Friday, January 31, 2014

APS lawyers' ethical misconduct; you be the judge.

For the purposes of this post, ethical means ethical as it is conceptualized APS student standards of conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!; a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct and decision making.  Because the Pillars are the standards of conduct for students, they are the standards of conduct for their senior-most role models; the senior administration and school board.

The "leadership" of the APS cannot pretend to be accountable to high standards as role models and claim then different, lower standards as defendants in legal proceedings.  If they think it's OK, then they need to explain exactly why it is OK, and in words any child can understand.

Bralley by Mary Ellen Broadrick
APS is being sued by Mark Bralley.  Bralley is a photojournalist and blogger.

He is suing APS over their several violations of his civil rights as a citizen and as a member of the press.

The Journal is yet to cover the story.

Journal Managing Editor Kent Walz and the Journal have yet to acknowledge the litigation.  Co-incidentally, that litigation is not going to go well for the leadership of the APS nor for students, teachers and taxpayers.

The Journal, as a newspaper of record, has an obligation to inform the democracy when their power and resources are at stake.  The Journal knows the drill; they covered the filing of my complaints, link, albeit lacking candor, forthrightness and honesty.

Bralley is litigating pro se.  The rules of court procedure recognize that pro se litigants have little or no experience suing powerful people and their lawyers.  The rules discourage lawyers from using the rules against the interests of justice.

Nevertheless, they are.  APS lawyers are trying to use the rules to obfuscate Bralley's efforts to hold their clients accountable for their incompetence and corruption.  They claim summons were not properly served, and therefore Bralley's several complaints should be dismissed.  They claim the summons were served on the wrong person.

The truth is, Bralley made a considerable effort to determine the identity of the person(s) who were authorized to accept service.  At every opportunity, APS lawyers Art Melendres, Luis Robles, and Pat Allen had an ethical, and it can be argued - a legal obligation, to answer his questions candidly, forthrightly and honestly.  They could have when asked, simply told him the name of the person(s) who could accept service. They did not.

Melendres is APS' Chief Counsel.
He and his firm, the Modrall, have been making a killing off APS and taxpayers for decades.

They make so much money litigating on behalf of APS, that Melendres in sworn deposition, could not recollect within a hundred thousand dollars, how much.

He finally settled on a figure somewhere north of a $1.25M annually.

Defendant Marty Esquivel gets his own lawyer Luis Robles, link.

When Robles was presented with Bralley's Complaint, the subject of its extraordinary length came up.  Robles expressed his glee, indicating its length simply meant that many "more billable hours".

Billed at what rate, and under the oversight of whom exactly, still to be determined.

Only Esquivel gets his own lawyer, the rest of the defendants share the counsel of one lawyer. one Pat Allen, link..

It is unclear how much money has been spent, or even if they are working on signed contracts, link.

The leadership of the APS, the school board and senior leadership teams are litigating, literally, to save their individual and collective ass.

It is their combined intention that they will not be held accountable for their conduct and competence, to any standards higher than the law.

Is it legal?  They will argue that it is.

In the meantime, they tell students that their character is forfeit should they be unwilling to do more than the law requires and less than the law allows.

They are spending hundreds of thousands of operational dollars to pay lawyers to create cost is no object defenses against legitimate complaints, and to except them from honest accountability to any higher standard of conduct than the law.  In fact, their record is one of a lack of accountability even to the law.

The law is the lowest standard of conduct.  It is the standard that every higher standard, is higher than.  Higher standards means higher standards than the law.

So who says the leadership of the APS is accountable to higher standards of conduct?

The leadership of the APS donned that mantel when they decided to establish and enforce higher standards of conduct on students.

Students are expected, according to school board policy as expressed in the APS Student Behavior Handbook, link, to hold themselves accountable to higher standards of conduct;
students are expected to model and promote the Pillars of Character Counts! Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.
Unless you accept their manifest position that senior-leaders in the APS have no real obligations as role models of student standards of conduct; they are accountable to higher standards of conduct than the law.  They are required to behave and litigate ethically.

Evidence will show that Bralley made an earnest effort to serve process and that, that effort was obfuscated unethically and as a judge will determine, illegallyLink to Bralley's Complaint, Motions to dismiss, objections and affidavits.

Did APS lawyers hamper Plaintiff Bralley by misdirection and by failure to respond, thereby avoiding service?

Did they actively or passively obstruct service by resorting to willful perjury, subornation of perjury and conspiracy?

These are important questions.  If the people are to hold school board members accountable at election, for the conduct and competence of the administration the board oversees, the people have a need; moreover they have a right to the truth about the conduct and competence of senior administrators; public servants whose salaries they pay.

The establishment's media has turned their collective back on their obligation to fully inform the democracy.  Whether complicit or complacent in the cover up of a standards and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS, they have betrayed the trust placed in them by this community.

Are APS administrative and executive standards of conduct and competence adequate?  Is there honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence?

Whether there are high enough standards and swift and certain accountability is newsworthy.
  • It is newsworthy if there are adequate standards and accountability to protect the public interests.
  • It is more newsworthy if there are not.
Either way, it's newsworthy.

photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Journal sees smaller classes as the answer - misses the point

If there were a way to precisely measure the outcome of educational interventions, one could calculate cost effectiveness of each.  One might find that lowering class size by some percentage will raise test scores by some correlating percentage and, then employ interventions or not based on their cost effectiveness.

Lowering class size is very expensive and according to research, a largely ineffective intervention until class sizes are nearly halved.

