28 April 2017

District division actually makes a middle school drama program available in Jordan District

The principal at a middle school in Jordan School District (Utah) that was divided, told a job candidate (April 2017) that they now have a drama program, that before they could not have.  Part of the reason they could now have the program was because of the district division. It freed up the money to hire a drama teacher that was not possible before, because the bigger district kept the money for a district-wide program.  They are much happier to have the program at their school level!

25 April 2016

David N. Cox running for Alpine School Board

In an effort to provide experience and leadership in dealing with the growth in Alpine School District, David Cox has announced his candidacy for the school board in district 6 (Lehi). His campaign website can be found at DavidNCox.com, and his facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/electdavidncox/. Please join us in supporting his campaign.

02 May 2015

Administrative Costs per Pupil Compared to District Size in Utah 2013-2014

These most recent statistics compiled from the Utah Taxpayers Association "School Spending Report: Fiscal Year 2013-2014," April 2015 verifies the conclusions of my previous study comparing administrative costs per student to size of district (with the possible change of the number from 1000 to 2000 in student population). This graph shows that while the smallest districts (under 2000) do have higher administrative costs, as stated on the original study: "Administrative costs bear little, if any, correlation to size of districts over 1,000 students".

Administrative costs, rather than a function of size, are a reflection of decisions made by local boards of education or administrators. Usually the more money they accept from federal government programs, the more they spend in administrative costs per pupil due to government requirements.

The main point is: the assumption that bigger is less expensive with administrative costs is simply not true unless comparing to a district that is very small (like below 2000 students). It is certainly not a reason to avoid dividing a big district into a few community-sized districts. Dividing would not, by itself, cause administrative costs to rise. If they rose it would be for other reasons, such as a community's desires for another program, etc.

To be more specific, Cache School District has the lowest costs and is about the size that a Lehi School District would be. Alpine (72,419) is 2nd, but Tooele (14,107), South Sanpete (3462), Logan (5987), and Iron (8685) all have less administrative costs per pupil than Jordan or Davis SD. Box Elder (11,131) and tiny Juab (2287) are lower than Granite, Salt Lake, and Nebo.

District Student Population Admin $/student
Cache 16038 $ 491.00
Alpine 72419 $ 521.00
Tooele 14107 $ 540.00
So. Sanpete 3462 $ 555.00
Logan 5987 $ 556.00
Iron 8685 $ 578.00
Jordan 52855 $ 594.00
Davis 68573 $ 595.00
Box Elder 11131 $ 596.00
Washington 27099 $ 614.00
Juab 2287 $ 619.00
Granite 68106 $ 623.00
Salt Lake 23965 $ 637.00
Morgan 2632 $ 652.00
Nebo 31230 $ 658.00
Weber 31028 $ 658.00
Sevier 4585 $ 676.00
Uintah 7591 $ 697.00
Murray 6435 $ 745.00
Duchesne 5021 $ 747.00
Wasatch 5786 $ 757.00
Ogden 12489 $ 759.00
Millard 2841 $ 799.00
Provo 14799 $ 813.00
Canyons 33674 $ 901.00
No. Summit 990 $ 972.00
So. Summit 1495 $ 979.00
Carbon 3369 $ 1,102.00
San Juan 3020 $ 1,106.00
Grand 1455 $ 1,128.00
Beaver 1579 $ 1,159.00
Park City 4630 $ 1,315.00
Kane 1212 $ 1,360.00
Emery 2310 $ 1,370.00
Wayne 501 $ 1,512.00
Garfield 930 $ 1,554.00
Tintic 250 $ 2,026.00
Rich 479 $ 2,325.00
Piute 304 $ 2,380.00
Daggett 194 $ 2,825.00

20 November 2014

Small Schools Work in New York

More studies show how smaller schools can make a difference - especially in neighborhoods with higher minority demographics:
"New smaller high schools, typically in black or Hispanic neighborhoods, serve about 100 students per grade. More than 90 percent of the students attending these schools are black or Hispanic. Nearly 85 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Three-fourths of them began their high school careers performing below grade level in reading or math."
Smaller schools also produce higher graduation and college rates...
"Students at small high schools have a graduation rate of 71.6 percent, compared with 62.2 percent for their peers in larger schools. The small-school students are also more likely to graduate in four years and go straight to college. The gains are especially impressive among young black men, 42.3 percent of whom enroll in college as opposed to 31 percent of their peers in the control group. Young black women and young Hispanic men and women also matriculated at higher rates than their large-school peers."
...and lower costs...
"The small high schools managed to achieve these gains at a lower cost per graduate than the traditional schools, partly because more students graduated on time and did not need a costly fifth year of education."
...yet people still oppose change!
"The teachers union supported the school closure strategy at first, even though it requires teachers to reapply for their jobs and, in many cases, move elsewhere. But it withdrew support when it decided that Mr. Bloomberg was unnecessarily ramming through closures."
Some people just want to hold on to the status quo - even if change is demonstrably better.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/18/opinion/small-schools-work-in-new-york.html?_r=0

