Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education
17Aug/14Off

2014 Annual Meeting Minutes are Posted!

Click here to read the minutes of the 2014 Annual Meeting (June 7th). Comments from out-going president Terry Dunbar, and from in-coming president Patty Finley; election of slate for 2013-2014; presentation of award, general discussion.

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 Want more Annual Meeting Minutes? Click here!

12Jun/14Off

Skandera, Journal Just Don’t Get It on Teacher Evaluations

Ken WhitonKudos once again to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for yet another stirring editorial in the June 12th, 2014 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's latest op-ed is titled "Gov., Skandera, Journal just don’t get it on evals."

Here follows Ken's letter.  Well said, Ken!

What more can a teacher do when a student, in spite of the teacher’s best efforts, still doesn’t “get it?” The teacher has tried every tool in the toolbox, every technique, every “best practice,” but still no comprehension.

Finally, the teacher realizes the student is refusing to learn the material, no matter how well it is presented. Instead of listening, the student dismisses everything the teacher says, refuses to listen to valid criticism, makes excuses and rejects any information that contradicts the student’s preconceived notions.

Please reread the above two paragraphs and replace the word “student,” with the phrase, “Our current governor, the Education secretary-designate and editors of the Albuquerque Journal.”

Teachers must keep trying until these “students” understand the damage they are doing to our children and public education in New Mexico. Let’s hope they listen this time.

Any evaluation process must be valid, consistent, fair, truly reflect the quality of the work teachers are doing and give them clear guidelines for improvement. The new system, in spite of claims to the contrary, fails every test. In spite of assertions in the Journal editorial, the people who really understand statistical analyses have tried, repeatedly, to point out the numerous flaws, but so far, few are listening.

It is outrageous to rate a teacher’s performance based on subjects she or he has not taught and students who have never been in that teacher’s classroom. It is even more outrageous to judge a teacher based on factors that are out of that teacher’s control. Perhaps the governor and Education secretary-designate would like to be evaluated based on what takes place in another state.

No one in charge of education in New Mexico seems to grasp the simple truth that raising student test scores becomes more difficult as the scores improve and yet a school’s grade is lowered if an arbitrary increase is not made.

No one seems to understand that basing a large part of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores only captures part of the picture. It demeans students and the profession of education by treating teachers like piece-workers and children like widgets on an assembly line. While private-sector businesses can reject raw materials that don’t meet their standards, our public schools welcome all students.

No one seems to understand that overloading students with incessant testing is demoralizing to them and their teachers and that forcing students to take more tests lessens their motivation to do well. Why does taking the SAT require less than four hours, but testing in New Mexico schools takes weeks?

No one seems to realize that cherry-picking statistics to make “school reform” look good gives a false picture of what is happening in public school classrooms.

8Jun/14Off

CESE Elects New Slate at 2014 Annual Meeting

A new slate of officers for the year 2014-2015 was nominated and elected at today's CESE Annual Meeting (June 7th, 2014).  Leading CESE for the next year is new president Patty Finley. PattyFinely200The vice-president/president-elect for this year is Lisa Durkin. Steve Brügge will continue as treasurer, and Marilyn Savitt-Kring is staying on as secretary.  Board member Marvin Moss has announced his resignation from the board, to allow him more time for his museum activities.

CESE thanks outgoing president Terry Dunbar for a splendid year of service. Here are some pictures from the meeting, which followed a social at the home of Steve and Karen Brügge.

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Rear left: Steve Brugge, Nancy and Jerry Shelton ; table: David Hsi, Margaret Mavretich and Robert Walko, and Mary Ann Jekowski.

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Outgoing president Terry Dunbar talks to the audience. Foreground: Jack Jekowski, Ken Whiton. Far rear: Patty Finely, Jeanette Dunbar.

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Patty Finley, incoming president, addresses the attendees. Terry Dunbar at right.

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Patty Finley addresses the audience. Far left: Kurt Steinhaus.

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Kim Johnson reads an award which was presented to Dave Thomas.

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Dave's award.

23May/14Off

CESE Annual Meeting set for June 7 2014

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The theme for this year's annual meeting is "CESE – An Educational Odyssey"!

You are cordially invited to CESE's Annual Meeting!

We will have a picnic lunch at the Four Hills home of Steve and Karen Brugge on Saturday, June 7th, at 4:00 PM. A Business meeting will follow; it will include election of the slate of officers for 2014-2015.

Please RSVP to Marilyn Savitt-Kring, at marilynsavitt-kring@comcast.net.

 

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The Brugges live on 803 Maverick Trail in Four Hills.

