Monday, April 27, 2009

When Far More Important People Agree With You It's Kinda Weird

"Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks said he now thinks states should be held to a national yardstick when it comes to their student performance. 'States are performing, or not, based upon their own state assessment,' Brooks told members of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Monday at the Albuquerque Marriott. He said five years ago, he would have opposed such a move. However, with New Mexico seen as a failing state but having standards known for being among the highest in the country, he has changed his tune. The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 only requires all students to be proficient by 2014, which is not realistic, he said. It leaves it up to the individual states to set standards and assessments."
--little blurb/post by reporter Andrea Schoelkopf,, 4.27.09
Golly. That's encouraging. True, Superintendent Brooks has been talking since Day One in ABQ that the 2014 goals are "not realistic". So that's no surprise, especially when one considers that every sane sentient being on this or any other planet has said basically the same thing for years now.

Still, seeing this in "official" print, virtual or otherwise, juxtaposed with comments on the need for nationalized standards/testing is heartening. I wonder what those biz types dining on rubber chicken at the Marriott thought of Brooks' comments. Perhaps reading their feedback would be a bit of a downer.

Better I try to put those thoughts out of my mind, and focus my energies on finishing these "I Love Winston" buttons and bumper stickers. How about a line of "National Yardstick Or No Stick!" t-shirts? Or maybe Super MC Brooks could cut a new mix on an old hip-hop cut with "2-0-1-4 Is A Joke"?

Ok, no bad Public Enemy reference can remain unpunished. Let's close a rare upbeat Burque Babble post with an upbeat tune about poorly performed public services...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"A2L" & The Seedy Underbelly of Standardized Testing

When a normal, non-teacher type, person thinks "high-stakes testing", s/he is thinking about the "SBA". Standards-Based Assessment. At least in New Mexico...these things have different names/acronyms in other states, which could lead us to about 5,000 words on how different states do testing.

But that would be a digression, and we're not doing that today. One big reason for not doing digressions today is that my Dell laptop's hard-drive blowed up this morning and I am typing this post on my wife's Mac. My feelings about Macs would be yet another digression, but I'll foreshorten a long, long rant by just mentioning that typing on my wife's keyboard is like walking on poorly-laid flagstone, in the rain, when one has had more than three beers.

And despite the strong, strong temptation to run with one of the 47 possible digressions possible from the immediately preceding paragraphs, I am sticking to schools and standardized testing.

For you see...standardized testing isn't quite as simple as you, dear normal non-obsessed, non-teacher person might think. For despite the fact that everybody from the media to parents to new Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan focuses on the "high-stakes testing" that is, in New Mexico, "SBA", there are plenty of other tests during the year that actually have much more impact on the individual student.

In fact, perhaps the single most surreal aspect in the hyper-surreal universe of "high-stakes testing" is that students very, very often do not even know how they did on the SBAs. Truth be told, most parents don't know or remember how their kid did either.

As a teacher of the "gifted", I have these absolutely worthless required meetings with parents/students once per year. Don't ask me why, or I promise I'm going straight to Digression Land. At these meetings I always show the student/parent the kid's SBA score. About 98% of the time the parent and kid look at each other while looking at the SBA numbers, and ask "Did you know this score?" Each of them then shrug their shoulders and say "no, did you?"

And then, being a teacher of the "gifted" at a "liberal" school with lots of involved, politically-aware parents, I often get to hear from these parents about how much they hate the SBAs. Upon hearing these mini-harangues, I shrug my shoulders and move on to the next part of the absolutely worthless meeting.

Hence, what gets called "High-stakes testing" is only "high-stakes" for the school/District/State. But SBA is just one of the buttload of standardized tests kids take each year.

The most important of these additional tests is, in New Mexico at least, the "A2L: Assess to Learn". The A2L (and no, I'm not going to divert my/your attention by pointing out how incredibly stupid the name and faux-hip-hop acronym are) is a three-test regimen over the course of a school year. It used to be two tests, one to see how kids are already prepared for the work covered in the new school year, and the second to see how well they use/comprehend the work that was taught that school year.

But that wasn't enough, so now we have three. More to the point, we have a third A2L test to give in early/mid-May. Yes, we are going to give a test about two weeks before school gets out, only a month after two semi-solid weeks of "high-stakes testing".

But it gets better than that. Not only are we giving yet another test right after the "big" test and just before we get out of school, but this test has very important ramifications for the student. Namely, students scoring below 70% on this test (Reading/Math) are supposed to be placed in special "remediation" classes next year.

Placement in these classes may, or may not, mean a student can't take an elective next year. "Failure" on this particular A2L test can mean no Band or Orchestra for a student. It also definitely (well, almost definitely) means they will be placed in a "remediation" class, taught through some "curriculum-in-a-box" program that costs thousands of dollars and was purchased through some shady process that somebody should turn into a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of newspaper articles (if in fact newspapers continue to exist by the time the next Pulitzer is awarded).

The word "supposed" and phrase "may or may not" appear above because our school has not yet formalized a schedule for next year to address the necessary outcomes dictated by the failure of students on this all-important A2L that will be given about two weeks before school is out. We have no idea how many students will "fail" this very important test. We have no clear direction from the District on what schedule we should use for these "failing" students next year. We don't exactly know if we are supposed to place students based on the single score from this 3rd A2L or an averaging of all three. Ergo, we don't really know exactly how many students can have zero, one, two, three electives next year. It's quite amazing, really, how much we don't know.

But I've saved the best for last.

First, let's look at the Math test. It has 43 questions. Our Math Department looked at the test, and immediately noticed that 4 of the questions were unusable. For example, one question offered four answers, none of which was the right answer. And no there wasn't a "none of the above" answer. There just wasn't a correct answer anywhere. As a Math colleague quickly pointed out, 4 bad questions means 9% of the overall test is worthless. What is to be done with the worthless 9%? Do the kids get these right for "free"? Do we get new replacement tests delivered to us sometime around June 15th or so?

Again, these are the truly "high-stakes" tests. Let's look at the Reading test.

This test is full of long passages that students read and then bubble in some multiple-choice answers. I'm talking passages longer than the overly long blog post you are currently wading through. At the "test training" we had last Friday we were specifically told that students cannot make any marks in the test booklets. Zero.

