Saturday, January 31, 2015

Despite what they say, there really are "students who can't learn"

There are those who are fond of saying "every student can learn". It is roughly equivalent to arguing “it doesn't rain on parades.” Sometimes it does. Some students can't learn.

Among them; students who are not present. Whether by their chronic truancy or by their momentary inattention, students who are not present are “students who can't learn”. Similarly, those who don’t want to learn for any reason whatsoever, are “students who can't learn”.

When people talk about no child being unable to learn, I suppose that they are thinking longitudinally; over the long term. Over the long term they believe, a child can be neither so profoundly damaged nor so deeply disadvantaged, that they cannot learn. I don't believe that, but it’s beside the point. We need to be looking at learning, not in toto, but as an accumulation of momentary opportunities.

A child, who is able to learn, can learn only for the length of time that they are both present and wanting to learn. Even children who are routinely present and for the most, wanting to learn, spend a certain amount of the day every day, daydreaming, distracted or rebelling for some reason or another.

"A certain amount of the day" varies from student to student, classroom to classroom, and school to school. All of the “certain amounts of the day” add up to an astonishingly large part of the day.

Anyone who has not tried to teach a class

of thirty children with little more in common than their approximate age and socioeconomic status; sitting in five rows of six desks, each of them on the same page in the same book (that they can't read all that well), studying for the same test they will all take together on the same day,
has no idea how much of the day is wasted by students who are unengaged in their learning.

Education is not something one does “to” a learner. And, certainly not without their cooperation. The finest teacher imaginable, cannot make a horse “want” to drink.

Making education palatable to immature minds would be a huge step forward. Making education desirable gets us to the finish line. In order to do that, we are going to have to individualize their learning paths; in direction and speed.

It is time to stop trying to standardize the individual academic performances of thousands of learners. It is time to stop trying to standardize the performances of even two.

By creating independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity, by taking advantage of children's intrinsic motivation to learn, we will increase the likelihood creating large numbers of students who will be productively engaged in learning of some kind. They won’t be disrupting classrooms because they can't keep up.

We will create students who only occasionally actually need the attention of a "teacher", and when they do, that teacher will have the time to give that student individual attention because s/he will not be otherwise engaged in trying to keep 29 children all in step in a "learning line-dance".

We have made a deliberate choice to
  • standardize the individual educational growth of children with nothing more in common than their approximate age,
at the cost of
  • providing learning that is fun and interesting enough to maintain and reinforce the intrinsic motivation children bring to learning.
Based on that truth, we should be doing everything we can do, within reason of course, to make learning fun and interesting. Fun and interesting, the diametric opposite of standardized learning, standardized tests, and standardized testing.

It should be a fundamental tenet of education and learning; In the interests of rapid growth; if ever there are two or more ways to legitimately learn something, allow the student to choose between them, even if they pick on the basis of which is going to be the most "fun".

For those who think "suffering" should be part of learning and earning a diploma just like "it was in their day"; simply require graduates, in exchange for their diploma, to walk five miles uphill in snow and bare footed to retrieve it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

APS School Board's enforcement of Code of Ethics on Korte's conduct; selective at best

In the Journal this morning, coverage of the latest APS School Board spat, link.

They report;

The Albuquerque Public Schools board executive committee has sent a letter to board member Kathy Korte saying she violated APS’ code of ethics when she reprimanded spokeswoman Monica Armenta in recent emails.
The Journal reports
The executive committee’s letter told Korte her emails violated APS’ code of ethics, which states board members should “delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent and establish a process for accountability of administrators.”
The words,
“delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent and establish a process for accountability of administrators.”  
are a cut and paste from the School Board Code of Ethics, link.
For the Executive Committee to call it "APS' Code of Ethics" is misleading.

Heretofore, the board's code of ethics was utterly unenforceable.  There was no venue where a complaint could be filed against them for violations of the code.  There was no place where a complainant would find due process; a principled resolution based on impartial adjudication and fully free of appearances of impropriety and conflicts of interests, and fear of retaliation.

