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Stave 2: The First of Three Spirits

(Continued from: A Carol to Sing)

brainpokeThe warning bells rang.  There were the campaign promises of a spider to a fly; a billionaire to a laborer, and truths leaked, but they were dismissed.  The spirit entered the room. “Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked the wanton character of our country, the squeezing, wrenching, (grabbing), scraping, clutching, covetous, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning, destroyer and usurper; the old sinner.

“I am.”

“Who, and what are you?”

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I have come for your welfare.”

“I will not give you any welfare.  You are nothing but a beggar!  Go back!  I am done with my giving.  I will tax you instead!”

The ghost face-palmed himself and then flicked the old sinner on the nose.

“Ow, that hurt!” whined the old sinner.

“You misunderstand what your welfare is.  I will explain it, instead, as your salvation.  Ignore me at your own peril, dismiss me, and in that breath you will blow out the candle of hope that was lit for you.”

The glimmer of good that was left in the soul that the old sinner now represented warmed him long enough to keep from damning himself forever with a sarcastic tweet.  And also the spirit threw the old sinner’s phone out the window when it saw what the old sinner was contemplating.

“Hey!  That’s a two story fall!  Give it back!”, whined the old sinner again.

The ghost looked up, “Do we really want to save this guy?”.  The ghost paused, nodding, and looked down humbly, “Okay, if you think there can be redemption,” acknowledged the ghost, as responding to some celestial voice.  The spirit looked up, glanced at the old sinner and rolled its eyes, then gathered itself and grabbed the old sinner by the … ear, and walked him through the wall.

The old sinner whined and shouted “Covfefe!” as the spirit transported them.

“This is your past, the past of the body you now occupy, and you should learn about it”.  The spirit had taken them to straight to the National Archives, and pointed to The Constitution.  “These are the principles you daily defy, but are what you vowed to defend”.

“What is that, The Constitution?  Ha!  You thought I wouldn’t know it!  I do not defy it, stupid spirit sent to save me!  You don’t even know anything.  I am just liberating different parts of it.  What do you think I defy, stupid, self-righteous spirit?”

The spirit yanked the old sinner’s earlobe down so hard, it stretch the tissue in it,  and then the spirit transported both of them again, to an all but empty classroom.

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

The old sinner said, “Stop with the symbolism, do you really think I get your ‘literary allusion’ and your ‘metaphor’?” air-quoted the old sinner as he mocked the spirit,  “Just cut to the chase.”

“Okay, okay.  You don’t really give me a lot to work with here, but, here it is:  Public Education.  You have all but deserted something that is the cradle of democracy.  The government is often the sole advocate of those who would someday be powerful and in turn share their power, -you have neglected the child.”  The old sinner stood blankly.  The spirit face-palmed itself again, and spoke as it rubbed its forehead, “Which is a symbol for all children, and the future of democracy.  Do I really need to spoon feed you all of this?”

“I prefer silver spoons, spirit, I was never this child, I was always rich, and I have no sympathy for this wretch!”, boasted the old sinner.

The spirit reached through his skull and poked his brain directly, this time, “THINK!”  demanded the spirit.

“Ow!”  said the old sinner, again.

“You will die.  The world you leave your children and grandchildren will become more desperate, and even their privilege will evaporate.  Feasted and entitled, your descendants will not be the clever inventors of solutions to problems they are kept from.  The walls they surround themselves with will conceal the want until it runs over them like a flood.  Your legacy will be washed from the Earth.”

The poke from the spirit’s finger seemed to have jabbed away some of the deposits on his old brain, and the sinner was more receptive, or at least fearful enough to want to avoid that pain again.

“Oh,” the old sinner said.

The realization or the appearance of realization were not enough to keep the spirit from poking the old sinner in the brain, as he punctuated each of these words with a poke as he said loudly in the face of him: “‘An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.'”  The ghost put down his finger, and backed up as he could see he had about given the old sinner a cerebral aneurysm.  “Thomas Jefferson said that, a primary author of  The Constitution!  The money you siphon away from a knowing public weakens the democracy, and centralizes power to populations that will fail the interest of democracy!”

“Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”  whined the old sinner.  The spirit, grateful for having finished his time with the all-but-hopeless miser, pulled once again on the miserable old man’s earlobe, a distraction from the pain in his frontal lobe, and transported him back to his bed, unescorted.  The old sinner cowered under the covers dreading the coming of the next promised spirits, and rubbed his forehead.

Next, Stave 3: The Second of Three Spirits, which will come when it moves me…

 

 

 

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A Carol to Sing

marley'sghostThis is a cautionary tale, and starts with our character in a seemingly hopeless situation, but I’m hopeful about the odds of redemption for our character, in the end.