Textbooks are very expensive and manifestly ineffective.  They are particularly ineffective for students who can't read.  And by "can't read" it is important to understand that in this context, can't read means can't read well.  Mediocre readers, the overwhelming majority of students, are not well served by textbooks.

Ask a teacher, ask if they would rather have a different primary learning resource.  Textbooks are most useful and most used as a teaching tool when a teacher's immediate need is to keep 30 squirming minds and bodies under control.  Textbooks are employed in unison, every student opens to the same page at the same moment.  Faster readers grow bored, slower readers fall still further behind.

The Journal editors this morning, expressed opinion on the effectiveness of smaller classes.

I would be willing to bet a modest sum, that their opinion is not expert.  I would bet not one of them has taken advantage of the opportunity to substitute teach for a day.  I would be willing to bet a similar sum that not one Journal reporter, nor any investigative reporter for any TV or radio station, has substitute taught for a day.

There is no evidence to suggest that the establishment media has made any effort at all to find out what teachers think about what's going on in classrooms and schools.  There have been no surveys, no interviews, no investigations.  Do they really want smaller classes or might they want something else instead?

Maybe they would rather have larger classes and more control.

Doesn't it seem odd to anyone at all, that there has never been an investigation and report on discipline in schools?  I represent that it is a significant problem.  In some classrooms and schools, it is the number one problem.  And yet, the truth remains hidden.

Why hide the truth about discipline in schools?

It is because the responsibility for establishing and enforcing discipline policies does not rest on teachers.  It rests squarely on the shoulders of school board members and administrators and they have the power and influence necessary to hide the truth about their failure.

To admit failure to establish and enforce meaningful standards of conduct is to admit to executive and administrative incompetence.  And to the extent that guilty knowledge is malfeasance, failure to remedy administrative incompetence is corrupt.  The executive and administrative failure to keep schools under control is manifest incompetence and corruption.

And that is why we never talk about student discipline and the effects of chronically disruptive students in APS classrooms and hallways.

It is fair to wonder how the establishment media remains disengaged.  It might be complicity - maybe the leadership of the APS asked them to help with the cover up and they obliged.

Maybe it is complacency, maybe they just don't care.
If so, they should worry it might be true that;

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those
who, in times of great moral crisis, are complacent.

unk derived

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teachers, should they have authority over students?

Should a teacher have a right and responsibility to tell a student to

Stop doing that.
and should the student be expected to comply?

If a teacher, or any other adult at school tells a child to stop doing that and the child's response means no, something must be done.

The permission of prohibited behavior is categorically unacceptable; in particular as a matter of practice.  It sends exactly the wrong message.  It undermines authority.

What is the point of rules if no one has to obey them?

It is not up to a classroom teacher to address the issues that lead a student to conclude that they are in charge.  It is particularly not alright for a teacher's attention to be drawn from students who need it for more productive ends.

The establishment and enforcement of discipline polices is an executive (the school board) and administrative responsibility.  The inability or unwillingness to create and enforce standards of conduct that protect the interests of all stakeholders, is an executive and administrative failure.

For which they could be held accountable by the media, but will not.

Student discipline is newsworthy by any standard; either the truth makes the leadership of the APS look capable or it makes them look incompetent and corrupt.

Either they're on top of  the ball and deserve recognition, or they are behind the ball and must be held honestly accountable.

Either way, its news.

photo Mark Bralley

More able students - time to set them free?

In every public school classroom there are more able, less able and ordinarily able students.

For as long as more able students have been in public school classrooms, they have been held back in their education while less and ordinarily able students were taught and retaught the same material.

For as long as less able students have been in public school classrooms, they have fallen further and further and further behind until they drop out.

There is no reason why students cannot acquire education at their own individual speed.  There is no reason a student cannot be expected to master material, however long that takes, before moving to the next.

Even if you could take 30 kids with nothing in common but their age and then form them into thought choirs who can learn in unison, why would you want to?

What purpose would does serve?

If the goal of public school education is to create independent lifelong learners, why is it not the immediate objective?

Forget about class size

Imagine that a teacher is given a choice.  There are two classrooms and s/he can choose which s/he would like to teach. 

All else is equal except that

  • one class is of 30 students all of whom are reasonably well behaved, and 
  • the other class is of 28 students at least one of whom is chronically disruptive.

Which class do you think the teacher would choose?

Unless s/he is a glutton for punishment, s/he will opt to teach 30 kids, rather than choose to spend their dwindling energy and resources trying to keep fewer kids under control because of the influence of as few as one out of control student.

Reducing class size is by far, the most expensive and least effective way to establish and maintain control in classrooms and schools.  Teachers, if they were asked, would rather have real control over their classrooms and schools, than fewer students.

Yet the discourse is not about reestablishing control in schools, it is about lowering class size.

The issue is one of control, pure and simple.  A classroom is either under the control of, or out of the control of the adults in the room.  One is an educationally efficient environment and the other is not.  It makes a difference.

Who is really "in charge" in classrooms and schools, adults or students?

I submit;
If adults establish rules and students deliberately break them, then students are "in charge".

Take for example; students in charge in APS schools.
It is actually APS School Board Policy that students are prohibited from "sagging". Go to any APS school;
  • If there are students sagging, saggers are in charge at that school.  
  • If students are smoking in prohibited spaces, smokers are in charge at that school.  
  • If students at that school can tell you the names of bullies at that school, the bullies are in charge at that school.
This isn't about "sagging", or smoking or bullying.  