Now we find that their code is enforceable after all.
All they have to do is to convene an in secret meeting of three board members (one short of a quorum) and decide to take action.
The letter... was signed by the three members of the board’s executive committee – President Analee Maestas, Vice President Don Duran and Secretary Steven Michael Quezada.
Their code of conduct can be enforced,
albeit selectively and only upon each other.

Korte is guilty of violating the School Board's Code of Ethics.
“I do hate meddling in APS employee affairs,” Korte said.
Good for her.  At least she "hates"it when circumstances make it "necessary" for her to violate their Code of ethics.

Their letter to Korte said that if she chose not to alter her behavior, “the executive committee’s concerns will be brought to the full board for consideration of formal action by the Board of Education regarding your refusal or inability to adhere to these standards.”  emphasis added

Their legitimate course of action in the first place; before the letter of reprimand is written and delivered.
Outgoing School Board Member
Marty Esquivel offered;
"It is important that other board members respond in a “swift and firm” manner so other employees can be assured a similar thing won’t happen to them."
Noteworthy; in the eight years
Esquivel has been on the board,
his resistance to school board
members being actually, honestly
accountable for their conduct
has cost the operational fund
nearly a million dollars.

School Board Member Lorenzo
Garcia stood in support of a
discussion in a meeting, saying
“We need to talk about it.”
Board member David Peercy's contribution;
“It’s not a big deal, and that’s the point,” Peercy said. “You’ve got to realize just because we have things we need to discuss – it’s OK.”
Peercy misses the point entirely.

Or, he would rather we miss the point entirely.

It isn't a big deal that you
"have things to discuss",
it is your relentless insistence
on discussing public interests
in meetings in secret that is a
"big deal".

Anything a politician or public servant does in unnecessary secret from the people they serve, is a "big deal".

“I have no idea what board
member Korte was specifically
upset about,” Armenta said
in an interview Friday.
For her part, "victim" and APS
Exec Director of Communications
Monica Armenta can't imagine
what all the fuss is about.

She would have us believe;

she never asked Marilyn Beck
any untoward questions, ever.

photos Mark Bralley


I took the liberty of posting a comment directly on the Journal report.  It read;
The Executive Committee, Maestas, Duran and Quesada, have the authority ONLY to put Korte's chastisement on the agenda of a meeting that complies with the NM OMA. The gang of three, not even a quorum under the law, have no more legitimate authority to chastise Korte, than Korte has to chastise Beck.

All of this illuminates the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the senior-most leadership of the APS. And, points to the need for an independent examination and review of executive and administrative standards and accountability.

It should be done and made public before they hire the next superintendent.

The scandal requires investigation and report by the Journal. It's what they're supposed to do. It's the reason why they enjoy Constitutional protection of their human right to be the press, in order that they can tell the people how their power and their resources are being spent. That so voters can hold politicians and public servants accountable for their conduct and competence in their public service.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Truancy; before and after

Truancy interferes with any model for educating children and requiring them to be in a certain place at a certain time doing the same thing everybody else is doing.

In public schools; schools where standardizing learning is the priority; students must be seated in one of thirty desks in five rows of six; cemetery seating.  There to be educated in unison with twenty nine other kids of approximately the same age and nothing much else in common.  There is no change in sight.

We can address truancy before it happens or after.
The one so much preferable to the other.

Truants are truant in general, for one of two reasons;

  1. reasons beyond their control, and
  2. because school sucks.
For too many students, school is hard and not much fun.
Except for opportunity to goof around with friends, largely
without regard for the learning of other students,
they see nothing for them at school.

To some extent, there is little to be done about that;
sometimes life is neither fun nor interesting and immature souls will rebel.  They will not work hard; they will not even attend; no matter what you do after they are truant.

On the other hand, we could agree that as long as reasonable standards are met, public school education should be as fun and interesting and individualized as it can be made.

Why not?

Primarily because standardization of individual educational performance is the top priority and more important than creating independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity.

The most disturbing aspect of truancy in the APS is that "they" are going to talk about every possible solution except abandoning cemetery seating, standardized tests and standardized testing; likely the single best solution they could ever consider.

There is a necessary and perhaps inevitable choice to be made between individualization and standardization in public school education.