In other words, students can't highlight the passages, circle important words, nothing. Given that we have all taught students to do this for years, it's a little weird to have them suddenly stop doing this on a really important test with seriously long passages.

If you or I were taking this test, and we had been told it meant the difference between having a fun elective next year and some boring as Hell "remediation" class, we would sure as Hell highlight and mark up the test booklet regardless of who told us we couldn't. The damn test booklet would be as yellow as a Kansas cornfield in September by the time we got done. And we would turn the test booklet in, mumble "sorry" without meaning it, and walk away.

Of course if our kids do this they are to be branded as test-destroying miscreants. Oh, the humanity.

Lastly, the question came up at the "training" about possibly making copies of the test, thus allowing some students to have an extra copy to highlight/note through. We were specifically told this was unacceptable. Why tests could then be copied and saved for later!!! Tests could be left lying around and...oh, again, the humanity...

Having now typed about 1,200 words on my wife's lousy keyboard about this subject I can certainly see why the "normal" among us doesn't really know much about truly important standardized tests like the "A2L". It's complicated and boring and full of guilty secrets.

The "high-stakes testing" situation in this way reminds me, strangely, of drinking and the Irish. The SBA is like "St. Patrick's Day", a day in which everyone can be Irish and feel a weird kinship with the Irish by drinking heavily. Well, the A2L and other tests (and yes, there are plenty of others) are more like being Irish every day. The daily routine of drinking, wearing green and burning peat in the fireplace isn't so glamorous or worthy of celebration. It's kind of a drag really, laborious and full of guilty, terrible secrets.

And I say this as a person with significant Irish "blood". And a teacher.

Oh well, A2L Go Bragh, or something like that. Meanwhile, I gotta go order a laptop hard drive before I throw my wife's keyboard through the window.

Have a good week, everyone...four weeks left, teacher friends. Four.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Further Signs of the Newspaper Apocalypse: I Use Craigslist

Before I start...a note about the Journal, its employees and the future of Journal employees.

I have been somewhat critical in recent days/weeks/months of the education coverage by the Journal. I've also been whinging (D.F. Wallace is not the only person who loves[d] this word) on and on about the Journal's inability to "get" the Internet for, well, years now.

Due to my Journal Whingfest, it might seem that I have it out for the Journal's employees, and wish nothing but bad things to happen to them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The whole decline of print journalism thing saddens me, and the seeming surety that many highly intelligent, engaged journalists will/have been looking for jobs outside the field is an underemployment shame of the highest order.

I am no more against specific Journal employees than the typical APS hater is against specific teachers. When someone attacks APS I, perhaps in a helpful act of psychological self-preservation, don't consider that an attack on me. I don't really consider it an attack on teachers at all. APS is a dysfunctional bureaucratic animal to be avoided whenever possible, by students, parents and teachers alike. APS thus is like a snake on a mountain bike/hiking path. But with a broken rattle and non-functioning fangs.

And that gets us to the Journal. Like APS the Journal, in my view, has little to do with its individual employees. The overall corporate mindset there is evidently the result of years of an increasingly unworkable business model, a mindset, I'm guessing, best avoided by the individuals working there.

Like APS, the Journal certainly appears to be just about hopelessly stuck in some groupthink amber. And the amber is hardening by the second.

In this, I commiserate with individual Journal employees. On top of respecting, admiring and rooting for them.

And now, after that longer Prologue, a shorter "story".

I sold something via Craigslist.

Yes me. The guy who would, really, rather buy and sell houses strictly via email instead of actually having to ever, EVER, EVER, EVER meet a real estate agent or potential seller/buyer. Someone who has accrued massive piles of largely useless, but salable junk over the years, but would rather have a garage too full to park his car than have a garage sale. Who cringes at the words "garage sale" in the same way gregarious people cringe at words like "being alone" and "being without my cell phone at the supermarket and thus unable to find out what brand of bottled spaghetti sauce my significant other prefers while others try to sneak in and grab a box of multi-grain penne pasta right in front of me while I say, scream really, 'marinara or mushroom, marinara or mushroom!?!' into the phone".

A guy (remember not the person in the overly long supermarket example above) who will never have a cell phone (despite working in the public schools...the last bastion of workplaces with no phones in the workers' offices), who will never use Facebook, MySpace or any other "social networking" site, will never Twitter and will, quite obviously, spend significant time yelling at kids to get off his lawn for the rest of his increasingly aged life.

So this something using Craigslist.

I sold a pair of ridiculously mislabeled bike shorts (for those who don't already know, sizes like "large" in bike shorts are for people who normally wear "small"; I cannot imagine exactly who the bike short "small" is designed for) to some very nice guy who responded to my ad. The gentleman and I emailed back and forth several times, but eventually I had to meet the dude face-to-face, and via a quick, almost crack cocaine deal quickness, transaction I had twenty bucks and he had a pair of bike shorts designed for a skinny person.

I know for many readers of a "blog" the story being told above seems pointlessly ancient. Like I should immediately go from there to a wild-eyed report about finding some free music via this kooky "peer-to-peer" service called "Napster". And I realize I'm about the forty billionth person to the Criagslist party.

But if I, Mr. Selling Agoraphobe, start using Craigslist, then it truly is all over for the traditional media community swapshop. I'm one of the very last dominoes in the assured destruction of print media. I'm just about the very last canary in the gas-filled coalmine shaft of newspapers.

And not because I "have" some silly blog. Sure as Hell not because of that.

P.S.: Does the "Thrifty Nickel" still exists? Oh's online now. Whodathunkit? My dad spent 98% of his reading time going between "Thrifty Nickel" and "Auto Trader". A bit of Zane Grey, but mostly hours and hours of perusal for used car parts that would, temporarily, get our array of cars-on-cinder blocks into running condition. Funny how one's buying/selling agoraphobia originates.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Journal: All The "News" That Fits In Four Column Inches

In the land of news-deprivation blindness, the 400-word story is somewhere between prince and king.  Just one of the many ways newspapers are like the monarchical form of government, I suppose.

This morning the Journal has a 400-word story as way of correction about its publication of SBA scores by classroom back in February.  As stories that are really corrections go, it's alright, basically getting the point across that the classroom figures were imprecise but close enough for those at the Journal to satisfactorily sleep at night. 

We at Burque Babble certainly hope the sleep patterns of those involved are undisturbed.