Stave 1:

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

The ghosts of the past condemn us now, the memories of the promise of freedom.  The ghost of what might be looks upon grave conditions.  We got tired on the way toward “a more perfect union”.  Generations forgot the struggles of their ancestors, storytelling that passed down values were replaced with “binge-able” entertainment served up endlessly with machined precision to exploit personal preference.  We got more than disillusioned; we got distracted.   Made thirsty by endless streams of our choosing, like the waters of Narcissus, we take in evermore.  The sheer impossibility of chasing perfection is not for the short attentions Appreniticed by millionaires and billionaires who surround us on screens with the seven deadlies, and wrap us in want like babes in blankets, uninterrupted on all channels, with promises that their lives of unrelenting greed are much better than ours, and that maybe, if we are lucky, the work of our little lives can be digested to feed their endless appetite.  We got tired of the pursuit of what is right, and held up high instead the personification of the unfettered monstrousness of our own naked lust, intolerance, and greed.  We voted it in.

And now,  as it begins to feed on the poor to decrease the surplus population, the squeezing, wrenching, (grabbing), scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner delivering on the destruction promised (1,2,3), there is some regret rippling through our democracy, and questions of how to get back.

To redeem our character we will be visited by three spirits.  The first one will come when I write it…

Okay, I have summoned The First of Three Spirits!

 


 

 

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NMLA Meeting 10/11

Ian Esquibel and Bella from the New Mexico Learning Alliance facilitated the meeting.

A Recounting: (please email corrections/addenda to oneofthejeffs@yahoo.com):

There were individual anecdotes around the room of positive and negative experiences with the current assessment, and Janelle and Bella spoke about their experience as students, which lead to their activism, bill writing and research, and a youth summit they have organized at Washington Middle School in April.

Susan said that the latest Federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, was intended to move toward more holistic assessment. The implementation of the ESSA in New Mexico does not change the state’s policy of assessment as it stands. Susan said grassroots solutions were the best. The notion that it is better to “ask forgiveness rather than permission” in implementing systems of more meaningful assessment is a faster solution to the problems we are faced with in the current system. (The problems we are faced with include being ranked at or next to or at the bottom in education nationally, steadily for the last three or four years, and being a state which is losing experienced teachers, and is not attractive for new teachers.)

It was brought up that the state needs to build the infrastructure to support more meaningful assessment. Susan said there are grants available and some state have accessed them. Massachusetts has a collaborative for education. New Hampshire has initiated PACE as a model for assessment. Colorado has created an “innovation zone”.  The language of “Alternative Assessment” carries for some, an implication of substandard. Ellen talked about using the language and work around “Authentic Assessment” which was prevalent in the 1980’s, and spoke about the fact that a more holistic assessment is more representative of an individual’s learning and abilities.

I asked Susan if she thought open-source education resources would help to bypass the entrenchment of current assessment methods by the monetization of assessments, (efforts such as Learnzillion, and our own OpenSourceEd.org).  Susan affirmed that “OER” is a part of the solution.

Barbara Peterson, board member from APS and former teacher, spoke about the need to foster teachers as professionals, and include “teacher voice” in the formation of future policy.

Jack Jekowski, from the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education spoke about the fact that the author of New Mexico’s evaluation system was recently published in a work about the inaccuracies of his own, and other systems like it, cited in their newsletter, here.

Senator Padilla was recognized for his sponsorship of Senate Joint Memorial 1, which has the potential to transform education in New Mexico under the flexibility of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The memorial asks New Mexico to create a pilot program that will design new ways of assessing our students, besides just standardized tests.  Article

He spoke about the role poverty plays in education, his own experience with poverty as a child, and how important efforts like this continue.

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An Adopted Problem For New Mexico

New Mexico is on the verge of dumbing down education by adopting the Next Generation Science Standards with two adjustments for our state:

1) they are not supported by science,
2) they are not standard.

Here is the bigger problem:  I learned today in a consortium of legislators, educators, and researchers, that after taking public comment on the proposed adoption, whatever the outcome of that comment, the Public Education Department of Governor Martinez, most likely will adopt those faulty standards anyway.   They will say a “significant number” of public comment was in support of the adoption, (they won’t provide statistics, or they will play with semantics) and they’ll say districts have discretion, but the outcome will be that New Mexico will officially adopt the rule, bypassing all democratic processes.

After we restore policy for the people of New Mexico, we will need to dismantle the Secretary of Education post.  This example should be enough for people from all affiliations to realize the importance of elevating education out of the election cycle. The fact that the next administration can sweep away everything done in this administration, by passing “rules”, should convince everyone to change the mechanism to a more publicly accountable system. The volatility of policy should not undermine “the best of our knowledge”, which is what science education, and any education, is supposed to be.

To read the specifics of the proposed “rule” here is the LANL foundation position paper:

https://www.lanlfoundation.org/news/science-standards-letter-to-ped

Word is, because of this “loophole”, we can expect many rules to be proclaimed over the next year.