Consequently there is a need for open and honest discussion about the mission of the APS.  Should we continue to focus our energy and resources on the effort to standardize learning, or can we consider instead, individualizing learning; creating independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity?

The switch from standardization to individualization of necessity entails delegating power and resources.  School Boards and superintendents and assistant superintendents will not surrender willingly, the power they hold.  It's not the way they roll; it isn't in human nature.

They will resist however and wherever they can.

Primarily by stonewalling; pretending they don't know that there's a question before them.

Expect considerable foot dragging as well, from the people who sell standardized tests and standardized testing services worth millions and millions of dollars every year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

APS School Board Member chairs really did cost taxpayers a bundle

In 2007, the "leadership" of the APS was about building for themselves, a fancy new board room in the bowels of their castle keep at 6400 Uptown Blvd.

Though there were real needs elsewhere for the capital funds they spent at 6400 Uptown, they built an utterly unjustifiable board room and went over budget.

I was informed that they paid more than $800 dollars a piece for the leather chairs behind the dais.  I have been trying ever since, to find out if the report was true.

I even asked APS Supt Winston Brooks during a press conference, if the report was true.

He became very upset at the question but promised me the truth "by noon".

I'm still waiting.

When APS hosted the candidate forum in the John Milne Community Board Room, I found myself randomly and ironically, sitting in Marty Esquivel's seat. I was able to obtain a model number from the bottom of a chair.

I contacted the manufacturer/dealer to inquire about the cost of the chair and was told;
The 5252 part number belongs to the Leader Upholstered chair. Unfortunately this chair has been discontinued but I can recommend the Leader Knit chair or the ReAlign chair as a replacement.
Those two fabric chairs before taxes run $950 to $1,212 for the Leader Knit, and $657 for the ReAlign, link.

APS Interim Supt Brad Winter will not tell us how much he paid for the chairs board members sit in twice a month for two hours.  At this point, $800 looks low.  Winter may have personally authorized a thousand dollars a piece for those chairs when at the same time, students at Susie Rayos Marmon Elementary School were attending classes in worn out portables with leaking roofs.

Winter steadfastly refuses to produce a candid, forthright an honest accounting of spending at 6400 Uptown.

Millions of dollars were spent sprucing up the twins.  They were spent at a time when auditors found in the APS Financial Department;
  1. inadequate standards
  2. inadequate accountability to such standards as there were, and
  3. inadequate record keeping
the trifecta of public corruption, embezzlement and fraud.

The Journal steadfastly refuses to investigate and report upon credible allegations and evidence of an ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

Even in the face of a school board election and the hiring of Winter's replacement.

To their everlasting shame.

photos Mark Bralley

Journal endorsement baseless?

This is not about whom the editors endorsed (or didn't) link.

It is about the basis of their endorsement.

I aver and allege, their entire endorsement is based on the responses candidates wrote to six questions asked by the Journal.  Candidates were given 50 words; the equivalent of 20 seconds, to answer.

The editors did not actually interview a single candidate.

They chose to not cover stories that would influence voters, including but not limited to;

  • The ethics, standards and accountability crisis and scandal in the leadership of the APS, or
  • the possibility of community member seats on school board committees.

The endorsed candidates whom they may well never have even met.

They endorsed a candidate who on page one they write, link;
they must sue in District Court in order to compel to tell the simple truth about her stewardship of the people's trust and treasure.

I will bow of course, as usual, to controverting evidence.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Push back on the IPRA; time to fight?

In the Journal, link,

"New Mexico State University plans to propose extensive changes to restrict the reach of the state’s public records law – amendments that transparency advocates call “troubling” and vow to fight."
The people's power and resources will be spent in an effort to further insulate the people whose power and resources they are, from the ethically redacted truth about how they are being wielded and spent.

The power and resources belong to the people.  The whole truth about how they are being spent, belongs to the people.  Some parts of the truth enjoy ethical redaction.  The rest are subject to rather immediate production.
"NMSU President and former Gov. Garrey Carruthers said the effort stems from the university’s recent experience hiring a new athletics director.

... several qualified candidates pulled out of the running when they knew their names could be made public."
The government in the person of Garry Carruthers describes as still "qualified"; candidates whose basic dishonesty is evident to the eye.