It is about students defiantly engaging in prohibited behavior. 
It is about students being "in charge" in classrooms and schools and the consequent negative effects that creates.

Those whose job it has been to establish and maintain the authority of adults in schools would rather talk about class size than their failure to get classrooms and schools under control.

Arguing about reducing class size draws attention away from problems that could be solved if any real attention was paid to them.  Problems like restoring order in classrooms and schools.

Why is student discipline never discussed?

Where are the historical data, current statistics and future plans?  Where is the truth about student discipline in APS?

There is only one reason to hide the truth, and that is
to escape the consequences of so doing.

The leadership of the APS cannot show you a record of establishing control in schools, or there would not now be, out of control schools.

The leadership of the APS cannot show any empirical data that demonstrates that they are in currently in control in schools.  And most importantly, they cannot show you their plan for regaining and maintaining control in schools in the future.

The establishment and enforcement of discipline policies is an administrative and executive responsibility.

The out of control in schools and classrooms is manifest administrative and executive failure.

That's why the leadership of the APS is hiding the truth about student discipline problems in the APS.

Far more sinister; that the establishment's media is helping them hide the truth about the effects of out of control students on the education of all students.

Why won't they investigate and report upon student discipline in the APS from teachers' perspective?  Why won't they publish the truth?

Ask them.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, January 27, 2014

APS transparency; an illustrative example of abject insufficiency

The leadership of the APS and their cronies in the establishment media would like stakeholders to believe that the administration of their trust and treasure by the leadership of the APS is transparent.  It is not.

The most current example; the meeting tomorrow of the Audit Committee, link, and their discussion of Ethical Advocate statistics.

Ethical Advocate is a whistle blower program.  It is the only venue where an employee or community member can file a complaint of administrative or executive incompetence or corruption, and be protected from retaliation over the complaint.  Supposedly; in practice the promised anonymity for the complainant is only temporary.

The Ethical Advocate statistics, link, will be presented by APS Director of Internal Audits Peg Koshmider.

The only information she and the leadership of the APS are prepared to produce is the number of complaints filed by month and year, and the number of complaints that have been "closed".

A "closed" complaint is a complaint filed against an administrator that is then adjudicated by another administrator.  An appearance of a conflict of interests is created when administrators investigate each other.

At one time, the school board addressed the conflict of interests by promising to review and approve the administrative self investigation of every single complaint.  When called on the commitment, they changed school board policy and abandoned their executive oversight over administrative self investigation.

In any event, there is a missing statistic.  How many Ethical Advocate complaints against administrators are settled to the satisfaction of the complainant?  How many complainants think their complaint was denied due process?

I have filed three complaints under Ethical Advocate and its predecessor Silent Whistle.

I complained that APS Supt Winston Brooks had abandoned his responsibilities as the senior-most administrative role model of student standards of conduct.

Later, I complained that, that complaint had been "closed" without due process.

And finally, I complained that APS Chief Operations Officer Brad Winter had promised to produce a candid, forthright and honest accounting of spending at 6400 Uptown Blvd. and did not.

All three of the complaints were "closed" though Brooks is still not accountable as a role model of student standards of conduct, and Winter has still has not told the truth about the millions and millions of dollars they have spent on their own offices.

Not so transparent; millions spent in and on their castle keep.

There is an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.  The lack of real transparency in the leadership of the APS in a manifestation of that scandal.

The media is complicit in, or complacent over the cover up of that scandal.  Their ongoing failure to investigate and report upon administrative and executive standards and accountability is a manifestation of their complicity and or complacency.

photos Mark Bralley

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ed reforms shallow and in the end, feckless

If the goal is to educate, one has two choices; focus on the individual needs of students or, focus instead upon the needs of (arbitrary) groups of students.  "Arbitrary" in so far as all educational achievement gaps are individual and grouping them in order to apply group solutions serves no ultimately useful purpose.

In order to believe there is a "group achievement gap", the belief must rest on a foundation; that membership in the group affects individual performance.  In order to accept that there is an Hispanic educational gap, one must accept that being Hispanic by itself, affects educational achievement.  It is prejudice.

All achievement gaps are individual.  The most direct and effective solutions will be those that address individual needs individually.

There are those who will argue that we cannot afford enough teachers to give every student the individual attention they need.  Grouping is cheaper, they would argue, than individualizing.

"Cheaper" at what cost?  Grouping students is an expedient, a management tool created to address a problem that didn't exist until the students were grouped for no educationally useful purpose.

In addition to meeting the individual needs of students, teachers are compelled to manage the group dynamic.  Attention must be shared.  In some classrooms, teachers spend so much time and energy on controlling a group of largely recalcitrant children, there is no time to spend in individual attention to individual needs.  Keeping students in "formation" can consume far more time and energy than would addressing their individual needs.

The model in use in public schools is to teach, learn and test in groups.

30 kids with little more in common than the year of their birth, are formed into a thought choirs and expected to learn in unison for the next twelve years.

That model is a manifest failure.  Half of high school graduates are not prepared for college.  Far too many can't even read.

I am aware of no reform of the accepted model, proposed or enacted, that will raise performance more than a few percent; likely less than the margin of error in the measurement.  Even as bold (and inadvisable) step as holding back "non-readers" in the third grade is not going to greatly change the outcome meaningfully.