Please still participate, to the best of our abilities we must.   Interested parties may provide comment on the proposed repeal and replacement of this state rule at the public hearing or may submit written comments, or both, to Jamie Gonzales, Policy Division, New Mexico Public Education Department, Room 101, 300 Don Gaspar Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, or by electronic mail at rule.feedback@state.nm.us, or fax to (505) 827-6681.  All written comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. (MDT) on the date of the public hearing.  The PED encourages the early submission of written comments.  The public comment period is from September 12, 2017 to October 16, 2017 at 5 p.m. (MDT)

 

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School Grades and Context

With the fresh start of each new school year, students, families, and teachers are welcomed back by the Public Education Department with a front-page story about the awful job they are doing, because apparently there isn’t enough animosity targeting schools.  The person substituting for the previous secretary of education has picked up where she left off, guns a’ blazing.  Important to school grades, and our community at large for passers-by and residents alike, is context.  Informing the community about that context would be encouragement, because, despite what is being touted at New Mexico’s Public Education Department, there is terrific work being done.  How’s the public flogging, testing, and underfunding of education helping that work?

The fact that scientists and mathematicians, locally and nationally, have disavowed, multiple times, the methods that the Public Education Department in New Mexico uses to grade students, teachers, and schools, should be noted with each article that is published, like the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes. (See references 1, 2, 3)  The public should know that there is little validity in the grades schools receive.  Media should juxtapose the “crime map” of the state with the “grade map“, and ask deeper questions, like “should we hold teachers accountable for the socioeconomic status of a child?“ which is still, after all is said and done, the closest correlation to test scores that we have.

Communities, with that information, can then begin to address trauma and poverty, which affect our families and cause the difficulties our state witnesses.  Diminishing schools, publicly humiliating the people who are hard at work in the fight to change these cycles, is harmful to the actual goal of helping those families. We have driven teachers out. (See reference 4)  There are hundreds of teaching vacancies.  Teachers continue to leave the state in droves, which is a bellwether for the state.  We should be looking for ways to bring them back and cheer for the ones who are still here, rather than denigrate the dedicated people who remain.

The hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on assessment each year would be better spent on food, clothing, shelter, therapy, and tutoring.  Acknowledging trauma and poverty as key issues is not “soft bigotry”, it is fact, which is lately out of fashion, but remains nonetheless.    To quote our school’s principal, “Nourishment, rather than measurement, is how a child grows.”  The people who would sell you the assessments and grades, and micromanagement down to a breath, couldn’t hold a candle to the principal at our school, or the many public servants that are my colleagues out there, who are doing the actual work.  But politicians should be trying to light candles, anyway, instead of constantly cursing this darkness. Their current course of action continues to add to the darkness.

Jeff Tuttle
Monte Vista Elementary School
Golden Apple Fellow

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Linked References:

  1. A group of scientists and mathematicians from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, who had reviewed the school grading system, and said the math used to come with those grades was “something like adding oranges and cows to derive pickup trucks. The result is not obviously meaningful.” https://www.abqjournal.com/122266/simplify-af-grading-formula-to-get-buyin.html
  1. The trend nationally of this kind of misuse of math in data interpretation, in this example for “Value Added Models” of teacher evaluation, caused the entire American Statistical Association to publish a position paper in April of 2014 which warned “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions.”  By this finding, 1% would be the most that test scores could be included in the evaluation of teachers, since there is not reliability in a number any higher. http://www.amstat.org/asa/files/pdfs/POL-ASAVAM-Statement.pdf
  1. The author of NM’s teacher evaluation rubric, Charlotte Danielson, expresses her concern for the misuse of her work: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/04/20/charlotte-danielson-on-rethinking-teacher-evaluation.html
  1. https://www.abqjournal.com/879333/nm-2ndhighest-in-teacher-turnover.html

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Note to self #1((ish)

 

Anybody who has lived more than 10 years in a single place is witness to the fact that humans impact the environment around them.  This is observably true.  The notion that a large number of people have a large impact upon the natural world is not conjecture, except as a device to distract people who are viewed as potential competitors for resources.  Shutting the eyes, mouth and ears to the witness of the destruction of the natural world by firing scientists serves well the purpose of keeping possible competitors for resources in the dark.  A silencing of the lambs.  Although this may increase the speed and depth of devastation, it will preserve for a few a lifestyle and perhaps even a life.

Cooperation, rather than competition, which is to say democracy rather than capitalism, works to spread knowledge rather than limit it, creates the distributed processing of a problem and hope for a solution.  The active recruitment of the populous for critical thought rather than loyalty replaces cynicism with faith.

Instead of being lulled to sleep by the white noise at the top, we should continue to pique each other’s consciousness, and continue the discussion, and search for solutions to the problems we face.  This is an attempt to keep myself awake, I hope it is helpful for you, too.

 

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Calling Scheherazade

Scheherazade, who saved herself by serialization, needs to stage a come-back and tell us a string of stories.  Not stories kissed with apocolypstic, but of survival, and thrival, but not tribal, if you know what I mean.   We need the positive imagined outcomes of humanity.  We need the narrative of peace and prosperity, compassion, and the continued existence of the variety of life on earth.   I know, it doesn’t sell on Netflix.   But we need to speak about possibilities and good outcomes, we need to make it popular to be unabashedly hopeful and forge a new reality, closer to the heart, as Rush have it.  

 

 

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