How candid, forthright and honest are those "qualified" wo/men being with their current stake and interest holders?

What about the trust those people have placed in men and women who are hiding the truth
about their intention to stay where they are?

If the people created open meetings and public records laws from scratch, this is not what they would have come up with.  We got here because we failed to notice how bad it was getting and for how long; the people aren't feeling the heat.

In so far as sunshine is a disinfectant,
darkness is a disease; a most infectious disease.

The terms of public service are the prerogative of the people, not of the servants.

This is a boiling frog, wikilink, moment in government in New Mexico.  This the place where the people are supposed to stand up and say no.

We cannot sit back and do nothing while control over our power and resources slips further and further from our grasp.

It only begins with hiding the truth.  There is a tipping point.
At some point it really will be too late to act.
If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?”― John E. Lewis

Friday, January 23, 2015

"... as we approach an off-the-radar, Feb. 3 school board election ...",

wrote, outgoing APS
School Board Member
Marty Esquivel in the
Journal in December,
in his I'm outta here
op-ed farewell, link.

Begging a question;

why is the February school board election
admittedly "off-the-radar"*?
*forgotten; ignored

Followed by; How can that be?
Skipping ahead through; who is keeping it off the radar?
to What and or who is the radar?

The "radar" are the pages in the Journal and segments of broadcast TV.

The school board election, more importantly the issues in the school board election are being kept "off the pages" of the newspaper and "off the broadcasts" of TV news.

They are kept off by the likes of the Journal and Journal Editor in Chief Kent Walz, and  by the NM Broadcasters Association affiliate stations; KRQE, KOAT, and KOB TV and their news directors and or owners.
The "radar" in this context doesn't include the small fry of the press, or even newspaper and TV reporters.   None of them swing a big enough bat to keep anything off the radar.

Truth be known, none of them swing a big enough bat to put something on the radar against the will of the establishment's press.

Walz and the like, whose nearly sacred obligation it is to inform the democracy; to keep elections on-the-radar haven chosen otherwise.

Those whose duty it is to spend their barrels of ink and hours of broadcasting reporting candidly, forthrightly and honestly on the spending of the peoples resources and the wielding of the power by school board members and superintendents have chosen otherwise.

Esquivel went on to wonder;
"... why the governance of our most important
public institution gets so little voter attention 
when there is so much at stake."
in the Albuquerque Journal; a newspaper that hasn't
really promoted a school board election ever;
whose surreptitious self interests are served apparently,
by little voter attention in School Board elections.

Are they complicit in the cover up of an ethics, standards and accountability scandal?  Are they complacent?  Are they waiting for the scandal to ripen*?

*Not reporting a disaster,
so they can report on a bigger disaster.
Not reporting a small fire
so they can report on a bigger fire.

photo Mark Bralley

One of my opponents enjoys the support of some powerful politicians

The have invested some political capital in my opponent's interests in the election.

I am wondering if any one of them would like to invest some political capital in support of something that would serve everyone's interests; participatory decision making at the committee level in the leadership of the APS.

Seats for communities and community members
on APS School Board Committees.
Gut check time.

"Community members seats" surprisingly hard to sell

I have been trying for awhile to explain to groups of people who feel left out of decision making, that they can have seats at APS school board committee meetings; that the seats are there for the taking.

It doesn't seem to resonate.

Part of the problem is the jump from endorsing the possibility of community member seats to the possibilities of failure; what if, what if, what if.  We lose sight of the forest for the trees.

The question is not;
can participatory decision making at the committee level be made to work?

The question is;

Do we want participatory decision making at the committee level to work? 
Do school board members and superintendents really want to sit at roundtables with representatives of communities and community members and engage in open and honest two-way communication with the communities and community members they serve?
If school board members really want to establish more seats at the table, you could ask them;
do you support community member seats
on APS school board committees?
they would answer "yes". I do.

Any answer except yes,
including not answering the question at all,
means no.

There is no time, no day, no place where communities and community members have the close attention of the leadership of the APS.  No venue where they can expect to engage in any open and honest two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the people they serve.

