Monday, March 30, 2009

A Freely Offered Translation of an APS Press Release, 3.30.09

Understanding it is often difficult for those not in the teaching profession to comprehend the meaning and impact of statements coming from those in education, the following translation has been offered by me, a professional educator, of a communication emanating earlier today from APS Superintendent Winston Brooks.

Below is the word-for-word release (in standard text) with a translated version directly below (in bold).


_______________________
A new plan has been worked out with the Albuquerque Teachers

After sitting around with the Union at some stupid meeting

Federation to use Friday, April 24, as a half-day of instruction in the

we came up with the laughable idea of ruining Friday, April 24th

morning and half-day of site-based professional development for

by dividing it into two equally useless parts, and, in so doing

teachers and staff in the afternoon.

craftily stuck in a "lunch",

This will resolve the issue of making up the snow day from Dec. 16.

thus making up our "snow day" because if we serve lunch the day counts! Boo-yah! Hells yes! Are we geniuses or what!


The schedule will be as follows:


· High schools and early-start elementaries will dismiss at 11:30 a.m.

Think Lunch and get the Hell out of Dodge


· Middle schools will dismiss at 12:15 p.m.

Ditto, baby!


· Elementary schools will dismiss at 1 p.m.

It's Gold, Jerry, Gold!


The need for students to return on May 26, the day after Memorial Day,

The asinine "need" to have students supposedly go on May 26th

has been eliminated. The last day of school will be Friday, May 22,

has been gloriously 86ed. The last day will be on Friday, May 22nd, like any sane person would have told you weeks ago, but we had to have these stupid meetings with the Union, which obviously cares way more about some silly "Professional Development Day" that we all know is a big, fat waste of time, instead of focusing all its energy on much more important things, like why the Hell the Economic Stimulus package hasn't already been incorporated into education funding/budgeting for next year, and instead just seemed to let the Legislature piss all over education for like the third or fourth straight year.

and will be a full day of instruction.

and will be a full day of uselessly waiting around for the final bell to ring.


Teachers who have completed their required closing out procedures

Teachers don't have to show up on May 26th either because any sane

by May 22 will not have to report on May 26. Otherwise, please

teacher would make damn sure their keys are already turned in

plan to report for a teacher-directed prep day.

and just in case you don't get this through your thick, stupid teacher heads, I'm threatening you with a "teacher-directed prep day" (whatever the Hell that is) if you don't get your ass out of the building ready for Summer on Friday the 22nd like everyone else on Planet APS. Let me put it this way, if you actually show up on Tuesday, May 26th, I'm going to see to it that you are fired because you are obviously far too stupid to read between the lines, much less teach.


_______________________________


It is hoped that the above translation helps to bridge the sometimes sizable gap between those who educate our youth and the public for which we serve.




P.S.: Just before receiving the release from Superintendent Brooks, staff at my school got a forwarded email originally from ATF President Ellen Bernstein. It read in part:


"Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This day will be the make-up day for staff. It will be a teacher directed preparation day. The teachers may prep on or off of campus for the entire day."


Perhaps your sense of humor is like mine, and you also find the three sentences directly above to be just about the funniest thing you have ever read. Like Monty Python-meets-George Carlin funny. Like beyond falling on the floor, convulsing in laughter so intense you start coughing, spitting up and think you might be having a heart attack funny. Preternaturally humorous.


Even for those who don't find it funny, I'm guessing no "translation" is needed. In keeping with the spirit of facilitating communication, however, I'll be happy to let you know what it really means...upon request. As soon as I can stop laughing, spitting, convulsing and such.


Hitting the Ground Flailing, Back To School

With only seven or so weeks left, and two of them largely gutted via standardized testing, the remainder of the school year seems to hang like cat hair on a suitcase. A suitcase that is still somewhere in the bowels of Continental Airlines, having not made it all back all the way from Marseilles.

