adulthood and professional life by getting a Master's Degree in Political Science, and taking all these classes in things like "Comparative Voting and Party Politics". We students quickly learned that sprinking the word "coattails" liberally through our essays was key to making the grade with our profs. It helped me get the coveted (and eventually useless) degree, but it also left me with an intellectual limp. Combined with the Reagan Presidency, my "coattails" indoctrination makes me obsess about them in all elections.
  • Hence, my interpretation of New Mexico races suffer from a mad this-is-like-Reagan-1980 delusion, with coattails not only dragging the ground but plowing Republicans like sandy loam. We'll see.
  • Udall 59% Pearce 41%
U.S. House:
  • Given the Obamamania, for most of us the only thing that could dent our happiness would be a Darren White win amid the Blue Wave. Heinrich gets maximum coattail effect, especially in reduced numbers of R's going to the polls.
  • Heinrich 53%, White 47%
  • The Teague/Tinsley race is the real nail-biter here. Tinsley certainly comes across in his commercials as one scary MoFo, reminding me so much of Texas that I can taste the grit and weak-ass jalapenos in my chimichanga.
  • Tinsley 51%, Teague 49% Yes I'm being pessimistic here, but living 25 years in Texas will do that to you.
  • In other scores: Lujan 61%, people not named Lujan 39%
State Races:
  • Call me lazy, but the only State gig that interest me much is the Snyder/Eichenberg battle up in the NE Heights. Maybe that's because I've been doing a bit of bikeriding through those neighborhoods and the sight of all those Eichenberg signs has me thinking the "Frights" isn't as bad as I remember it when I lived at the Corner of Wyoming/Comanche fifteen years ago.
  • Still the Frights is bad: Snyder 52%, Eichenberg 48%
  • Please (insert Deity here) tell me why we still elect Judges in this State! Is the whole enterprise just some sort of subtle voter intimidation, attempting (successfully) to make voters feel like idiots when going to the polls in the belief that if we feel like idiots we'll stop showing up to vote altogether?
AMAFCA (Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo and Flood Control Authority):
  • See "Judges" above
  • By the way, I want it on the record that I am against flooding. And that I want flooding controlled. I'm not much on the whole "authority" thing, but I guess it's nice to have someone in "authority" regarding the control of flooding.
  • Moreover, Jacksonian Democracy is stupid.
Bernalillo County Commission #2:
  • Art de la Cruz 104%, Cecilla M. C. De Baca -4%
  • Ms. De Baca, or Ms. C. De Baca, or perhaps simply MC De Baca (noted triphop DJ) not only wasn't in the "Voter's Guide" as running for this office, I have no record that such a person even exists. I saw no yard signs, no nothing. Of course, now that I think about it, I've only seen one Art de la Cruz sign since the Democratic Primary.
  • But de la Cruz is the Democrat so he wins in the South Valley with over 100% of the vote. The party machine down here is trying to refine the process, and avoid the embarrassment of having its candidates get more than 100% of the vote, but there are still some machination details to tweak.
Constitutional Amendments:
  • It's common for folks to think that the "modern" day is refined and smart, and that only in the past were people and their constitutional amendment ballot measures stupid. Well, I'm here to tell you the stupid lives on when it comes to New Mexico constitutional amendment proposals.
  • Whose idea was it to have two separate school board election amendments, one stupid one allowing for mail-in ballots and the other smart one allowing for these elections to take place at the same time as partisan elections? And what's with this "allow APS to have nine board members thing, but let's not call it APS and have some silly population requirement doo-dad instead" tacked on to the stupid mail-in ballot proposal?
  • One almost gets the impression the whole thing is some sly ruse to get us to drag down the smart proposal with the stupid one.
  • Hmmm..maybe somebody's not being so stupid after all...
  • Meanwhile, I have no idea on whether these will pass, but I'll flip a coin and say the smart one passes and the stupid one fails, in part because non-ABQ citizens can certainly figure out the silly population requirement is code for "Albuquerque" and we all know what folks in Jal and Lordsburg think of "Albuquerque".
  • In other words: Dumb Constitutional Amendment #1 Does Not Pass; Smart Constitutional Amendment #4: Passes.
Bond Questions/Issues:
  • To close this far-too-long post, I think I'll indulge in a little fantasy. Being the boring person I am, this fantasy will involve the 2008 Election Bond Issues. I see, in my mind's eye, a populace tired of driving, tired of wildly fluctuating gasoline prices, bad drivers and people not using their turn signals. I see low mpg vehicles being "retired", and pickup trucks stuck like old farm implements into front yards, their beds used as large gladiola planters. I see Isleta Boulevard as the first of what becomes a city-wide network of vehicle roads converted to bike/pedestrian paths, the former rock/glass/automotive parts "bike path" now paved with the smoothest blacktop this side of Talladega. I see cars forced off the major roads into unmaintained, segregated "automotive areas" that resemble the smoking area glass cages at U.S. airports.
  • In other words, I see all the Bond issues passing, and Senior Citizens, Parks, Libraries and Schools all getting their money...while the Roads Question goes down to defeat 93% to 7%.
A guy, even a slightly pessimistic one on what looks to be a gloriously liberal day, can dream can't he? Happy voting day, everybody.