Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Political Sound Bites

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

That’s really what we’re talking about here – political sound bites. It’s beyond absurd for Governor Bill Richardson to be proposing a special initiative to close the Hispanic education gap:

Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday that he will work with state legislators to develop and pass a Hispanic Education Act in the 2010 session of the New Mexico Legislature.

This administration has a proven track record of spending hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars on budget breaking projects like spaceports and trains, but to expect them to make any gap closing changes in education is just ridiculous. For us to believe this is possible, we would have to forget the track record of education failures in student performance that have plagued this administration from day one.

And, am I the only one who finds it a little bit insincere for Governor Richardson to talk about closing the education gap for Hispanics by passing a Hispanic Education Act? Seriously, this may make sense for a state with a small percentage of Hispanics, but in New Mexico, we’ve got the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state in the nation – 45% of our state’s population.

So, nearly half of our public school children are Hispanic. Fixing and education gap for almost half of the student population does not require a special initiative. It requires a complete overhaul of the education system. But, don’t expect anyone in this administration to be up to that challenge. Instead, look for them to blow more smoke and spend more money on initiatives that will do nothing to improve student performance:

Richardson asked summit participants — students, teachers, administrators, politicians and others — to come up with solutions before the legislative session. He said he wants the recommendations to help shape a new Hispanic Education Act, similar to New Mexico’s Indian Education Act. That act created a special state division, which compiles an annual report on the progress of Native American students and encourages communication between tribes, among other things.

Yeah, that’s what we need. A new “special state division” to compile annual reports and encourage communications. That’ll solve all of our problems. Maybe we should bring back the efforts to create a Department of Hispanic Affairs as well?

Why Should it Be Hard to Fire?

Friday, November 13th, 2009

A new report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives New Mexico a “C” as its overall education grade. Sounds good, right? I mean we usually get an “F’ on these things. Actually, not really as good as it sounds.

Last year, “Leaders and Laggards” focused on student test scores rather than innovation, and New Mexico ranked 49th, better only than Mississippi and Washington, D.C.

See, this year focused on “education innovation” to determine overall ranking. When the only thing that matters (defined: student performance) is measured, we’re still way down there at the very bottom of the ranking. The exact same place as the year before.

Considering the budget crisis we’re facing, it is interesting to note that one of those measurements in which New Mexico got a worse in class score, a big red F, was in the return on investment category. I’ve been beating this drum for years. We spend, spend and then spend a lot more, and have absolutely nothing that matters (defined: increase in student performance) to show for it.

Now before some of you start claiming that New Mexico can’t be compared to other states because of our poverty levels, keep in mind this failing score was after being graded on a curve:

Student achievement in New Mexico is very low relative to state education spending (after controlling for student poverty, the percentage of students with special needs, and cost of living). This dismal return on investment earns the state a failing grade.

So, how do we start making inroads? Well, back in August I put forward a plan for education reform that would be a huge step in the right direction. If you read it, you might want to compare number two of my recommendations to the position of the teachers’ union president:

But it got an “F” and was ranked 44th for removal of ineffective teachers.

To determine that grade, the report cited a survey of principals, most of whom reported that personnel policies and unions are barriers to removing ineffectual teachers. Garcia said such policies are determined by districts, not the state.

“Districts have their local policies, whether they work with teachers or give them another chance,” she said.

Ellen Bernstein, Albuquerque Teacher Federation president, said she doesn’t think New Mexico deserved such low marks. She said principals have discretion to fire ineffective teachers as long as they show cause.

“Is it hard? Yeah. It should be hard to fire someone,” she said. “But it’s not impossible.”

I’m sorry I don’t understand this position. Why should it be hard to fire someone? Why should it be harder to fire a teacher than say an accountant or a doctor or a retail clerk? What am I missing?

This mentality is why unions in general are struggling to find relevance. People who can’t do their jobs need to find other work. If unions decided to focus on improving the situation for the high achievers versus protecting the status quo for the underachievers, they would find they had more relevance.

More importantly, as it relates to school, they would find they were actually being advocates for children as opposed to depriving an entire generation a quality education.

