Year in review: the best and worst in education

Boy, here’s an idea I wouldn’t mind borrowing for Santa Fe/New Mexico: The Washington Post’s annual best/worst in the year for education, compiled by a teacher; Those interested in New Mexico’s new teacher-evaluation system may want to take note of the Charlotte Danielson video regarding the use (or non-use) of standardized test based results to evaluate teachers.

School Improvement Grants – do they work?

Last spring/summer I wrote about the one school in Santa Fe – Ramirez Thomas Elementary School – that received a three-year federal School Improvement Grant. At that time the school’s leaders were trying to figure out how to redirect their existing sources, minus the grant money, to keep the school on the upward path.
This week Education Week ran an interesting piece questioning whether the rewards for these SIG initiatives are worth all the federal funding:
If you want to revisit my spring 2013 story on Ramirez Thomas, here’s a link:

Boyd’s best off the cuff

Watching Joel Boyd in various public events over the past year and a half (almost), I’ve noticed that he doesn’t really enjoy reading from a script. He’s always at his best when he goes off script and starts talking off the cuff – which is what he did at Thursday’s State of the Schools speech here in Santa Fe. This speech is always held during National Education Week (Nov. 18-25) though I always think that’s an odd time to give a State of the Schools speech. Why not do it around budget time (April/May) or at the end of a school year or calendar year? Anyway here’s a link to my story in The New Mexican:

Teacher protests Wednesday in New Mexico

Various state-wide teacher unions are planning protests at select cities in New Mexico today (Wed. Nov. 20th) including here in Santa Fe. Among other issues, most of them are not too happy about the state’s new teacher-evaluation plan, which relies heavily on three years of test scores and includes multiple observations of classroom teaching. I will say that several teachers who I spoke with who are not happy with the evaluations say they don’t mind the observation part, though it is taking principals a long time to pull these off, apparently.
See the Associated Press piece on this action:

Santa Fe Community College presidential fuss

Late yesterday the Santa Fe Community College’s governing board voted 3-2 to place president Dr. “Cha” Guzman on administrative leave. I expect there will be considerable public commentary at today’s board meeting at 5 p.m. (Tuesday, Nov. 19th). Here’s a link to my story in today’s New Mexican:

To read or not to read

I spent most of Wednesday at the Legislative Education Study Committee meeting in the Santa Fe Roundhouse. I always find these meetings fascinating and generally they generate a news story. Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera was scheduled to testify late in the day about proposed legislative education bills she would be promoting, but the darn meeting ran about two hours over-time and she was let off the hook. I caught her in the hallway for a few minutes and wrote a piece on the ongoing saga of whether to promote a third grader who can’t read or hold him/her back. Here’s a link to that story in today’s New Mexican:
Today (Thursday Nov. 14th) the Legislative Education Study Committee discusses teacher evaluations – another prickly topic among educators.

Map quest for reading

Hooked on Books, which started as a student-led initiative from the Santa Fe School of Arts and Sciences, encourages kids to read by setting up contests in which the top achievers win prizes. The most recent contest is called Map Quest, where kids have to read a book and then make a map about the book. Today (Nov. 11th) at Capshaw Middle School, the campaign honored four 7th graders who took top spots in the current contest: Roya Ahmadi-Moghadam (1st place), Brianna Hernandez (2nd place), and Anthony Garcia and Ramon Roybal (tied for 3rd place). I stopped by Capshaw to have lunch with them today and talk over a chicken sandwich, pizza, and spaghetti (that is, you had your choice of a chicken sandwich, pizza, and/or spaghetti). Anthony, who has a thing for Greek myths, said he likes to read anything he can get his hands on. He plans to join the Marines when he graduates from high school, and said he likes every one of his classes. Why does he like reading? “You start imagining you’re in the book,” he said. Brianna wants to go to college to be a lawyer. “They make a lot of money,” she said. Roya wants to be an interior designer and said she’s already developed a knack for it. Ramon said his goal is to keep his grades up and become a professional basketball player. On Wednesday, Nov. 13th, the Hooked on Books initiative hosts 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams at the Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe. Apparently the event is set up so attending students – perhaps including the four from Capshaw – can interview Williams to generate some interplay. Visit this link for more information on that event: