Tuesday, August 04, 2009

AYP APS: The 2009 Unintentional Humor/Horror Awards

As has been pointed out by at least one observer, we've had enough posts around here on AYP lately to fence the XIT Ranch. And I'd be lying to you if I didn't admit most of 'em have, at times, been drier than the Texas Panhandle, what with all the statistics and numbers and so on.

So let's lighten up a little and hand out some "awards" to individual schools that experienced little weirdnesses in their results/posting, weirdnesses that in many cases will result in a year of utter Hell for the folks attending/teaching/administering at these schools. Hence the "humor/horror" in the title above. To keep the mood light, we'll use an extraordinarily cheesy music theme this year.

And now....the winners!
They Might Be Giants is my all-time favorite "pop" band and they had a song way back in the dark recesses of the 19th Century called "Road Movie To Berlin". The lyrics contain the following:
We were once so close to heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned
Well, in this year's testing La Cueva High School "passed" in every one of many subgroups except "Students With Disabilities". Below is how they did in this area in both Reading & Math:

...........# Tested.................% Proficient.......% Needed to "Pass"

In other words, if one more La Cueva Special Education student had been proficient in Math & Reading La Cueva would have "passed". One. La Cueva isn't alone in this regard, as I found the same situation (with varied subgroups) at Chamiza, Comanche, & Dennis Chavez Elementaries and at 21st Century Charter School. The award goes to La Cueva however, as it's a high school and has that certain name recognition that attracts some and engenders big-time schadenfreude in others when "bad" things happen there.

Of course the true horror here is that there is a Special Education student (or several) who is going to hear about this factoid and feel bad about it. And that kid might be at one of the elementary schools listed above. A little fourth grader. A nine-year old.

See, I told you they were humor/horror awards....
  • The Carly Simon "You're So Vain/You're No Good, You're No Good, You're No Good, Baby You're No Good" Award: All Albuquerque Charter Schools
I think at this point enough people are sophisticated enough to know that test scores from charter schools are bullshit. Charters are always too small to have any scores from subgroups count and many of these schools are created to attract specific populations that better ensure higher scores (e.g. Public Academy for the Performing Arts).

Interestingly, one school that fits the latter categorization, the "Albuquerque Institute of Mathematics and Science" AIMS (aka: The Feudal Prince Marty Chavez School for Cherry-Picked Test Score Statistics) is among several schools whose report link doesn't work at the State PED website. The link worked for a very short time yesterday, then it didn't.

Those wishing to develop dark conspiratorial reasons for this in a campaign season are highly encouraged (although if you look here you see AIMS, aka TFPMCASFCPTSS, shows up as having "passed").

But back to the point on charters in general and why they win this award. The problem here is that even though just about everyone is sophisticated enough to know the scores from these schools are bullshit, they still use charter school scores as comparison with non-charters. For instance, read this thread at Duke City Fix. I think we see where all this is going, and it's no good, it's no good, it's no good, baby it's no good....

Edit: I was out feeding the horses this afternoon and starting humming that "You're no good" song..and I think I remember it's actually a Linda Ronstadt song. Yup, it is. Oh well, I always got those two confused. More of a Joni Mitchell guy myself.
(Note: In terms of full disclosure, I used to work at ABHS. Now I don't . Long story. Buy me enough Marble IPAs at the brewpub and maybe I'll tell you about it sometime. Still, I really like ABHS and refer my exiting 8th students to the school all the time.)

Speaking of charter schools, probably no school has had a better "reputation" this decade than ABHS. But with this year's scores, the school's bullshit has finally caught up with it. Namely, the graduation rate at this place has been abysmal for, forever. And that fact finally raised it ugly little 33% graduation rate head this year, and the school shows up at "failing" in its "additional indicator".

Is Amy Biehl the only high school with a bad graduation rate...absolutely not, as every story on the subject has told us in 52 pt. bold font headlines. But now the "bright lights" are finally on the subject at ABHS, and the school's reputation better matches reality.

Man. When I worked at Hayes Middle School (another "cracked and torn" situation) in the 90s, Mark Twain Elementary was our "good" feeder. Stable families, solid students. Now look at these scores a decade or so later. Mark Twain didn't pass in ANY subgroup. None. There are very few examples of that extreme in the entire district. And Mark Twain is one of them. Think I'll just continue with the "Kids Aren't Alright" lyrics for that one:

Now the neighborhood's cracked and torn
The kids are grown up but their lives are worn
How can one little street swallow so many lives?
Last year Bel-Air didn't "pass" and it wasn't really even close. This year the school scraped by with a remarkable combination of "Safe Harbor" passage (the number of those proficient in a subgroup went up 10% or more than last year's ultra-lousy proficiency scores), just getting by in some areas, and having just too few students to count in subgroups like "English Language Learners" and "Students With Disabilities". With an amazingly small amount of statistical icing, Bel-Air was able to cover up the entire AYP cake.

The odds of doing that again next year would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 to 1. Or worse.
I tend to be sarcastic, so let me disclaim here. I truly respect the Hell out of the students, teachers and administrators at all three of these schools. Truly. There are most likely great things happening at these three institutions. It's a damn shame we're never going to hear anything about those great things, because these schools are never going to come within 1,000 light years of "passing" this AYP thing. Never.

There is a better chance of every student at Polk, a school not too far from my house in the South Valley, winning the World Series of Poker Main Event than there is of the school making AYP. Same with Washington and Highland.

And, really, the same can be said for a bunch of other schools in town for all the reasons I've dryly mentioned in my overly numerous posts in recent days on "AYP: 2009". And all those posts and all those reasons are never going to mean a good goddamn to public school critics who just want to use AYP to prove pet assumptions that schools like Polk are "hell holes" in every way. And that's why these schools "win" this award. Not because what happens within them is necessarily hellish, but because all the students, teachers, parents, and administrators from "passing" public schools, charters and privates can all feel superior and look down at these places.

Of course, now La Cueva HS is just as "failing" as Highland HS. Amy Biehl is no "better" than Polk or Washington or any of the other "failing" schools. Welcome to Hell, folks. Welcome to Hell.

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