Directions

From Central/Tramway, go south to 4 Hills Road. Take the 2nd left, Warm Sands Dr., then the 2nd right onto Maverick Trail.

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You will not see the house from the street – look for the 803 on the carport.

 

Filed under: News Comments Off
29Apr/14Off

Does a Brutal Winter mean ‘So Much for Global Warming?

days-below-0-fNow that we're leaving the winter of 2013-2014 behind, we've probably heard several comments to the effect "With all this snow back east, so much for Global Warming, huh?"

However, this season's bizarre ups-and-downs are more of a symptom of climate change than a disproof of the same. Yes, there can still be heavy storms - a warmer climate means more moisture, and the potential for more snow at times.

The fact is, there used to be more frequent snow-storms before the late 20th century.  A recent XKCD cartoon called "Cold" makes this point very well. The cartoon shows that the frequency of days below 0 degrees F in St. Louis, Mo. has fallen off as global warming continues.

A few months back, CESE's Kim Johnson and Dave Thomas were guests on the 94 Rock Morning Show, and discussed various topics related to climate and warming. As  prep for the show, Dave downloaded 80 years of climate data for the Albuquerque International Sunport, and plotted a chart similar to XKCD's for St. Louis. The same trend exists in Albuquerque - frigid days (below 0 deg. Fahrenheit) used to happen two or three times a decade before 1990, but only one such day has occurred since 1990 - and that was the infamous Groundhog Day Blizzard, which paralyzed much of the nation for a couple of days in February 2011.  If you were in Albuquerque in the winter of 1970-71, you probably remember the severe cold snap of 17 deg. below zero. It's on the chart!

Groundhog day Blizzard in Peralta, NM, February 2011

The Groundhod Day Blizzard of 2011, as seen by Dave Thomas at his home in Peralta, NM.

You can listen to Kim and Dave on 94 Rock at these links:

 

Filed under: General, News Comments Off
14Apr/14Off

Be Friends with CESE on Facebook!

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CESE now has a new Facebook Page. Check it out, and be sure to Like the page, and Share it with your friends!

Filed under: General, News Comments Off
10Mar/14Off

Test explanation makes no sense

Ken WhitonKudos once again to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for a stirring editorial in the March 7th, 2014 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's op-ed was titled "Test explanation makes no sense."

Here follows Ken's letter.  Well said, Ken!

Many op-ed columns and letters to the editor by teachers, parents and community members, have expressed frustration and lack of confidence in what is being demanded of students and educators. This is not “defense of the status quo,” or fear of evaluation. These are valid expressions of concern.

Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera responds to criticism with dismissive platitudes about caring for children, as if teachers don’t. But, not caring about teachers’ concerns is also not caring about students. When teachers are shut out of the process of reform and are denigrated and devalued, their students are, as well.

Skandera claims in a column in Tuesday’s Albuquerque Journal that she has reduced the number of hours of testing required by the state. However, as secretary of education, she bears responsibility for the total amount of testing to which students are subjected. Educators are right to be concerned about excessive testing, since every hour spent testing, no matter who requires it, is an hour lost from instructional time.

This lost time would be bad enough, if the same tests were used consistently, every year, but they’re not. Each year brings a different test. Asked about the difficulty of comparing results from last year’s “apples,” to this year’s “oranges,” to next year’s “watermelons,” her dismissive response was, “It will be a non-issue.”

The spokesman for PARCC Inc., creator of the new test, disagrees. “It’s hard. It’s complex. But it’s possible.”

“Possible?” Really? With Skandera’s track record on school grades, teacher evaluations and many other failures, it’s no wonder those concerned with teaching and learning in our public schools have little confidence in her ability to get this right.

In addition, the Journal reporter, Jon Swedien, who actually talked to a teacher, reported on the difficulties of using our current tests on the new “Common Core” curriculum. Because “Common Core” covers fewer topics in greater depth, students will be tested on topics not covered in class.

Skandera said, “While those questions won’t count toward test scores, they will give teachers and students an idea of what next year’s test will be like.” She seems unaware that teachers are not allowed to look at test questions. Unless something changes, teachers will have no way of knowing what next year’s test will be like without adding to their already staggering workload. Students will not be taking this year’s test next year. Knowledge of this year’s test questions does them no good.

We need reform! However, Skandera’s “reform” with no understanding of the consequences of her misguided edicts is not the “reform” we need. That is the reason she faces so much opposition.

If Skandera actually sat down with educators, listened to them, trusted them, gave them a voice in reform, we could have the public education we deserve.