And we ourselves barely made it back from Marseilles, and I could bore you with a 22-hour travel odyssey involving Amsterdam, the evil that is the George Bush (H.W.? W.? both?) International Airport in Houston, etc., but will spare you.

Besides, my eyes are so bleary I can hardly see the computer keyboard, even the English/American one with the "A" where the "A" is supposed to be instead of a French keyboard "Q". Those French....more about them later, perhaps.

Meanwhile, it's right back to the pesky, hanging cat hair of school year 2008-2009. Let's get this thing over with.

And one other thing. Let's also get together in some sort of mind meld that answers the $780 billion "economic stimulus" question...where did/does all the federal money for K-12 education go? Why are we still talking about belt-tightening in education? Why did teachers get a de facto pay cut this year? What the Hell happened?

If someone could just spew the answers to the above out, I'd appreciate it. The jet-lagged among us can hardly type, much less explain the sausage-making that is the NM legislative process.

And speaking of sausage...about those sausages in Southern France. Combined with the soft goat cheese inside the rustic country-style breads of France...that's good for about five pounds of gained weight per week of vacation. At least. At the very least.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

'Burque Babble Goes Euro For a Few Days

Telling people you're going to France amid the most wintry economic climate seen in years makes one a bit guilty. It's like being the guy who goes back the 3rd time to the Indian food buffet line, or orders that one more beer after everyone else has decided against it.

On the other hand, it was an economist (John Maynard Keynes) who said: "In the long run we are all dead."

So we're eating baguettes while the world economy burns.

I've never really been to France (the view from Charles de Gaulle Airport doesn't count), but my wife lived there for a while during her wilder, more carefree days. My French lessons went absolutely nowhere, so she will be doing ALL the talking for the next week while I practice my look of bemused semi-comprehension.

We will eat Proven├žal food (as much as our Euro conversion rate can afford..and more), walk through the village of Lourmarin tons of times, daydream about living in Provence over and over and over, and drive some dinky Citroen to a few other villages, places which we will also daydream about living in someday.

Then we will fly back and try to make it through the next eight weeks or so of school without ex or imploding.

We deliberately chose an apartment with no internet access, no television and such. Still, it is far too likely that I will spend too much time in Lourmarin internet cafes. I apologize in advance for any blogposts that might result from these ill-considered internet soirees.

Blogging is pathetic...blogging from Provence...there isn't a word that really captures just how pathetic that is.

Enjoy your time, whether considered "Spring Break" or not, wherever you may be. For those more economically sane folks who are staying home to save money....I applaud your frugality. For those of us extending our dissolute lives to other continents, it's only a credit card bill.

In the long run, we'll be dead. Seize the baguette, I say.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Education Must Not Be "Shovel-Ready"

Prologue: Burque Babble realizes that it has been even whinier than usual lately. And that's really saying something.

It also knows that plenty of other folks don't get swell teacher perks like "Spring Break". Many are, in fact, losing their jobs. Part of Burque Babble (if a pseudo-inanimate object can partition its "thinking") knows this and feels a bit guilty about the whining. Still, other parts keep remembering that we elected this Obama guy who was supposedly throwing a bunch of money at education and all that.

In fact, he did get a bunch of money thrown at education. When is that money going to hit us in the face here in New Mexico? We don't mind getting a few bruises from being hit with the money. Hit us with the money! Give us your best shot...

__

HB 331 and HB 346 to revise/improve public education funding in New Mexico both look dead.

Meanwhile, HB 854 calling for teachers to increase their contribution to the retirement fund by 1.5% has passed both houses and is on the Governor's desk.

Happy Spring Break, New Mexico Education!

Perhaps the only workable "shovel-ready" economic stimulus for New Mexico educators this year will be canceling their Union membership and saving the twenty or so bucks per paycheck. Speaking of shovels, it's kinda hard at this point to see the payment of our Union dues as anything other than throwing money into a hole in the ground.

