Friday, January 30, 2009
Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 explains the dearth of geographical instruction in the greater United States and "the" Iraq, such as:
A chance to catch up on the 127th Annual "Upperclass Twit of the Year" via Monty Python circa roughly 1970:
And, speaking of England and all that, simply my single favorite video clip ever: Jacqueline Du Pré plays the first movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto:
I try not to take things too seriously, but seeing Jackie Du Pré run down the cello at around 2:48 of the Elgar makes the entire "Internet destroys the world as we know it" thing worthwhile, imho.
P.S.: Bonus points for the look from bouffant-coiffed Daniel Barenboim as he starts off Du Pré and the orchestra at the beginning of the Elgar. It's quite obvious he can hardly wait from sheer anticipatory excitement, knowing his girlfriend Jackie is the Janis Joplin of the cello. Notice the left-hand conducting...he's almost as excited as the listener most certainly is. You don't have to love "classical" to love this...wow...
- The Seattle Times Twitters a highly contentious school board meeting that results in the closure of five public schools in the city;
- The Albuquerque Journal's Leslie Linthicum has a great idea to eat one of those infamous APS cheese sandwiches and the Journal videotapes/edits the experience (HT to John Fleck);
- And, the New York Times posts a slide show combining photos from a new production of "Hedda Gabbler" with, specially created/commissioned?, music by P.J. Harvey.
And speaking of finding stuff, it's always fun to look through Sitemeter and find Google search strings that, unfathomably, lead folks to your blog. Most popular search phrases recently have been trying to find information out on "Manny Aragon", "Instructional Coaches" and "Bad Teachers", but a few recent favorites include:
- "Where's a good place to find seafood cioppino in Dallas, Texas?"
- "Teachers fear trips", and, from Clackamas, Oregon:
- "Can a teacher be fired for swinging?"
Welcome bizarre people. Just be advised I, myself, can't swing because I get motion-sickness. Very easily.
Just so you know.
P.S.: Perhaps if the print media put more post labels for "swinging", "unorthodox sexual practice" and such on their new cool 'Net-integrated features newspaper could survive forever. It's an idea I'm sure the folks at the Journal, etc. had long, long, long ago.
P.P.S.: Btw, this is Post #650 for Burque Babble. What a semi-long, unorthodox trip it's been.
Have a good weekend everybody.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
So to read a story in which the new White House chef lambastes public school lunches, attacks the overly cozy Factory Farm-U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidy relationship and says:
In 2003, U.S.D.A. spent $939.5 million dollars buying surplus commodities for School Lunch. Two-thirds of that bought meat and dairy, with little more than one quarter going to vegetables that were mostly frozen; and we should not forget that potatoes are the top selling vegetable in our country. The problem that arose is that between 80 and 85 percent of schools fail the basic government standards for the percentage of fat in the lunches due to the food it supplies schools....well, it's a bit of a shock to the Lefty system. I keep peering around the back of my computer screen, expecting to see someone holding up a sign saying "Just Kidding!".
I'm having a hard time believing the New York Times isn't downloading my political daydreams and running them as stories the next day.
This one has it right down to my mental picture of what a cultural revolutionary in the White House would look like:
exactly. It's creepy...
Get out of my head, Obama Administration! Stop stealing my dreams, New York Times!
Come to think about it, the Shrub Administration was my nightmare for eight years. This doesn't seem like such a bad deal. Kinda creepy, and I still don't quite trust it yet, but not such a bad deal.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"All of this will have a very short fuse," a Senate staffer told the Journal on Tuesday. "It's use it or lose it."Now you don't have to be a "fiscal conservative" to see potential pitfalls in handing state legislatures tons of unfettered cash. And the "fettering" here is noted in the Coleman story and elsewhere in terms like "penciled in" like "clean water projects are penciled in for another $28 million" and, as new U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich says, "this entire package is designed to create jobs and to do it as quickly as possible."
--Michael Coleman, Albuquerque Journal, 1.28.09
Now I'm an unabashed Liberal. Big L, big I, big...you get the picture. F.D. Roosevelt is one of my favorite Presidents...Hell he's one of my favorite historical persons all time. Right up there with Leon Trotsky, Eugene V. Debs and Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown. And I think Roosevelt's attempts to resurrect the American economy in the wake of what became known as the Great Depression were exactly the kind of big-picture, intra-United States projects/thinking the country has desperately needed again for decades.
But I gotta admit all this "Economic Stimulus II" has a bit of the feel generated last year when Treasure Department head honcho Henry Paulson and his equally inept colleagues went around telling Congress, John Q. Public and whoever else would listen that if we didn't give the financial markets $350 billion in 72 hours the sky would fall, the nation would crumble and dogs and cats would start living together in chaos. Or last year when ex-President W led the effort to save the American economy by just giving every tax payer $600 to go buy an HDTV. That certainly seemed to work.
The problem I have with all this is the lack of (and here's a good Socialist, Trotsky, festooned with negative connotation term for ya) planning. Many in this country are obsessed with the idea that "Socialism" is evil. In reaction, instead of carefully planning the government allocation of dollars to help the "Hell No We're Not Socialists" economy, we're just dumping the money into the financial markets, state governments etc., calling it a "stimulus" and pretending to let the "Invisible Hand" pick it back up from there.
So instead of a careful, thoughtful approach that will lead to Rooseveltian things like a 21st Century version of the Hoover Dam (and yes, I know that putting dams along the Colorado was a bad idea in the long run), "Works Progress Administration II" seems destined to be a smash-and-grab for quick money and lots of it, creating the perfect scenario for hyper-short term thinking, "shovel-ready" (i.e., certainly not the Hoover Dam) projects, and a military-industrial complex level of lobbyist's meddling/pilfering.