The only reform that has the potential to really change the game, that could actually result in meaningful improvement, is the abandonment of group learning and the embrace of independent learning.  I suggest that the fundamental goal of public education be reformed, from the effort to standardize individual performance to an effort to recognize and enable individual performance.  The goal of public education should be the creation of independent learners; people who can learn without the need for public "schools".

From a practical standpoint, it is impossible and therefore unrealistic to insist that an entire group of students demonstrate mastery level learning before the rest of the group can move on.  Inevitably faster learners will be held back and slower learners will acquire fewer and fewer basic skills.  And, no one will have had to demonstrate that they have truly mastered anything.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of switching from group to independent learning is that we will finally be able to insist upon mastery level learning.  If learners are required to master basics at every level before moving on, there will be no third graders who can't read.

An insistence upon mastery level learning is critically important and eminently useful.  Students who have mastered basics can acquire advanced skills more easily and effectively.  Students who have not mastered basic skills will not catch up; they will continue to fall further and further behind.

Why does educational reform remain shallow and feckless?

Why don't the people who insist upon cemetery seating and group learning, a dead horse if ever one died, ever have to defend their insistence?

Why don't those who insist that the individual needs of students must continue to be subordinated in deference to the needs of arbitrary groups of students, never have to justify and defend their position?

The short answer is; they
never have to explain, defend
or even acknowledge any of
their positions on anything,
... because we can't make them.

Might makes right.

photo Mark Bralley

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ideal pupil teacher ratio 1 to 1, and it is entirely doable.

The Journal reports this morning, link, that NM Education Secretary Hanna Skandera will not prioritize reducing class size in allocating funding to public education.  She believes there are better places to spend money.  I'm inclined to agree.  From a teachers perspective, reducing class size from 30 kids to 29 won't make all that much difference.

Skandera's research on class size is undoubtedly more recent and comprehensive than my own, but when I was still teaching, the research indicated that you had to get down to 15 to 1 before performance improved significantly.

In truth, the optimum ration of teacher to student is one to one.  I heard someone argue once, that if you reflect on all the important things you have learned in your life, the overwhelming majority of them were learned in one on one conversations.

Cemetery seating; gathering 30 kids who have nothing in common but the year of their birth and a zip code, and then insisting that they form a thought choir and perform as a group through their entire education, is an obsolete model of education.

When there was only one teacher, or only one book, it might have been necessary to have every student focused on the same resource.  It no longer is.  The entire wealth of human knowledge is a key stroke away from anyone with internet access and the skill set they need to take advantage of it.

There is no good reason to group educate students.  There is no justification for expending any more effort or resources trying to standardize individual performance.  By definition, group learning eliminates the opportunity to teach to mastery.  Mastery learning is the key to future learning.  A student with a C in math is going to have more trouble with math next year, than a student with an A in math.  Two students with the same command of math this year, will be equally successful next year.

There is no such thing as a "group" achievement gap.  All achievement gaps are individual; one student, the skills s/he has already acquired compared to the skills s/he needs to acquire.  You can if you want, take all Hispanic students and average all their individual achievement gaps.  It is a meaningless statistic.  Unless you you believe students are inherently disabled by their heritage, there is no group solution that applies to them because of their heritage.  Group achievement gap statistics are useful only to those peddling group solutions to individual problems - publishers of textbooks and standardized tests.

Take any student, ask them a relatively few questions, and a plan can be created that will enable that student to leave school with the skill sets they need to live happily ever after.  All we have to do is give every student the individual attention they need.

Individual attention cannot be given to students in groups.  Teaching really can be likened to herding cats,especially young students.  The point being; you cannot spend a lot of time on any one kitten without the rest wandering off.  A teacher can spend some time with individual students if the rest of the can continue their education without the teacher's immediate attention.

Mother cats don't make their kittens march in formation.  They allow inherent curiosity and enthusiasm to drive the quest for knowledge.  They create independent lifelong learners as quickly as they can.

Cemetery seating suits the needs of a handful of average students.  More able students are held back, less able students are left behind.  They will not catch up.  They will continue to fall further and further behind until they drop out.

Education reform in Roundhouse seems to be limited to beating a dead horse; group solutions for individual problems.  The model cannot be made to work.  If ever it was the best or only solution, it is no longer.

Reform needs to include a reassessment of the most basic assumptions about education.

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, January 24, 2014

APS Audit problems persist

The Albuquerque Public Schools has been in business for more than a hundred years; since 1891.

They have had more than a hundred years to figure out spend public resources according to the rules.  A recent audit finds they have not.

KRQE was the first to report on the findings of the latest audit of the APS.

They began by excusing APS for losing more than a million dollars worth of public property (most of it stolen by APS employees according to the APS Police force and School Board Vice President Kathy Korte, link.)

According to KRQE, it really isn't the fault of APS leadership;

Albuquerque Public Schools has more than 140 schools, thousands of employees and $1 billion budget. Things are bound to go wrong -- and stuff is bound to go missing.
Did UNM loose a million dollars worth of computers last year?
Did Sandia Labs?  Did the City of Albuquerque?

On a more objective note, KRQE conceded;
The findings included a lack of enforcement for financial policies and problems with record-keeping.
KRQE argues on APS' behalf;
Still, $1.2 million (in missing capital assets) is an improvement over the $1.9 million in missing assets reported the year before.

