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N. M. PED 2013 Bonus Points . . . going above and beyond...

by Susan Ohanian

Back in the early 1990ies, I spent a year traveling to a lot of classrooms in a lot of states, carefully documenting what teachers were doing to change the way they taught mathematics. Then I was ready to "Bear Witness" in Garbage Pizza Patchwork Quilts and Math Magic to the remarkable professionalism exhibited. I spent a good deal of time in Albuquerque schools, meeting with teachers in their classrooms, in meetings with parents, and at conferences of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Albuquerque was a very special place with a deeply embedded professionalism. In those days, NCTM still believed in their initial standards, the ones that excited teachers across the country. What happened to those standards is an ugly story, one that I don't have time for here. Now NCTM is carrying the train for Bill Gates' Common Core emperor's robes, and I ignore every one of their e-mails. (I would just note here that NCTM received the royalties for Garbage Pizza...

I witnessed the commitment New Mexico teachers--Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Las Cruses-- had for fostering their growth as professionals and their outreach to parents. Now,every pronouncement that comes out of the New Mexico Public Education Department undermines and contradicts that commitment.

This is a long lead-in to a recent communique from the New Mexico Public Education Department. They have a Webinar explaining how public schools can earn bonus points, which are an administrative version of the stickers newbie teachers might be tempted to hand out to kindergartners for cleaning up their messes. There's another document here: All this for a possible 5 bonus points--which, teachers and parents have discovered, won't rescue a school from an F rating. After all, the Secretary-Designate New Mexico Public Education Department has brought the Jeb Bush Florida package with her.

One thing that struck me is the emphasis on winners: A school may earn athletics bonus points for an athletic team that has received state and national accolades for excellence. The wonderful athletic programs that receive no state and national accolades are considered losers.

NMPED Bonus Points are:

  • Extra points awarded that may
    help increase a school's overall
    school grade.

  • A way for schools to showcase
    activities not calculated by AYP.

  • Schools can promote their
    curricular, extracurricular, and
    sports programming that fosters
    well rounded students

  • Bonus Points can be submitted in three categories: Athletics, Curricular,

    The New Mexico Public Education Department wants to reward "active" rather than what they term "inactive."

  • Students watching a movie in film
    club versus students filming and directing a movie in a film club.

  • Parents attending a recital versus parents creating costumes,teaching students choreography, and directing a recital versus attending a recital.

  • In awarding bonus points, the New Mexico Public Education Department also distinguishes between "typical" and "atypical":

  • Afterschool shop class that makes
    birdhouses versus Afterschool shop class where students go back into the community and construct and repair birdhouses for the Audubon society

  • The New Mexico Public Education Department advises bonus points seekers: Remember Active means engaged in action. Inactive means sedentary, not in action.
    Remember: Atypical means not the usual; original. Typical means the usual, normal, average.

    Thank you for sharing. (Don't you wonder what kind of mind writes this sort of thing?)

    Apparently the New Mexico Public Education Department mandates all schools to be above average.

    Operating on the theory that everything must have a rubric, no matter how foolish that direction for the conduct of divine service or the administration of the sacrament is. Here is the New Mexico School Grading Bonus Points Sample Rubric. NOTE: To get 3 bonus points for their school in "extracurricular involvement", parents must exhibit involvement:
    engages in activities that actively develops, [sic] leads,organizes and coaches extracurricular program development and Engage in community involvement and / or curricular and other extracurricular activities and Parental involvement that promotes community awareness or education of extracurricular program, and/or recipient of state or national recognition of excellence
    Got that?

    I love this statement, These Bonus Point Rubrics have been developed to ensure fairness and uniformity for each school submission.

    How much hot air can these people pile on?

    There's more:
    Each PED reviewer carefully examines school-submitted materials to gauge the level of rigor, uniqueness, and degree of participation.
    Impose rigor on the kids all day and then impose it on their parents' participation at night. Somehow, it doesn't sound like a winning formula to me.

    Somebody please explain to me what's sedentary about parents leaving their homes and attending a recital given by their children.

    The following is a direct quote from the website:


  • Questions based on an activity's worth will not be answered

  • Questions based on an activity's worth will not be answered

  • Questions based on an activity's worth will not be answered

  • Questions will be answered on the Bonus Points System and submission system

  • I love this. Just say it over and over: Questions will not be answered. Who the hell do these people think they are?

