Friday, November 27, 2015

APS discipline data; red herring

In July of this year, APS created a report called Disciplinary Infractions For School Year 2014-2015.  It is not posted on APS' award winning website.   I wouldn't put it past them to have suppressed report while the wheels were coming off the Valentino administration and until the dust settled.

APS produced for, or released to, KOB TV, a copy of the report and KOB followed up with a report of their own link.  I asked KOB whether the district had sent them the report or if KOB had asked for it.  They didn't respond.

The deception begins with the title; it's misleading.  The report is actually of an over-representation of minority students in reports about discipline problems.  The over-representation of minorities appears real (the statistics are unreliable and often invalid) and likely flows from one or both of two springs;

  1. minority students actually do break more rules more of the time, and or
  2. minority students are disproportionately singled out for prosecution by racist enforcement.
Boys are reported more frequently than girls in every category; and begs the same question; are boys
  1. over misbehaving, or is their apparent over misbehaving 
  2. a manifestation of enforcement bias?
As you can imagine, the possibilities stir up some passion, but are not really the point.  Either or both are red herring.

The leadership of the APS would like to distract attention from student discipline in general.  The problem we need to keep our eyes on is discipline in general in schools and classrooms.

Student discipline overall, is getting worse every year.
Disruptive students are getting more disruptive and there are more of them.  They're having an increasingly negative effect on the learning by other students. 

Student discipline in APS is getting worse every year.
(I will bow to controverting data.)

If we want to do anything about student discipline problems, we need data.  The data used in the report in question is flawed in a number of ways;
  • only the most severe of multiple infractions are recorded and only the most severe were considered in the report.
  • in order to create a more manageable format "several infractions have been grouped together" (conflation) and
  • there is little consistency in record keeping* (*Oh yes, by the way,  we almost forgot;
    there isn't any real, reliable record keeping going on).
The leadership of the APS doesn't collect data on student discipline, not really.  They never have.  Student discipline is first and foremost an administrative responsibility.  If there is a failure to keep schools under the control of adults, it is an administrative failure.

That administrators don't keep records documenting their failures is not hard to understand; it is human nature.  In the APS, it is encouraged and enabled by a lack of any real consequences for administrators who don't document their problems.

The data they do collect is often conflated to render it useless.  Once, they conflated bullying and vandalism statistics.  Not because one has anything at all to do with the other, but more likely, in order to render bullying statistics meaningless.  APS has bullying problems they would like not to fully acknowledge.

There is a conflict of interest that comes with administrators reporting disruptive behavior.  The more disruptive behavior an administrator reports, the fewer unhappy parents they have to deal with, and the less likely they are to be promoted, and the worse their school looks.

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The APS Executive Director, Office of Accountability and Reporting Rose-Ann McKernan candidly admitted; "It is impossible to address the issues at the heard of school discipline when the information available is based on variable record-keeping." emphasis added

"Variable record-keeping".  You have to love it.  Talk about bureaucratic doublespeak; administrators not doing their jobs, and instead of being held accountable, it is all excused as "variable record-keeping".

Nearly 28,000 reports were made of "generally disorderly conduct"; defiance of school personnel, disrespect, general disruptive conduct, inappropriate or abusive language, conflict with a student, fighting and general violence.

Considering that only a handful of these acts were reported, the real number of disruptions must be higher.  It is much higher.  I wouldn't be surprised it if were five times higher.

So what are we going to do about 150,000 disruptions a year?

We are going to do nothing.  We are going to do nothing because it is impossible to address the issue unless you have good data, and the leadership of the APS, by their own deliberate choice, will not collect that data.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

KOB dancing around APS cover ups

KOB TV is leading the local affiliates in coverage, link, of the efforts of APS school board members to keep former APS Supt. Winston Brooks' misconduct secret from stake and interest holders.