KRQE then allowed their lawyer, School Board President Marty Esquivel to provide a statement.
"Overall we feel it was a very positive audit because the number and nature of adverse findings has continued to decrease over the years.
KRQE capped their defense of the leadership of the APS by pointing out for them;
The number of state audit findings has gone down over the years, from 378 in 2009 to 93 in 2013.
It begs a fair question; how long should it take to get it right?  Is a century really not long enough?  the two men most responsible for the audit findings take down nearly a half million dollars a year in salaries.  Are we not spending enough?

Recent audits of the leadership of the APS have found;
  • administrative evaluations were subjective and unrelated to promotion or step-placement,
  • a lack of standards,
  • a lack of accountability to such standards as there are,
  • a lack of sound record keeping, 
  • data is being falsified (crime statistics)
  • audit findings are routinely ignored , and there is
  • a culture of fear of retaliation against whistleblowers.
Those are the conditions which lead to audit findings.

If you go looking on APS' award winning website, for audit findings (or the findings of any investigation of incompetence and corruption in the leadership of the APS) you will not find one; not one.  Despite all their assurances of transparency, despite their promise to post findings on their website, they are yet to post even one, link.

The findings are being hidden from public knowledge.  They are being hidden in an ongoing effort to cover up administrative and executive incompetence and corruption.

You can inspect those public records if you would like, but you will have to sue for them.  The litigation will be expensive and time consuming, and the leadership of the APS have all the time and all the money they could possibly ask for.

The leadership of the APS is being sued in federal court over their refusal to produce the findings of investigations of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators and leadership of APS' police force, link.  Taxpayers are going to pay through the nose for APS' cost is no object legal defense and up to a hundred dollars a day for every day since they refused to produce them.

I waited to write this post because I wanted to include any audit findings coverage from KOAT, KOB or the Journal.  Neither KOAT nor KOB has covered the story.  The Journal did.

Managing Editor Kent Walz and the Journal, link, were quick to follow Esquivel's effort to draw eyes off the ball.  Instead of pointing to ongoing mismanagement, they point instead to "improvement"  in APS' efforts to manage its equipment.

Never mind how badly they're doing, they're getting better.

Never mind that after more than a century of efforts to establish honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence, they still have not.  Focus instead on the fact that they're "getting better".

There are manifest standards and accountability issues in the leadership of the APS.  There is a need for a standards and accountability audit of the entire leadership of the APS; an independent impartial audit whose findings, all of them, will be made public.

There is an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

The Journal and the local NM Broadcasters Assoc affiliates; KRQE, KOAT and KOB relentlessly refuse to investigate and report upon ethics, standards, and accountability issues in the leadership of the APS.  Not even to report that there are none.

It's a cover up; pure and simple.

photos Mark Bralley]
Walz photo ched macquigg

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Learn to read; read to learn.

As is the nature of complex arguments in political discourse, the problem of students who can't read has been reduced to a saw, a sound bite; learning to read, reading to learn.

Students must learn to read by the third grade in order to read to learn forevermore.

It has a rhyme and rhythm that make it resonate, but the premise is fundamentally and flat out wrong.  Students do not have to be able to read in order to learn.  That non-readers can learn to read is proof.

While reading is a useful skill in learning, and itself an important educational goal, it is not the only way to to learn. For non-readers and less than proficient readers, a textbook is in fact, among the most worst of resources.  The worse the reader, the more useless is a textbook.

Students who want to learn everything else and how to read, should not be held back in everything else until they learn to read well enough to read to learn.  Rather, their interest and enthusiasm in any subject should be recognized, reinforced and exploited by use of any one of a number of other ways to teach and learn.

The modern goal of education is to create independent lifelong learners.  This includes teaching students how to learn by every means available, not just by reading textbooks.  If the immediate objective is to teach reading, is there a worse book to hand to a child than a textbook?

Gov Martinez, Ed Sec Skandera
The textbook and standardized test publishers are a powerful lobby as there are a great many dollars being spent on textbooks and testing.

In her State of the State, Governor Susana Martinez announced her intention that spending on textbooks will increase by 43%; some 9 million dollars.

Am I the only one wondering about the sense in buying books for children who can't read?  How about some videotapes for children who can't see,  or some audiotapes for children who can't hear?

Clearly, learning to read is important.  It is so important that we should be doing everything we can to help students learn how to read well at the earliest opportunity.

But why does all growth have to swing on one hinge?
Why can't growth in every area beside reading continue unabated while the student learns to read?  In particular in elementary school, why can't a student earn an A in math even though they're "flunking" reading?

The problem is the reliance on textbooks as learning tools.  This though they are rarely, if ever, the best tool available.  They can be depended upon for neither currency nor accuracy, and still, they are nearly the only resource available to students and teachers.

Learning, in the context of public education, is about performance on end of course testing.  If a student can pass the end of the course exam, what difference does it make how they prepared themselves for it?

photos Mark Bralley

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rob Perry's conduct is reprehensible

Rob Perry is Mayor Richard Berry's Chief Administrative Officer and he is a boor.  There is videotape proof beyond doubt, link.

It has been nearly two weeks since his boorish outburst and it appears that he has gotten away with it.

KRQE covered part of the story, link and promptly abandoned it. Though KRQE was aware of and asked for security footage of following incident in a parking garage, they are yet to cover it, link.

I searched for and found no evidence that KOAT, link, KOB, link, or the Journal, link, covered the story at all.

The establishment press walks on eggshells around powerful people.  They are caught twixt a rock and a hard place; an obligation to expose incompetence and corruption and a need to stay close enough to be able to find it.  Unless their investigation is likely to topple their target from power; they can't dig too deeply or they will loose access.