I kid, josh, cajole and razz...of course. Well, sorta. No...actually I'm not kidding at all.

Is it Spring Break yet?

P.S.: And on the subject of planning vacations, the District/Union STILL haven't decided what to do with the April 24th "In-Service" vis-a-vis the need for a make-up date other than the idiotic day-after-Memorial Day useless half-day of nothingness option. Don't these people realize that, unlike certain institutional entities, folks PLAN things ahead...like even weeks and months ahead? Well, at least some do.

Is it Spring Break yet?

Have a good one, y'all. Especially you out there who are in far worse shape job-wise than us whiny teachers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

For Whom the NCLB Bell Tolls...

Yesterday my school staff received the email I've been dreading ever since the era of "No Child Left Behind" began. It's title:
"What is Continuous Classroom Improvement? (CCI)"
Yep, my school is now going to "continuously improve" using state-of-the-art, 1993 business goal setting strategies. It's because we are in "corrective action". We've been bad...and we have to correct ourselves through "action".

I haven't seen the word mentioned yet, but "synergy" can't be far away. Other meaningless buzzwords are already rampant, however. Check this sentence from Hell out:
"Framework to implement a standards based curriculum , into which is embedded goal setting, high yield instructional strategies, clear standards and expectations, formative assessments( daily, weekly, monthly…), evidence of learning, student engagement in the learning process, data collection."
Did you know "CCI" is "a trademarked product of Jim Shipley and Associates"? You also may or may not know that the school doesn't really receive any more funding when it's in "corrective action", but Jim Shipley and Associates does...and so does "America's Choice" the maker of the little "remediation" booklets all the "failing" children will be forced to go through. You know, like hiring Blackwater to fight the war instead of soldiers. Only with buzzwords that kill instead.

It is strongly implied that we as staffmembers are supposed to embrace "CCI", in part because we are "failing" and know that when you're "failing" you're not allowed to have opinions or prefer a different path in overcoming the "failure".

It's like being philosophically, professionally disenfranchised.

We're supposed to teach critical thinking, but we ain't supposed to perform any critical thinking ourselves.

No Spring Break is gonna wash away this fact: The letters don't match, but "CCI" might just really mean "Find Employment Elsewhere".

P.S.: But who cares about profound professional downers? The NCAA basketball tournament starts today! Take it from someone who doesn't know what they are talking about: Western Kentucky will beat Illinois today. And keeping with the "Big Ten Sucks This Year" theme...Northern Iowa may well beat Purdue.

Oh, that's better...sports is such good mental anesthetic. Mind numbing...life problems less pointy...smoothing...tournament only hours away. Tournament = Nurse Ratchet, but nicer and with beer commercials...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sour, Sour Manny Aragon's Baadasssss Song

I find it interesting that residents of just about every state feel they have the most corrupt officials and lousiest public schools. It's a sentiment worn by many like some bizarro State badge of honor, a badge that grows and shines more brightly over time.

As an ex-Texan, I can't tell you how many fellow Long Star State folks I've almost seen come to tears proudly retelling the story of LBJ, and how he stole that Senatorial election way back in '48 (the numbers are helped by the fact I got both my degrees in Poli Sci back in Texas). Louisiana had Huey P. Long, and might end up naming yet another bridge for the Kingfish with the Economic Stimulus bucks they get. More recently they had a Congressman who got caught with $90,000 hidden in his freezer. Rep. William Jefferson won re-election in the months after that cold, cold cash was uncovered.

Illinois had the Daley machine and most recently Governor Blagojevich, and I see no record of any massive swelling of real consternation on the part of Lincoln Landers. The fact Blago was able to get away with filling a Senate seat seems to bother just about everybody but those from Illinois. Harry Truman only rose to prominence because of the Pendergast operation in Missouri. And they still say "Give 'em Hell Harry" with pride back in Kansas City.

And in New Jersey, my wife's home state, any questions/comments about political corruption receive nothing but a laugh and a solid, repetitive shaking of the head.

