Happy Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day and most government offices are closed. Some school districts, including Los Alamos, close schools, but Santa Fe Public Schools remains open. I’m heading over to Sweeney Elementary School where a re-dedication of the school to vet Robert Sweeney will occur at 10 a.m. Another Santa Fe public school, Nava Elementary School, is named after VFrancis Xavier Nava, a Santa Fean who died while serving in Vietnam. To those who served, thanks. I’ll post a blog on the Sweeney event later today; you can visit today’s New Mexican to see my non-education related story on the efforts of local Vietnam vets to collect photos of all New Mexicans who died in battle (including Nava) on today’s front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican.

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The school-to-work pipeline is clogged

I spent most of yesterday morning (Monday Nov. 4th) at the National Governors Association’s discussion of how to better prepare students from both the K-12 and college system for jobs that are awaiting them. The afternoon session, in which roughly 100 participants broke into groups to discuss solutions, etc., was closed to journalists. In fact, I was the only journalist covering the event in the morning, and the only guy wearing jeans and a jean jacket  – every other man there wore a 3-piece suit.

Here’s the piece I wrote in today’s New Mexican on the summit: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/education-summit-stresses-importance-of-preparing-students-for-workforce/article_313dedc2-54d7-525e-8d8c-1ed44b3ae3e0.html

And here’s a link to a recent (October 30th) Affordable Schools website story on this same issue: http://www.affordableschoolsonline.com/study-says-college-grads-are-unprepared-for-workforce/

Big Brother College is Watching You

For those of you who don’t/can’t censor what you put online via blogs, Facebook, or other social networking pages: if you are a college applicant or foresee going to college on day, watch out: Big Brother College is watching you. Sort of. A new Kaplan Test Prep survey of college admissions officers found that about 30 percent of college-admissions officers visit applicants’ Facebook (or other networking) pages and/or Google information about these applicants. When Kaplan first began following this issue back in 2008, only about 10 percent of admissions officers did this. Now, five years later, that number has tripled.

It should be noted that there has been a dip – from 35 percent in 2012 to 30 percent this year – in the number of admissions officers who note that they find something negative online that impacts an application. Still, if I were you, I’d watch what I post online if you want to get into college.

Career advice from a drunk

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.

How about an A-F grading system for PED?

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.