KOB's current headline;

4 Investigates: Did APS Board break rules in Brooks investigation?
Well yeah, they did.

There is nothing new to conclude from KOB's "investigation".  Aside from specific examples, they have reported nothing that I haven't been writing for nearly a decade;
APS administrators and school board members are not actually, honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.
KOB is gathering the low hanging fruit.  They could, with just a little more effort, expose the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

The downside for KOB, is that someone is bound to ask;
why didn't you investigate and report on the scandal years ago?

Is there "honest to God accountability" in the leadership of the APS, or not?

Nearly a decade ago, auditors from the Council of the Great City Schools found what they described as a “culture” of fear of retaliation against whistle blower and other complainants.

Nothing has changed.

The premise is easily tested; ask an APS employee at any level;

is there a widespread belief that retaliation will follow filing of a complaint against an administrator?
Their answer will be yes; hell yes.

Whether the belief is justified is moot; perception is reality.
In fact, it is entirely justified.

The test is simple; all you have to do is look at their record (after prying it loose in court). See what they do to complainants.

They're spending millions of operational dollars on litigation and legal weaselry in order to pound complaints into accepting their “admissions of no guilt” in settlements. Filing a complaint against any one of them is a brutal process; ask anyone who has filed one.

Filing a complaint against any one of them is filing a complaint against all of them, and against the APS/litigation industry and all the power and resources they have usurped. They and their lawyers wield power and squander operational dollars without limit and without real oversight.

A culture of fear of retaliation is a useful tool in the hands of the unscrupulous and the powerful; they use it (routinely) to escape accountability for their incompetence and or corruption.

There is no doubt that Winston Brooks created fear of retaliation against complainants. There is no doubt that, rather than admit their hire was deeply flawed, the school board tried to cover it all up.

It is important, in the face of the upcoming bond issue election, to know whether these are isolated instances of incompetence and corruption.

I have argued for decades that they are not. I have argued for decades that administrators and school board members are not actually, honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.

If I am correct;
  • it would be reckless of taxpayers to trust their stewardship over another $70M tax dollars. And
  • the Journal, according to their obligation to inform the democracy, should expose the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.
If I am wrong,
  • the Journal should expose the honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within politics and public service in APS. 
The Journal should reassure voters that their continued confidence in the stewardship over millions and millions of dollars is justified.

The editors will at some point, take a stance on the APS bond issue election. They will encourage voters to support a shot in the arm for the local education/construction industry.

What they will not do, is to investigate and report upon honest to God accountability in the leadership of the APS.  Why not? What good and ethical justification can there be?

At best, they are complacent about the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

At worst, the Journal editors and or owners, are complicit in its cover up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

APS ethics, standards and accountability scandal coming to light

Coverage in the Journal, link, and on KOB, link, might lead a less cynical person to believe that APS' house of cards; ethics, standards and accountability, is about to collapse.

It isn't really so much what former APS Supt. Winston Brooks did, as it is, how did the school board handle the complaints about what he did.  Allegedly.

None of the nine people who filed legitimate complaints against Winston Brooks found due process for their complaints.

They filed their complaints with then School Board President Analee Maestas.  This though Maestas had no place in any legitimate complaint process; she was personally conflicted and officially powerless to oversee, or in fact even be, part of any complaint resolution process.

What complainants were treated to instead, was a cover up of their complaints while Maestas struggled desperately to "fix" them without acknowledging their existence.

That is their modus operandi; cover up problems while solving them.  It's why they are so pathetically bad at problem solving.

Again, and still, none of this would be going on except that the establishment's press (the owners and news editors and directors at the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, and KOB TV) are complicit in, or at the very best, complacent regarding the ongoing cover up of an ethics, standards and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Toulouse Oliver demands transparency

Bernalillo County Clerk and
Secretary of State hopeful
Maggie Toulouse Oliver has
joined a long list of politicians
"demanding" more transparency
in state government, link.

In so doing, she becomes only
the latest to demand;
  • what is not now and 
  • what never has been.

Things are the way they are as the proximate result of human nature; power corrupts and the abuse of power is enabled by a lack of transparency.