Education Cuts Put in Perspective

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

The education establishment is up in arms and willing to go to any length to fight education cuts during the special session. Admittedly, part of the problem is the way that cuts are proposed. Rather than take responsibility for past irresponsible actions, the Richardson/Denish Administration like to propose “across the board” cuts:

Richardson has proposed a 3.5 percent cut to state agencies and a 1.5 percent cut to public schools, which would amount to about a $40 million reduction in the state budget for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Taking this approach to reigning in a budget gone wild is irresponsible at best. Yet, a recent special audit report released by State Auditor Hector Balderas show just how much waste is in education:

The money involved in the transfer to the discretionary account came from funds meant for technology and transportation, Balderas said. About $3,500 of it came from federal Head Start money, in violation of the federal rules, the audit states.

Among the items allegedly purchased by the northern New Mexico school district through the discretionary account were:
  • More than $2,800 in lobbying expenses.
  • $200 spent on 20 bags of beef jerky for lobbying at the Legislature last March.
  • $742 spent on food at the Bull Ring in Santa Fe for a legislative meeting last February.
  • More than $900 spent on flowers for funerals and other events.
  • Jackets for all district staff for staff appreciation in January 2007 costing $3,299. More jackets for staff and also for legislators in March 2007, costing $290.
  • Gift certificates from Wal-Mart for three retiring employees in May 2006 costing a total of $150.
  • A $302 gift from Zales Outlet for the district’s retiring superintendent in August 2006.
  • Another $1,200 for items for conference rooms from a vendor called “Nambe” in August 2008.
  • For district staff: more than $1,300 for hams in December 2007, more than $1,600 for turkeys in February 2009 and more than $900 for denim shirts in April 2009.
  • And more than $2,400 spent on jackets for district leadership in March 2009.

The audit said that depositing money into the discretionary account resulted in less money available for school district operations. Auditors looked into transactions from the discretionary account from fiscal years 2006 to present.

Consider that’s just one finding, and it accounts for almost 1.5% of the district’s annual budget. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

Budget Cuts Shouldn’t Hurt Kids

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Governor Richardson’s mantra going into the Special Session this weekend is a simple one: “Budget cuts shouldn’t hurt kids.” It’s one that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn had been voter tested and approved:

But most interesting was $38,353 paid for “research/polling” to a company called Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates in Santa Monica, Calif. Nearly all the money was paid in June, a much smaller chunk paid in September.

It’s a simple message, and a nice diversion tactic. Governor Richardson gets to avoid taking ownership for spending New Mexico into a crisis. He gets to pretend to be the great savior of our children, while trying to turn the legislature into the big bad wolf:

Gov. Bill Richardson late Tuesday rejected legislative proposals to plug a state budget gap that’s now expected to top $650 million, saying at least two of them would cut too much money for public schools.

Richardson called for lawmakers to try again before a special legislative session on the budget starts Saturday.

“Governor Richardson has studied the legislative proposals and finds the cuts to education unacceptable because of the severe impact to teachers and kids,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. “The governor wants one proposal from the Legislature, not three, that makes fiscally responsible cuts without hurting schools.”

But, here’s the thing. The Richardson Administration, and to a great extent the rubber-stamping majority in the legislature have done more to damage education in New Mexico over the last seven years, then anything some cost-cutting could ever do. They’ve herald one supposed “great” education reform after another without ever actually doing anything to improve education for our children. Worse yet, they’ve refused to ever take ownership of their repeated failures:

A new batch of testing results shows New Mexico students’ math scores are among the nation’s worst, with little change from previous years.

The data, released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and often called the Nation’s Report Card, shows New Mexico’s fourth-graders with an average math score of 230 out of 500. The national average was 239.

The New Mexico average score for eighth-graders was 270, compared to a national average of 282.

The achievement gap between New Mexico’s Anglo students and students of other ethnicities remained wide, without significant change from 2007.

Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia said the overall numbers may not provide a fair comparison because of the small sample of students tested. About 11 percent of New Mexico’s fourth-graders and 10 percent of eighth-graders took the test.

Garcia also said students and teachers in New Mexico often do not take the test very seriously because scores are not broken down by district or school. She said other states use incentives to raise awareness about the test’s importance.