22 November 2013

Small Classes, Small Schools

Patricia A. Wasley writes a very insightful look at the relationship between small classes and small schools. Of course, research shows that small schools are mostly found in smaller school districts, so this article is a reflection of that, too.
Students in schools with large populations of disadvantaged students perform least well on standardized assessments. Evidence also suggests that these schools often have the least-experienced teachers (NCTAF, 1996; Roza, 2001). In effect, having standards in place emphasizes that standards are necessary but insufficient in themselves to improve student performance. Unless we change students' learning opportunities, especially for students who are ill-served by their schools, standards alone are unlikely to influence student learning. Educators and policymakers are looking for strategies that will enable students to succeed on the new assessments (thereby supporting the standards movement) and, more important, that will enhance students' learning opportunities. Small classes and small schools may be two such strategies.
Research conducted on the validity of the assertions favoring large schools has suggested that less-advantaged students end up in the largest classes, with the least-experienced teachers and the least-engaging curriculum and instructional strategies (Oakes, 1987; Wheelock, 1992). Further research suggests that schools are organized more for purposes of maintaining control than for promoting learning (McNeil, 1988).
Powell (1996) examined independent schools in the United States and learned that private preparatory schools value both small school and small class size as necessary conditions for student success. In 1998, the average private school class size was 16.6 at the elementary level and 11.6 at the high school level. By contrast, the average class size was 18.6 in public elementary schools and 14.2 in public high schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999).
Despite parental involvement and teachers' good intentions, it is easy for students to get lost in large classes and in large schools.
Colleagues and I recently conducted a study of small schools in Chicago. Part of our time was spent in a small school-within-a-school with eight teachers. Because they were few, they could meet together every day for an hour, work toward common agreements and understandings, and accept shared responsibility for their students. They discussed the curriculum in all subjects, agreed on instructional approaches, and tried to build as much coherence in the curriculum as they could manage. In the larger school, which had some 70 faculty members, a common agenda simply wasn't possible.
Read more from the original article: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb02/vol59/num05/Small-Classes,-Small-Schools@-The-Time-Is-Now.aspx

20 November 2013

The Answer is Reduce School District Size

Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA), gives more information about how reducing school district size can solve many of the problems in education. His first bullet point is as follows:
One of the bits of information the EIA tables provide is whether a school district spent 65 percent or more on "instruction."
EIA ranked all 14,218 school districts by enrollment and checked the correlation between size and the ability to reach the 65 percent instructional threshold. The results should surprise economists, but not observers of public education.
In 2003-04, the U.S. had 26 school districts with more than 100,000 students. Of these, only New York City and Cobb County, Georgia, met the 65% threshold. That's a success rate of 7.7 percent.
An additional 61 school districts had between 50,000 and 100,000 students. Of these, five (8.2 percent) met the mark.
Let's continue down the rankings. There were 170 school districts with 25,000 to 50,000 students. Of these, 25 spent 65% on instruction (14.7 percent).
Then we reach a plateau. There were 7,152 districts with an enrollment between 1,000 and 25,000 students. Of these, 1,213 (17.0 percent) reached 65% on instructional spending. No matter how you subdivide this group, there is little deviation in how many districts meet the mark. But below 1,000 enrollment, the pattern resumed.
There were 2,382 districts with between 500 and 1,000 students. Of these, 476 (20.0 percent) reached the 65% mark. And of the 4,427 districts with fewer than 500 students, 976 (22.0 percent) met the 65% mark.
There are variety of theories to explain why this should be so, but the data demolish any notion that increasing the size of a school district will increase the resources available to spend "in the classroom." On the contrary: the larger the district, the greater the chance that more money will be spent on "non-instructional" programs and personnel.
Read more from the original article: http://www.eiaonline.com/archives/20060501.htm

Larger School Districts Tend to Veer 'Off Task'

Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, recently posted about the problems that large school districts are prone to have.

Read more from the original article here: http://www.backwoodshome.com/columns/suprynowicz030316.html
"While espousing the virtues of small schools with a community atmosphere, our public school system has monstrously large school districts, mainly in poor urban areas, which are home to the worst problems in education."
And of course, caught up as they are in the supposed "efficiencies of scale," the largest districts tend to house the largest schools -- Los Angeles Unified, alone, accounting for five of America's 15 largest campuses.  
The Los Angeles district actually managed to lose track of $228 million last year -- a mere 5 percent of its budget. "The (district) does not know how many employees it has working in what position at any given time, or how much they get paid," reported L&L Fuller Inc. in an official 1999 audit.  
A number of researchers over the past 10 years have found that large districts are increasingly "off task," in the language of education. A 1989 study from the magazine Education and Urban Society found, "As specialization in staff grows, program offerings expand, and administrative personnel increase, problems of coordination and control also increase. And in large systems, time and energy are more likely to be shifted away from core service activities."   

So why is there so much resistance to dividing large school districts?
School teachers' and administrators' unions "don't control the size of school districts directly, but they do resist efforts to break up large ones. ... Why? Because it's a lot easier for union officials to organize, administer and oversee one local union of eight thousands teachers than to have 80 local unions with 100 teachers each."
Larger districts are handier for administrators, too, Mr. Brimelow points out. "The larger the district, the larger the bureaucracy and the higher the career ladder. The American government school system suffers from penalties of scale. Through the principle of bureaucratic bloat known as Parkinson's Law, the larger a school district gets, the more resources tend to get diverted to secondary or even nonessential activities."