There is no reason to believe state legislators will do anything any differently than they always have.  The best predictor of future performance is past and current performance.

Oliver offers no specific plan to address the nature of politicians, except to heighten the demand that it change.

Good luck Ms. Toulouse Oliver;
let us know how things work out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

APS board to ban "sagging". Why?

"Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers or jeans which sag so that the top of the trousers or jeans are significantly below the waist, sometimes revealing much of the underwear." wikilink

Tonight, the school board will approve the Student Dress Procedural Directive, link.  I am assuming it was passed last night during a their policy committee meeting, link; I did not attend.  I am assuming it will pass during the meeting tonight, link.  The procedural directive reads in significant part;

“Prohibited clothing and accessories include, but are not limited to …
  • "Sagging", or the wearing of pants below the waist and/or in a manner that allows underwear or bare skin to show, and "bagging", or the wearing of excessively baggy pants with low hanging crotches.”
This isn't a new policy; sagging has been prohibited on APS campuses for decades.  Enforcement has been a nightmare, link.  If you go to any APS high school, you will see students sagging.  (I will bow as always, to controverting evidence.)

This is not about sagging. 
This is about the permission of prohibited behavior.

The board and senior administration have no intention to enforce the prohibition.  They will do as they have always done; prohibit sagging and then allow and enable it.

This is about telling students they can't do something and then letting them do it anyway, and right under your nose.  This isn't about kids sneaking a smoke behind a building somewhere, it is about a student lighting up and blowing smoke in the faces of adults who told him "smoking is prohibited".

It is in your face defiance.

Who is in charge at these schools; the adults who write the rules or the students who deliberately disobey them?

Students are in charge at any school where kids are permitted to sag.  Students are in charge whenever and wherever they openly disobey rules.

Major stakeholders in any procedural directive requiring enforcement, are teachers.  It is teachers, not administrators and not school board members who bear the brunt of the enforcement burden; instead of teaching!

Had they been asked, they might have advised; without executive and administrative support, enforcement of a dress code is exceedingly difficult, consumes enormous amounts of time and energy, is probably not worth the cost, and not a hill worth dying on in the first place.

All this though the procedural directive reads quite clearly;
Principals shall interpret and enforce the dress code of his/her school. (emphasis added)
The word "interpret" by the way, has its own special meaning for principals.  Every law that gets laid down by the board, comes with a "weasel clause" for administrators use when they want to not enforce a rule.  This particular dress code has it own weasel clauses, but the clearest statement of concept can be found in the Student Behavior Handbook.  It reads in significant part;
Nothing in the following is intended to prevent ... a principal or other administrator from using his/her best judgment with respect to a particular situation. (emphasis added)
A principal or other administrator's "best judgement" is not subject to review.  Whatever the judgement was, however bad, however indefensible, if it was their "best" judgement, it's alright.

The practical effect is that a teacher can bring a student to the office for consequences for their deliberate disobedience of a rule, and the principal can use his or her "best judgement" in providing no consequence.

Why would an an administrator provide no consequence for even deliberate disobedience? 

You aren't allowed to ask that question; "best judgement" is not subject to review. 

If you push it, you end up in a decades long battle battle with an army of lawyers invested in preventing senior administrators and school board members from bearing the consequences of their own deliberate incompetence and corruption.

A lot of people argue mistakenly, that teacher unions protect bad teachers from just consequences.  APS lawyers,
  • underwritten by unlimited access to operational funds 
  • to spend without any real oversight, 
  • on litigation and legal weaselry, 
provide an equivalent service to board members and senior administrators; they keep incompetent and corrupt administrators and board members from feeling just consequences.

Nothing has changed.  After everything that has happened in the last year, nothing has changed.  The board remains oblivious to anyone but themselves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

State Auditor cites APS, Mora and Española schools districts for vetting failures.

"Today, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) issued a statewide Risk Advisory, link, to alert schools and school districts to the risks of non-compliance with the School Personnel Act. The Act covers two key safeguards related to the professionals who educate the children of New Mexico: licensure and background checks. The Risk Advisory provides notice to management and administrators to review internal controls to ensure proper policies are implemented."

