Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 10:19 AM

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Last week, I took the Star to task for its article about Pima County districts' AzMERIT scores in the post, To Understand Pima County Test Scores, Follow the [Parents'] Money. (The post had more likes, shares and comments than most of my recent pieces, and a number of letters in the Star voiced similar criticisms, meaning the Star article bothered a lot of people.) Comparing Tucson Unified's test scores with districts whose students come from more affluent homes where parents have more formal education makes little sense, I wrote. In Arizona, around the country and around the world, children from higher income families score higher on standardized tests than children from lower income families regardless of the quality of schools they attend.

I've written often that if you want to create a reasonable analysis of Tucson Unified's AzMERIT scores, you have to compare them to scores in districts with similar demographics. Well, I've decided to put my keyboard where my mouth is. I'm beginning a rough study to see how test scores in Tucson Unified schools compare with scores of similar schools in similar districts. Why am I telling you what I'm planning to do even though I've only just finished the thinking process and haven't begun the research? To keep myself honest, for one. If I put my approach in writing, I'll be forced to stick to it and report the results as honestly as possible (which I'd try to do anyway, but it's always tempting to fudge a bit). And to let readers know what my approach is before I write about my findings so you're less likely to think I began with my conclusions and worked back to the data that "proved" what I already decided.

On my computer, I have two databases from the AZ Department of Education. One lists the total number of students in every district school in the state along with the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch. The other breaks down the 2017 AzMERIT scores of every school in detail, by gender, ethnicity, English Language proficiency and grade level. Looking at the two data sets, I can compare how schools with similar student bodies scored on the state tests, and I can compare the scores of subgroups in the schools.

Here's my methodology. Scratch that. "Methodology" is to high fallutin' a term for my crude analysis—I won't be using any sophisticated statistical tools—of a blunt instrument—a high stakes test whose validity as a measure of student achievement is questionable. So, here's what I'm gonna do.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Know Your Product: Frank Turner's Current Obsessions Range From Hardcore to Folk

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 11:00 AM

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A British folk-punk singer in the tradition of Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer, Frank Turner sings “rock ‘n’ roll will save us all” with enough conviction to make it happen.

His rousing tunes are filled with defiant punk poetry and across six albums, the 35-year-old troubadour has developed a formula that appeals across a wide spectrum. Tucson still needs a proper headlining show from Turner, but the touring partners that have brought him to town are Social Distortion and Jason Isbell. And Turner’s music bridges that span between anthematic punk and heartfelt Americana.

Turner’s 2015 Positive Songs for Negative People swings from quiet solo acoustic songs to electrified punk, with big sing-along choruses like “Get Better” and a somber closing elegy to a departed friend.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls appear on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the Rialto Theatre, with Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit.

Turner shared his current musical obsessions with the Tucson Weekly:

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AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) have been friends and touring partners of mine for years. This, their latest album, is a brilliant concentration of everything that makes them amazing as a band; great songwriting, incredible lyrics.



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It's 'Tucson Unified' Now

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 9:18 AM

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As I was leaving the studio of the Bill Buckmaster Show Thursday, Bill told me that TUSD's new superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo, was on the show last week, and Trujillo mentioned that the district is rebranding itself as Tucson Unified in place of the longstanding tradition of referring to it as TUSD. It's not a huge deal, obviously. It doesn't change the way the district operates or educates its students. But I like it. Words matter, and the feeling the public has about the district matters.

The words "Tucson Unified" have a nice, positive ring to them. They link our city name with a sense of togetherness, indicating that Tucson is unified in our pursuit of education for our children.

The rebranding process has been going on for awhile. It began before Trujillo was chosen as interim superintendent, then superintendent, but I hadn't noticed it until Bill pointed it out to me. From this point forward, I'll use "Tucson Unified" instead of TUSD in my posts.

If you haven't had a chance to hear Dr. Trujillo, the interview on the Buckmaster Show is a good place to start. You can listen to it on the show's website. He comes across as smart, positive and personable. Early indications are, the board made a good pick.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Cinema Clips: Columbus

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 12:00 PM


When his father falls into a coma, Jin (John Cho) goes to Columbus, Indiana to sit by his bedside, which drudges up a lot of issues. He meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent college grad who is stuck in limbo due to anxiety about her mother (Michelle Forbes). The two share some cigarettes, then start taking in the city’s architecture, while gradually getting to know each other a bit more.

Sound boring? Well, it isn’t, thanks primarily to the work of Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen, Split), an actress quickly becoming one of the best of her generation. She creates a fascinating character in Casey; very intelligent, perhaps a bit aloof and sensitive about her family and others. Her struggles aren’t portrayed in a melodramatic way, and her relationship with Jin is handled with class.