So this, big L, Liberal is quaking in his Eugene V. Debs boots reading stories about "Economic Stimulus 2009". As most of you know, even FDR himself was perhaps overly concerned with deficit spending in a recession/depression. The idea of some weird Free Market Anti-Socialism Big-ASS Government (FMASBAG), where the government attempts to "save" the economy by acting like an ATM plopped down in the middle of the NM Roundhouse scares me just a little, tiny bit. Okay, more than a tiny bit.
I know...party pooper. Hasn't the military-industrial complex been given the ATM treatment for years? Why shouldn't the Department of Education, etc. get the same treatment DoD? Why shouldn't mistreated states like New Mexico and horribly mistreated constituents like the children of New Mexico?
Um...well because....um... well let's just watch. Check back with me after the ATM feeding frenzy ends, and we'll compare notes. Myself, I'm predicting a Hoover Dam-sized case of financial ugly here.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The economic stimulus plan that Congress has scheduled for a vote on Wednesday would shower the nation’s school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education’s current budget.--Sam Dillon, New York Times, 1.27.09With fifteen years in teaching public education I'm reminded, while reading this NYT story, of the line my mother used when somebody brought up buying something new for the house. "We don't deserve nice things," she would say in her unmistakable, three cars-on-cinder blocks in the front-yard Texas accent.
Golly. More than doubling the U.S. Department of Education budget. Guess we got us a new President or something. I'm might start shopping for some new drapes for my classroom. But not the real expensive ones. We still don't deserve those.
I can't say I watch much TV myself (that would take time away from my Internet addiction), but in all the informational Hellfire and doomsday clock madness trying to scare Americans into action on this vital point, here's one campaign I haven't seen employed by anyone:
"The Switch To Digital: Maybe This is A Good Time To Consider That You Watch Too Much &*$@*&! Television!"
Instead, the campaigns by the very media conglomerates and TV manufacturers standing to make tons of money while filling up even more of the landfills in the process have seemed to imply some sort of patriotic duty is involved. Or that by missing out on Digital, Analog America will be deprived of some Constitutionally-protected right/obligation to be entertained at the highest resolution possible. You'd think we were talking sugar and gasoline rations during World War II here, or at least "Victory Gardens".
Now Congress seems ready to extend the countdown clock in what must surely be the most important piece of legislation in the history of the Republic. Praise the Cathode Ray and pass the Digital ammunition! May the holy, very sharp light of HDTV shine on us all?
Otherwise, what are we all going to do (and live for) in our Great Depression II unemployment.
Maybe he who controls the spice really does rule the world...
Or perhaps he who controls the cheese rules the cafeteria. In its continuing effort to recoup .0000127% of its annual operating budget, the Albuquerque Public Schools has decided to maintain the policy in which deadbeat parents will have their kids subjected to the extortion of cold cheese sandwiches until they (the parents) start paying up for lunch. So far, the program has recouped $42,000 in lunch debts and cost approximately $47.3 trillion in public relation dollars.
Taking off the satire/sarcasm hat for a second, I am glad to read that the program has also led to an thirteen-hundred student increase in those perceived eligible for free/reduced lunch. At the same time, it baffles me as to why the District doesn't use this brouhaha as an opportunity to revise the entire way meals are delivered in the District.
Nobody likes the current state of cafeteria affairs. Let me repeat that: NOBODY LIKES WHAT IS HAPPENING!
APS is serving poorly-constructed, unhealthy, visually unattractive to the point of nausea meals on old-school Styrofoam trays to students whose only other option (other than bringing their lunch) is paying airport prices for terribly unhealthy junk food via the "snack bar".
Moreover, the District is, quite obviously, making a killing off the "snack bar" profits ($2.00 for a .40 cent piece of pizza?), profits which are further maximized by having such lousy APS "line" meals. Any kid who can rub two dollar bills together is going to go for the "snack bar" and avoid "the line" like the Styrofoam plague it is.
Why not totally revamp APS meals and the APS Food Services now? A few ideas to start:
- Meals should be created on-site
- Lose the Styrofoam and get some real plates/utensils
- Dump the snack bar
- Make all the meals "free", using a college dormitory cafeteria system instead
- Changing the half-ass way schools have students fill out "free/reduced lunch" forms. Make them do it in class.
- Tell parents that the new, revamped cafeteria is paid for with these federal dollars.
- Make the completion of this process a bigger deal than some shameful form filled out while registering their kid.
- At the same time, work to eliminate the entire "free/reduced lunch" idea. Pressure the State & Federal Government to see that lunch is a required part of the school day, like textbooks and maps on the classroom walls.
- Take some of the money devoted to incessantly testing our students and put it into the student mouths so they can be better equipped to study, learn, thrive in school.
- Take private donations from school parents and local businesses to help provide quality meals at public schools.
- Make it a five-year goal to eliminate the presence of any cash registers and "free/reduced lunch code readers" in APS schools.
The other, non-testing, days...who cares. The delivery and ingestion of food by students is considered with the same avoidance of thought given to trips to the laundromat or MVD. We know it's a sorry state of affairs. Nobody likes it. NOBODY. So we try not to think about it until TESTING TIME rolls around and it's time to go buy 75 cases of those little orange juice boxes and a truckload of animal crackers.
There's got to be a better way. Now is the time to do it.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
For instance, this time around I wanted to find out how much implementing No Child Left Behind is costing New Mexico. I thought about this after reading today's Journal story with politicians hemming, hawing and hemming some more about whether to have voters approve a $380 million increase in the gross receipts tax to pay for a newfangled "funding formula". Knowing that my own school has had to start implementing a NCLB-related "intervention" strategy without receiving any additional money, staff, new rooms...nothing, I wanted to see how the "unfunded mandate" costs of NCLB compare with the $380 thrown around in this newfangled "funding formula".
And so my wondrous journey around this thing called "Google" began. It went something like this:
- I ran into a fact sheet (i.e., short recap of a really long, questionably interesting study) from the study that quite obviously got the ball rolling on the whole newfangled "funding formula" idea.
