This story – about a 14-year-old Nevada youth who is already attending college – gets me to wondering if we have any similar situations here in New Mexico. This story from the Las Vegas Sun.
Today’s New York Times has an interesting piece by Michael Winerip on how foster children fare in college: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/edlife/extra-support-can-make-all-the-difference-for-foster-youth.html?ref=education&_r=0
I spent a lot of time out at the Santa Fe Community College this past week talking to its leaders and teachers about career counseling for students and such. Some of them admitted that when they come across a student who does not have a particular talent for the topic he/she is pursuing – let’s say, nursing – that they, as counselors and teachers, have to be honest with that student and urge them to perhaps consider a different career path. They suggest these students, who may not possess strong academic skills, attain a certificate that ensures them of a job, be it as a plumber, auto mechanic, or tourism/hospitality worker.
Which brings me back to 1979 when I was attending Orange County Community College in Middletown, New York (about a half hour from where I grew up). I decided to study accounting and business to join the family business as bookkeeper – all the men in my family, going back at least 100 years, have been carpenters, and it was clear I did not possess any carpentry skills, so an effort was made to get me to handle the finances.
I didn’t like accounting or book keeping or math or business but I struggled along for a year, stumbling through most of my courses. I had a computer-science teacher – let’s call him Mr. A. – who was patient and congenial and pretty wise. He once hired me and another friend to do some trim work in a new house he had bought for some under-the-table money, and when we got there, we were astounded to see that all of his furniture was made out of cases of alcohol and beer. He had a huge chair built out of cases of beer, for instance, and it was obvious that he was dipping into the alcohol along the way, because one of the arms of the chair was kind of weak because the case was empty. I found it funny at the time. Now I find it sad.
He ran into me one night at a downtown diner. It was raining out and he didn’t look too good. We chatted about this and that for about 2 minutes, and then he said, out of left field, “Don’t become an accountant or business person or computer programmer. It’s not for you. You’re a writer, an artist. Go after that or you’ll end up miserable.” I don’t know how he knew all that.
And that was the extent of advice I got from him, which is more than my counselor (whose name I forgot almost immediately, since he forgot mine right away) ever gave me in community college.
I changed majors the next semester – from business to writing. It did take me an extra semester to earn my associate’s degree though. Career-wise, I’ve been pretty darn happy ever since – and that’s 35 years ago, more or less.
I never saw him again. I heard he died. He was a good adviser.
Over the weekend New Mexico senator George Muñoz, D-Gallup, asked the Legislative Education Study Committee to put together an evaluation rubric for our state’s Public Education Department, Governor Susana Martinez, and Secretary-of-Education designate Hanna Skandera. The press release accompanying this call notes that the governor and Skandera “have insisted on an evaluation system for educators that has overwhelmed the school system. Meanwhile they have ignored the needs of students and school districts.”
I guess Muñoz wants something akin to the A-F system that PED initiated some time back for all state schools. I talk to a lot of educators, parents, and students about this grading system and from my point of view, it still works like this: if your school got an A or B, you’re OK with the system but don’t want to gloat, and if your school got a D or F, you feel it’s unfair or, as some put it, “I don’t feel our school is a D school.” If you are a C school, you generally don’t say much as you are glad you are above the D or F range but wish you were in the A or B range. Mostly people tell me they don’t understand the complicated rubric behind it, so I hope the senator’s supporters help him put together a rubric that is much more simple to explain.
Pursuant to my post last week regarding how poverty impacts children in the south and west more than other regions of the country, I recalled this April 2013 New York Times piece that is relevant to the issue: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/no-rich-child-left-behind/?_r=2
On Wednesday one of the key investigators who uncovered the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal talked to legislators at the Roundhouse about his findings and expressed concern this same type of widespread corruption could occur elsewhere if the nation continues to emphasize test scores as a measure of success. See today’s New Mexican for my story: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/article_5f488daf-186e-53fd-9f36-3d8dbfea5d8b.html
And Washington Post writer Lyndsey Layton put together a good piece on how poverty is the norm for students living in the South and West – which no one involved in education in New Mexico would deny. Here’s a link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/study-poor-children-are-now-the-majority-in-american-public-schools-in-south-west/2013/10/16/34eb4984-35bb-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html
I just came back from a week of vacation so forgive the lack of posts.
Santa Fe Public Schools wants to open an International Baccalaureate program for 7th and 8th graders next year (2014/2015) at DeVargas Middle School. This is just one of many options the district is pitching as part of its overall educational reform programming at the middle and high school levels. I just came back from a school board meeting in which a number of people – students, teachers, parents, and activists (I guess) – offered their views on the various aspects of that reform plan. Several voiced opposition to the IB school, arguing that it will drain resources that can be used to bolster existing programs. (The cost of the IB school over five years is estimated at about $400,000, being it would run at an already existing campus). One student, Gabriel Pacheco, said the fact that 41 percent of people surveyed last year about various options expressed support for a magnet school isn’t impressive, since the other 59 percent represent a majority. Here’s a link to my Wednesday story on the IB school in The New Mexican: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/article_1f2005da-be0f-5d6a-b515-f2f073842d08.html
Incidentally Pacheco asked how many of the roughly 50 people sitting in the board meeting (that number includes board members) could explain the quadratic formula. Only nine raised their hands, and I was not one of them. Here we go again with fear of math, right? His argument is that kids don’t like math because they can’t figure out how it applies to them. I mean, who needs the quadratic formula, right? here’s one website that explains that formula:
Eddie Hopkins loved driving his school bus on activity (meaning sports, theater, ROTC drills, etc.) routes around the city of Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico. A number of his colleagues called me to share their memories of the 62-year-old New Mexico native, who died suddenly in the school bus yard at the district’s Transportation Department. Here’s a link to today’s obituary on Eddie in The New Mexican: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/article_2b366c70-f845-507e-bed2-c6f7e96b6e53.html