Category Archives: Schools K-12

Do School Districts Matter?

Source: Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Matthew M. Chingos and Michael R. Gallaher, Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, March 2013

From the summary:
School districts occupy center stage in education reform in the U.S. They manage nearly all public funding and are frequently the locus of federal and state reform initiatives, e.g., instituting meaningful teacher evaluation systems. The most charismatic leaders over the last decade, people such as Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, have received considerable national media attention. Financial compensation for district leaders is high, with many being paid more than the chief state school officers who oversee the entire systems in which they serve. Some private philanthropies pour money into initiatives to improve district performance. Others invest in ways that suggest that they too think districts are important but as impediments to rather than instruments of reform.

Despite the centrality of school districts in all the ways described, we know very little from existing research about how important they are to student achievement relative to other institutional components for delivering education services, including teachers and schools. Neither do we have information on the size of the differences in effectiveness among districts or whether there are districts that show exceptional patterns of performance across time, e.g., moving from low to high performing.

We begin to fill these information gaps in the present report by analyzing 10 years of data involving all public school students and school districts in Florida and North Carolina. We find that school districts account for only a small portion (1% to 2%) of the total variation in student achievement relative to the contribution of schools, teachers, demographic characteristics of students, and remaining individual differences among students. Within just the institutional components affecting student achievement, the effect of schools is about twice that of districts whereas the effect of teachers is about seven times larger than that of districts….

…These findings provide an empirical justification for efforts to improve student achievement through district-level reforms and should be a tantalizing fruit for those who want to better understand why some districts are better than others and translate that knowledge into action.
See also:
Technical Paper

State Expenditure Report (Fiscal 2010-2012 Data)

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2012

From the abstract:
The latest edition of NASBO’s State Expenditure Report finds that the recent improvement in the national economy has not translated to strong growth in total state spending. This is largely due to the fact that state revenues have not increased as fast as Recovery Act funds have declined, leading to a unique situation in which total state expenditure growth has slowed during the same time that the national economy has been improving. Total state expenditures from all fund sources grew 3.8 percent in fiscal 2010, slowed to 2.8 percent in fiscal 2011, and are estimated to have grown only 0.1 percent in fiscal 2012.
See also:
Summary

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II

Source: Benjamin Scafidi, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, February 28, 2013

From the summary:
America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent, while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.

That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent, while the number of FTE school employees increased 39 percent. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 46 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period; the growth in the number of teachers was almost twice that of students….
Related:
Review of The School Staffing Surge, Part II
Reviewed By Joydeep Roy, Teachers College, Columbia University, March 2013

The School Staffing Surge, Part II is a companion report to a 2012 report called The School Staffing Surge. The earlier report argued that between 1992 and 2009, the number of full-time-equivalent school employees grew 2.3 times faster than the increase in students over the same period. It also claimed that despite these staffing increases, there was no progress on test scores or drop-out reductions. The new report disaggregates the trends in K-12 hiring for individual states and responds to some of the criticisms leveled at the original report. Yet this new report, like the original, fails to acknowledge that achievement scores and dropout rates have steadily improved. What it does instead is present ratios comparing the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff to the number of teachers or students, none of which has been shown to bear any meaningful relationship to student achievement. Neither the old report nor this new one explores the causes and consequences of employment growth. When a snapshot of hiring numbers is not benchmarked against the needs and realities of each state, it cannot illuminate the usefulness or wastefulness of hiring. The new companion report, much like the original one, is devoid of any important policy implications.

School Nurse Shortage Update

Source: Jolynn Tumolo, Advance, March 20, 2013

The majority of school districts in the U.S. fail to meet recommended nurse-to-student ratios despite growing number of children needing complex care. …

…A report in the Twin Falls Times-News revealed that the number of full-time school nurse positions in Idaho from the years 2000-2008 grew from 93 to 121, with the most recent data suggesting somewhere around 136 full- and part-time positions.

But despite the increase, the state rates among the worst on the NASN student-to-school nurse ratio list. With a ratio of 1,881-to-1, it ranks 41st and falls far short of the recommended one nurse to every 750 well students recommended by NASN and Healthy People 2010. The article mentioned two part-time nurses at one school district who juggle the responsibility for 13 schools.