- And then there was this (also blessedly short) "final goal statement" from the study (PDF warning: It's short but in a .pdf....you have been warned!)
- Quickly followed by the study itself in all its long, time-intensive loading PDF glory
- Then I went looking at the quite useful New Mexico Legislature Bill Finder webpage, but didn't see a 2009 version of the "funding formula" legislation, at least from last year's main sponsor Rep. Mimi Stewart. Another warning: the New Mexico Legislature Bill Finder site is highly, highly addictive for the wonky among us. As White Russians are to the alcoholic, so is this website to an education wonk. Most of you already know about it, but if I can save just one wonk from a two-month legislative bender spent sloshing around this website, I will have done my job.
- And speaking of my job and sloshing, I did run across a new bill sponsored by Rep. Stewart seeking to formalize professional development standards for teachers of the "Gifted". Now somebody over the last year or so told me Rep. Stewart was, for lack of a more professionally developed word, pissed off as Hell at the Gifted Education community last year because all these Gifto advocates came down on her like a house-a-fire on the, perhaps mistaken, belief that the new "funding formula" (2008 iteration) would cripple/destroy/end Gifted Education in New Mexico. Well, speaking on behalf of all who work/participate in this strange little dressing room of the K-12 teaching gymnasium, I just want to say: Rep. Stewart, you're really cool and work real hard and we appreciate you. We're sorry if we we're a little over the top last year. We won't do it again, and we think your new bill to insure Teachers of the Gifted really know something about teaching Gifted students is really keen. And yes, I admit I'm saying that as someone who already has the 12 hours of college credit in "Gifted" and that I might be a teeny-weeny bit less happy if I didn't and your bill passed. But you're aces in our book. Aces. Now please don't call our parents or take away our cell phones. Please.
- A list of state-by-state studies done to establish District/State costs to implement NCLB. It even had New Mexico on it!
- Unfortunately, the linked story was for a 2005 study in New Mexico;
- and the link was broken;
- but it did say that NM "was going to have to spend" from $26 to $37 million per annum on NCLB behind stuff. And that was way back in 2005, when the number of schools under NCLB "restructuring" wasn't near what it is now. You got to think that number has at least doubled by now;
- but that's "thinking" instead of knowing. I went through the rest of the site involved ("Communities for Quality Education") and couldn't find anything more recent;
- a situation that remain unchanged when I went back to this other site where I found the original New Mexico study that started all this "funding formula" stuff to begin with.
So the upshot is that this damn-fool Internet didn't give me exactly what I wanted this fine Sunday morning. I would have been off riding a bicycle...far more truth and information in a 35-mile ride imho. Still, I think if we can better use this newfangled "Internet" we might find out the answers to stuff that could help us make better informed choices when it comes to public school education funding in this country. Damn fool dreamer that I am.
I think I'll start by getting ahold of this actual human being I saw mentioned on the "Communities for Quality Education" website: "For more about NCLB costs, please contact Scott Young, senior policy advisor, at email@example.com or 202-454-5671."
I think I'll send Mr. Young an email right now. Oh wait, Xavi Alonso just got a yellow card for Liverpool versus Everton. And I see someone has sent me an email directing me to a video where this cat is being swung around by a moving ceiling fan. Oh dear! The cat has been thrown against the wall! That is both horrific and guiltily funny. I think I will try to find similar videos on this newfangled "YouTube" website. I see "YouTube" has a search box feature as well. I'll just type in "funny cat videos".....
P.S.: By this Monday morning I finally tired of YouTube cat videos and tried the aforementioned email address for "Communities for Quality Education". Instant delivery fail notice. Hmmm...anybody got some more recent state-by-state NCLB cost data? Is there a YouTube video with cats explaining the unfunded mandate costs of NCLB while swinging from ceiling fans?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It spells that should get your ass down to Albuquerque High School tonight and see the last night of this play. I'm not kidding, being cynical or even whiny. Really.
Friday, January 23, 2009
But Bernstein said the union doesn't want those teachers in a classroom anywhere.--last line from "Union Backs Brooks' Plan", Albuquerque Journal, 1.22.09When she really said....
"Today's Journal has a story about the district's plan for Rio and Ernie Pyle. The last line is a gross and shocking misquote from me. I will be calling Andrea at the Journal and asking her to print a correction."--from an email sent by Ellen Bernstein, Albuquerque Teacher's Federation President, 1.22.09Now I really wish I had read the Journal story prior to seeing the email from Ellen Bernstein, instead of the other way around. It would have been fun to contemplate for a few hours a teacher's union using words like "anywhere" in such a context.
Alas, it's far more complicated, and Bernstein actually told the Journal much more, and heck, I'll just copy/paste the particulars from the Bernstein email:
* If an administrator thinks a teacher is "bad" then it is their job to evaluate them appropriately and offer them assistance as
outlined in our negotiated Peer Assistance and Review program.
* We will not agree to the $5,000 differential if it is tied to a merit pay idea in any way.
* I did say that if a teacher is "bad", we have agreed upon ways of work with them, and if they are appropriately evaluated they
should not be a teacher anywhere-stressing that this is a district-wide statement of our union's commitment to good teaching, and not a statement about teachers at Rio and Ernie Pyle.
* I also stated that the agreement for Rio and Ernie Pyle does not take away a teachers right to be evaluated appropriately and that the letter of commitment was to the instructional design.
Oh, well. Something a great deal more thoughtful and less draconian than a simple "anywhere". But obviously all above that wouldn't fit into a 350 word story at the Journal. One wonders what percentage of the world/truth ever does fit into a 350 word story.
I do find it strangely hard not to be disappointed. That "anywhere" had me thinking we might be getting somewhere regarding "bad teachers", even if it possibly means your humble blogger would be determined to be a "bad teacher", and some Kafkaesque trial by no-trial system was being put in place to eliminate me and my incompetent teaching colleagues.