    Shafeeq Shamsid-Deen, Policy Division (Formerly, Teach for America) and Lisa Hamilton, Information Technology Division, are available for questions. (Questions that meet the specifications of the New Mexico Department of Education)

    All this reminds me of hotel come-ons: Earn 1,500 bonus points for every qualified night you stay at a participating Best Western branded hotel in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico or Utah for up to 4 nights! Or grocery stores that offer bonus points in November to earn a free turkey. But most of all it reminds me of the essay written in the Wall Street Journal by Suzy Lee Weiss, a Pennsylvania senior: To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me: If Only I had a tiger mom or started a fake charity who laments about the bonus points she could have received on her college application had she spent her summers in Africa doing charity work.

    For the New Mexico Department of Education, "acceptance" means having a hydrogen fuel car club in your elementary school.

    Read on. . . hydrogen fuel car club coming up.

    For New Mexico public schools, kids building birdhouses after school isn't good enough; they have to be building them for the Audubon Society. Getting parents out to student performances isn't good enough; parents have to be directing the performances, writing the scripts, and so on. Funny thing: I looked at the New Mexico Audubon Society Ways to help. There's no mention of a need for birdhouses. They want money.

    The really ugly thing here is that the very schools in most need of bonus points, don't have nearly the number of parents with the leisure to create costumes, teach students choreography, and direct a recital that the "A" schools have. The parents in the schools needing bonus points are working three jobs to put food on the table.

    Would poverty schools get bonus points if everybody gave blood? Or is that too typical? Probably not active enough. After all, blood donors are lying down. But blood donors don't get recognition, and good press seems to be what all this is about.

    Hanna Skandera, two years Secretary-Designate New Mexico Public Education Department--still waiting to be approved-- is set on bringing the Jeb Bush package of reform to New Mexico. that's why she was hired. Her confirmation hearing has been called the best political theater the state has seen in a long time. New Mexico governor Susannah Martinez brought Skandera from Florida to lead the New Mexico department of education. Anthony Cody points out:
    The Constitution of the state of New Mexico states that this post must be filled by a "qualified, experienced educator." Up until now, that has meant someone who actually worked in a school, as a teacher or principal. But Skandera has been filling the post for the past two years, as the "education secretary-designate." Skandera's education experience has not included any time actually working in a school. She worked as a senior policy advisor to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Prior to that she was a deputy commissioner of education for Florida's Department of Education under then -- Governor Jeb Bush.
    Cody provides lots more info on New Mexico's education secretary-designate. Yes, there's a Republican governor who wants a secretary-designate with close ties to Jeb Bush, but history has shown us that when we dump all Republicans, things don't get better. This comment from the head of the New Mexico Business Roundtable gives us a window into why: "Please understand that to be a highly qualified educator doesn't require you to be in front of a classroom. . . Every one of us in this room, I hope, are some kind of qualified educator. I've certainly learned things from the chair of this committee. I have learned things from the ranking member of this committee, and from many others. You have been my educators, and you have been qualified educators."

    The Business Roundtable operates at the nexus of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism: The Corporate State. Their view of "qualified educators" is how New Mexico public schools end up with bonus points for building bird houses the Audubon Society can't use and degrading teachers who try to bring meaning to their work with children and parents who attend their children's concerts.

    Finally, take a look at the school the New Mexico Department of Education singles out as "exemplary" in their 2012 bonus club submissions: Pinon Elementary School in Los Alamos
    Reviewers found that the school's Hydrogen Fuel Car Club, Supercomputing Club, Recycling Club, and Recycling Fashion Show were both atypical, and truly innovative. Another submission strength was the breadth of activities availability to the student body. Piñon Elementary School provided a range of before-school activities, advanced band, orchestra, a variety of concerts, and science-camp activities.
    I'm quite happy that the children at Pinon Elementary have access to all these clubs, but I don't see that a school already scoring a rare 10 out of 10 at Great School needs to be scrambling for bonus points. The high ratings are not surprising, as, according to Wikipedia, Los Alamos, home of the Los Alamos National Lab, is New Mexico's best educated community, proportionately, with 68.6% of adult residents (25 and older) holding an associate degree or higher, and 62.1% of adults possessing a bachelor's degree or higher (2000 Census). No mention of how many Ph.D.s. Median family income: $86,876.

    I received a message from an Albuquerque teacher that the elementary school his children attend received just 0.3 out of 5.0 possible bonus points--from the evaluators who practice rigor but don't answer questions. He relates, "Even if they had received all 5.0 points, they still would have received an F for the school." That school rates 3 out of 10 from Great Schools, based on standardized test scores and 5 out of 5 in community ratings. Parents like the school but maybe they just aren't finding the time to build enough birdhouses for the Audubon Society or to write scripts for school musicals. . . or to sponsor a hydrogen fuel car club.

    — Susan Ohanian reporting on New Mexico




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