“Our state has seen problems with background checks and licenses in school districts in Albuquerque, Mora and Española,” said State Auditor Tim Keller. “Schools need to come into compliance to ensure the safety of children and educators, as well as to safeguard public funds.”

The question is not so much, is APS failing to properly vet employees, but why?  Why after nearly a hundred years in business, why isn't APS getting it right; why can't APS get it right?

Who dropped the ball?

Whose head should roll?

What will be their consequence instead?

Ball is in Reedy's court - we await her response

By way of background;

aps image
Interim APS Supt. Raquel Reedy
is in a bind.  She has inherited a
whole bunch of problems up to
and including a cover up of a
cover up of felony criminal
misconduct involving APS senior
administrators and the leadership
of their publicly funded private police force.

Because there is so much secrecy surrounding problems in leadership of the APS, even Reedy really has no idea how bad things actually are.  She admitted as much to the Journal, link;
“I don’t have the whole picture – nobody does.
Reedy needs to know the truth even if only to help her hide it more effectively.

aisd photo
So she "hired" former APS good ol' boy Michael Houser and a couple of his subordinates to come and "investigate".

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary; Houser's investigative findings are to become "the property" of the leadership of the APS.  They will disseminate them according to their own interests.

If the findings are embarrassing, shaming or indicting, the leadership of the APS will spend operational funds without limit and without real oversight, on litigation and legal weaselry in order to keep the records hidden until their relevance expires.

That is is exactly what they did with the findings and evidence of felony corruption in the leadership of their police force, link.  They hid public records behind an army of lawyers until statutes of limitation finally expired on felony criminal misconduct.

In any event, the Journal editors called bullshit on Reedy's plan in an editorial yesterday; link.

The ball is in Reedy's court; the editors have called her out.  She has only two choices; respond to their call or ignore it; change her plan or plunge ahead with it as is.

Reedy has no choice but to plunge ahead with an investigation that reeks of appearances of conflicts of interests and impropriety.  She has no choice because she has to do some kind of investigation and a real investigation by independent investigators would bring down their house of cards.

Reedy can only afford to "hire" an investigator who is willing keep what they find secret from stake and interest holders.

I expect that what she and the leadership of the APS will do, is to simply ignore the editorial.

I expect that what the editors will do, is to simply ignore her ignoring them.

Else, they would be order up an investigation and report of their own, on ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who wrote this morning's Journal editorial; what have they done with editors?

In the Journal this morning, link, someone wrote an exposé of circumstances you first read about here last Thursday;  APS wants to "hire" one of their old good ole boys to investigate their current incompetence and corruption*.

*Whatever it is that is wrong with the leadership of the APS, flows from one or both of two wells;

  1. incompetence; misfeasance; people not knowing how to do their jobs, and or
  2. corruption; non or malfeasance, people choosing to not do their jobs.
The 100% effective cure for incompetence and corruption is high standards and honest to God accountability to them.

The are only two kinds of circumstances leading to success or failure in any endeavor;
  1. circumstances beyond control, and
  2. circumstances within control.
By definition, we cannot do anything about the circumstances beyond control.  By definition, we can do something about circumstances within our control.  There are no two circumstances within our control that are more important than standards and accountability.

If the standards of conduct and competence are high enough, and if people are held actually and honestly accountable to them, their endeavor will succeed.  If the standards are too low, or if they are not really accountable to meaningful standards, the endeavor will fail.  It is that simple.

That the leadership of the APS refuses even to talk about their ethics, standards and accountability is "proof" of problems with one or all three.  Problems so bad, so embarrassing, shaming or indicting, that they need to keep them secret from stake and interest holders.

That the Journal is yet assign a competent reporter to investigate and report upon ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS is I believe, "proof" that Kent Walz and the Journal are part of the cover up of the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

photo Mark Bralley