But again, I had read the email prior to the Journal article. So instead my thoughts go to how the newspaper's misquote might alter the public relations landscape on the Rio/Ernie Pyle changes, and how difficult it must be for a Union President to absolutely know that some teachers are "bad" by any criteria or definition, while also understanding that the current criteria/definitional process of establishing "badness" is horribly flawed and incompetently implemented.
Remind me to never become a teacher's union president. Not that it has ever occurred to anyone to ask me to take on the job.
P.S.: Also remind me to write a bit more on the whole "teacher evaluation process" in APS. It's something I haven't even gotten around to, and it's riper than a Rodney Dangerfield setup line for plenty of bittersweet professional punchlines. Have a good weekend everybody.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Then there's the whole Point of View aspect. For the cough sufferer, a productive cough is far preferable to the body-rattling, throat-searing "unproductive cough". From the perspective of, say, the spouse of wife/husband who is coughing 10,000 times a day, both productive and unproductive coughs naturally lead one to thoughts of a return to being single. The "productive cough", however, leads to more intense wistful daydreaming of a happy-go-lucky post-marriage environment in which one is not subjected to:
"Hey honey, the stuff I'm coughing up is now more yellow than green. Do you want to come look at it and tell me what you think?"As euphemism, "productive cough" is right up there with "putting the dog to sleep" and "President Bush is considering his options". It's like one of those old Elvis Costello songs that musically sound as upbeat as "Sugar, Sugar" or "Everyone Knows It's Windy", but has lyrics closer in tone to that of a Nick Cave murder ballad.
As you've probably guessed, I've had quite a bit of time in recent hours to consider the "productive cough", awakened over and over through the past night with punishing attempts at "productivity". Not to mention a lovely, patient wife awakened over and over throughout the night as well. Methinks my wife did not spend the wee hours this morning considering the poetic semantics of the expression "productive cough", but instead probably focused on the economic outcomes of a divorce or at least the addition of one or two bedrooms to our house.
Nevertheless, I can now proudly announce to all the blogosphere that I have begun to have "productive coughs". Productive coughs, everybody! Whoo-hoo!
Do you want to see the colors present in the latest "batch" of productivity?
P.S.: You know, this is a "blog". How about I post some photos?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We all noticed.
We all noticed.
Kinda cool to be part of the "patchwork heritage", as he put it. Well, acknowledged to be part of the patchwork heritage.
Maybe to start off the second term, he'll have the invocation done by someone closer to "nonbeliever status", or at least someone who doesn't throw "The Lord's Prayer" around with thoughtless abandon.
But let's not get carried away. He said it. We all noticed.
One of President Barack Obama's first acts Tuesday was to put the brakes on all pending regulations that the Bush administration tried to push through in its waning days.--Jennifer Loven, AP, 1.20.09 (via Seattle Times)Now that's something worth dancing about, whether one wears a a tuxedo or simply a tuxedo t-shirt.
P.S.: Less pomp & circumstance, more wonkish ass-kicking.
"Rank of Barack Obama's election among the 'biggest day(s) ever in the history of marketing,' according to an Ad Age columnist: 1" -- Harper's Index, Harper's, February 2009I've said from just about the first time I remember hearing the name Barack Obama that I really like the idea of an Obama Presidency. Unlike most ideas I like, it seems a few million other folks have caught on to the idea over the past couple of years.
Now we get to the apex/culmination of the idea of Obama and begin the reality. I'm still pretty stoked, but it's going to be a bit of a transition going from the teeny-weeny bit of overzealousness in the marketing idea to the day-to-day reality that starts slamming President Obama and all of us on January 21, 2009.
But that's no reason not to be agog today. Go agog with great agogocity folks. And yes it's important. Damn important. Just remember that we're definitely going to have to work through something of a collective hangover in the next few days, weeks, months, years. Harper's Index also points out the following this month:
Year that the U.S. stock market first regained its 1929 pre-crash peak: 1954
And when you're talking reality hangover, you can't get any more head-splitting than the Albuquerque Public Schools. The District announced the movement of quite few principals yesterday, including the installation of Theresa Baca at John Adams Middle School. Just so we're clear here, I don't know Ms. Baca (and if she's a "Doctor" and I should have used "Dr. Baca" I apologize), I don't know if she's a good principal or what. Making her principal at John Adams might be the very best thing all around, and I don't know any different.
All I do know/remember is that Baca was part of the larger, infamous principal shuffle of 2007. At the time, then Superintendent Beth Everitt defended the moves quoted as saying:
"We are making decisive moves in school leadership to assure that we have the best people in place for the most challenging positions at our schools."Well, part of that "best people" idea was to have Ms. Baca moved from a principal position at Polk Middle School (and I dare you to find a more "challenging position" than principal at Polk Middle School) down to assistant principal at Highland High School. Now, about 20 months later, the principal deemed not "best people" enough to be principal at Polk goes and becomes head honcho at another very challenging school in John Adams.
Yes, I know there is a principal shortage (or there better the Hell be a principal shortage to defend a move such as this), but how do you think the folks at John Adams feel about all this? We all know they had some kids scratch the aquariums at the BioPark some time back, but golly. If I didn't know any better, I'd say either John Adams MS is getting a lousy principal or that the District messed up big time with all that "principal shuffling" back in 2007.
Or possibly both.
Again, that is if I didn't know any better. I've always liked that expression...it's so very vague. And vague seems to be the perfect word to describe the methodology of "principal shuffling" in APS.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I rode my bicycle to the event, taking a few trips up and down the parade line to better soak it all in. The size, friendliness and energy of the crowd in transit was enough to remind me that this annual Sunday is one of two or three days a year when I'm proud to be an American.
