Swickard: Cheating the test, cheating the society

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. School grades for New Mexico public schools are out. Here is the problem: the mania for testing has no real value for the students. Further, teachers must stop teaching more of their time and prepare for tests to evaluate the school. This has no educational basis. It supports a bloated school administration and nothing else.
     What is the purpose of education in New Mexico? To create citizens who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to thrive in our society. This is the one goal, the only goal. There is no other legitimate purpose for public school education. Know this: education should not be primarily a jobs program for adults.
     For students their purpose is not to get high scores, attend college or to win academic awards. Again, their purpose is to become productive members of our society. Scores, college and awards may help but they are not the purpose. Graduation rates and college attendance are interim goals, not the purpose.
     Sadly, the purpose of the accountability testing in New Mexico is to label public schools B or D as if it makes any difference for students becoming productive members of their society. Show me the study saying going to a D school keeps students from becoming a productive member of the community. There are none.
     The dirty little secret is that the avalanche of testing is harmful to students and teachers alike. Students will never get a job taking tests and have no lasting need for test-taking skills. Students spend an inordinate amount of time on tasks of no long-term value for themselves.
     For teachers the testing mania is a never ending nightmare. Administrators demand results because their jobs are on the line. Adults are trying to protect their jobs. Whole school staffs have been fired when a school does poorly on the tests.
     But if you swap the entire staff of a low-performing school with the staff of a high-performing school the next year will look essentially the same, it is not the teachers that make the biggest effect. Yes, good teaching is great, but schools have a long history tied to the parents.Read full column

Spaceport America gets private loan

Spaceport America got a green light Wednesday to take out a $20.8 million private loan to build two visitor centers in southern New Mexico, a move supporters described as an important business step for the commercial space flight venture. 
Members of the state Board of Finance, including Gov. Susana Martinez, voted 7-0 to authorize the loan, which spaceport officials said could be completed within 30 days. Construction of the visitor centers could begin soon after. 
However, several Board of Finance members expressed concern Wednesday about the possibility state funds will have to be used to pay back the loan if the spaceport’s visitor estimates prove to be overly optimistic. 
Already, $209 million in state money has been appropriated to pay for construction of the main Spaceport America facilities.


AG says behavioral health audit investigation could take months

 Attorney General Gary King says it could take several months for his office to complete an investigation of overpayments and possible fraud by behavioral health providers in New Mexico's Medicaid program. 

King told the Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday that his office hasn't made a determination about the allegations forwarded to his office by the Human Services Department. The department froze payments to 15 nonprofit groups last month after an audit found what the agency said was a high rate of billing problems. 

Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier defended her agency's action in testimony to the committee and assured lawmakers that steps were being taken to prevent an interruption of mental health and substance abuse services to patients.