At the same time, the 400-word story points to a monarchical degree of antiquation in the whole newspaper as news business.  I'm not saying it's anybody's fault, but somewhere along the early 20th Century line the idea arose that newspapers would be our primary source of news.  One way they would accomplish this would be by gatekeeping what was newsworthy and what was not, then printing short, religiously parsimonious really, explanations of what was happening around town and the world in reading-while-eating-Cheerios tidbits.  

As the gatekeepers, newspapers have garnered a certain intellectual cachet, one TV news really has never been able to intellectually usurp, only numerically outperform in terms of readers/viewers.  The printing of a story in a paper has served as a in imprimatur to a set of proposed facts or observations.  It's a story BECAUSE it's in the paper.  

Nothing terribly earth-shattering in the above paragraphs (the norm actually here at Burque Babble) but something to remember when it comes to the "story" of SBA scores by classroom.   

In sum, the Journal legitimized some statistically skanky numbers by printing them in the paper.  Now, the Journal has, finally, legitimized the sentiment by many that those numbers were statistically skanky by putting this little story/correction in the paper.  At the same time, gatekeeper that it is, it carefully (through years of J-school training) frames the debate in a way that purports to place the Journal above the statistically skanky as some sort of impartial observer of "facts", even though it is the exact organization that "legitimized" the skanky statistics to begin with.

And it does all this in 400 or so words.  

What's lost in all this...well there's a proverbial buttload of that.  Where to start...where to start...okay, let's suspend our inclination to lambaste the Journal for making itself the story when the story is something far deeper, and focus our short attention span on the paradigm that leads to 400 word stories about 400,000 word topics.  

The antiquated monarchy of newspapers as gatekeepers of news needs to be taken off "but I like to have the feel of newsprint on my hands" life-support.  We've dumbed America down enough, Albuquerque Journal.  It's time to change your mission from gatekeeper of facts/opinion to window of facts/opinion.  For example, instead of cherry-picking quotes from union president Ellen Bernstein, APS officials, etc. newspapers should create an online dialogue between all of the above and others who wish to add their views.  Instead of simply printing the statistically skanky, the Journal must explain the statistics, why they are or are not useful and why people think this way.

Ergo, newspapers are dead, and more importantly should be dead if they can't usefully incorporate the Internet and stop serving as simply hyper-short collections of words, phrases, sentences sprinkled between tire store and classified ads.  They also have to realize that their reality TV-level attempts to "become the story" by publishing useless statistics, then feigning surprise at their uselessness (both the newspaper and the statistics) is laughably obvious, and obviously desperate.

Good luck selling those tire ads, Albuquerque Journal.  

P.S.:  I realize the above is nothing new, and that anybody in any field of "expertise" is almost always shocked/dismayed when they read a newspaper story about their field of "expertise".  It's like being a big baseball fan and the movie has Shoeless Joe Jackson batting right-handed.  Times infinity.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Revolting Standardized Testing: The British Front

“'In practice, these tests have proved to be a nightmarish failure. The Sats (Standard Attainment Tests) have not only led to a marked decline in standards, they have broken children’s zeal for learning. They have alienated pupils, teachers and parents alike without making schools properly accountable….the Sats have made children better at passing abstruse exams but in so doing have bludgeoned out all enthusiasm for learning, leaving them lacking in initiative, floundering when confronted with unexpected challenges, unable to construct sustained arguments and powerless to think imaginatively.'”
--British middle school teacher Francis Gilbert in the New Statesman, 11.20.08
"In recent weeks, the 190,000 members of England’s National Union of Teachers have voted to boycott the country’s 2010 national standardized exams, refusing to prepare students for them or administer them. Perhaps even more astonishing, the National Association of Headteachers appears set to follow in their boycott footsteps, the first time in history that England’s school principals have taken such an action."
The latter quote comes from a tasty little blog from parents of New York City public school parents that I think will make a nice addition to the blogroll. The former quote is included in the blog's entry on the standardized testing battle lines in England. Much of interest here, including the manner in which the revolution against testing has begun and spread.

190,000 members of the union, huh? Principals taking part, too? Hmmm....

Roughly 330 days until the SBA 2010 window opens.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Political Punditry From Your Local Guns/Ammo Dealer

The Wingnut reaction to Obama winning the Presidency has had one, very positive, outcome: we now get to hear what gun store owners think! For years I've kept the lid on my strong, burning desire to know what people like Jerry Ellenburger of Los Ranchos Guns ponder. It always seemed kinda selfish of me.

Little did I know everybody wants to know what Jerry Ellenburger and other pundits-in-camo-drag think about politics, Obama, etc. I feel so much better about my obsession with the Gun Dealer Mindset now!

Not to get greedy, but maybe the cable networks could go the next step and start hiring some of the more photogenic gun dealers as full-time pundits. Larry King is so terrible, and so terribly old, not to mention terrible...kick him out and replace him with Jerry Ellenburger of Los Ranchos Guns! Olbermann is worthless now that W/Cheney/Rove are gone....replace him with a rotating set of the now oft-quoted gun dealers wearing t-shirts with slogans like: "The last person on Earth will be carrying an AK-47."

Of course, Fox News doesn't need to hire any gun store owners, as they already have several on their lineup.

It's so good to be "out of the closet" now, so to speak, feeling free to enjoy my obsession with what survivalist small-business owners think about stuff. Maybe one day we will find gun dealers hosting "House Hunters International" on HGTV and "Chopped" on Food Network. Perhaps the day will come that we'll see them sitting in for Tony Kornheiser on "Pardon The Interruption", and sitting in for Stephen Colbert.

I know, I know...but a guy's gotta dream, don't he?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Post #700

I'm a baseball fan, so all numbers around 700 have to do with home runs. Ruth already had 714 when I hit the planet, and that number, 714, refers/means that and only that. There is absolutely no other use for the arranged numbers 7, 1, and 4 other than to refer to Babe Ruth and home runs. Those with a street address starting 714 should officially have to change the number to something else. It's like the 13th floor in a hotel, only instead of bad luck, it simply means no person/place/thing deserves the numbers 714 in that order except Babe Ruth.