Phrases like "Proud to be an American" have, for some years now, been an official trademark of the xenophobic, the exclusionary and the fearful. Bad country-western songs (and yes, there is such a thing as "good" country-western songs, imho) get to use "Proud to be an American". People with those "Support Our Troops" magnetic flag-as-ribbon car bumper adornment have, for years now, been allowed to say it in a way that directly implies those not adorning their cars with magnetic flag-as-ribbons aren't "Proud to be an American" and probably shouldn't even be Americans.
And, it's true, many of us who walk, ride and strut in things like an MLK march have some problems with a phrase like "Proud to be an American". For one thing, it's been quite some time since our government did something worthy of instilling any pride in us whatsoever. Also, there's the whole "pride in country" thing which almost always seems to spill over into "my country right or wrong", "my country: love it or leave it", "special ID cards for those in our country who aren't from our country" most or all of the way down the slippery slope to things like approving torture, internment camps and beyond.
Nevertheless, alongside baseball's Opening Day (don't laugh), and any day I hear a jazz record from the year 1956, I feel that rare emotion of pride in country during the MLK march. I don't stick around for the speeches really, or even much like the series of prayers and hymns to country that start the speechifying.
But the walk is real special. In my own little Private Idaho of Pride, the crowd would walk, strut and perform its way down MLK to hear a Sonny Rollins concert at Civic Plaza, or watch a baseball game, but that's just me.
And, just me, I wouldn't go to the Mall in Washington and fight those crowds to see President Obama inaugurated. It's just not my scene. But I wouldn't mind walking to the Mall, and I think I'm gonna have to add January 20, 2009 to the list of days when I feel "Proud to be an American". No magnetic flag-as-ribbon adorned car bumper necessary.
Friday, January 16, 2009
And I'm not too fond of feeling lethargic, but here's an observation or two to go into the weekend:
- Driving home last night listening to 89.1 for the APS School Board candidate forum I had two distinct thoughts: 1. Where do these candidate people come from? Is it another planet where they talk some form of language and breathe oxygen, but have no other similarity to humans whatsoever? 2. The APS School Board has about as much to do with my teaching, classroom and school as the town council in Kiev. and, oh yeah, 3. the strongest argument for appointed school boards is listening to any school board candidate forum. Wow.
- The Governor and the teacher's union are starting to dig trenches for a battle over funding this legislative session. Thinking back, January is always the time for doom, gloom and calamity thinking when it comes to public education funding. This year will just be the doomiest, gloomiest year ever. Frankly I'd be kinda excited to get some popcorn and pull up a chair to watch the hijinks if it wasn't for the fact that the Governor might steal my popcorn, and the Union would pull the chair out from under me.
- I'm setting the early line for passage/institution of the new New Mexico education "funding formula". The morning line is: 500/1. Place your bets. Place your bets.
- After having suffered a long period of dislike for any "indie" record in recent years (the latest Calexico not included), I can report I liked the new A.C. Newman on first listen. I'm sure Mr. Newman and the entire music industry will be heartened/saved by this pronouncement.
- And finally back to education. With all this talk of belt-tightening, reversal of costly initiatives such as the 181st day and capping kindergarten at 20 kids, why is nobody seriously discussing the reversal of idiotic NCLB-related mandates like the institution of the America's Choice™ Math Navigator 30 minute remediation-in-a-box? I'm sorry to mention this arcane example and run (gotta get ready for the ultra-excitement of "professional development"), but why? Why not just use the Great Depression II as an excuse to say: "Hey Federal Government, we New Mexicans are gonna just use the parts of NCLB we can really afford these days and ditch the rest until the economy improves dramatically and we feel like it. And if you don't like it, we'll just sue the U.S. Department of Education to be absolved of the whole NCLB crapshow, hire a bunch of newbie lawyers to keep filing motion after motion and voila! it's 2011 and nobody gives a damn about that old, washed up No Child Left Behind anyway.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Over the years, the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) has performed the same vacillations when it comes to its own most toxic asset: Rio Grande High School. Continually beset by high drop-out rates and low test scores (even back when nobody really gave a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) damn about test scores), Rio Grande has been a veritable Petri dish for various experiments in educational "fixing"
Over the years APS has switched principals, instituted some weird four principal system, and created and un-created so many new teaching programs I can't keep them all straight. At the same time, residents of the South Valley have thought about, talked about, threatened and urged feasibility studies around the idea of seceding Rio Grande and other SV schools from APS altogether.
It's politically easy to mess with a school like Rio Grande because RGHS is a "bad" school. And bad schools can be experimented upon with impunity. In fact, it's encouraged especially in a time of NCLB.
Superintendent Winston Brooks and the District's latest idea is to "fix" RGHS and nearby Ernie Pyle MS by changing principals, having all teachers sign a loyalty oath toward "making improvements" and possibly paying those signatory teachers $5,000 more. There's also vague mention of these schools becoming "International Baccalaureate" schools.
Will these changes make any difference? I don't know. We all do know a few things, however.
- One: There is no chance in Hell these, or any, changes at RGHS will be successfully fought. A bad school has no bullets in the gun. A bad school doesn't even have a rock to fight with. RGHS is "bad", and can be punched, kicked and scratched at will.
- Two: Any teacher with any sense is going to avoid teaching at RGHS like five-day, sitting in the sun potato salad. $5,000 huh. Well, if a teacher can get that much money, or more, a year just for becoming "National Board Certified", what do you think the average teacher will do? Write a bunch of seemingly important essays on their "practice" to get National Board Certified, or teach at some Petri dish high school like RGHS and get treated like a Science Fair experiment?
