Category Archives: education solutions

Improving Education in New Mexico

Originally published October 11, 2017

I met today at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to represent the Golden Apple Academy, with people from the Legislative Education Study Committee, Senator Padilla, Ellen Bernstein, Susan Patrick of iNacol, the Coalition for Excellence in Education, PTEC, the LANL Foundation, board members from APS, teachers, parents, and students in a meeting initiated the New Mexico Center for School Leadership, and sponsored by the New Mexico Learning Alliance.  The regular gathering of stakeholders in New Mexico education is necessary for the continuity of conversation of our values as a state, and what we want to bring to our children for the future of New Mexico.  The status of education in New Mexico demonstrates the need to broaden the conversation beyond the NM Public Education Department, and it was a sign of hope to have such representation from many organizations and individuals at the meeting today.  A discussion summary is here.   (Jump to the most pressing action)

Take Aways and Next Steps

It was an honor to be amidst an impressive group of individuals and organizations concerned with education in our state.  I would like to work toward a more cohesive educational conversation in New Mexico, a commonly used repository for the continuation and advancement of this conversation, and public access for action.  My post here is toward that ideal, and to serve as my impressions of the direction of conversation.

We, in the group, have the common experience that the current evaluation system of students, and therefore teachers and schools (because those evaluations are built from there), is lacking.

My personal experience with the evaluation system is exemplified by the evaluation I signed today, October 26th 2017, the day of this revision.  My “effective” rating would have been “highly effective” or better,  except for the test scores of the 45 students I had last year.  Well, I had only 21 students last year.  The failure of the PED to even properly count the number of students I had in my class should serve as warning for its ability toward higher math functions, like addition.

Similarly, the school where I work received an “F” this year, and then a later apology from the PED that a miscalculation had artificially driven our school grade down, it was not an “F”.  The “school grades” news article in the Albuquerque Journal was long since to press, and our entire community is affected by the misinformation.

 The appearance of objectivity, the reductionistic simplicity of  accepting quantitative data for what should be assessed qualitatively, is an abdication of the responsibility of relational accountability.   The pretense of making learning  a data-set and students a product of schools rather than people with complexity, however convenient for policy, has broken down at every level in the above examples.  That is just my own experience,  for just this year.

We now need to create a new infrastructure to support a more complete system of assessment.  We will need criteria, auditors, and educators who are trained in the assessment of student products according to that criteria.

This will begin a recovery for teachers to be trained as professionals with judgment and agency, rather than the trend to move teachers into compliant, undertrained, assembly-line workers.

With regard to teachers as professionals, meetings such as these should be counted as professional development for interested teachers, so that teachers are encouraged to participate in these and any conversations about education, and the community is informed about education from a teacher’s perspective.  Until that becomes standard practice, meetings such as these should be planned to accommodate teachers who cannot attend.  The teacher’s professional judgment, as mentioned here at  leadership-pdc.org, needs to be fostered and counted.

The most pressing action, no matter a person’s affiliation, is to create a more publicly accountable Public Education Department, with protections against the gridlock that lead us to this rendition.  It is imperative to reintroduce a democratic process into the issuance of education policy, and executive order type “rule” needs to come under a more scrutinous process. The current example of why we need to change that structure is the near adoption of the New Mexico “version” of science standards, discussed here.

1 Comment

Filed under Accountability and Standards, Education, education solutions, New Mexico Schools Graded, Politics in education, science in education

Take Back

Wally Walstrom and I have been editing videos today, that we hope to put up on the internet. The union asked teachers to send photographs of what they would like to “take back” in education, and they spotted subs for Wally and I.

I look at all of the hundreds of photographs of teachers who sent something in, people who have some fight left in them. People who will not quietly pass the torch of public education to corporations. Why not? Because when the bottom line is money rather than education, you get these CEO’s and politicians that are looking for tickets. But when you finally discover that you want people who will throw their whole selves at educating the public because they choose the intrinsic value of human life, and the potential of others, over what they themselves could have pocketed, then at last you will understand what a teacher is. These are the faces I look at now.

I have a great sense of humility about this. I have no illusions that this slapped together work on my part today will live up to your work, but I hope the general public, in just seeing your faces, will remember with their vote at the next gubernatorial election. Would that our leaders could have half the dedication and even a small amount of understanding or experience in education, that any of you do.

