Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An APS Middle School Teacher's Call To Action

We don't use much of the true "call to action" around here, preferring directionless rage, invective and vitriol instead.

But here's a "Call To Action".

Here is what "The District" has told my middle school:
  • We must add more Math minutes to the day to bring up poor Math test scores for around 300 of our current students;
  • We must do this without any increase in staffing;
  • We must do this without any additional rooms/portables;
  • We must do this without any additional funding of any kind;
  • And we must do this without any leadership or direction from "The District", only the adversarial passing of the proverbial "unfunded mandate" buck.
My school has over 200 Gifted students (out of an enrollment of just over 900), a diverse music program featuring Band, Orchestra AND Rock n' Roll classes, and receives the most transfer requests of any middle school in "The District". Countless parents fabricate documentation every year to "prove" they live within our school boundaries.

Yet "the District" is mandating (while offering no assistance whatsoever) that we basically double the amount of Math taught, regardless of the peril to our Music and other highly popular and successful programs. We cannot lengthen the school day, so we must instead make a "Sophie's Choice" to sacrifice something through a internecine process pitting content departments and teachers against each other.

Our popular, in-demand school is imploding, and all for some patently unreachable No Child Left Behind mandates that have never been funded properly, and are almost certain to be heavily altered in coming months. So like the last car in the roller coaster, my school feels the whip-like effect of the "death drop" just as the front of the car finally reaches a sane point of being level. And like that whip of the roller coaster, my school will continue to feel the pointless repercussions of these forced changes for a long time.

Something needs to happen. Frankly, my colleagues aren't unanimous about much of anything, but every single one of them would tell you there is no one to turn to at "The District". Nobody to talk to at the NM Public Education Department. Nobody.

So in that sense it's an empty "Call To Action". I can't really tell you who to call, because it's pretty obvious to us there ain't anybody worth calling. More than anything, I'm throwing this "call to action" out there on the simple, faint hope that my colleagues and I are wrong, and that there IS somebody out there who will not only listen, but help us make changes designed to address both our Math scores AND the need to keep the great things about my school great.

Like I said, I hope I'm wrong. I'm hoping every single internecine fighting staff member at my school is wrong. Somebody, please prove us wrong. Somebody. Anybody.


Anonymous said...

Scot, I am out there and you are out there. In fact we are all out there. I am reading and I am listening. I normally respond to you via email. I work at City Centre. I am a math resource teacher. My name is mitch ross. I know nothing of what you speak,write. I am intrigued and I am heeding the call. I ask your devotees to do so as well. I will try to get some clarity on what you speak. Scot, thanks for the call.

steve said...

We too are being forced not only to accept a class called, "math strategies", but the complete gutting of our PE, Health and music electives in favor of some be-all-end-all program called AVID. The prospects for next year look bleak at best and the so-called middle school model has been replaced by some remediation (or is it college prep) program that no one knows anything about. I was asked my opinion in a school management meeting and all I could say was that I felt we had lost the princple of "whole child" education. My opinion has no real value, of course, and our management team is a hoax. We have lost all control, yet assume all the responsibility for the outcome. BTW we were told we could go to a training session paid for by the district, in San Diego if we wanted to get onboard with AVID--there was palpable excitement as teachers couldn't wait to sign up for a week on the Pacific coast. Selling a birthright for a bowl of porridge never goes out of style.

Anonymous said...

One word----STRIKE!

It is time to get the district to put all their BS in writing so we can all be on the same page. Ever call up just one friggen department in the towers of power and talk to at least 3 people and get 3 different answers? The only reason not to have a policy in writing is to enact the deniability clause, or the "I don't recall" clause.
It is time to take back out profession. Where is your board member in all this?

ched macquigg said...

Where is the teachers union?

kevin said...

I know a teacher at an Albuquerque elementary school who has already fallen victim to these same policies. Currently, her six year old students are bombarded with 6.5 hours of math and reading everyday. Long gone are PE, Art and Music. Morning and afternoon recesses were stopped and the lunch hour has been shortened to a half hour (15 minutes to eat, fifteen minutes of recess). This school also has a high number of ESL students and the Spanish program will probably be gone by the end of the year as well.

My two cents for a "call to action" is the creation of a legitimate think tank that researches the fallacies of No Child Left Behind as well as other policies coming out of the useless Dept. of Education. It will need to be done outside "The District." I'm afraid that parents, as well as the general public really aren't aware of how destructive these policies are. Somebody needs to show them. If one was to look, I'm sure they would find experienced educators down to help, and I also believe large sums of money could be raised to support a non-profit such as this. Does something like this already exist? In New Mexico?

Laurie said...

Being a former math teacher, my first thought is, let's take a look at the "Math Program". Rather than making school be "All Math All the Time", maybe you could tell the district that their math program doesn't work. Connected Math is the problem. It is loads of fun but the kids aren't learning very much Math. Just my opinion, I'll go back to my typing now.

Ronnie said...

Quite simply, my friend, it is the equivalent of putting a Muppet Band-aid on the victim's arm because he had a heart attack.

David said...

Though I may not be a needed Core subject teacher. (simple minded social studies teacher) I see the problems you are talking about Scott. Though nothing will ever change not at District, at State, or at Federal level. All one person has to do scream is "You are against the kids!" and the politicians collapse. Once bureaucracy is set in motion the monster cannot be killed by anything, example welfare. Though I am falling into the group that the current math programs are going to be a miserable failure. I have shown examples of the math program and work to a couple local CPA's, and they fear they can never retire now. Their fear is the students coming out of APS will never be able to do real math in the real world. I may be completely wrong on this teaching of "how you get there" over the correct answer. Here's a thought does the SAT or ACT want you get there or get the correct answer?

Anonymous said...


Far be it from me to decide how to best educate middle schoolers, but this is very clearly the wrong way, and the reason I myself started going to a charter school for my high school years.
It's not much, but name the target and I'll provide what supportive letters/calls that I can.

Thank you for the call to action,


Anonymous said...

Teachers, parents and students; we are all captives of a giant organism intent on gobbbling up all the resources at its disposal (tax revenue; federal funds; education stimulus money) and preserving itself at any cost. It's mantra is "feed the beast." No I'm not describing some lesser known Stephen King novel but our beloved APS. It is worse than any horror or slasher movie ever could be. I tremble in fear when I think about how it lobotimizes whatever creative energy is left in teachers. I shudder when I think about how it muzzles concerns and discontent parents by forcing them to attend school board meetings where they get to gripe for two whole minutes as they face the giant clock. Tick,tock--tick tock worse than chinese water torture for sure (I believe the experience brain washed me because I'm starting to believe that Geraldine Amato makes sense).Finally, as for students (oh, right the district forgets about the pathetic little wretches); the code word for them is funding sources especially the poverty stricken ones and those who do not speak English. Cha ching! APS and Winston Brooks are doing the Obama education stimulus shuffle. This teacher is right wake up people--it isn't it nightmare it is APS. Mobilize and run for your lives! (don't even get me started on "Igor" oops I mean Rigo Chavez)

Anonymous said...

It could be worse--under NCLB our schools in the South Valley have been restructured right out from under us. Our shrill school board representative showed up at the school to cackle with glee speaking in code words. "We've taken back the school we've gotten rid of the clique" From the perspective of some very confused and disenfranchised parents, she needs medication and recall will be a very bitter pill for her to swallow. On a serious note my children received an excellent education at Jefferson and they were in the district. Serious issues and no easy answers and bottomline, no accessibilty to even start the dialogue. One suggestion though to get some attention from the media. First have a teacher bully some special ed kids and then you break out the boxing gloves ... It works at Rio.