Casey seems like a real person, to the point where her scenes almost feel like a documentary. Cho is very good as a guy who really can’t figure out where he stands on his father, while Parker Posey the Indie Queen shows up as a former crush and friend. By the time the film ends, you will miss the characters. This is a great ensemble cast, and a sweet film.

Business Leaders Say, Raise Taxes to Fund Schools

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 9:58 AM

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I've been out of town for three weeks. Did I miss anything?

Let's see. TUSD has a new superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo. Looks like a pretty smart choice. He's getting stamps of approval from people on various sides of district issues, which is promising. And board member Mark Stegeman has voted against him twice so far, which makes Trujillo sound even better to me. Best of luck, Dr. Trujillo. You'll need it.

Then there was the Mexican American Studies decision from Judge Tashima, a clear-the-bases, grand slam home run for MAS supporters. Ex Ed Supe John Huppenthal didn't like the program because it taught students they were victims of a racist system; the judge said Hupp's dismantling of the MAS program was the result of racial animus. Hupp didn't want Mexican American youth to think of themselves as oppressed; Hupp suppressed a program which used historical facts to show ways Mexican American students and their ancestors have been oppressed. Earlier Ex Ed Supe Tom Horne was upset that MAS taught ethnic chauvinism; he went around the state telling white people their privileged status was threatened by the program. One term to describe the Hupp and Horne statements in light of the judge's decision is "irony." MAS supporters are probably more fond of the term "vindication."

And then there's the statement by Jim Swanson, the leader of Ducey's Classrooms First Initiative Council, that our schools need an additional billion dollars in added tax revenue. It's not exactly new news. Other business leaders raised the idea in June. But for Swanson, Ducey's hand-picked head of his council to explore ways to improve education, to say Ducey isn't doing enough to fund schools, and to go into such detail about the reasons why the extra money is needed, that's really something. The public already supports increased education funding. A statement from Swanson and other business leaders helps build a statewide consensus which will make it harder for Republicans to pretend to be pro-education while saying they don't want to "throw money at schools."

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Laughing Stock: Crime and Merriment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Improvisers Rick and Laura Hall, veteran TV actor and long-time Whose Line Is It Anyway accompanist, respectively, and both alumni of The Second City, perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16 at Unscrewed Theatre. - LAURA HALL
  • Laura Hall
  • Improvisers Rick and Laura Hall, veteran TV actor and long-time Whose Line Is It Anyway accompanist, respectively, and both alumni of The Second City, perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16 at Unscrewed Theatre.
Here’s news for fans of NCIS and Whose Line Is It Anyway: Improvisers Laura (WLIIA veteran accompanist) and Rick (TV actor, NCIS 2017 Ep. 1, e.g.; also Curb Your Enthusiasm) Hall team up for two shows at Unscrewed Theatre, 3244 E. Speedway Blvd., at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $5 at the door, or in advance online.

The show will begin with a set by Unscrewed’s own popular musical improvisers, From the Top, with special guest Rick Hall. Laura will accompany. Then Rick and Laura will improvise a set with the students of an advanced workshop they are giving earlier in the day. Players may include improvisers from Tucson’s more sketch-oriented musical comedy group, Musical Mayhem. Mayhem appears monthly at Unscrewed Theater, rewriting Broadway hits into satire.

“I started in my early 20's in Chicago as a waitress at Second City,” Laura says of her improv career. “That’s 30 years ago!” It was a school job; she was working on a degree in piano, emphasizing composition. "I never really considered doing the music side of improv. But once I was there, I thought, ‘This is really cool! It was cool the way that the musicians functioned with the actors.” Hall went from being a waitress to playing for the Second City touring company, where she met Rick.

“We always had one musician and six actors,” Laura says. “What the musician does is more subliminal. We play transitions, like transitions in a movie that get you from scene to scene. We also play to underscore parts in the scene. There's music playing underneath, but the audience may not even be aware that it's helping shape and underpin the scene.”

That's got to require some pretty intense group mind among the actors and musicians. “They definitely have to be simpatico,” Laura says. “None of us know what we’re doing. We find it together as we go. The timing is what's challenging about it.”

Laura has proven the master of the timing. She accompanied six years of the ABC series Whose Line Is It Anyway with Drew Carey, then toured several more years with Drew Carey and the Improv Allstars. She’s also accompanied recent revivals in London and on the CW.

“People like the energy of musical improv so much,” she says. “You don’t have to be a fabulous singer. What you have to be is committed to it.”

