Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The State of The Union

Cold.  Most of the Union is quite cold and many parts are freezing.  Thank you. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do Something

My daughters and I have tomorrow off - my husband's students do, but he has a staff development day.  In the store yesterday, the Lone Star Baby expressed some concern:

LSB:  We have Monday off because of the March, right?  (She is referring to the local March honoring Dr. King's memory.)

Me:  (hedging on the fact that her school is calling it a "weather day") Yes.

LSB:  But some people don't go to the March!  Why should they have it off?

Me:  Well, the March is not the only way to honor Dr. King.  There are lots of things people can do - it is a Day of Service and people do all kinds of different service we are doing our toiletries drive and the March.  Other people do other things.

LSB:  But some people don't do anything.

Me:  Well, yes.

LSB:  Everyone should do something.

There you have it, people - from the mouths of babes:  do something.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Call For Submissions - Lone Star Ma #11

Call For Submissions - Lone Star Ma #11

Calling for submissions for Issue #11 of Lone Star Ma:  The Magazine of Progressive Texas Parenting And Children's Issues!!!
For this issue, we are looking for feature articles on the effects of lax enforcement of environmental standards on children in Texas.  We are looking for articles on how the Right-Wing War on Women affects mothers and children.  

Specific other topics we might be interested in:  social services funding in Texas, education in Texas, children's public health in Texas (no pseudoscience - we heart the CDC), urban farming for busy families, the Texas State Board of Education, libraries, sex education, breastfeeding, safely avoiding insect-borne tropical diseases and other issues of climate change and family life.  

We also accept essays on mothers' lives and do accept articles on other themes as well if they strike our fancy, so send whatever you think we should consider and we will ponder it.   Please see the general submission information at for guidelines and please consider submitting to our various departments, as well. 

Lone Star Ma wants poetry.  Lone Star Ma wants mama fiction.  Lone Star Ma wants vegetarian recipes (without nuts as nuts are evil over here.) Lone Star Ma wants brilliant articles. What have you got? 

The deadline for submissions is the first of March.  

Raise your voices. 

xo, Lone Star Ma

Resistance Is Useless

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Seriously.  I cannot emphasize this enough. 

Book Giveaway: We Have A Winner!

I put the names of the commentators on my Books of 2013 post in a cup and had the Lone Star Baby reach in and pick one.  The winner is....Maggie May!  Message me your address, Maggie, and "vintage" copies of The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly (fun and fluffy) and Becoming Rosemary by Frances M.Wood (exquisite period YA) will head your way!  I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Prayers For Priscilla Leal

Corpus Christi City Councilwoman Priscilla Leal has suffered a severe stroke and been HALO-flighted to Harlingen for surgery.  My prayers are with her.  She is a a great person and I respect her so much.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Outskirts of Hope

Yesterday was the 50 year anniversary of the speech with which LBJ galvanized the nation to take on the challenge of eradicating poverty.  The New Deal programs he expanded and the others he started in the War on Poverty have done so much for our nation, though, thanks to President Clinton's signing of the vast dismantling of our safety net, so much less than they could have done.

So Many Americans still live "on the outskirts of Hope".    To bring Hope within reach, we need true universal health care, full public funding for high quality daycare, education and higher education, paid family and medical leave and a living wage.

Then we would truly be a Great Society.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


It is back to this sort of thing for many Texas women, it seems, though it is just not safe.  What is it going to take before we decide to get these Republicans out of our bodies and our public offices instead?

Monday, January 06, 2014


So, it's not supposed to get colder than 33 degrees here on the coast, but my neighbors are already buzzing about plants and pipes.  We do not like the cold down here in South Texas - not one bit.  For those of you in the rest of the country, where I know it is much, much worse, you have my prayers for warmth and safety.  We are more than halfway through it.  I wish you Warmth and Light and soon-Springtime.  Be safe.

All The Scholar Women

On Saturday, we took the Girl to Edinburg for an open house for one of the pre-med programs to which she is applying.  We made it a family road trip and Lone Star Pa and the Lone Star Baby hung out in Edinburg and McAllen until we were finished at the open house and could join them for a little exploration. 

They found a library.

(On a related note - you could have warned me about The Tales of Beedle The Bard. Ugh.)

Feliz Dia De Los Reyes Magos!