So on a day filled with Manny Aragon's courtroom tears, a so-so sentence and a sizable demand for restitution, I found myself thinking about this story from some months back in the New York Times. Great graphs a-blazing, the Times tried to determine the most corrupt State in America. This was at the height of "Blago Mania" and the story twist was that Illinois was not found, by any measure, to be the most corrupt State.

In sheer numbers of convicted public officials, the winner was Florida. On a per capita basis it was the District of Columbia. In both those polls New Mexico was nowhere near the top. Even in per capita figures, the Land of Enchantment ranked just about where it seems to always rank in everything, 46th. Hey, what about us? We're corrupt, too! Really!

Blurry, but New Mexico is somewhere near the bottom...again


I still have a vague sense of disappointment about that.

Remarkably, however, WE did much better when it came to "Reporters' Scores" . The Times story explained this part of the survey:
Researchers asked state house reporters to assess their subjects and ranked responses on a scale of 1 (clean) to 7 (crooked) in a 2003 study.
In the reporter poll New Mexico scored a solid third, just beaten out by perennial corruption powerhouse Louisiana for second. Take that Florida (22nd), Illinois (10th) and D.C. (okay, the District wasn't included in the poll)! The discrepancy between convictions and reporter perception could mean several things...including the possibility New Mexico just doesn't convict enough of its ne'erdowells.

Still, I maintain there is a strange, twisted competitive pride in such figures, and Manny Aragon bolsters this pride as someone we can bitterly laugh at now, and bizarrely revere years from now. In this and other ways, Manny serves needs many of our celebrities, sports figures, and public officials fill. These include the need to have those more powerful crash from power, and the need to have simple, blatant answers to the complex, subtle questions of our world.

Yes it's schadenfreude, but it's more than that. Just as we use the foibles of the "famous" to make ourselves feel better about our own screw-ups, we as a society create Manny Aragons through our inattention and laziness, then get to feel better about that inattention and laziness when the Manny Aragon finally, FINALLY, gets caught.
  • Why are things so screwed up in New Mexico? Answer: Manny Aragon.
  • Why did he get away with it for so long? Answer: The System is screwed up.
  • Is it our fault? Answer: Obviously not. Aragon is evil, and it took the System forever to do anything about it. It's outside of our control.
Or so we convince ourselves, satisfyingly wiping our hands of it all. There is a safety and comfort in such fatalism. A safety and comfort that only increases on days such as today. We as New Mexicans get to see Manny cry, and receive some sort of frog march out of the courtroom (I'm guessing on this, as I'm not going to watch it on TV tonight) Yay us! Yay Powerful People Falling!!!

But, as point of analogy, does anyone really think intense public oversight of the financial system is likely to last forever, just because Bernie Madoff got caught? Or AIG folks got some bonuses? Yes this Manny Aragon was a real piece of work, a colossal caricature of political corruption. But do we really think we'll do any better job of making sure another Manny Aragon doesn't come along in another few years?

More to the point, how many more years (or months, really) until someone brings up Manny Aragon and we can't get that strangely proud grin off our face?

"Only in New Mexico," we'll reply...as we shake our heads, grinning. "Only in New Mexico."

Yeah, right.

P.S.: And speaking of Baadasssss songs (or just "baad"), here is a reprise of a little two-chorus ditty on today's subject I scribbled some time back based on the A.L. Webber composition "Don't Cry For Me Argentina":

Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque
It's not like you knew I wasn't guilty
All through my wild days
Ruining South Valley
I was your bagman
And kept your money.

Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque
The truth is I'll never leave you
There'll be this courthouse
At 4th and Lomas
That you can spit on
And curse my name for.

P.P.S.: Steve Terrell at the New Mexican has a good write-up of the lukewarm action on "ethics reform" during this Legislative session. Cue more head shaking and bitter grins...