Then Henry Aaron came along, and became a big part of my youth as he crossed 700 on his way past 714 and, eventually ended up at 755. Yes, I can remember Milo Hamilton's call of 715. Yes, I remember who Hammering Hank hit 715 off of. I even remember which Dodger pitcher caught the HR ball in the Fulton County Stadium bullpen. I remember those long-haired, good natured young guys patting Aaron on the back as he rounded the bases.

The 700 numbers mean a lot to a baseball fan.

Unfortunately, also in the 700s is a number many baseball obsessives don't count, some juiced up loser hitting more than 755. I can't remember his name off-hand. I honestly don't even remember the number of HRs this loser hit. His existence and the fact the number of his HRs is, I think, in the 700s taints the whole 700s to an extent. About as much as the "700 Club" television show, I suppose. Which is quite a bit.

And now, furthering the taint of the baseball sacred and theologically profane 700s, Burque Babble arrives at its 700th post. What started sputtering in March 2005, in a land before Twitter and Democratically-controlled branches of the federal government is now 700 posts old. I guess that means something, I just don't know if I want to know what it means.

If you know what I mean.

One thing it means is that I've spent quite a bit of time staring at this little WYSIWYG word-processing/html box in Blogger. Why? It also indicates that quite a few words have been put into the little WYSIWYG box over the last five years of so. Again...why?

One of these days I'm going to get around to wasting time copy/pasting all my Burque Babble posts into Word instead of simply wasting time writing a Burque Babble post. The purpose of the copy/paste will be to get a word count for all the detritus thrust into this little WYSIWYG box since '05. How many words? 250,000? 300,000?

Is 300,000 words longer than Anna Karenina? À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu? Probably not War and Peace, but we're still talking serious heft here. All these words..and for what?

And now you know why I'll probably never get around to that copy/paste into Word. One thing that hasn't changed since 2005 is that the majority of folks still say the sentence/question "You have a blog?" in the same way they might say "You have a drinking problem?" or "You still wear Crocs in public?" We bloggers are interesting in that not only are we out of fashion, we have still yet to be in fashion. We still wear the Internet equivalent of plaids with stripes.

Oh well.

At times over the last five years, in an pretty much predictable cycle, I've decided to quit doing this. Once or twice I actually stopped, only to have something (a news item, boredom, a feeling of mortality) compel me to the little WYSIWYG box. Also, speaking honestly and without the, almost self-destructive degree of, irony and sarcasm common here, I've also considered you, dear reader in that calculation of whether to really stop this worthless madness.

Perhaps the most considerate thing I could do would be to stop writing this crap. But I persist in the delusion that there is a purpose here, one that somehow exists beyond my own, notorious, ego-centrism, and actually has some sort of strange, ill-formed reason for being.

I dunno. I could be wrong. A significant part of me thinks I'm probably wrong about this. Just not enough to completely, finally shut this mofo down.

Thanks to those who have continued following this worthless madness over the years, whether in a single visit or, poor souls, through a majority of all 700 posts . I've tried writing a last sentence here about nine times now...but can't come up with anything other than: thanks.

So thanks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reading the Post-Newspaper News

Okay, I cheated a little today and actually looked at the story on clerical staffing cuts in APS. Still, I'm largely keeping to my no-Journal diet (about as well as I do any diet). So I end up going elsewhere for "news", including local TV spots like KOB. This morning I find in the story entitled "Economy Gets Blame For Rising Drug Arrests" the following:
"Also this week, deputies pulled over James Casaus at 2nd Street and Osuna. Inside his van, deputies say they found a can of vegetarian beans with small baggies of meth and marijuana inside."
Why the need to point out that the beans are "vegetarian"? Obviously, by having cans of vegetarian beans around his cramped one-bedroom studio apartment, Mr. Casaus is somehow more inclined to crime, specifically drug crime. Can these vegetarians and their cans of beans ever be stopped?

Then there is this quote from Bernalillo County Undersheriff Sal Baragiola (which might be the single greatest name for a cop/undersheriff ever):
“You end up with a wrap sheet, and when the job market improves, guess what, you're probably going to be unemployable because now you're a convicted drug felon," Baragiola said.
Now Burque Babble is probably the VERY last entity that should be making fun of copy errors by others. You can't thrown an electron rock without hitting a typo/glitch/bonehead grammatical disaster in these pages. Still..."wrap sheet"??? Like these newbie drug dealers will now end up with new supplies of Saran Wrap in which to cover unused portions of their vegetarian beans?

Methinks this Journal-free diet will be largely successful and ultimately rewarding. But there are downsides.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Than Just Bourbon and Horses: Kentucky and Standardized Testing

I know what you might be thinking. Kentucky...Standardized Testing...what do those urbanity-challenged Southern "rednecks" know about doing Standardized Testing? Much less doing it right?

Um...a great deal as it turns out. Kinda makes a fellow Southerner proud to read the stuff. The effort in Kentucky won't make the true anti-assessment crowd happy, but certainly offers useful ideas anywhere testing might stick around a while. Like New Mexico, for instance. Like the entire United States for the foreseeable future.

P.S.: No mention of a different SpEd assessment in the story. I'm trying to track down information along those lines both in Kentucky and nationally. Any help/info most welcome in this or any relevant regard. By the way, I found the above at Education Week reporter David Hoff's blog. While Education Week is a pay site, the blog is free.

Making Sure SBA 2010 Isn't Like SBA 2009, 2008, 2007...

From a comment to a very recent post on No Child Left Behind/Standardized Testing:

"I guess the thing to do is to do something beside speak to the computer. Thomas Paine, Gandhi, King, Chavez, Attucks, names of people so fed up with the same ol, same ol they did something beside find comfort and camaraderie in the teachers' lounge. It was nearly a year ago that the Babble posted the news of one Carl Chew boycotting the test in Seattle. Back in the olden days, we'll call it last year, folks didn't wait for others to lead; they led. If you build it, they will come. Begin the building."

Definitely words to chew on, commenter Anonymous. So to speak. The chewing gets a little tougher when one reads yesterday's NYT story detailing (very, very little really) the Obama Administration's thought on NCLB re-authorization. The gristle is especially tough when NCLB critic Diane Ravitch is left to opine:

“Obama’s fundamental strategy is the same as George Bush’s: standardized tests, numbers-crunching; it’s the N.C.L.B. approach with lots of money attached....Obama has given Bush a third term in education policy.”