There is no place where the leadership of the APS are expected to respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly to legitimate questions about the public interests and their public service.

There are two seats on the Audit Committee; already, in school board policy.

It was pointed out in the recognition ceremony for the newest community member on the Audit Committee, that she had gotten the seat by "raising her hand".

A perfectly reasonable prerequisite of taking one's seat
at the table where one's interests are at stake.

Clear choice in school board election

Candidates who want to govern
with good intention. They promise to wield our
power and spend our resources with our interests
first. But they still intend to govern.
Candidates who stand in support of returning control 
over power and resources to those whose 
power and resources they are.
Candidates who would hold close, the control over
our power and resources to spend according to their
"good intention".
Candidates who would delegate resources and decision
making power to the lowest practical level.
Those who have voiced no objection to
decision making in meetings in secret
from interest and stakeholders.
Those would create community member seats on
all school board committees.
Those whose silence gives consent to the ethics, standards and
accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.
Those who insist upon an immediate independent
 examination and review of executive and administrative
ethics standards and accountability in the APS.
Those who would then consider the findings of the review
in meetings in secret redacting as much of the truth
as the law and legal weaselry will allow.
Those would would consider the findings in open and
honest public discussion; redacting only what
the spirit of the law absolutely requires.
Those who hold the truth as if it were their own,
producing only what the law absolutely requires.
Those who advocate for transparency limited only
by reading the law ethically.
Those would rather have their own hand on the tiller,
piloting the district according to their "good intention".

Those who would change the
direction of the APS by
changing the decision making
model to participatory decision
making; government of, by,
and for the people.

Can you handle the truth? 
Can you help steer the boat?

Act in support of community member seats on school board committees.

Act like you care.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rules mean little to would be senior-most role models of student standards of conduct.

In the Journal District 4 profiles, link; please find evidence that the rules don't apply to everybody.

However onerous are the rules; they are nevertheless the rules.

One of the greatest obstacles for teachers and learning is the enforcement of rules that protect primarily, the rights of learners.

One of the greatest obstacles to the enforcement of rules is the permission of prohibited behavior.

When some are allowed to ignore the rules, then, in immature minds and reasoning; everyone is allowed to ignore the rules.  If not ignore, then "move" the line between the acceptable and the unacceptable.  The grayer the line, the harder it is to defend.

The rules of the Journal questionnaire and the process in general are onerous.  That positions on complicated issues can be explained in two minutes or fifty words, is self evident nonsense.  Fifty words, by the way, is the same as being given 20 seconds to respond to the question.

I protested the arbitrary and unreasonable constraint, and then I complied with it.

Not every other candidate did.

Those that did not, now owe students an explanation.
In words that every student can understand;

why are they expected to abide by the rules,
while you are not.
Why they are "expected to model and promote actual honest accountability to the Pillars of Character Counts!" a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct, and you are not?

School board members and superintendents establish and enforce standards of conduct on students.

Do we, or not,
expect school board members and superintendents;
to show students and staff what that looks like
to hold oneself honest and actually accountable
to the same standards of conduct
they establish and enforce on students and staff?

There is not one single school board member or senior administrator who will stand up as role model of accountability to the Pillars of Character Counts!.  Not one who will stand up and swear;
I am ready and willing and able to show students what it looks like to hold oneself honestly accountability to standards of conduct including courage and character and honor.
If we really want children to grow into adults who embrace character and courage and honor, some one is going to show them what they look like.

Who is going to show students what willing accountability looks like?  All day every day, children are witness to begrudging accountability.  They grow increasingly and only begrudgingly accountable.  Is that want we want?

Somebody needs to do something and
that "somebody" cannot continue to be
somebody else.

Unk first observed;
What is everybody's job is nobody's job;
a short story about four people named 
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. 
There was an important job to be done and 
Everybody was asked to do it. 
Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. 
Anybody could have done it, 
but Nobody did it.
Who is finally responsible for giving students the opportunity to make informed choices about the standards of conduct they will embrace as adults?

