Thursday, March 12, 2009

All APS Cupcakes Will Have The Same Number of Sprinkles

A day or so ago, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks released the results of work by a "Budget Transition Team" designed to make schools more equitable across the District. As the Press Release states:
Under the new budget plan, school staffing across the district will be more equitable. Every elementary school, for example, will now have money for at least a part-time librarian, music teacher, art teacher, PE teacher and counselor.

All middle schools will have money for at least one assistant principal, band and orchestra teachers, a librarian and the same number of counselors as this year.

All high schools will have funding for three assistant principals, band and orchestra teachers, a part-time athletic trainer, a full-time librarian and librarian assistant, three campus assistants, two JROTC instructors, an activities director and the same number of counselors as this year.
A few things stand out in the above.

First, there's the inclusion of JROTC instructors in the essentials listed above. Not being a high school teacher, I tend to forget all about "ROTC", and kinda wonder if making absolutely damn sure we have some folks on campus with fake guns walking in highly disciplined fashion between rows of classroom barracks is terribly necessary.

It also reminds me that my previous post about high schools improperly preparing students for the "trades" is all wrong. High schools have prepared students for one trade: joining the military. I could go on and on and on, but will just leave it at that.

Second, nowhere does it mention anything class size or teacher allocations. This is like buying a car and deciding on the basis of how shiny the tires are. It might be that the "Budget Transition Team" got into the much more nettlesome thicket that is teacher FTE and class size, but it's not mentioned in the Press Release. As a teacher, reading the Release is a series of "blah, blah, blah, JROTC, blah".

Having an equal number of assistant principals just doesn't matter that much to most of us (no offense to assistant principals). We love the mandates of band/orchestra teachers in the abstract, but most of us aren't band/orchestra teachers. It's "blah, blah, blah" because we want to know if any teaching jobs are moving around in this plan, and how big our class sized will now be because of this attention to equity.

Third, I noticed that West Side APS Board Member Robert Lucero is hopping mad about the equity, and has been quoted in the paper saying so (shocking!). The Journal, which obviously has Lucero not only on speed dial but also considers Lucero a Facebook "friend" and one of its five "faves" on its cell phone plan writes the following:
School board member Robert Lucero, whose West Side district includes some of the district's largest enrollments, said tiny schools like Garfield Middle will get the same funding for office staff as James Monroe Middle School, which has 1,600 students. Under the current system, larger schools get additional money for more custodians, assistant principals and other staff. "Overcrowded schools get the short end of the stick," Lucero said.
And you know what? Pigs must be flying and Hell must be down below 32 degrees Fahrenheit this morning , because I agree with Robert Lucero here. I just seriously cowered at my laptop writing the previous sentence, thinking a lightning bolt might very well come down from Zeus or something over this once-in-a-millennia occurrence. Me & Robert Lucero: together. Imagine that.

Anyway, the point is that "equity" is more complicated than just giving every school the same amount of counselors. James Monroe MS is about four times the size of Garfield MS. Again, the "Budget Transition Team" might have this discrepancy covered, but it's unclear from the Release.

Fourth, I can't help but notice "Instructional Coaches" in the list of essentials, and can't help but write that I'm afraid "Instructional Coaches" have been turned into "No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Nazis" because of the mania over standardized testing. I've written before on my own lack of understanding when it comes to what Instructional Coaches were designed to do originally, but I feel more confident in saying the position has certainly become HIGHLY intertwined with the Almighty Test Scores now.

Personally, I'm opposed to anything that spends money on the, largely unfunded, mandate that has been NCLB. Whether designed that way or not, the Instructional Coach concept has been thrown into the caboose of the NCLB train. May that noisome train continue riding off the tracks and fall into a giant ravine soon. May its fall also be videotaped and sold as part of a "Death to NCLB" pay-per-view package. I'll pay $25 to see that. I'll pay $50.

P.S.: In the "obscure things that finally occurred to me" department, I had a discussion with a parent yesterday who was trying to get their child transferred to Sandia HS as a 9th grader next year. My school, in the heart of the Albuquerque High "district", has a veritable tsunami of students wanting to go to Sandia next year. We've wondered why, and the thought occured to me: "Is it because Sandia HS 'made scores' on last year's Standardized Tests and no other HS did? Do these folks know that Sandia only made scores because of some lame "safe harbor provision" and didn't really "pass" in the traditional sense?"

I know Sandia HS has been a popular transfer candidate for years, but this year's transfer "lottery" is shaping up to be particularly competitive. Speaking of pay-per-view, Sandia could probably sell the rights to its transfer lottery. I know some parents who would pay $25 to see that done live.

No comments: