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.


steve the "bad" teacher said...

Continuity of a schedule where classes meet every other day? Does it even need to be said that (other than P.E.)so many classes do not work well on that type of block schedule? Only fools rush into such a change. And why the rediculous need to change to one size fits all scheduling? Is it just to prove you are doing something? It's mission statements, pdsa's, classroom walk-throughs, data folders, sba's every other week--which students are being helped by this? Our district is becoming more absurd by the minute. It is not whining to say I don't want to participate in discussions that are trivial and pointless and likely to produce only the changes Winston Brooks is looking for, e.g. a rubberstamp. Meanwhile, this aministration pretends its in-touch, but just like the past administration, they are implementing their ideas through knee-jerk directives and broad stroke justifications of "research-based" balony. There is no teacher input into this stuff and I don't believe there is a task-force either, but if there is, I'll bet its made up of Instructional Roaches/Toadies (no offense, but go back to the classroom)and not classroom teachers. Most of us are too busy to play these silly parlor games.

Anonymous said...

So, does any one know the teacher and union rep that participated in this "task force". I never even heard there was a sign up sheet. Guess it's too late now!

steve the bad teacher said...

I wish to apologize to the Instructional Coaches out there (and for my poor spelling). My post was out of line and doesn't reflect my experiences with our IC. My anger is more at the idea that there are so many disconnects between what students really need in order to be whole people and the way we keep trying to change ourselves. Rather than looking at schedule changes for a solution, we should assess what we really want our students to become--I'm pretty sure it isn't good test takers.

ched macquigg said...

Schedule changes are a superficial fix.

My bet is that a year from now, the all important NCLB testing results will be essentially unchanged.

There is a huge problem that the supposed task force was created in relative secret. There is a huge problem any time a small handful of people claim to represent everyone else, make no effort to include any other (dissenting) points of view, and then make a decision that affects everyone.

I think it is foolish to suppose that either the leadership of the APS, or the leadership of the teachers union, will relinquish their decision making power to any of the great unwashed, who will then have to implement those decisions.

This problem like most, will be settled badly because so few people will stand up and participate in the decision making process,

because they don't believe their opinion matters,

because it never has.

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Except where it is adopted as a necessary means of secret communication, the use of special slang in any employment is probably to be accepted as evidence that the occupation in question is substantially make-believe.--Thorstein Veblen

Well, we know it's not make believe. That only leaves Door #1. I keep telling you people (teachers, etc.) if you could convince the district to STOP using Franz Kafka's 'The Trial' as a training manual everyone would be much better off.

ched macquigg said...

There is a board meeting tonight.

During the public forum, the leadership of the APS will be asked to explain,defend, or deny their decision not to let stakeholders participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their interests.

They will decline, by stonewalling the question, like they always do.

Ray Maseman said...

I'm personally a big fan of block schedules. I've worked in two schools that had them, one in Albuquerque and one in Denver. They do allow for more interesting assignments, projects and activities, especially in sciences and the arts. Blocks also allow for more of a "whole student" approach, because the day is not so truncated with class changes.

Unfortunately, many teachers don't modify their practices to take advantage of the schedule, and thus think it doesn't work.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the block schedule will not effect a big change because it will still happen in the context of an extremely large and cumbersome institutional bureaucracy. Furthermore, all the High Schools will still be extremely large. A more useful change than block schedules would be smaller schools, but I don't see that happening easily, outside of the chartered schools