Tuesday, July 07, 2015

This isn't (just) about the Pillars of Character Counts!

Twenty one years ago, the APS school board made a deliberate decision to make "character education" part of the curriculum.  Read their unanimous resolution; link.

Of much less consequence; that their choice of model and standards to adopt happened to be Character Counts!.  They made the Pillars of Character Counts!, link, the standards of conduct for students. 

They could have chosen any one of a number of other models.  They chose  CC! in no small part because home town United States Senator Pete Domenici had a bunch of federal dollars to be spread around.

Simultaneous with the adoption of the standards, they became the senior-most role models of those standards.

To their everlasting regret; part of those dollars were spent to train me as a CC! trainer, develop my commitment to Character Counts! and to their stepping up as role models of honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within their public service.

When they adopted CC! and trained me, they found themselves accountable, as role models, to higher standards of conduct than they were comfortable with; primarily truth telling.

When the board and superintendent erase the pillars from the student hand book, they aren't just rejecting the Pillars of Character Counts!.  They are rejecting character education period.  Without renouncing it, they are simply rejecting it.

There will be no districtwide effort to develop character in nearly 90,000 of this community's sons and daughters in Albuquerque public schools.

The erasure of the Pillars of Character Counts! from the handbook and abandonment of character education and higher standards of conduct for students is the final tether they must cut.  Their need is to extricate themselves from accountability to higher standards of conduct.

They began by striking their role modeling clause;

in no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult
be lower than the standards for students.
Their poor eagle will have no place
to perch when the Pillars disappear.

Despite their abdication as role models and accountability to the Pillars of Character Counts!, the pillars continue to adorn district stationary and the sides of their police cars.

All of that goes away when they get together Wednesday to change the rules.

It's not so much that they're changing the rules.  The rules need changing.  The double standards they have in place are categorically unacceptable.  It's that they could eliminate the double standards by raising their own; accepting honest to God accountability to the same standards they establish and enforce upon students.

It is not so much that they are changing the rules,
as it is that that their process ignores the rights of stake and interest holders to participate meaningfully in decision making that affected their interests.  Their process ignores the rights of teachers who have between them nearly a hundred thousand years of teaching experience.

Journal Editor Kent Walz
The crisis becomes a scandal of monumental proportion when the Journal and NMBA affiliate "news" outlets decide to let it slide.

The lowering standards of conduct for an entire school district is newsworthy by any reasonable measure.

The abandonment of any districtwide effort to develop good character is too important an issue to keep from public discourse.  Keeping it from open and honest, two-way public discourse is as inexcusable as it is inexplicable.

Were all that not bad enough;
  • APS Supt. Luis Valentino's new handbook retains the weasel clause verbatim; 
nothing in the following is intended to prevent an ... 
administrator from using his/her best judgment 
with respect to a particular situation.
Administrators can do anything they want and chalk it up to best judgement.  Their decision is not subject to examination or review; it is simply their best judgment. 
It means all of the consequences for deliberate misconduct, promised in the Student Behavior Handbook, didn't really have to be meted out.  It creates a conflict of interests for administrators who are expected to not report discipline problems.  A lot of teachers feel like a lot of administrators don't adequately consequence even chronically disruptive students.
  • The handbook now reads in significant part;
suggested amendments or additions (to the handbook) may be submitted by ... other interested persons for consideration.
That language will be struck.  The administration will take care of any amendments and additions by means of a committee they have formed.
  • The introduction to the new handbook, penned by Luis Valentino is written above a 12th grade reading level (12.3 as far as I am able to determine).  The changes he proposes don't appear to lower the readability of the handbook itself which is over 14th grade. 

    Valentino writes; the Student Handbook is designed to be a useful resource for students and parents ...  Who exactly, does he think is going to read it?
aps image
Valentino ends by looking forward to "taking the district to higher level of excellence".

Lowering standards and accountability for students and adults seems like an exceedingly bad choice for a first step.

photos Mark Bralley

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