The money quote from the KRQE piece is the usual from a good ol' boy who doesn't want either his conduct or character to be investigated; Perry said ... we'll move forward."

Time to move along is good ol' boy speak for; there will be no more questions.  There will be no apology nor further acknowledgement.  There will be no letter of reprimand, there will be no consequences at all.

The buck stops on Mayor Richard Berry's desk; he owns the tone in city hall.  People don't behave this way unless they are allowed.

Is this really the kind of conduct citizens can expect from public servants in the Berry administration?

Unfortunately, it is.

When the press gets on Richard Berry's bad side, they find themselves on the outside looking in, link.

photos Mark Bralley

Friday, January 17, 2014

APS' Office of Innovation cannot succeed. The rules don't allow it.

APS has announced a new Office of Innovation, link.  It cannot succeed except marginally.

Public education in general has a fundamental flaw; the relentless focus on the needs of arbitrary groups of students as opposed to individual needs of students.  There is no such thing as a group achievement gap except that someone has gone to the trouble of compiling one.  All achievement gaps are individual.  All achievement gap problems have individual solutions.

Despite the many available alternatives, the relentless objective of public schooling is to take up to thirty kids with nothing in common but the year of their birth and a zip code, and then seat them in five rows of six desks, there to join into a thought choir; each student on the same page in same book on the same day.  That fundamental premise remains unchanged and makes real innovation impossible.

The only innovation will be in innovative ways of  dealing with groups of students at once; standardizing individual performance; teaching and learning in unison.  Cemetery seating is obsolete, it cannot be re-tuned into usefulness.

Imagine a stock car race.  The stock car superintendent announces that from now on, innovation will be not only allowed but encouraged.  You can do anything you want to make your car run better and faster.  No holds barred.


Rule number one remains unchanged; at the end of every lap, your car and the others must cross the start/finish line in formation - five rows of six cars, no one allowed to move ahead, no one (supposedly) allowed to fall behind.

For as long as students take standardized tests every year, they will take those tests seated in formation.  Test scores cannot be allowed to fall, so teachers will continue to have to teach to the testing.  Innovation will be "permitted", innovation will be "encouraged", but only on top of everything else teachers will continue to have to do in support of high scores on yearly standardized tests.

Innovation and standardized testing mutually exclusive.
Innovation is about maximizing individual performance.
Standardization is about maximizing group performance.

Before the modern age, it was necessary to group students.
You had one teacher, maybe one book, and one source of knowledge.  In the modern age, access to knowledge is virtually unlimited.  There is no good reason to standardize learning for no good reason.

There is no good reason to spend power and resources in an ongoing effort to standardize individual performance. The mission of modern schools has changed.  The mission now is to create independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity.

An equally important mission is to grow children into adults who embrace character and courage and honor.

President Theodore Roosevelt said;

"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."
Re-introducing character education in the APS, will not be one of the innovations allowed nor encouraged.  APS will continue to produce menaces to society and their victims, past, current and future.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Two kinds of diplomas not good for students.

Rep. Mimi Stewart has proposed legislation that would create two kinds of high school diploma.  According to a KOAT report, link; "The general diploma would require students take three math classes instead of four and one science lab instead of two. Students would also be able to take a lower level math course."

In the not too distance future, the means by which one educates oneself will become entirely irrelevant.  Because of a nearly unlimited access to information, there will be more and more people claiming to have learned required skills and information from sources other than "schools".  Schools as such, will become increasingly unnecessary.

The really important aspect of learning is the determination of proficiency.  People have to be "certified" as a demonstration of the legitimacy of their claim to knowledge and skill sets.  An entirely self educated person will be able to sit for professional exams or whatever evaluations they need to assure consumers of their competence.

A high school diploma is a certification that a student knows and can do a number of things.  Things that ostensibly they really, really need.  It is difficult to imagine lowering what a high school diploma currently implies.  Diploma already are the bottom line on learning. 

In practice they are no guarantee of anything.  Students with high school diplomas might not even be able to read.

A high school diploma must mean something or there is no point in awarding it.  It is more than a certification of attendance.

photo Mark Bralley

In these times, in our schools, does character count? Should it?

We are compelled on occasion, to pay close attention to our children in public schools.  The attention is paid to external influences; availability or not, of weapons, the culture, the parents, the media, the movies, ...

There are internal influences in play, and we are not paying enough attention to them.  If we pay no attention, they will remain in play.

For example, if there are bullies at a school, and they are being enabled to continue to bully other students, it is more likely that at that school, someone is going to act out.  If there are no programs at schools that identify and pay close attention to students in distress, it is more likely that at that school, someone is going to act out.

If no effort is being made to develop character in students, it is more likely that in those schools, someone is going to act out.

We can debate whether Character Counts! is the best model for teaching character in schools.  If that debate takes place, I will argue that CC! is about as good as it gets.

In the end, it doesn't make as much difference which model of character education is used, as it does that a commitment has been made to honest accountability to standards of conduct higher than the law.

Character is measured in honest accountability to higher standards of conduct.  The more certain the accountability and the higher the standards; the greater the character.

The leadership of the APS has made a deliberate decision to abandon character education.  With good reason; character development is not measured in yearly standardized testing.
It does not count.

It counts for the nearly ninety thousand of this community's sons and daughters in the APS.

Accountability to the law is accountability to the lowest standards of conduct acceptable to civilized human beings.  The law is the standards that every higher standard, is higher than.