The very most basic question is;
Whether there are going to be honest to God role models for students and staff in the Albuquerque public schools.  Are we going to expect school board members and superintendents to model and promote honest actual accountability to the Pillars of Character Counts!*?
*or any other higher standards of conduct than the law; the standards of conduct that all "higher standards of conduct" are higher than.

This is only about Character Counts! because according to past and current school board policy, those happen to be the actual standards of conduct for students in the APS.
This isn't really about  CC! per se.  This is about actual accountability to any standards of conduct at all that require their candor, forthrightness and honesty with stake and interest holders.

They, the school board and Journal et al,
are not going to bring up ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS.

Therefore, you must.

Insist upon an independent examination and review of ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS.

Insist that the findings be produced to public knowledge
before the next superintendent is hired.

Journal coverage; District 4

In the Journal this morning, link, a report on the contest in District 4.

About me was written;

A key part of candidate Charles “Ched” MacQuigg’s appeals to voters is that he wants to make the board more responsive to community and teacher input.

MacQuigg, 64, a former APS teacher, said he would like the district to hire an outside entity to conduct an ethics review of APS administration and its practices.

MacQuigg sued the district because the school board told him he could not attend board meetings, saying his behavior was disruptive. He vehemently denies his behavior was disruptive. A District Court judge granted a temporary injunction allowing him to return to board meetings.
To which I would add;
Not only do I vehemently deny that I ever disrupted school board meetings or did any of the other things they allege, but there is not one shred of actual evidence to support any of their allegations that I did.

And that the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court who reviewed the evidence found;
  • "... that it was what Plaintiff said rather than any non-verbal conduct that offended the Board and led to his expulsion."
  • "There is no serious question here that the speech that Plaintiff typically engages in at Board meetings constitutes protected speech."
  • "... that although Plaintiff’s remarks were addressed to individual Board members and APS administrators, his remarks could not reasonably have been understood as personal attacks on the persons to whom they were addressed."
  • ... the justifications offered by the Board are pretexts masking viewpoint discrimination.
The Journal chose to not report that taxpayers have spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on a non-viable defense in search of yet more admissions of no guilt.

Korte Armenta brouhaha - tip of an iceberg

The now public spat between School Board Member and candidate Kathy Korte and the $110K a year Executive Director Monica Armenta, link, is quite literally the tip of an iceberg;

Below the surface; yet to see the light of day in any Journal investigation and report;

  • Winter and the good ol' boys and girls' oligarchical structure doesn't include a venue where an Executive Director can question the performance of a subordinate without incurring the personal wrath of a school board member.  Or they could point to it.
  • Winter and the good ol' boys oligarchy doesn't provide a venue where an Executive Director can question the performance of a subordinate without incurring the personal wrath of a school board member. Or they could point to it.
    This though School Board members are often reminded specifically and explicitly; they are not to be throwing their weight around any where any time except during legitimate meetings of the school board.
  • There is no place in the entire APS where an employee can file a complaint, and where that complaint is guaranteed due process.  Or they could point to it.
  • The leadership of the APS spends millions of operational dollars every year, litigating their way out of accountability even to the law by means of expensive admissions of no guilt settlement with complaints who trade cash for personal vindication.   Or they would deny it.
  • There is no place where an employee can file a complaint against an administrator or school board member and where that is free of the appearances of conflicts of interests and impropriety.  Or they could point to it.
  • That there is a culture of fear of retaliation against complainants and whistleblowers.  Or they would deny it.
  • That there is an ongoing and deeply rooted culture that enables public corruption and incompetence by failing to provide actual honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence in politics and public service in the APS. Or they could point to those standards and to their actual and honest accountability to them.
  • That Korte and the school board to this day relentlessly refuse to talk openly and honestly about the standards of conduct that bind them and their actual honest accountability to them, points to their lack of courage and or competence.  Or they would discuss openly and honestly; their standards and their accountability to them.
  • It ended up in the newspaper; ergo Interim Superintendent Brad Winter and the good ol' boys aren't doing as wonderful a job as the Journal editors would have you believe, link.
If school board member Kathy Korte or any other school board member thought employees needed protection from administrators, she and they should have provided it for all employees long ago, and not just now and not just for her and their political allies.

photos Mark Bralley