Oh yeah, that’s the problem with the test scores. We don’t have a big enough media campaign to let our kids know that tests are important. They actually know all of the information, there just not taking the test seriously. GIVE ME A BREAK! Here’s a novel idea… How about taking ownership for the education failures?

Look, year after year, we’ve thrown ever-increasing pots of money at education with ever-worsening results. How about we try something different? Go ahead and cut education spending. Let’s stop pretending the children are going to get hurt. Based on the test results released year after year, it can’t get much worse for them.

And, as long as we’re making cuts, how about getting rid of the hundreds of governor created and appointed positions drawing down comfortable salaries for absolutely no work. In fact, let’s fire everyone who can’t seem to get their department to actually provide the services they are supposed to be providing.

Heck, why stop there? Let’s just fire everyone who refuses to take responsibilities for seven years of failures and fiscal mismanagement. Start with Governor Richardson and don’t stop until you find someone who says, “I’ve totally and completely messed up, and this is how I’m going to fix it.” My guess is that before you find that person, the budget will actually be balanced.

Not Enough Screaming Insults

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Must have been an unbelievably slow news day. The front page of today’s online Albuquerque Journal has an “article” which is basically a free ad for Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s request for contributions:

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is asking New Mexicans to restore civility to state politics — by contributing money to her gubernatorial campaign.

In an e-mail sent out to supporters Wednesday, Denish, the sole Democrat to enter the 2010 race thus far, said many New Mexicans have told her they’re tired of the name-calling and negativity of current politics.

“Stand with me against the screaming and the insults,” said Denish, who added that a contribution of $25, $50 or $100 would help her “put her foot down and say ‘enough is enough!'”

Sorry folks this isn’t news. There are lots of candidates out there asking for money, and unless the Journal plans on giving each and every one of them equal time, I think they ought to revisit their editorial policy.

As to the content of the Journal’s in-kind contribution to Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s campaign efforts, I can’t help but wonder what exactly the Lt. Governor wants everyone to stop screaming about? Does she want New Mexicans to stop screaming about the fact that this administration’s tenure has been marked by more criminal indictments and pay to play scandals than any other administration in recent history? Maybe she wants New Mexicans to stop screaming about a public education system that is failing more and more children every year?

As a former Chairman of the Democratic Party, does the Lt Governor find it insulting that a member of her own party would point out that OVER A BILLION DOLLARS is spent without required audits. Or, could it be that Lt. Governor Denish finds it insulting that she is being held accountable for failing to blow the whistle as tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers funds disappeared because of highly questionable investment practices.

Sorry, but if you ask me, there’s not near enough screaming going on in the Land of Enchantment. In fact, I hope the “screaming” grows louder, and I’m really not going to lose any sleep if the crooks, or their enablers, are insulted.

A World Turned Upside Down

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. It is a day that should always serve as a reminder of two irrefutable facts:

  1. There are people in this world that hate America and the freedom it represents, and would do anything to destroy us.
  2. There are unsung heroes that everyday put their lives on the line to safeguard our communities.

Let me first acknowledge that second point by thanking the firefighters and police officers that step up everyday when no one is looking to protect and to serve. Thanks for what you do.

As to the first point, I can’t help but be concerned about the direction our country is heading. On 9/11, the terrorists failed to destroy America, but since that time, a greater and greater number of those elected to lead our country have made, and are making, decisions that might well accomplish what the terrorists failed to do those eight years ago.

On a state level, we’ve seen indictment after indictment against our elected officials. Yet, rather than outrage, the citizens of the state seem willing to accept this as just the way things are. Even the recent fleeing from the scene of an accident by the Governor and his staff is just seen as just another news story:

The state’s boating law says the operator of a vessel has 48 hours to provide information about an accident, and Condit complied with that, according to Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokeswoman for the energy and minerals agency.

Porter said Fay, the boat’s owner, stayed at the scene and provided information to investigators, while Richardson, Condit, Miller and the state police officers left. They were not required to remain there, she said.

What’s been largely missing from this discussion is not what is legal, but what is ethical. Legally, the perpetrators of the accident may not have been required to remain at the scene of the accident, but ethically, they should have remained.

