Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blue Bexley School Funding/Performance Report

I'm surprised and confused. I spent MLK Day prepping for a potential conversation about school funding by analyzing data and writing an informal report. I'm a nerd. When I looked at data linking Per Pupil Spending and district performance, I found a much more complex relationship than I would have predicted, and as a result I'm temporarily backing off my high horse when it comes to implementing a DeRolph compliant funding solution. Please read it for yourself, and please do offer commentary.

UPDATE: I've changed the location of the report. The file hosting service I tried is really bad. I've created a new Yahoo account to host pdfs. Hopefully, that will be a more reliable solution.


Jill said...

Well - don't tell your wife if it will get you in trouble but I love nerds like you. :) Thanks for doing the heavy lifting - I'm taking a look now.

Jill said...

Okay - I really don't function well at this time of night and I just got home from an education committee meeting at my synagogue and am drinking a glass of wine that I didn't get a chance to have at dinner, but...here are some cursory thoughts:

1. Expectations. What do the people in the various sized districts expect? I suspect that those expectations, both of the parents and the residents in the community and the students themselves impacts whether the money spent makes a difference. There are some human intangibles that money simply cannot fix or change. Thank goodness.

2. Teachers and curriculum. Perhaps part of what your graphs show is that despite the sniping some people do re: the ODE curriculum standards and the OGT, those items actually are objective - it's more how they are implemented on a district level and by each teacher that makes a difference. For example, what if you compared districts that refused to hav anything to do with the Intelligent Design language versus counties like Green where teachers were suspended because they couldn't help themselves teaching creationism (yes, that's true)?

3. Parent involvement: I would love to see this tracked on a district-size basis.

4. Involvement with church or synagogue. I'm not saying that it makes a difference, but as a social worker intern, I know that inner city schools relied on mentor programs with which clergy were the key conduit.

5. Last but not least, education is a sociologist's dream issue because it comes down to the individual and the community and no matter what external forces try to apply, or pull away from the individual, what ends up being the determining factor is the person him or herself.

I'll have to read this in the morning to see if it makes sense, but in general, I'm pretty sure I'm sticking with it.

bonobo said...

It's late, so I'll be brief,
1) I've grown comfortable with my nerdiness.
2) Collapsing across my report and your response - it's the community and families more than it is the schools. But I really believe that the quality of the schools drives changes in the quality of communities. So now I'm back at square one.

ohdave said...

Pretty interesting report.

The district where I work is one of the state's bargains, with low per pupil spending and high achievement. At one time we were the bottom of the per pupil spending chart among "excellent" districts.

There is a chapter in Freakonomics you should read... go to your library and check it out.

One thing I've noticed about Ohio is that the per pupil spending really seems to be higher for low performing districts... your analysis bears this out... the question we have to ask I think is two-fold: 1, how do we make sure that the spending is equitable, not just "even". One of the big reasons for De Rolph was rural districts... quite a few of these districts have average to high achievement levels, in spite of poor funding... But it still is not fair, not just to students but taxpayers as well, to have a system that is overly reliant on property taxes that deprives those students of similar facilities or opportunities that wealthy urban districts have. So there is a basic fairness issue that needs to be addressed especially, as I said, in reference to rural districts.

And of course, 2, where is the additional money being spent? Your analysis seems to suggest that low performing districts are spending a lot... Much of that "extra money" in districts with high poverty is in the form of Title I and other federal grants for intervention especially in reading....Those grants are always tied to free/reduced lunch numbers... I think the state needs to look very closely at how that money is being spent. Maybe the money is paying dividends, and achievement would be much LOWER than it already is without those funds.

Finally the solutions to urban ed are pretty complex and intractable. Jill's right, that many of the problems are not fixable by the government... for example, I know from some districts I've worked with that transience is a huge problem within highpoverty districts... I don't really think the state can solve that problem. We have to figure out what we can fix and what we can't, and learn to accept that. Yes, leave no child behind, but at the same time don't pretend that 100% achievement (NCLB's 2014 goal) is possible, either.

Good discussion, point... look for yourself on Best of the Blogs friday!

Lisa Renee said...

Thank you! That is an amazing resource of information and one that we've been discussing locally. I've shared the information on my blog and I can't thank you enough for taking the time to put this out there.

You get the Lisa Renee - YOU ROCK! of the year.


Paul said...

Jill hit on what, I believe, is the one the most significant determinants of student performance: parental involvement.

In central Ohio, the proportion of children being born in single-parent homes is something like 40% of all births (the exact numbers were recently published in The Dispatch). At a HUD presentation I recently attended, the data showed that the most common family configuration in Columbus City Schools is a single mother with multiple kids of different fathers, with the kids being raised by the maternal grandmother because the mother is working. The role models of success for young males are the drug dealers, and young African-American males have a 50% chance of being incarcerated for some period prior to reaching age 35.

The amount of money it would take for a public school system to overcome the consequences of this social crisis is staggering. I'm not sure a big public school system can get the job done, no matter how much money you throw at it. It is a very big job to play the role of an attentive and involved parent.

As I have said on my blog and Jill's, I'm a supporter of school vouchers as a first step toward giving kids at risk a chance to find a better school. One of the reasons for this is that it gives the kid a sense of 'ownership' in the school they choose to attend. This isn't the same thing as an involved parent, but presumably the kid would pick a school and stay there because he/she develops a personal connection with friends, and hopefully some positive role models. That's the key.

An effective voucher system can also encourage the development of new kinds and varieties of schools which have a better chance of getting kids engaged and connected.

Certainly, voucher systems can be implemented badly. We seem to have more than a few cases in Franklin Cty of charter schools being organized as scams for the benefit of the "administrators." But we can't give up on the idea because of some bad experiences. Look at what is happening with the Metro High School! We need to be good stewards of the tax dollars collected, and can do that via an effective school licensing program (i.e. a school can't cash a voucher unless it meets appropriate licensing requirements).

We'll break the cycle of poverty by getting the kids on the right track early - by letting them dream and giving them hope of a chance to pursue those dreams. Let that start by giving them a choice where to go to school.