Hang in there. Keep your gloves on. Tonight at the APS board meeting the procedure for opting out of the test is on the agenda. This will hit people in their pocketbooks. Not just the publishers, the governor, but also all of the people in education whose schools will be downgraded. Merit pay will be attached to those tests not taken, because when I say “merit” I mean “test score”. Our true merits come in the lives lived out by the people we have taught, rather than the bubbles they have filled in.

Brace. Now is the winter of our discontent.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, education solutions, Governor Martinez, opting out of testing, Standardized Tests, testing, Uncategorized

What The Hell is Going on There?

This is the question my brother, Jon, asked after my billionth Facebook post about education in New Mexico. I thought I would use the opportunity to create a synopsis of our previous episodes in the drama that has become education in New Mexico:

Soooo… our current Secretary of Education Designee, (because she doesn’t actually qualify for the real job), instituted a rule (because the law didn’t make it through our State Legislature, so she and the Guv bypassed the Legislature completely), to soak up all the copious spare time the pesky teachers and administrators have, so they can have their (awesomely huge) salaries tied to testing, even though the closest correlation to anything that testing has, is still economic status. The Guv and her sidekick are therefore throwing every last resource the state has on teacher evaluation, because that will help make sure we remain at the bottom, which happened on her watch, here and here.

Actually, just 2 million for the state, 8-15 million for our district to implement, (plus all the other districts statewide…) a nice system from a company (that hasn’t yet gotten it up and running…) that is just coincidentally connected to our our Secretary of Education Designee.

Then we can finally fire teachers, that we don’t have enough of anyway, (we are at roughly 10% full-time long term subs, currently), so we can replace them with lesser trained people, which will be all well and good, because, according to Ms. Skandera, who has not spent a day in the classroom, “everyone is a teacher”.

That is it in a nutshell.

Teachers are upset and are going to demonstrate, here is more information, and an organizational site.

 

https://tomorrowtrees.com/2013/08/29/skandera-not-legally-qualified/

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, education solutions, Governor Martinez, Hanna Skandera, politics, Politics in education, Uncategorized

Building People…

I had a nice conversation with Katie Richardson from Martin Heinrich’s office yesterday morning.  She was at TED and asked if there were issues that she might carry forward.  I was very glad to be “reached out” to.  I have always thought it my own duty to write legislators, and I have been lazy about that.  I said something like:

In New Mexico we haven’t had a pay raise in (at least) 4 years, and this year another effective pay cut, due to rising insurance.  The governor is asking for millions more to go to education, but none of it will go to teachers, or teaching materials.  It will go to administration and evaluation.

Pay is of course a big deal, but a symptom of a larger problem. Education is being treated more and more like an hourly job rather than a career for professionals.  As our nation builds a system to educate rather than building educators, we are pulling money away from teachers to go to the private business of publishing and test making*.

With all of the free curriculum online by way of Youtube, khanacademy.org, curriki.org, wikibooks.org, we could use a model like Teacherspayteachers.com, and have teachers fill in the missing bits and link together digital and/or print textbooks that replace textbooks.

New teachers could use those, and experienced teachers could build and replace modules, threaded by common core standards or other emphasis.

A free “open source” print and/or digital textbook, for every classroom.  By having teachers author the curriculum, (which many do anyway), the money could return from publishers to teachers.  This would build professional investment, and expertise, rather than “a job until I get my career going”.

Incentives tied to standardized testing needs to go away.  Teachers need to also be given the tools to have their own tools of assessment, and informal needs to count.  (This part I sent as an afterthought).

The assault on public education is gearing up again.    Everyone in our society should give everything they’ve got to a free education for all, and every aspect of education should be free, all the way through college.  Nation building begins with people building.

———————-

My conversation was much less organized, if you can believe that.  And she listened to essentially that.  I know, you barely made it through and you were skimming!   She is a brave soul, and I wish her well, because I do believe her and Senator Heinrich to be an ally.  Thanks, everyone who has been so supportive with all of this.  I hope we change things.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, education solutions, Governor Martinez, Politics in education

Two Roads Diverged

The road of hope.