Think about it.

There are only two reasons that the Governor and his staff fled. First, there was alcohol involved, and it would have been determined that a crime had been committed. Or second, they wanted to avoid the unfolding public relations nightmare that would have been made worse by having their pictures taken at the scene of the accident. I’m reasonably confident that if cell phone records were checked, one of the individuals in the party will be shown to have called for advice on whether or not they “had” to remain at the scene of the accident.

There is always a lot of gratuitous talk about the need to legislate ethics in this state. But, this is just another example of why you can’t legislate ethics. Unethical people will act in their own self-interests, and the shrewdly unethical will do it in within the letter of the law. You probably also noticed that not one Democrat running to lead our state in 2010 condemned the blatantly unethical act committed by Governor Richardson and his staff.

Speaking of speaking out, Representative Joe Wilson is in trouble for breaking with decorum by shouting out that the President of the United States was lying to the American people while giving his healthcare address. Yet, there was much truth to Representative Wilson’s accusations:

A GAO report finds that illegal immigrants constitute more than one-third of all Medicaid-funded pregnancies in California. Elsewhere in the country, the GAO found: “From 1992 to 1995 in Texas, the number of Medicaid-funded births to undocumented alien mothers more than doubled, while the total number of births remained fairly stable.” People respond to economic incentives. Even when the people and the incentives are illegal.

Missouri attorney general Chris Koster has estimated that one in ten Medicaid claims is fraudulent. How much of that fraud diverts money to illegal immigrants? Nobody knows for sure and don’t ask the state bureaucrats for help in finding out: When the federal government passed new rules demanding better documentation of legal residency for Medicaid recipients, the states resisted. In California, officials representing the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, wanted to use such lamentably inadequate documentation as insurance records and school report cards in place of passports and birth certificates. We are entitled to question their motives, and their prudence.

So, Representative Wilson could use a visit from Miss Manners. But he is telling the truth, and President Obama is not.

Of course, President Obama’s dishonesty on this topic is not limited to the question of whether or not illegal immigrants will benefit from the healthcare changes being proposed. There were numerous inaccuracies his speech. For example, take this:

OBAMA: “Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.”

THE FACTS: That’s correct, as far as it goes. But neither can the plan guarantee that people can keep their current coverage. Employers sponsor coverage for most families, and they’d be free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like, or drop insurance altogether. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.

In the past Obama repeatedly said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” Now he’s stopping short of that unconditional guarantee by saying nothing in the plan “requires” any change.

Considering how much effort goes into writing a presidential speech, these careful manipulations of the English language cannot be considered accidental. Again, we deal with a question of ethics. Is it ethical to put something forward as factually truthful that is actually intended to deceive?

Of course, these unethical manipulations of language are not limited to our elected officials. They are also being used by “community organizations” to confuse the issues. Consider this taken directly from the ACORN site:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now does not apply for nor does it receive any federal grants.

ACORN has had contracts with other nonprofit organizations to perform work on projects which received federal grant support.

In illegal circles, what ACORN is describing is called money laundering. Organized crime has been doing this for years. In the case of organized crime, dollars from an illegal activity, take prostitution as an example, are flowed through a third party entity before making its way to a “legitimate” business. In this way, the business has deniability about the illegal source of the funds. Much the same way as ACORN has deniability about the federal source of its funding.

As long as we’re on the topic of federal funding, ACORN and prostitution, you might want to consider this:

Two staff members of the Baltimore office of ACORN were fired Thursday after they were captured on hidden camera appearing to give advice on evading tax laws to a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

The video depicts a man and a scantily dressed female partner visiting the Charles Village office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, where they appear to ask two employees about how to shield their work from state and federal tax requirements. The supposed pimp also appears to ask the employees how to conceal underage girls from El Salvador brought into the country illegally to work for him.

“If they don’t have Social Security numbers, you don’t have to worry about them,” the employee says.

If you haven’t seen the videos, I strongly urge you to watch them. It’s like watching an SNL skit from when SNL was actually funny.