Excelsior Quote of the 24-Hour Period®

New Mexiken has his "Best Line of the Day", and it and every New Mexiken post is a worthy read. But right this second New Mexiken seems to be down, so I'm informally filling in...
“I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.”--White House Press Spokesperson Robert Gibbs on ex-Vice President Dick Cheney
Now that's some comedy right there. I can't even think about what Gibbs said without smiling. Plus, "cabal" is such a cool word. I suggest when times get tough today (and they most probably will) that everyone think back to this line. I know I will. Food tastes better and the air is sweeter immediately after repeating the line above. Honest.

Meanwhile, New Mexiken better come back soon. "Excelsior Quote of the 24-Hour Period®" just ain't cuttin' it. Registered Trademark or not.

P.S.: Oops. Looks like NewMexiKen isn't coming back. At least for a while. Thanks for the 15,000 posts, sir. You'll be missed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Question For Schoolteachers: What's the Opposite of the "Doomsday Clock"?

After a certain point of jousting everything one sees as wrong and improvable in a teaching year, one has to put down the lance and recover from the battle axe blows and such.

Humans adapt to the environment better than we realize. Given the relatively ridiculous amount of vacation time teachers get, we as teaching humans merely pack in all the mental damage of a 50 week working year into 36 weeks.

The long haul (again, relatively speaking) between the beginning of Spring Semester and Spring Break is an excellent example of both the mental damage and the need to recover. At least for one humble blogging teacher guy I know.

In other words, we gotta get out of this place. Like now.

We'll make it through the next five days before Spring Break starts, but only with a limp and our chain mail dragging along the classroom floor. Guided by the North Star that is the clock, we'll count down the approximately 378,000 seconds until Friday at 3:05 p.m., then sprint out to the parking lots as fast as our bedraggled, vocationally wracked bodies allow. We'll collapse into our cars (or bicycles in some cases), shudder a bit as we shake off the mortal District coil of the last 10 or 11 weeks and sigh in blessed exhaustion.

In less than 378,000 seconds now.

P.S.: Speaking of obsessive number counting, those keeping score at home will note that your humble blogger is going for a five-for-five this week: riding into work every day. That blasted time change messed up my mornings last week (that and an incessant parade of IEPs), but sunrise should be early enough now to ride up Isleta Blvd. with at least a fighting chance of being seen (i.e., staying alive). Meanwhile those who track the disparity between outrageous claims like "I'm going five-for-five this week" will want to stick around to laugh at your humble blogger when he reports on Friday that "things came up" and was unable/unwilling to cycle more than once or twice.

P.P.S.: Well under 378,000 seconds now, closing in on 377,000.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

All APS Cupcakes Will Have The Same Number of Sprinkles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Got Ya "Laboratory of Invention" Right Here

When a teacher has an early morning IEP doubleheader that might turn into a tripleheader, the last thing s/he wants to read are things like:

It is his first major speech devoted solely to education since taking office, but officials say he (President Obama) plans neither to detail any requirements to achieve his goals nor to change President No Child Left Behind program.
and...
Obama's economic includes a $5 billion incentive fund to reward states for, among other things, boosting the quality of standards and state tests -- much-needed money for some states.
not to mention...
Obama advisers say they will use the economic woes as a way to sell the country on his agenda.
--NYT. 3.10.09
Cause the tripleheader of quotes above sure appear to add up to More Bush Standardized Tests, Just More of 'Em (and Improved, Too!). A great way to greet the early IEPs lined up beyond the 5:45 a.m., Moon-lit horizon this morning. Inspiring stuff, especially the following:
Obama also planned to continue his support for charter schools, although officials call them ''laboratories of innovation.'' Educators' unions generally oppose charter schools because they divert tax dollars away from public schools, one spot where he splits with the traditionally Democratic Party-backing constituency.
Hey, I voted for the guy and all, but pretty much everything outlined in this education speech he is giving today is wrong, and headed toward marketing idiocy-land. What, folks don't like charter schools because they take money away from other public schools? Well Hell, let's just change the name of 'em! This after new Dept. of Education head Arne Duncan said the problem with No Child Left Behind wasn't the testing, it was the "branding".