Again, it's unclear what exact changes President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan want to make to NCLB, but it's very clear it's largely not going anywhere. I'll resist any ego-centric temptation to point derisively at my fellow teachers and shriek "I told you so", and will instead choose to list a few things that MUST happen before I, personally, can stomach administering even one more SBA:

  • Special-Education students have to have their own test;
  • Test scores must follow the student as much as they follow the school/teacher;
  • In line with Point Two, any effort to link test scores to teacher performance must include statistical analysis of how individual students progress;
  • The test must be nationalized: same test for everyone, same sample size for scores to "count", same confidence interval;
  • The 100% by 2014 Chart of Bush Administration NCLB Insanity has to be thrown into the dustbin of history, replaced by realistic targets such as the 3% improvement outlined by APS Superintendent Winston Brooks;
  • "Corrective Action" must stop consisting of worn, worthless "Continuous Improvement" TQM garbage, and be replaced with the proper funding for trained teachers to do the job necessary to build student performance along the lines outlined the points above. Given the proper infrastructure, teachers don't need useless BS like "continuous improvement".
Now comes the Carl Chew moment. What do we do if most/all of the above isn't implement in the re-authorization? What is to be done if SBA 2010 looks 99.9% like 2009? A couple of ideas:

  • Drop our Union memberships. Teachers' unions seem to be into boycotts (e.g. the new one against the Albuquerque Journal for publishing SBA test scores by classroom). Well, let's boycott the Union if they continue to let NCLB be the abomination it currently is. One suggestion to the Union in this effort: quit focusing solely on saving teacher jobs and start focusing on the teacher's job. I'm not scared by "merit pay", I'm scared that the job I am asked to do will simply cease to be tenable to me philosophically;
  • A major blitz of comment to our new, 100% Democratic New Mexico Congressional delegation. We elected them and this is a perfect opportunity to remember that, union help or no union help;
  • The Carl Chew option. Yeah, that's scary. Yeah we love our jobs and fear retribution. But at some point...
My ears are wide open to hear other ideas, whether they come from a new K-12 Gandhi or simply a teacher down the hall. We've got about 350 days until SBA 2010. We've got work to do.

P.S.: As a very small step here, I think I'm switching off "anonymous comments". Finally. I know, I know people can just make up names, etc. But at least it's a step toward something beyond hiding our screams and indignation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SBA Rumination #9, #9, #9: "The Accountability Illusion"

After having several, many, a lot of typos and other imperfections in recent posts, Burque Babble is lowering the academic bar. Just a link today. A series of them, in fact.

But first a quote from the Thomas B. Friedman Institute that begins its fascinating look at state-by-state variance when it comes to accountability and No Child Left Behind in "The Accountability Illusion".

"This study examines the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states. We selected 36 real schools (half elementary, half middle) that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which of them would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state's accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Wisconsin or Ohio, would that same school make AYP there? Based on this analysis, we can see how AYP varies across the country and evaluate the effectiveness of NCLB."

Dear readers who haven't actually been bored to tears over the last few days as I bewail, bemoan and bewilder over standardized testing will definitely get a kick out of the whole site linked above. In particular, may I draw your attention to:

A veritable wonk buffet of statistical goodness here, and one I wish every single American would read, and could understand. Hell, I just wish every public school teacher could read and understand it. Double Hell...I wish anybody, anywhere in any profession would bother to read such findings, even if they, largely, didn't understand it.

P.S.: If your super-wonky, but can't decide which link to hit...go for the PowerPoint. It's especially wonkalicious.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Seventh Stage of SBA Grieving: Acceptance?

If my poor memory serves me correctly, sometime late last week I typed the following into the little "Blogger" WYSIWYG word processor:

Well, here's a newsflash to SBA overlords: we don't care about the SBAs. We really don't.

For those not initiated into Edunyms (educational acronyms), "SBA" stands for Standards-Based Assessment, which is itself a Eduphemism (educational euphemism) for "high-stakes testing" which is another Eduphemism for the "test scores that show up in the newspaper and determine whether a school has to do 'Continuous Improvement' crap", which is another Eduphemism wrapped in an Edunyms, wrapped in an enigma.

But I digress.

Average folks, who don't obsess over SBAs, newspaper accounts of SBA scores and just want to know which school they should send their Johnny or Jenny might find it a little provocative for a paid public school teacher to say:

Well, here's a newsflash to SBA overlords: we don't care about the SBAs. We really don't.

Likewise, a slighly-to-greatly more high-paid public school administrator might not like the idea that their employees are saying things like:

Well, here's a newsflash to SBA overlords: we don't care about the SBAs. We really don't.

And I can understand that from both the concerned parent and concerned administrator angles. I admit it's a tad bit provocative for a teacher to write:

Well, here's a newsflash to SBA overlords: we don't care about the SBAs. We really don't.

I also admit that I tend to think of the term "provocative" as a value-positive term, but that's the subject for another blogpost. My interest this early morning is asking a question to all those in public education, from Johnny and Jenny, to concerned parent, to teachers provocative and unprovocative alike, to concerned administrator.

What the Hell are those opposed to how "assessment" is now implemented, enforced, funded, and reported supposed to do?

Note: I"m not saying kids shouldn't be held to rigorous academic standards. Quite the opposite. What I'm saying is that those standards are being perversely assessed.

Right now we have a situation where a large majority of those practicing public education oppose something, but are afraid to really say anything for fear of retribution. Oh, they'll complain and rant plenty in the privacy of a informal teacher confab in the halls between classes, maybe even rant a bit at a unrecorded staff meeting. But anything past this, and/or, frankly, the occasional "anonymous" comment to some silly blog is considered too dangerous.


I'm afraid I don't really have the time this morning to even begin to answer the "What the Hell" question, and rather doubt I'm smart enough to ever come up with an answer. Honestly, the question seems rhetorical to me in this environment. What I'd really like to see is somebody out there (yes, one of the three people reading this here thing) throw me a compelling answer to the "What the Hell" question.

Hint: The answer shouldn't simply contain the phrase "get the Union involved", for reasons that are, hopefully, painfully obvious.

The only options I'm seeing right now are: 1. Keep quiet and eventually it will all go away. This is, by far, the majority position; 2. Meaninglessly complain about it in private hallway discussion and at noisy staff meeting (oh, and in useless blogposting).