Happy Epiphany!  I hope your holiday season has been filled with peace and joy.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Bubble Kids

Very soon it will be back to school time after winter break.  In this day and age, what that really means in Texas is "back to cramming for the STAAR tests" time. 

I'd like to share with you some things I found out in my years as a public school teacher about how that works.  You might want to get something to bite.

First of all, if you have not worked in a public school in the last decade, you would be pretty astounded at the number of staff hours that are devoted to analyzing STAAR (formerly TAKS) test data.  Regardless of whether your students are so poor and live in such a violent neighborhood that it is a first class miracle that they make it to school hungry each morning or whether your students speak English at all, or whether they will ever have the developmental ability to read a sentence - they are going to have to pass those tests or your school will be severely punished.  Poverty, societal violence, pollution, lead poisoning, head injuries - none of that matters: it is all the responsibility of the individual teacher or school.  Get with it.  The stakes are high.  If you fail, you have to spend more time and money on testing, and more and can definitely get worse.  No one is taking any chances.

Each school has a testing coordinator - an assistant principal or counselor or someone -  who is in charge of testing for that year.  That person spends a whole lot of time that could be spent on disciplining or counseling students or supporting and helping teachers in their classroom goals for students instead sequestered in the Super-Secret-Sam Testing Cave That None Can Enter.  They have to do many mysterious and detail-oriented things to the coding of each student's test, etc.  I do not have a very complete idea of what all of that entails, beyond the parts that are detailed in the really long manual we all have to read, because None Can Enter.  That person tends to have a lot of stress.  And people miss them a lot.  It sure does not stop there, though.

All test administrators - teachers and everyone else who gets pulled in and all the people who have to be trained in case someone gets sick or has to go to the bathroom (bathroom procedures - a whole other post) have to attend a training.  They have to read a manual.  They have to Sign An Oath (I am not kidding) that they have done these things and will comply with All The Rules (All The Rules include word for word scripts that must be read completely accurately at perfectly timed intervals to students during testing and careful instructions on who can touch what piece of paper - again, a whole other post). 

But that is nothing.

Teachers generally get one 45-minute planning period per day in which to prepare their lessons, grade papers, etc.  Some of these are regularly sacrificed for a variety of Meetings.  These days, those meetings concern STAAR data. Teachers and counselors and administrators are expected to run detailed reports on the previous STAAR testing performance of each and every student in their class/school.  They are expected to give the students benchmark tests through which they can hopefully gauge student progress on each and every standard on the tests.  The State contracts with expensive Testing Industry Specialists who help provide templates on how exactly certain forms of past performance will predict future performance. Sometimes teachers have to get subs and take days out of teaching to further analyze this data - always teachers spend hours and hours of after-school time doing this.  These templates provide guidance for the individual plans teachers must make for each student in order to assist each student's progress toward passing the STAAR tests.  Sort of.

Teachers are not afraid of hard work, mind you.  The bad part is what teachers are forced to do with the data. 

All the number crunching comes down to the concept of Bubble Kids.  

See, the Testing Industry has it all figured out.  Some students are obviously going to pass the tests based on their past performance.  Some students - well, they pretty clearly are not going to pass (especially when their teachers and administrators are forced to spend so much time on testing preparation).  It's the other students - the ones with past performance in a certain range of scores above and below passing - those are the ones teachers are told to zone in on: The Bubble Kids. 

 See - if you spend extra time on the Bubble Kids - get them in for after school tutoring, design your classroom lessons heavy on the specific standards with which they need more help - well, you are going to get more results in terms of more kids passing than if you target your efforts equally towards them and the students who are probably going to pass without your help and the kids who probably are not going to pass no matter how much you help.

The Bubble Kids are where you get the most bang for your buck, where you can most effectively raise your school's all-important passing rates.

Teachers are firmly, firmly, firmly instructed to focus their strategies on those Bubble Kids.  

They are color-coded.  

The teachers know them all by name. 

I'm not kidding.  

This is what is going on in your kid's public school, very much against the will of the teachers and other fine folks who work there. 

See why you needed something to bite?

Feel free to talk to your legislators about testing.  Testing has, thankfully, been somewhat de-emphasized in high school since last Session, in the sense that there are fewer tests, but that does not help the elementary and middle school students at all. 

Bubble kids.  Don't forget.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year, Y'All!

Eat some black-eyed peas, Mamas,  and have a year that is sweet in which as complicated and amazing and strong and brilliant as only you can be!