If we really want students to grow into adults who embrace character and courage and honor, someone has to show them what it looks like.  Their parents have to show them, their community has to show them, and their public schools have to show them.

It takes both character and courage to be held honestly accountable to higher standards of conduct than the law.  It requires character and courage to establish high standards.  It requires character and courage to provide honest accountability to those standards, powerful enough to hold even the most powerful accountable, even against their will.

I aver, it is a lack of administrative and executive character and courage that denies APS students role models of honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.

There isn't one whit of difference between the highest standards of conduct and the lowest, if neither is enforceable.  The leadership of the APS claims accountability to the "highest" standards of conduct, and cannot point to a record of being held honestly accountable for anything anywhere.

Every generation expects the following generation to be the first generation to hold itself honestly accountable to higher standards of conduct.  Every generation expects the following generation to be the first generation to hold itself honest accountable to the truth.

We tell our children about a boy, a brand new shiny hatchet and a cherry tree in an effort to inspire them to tell the truth. Yet,

Example has more followers than reason. — Christian Nevell Bovee

The leadership of the APS, the superintendent and the school board, do not want to be held honestly accountable to any standards of conduct that require truth telling; candid, forthright, ... honest truth telling about the public interests and their public service.

They expect students to hold themselves honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct; a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct, and they are unwilling to show them what it looks like.

Because they lack the character to hold themselves honestly accountable to the Pillars of Character Counts! or,
because they lack the courage to hold themselves honestly accountable to the Pillars of Character Counts!.

There is no other explanation.  If there is an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS, it is newsworthy.  If there is not an ethics and accountability scandal; if there really are high standards and honest accountability, it is newsworthy.

APS is about to go to the legislature for more money and more power.  They are manifestly unaccountable for abusing power and squandering resources.

They spend millions of dollars every year in litigation against the public interests; litigating exception for themselves, from the law.

The millions they spend are operational dollars; dollars that could be and should be spent in classrooms educating children.

The get away with it because nobody knows about it.

Nobody knows about it because the leadership of the APS, the Journal and the NM Broadcasters Assoc affiliates in town, are in cahoots.  There really is a conspiracy to hide the truth from stakeholders.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lowering standards to "improve" performance is reprehensible

The surest guarantee that a child will grow into an adult with the skill set s/he needs to enjoy their life, appreciate and defend their liberty, and enable their own happiness, is a good education.

How does "good" education manifest itself?  A common measure of the effectiveness of education is testing.  We understand that if a test is given, the student's performance on the test will be an indicator of how well the student has been educated.

It is widely accepted that if a large number of students in a district, state or country perform poorly in testing; there has been a systemic failure in that district, state or country.

A systemic failure is the responsibility of those who were given public power and resources to solve a public problem and then either could not or would not.  It is in their interests to not create a record of their failure.

It is in the interests of those people, that the system looks like it is doing a good job.  It is in the interests of those people that test scores appear to be improving.

There are no longitudinal testing records to compare in order to see whether test scores in APS for example, are improving, falling  or staying the same.  You cannot compare test scores between decades.  Every few years, tests are re-normed and cannot be (easily) compared to previous and subsequent scores.   The tests are re-normed in the interests of those whose competence and conduct are reflected in falling or climbing test scores.

The NM PED has decided to conduct course end testing in order to evaluate student growth and teacher competence. The NM PED sets the level of performance for a "passing" grade.

According to the Journal, link

"On nine of the end-of-course exams in core subjects, only three require students to answer half or more of the questions correctly. The percentages needed to pass range from 20 percent on a math test to 68 percent on a reading test."
NM Education Secretary
Hanna Skandera has not
yet offered justification for
lowering the expectations
for "passing" grade.

The obvious answer is that
by giving more passing grades,
the system looks to be doing a
better job, though in truth
the raw scores may have even fallen.

She is yet to justify the utterly unjustifiable curve she and Governor Susana Martinez applied to the letter grading of schools, link; a curve that made them look like they were doing a good job improving schools, when in fact the schools might actually have declined if measured according to the previous rubric.

Ask a teacher, and they will tell you students should be learning to the mastery level, wikilink; master one set of skills before trying to acquire the next.

One cannot teach to mastery and at the same time teach thirty kids each in a desk in one of five rows of six desks, all in the same textbook, all on the same page, each and every day.

Individual mastery level learning cannot be measured on yearly standardized tests.

There is a ton of money to be made in publishing textbooks and standardized testing.

There very little money to be made in creating independent lifelong learners at the earliest possible opportunity.

 photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, January 09, 2014

APS abandons plans for its own Police Department - why?

APS has published its 2014 legislative agenda, link.  It does not include legislation that would enable APS to have its own stand-alone police department; a longstanding item on their legislative wish list.  Unless they are trying to pull a fast one, they have abandoned the effort to get legislative approval to run a stand-alone police department.

Why do they no longer"need" a stand-alone department?

There is an MOU in force between Sheriff Dan Houston and the leadership of the APS.  Supposedly.

I went looking for the MOU on the BCSD website, link, and couldn't find it.  The MOU, link, used to be there; that's where I got it.

Could these people have met in secret and agreed to forget about the MOU?

Recently, the leadership of the APS self investigated allegations of administrative misconduct.  The investigation was conducted by a police force that reports directly to and only to APS Supt Winston Brooks and the School Board. Their investigation of allegations of felony administrative misconduct cleared the administration of any wrong doing more serious than "using (its) Daddy voice", link.