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Quick Bites: Events

Posted By and on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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Primavera Cooks: Kingfisher. Catch the last Primavera Cooks Dinner of the season at Kingfisher Bar & Grill. This is the 16th season of these dinners, in which community members and top local chefs team up to produce gourmet wine-paired dinners for their guests, who get to chow down and be charitable at the same time. Proceeds go to the programs and services of the nonprofit, which works to decrease poverty through affordable housing, job workshops and neighborhood revitalization projects. 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 Kingfisher Bar & Grill, 564 E Grant Road. $125.

16th Annual Roasted Chile Festival. The Rincon Institute hosts this chile and spice and everything nice event at the Rincon Valley Farmers and Artisans Market. Aside from fresh roasted chilies, locally grown produce and a beer garden, there will also be artisans and crafters, activities for kids and live music by John Grant & The Guilty Bystanders and Johnny Bencomo. Come get your metaphorical fill of local culture and your literal fill of hatch and poblano chilies. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. Rincon Valley Farmers & Artisans Market 12500 E. Old Spanish Trail. Free entry.

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Born & Brewed Beer Battle at Hotel Congress. Which brewery produces the best pint in town and deserves the coveted 2017 Beer Cup? Help decide by casting your vote at Hotel Congress’s sixth annual event. It’s more local than ever this year, with beers strictly from Tucson breweries, who will compete in three categories: best flagship beer, best specialty beer and people’s choice. There will be panelists from Dragoon Brewing Co, Tucson Foodie, Tucson News Now and USBG Tucson. Beats, brews and eats abound with the tastings, food pairings and live music. 6 p.m. Saturday Sept. 23. Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.. $15 designated driver, $30 general admission, $50 VIP.


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Quick Bites: Openings

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 4:47 PM

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Kief-Joshua Vineyards Grand Opening. Southern Arizona is quickly becoming recognized for more than its cacti and Wildcats. Wines from the region are gaining national attention, and a new vineyard is rolling into town. The Kief-Joshua Vineyards Grand Opening will celebrate the new vineyard and tasting room by inviting the community to come and sample their newest wines. The event will include wine and sangria by the glass, wine flights, small bite pairings and samples from a local pistachio farmer. Wilcox has recently been labeled as an AVA region (American Viticulture Area) meaning that it has the precise growing conditions to produce the perfect grapes making for a perfect wine tasting afternoon. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. 4923 E. Arzberger Rd, Willcox. $10 for a souvenir glass and five one ounce tastings. $7 if you bring your own glass.

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Angry Crab opening. Phoenix favorite Angry Crab Shack & BBQ is open in Tucson! After a grand opening on Sept. 1, this seafood spot continues to serve up all of your favorite crab, clams and shellfish right here in the desert. Seafood is prepared just the way you like it at the Angry Crab, as every menu item is specialized to your taste. First, pick your fish or shellfish, then pick a sauce and finally decide how spicy you want it for the perfect mouthwatering meal. Burgers and brisket are also available for a menu that is sure to please the whole family. Open Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 1365 West Grant Road.

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Spaghetti Western Steakhouse Opening. Get ready for some steak and spaghetti, in both Western and noodle forms. They’ll be coming your way this week at the grand opening of Classic Spaghetti Western Steakhouse on Stone Avenue. The new restaurant will join Brother John’s BBQ, which opened in 2015, to add to the growing Bronx Park Neighborhood food scene. Decorated with murals from local artist Danny Martin, the restaurant will channel the spaghetti western fan in all of us while serving up a juicy mix of steakhouse favorites and classic Italian fare. Grand opening event at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14.

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Culinary Dropout Opening. Another distinctive and delectable restaurant is being added to the Tucson food scene. With four locations in the Phoenix area, Culinary Dropout is bringing its classic dishes and self-proclaimed “inked up” and “mohawk rocking” staff down to Tucson. Along with food, beer and cocktails, the space at the former Grant Road Lumber will have games and live music from local up-and-coming artists for patrons to enjoy. Opens Wednesday, Sept. 20.
Regular hours: Monday through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 2543 East Grant Road.

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Staff Pick

James G. Davis (1931-2016): Down at the Tower Bar, A Retrospective

Celebrating the career of Tucson artist James G. Davis with a selection of paintings and prints made… More

@ Etherton Gallery Sat., Sept. 9, 7-10 p.m. and Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11 135 S. Sixth Ave.

» More Picks

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Popular Content

  1. Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. It's 'Tucson Unified' Now (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. The Weekly List: 21 Things To Do In Tucson In The Next 10 Days (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. Cinema Clips: Columbus (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. Know Your Product: Frank Turner's Current Obsessions Range From Hardcore to Folk (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

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