- Three: Any principal willing to work at RGHS deserves both cautious praise and uncautious admittance to an insane asylum. There's a bunch of reasons, but let's just close with just one. Very, very few people in education have any respect for the test scores of NCLB. Superintendent Brooks himself has derided the improvement requirements of NCLB, and has instituted smaller, realistically attainable, goals for improved student achievement. Yet when push comes to educational experiment shove, Brooks and APS end up using those same derided "poor test scores" and NCLB terms like "Restructuring 1" as the ultimate rationale for making changes at RGHS. Who among us thinks RGHS will "make scores" this year? What about next year? What about five years after that? As constructed, NCLB requires 100% student proficiency in Reading & Math by 2014. That's only five years away now. Who's gonna make that 100% goal? Nobody. And who's going to continue to play the District scapegoat for that and all the other problems of K-12 public education in Albuquerque? Rio Grande High School, that's who.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In a cogent, thorough and pretty darn damning piece, Barb calls Jim Scarantino "out" over his (insert derogatory word/phrase here) views on Rep. Mimi Stewart's new bill on domestic partnerships. It's the best blog read yet this new year, and includes tons of riffing comments making it even better.
Reading it this early morning, instead of yesterday, I kinda feel like I missed my chance to jump in. Damn ultra-short-term internet topicality. But it's still good to read, go check it out.
P.S.: And speaking of Jim Scarantino, I realize at this point that almost 2/3rds of Albuquerque residents have appeared on that show, "In Focus". A question for those who have had the fortune/misfortune to do so: do you get the same creeped-out, bugs crawling up your legs feeling every time you accidentally find yourself seeing "In Focus" while surfing channels on a Friday night? Does your stomach jump as you frantically click the remote away from Channel 5 to anything other than Channel 5? Do you find it takes some minutes for the sweat on your forehead and feelings of gastro-intestinal distress to go away after accidentally watching a second or two of "In Focus"? Do even the words "Jim Scarantino" make you almost want to throw up?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
And to fuel the imaginative daydream fire, you might end up looking, as you perhaps do each year at about this time, through the Times Educational Supplement. It's a nice resource, and one reason it's nice is that you get to read about how screwed up other countries, other classrooms are around the world.
Here's a story about the "Greater Teaching Council for England" and the horrendous job it's done getting rid of "substandard staff" since 2001. If you like hearing stories of bureaucratic epic fail be sure to also check out the vituperative comments. All your base teachers are belong to us, whenever you are.
P.S.: And speaking of jolly old, bureaucratically incompetent England, Netflix now has the entire "Yes, Minister" series from the late 1970s on "instant viewing". I'm so stoked about this fact I think I already mentioned here some time back, but cannot seem to remember. Funny, I do remember entire stretches of dialogue between Sir Humphrey and Minister Hacker, a fact that scares me a bit while rewatching these great episodes.
Like many papers, The Times is in deep trouble. To cut costs in the face of declining ad revenue, it has eliminated sections and shed about 400 positions through layoffs, buyouts and attrition over the past year.
The parent Seattle Times Co. has put some of its South Lake Union real estate and its newspapers in Maine up for sale to raise capital to pay down debt. Tentative deals were killed or delayed last fall when the credit crunch hit, Times executives said in a year-end e-mail to employees.--Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 1.11.09
And then there's Jim Belshaw. Go read John Fleck's piece on Belshaw, if you haven't already. And you've probably already read Belshaw's column. I've got nothing to add. Or certainly nothing that can match Mr. Fleck's observations on the subject.P.S.: I did have this daydream the other day while teaching my 8th graders about the Works Progress Administration that maybe Obama's version of the WPA could include idealistic government ownership of print journalism in the same, somewhat unfettered, way FDR hired poets, actors, graphic artists, photographers and such to do, somewhat unfettered, artist's work. But then I remembered that FDR did far too much "fettering" to constitute a truly free press. Meanwhile, we continue to slouch toward something journalistically anarchical. I used to daydream about the marvelous wonders of anarchism. It doesn't daydream quite as dreamily as it used to.
Friday, January 09, 2009
And you found yourself trying really hard to do all these things, and basically talk this person into loving (okay maybe lusting) you back? For quite a long time? Even though it was pretty apparent from day one that this thing wasn't going to work out, and that, maybe, just maybe that look of condescending indifference was just never going to go away?
Well friend, if this has ever happened to you, you are just like the Albuquerque Public Schools and/or the city of Albuquerque. And that stuck-up boy/girlfriend (former spouse) you vainly tried to impress all that time is Mesa del Sol. And just like that doomed situation, you, me and everybody knows this relationship is just not going to work.
Mesa del Sol is too good for APS. It's too good for Albuquerque. Its got champagne taste and all we can afford is Pabst Blue Ribbon. It has "New Urbanism" and we've got the strip malls along Juan Tabo, and a bunch of mobile home trailers collected our falling down schools.
And Mesa del Sol, they know they are all that. They know they're hip, modern and good looking runway models. And APS/Albuquerque is just some truck driver showing their butt crack as they climb out of their rig.
But that Mesa del Sol sure is pretty. Well, actually it's just a bunch of desert with a road or two and building here or there. But they got all those signs up around their desert saying how "green" and modern and wonderful Mesa del Sol is/will be. They got those fancy airport terminal light poles with solar lights and futuristic curves leading to airport terminal looking half-constructed buildings where educationally swanky International Baccalaureate charter schools are supposedly to start up next year. Even if there isn't a school kid for miles and miles around.
In fact, you know Mesa del Sol is too good for ABQ because it ain't got no people living there. Nothing is prettier than a planned community before the community shows up. It's like the difference between a runway model wearing a suggestive Vera Wang dress and the runway model without the fancy dress. You'd think it be even better, but the dress ended up being sexier than the model.
And Mesa del Sol is that runway model. Mesa del Sol is "high maintenance", to use the crude parlance. Beyond high maintenance. It's kinda embarrassing to see truck driver APS/ABQ hanging out with Mesa del Sol. Somebody should go tell them to just give it up. That the city/District is just gonna get dumped when it's most convenient for Mesa del Sol.