Of course, the only problem is that this isn’t a comedy skit. It’s actually real. Now, factor in the economy, our increasingly uncompetitive educational system, the ever-growing size of government, and the you’ll see why I’m so concerned that America may be doing to herself what the terrorists failed to do on 9/11.

Did We Let Our Kids Watch President Obama?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Aren’t you a little curious? Did this right-leaning blogger, who criticizes just about everything this administration does, allow his young impressionable children to watch the President of the United States give his “first day of school” speech.

Of course, I did.

However, they watched it at home with both parents and sans federal lesson plans. I encourage my kids to take an interest in politics, and what goes on in the world. Of course, I also encourage them to use critical thinking skills. Something that the original lesson plans from the Department of Education were lacking. I say “original” lesson plans because they were changed after the uproar.

Teacher Lauradean Morganti used some of the U.S. Department of Education’s lesson plans for the speech. She required students to complete the homework assignment: “Are we able to do what the president is asking of us?” “Does the speech make you want to do anything differently?” “What would you like to ask or tell the president?”

Suggested lesson plans had drawn fire, particularly for a section that said students could write to the president and tell him how they could help him meet education goals. That section was later removed.

I had a conversation with a fellow blogger the other day after I put up my last post on this matter. His thoughts were I was overreacting about the “you must listen to politicians” indoctrination being pushed by the federal government on school children. He felt this was especially true regarding young children. His argument was that elementary school children should be taught to listen to authority figures like police and politicians. It is not until they get older that they should be expected to think critically.

I disagreed. I think all children should be taught to be respectful of others, especially their elders. However, being respectful does not mean blindly following whatever an adult says. I shared the following story with my friend.

One day, a couple of years after 9/11, our family was driving north on I-25 by the Sunport. A plane was flying in low and getting ready to land. Our oldest son was looking out the window and commented, “Look at that plane, it kind of reminds me of when the Iraqis flew those planes into those buildings.”

My wife and I looked at each other, and I responded, “It does. But, it wasn’t Iraqis who flew the planes into the buildings.”

Our son thought about this for a few seconds, and then asked, “If it wasn’t the Iraqis, why are we fighting a war in Iraq?”

He was seven.

Kids are inherently curious. They constantly question the logic put forth by adults. The questioning starts shortly after they learn to talk. Anyone who has ever been around a very young child knows has heard, “But why?” more times than they can count. We don’t need to teach our kids to submit and be blind followers. We need to teach our kids to respect, but to question.

Why the President’s Address is a Problem

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Under normal circumstances the President of the United States addressing school children would not be a problem.

Albuquerque parents will be able to opt out if their children’s teacher wants to tune into President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address next week, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said.

“This is a politically fired issue,” Brooks told the school board Wednesday during its regular meeting. APS offices received four phone calls and “a handful” of e-mails from parents concerned about the address, and officials checked to see how other urban districts were responding to the issue, Brooks said.

However, in the current environment, it is not surprising that some folks are feeling somewhat wary of the President’s address to our nation’s school children. The current focus on increasing the size and scope of government beyond it’s already fantastically bloated and overreaching levels has made many people uneasy. Tactics used by the White House to track opposition to these efforts have done nothing but make people more suspicious:

The “flag” service was introduced Aug. 4, with a White House blog post saying: “There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finance to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health reform that seems fishy, send it to”

There have been numerous occasions in world history when what appeared at the time to be an innocent action, turned out in hindsight to be part of a larger plan. I am not saying that President Obama is hatching a big devious plan. I am just saying that as a nation, it is in our best interest to question the motivation behind any and all actions which expand government reach and influence. This is true regardless of which party is in control.

Now, if we take tomorrow’s Presidential address to the nation’s children as being exactly what it is stated as being, there is still a problem. States have their own standards. Why is the federal government “pushing” a lesson plan for the first day of school. Why does the lesson plan for children k-6 ask?

Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?

Sorry, but I’ve taught at the those age levels, and this does smell a little like indoctrination. I can tell you first hand that a lot of what I’ve heard elected officials say is not important. And, there are lots of times when they SHOULD NOT be listened to under any circumstance. Again, many of you may think everything that our current political leaders are saying is just great. But remember, it wasn’t that long ago when you felt otherwise.