I'd like to add a third option:: Engage in the process and make the changes happen. But where does one engage, when just about everyone is trying to keep quiet, waiting for it all to go away?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My National School System Is Worse Than Yours!

All this standardized testing has me exploring the validity of my sense that just about every country's residents feel they have a lousy educational system. South Korea seems on board with the idea, even though their scores are some of the highest in the world (depending, of course, on measure).

England, which also scores higher on some tests, has the sentiment (at least by one observer) that the educational sky is falling in the U.K. as well.

Germany...yup, business leaders bemoan the "educational poverty"

French pundits debate just how horrible their well-funded system has gotten..

And here's some academic starting to slam the Japanese system before the meter runs out and you have to pay to read more...

Here's a pretty (and pretty incomplete) map with expenditures as percent of GDP around the world (2003).

And yeah, that's Norway (on the map) spending a rich 6.8% of GDP (compared with the U.S. at 4.8%), and, sure enough, there's enough complaining about the Norwegian public system to start a continuing, vigorous debate on creating more private schools because the public ones ain't any good.

Lastly, here's an "Educational Index" from a Wiki page on the subject...poor Burkina Faso down there at the bottom.

So many measures, so many ways to find statistical evidence that the schools in one's country are a disgrace. Try it yourself. Type the search terms "X school system failing" where X = the country you want to see slammed. Collect bad comments on 'em all!

P.S.: Extra credit points if you find an "expert" in Country X saying "Country X is not competitive with the rest of the world in Math and Science".

Friday, April 10, 2009

Meditation Upon Standardized Testing II: Less Mediative, More Rant

In the comments to my last drivel regarding standardized testing, the topic of teachers emailing during test administration, and its inappropriateness, (the act of emailing, not the content of the emails) has come up. I started a comment and it kinda got out of hand, so I present it here as a secondary blogpost. Probably not a good idea, but I'm full of ideas that are probably not good ones.

First the last previous comment from the last post:
Me: I got the email about not emailing.

Anonymous: Well hells bells, if the kids can break all the ridiculous rules in place for them with no consequences, it is way past time for teachers to follow their lead! ;)
And now my bloviated, unnecessarily long response:

The funny thing (okay, it's one of 5,000,000 funny things when it comes to SBAs) is that I'm a over-the-top law-abiding person. Irritatingly so. But when faced with "laws" straight out of Woody Allen's "Bananas": "From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!", what are you gonna do?

I gotta think that underlying much of these SBA "laws" is the mindset that teachers/students CARE about the testing. CARE so much that they will consider cheating (via nefarious emailing and such, I guess). Well, here's a newsflash to SBA overlords: we don't care about the SBAs. We really don't.

We care about following silly rules to a point and don't leave the test materials "unsecured" and all that, but when it comes to advanced nefarious planning to "cheat" on these things using email, spy planes and such, that is so far away from our actual mindset toward this like the mental space between Alpha Centauri and Barelas.

All we care about with SBAs is: are they over yet? And when the scores come out and we "pass" this and "fail" that we will not feel differently about our students, school and work performance one iota. And, thankfully, neither will our students.

A few parents and some "gotcha" local media will care, and they will try to convince other parents to care, and these parents may or may not care on some superficial level because they know they are supposed to care about their child's education, even if it not really clear to them what these test scores mean when it comes to their own child's education.

To misquote Allen Ginsberg, America go *&%^ yourself with your Standardized Testing.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Standardized Testing and Technology Meditation

Among all the things you can say about six days (over two weeks) of standardized test "administration" is that it gives the "administrator" a lot of time to think.

Many of those thoughts center, of course, on finding a sharp object to slit your wrists in sheer test administration boredom, but eventually selfish thoughts of suicide subside, and are replaced by myriad others. As much as a teacher tries, thoughts on the subject of education cannot be avoided.

And this is where the Internet comes in, for you might have heard of an application called "email". It allows bored teachers in various hermetically-sealed testing cells to communicate with one another as they have these occasional thoughts about education. Your humble blogger is a notorious "emailer" at my school, not only during testing, and about 2/3rds of the staff has emails from me immediately deleted, trashed, and "spam reported".

The other unfortunate 1/3rd who hasn't figured out how to "report spam" is forced, largely by their own testing coma o' boredom, to actually read my insipid thoughts. I'm perhaps the biggest insipid thought provider at my school, but there are others now vying for the unwanted crown. We send and reply various emails on subjects so banal as to immediately cause unconsciousness upon reading by the general public.

So given that I'm writing this first thing in the morning, I'll spare you, dear reader, instant sleep, and focus instead on another aspect of this "email" thing. The technological aspect.

My school is like many other workplaces, comprised of a wide range of ages. We've got young, first-year teacher types and we've got grizzled veterans. Okay, maybe we have a few more grizzled veterans than newbies. Maybe a lot more than the average school. Let's face it, we're overrun with extremely grizzled 20 years of service and up types. I myself am approaching grizzlement, and show the first signs of grizzle (grumpiness, constant reference to "the good old days", dismissive looks at the hair styles of today's youth, etc.) .

Fortunately for me, my school keeps me looking young by hosting an array of those in a state of extreme grizzleocity. Despite being 47 years old, being in my 15th year of teaching and having a head of hair bereft of even one hair not colored gray, I am generally considered young. And yes, a big part of this is that I act like I'm roughly 13 years old all the time. But it's more than that. There's grizzleaciousness to consider.

Anyway, the high grizzle-o-meter count at my workplace impacts the whole "email" thing. Generally we have two types of email users/lurkers at my school: 1. a smaller group of folks who use the Internet and email at a higher level, roughly on par with the average person in the "real world". These people are used to reading message boards, blogs, stupid comments sections of blogs, etc.; 2. a larger group of folks who occasionally stop by the Internet, but still generally consider the Internet another sign of some sort of technological apocalypse involving robots, evil nerds wearing white smocks and online banking. These, generally more grizzle-heavy types tend to view "email" with a combination of derision (because it's not face-to-face discussion) and fear.