But that Mesa del Sol sure is pretty. Or it will be when all those thousands and thousands of taxpayers are living there. Real pretty. Wonder what it must be like to be dating Mesa del Sol. Maybe I'll call her up when she dumps this loser.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
I recently mentioned my Expat connection to Seattle. Now I read of the eternally long, foretold repeatedly death of the Emerald City's 2nd newspaper, the P-I (Post-Intelligencer).
It was just like the ABQ Trib, but with a cooler name and logo.
Sic transit gloria. Sic freakin' transit, is right.
I swear, you can't tell the dead newspapers without a scorecard these days.
Well, that was before all Great Depression II Hell broke out (officially), and now an even larger majority of Americans agree with the sentiment that January 20th cannot possibly come fast enough. Gwyneth Doland at the New Mexico Independent relates the findings of a Pew Research Center poll in which 99.4% of Americans reported finding hearing the words "George W. Bush" to cause instantaneous projectile vomiting.
No, I made that up. Actually, the most damning result in the poll was that only 24% of Americans "approve of outgoing President's performance". Then again, Pew didn't ask the "projectile vomiting" question, which is one of the reasons I don't like polling.
Meanwhile, older folks at school keep coming up to me (due to a misguided perception that I know something about the "Internets") asking if they will be able to see the Inauguration online during the school day. I understand the excitement toward the dawn of the Obama Administration, but, frankly, I would be highly stoked about ANY new Administration replacing the nightmare that is P.V. Bush (Projectile Vomiting, of course). A Pauly Shore Administration would be rapturous in comparison with 'ol P.V.
Perhaps that is somewhat of an exaggeration. Regardless, I'm more pumped about the idea of a Bush Leaving Party than an Obama Inauguration Party. And I've been excited about this upcoming day for, let's see, just about eight years now. And it's almost time for us to put the barf bags down, and get our post-Bush groove on.
Party on Garth. Party almost on Pauly Shore.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
all that. Especially when you combine the above with the typical nasty winter horizontal rain and dark at 4:30 p.m. skies.
I still miss that naturally air-conditioned summer, though. And the water. And the Virginia Inn before it went all toursity. And...slap yourself, Scot....look at all that Red & Black!
P.S.: In more ABQ-centric snark...why is it I almost expect Duke City Fix to post a new entry tomorrow in which we are told that the Albuquerque Journal has hired 100 new employees? I see now that the periodically updated corrections from Sophie about the actual situation have been taken down, but here's the alarming blogpost that started it all. Like most of the blogosphere when it comes to "news", I have no idea what the Hell is going on, either.
Oh wait, Sophie's post appears to be back up. I, for one, welcome our new, post newspaper-age, information overlords. Just not enough to join a "social network" quite yet...which I realize for a "blogger" is like saying one isn't an alcoholic because they only drink beer and wine.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
I don't know what's funnier, the idea of putting Feudal Prince (FP) Marty at the top of such a list, or the Bizarro World idea that this could really be why the Mayor doesn't have time to "meet" with the basement-dwelling, pajama-clad blogoscenti.
Of course, dear reader, you would be exactly right in pointing out we entered Bizarro World a long, long, long time ago. Partisanship aside, did it ever occur to you while watching that Eddie Murphy/Dan Ackroyd movie "Trading Places" twenty-five years ago to think, "Hey, that guy playing the baggage handler who interacts with that totally fake looking gorilla would make a pretty good U.S. Senator some day"?
Anything is possible in politics. If "Stuart Smalley" can be U.S. Senator, Marty Chavez can be Secretary of Commerce. I must say, however, that despite my true respect and fandom toward the humor of Senator Franken, naming FP Marty to Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration at this point would eclipse, in a single uproarious announcement, all the funny of Al Franken's entire comic career. It would make Andy Kaufman singing the "Mighty Mouse Song" look like "Family Circus".
Man, I almost hope that's the reason for the mysterious "scheduling conflict" at this point. Such, such potential.
P.S.: Now that I'm all nostalgic about Al Franken, remember that time he explained tax deductions on "Saturday Night Live" as part of his "Al Franken Decade" shtick? Good times, brothers and sisters...good times.
P.P.S.: Marty as Secretary of Commerce would still be funnier.
My impression is that we will be “held harmless” by the legislature, which means funding from the state should hold steady from last year. That may be the best we can hope for right now.-- from Winston Brooks, APS Superintendent, "Weekly Message", received email 1.5.09No mention in the Brooks' email/press release of that $57 million noisily requested back in November as part of the possible change in "funding formula". No mention of the "funding formula" at all, which could be a simple oversight akin to the following sentence from said email/press release:
Most of the APS budget is tied to schools, but we will continue to look at ways to keep any cuts way from schools.One could go on about the use of "way" above, but as this little blog could also really use a copy editor, I'll put the rock down and simply return to my glass house armed only with the knowledge (possible) that school districts have retreated firmly into the financial bunkers, and that fanciful "funding formula" changes to the tune of an added $350 million may be on hold for quite a while.
The wintry economic climate might also mean the stunting of reforms proposed by the new-ish Superintendent. As a teacher who uses mock trials as a big part of his curriculum, I was struck by the following initiative mentioned in the Brooks communique:
We are working on joining forces with downtown businesses including law firms, banks and government departments to create a civics-law magnet school.That's news to me (not that Winston calls very frequently to give me a "heads up" about these things, that we have dinner often, or that I even get invited to any of his parties, not never), but I wonder how innovative the, almost certainly, short Brooks regime will be allowed, economically, to be.
And that includes the recent decision to unify/block high school schedules. Peering far from the District Administrative Bunker (DAB), it sure looks like that little idea is gonna cost some money (teachers, additional classrooms). My inner dweeb would certainly like to see what the cost breakdowns project to be on that one.