Self investigation is a manifest conflict of interests.

It wasn't even necessary - the Sheriff's Department or the Albuquerque Police Department could have just as easily have conducted the investigation; and should have conducted the investigation.

The self investigation blatantly disregards provisions in the MOU denying the leadership of the APS the opportunity to self investigate and cover up any more felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators.

Somebody has to watch over the APS Police Force beside the people who are using it as a Praetorian Guard in every sense of the concept.

APS currently runs a police force not a police department, despite their claim to the contrary, link.

Police Departments are allowed to self investigate their own corruption and incompetence - though God only, knows why.

Police Forces are not allowed to self investigate allegations of their own felony breach of the law.  Thank you God.

So why is it no longer of any importance to APS?

A better question of course is; why is this of no importance to the Journal and the NM Broadcasters Association?

Why does the Journal not care that the leadership of the APS is hiding public records and findings of APS' self investigation of the allegations of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators follow their exposure in February 2007, link?

No heads rolled.  Statutes of limitation on felony criminal misconduct expired long since and the leadership of the APS has yet to surrender to the District Attorney, the evidence they collected during their last self investigation of allegations of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators.

Right now they are spending operational funds, money that could be spent in classrooms, on litigation in an effort to continue to hide those public records from public knowledge.

The leadership of the APS and their compadres at the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, and KOB have had an obligation since February 2007 to investigate and report upon the cover up of the corruption in the leadership of their police force.

They know what is going on, they have known all along.

Their decision to continue to refuse to investigate and report upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS is absolutely deliberate.

Their decision flows from cowardice or corruption; they're afraid to expose the scandal or, they're complicit in the cover up.

If there is a third reason, in particular a good and ethical reason, that prevents them from investigating and reporting upon standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS,
I cannot imagine it and
they are yet to offer it.

photos Mark Bralley

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

APS boasts; 5th in the nation in new Nationally Board Certified teachers - so what?

It is possible for teachers to earn a National Board Certification, link, in teaching.  It is an arduous process and those who succeed are to be commended. 

APS is rich in nationally certified teachers but would be hard pressed to produce any empirical data that all of them together have had any significant impact on APS students overall.

If you search for research on the correlation between the presence of nationally certified teachers in a district and the overall success of the district, you won't find a definitive answer - it is a complex dynamic.  On a classroom by classroom basis, there is more convincing evidence of its value.

Overall you will find some consensus; link,

students with otherwise similar teachers made larger gains if their teacher had a NBC
Which begs a fair question,
If APS has more than its fair share of nationally certified teachers, why aren't APS students (in general) more successful?
It would appear that, though we are paying for the national board certifications, we are not making good use of them.

The more a teacher's job is to deliver a packaged curriculum; every student on the same page in the same book at the same time, the more the teacher's own talent, skills, or certifications are buried in the rigamarole and the more insignificant the become.

In particular, if these teachers qualifications cannot be applied district wide, as opposed to only in their own classroom, there cannot be any real expectation of district wide change or improvement.

Nationally certified teachers have no more impact district wide than teachers who haven't earned certification.  Like "normal" teachers, nationally certified teachers have no seat at the table where the really important decisions get made.  A sack lunch with the Supt, link, is not a seat at the table where decisions are made.

Just like teachers in general, nationally certified teachers have no voice in the development of the policies and procedures that influence the likelihood of successfully educating children.  They have no power to make an significant change and therefore no opportunity to significantly change and nor significantly improve anything.

All of the education, training and experience that effective and efficient decision making should be drawing upon, resides in classrooms spread all over the district.  The leadership of the APS has made no effort to enable meaningful participation by teachers in the decision making process - quite the contrary, they've done everything they can to consolidate all decision making power under their own roof.

The home of all decision making power in APS

It is arrogant to suppose that a handful of people and a guy who hasn't taught in thirty years, know more about what is wrong in APS and how to fix it than thousands of teachers with tens of thousands of years of current and ongoing teaching experience, yet there they are.

It's a shame that the Journal won't investigate and report upon the professional lives of APS teachers, both certified and not.  It would make interesting reading.

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Skandera and Brooks both claim credit for growth in the graduation rate.

In the Journal this morning, link, NM Education Secretary argues that the path she has plotted for public education in the state, has among other things; raised the graduation rate state wide.

In 2013, the students, teachers, and parents of New Mexico gave us a lot to talk about. The graduation rate in our state shot up from 63 percent to 70 percent in a single year, with our minority students making double the gains of their Anglo counterparts.
The Secretary didn't mention Brooks as being a player in that growth, though the leadership of the APS have routinely claimed that Superintendent Winston Brooks is responsible for a similar jump in APS graduation statistics.

It is Brooks' own claim and one echoed by School Board President Marty Esquivel as recently as the moo moo oink oink brouhaha.

It was in fact Esquivel's main reason (supposedly) for not firing Brooks over the poor example he set.

In fact neither Skandera's plan nor Brooks' is responsible for a very good part of the growth in graduation rates.

Statistical machinations are responsible for the increased graduation rate.

At one point, students were expected to graduate in four years.  A decision was made to give them another year and the graduation rate increased - nothing really changed, graduation rates climbed.

Another machination, link, removing from the cohort, any students who had already failed the ninth grade, raised the rate again, and again not as a proximate result of any success either of them claims to have enjoyed or the reforms they imposed.

photos Mark Bralley