It is into this mix (and percentage) of typologies that these insipid testing coma-induced emails are sent by myself and a few others. Perhaps you can guess what happens then. Perhaps you have a similar situation at your workplace. Perhaps I don't even need to mention the hilarious fallout from each of these missives given that this is still a universal situation. Perhaps I don't need to really get into the massive miscommunications, yelling, screaming, hurt feelings, overreactions, defensive reactions, valiant defenses of others, snippy attacks on others, passive/aggressive lurking and roiling dissatisfaction inevitably left by these "emails".

I probably don't need to get into it.

So I'll just go with my personal favorite tidbit o' the moment. I love my principal. He's a great guy. In the two types of people listed above, he's of the non-Internet variety. When you need to tell my principal something, you don't email him. Ever. You would only email him about something you are legally bound to tell him but really don't want to tell him. Emailing him accomplishes the same thing as driving to the Grand Canyon and muttering the thing you're telling my Principal about while the Principal is at my school hundreds of miles away.

Which is fine.

Anyway, long story short, my Principal very often makes the following announcement over the intercom: "Teachers, be sure to look at your email for instructions on how to do X..." Then he proceeds, over the intercom, to tell us the instructions on how to do X. Then he reminds us to look at our email for these instructions.

I never fail to find this anything less than hilarious. Well, except for when there is anything approaching "important" going on in my class that is being interrupted by a guy telling me to look at my email, then obviating my need to look at my email by reciting the entire email over my 1957-era intercom speaker.

Good times, bro. Good times.

And speaking of good times....ONE MORE DAY OF TESTING LEFT!!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

Have a good three day weekend, everybody, whether you consider blogs and "email" a sinister plot or not.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dear Albuquerque Journal: Uh...No I Won't

Don't want to miss a day of New Mexico's best news coverage, subscribe here!
You've used up your sponsor pass trials for this week. Check back again please. 4.6.09

So long, Journal. It wasn't always good knowing ya, but I will be a bit sad when you finally go, completely, away. Which I'm guessing might be sooner than later, deep, über-strange pockets or no.

A Personal List to Help Survive Standardized Testing

When you're about to start week two of standardized testing at your school, you have to focus on the positives. Well, I guess you don't have to, but it's a good idea if you want to avoid focusing on all the mass-murder stories in the paper, begin systematically smashing all the light fixtures in your house and generally get real, real grumpy. So in a gloomy world of earthquakes & standardized testing what's out there to latch onto? What makes sense in a senseless world? Here's a list:

  1. Yesterday was Baseball's "Opening Day". Yeah, I know ESPN forced a faux opening "Sunday Night Baseball" game, but that didn't count. Yesterday was Opening Day and brought a smile to at least one grumpy teacher's face. What helped the smile is the knowledge that, after Day One, Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a HR as a Mariner (again, finally) and the Yankees are in last place. May Junior hit 80 HRs this year and the Yankees lose 162 games.
  2. There has been a temporary settlement in the Albuquerque Wind Bike Riders' Hostage Situation. After getting back in town and having every other day absolutely "Dyson Ball" suck for cycling, it looks like we're getting two solid days of bike-worthy weather. I know it's just two days, but I've still got plenty of wind-blasted sand in my beard from last Wednesday's NW windblast. Not to mention the large collection of (fortunately) small branches filling up my yard from the early, early Saturday morning freak-o-storm. April kinda came in like an Al Qaeda terrorist this year. Yeah, I know...cruelest month and all that.
  3. There are only 33 days of school left. I love my job and all, but I also love that there is only 33 days of it left. And if you count in a useless 1/2 day of "In-Service", the last day of school, the trip to the "Cliff Amusement Park" the day before the last day and our three remaining days of testing at my school (six days of testing over two weeks), we're left with about four meaningful days of instruction. Okay, this one goes into both the sense (good) and senseless (bad) categories.
  4. Much of our remaining instructional time will be spent doing "mock trials". I've written about this before. This year we will have nine separate trials involving help from various high school students (thanks high schoolers!), and parents who are judges/lawyers, making for a total of about 300 people involved in the festivities. We are still working on getting the Goodyear Blimp, but this is a very good thing that is both logistically challenging and academically worthwhile (imho). And no, you can't really standardize test "mock trials". Good.
  5. My film class is putting on its first "outside" Film Festival. For years we've done a little in-house "festival" to end the Semester/Year. This time we're putting it on at the Guild along with the kind folks at PAPA (which stands for something including the words "Public" and "Performing"). The shindig is May 9th from Noon to 2:00 p.m. Please consider attending, won't you? And if you see Keif over at the Guild, tell him how nice he has been helping us get this thing together. More shameless plugging and inducements to attend will surely follow.
  6. We are now another half-hour or so closer to the end of the school year than when I started this list.
  7. Speaking of Summer and "School's Out for Ever..." and all that, I have a month-long bike tour of Germany I'm DYING to tell everyone about (including maps, daily GPS coordinates and 40-50 links to various "privat zimmers"), but won't because I'd rather keep the three readers of Burque Babble, and not drive them away with scarily obsessive, Unabomber-esque detail and such. So, I'll play it cool and just say, "yeah, goin' to Germany...for a big...some biking around...yeah, whatever".
  8. The Yankees are still in last place.
  9. In even more "sports as mental distraction from life" news, today marks the start of the next round of "Champion's League" soccer in Europe. Yes, I care about this. Yes, I am embarrassed that I care about this. May Porto somehow defeat Manchester United. May ANYONE please beat Manchester United. In the battle for the "best team to hate" Man U. has got to be up there with the Yankees. Yes I am embarrassed about both knowing and caring about all this. I'd almost rather be one of those obsessive, mass-murder freaks who collects all the mass-murder stories and tries to bring them up in friendly conversation along with questions/answers like "I think this says something about America, don't you?" and then proceeds to pontificate on their pet, obsessive theories over an entire 30-minute duty-free teacher lunch. Almost.
  10. With each passing second, "Standardized Testing: 2009" is closer to being over. For those not in teaching, it's also a second closer to the end of Marty Chavez being Mayor. Along these lines, feel free to insert your own countdown clock of happiness. Just be sure to not think about the whole "it's one second closer to me being dead" thing. That's to be avoided.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Life of a Public School Teacher 2009: Flash Non-Fiction Edition

Unlike the last post, it is not now April Fools' Day and I'm not just making stuff up. The little anecdote below is completely, absolutely true, but involves more Foolishness than any April 1st gag ever.