In conclusion, trying to decipher the latest "weekly message" from Winston Brooks illustrates how depressing it can be to run a district, or even a single classroom, in a time of economic cholera.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Given the gravity of the economic situation theSo are we right, Big Bill, in understanding that New Mexico is political chopped liver, only resorted to when the filet mignon of Washington is taken off the menu? Well, if you're quitting that job before you even start, why don't you just do us all a favor and quit the job you were pretending to do in the first place?
nationstate of New Mexico is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-electLieutenant Governor and hisher Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.--Bill Richardson, 1.4.09 *fixed version*
Get out of the way, Bill. Let Diane Denish get started now. If you want, you can go sit in the Obama Transition Team Waiting Room until the Blagojevich/Richardson parallels are forgotten and things cool down. We don't care.
Just leave. Now.
Big Bill, you might not understand this, but you're kinda making New Mexico look bad, saying you're not clean enough for a job with the sparkly, shiny Obama Administration while you have no problems continuing to foul the filth down here in piddly 'ol NM, where political corruption is, in your mind, not only accepted but expected.
We were all ready to keep quiet, stifle our urge to laugh at Washington/Obama for taking your tired act off our hands, and now this happens. Thanks a lot. Thanks for nothing.
Just leave. Now.
Diane Denish for Governor: Now. Not January, 2011. Now.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
An anti-hunger community group says a new public school policy to offer cold cheese sandwiches to students with lunchroom debt will stigmatize children.-- Albuquerque Journal, 1.3.09List of places adult human beings would willingly go (in order of eager willingness):
1. South of France free wine/bread/cheese early Summer gastronomy tour, driven spot to spot in a '59 Corvette with the top down.
2. Endless, but never monotonous or painful, cycle of massages and restorative hot tub sessions in the Star Trek Holodeck scenario of the adult human being's choice.
99,999,999,999,999,999: Public middle school cafeteria during "A" Lunch.
Remember, dear fellow adult human being, the school cafeteria? Remember, in particular, the social strata and caste system of the junior high/middle school cafeteria? My daily work existence forces me, far too often, to actually go into our school cafeteria. It is the one place on campus that causes involuntary shuddering throughout my person.
I bring up these thoughts, and readers' possible nightmare memories in reaction to the idea that changes in APS meal charging policy "will stigmatize children". I know most adults have invested significant mental time and possibly extensive sessions of professional psychological therapy trying to erase any memories regarding their own K-12 school lunch experiences. Still, I don't think I'm going to surprise anyone with the following observation:
--Public school cafeterias are the sight of rampant, pervasive and endlessly fascinating/alarming (for us sociology types) stigmatization, discrimination and every -ism you can possibly think of, including racism, beauty-ism and capitalism. In short, the public school cafeteria is like Lord of the Flies meets Thomas Hobbes meets the Black Hole of Calcutta. Only worse.
So for someone to object to the "stigmatization" brought about by APS making the sons/daughters of deadbeat parents (who aren't eligible for "free/reduced lunch", yet don't give Joanie/Johnny a couple of bucks to pay for lunch each day), let me remind everyone that the kids (especially the middle school ones) are WAY, WAY, WAY ahead of the adults when it comes to finding potential discerning points ripe for stigmatization.
For just one example, let's look at the "free/reduced lunch" issue. At my school, there are two kinds of kids at lunch: those who stand in the line for the APS lunch and those who buy lunch in the "snack bar" line. There are also a few kids who bring their own lunch, and these anomalies are openly ridiculed for being different, eating sensibly, etc. Notably, it is these "bring their own lunch" kids who invariably look among the most healthy/fit in the school.
But back to the two larger groups. It is universally taken as fact that a student who stands in line for the APS lunch is getting a "free/reduced lunch". Otherwise, why would these folks eat the crappy APS lunch? This line is very slow-moving because all the kids have to punch in their "free/reduced lunch" numbers into a device near the cash register. The cash register in the APS line almost never has change, as almost all the students punch in the little numbers.
Meanwhile, all the "rich" kids overeat in the "snack bar" line, getting airport-priced slices of pizza and convenience-store priced "baked" Cheetos (baked because of new dietary guidelines...whereas the pizza is nowhere near such guidelines).
It is from this dichotomy that tons of other class/other distinctions follow, including all those race/looks/language issues that still plague our society. And, being public school, you've also got your bullies and assorted other losers who get to have the time of their life at age 13 intimidating kids, everyone knowing the likelihood that life for these bullies/losers is most certainly headed downhill from here.
Doesn't it all just make you wanna show up for "A" lunch this Monday? And Tuesday....?
I have no real opinion on the subject of what to do with students unable/unwilling to pay for an APS lunch. Oh, that's not true...I have tons of opinions on APS lunch:
- The "snack bar" line should be done away with;
- All lunches should be "cooked" on campus from scratch
- All lunches should be free, with day cards used to prevent "doubling up"
- Students not eligible for "free/reduced lunch" could purchase meal cards each semester
- "Free/reduced lunch" students would have the same exact meal cards funded through the program
Meanwhile, I have to go pack my 90 lunches for the upcoming Semester. Thinking/writing on this subject has left me unwilling to ever, EVER go inside my school cafeteria again. I'll keep looking at the Bosch painting below as a reminder of what it looks like inside these horrible places.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
A few months ago I wrote a bit about walking the colic out of our horse, Volare. Well, on this first day of 2009 we walked, and walked and walked and walked....but it just didn't take. The one-eared guy you fuzzily see ever-so-patiently waiting to be prepped for a schooling ride (his specialty along with munching on peppermints) went for his last trailer ride today.
Having just crossed into his twenties, and with ongoing health problems, today is not unexpected. Still, this was our favorite, the daily companion of my wife for over fifteen years and a helluva great guy.
The year is off to a bit of a rough start.
I also see that Coco has a horse late in life post today. Glad to hear things went better over at her place. As for our little ranchette, there's a horse stall missing a 17-hand big guy and his daily gargantuan pre-mealtime piss today. That large daily circle of muck cleaning is just one of 10,000 we'll miss about you, Volare.
Happy trails V-Man. Happy trails.