The road of destruction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, education solutions, Guns, Politics in education, Uncategorized

Free Your Books, Free Your Mind

At Librelibros.org I have set up a place where I hope the state will sanction and facilitate the building of open-source textbooks.  Teachers and local industry such as INTEL, and Sandia National Labs, and Los Alamos, and the universities could collaborate to be the authors, and contributing teachers (at least) could get paid(!) for their work.  With all that already exists online by way of khanacademy.org, and curriki.org, and wikibooks.org,  I hope leaders in New Mexico government can help sanction and facilitate the combining of these free sources with the building of free textbooks.

The textbooks would be for print or digital readers, and materials such as manipulatives could come from re-use projects, which would be simultaneously be teaching some ingenuity and frugality rather than consumption.

The books would be for brand new teachers, which could be followed faithfully, but hopefully will ultimately inspire authorship, and ownership in the profession of their choosing.   Besides getting paid, they would be getting investment, their expertise would be honed, and their knowledge would be implicit.

The open-source textbooks could become threaded with themed, integrated strands based on standards, and could be swapped and mixed like the music genome project.

New Mexico could become a leader, an incredible epicenter for innovation in education.  Please help by going to Librelibros.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, education solutions, Politics in education

The Formula For Success Part Two

I’m giving a talk about part one at TedxABQ on January 11th, if you wondered how I got to the sequel.  In part one, I explain how our  current system of accountability is getting off the mark.

Herein, I would like to suggest the solution.  Not just to accountability, but pretty much the panacea for the whole thing.  There will be no surprise here.  You already know the solution, too.  Before I go there though, let me say as a teacher for over twenty years in public education, that we have chased many trends pushed by publishers and salespeople who have used the words “research based”, a term with no standard definition, to provide all kinds of smoke-and-mirrors solutions for the classroom, and data to try to disprove the solution I suggest.  But the solution I suggest  has solid, consistent precedents and results,  and was even used by God himself.

Education really hasn’t changed much.  Sure, we have iPads, and smartboards, and the internet, and our knowledge has changed.  But education itself is and always has been a conversation.   And the more specific the conversation is, the better it is.

The specific conversation has to have a manageable number of students per teacher  (Pupil Teacher Ratio, or PTR in educator jargonese).  This is something we knew clear back before the one-room schoolhouse, before Christ, when Socrates used dialectic some 400 years B.C..  Socrates had discussions that were one-to-one.  That helped his “great teacher” status, he had the PTR for the specific conversation.

Another great teacher, Christ, had a pretty good PTR going too, right?  The Twelve.  And this guy was good.  So if that is God, who can handle the Whole Deal, why do public school teachers get asked to do more than God?  You’d think that would at least get them a pay raise.

Then to the one-room school house of legend.  My grandma taught there.  She had eight students.  Now we’re talking.  Literally.  Because, with eight students you can talk.  To each other.  Everyone is accountable, nobody can disappear without being noticed.  Everyone contributes.  Good practice for a democracy.

And of course, Finland.  They all know it.  That’s a major part of the reason they are #1 in the world in education currently.  Here.  Almost everyone one of those articles will mention special help or attention, or two teachers in a class, or some other PTR reducing scheme.

And you know it, too.  The people I ask about they why go to a private school, say the reason:  smaller classes.  “My kid isn’t just a number”.  Yep.  We all know it.

So why, when we’ve known it all along, do we keep throwing money at solutions that will “save us money” by promising to minimize the number or need for teachers?  We have “saved” more money this way spending it on the research, the materials, the smoke and mirrors, that if we would have spent it on lowering the number of students in the first place, we would be there.  The place of educated students.   We want that.

The two teacher per classroom solution will not cause additional building costs, and there other solutions besides spending money outright to get the personnel, too.  Cooperation with teaching programs, even high-schools and senior centers- there are precedents here, too.   But why have we abandon the goal entirely?  To save money.   Our first priority can’t be saving money.  We shoot for the goal, and then get creative to meet the budget.  It is a goal we must aim for, if we don’t pay now, we will pay later.

This system also addresses accountability, it is the solution for the accountancy distraction.  If two adults are in there, it creates an implicit co-check on the professionalism of the teachers, and there can be the mechanism for an explicit check system for investigating teachers who are not holding up their end.

There it is.  It’s simple, straightforward, and it will work.   Let’s not avoid it any longer.  We must get back to the basics.

2 Comments

Filed under Education, education solutions