We all, or just about all, want tougher education standards. But if the Obama Administration is going to sell higher standards by just slapping some new paint on the broken Bush Administration TEST-TEST-TEST!!!!!! wagon, and going around the country selling old, crappy Republic education ideas in new bottles labeled "great for economic woes!" I'm going to throw up.

So it looks like I'm going to be throwing up quite a bit. And throwing up right before yet another IEP meeting is never a good start to a morning where it ain't even light yet.

Have a nice day, everybody. Can I get a bucket?

Monday, March 09, 2009

In Which APS Has An "In Service" In One Hand and A Day Off In the Other

Considering it's a little after 6 a.m. on the day after DST starts (so it's really only a little after 5 a.m.), and a Monday morning to boot, one really can't be held responsible for things like syntax, grammar, spelling or making a bit of sense right now.

Which gets me to the dawdling District and it's "evolving" plan as to what to do with the "Snow Day" make up, currently scheduled for the day after Memorial Day (May 26th).

This District's "planning" in this regard is very funny for several unintentional reasons, including the simple fact it wouldn't have to decide anything if it would stop canceling school on days where the snow melts off the roads by 9:30 in the morning. But that's slush under the salted bridge, so let's move on to another unintentionally funny aspect here, the idea of using our last "In Service Day", April 24th, to replace the snow day, instead of having students show up for a final half-day following a three-day Memorial Weekend.

To snip the Journal story....
District officials are considering the April 24 teacher in-service day as a possible makeup day for classes.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation president Ellen Bernstein said she has asked the union representatives to survey employees about the proposal to use the in-service day. "I think it's going to have a varied reaction," Bernstein said. "I think some of those people I represent are going to be thinking that's a good idea, and some of the people are going to say 'We planned our professional development.' "
Let's define the two groups identified in the "varied reaction" Ms. Bernstein quote above. The "good idea" people above can be defined as roughly every teacher in APS who has had nothing to do with desperately trying to fill up the April 24th "In Service" with educational mumbo-jumbo crap. This would account for approximately 99.3% of all APS teachers, ancillary staff, nurses, etc.

The "we planned our professional development" above constitute the .7% of poor, sweet bastards who actually have to find some educational mumbo-jumbo crap to fill up the April 24th "In Service".

Deciding between educational mumbo-jumbo is always difficult, but when you're called upon to provide "professional development" for surly, burnt-out April 24th of a long, long school year teachers who at this point would boo Santa Claus, heckle that guy who safely landed the plane in the Hudson River, and violently throw printed out PowerPoint presentations on "Alternative Assessments" back at even the nicest presenter, you've got a tough job. I'm sure hundreds of hours have been spent around the District by Principals, Instructional Coaches and other non-teachers planning for April 24th in meetings often started with the question: "What can we present that won't lead to our immediate lynching?"

So, in a way, I feel for that dumb, sweet bastard .7% crowd. Yes, teachers are always a tough crowd, and by Day 160 of a 180 Day school year we're worse than a super-drunk crowd of Philadelphia football fans when down 38-7 in the fourth quarter. But what makes matters worse is the apparent technical impossibility that these "In Service" days EVER be about something worth talking about. Right about now, for example, would be a great time to discuss the changes required by NCLB "Corrective Action". But will that be the subject of the April 24th "In Service"? Hell no.

It will be about "Differentiating Across the Writing Spectrum" or "Vertical Planning for Power Standards" or some such meaningless mumbo-jumbo that only serves to provide some bureaucrat in some remote APS Twin Tower office with data to throw into their dissertation, written so they can finally escape the APS Twin Towers and get a real job with a functional educational entity that isn't wracked with in-decision to the point where it is publicly wringing its hands trying to decide whether to use a day of Spring Break to make up for it's hastily called "Snow Day" when Spring Break is only two weeks away and everybody has already planned their week-long plus vacations for that week.