10Feb/14Off

Walter Bishop Murfin 1925-2014

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Walter Bishop Murfin

Born March 28, 1925

Died February 6, 2014

I’ll bet you didn’t know that was Walt’s middle name? Well, it was. I don’t know if he cared whether anyone knew or not but, unfortunately, he is no longer here to berate me for telling everyone, and that hurts. Badly. Walt died yesterday (February 6, 2013).

Walt Murfin is shown here being awarded a CESE plaque honoring his many achievements (February 4th, 2012).

He had a very hard time of it for almost a year, first with a hemorrhagic stroke, and then finally with pneumonia. It was all too much for him. Even someone with such a strong will and intellect as his finally had to let go. His wife, Bettyann, stayed with him at his home until the end with her daughter next door, Walt’s son, John, and Hospice to help out. Still, it is pretty tough.

Walt was nearing 89, and a year ago, still sharp as a tack and a bit of a rascal on occasion to boot! But Bettyann shared him with us, CESE. So he was our rascal! He was one of the smartest people I have ever had the privilege of being around. He was also a good friend – a very good friend. Though meeting late in life, we saw things so much alike that it was as if he and I had known each other for many years. Sure, we didn’t agree on everything, but on most things. When he would get upset with me, he would eventually apologize. When I would get upset with him, he eventually would apologize. Yes – you heard that right. Walt was a complex person.

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Walt and CESE went together as if they were born for each other. I personally think that CESE gave him some added purpose as he got older and, in fact, he was a great asset to CESE. Walt, along with Marshall Berman, was the impetus behind the Murfin Method, or as he wished to call it, the CESE Method. This is a unique way of determining how to improve the educational system (K –12) in New Mexico. Walt worked on this for days at a time, developing the method and details of computations. Walt also help Marshall evaluate data when Marshall was on the state school Board of Education before it was done away with. He helped former CESE president, Steve Getty, perform needed analyses in his educational work. In other words, Walt became very wrapped up in education and in the CESE cause of improving not just science and math education in our state, but also improving all education. He worked on this constantly and passed the results and methods on to anyone who would listen. It has always been CESE’s hope that the state would seriously listen to what we have to say and act upon it. Walt worked very, very hard to that end. Even after his stroke, he recovered enough to almost desperately make sure that his work could be replicated. And people have been listening!

 And, Walt, we are trying to carry on, but you will be impossible to replace. The best we can do is to hope to come close.

 Walt, you have done more than your part to make the world a better place. That’s all one could ask of another person. We miss you very much, Walt. Happy sailing.

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Kim Johnson

CESE Past President
Feb. 7th, 2014

19Jan/14Off

CESE Comments on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

My beautiful picture CESE President Terry Dunbar, on behalf of the Coalition, has written Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera a letter regarding New Mexico's adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards.  His January 6th letter can be read in its entirety here.

Here follow some points from Terry's letter:

 The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) recommends that New Mexico adopt the Next Generation Science Standards for the following reasons:

NGSS standards are a comprehensive set of guidelines for the teaching of science that will be indispensible for teachers, administrators, and for those at the district and state level who wish to improve classroom teaching and learning in science. ...

Implementation of NGSS in New Mexico

If we are to achieve the ambitious and dynamic vision described in the NGSS and accompanying documents, considerable resources will have to be generated at the district and state level. No standards or curriculum can achieve change in the classroom by itself. The “taught curriculum” even now differs dramatically from the written curriculum and standards. To achieve change in the classroom, many issues must be addressed. Among these are curriculum writing, professional development for science teachers, coordination with teacher training programs, buying and upgrading science supplies and equipment.

The writers of NGSS included recognition of the massive systemic culture change necessary to successfully implement broad changes in actual science classroom practice. They cited the challenges for teachers posed by students who vary widely in demographic background, language ability, level of preparation, work habits, parental expectations, etc. Teachers will need a level of support considerably higher than that which now exists in order to embrace and faithfully implement NGSS.

CESE recommends the adoption of NGSS. Our organization of scientists, engineers, teachers, statisticians, curriculum writers, and concerned citizens stands ready to assist in any way we can to see that the rollout of these world-class standards is successful.

Sincerely,

Terry Dunbar, Ph.D.
President, CESE

The full document, including detailed comments on features of the NGSS, is available here.

31Oct/13Off

Update on CESE Method Now Available

CESE board member Kim Johnson has been hard at work refining our presentation on the CESE Method for determining how New Mexico's schools,  students and teachers are faring.  While the method was originally developed to provide clear paths to school improvement, it can also be used to make teacher merit evaluations much, much fairer than the proposed PED A-F method of assigning scores for performance.

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You can peruse the updated presentation here. Questions about the CESE Method should be directed to board member Kim Johnson.