This is again one of those non-partisan slippery slopes.

A Plan for Education

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

I was taken to task yesterday in a comment for not providing a plan for education. Now, it is true that I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog over the years bemoaning the constant increases in education spending. But, let me clarify my position for a moment. I don’t actually have a problem with making large investments in education. However, I expect those investments to yield results. If you ask me for more of my money, it better improve student performance. To date, this hasn’t happened. Nor do I believe under the current system it ever will.

So, what’s my plan. Well, it basically boils down to five points. I’ll try and make my points and give you some insight into the thinking behind them. Keep in mind, that aside from having children currently enrolled in public school, I also have ten years of experience in education. Five as an educator in the classroom, and five running a not-for-profit organization that brought economic education programs into schools.

  1. Parents need to take responsibility for the quality of their children’s education. That means attending school meetings. Finding time to help out at schools. Acting as their child’s advocate. Turning off the T.V. and video games and making sure their children are reading and doing their homework. Schools for their part need to provide opportunities for parental involvement.

    For those of you who think this is only something the wealthy can do, think again. I’ve worked in schools serving some of the poorest communities, and have seen parent involvement that would rival any private school. What’s always amazed me is that a great many private schools (and charter schools for that matter) require parent involvement as part of attending the school. Yet, so many public schools do not.

    Here’s another thing to consider. Go watch children’s competitive sports one weekend. I don’t care if it’s soccer, baseball, football, or whatever. You’d be amazed at what parents do to get their kids on a “good” team. They’ll drive from the mountains to the Westside, or vice a versa. They’ll ask time off from work, so they can take their child clear across the state to that important competition. Again, not an income dependent situation. You’ll find the poorest and richest side by side. They’re all hoping their child is the next fill-in-the-blank star. Of course, we know very few will be. More importantly if they put that effort in supporting their child’s education, they’re children are more likely to succeed.

  2. Let good teachers teach, and fire the bad ones. People who are lousy educators don’t belong in the classroom. If they fail to perform at one school, they should not be moved to another. Teachers’ unions top priority are protecting teachers’ jobs, increasing teachers’ pay, and getting the best benefits package they can for their members. Okay, fair enough, that’s what unions do. But, please note, improving student performance does not enter the equation. Everyone likes to talk about the need (or failures of) business and industry to police their own, it’s time for teachers’ unions and education systems to do the same and remove the non-performers from their ranks.

    As to letting good teacher’s teach, how long has it been since you’ve actually observed the inner dynamics of schools? If it’s been awhile, you’d be amazed. Schools get their reimbursement from the state based on the number of bodies they have in the seats on a given day. Student performance is irrelevant. In fact, the worse the performance, the greater inflow of dollars into a given school. What is it they say happens when you reward bad behavior? That’s right, you get more bad behavior. Ask any great teacher, and they’ll tell you that. This is a broken system.

    There was a time when a disruptive child was sent out of the classroom and to an administrator’s office for discipline. The administrator would in turn call the child’s parents, and there would be consequences when the child got home. Those days are long since gone. Teachers are strongly encouraged to manage the behavior of disruptive children and keep them in the classroom. This is not conducive to teaching, nor does it prepare the child to be a contributing member of society.

    Along this same lines, we need to change how public education is perceived. The benefits of a quality education is a privilege. It is not an inherent right. Children and families from all backgrounds are given a unique opportunity in this country that can level the playing field for the rest of their lives. If they don’t take advantage of it, then they don’t belong in taxpayer funded schools. By the way, get great teachers in the classroom, re-introduce discipline, and you’ll be surprised how many kids opt on their own to take advantage of this privilege.

  3. Pay teacher’s based on performance, not based on artificial tiers or longevity on the job. In every other profession I’m aware of paying on anything but performance results in mediocrity. Why is education any different? It’s not. Yet, a high performing teacher can’t make more than a poor performing teacher. You can thank the unions and the poor performing teachers for that.

    How do you measure student performance? Simple. You measure what a student knows when they enter the class. You establish an individualized educational plan (IEP) for every student (for the life of me I never understood why only special ed students get these), and you measure what that student knows when they leave the class compared to that IEP.