Hmmm...I seem to be waking up now. Thinking about the pitiful foibles of APS will do that I guess. That and a gallon of coffee pong. Let's be succinct in our final analysis here:

"In Services" are almost always stupid. Scheduling an In Service for Day 160 or so of a school year is beyond stupid. Any decision regarding "Snow Day 2008-2009" other than simply replacing the April 24th In Service with a school day would be stupid to the power of infinity.

I know, I know. If any organization can be stupid to the power of infinity, it's...well, let's just see what happens. I'm sure the District will decide quickly. At least eight hours before the day it decides to replace "Snow Day 2008-2009". At least.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bike Chronicles: Has Anybody Done This On the Rail Runner Yet?

"A bicycle owner says she simply forgot she had brought her bike aboard the Bainbridge-bound ferry Wenatchee when she walked off without it late Wednesday afternoon."- Seattle Times. 3.6.09
The story goes on to say the Coast Guard undertook a four-hour search over 15 square miles of Elliott Bay looking for the possibly overboard bike owner. In retrospect, perhaps the fact the bike in question was a "red 10-speed Giant" instead of a poly-$K Cervelo or Merlin could have been a clue.

Meanwhile, John Fleck has an infrequent series called "Why We Ride"...why not steal the idea, dredge up some cheesy name and voila!: "Love Brokers"...uh... "Bike Chronicles"?!?

Okay, maybe a bad idea. This might be a one-off "bike chronicle" here, but we'll see. Come to think of it, maybe the "Why We Ride" thing isn't a series after all. Whatever...it's looking too windy to enjoy riding today, so let's just waste more time obsessing over bike tours at Crazy Guy on a Bike instead.

P.S.: Firmly in the "Too Much Information Department", my nose is still clogged with impacted dirt, dust, sand and very small rocks from my last commute. Just thought you'd like to know. Photos available upon request.

P.P.S.: And while we're at it, why not complete the logrolling loop by linking to the link that links backs to here. This cycletron (get it, "cycle" tron....?) of blogo-energy is like some sort of 'Net-based Cold Fusion, but will probably not help to dramatically reduce our need for fossil fuels or anything. Okay, I'll shut up now.

Friday, March 06, 2009

One More Parent Meeting Before I Go...With a Bike Story Chaser

I. Dear Parents of My Students:

I love ya. You are great parents and I've truly enjoyed meeting you during the last three days of parent/teacher conferences at my school. I've even enjoyed those with whom I've shared going over IEPs together, about five or six such meetings in the last week or so.

But I can't take it anymore. One more parent meeting and my meeting-addled brain will melt. One more look into my grade book to see what your son/daughter has right now and my eyes will bleed a flood of red pen red. One more slow head nod of understanding from me, and my head might just fall off.

It's being held onto my neck with staples and toothpicks now.

And today I have another IEP. And another one next Tuesday. And another next Wednesday. And I forgot to mention the IEP I'm helping something else out with later today as well.

Time for some more staples and toothpicks.


II. Riding Home Yesterday

The bike ride home yesterday was the funniest, if not funnest, bike ride I've had in ages. Fate and a "cold" front combined to have me trying to stay vertical as I rode directly into 50 mph winds. Frequent sandstorm squalls raked me, every tumbleweed created in the last twelve months rolled unpredictably around and through me, large plastic bags hovered and swirled like "War of the Worlds" spaceships just over my head.

I spent about ten minutes cleaning up debris from a fallen tree that completely blocked the river bike path. Once or twice I had to pedal as hard as I could just to keep the bike from falling over, as my speed was somewhere around 1.2 mph.

I came very close to being simply swept into a car waiting alongside me at the light at MLK and Broadway. My teeth were sandpaper by the time I got home, and my face a circle of pitted dark encircling the clean patch of where my sunglasses had been.