Yesterday morning, various departments around my school had a special 7:30 meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to go over a survey sent by some entity (District, NM Public Education Department) as part of our next step on the road to "Corrective Action" since we have "failed" on our standardized testing scores in the area(s) of Special Education Students and "English Language Learners" over the last few years.

All this "Corrective Action" stuff is vaguely specified in "No Child Left Behind" and has been put into actual practice/policy by the State, etc..

Anyway, as a teacher of "Humanities", I had a choice of going to the Language Arts meeting or the Social Studies meeting. I went with Language Arts for a variety of reasons, including the possibility that us Gifted "Humanities" teachers might become responsible for teaching Language Arts next year. This switch to Language Arts is unclear because we still don't have a schedule ready for next year, due to our inability to decide upon one yet. On April 3rd, we still don't know what we're doing on August 10th or so. Not a clue, really.

But that's a subject for another blogpost.

So I go to the Language Arts meeting. I get into the room, at my usual 30 seconds after it's already started time, and see that the multi-page survey, one filled with boxes and long, long "questions" about "leadership" and "common purpose", hazily projected upon a small screen via one of those "Elmo" document cameras.

The way the survey "process" had worked is that the survey was given to each of us. We were responsible for completing the survey, responsible down to the point of putting our initials on it as proof we did it (I'm 99% sure about this part, as I tried to repress the memory upon receiving the "responsibility" and may have this a bit wrong). We have then been instructed to meet in departments and come to "consensus" on the answers to the "questions".

So what I'm seeing, hazily, on the screen are computations of how many teachers put a certain X in a certain box alongside the vaguely worded survey "questions". Now I'm sitting at the back, because I was late to the meeting, and I notice that I can't even begin to read the "questions" projected on the screen. Others, even those sitting much closer complain of the same thing. Our very, very dedicated department chair fiddles with the Elmo a bit and the mumbo-jumbo gets a tiny bit more decipherable, but not much.

Two things are quickly decided: 1. We will just move on even though most of us can't really see the "questions"; 2. That we will not really discuss the survey questions, and will instead just circle the box where the most teachers put an "X" and get the thing to our school Administration post-haste.

And in about 150 seconds or so, we accomplish this, only stopping to read out a "question" or two and breaking a tie on one "question", even though nobody could read it.

Then we moved on past the survey and talked about spending some last minute money that suddenly appeared out-0f-nowhere, as happens each school year around this time. The survey will now go to our Administration, then on to some folks at the District/State/Wherever, where it will be turned into the rationale for doing something.

Almost certainly somebody at the District/State/Wherever will waive the "findings" of this survey around at a very important meeting, and use the "facts" garnered from the survey as evidence that "Implementation Step X" must, must ABSOLUTELY MUST be put in place immediately. The sentence "One big reason we MUST do so is because of the clear consensus generated in this survey!" will quite obviously be uttered. Yes, there will be an exclamation point to this sentence at the meeting. And yes, there will be significant nodding of heads around the table by those in attendance at the very important meeting upon this utterance.

And no, it's no longer April 1st, this isn't an April Fools' joke, yet each of us in that room yesterday felt far more foolish than any "victim" of an April Fools' joke ever has.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shutting Down Rio Grande High School DOES Make Sense!

I say it's about time. The decision yesterday by APS and Superintendent Winston Brooks to immediately shut down Rio Grande High School and have students bussed to Sandia High School from now on is a no-brainer. Rio has always been a disaster, was never going to be anything other than a Superfund site for education, and it's been a waste of time trying to "save" it.

Sandia, on the other hand, is the only APS high school to "pass" its standardized test scores last year, and is surely a far, far better place for kids to learn.

Yes, I know the bus ride all the way from the South Valley to the middle of the Northeast Heights is long, and with around 2,000 previously RGHS students that's a lot of buses.

And yes, I know that having those students attend classes held on the Sandia HS practice field isn't the best solution. But for now, it's the only solution until FEMA and the District can come to terms on building the many, many "portable" classrooms that will be needed.

I also really like the progressive idea of offering RGHS students the chance to "camp" at Sandia instead of taking that long bus ride back and forth each day. The agreement with REI to provide tents and camping equipment for these students to "live where they learn" is a great one, and the largess of REI is not something we want to pass up.

I also agree with the decision to terminate/fire all the Rio Grande staff and administration. They obviously can't cut it, and would ruin Sandia's reputation. I know it sounds weird to hire 225 folks from Sylvan Learning Center as temporary teachers, but each one of the new workers will watch a eminently proficient Sandia HS teacher for a week, taking notes while they do so. Let's face it, these Sylvan folks can't possibly be as bad as the Rio Grande teacher they are replacing.

So I think the outrage from everyone on this subject needs to stop. In particular the, dare I say it, racist sentiments expressed by some Sandia HS parents and nearby residents about all these "people" moving into their neighborhood. This is sickening on many levels, and doesn't help anyone. It also overlooks some of the many positives that will come out of this "union" of Rio Grande and Sandia. These include:
  • With 4,000 students, chances are the new "Sandia Grande" will have the best sports teams in the state;
  • I like the new mascot "MataRavens" better than either "Matadors" or "Ravens";
  • Especially with the camping option, many of these South Valley students will have a chance to experience life in the Northeast Heights for the first time, and take advantage of the many, many cultural offerings in the Comanche & Wyoming area. As a former resident of this area, I am well aware of how exciting the many strip malls in the area can be for a newcomer;
  • And, of course, the most important thing is that these previously underserved students will go from a "failing" school to one that is "passing". And isn't that what it's about? Helping the kids?
I urge everyone to get past the emotion, nostalgia and fear here, and see this provocative, yet forward-thinking initiative for what it is: A great way to save these kids while we also avoid throwing millions and millions of dollars into the giant gutter known as Rio Grande High School. As a South Valley resident myself, I am proud that my District is willing to finally tackle this horrible situation once and for all. Everyone else should be proud as well.

P.S.: I'm not quite as keen on the idea of selling the land/buildings of RGHS to the County for use as an auxiliary County Jail, but it is a way to raise funds and will help the County come to grips with its terribly overcrowded existing facility. We need to remember here that no solution is perfect, whether we are residents of the South Valley or the Northeast Heights. Besides, the idea of putting some concertina wire and guard towers up at RGHS has been on the drawing board for years those plans can be put into action.