  4. You eliminate waste. School budgets operate under the rule guiding all governmental budgets – use it or lose it. This is a practice that encourages waste. If you’ve got children in public elementary school in APS, I’m willing to bet any amount of money that the school has adopted at least two different math curricula between the time your child entered 1st grade and left at 5th grade. Each time they do this, they buy all new textbooks. Do you have any idea how wasteful this is. The irony is if you walked into a given classroom of any great teacher, you’ll see that they pull different lessons from different books. Why? Because contrary to whatever the popular text is that year, one size does not fit all, and great teachers know this.
  5. Allow all families to take advantage of school choice. The wealthy already do. Is there any reason that poor and middle income families shouldn’t be given choice? I don’t think so. Moreover, give people choices, and you’ll be surprised at how involved they become. Take away their choice, and they will quickly lose interest. Give the money to the parents in form of vouchers, and guess what? We solve three problems all at once.

    We have a proven means of involving parents. We make schools accountable for student performance in order to receive funds. We break the cycle of use it or lose it.

Come to think of it, maybe we don’t break the cycle of use it or lose it. We just change the “it.” It now becomes the actual education. Use the vouchers to get the best possible education for your child, or lose it.

Another Year of Dismal Education Results

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The test scores are in and once again the vast majority of New Mexico schools are failing to make the grade. In fact, in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition more schools failed this year than last year:

Schools repeatedly failing to meet adequate yearly progress could face sanctions, including restructuring. Results released Monday are preliminary and school districts have several weeks to appeal their designations.

The results show that for the 2008-09 school year:

  • 69.3 percent of New Mexico’s schools were labeled as failing to meet AYP, up from 67.7 percent the previous year.
  • 124 out of 147 middle schools failed to make AYP, meaning a failure rate of 84.4 percent.
  • Of the state’s 157 high schools, 129, or 82.2 percent, failed to make AYP.
  • The results are based on standardized tests taken by about 162,000 students in third through eighth grades and in 11th grade.
  • Schools are judged in 37 categories, including whether English language learners, students with disabilities and different ethnic groups are meeting standards. If a school misses even one of the 37 standards, it is labeled as failing to meet AYP.

Now in all fairness, when it comes to numbers, there are many different ways to look at them (e.g. investment houses which report record earnings in a declining economy after taking taxpayer dollars to avoid failure and the “paying it back”, but I digress.). Another part of this annual tradition involves educator Scot Key’s post after post after post after post analysis of the numbers. Expect more posts Scot – someone for whom I sincerely have the utmost respect even if he is to the left of the left – on the topic.

However, I’m a simpler kind of guy, and I prefer executive level summaries. I also prefer to take numbers and reports at face value intertiwned with a little old-fashioned common sense. The way I see it no matter how the folks in charge try to spin it, our education system in New Mexico is failing our students at an alarming rate:

Roughly half the students who should have graduated with the class of 2008 failed to do so, prompting a call to action by the state’s education secretary.

“It is alarming,” Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said during a news conference Monday at which the state unveiled its four-year graduation rate, along with results of the latest round of tests required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

New Mexico’s cohort graduation rate for the class of 2008 is 54 percent compared to the national average of 70 percent, according to the Public Education Department.

The cohort rate tracked individual students from the ninth grade through the summer after their senior year in 2008 to show how many graduated.

For Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, the 2008 graduation rate was 46.2 percent, according to the state report.

Of course, we can all take comfort in the fact that the recipient of this year’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award has a plan:

Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made education reform a priority during his 6 1/2 years in office, plans to unveil another batch of reforms as early as this week.

“We will push very hard so that the main legislative agenda item in January and in my remainder of the term will be education, to finish what I believe is a good start and good progress,” Richardson told the Journal last week. “We recognize that we still have a ways to go.”

Hmm, let’s see if we can follow the logic here. The Governor has made education reform a priority for 6 1/2 years, and each year we fail to make any progress. Heck, we actually lose ground year after year. I don’t know about you, but as the parent of school age children, I don’t think I have the stomach for any more of Governor Richardson’s style reforms.