It was crazy. Damn it was funny. And I'd do it again in a second, especially if I can keep my brain from realizing that I had a better than half-decent chance of being killed by a giant hunk of flying sheet metal or large, wind-blown cow yesterday.

Oh, the exhilaration of silly, preventable near-death experiences. I will reminisce on them often this morning as I slowly nod my head through another IEP. I hope the staples hold.


Have a good weekend everybody.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Defense of The Albuquerque Journal For Its Publishing Student Performance By Teacher/Classroom

In a brave step to better inform its readership, the Albuquerque Journal has this morning published standardized testing results by teacher classroom for all the elementary schools in APS. The Journal is to be commended for providing the key piece of information in determining whether a teacher is any good or not, her/his ability to perform academic magic in the 22 or so weeks academic weeks between first seeing a student and the standardized tests.

As every researcher, expert and blog commenter alike will tell you, this 22 week period (known throughout education as the "Magic 22 Weeks" is the single most important determiner of standardized test performance. Other factors such as:
  • Socio-economic status
  • Second language status
  • Special Education status
  • Family stability and parental involvement
  • Student mobility from school to school
  • Academic rigor in a student's previous school years
  • Student performance in previous school years
pale when compared to the Magic 22 Weeks. The Magic 22 Weeks, everyone knows, is a veritable magic wand, erasing all preexisting conditions and illuminating one as to the quality/ability of an elementary school teacher to teach. One might compare it with other magical things, like the Warren Commission's "magic bullet theory" that helped solve nagging questions about who killed John F. Kennedy.

We're lucky to have a dogged organization like The Albuquerque Journal, one prepared to focus on the truly important when it comes to how our kids are doing in school. I, of course, refer to the essential listing of teachers names alongside Magic 22 Weeks scores. That way truly magical teachers can more easily be identified, and parents can simply request not only a "good" school but now a "good" teacher for their daughter/son. Those less "magical" teachers can be avoided, as it is quite obvious they are inferior in providing the vital 22 weeks of magic necessary for kids to do well.

Another added benefit of the Journal's bravery in posting teacher names is that everyone in town can now look at the list, find teachers they know (e.g., from having them as teachers as a child, or having dated them some years ago) and discover whether they are magically good teachers or not. In this way the data effectively works like one of those published lists of sexual predators or persons convicted of a DUI. Those teachers worthy of public shame can easily be identified and shunned from society.

Some might argue this is going overboard, and harkens back to the use of stocks and pillories, but these comparisons are invalid. They are invalid because we know just how important the Magic 22 Weeks are. It's not our fault these teachers cannot properly perform this magic! They are bad teachers and they must be publicly humiliated!

Bravo, Albuquerque Journal! You may receive a fair degree of condemnation by the misinformed and humiliated for your decision to publish this list. Please take it from this humble professional educator and even more humble blogger: you guys are performing what might be the greatest public service since the decline of tarring and feathering.

I say this for two reasons.

First, everything that's wrong with this country is centered on our stupid unwillingness to blame and properly punish the non-magical. For years now we've obsessed over "fully studying issues" and "seeing things from both sides" and look where that's gotten us! To Hell with milquetoast excuses about things like "socio-economic status"! We need to revert to the good, solid statistical thinking employed by those during our Colonial Period. Why look at the mathematical magic of the "3/5ths Compromise"! Our Founding Fathers would understand and promote the meaning of the Magic 22 Weeks, and demand that such a list of teachers be published.

Second, publishing such a list is exactly the sort of "old school" newspaper selling technique that both Ben Franklin and William Randolph Hearst would have applauded. In a dire time for print media, you at the Journal have bravely risen to a journalistic standard not seen since the glorious days of the Spanish/American War.

Put simply, inspiring work Albuquerque Journal. Bravo, Sirs and Madams, bravo!