Meanwhile, an article on Northeast Florida’s www.firstcoastnews.com questioned the absence of nurses in many schools there. In Jacksonville, nurses at the Duval County Public School system each rotate among eight or nine assigned schools. When a nurse is not on-site, children receive care from administrative staff who have been trained by school nurses….

…When questioned about a lack of school nurses, most districts blame lack of funding, which differs from state to state and could explain ratios that range drastically from first-place Vermont’s 1-to-396 to worst-case Michigan’s 1-to-4,411. …

2013 Infrastructure Report Card

Source: American Society of Civil Engineers, March 2013

From the summary:
…Once every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Report Card). Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, both assigning grades and making recommendations for how to raise the grades. An Advisory Council of ASCE members assigns the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.

Now the 2013 Report Card grades are in, and America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+. The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+. No categories saw a decline in grade this year….

2013 State of Our Schools

Source: Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), March 2013

From the press release:
The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) today released its first “State of our Schools” report, highlighting the critical need to modernize school facilities to meet current health, safety and educational standards.

The report, featuring a foreword by former President Bill Clinton, states that schools are currently facing a $271 billion deferred maintenance bill just to bring the buildings up to working order – approximately $5,450 per student.
See also:
Key recommendations
President Clinton Introduction

AASA Members Detail Draconian Impact of Sequester’s Cuts

Source: American Association of School Administrators, Leading Edge Blog, February 26, 2013

From the press release:
School superintendents across the nation are bracing for the deep cuts of sequestration, the federal policy consequence for continued Congressional inaction. In response to a call to action issued during AASA’s National Conference on Education last week, hundreds of districts across the nation provided details describing what the cuts would look like in their district, reporting jobs cut, programs eliminated, and other negative impacts…. Nearly 400 responses from 42 states paint a dreary picture as it relates to the nation’s public schools and sequestration….

… School districts are finalizing their budgets for the 2013‐14 school year; this is the school year in which federal FY13 funding and policy (including sequestration) would play out in schools. This means school superintendents are bracing for the cuts by building the cuts in to their budgets. When asked how they were preparing for sequestration last summer, more than half indicated they would build the cuts in to their budget.

With that budget now being finalized, this latest call to action asked AASA members to detail what the cuts look like:
– More than three quarters of respondents (77.9%) indicated their district would have to eliminate jobs as a result of sequestration.
– School districts will, on average, eliminate between 3.7 and 4.8 instructional positions as a result of sequestration. AASA analyzed the job cuts at two levels, averaging across all respondents (including those indicating they would NOT be eliminating positions) and averaging across only those respondents who will be making cuts due to sequestration….
See also:
Updated AASA Fiscal Cliff Toolkit
Source: American Association of School Administrators, December 2012

Food Fight: Small team of state examiners no match for schools that divert student meal funds

Source: Jim Sweeney, California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, February 6, 2013

Squeezed by years of unrelenting budget cuts, some California school districts are illegally dipping into student meal funds, misappropriating millions of dollars intended to feed California’s poorest children.

In recent years, in cases that seldom receive any public attention, the California
Department of Education (CDE) has ordered eight districts to repay nearly $170 million to student meal programs. Perhaps more troubling, department officials candidly acknowledge they have no idea how big the problem may be and fear they may have uncovered only a hint of the ongoing abuse, an investigation by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes has found.

The uncertainty reflects a challenged oversight system designed by the federal government, but carried out by a small, overmatched team of state examiners who are mostly nutritionists and dietitians, not accountants. Nutritional standards are their top priority and the system is set up to be collaborative, with prearranged inspections of cafeterias and food service operations. Perhaps as a result, most of the recent investigations have been triggered by whistleblowers.

…Cost-saving shortcuts included serving processed rather than fresh foods, short lunch periods, rundown cafeterias and insufficient staff to properly plan and manage an optimum food service operations…

Projections of Education Statistics to 2021

Source: William J Hussar, Tabitha M. Bailey, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2013008, January 2013

From the abstract:
This publication provides projections for key education statistics. It includes statistics on enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, and enrollment and earned degrees conferred expenditures of degree-granting institutions. For the Nation, the tables, figures, and text contain data on enrollment, teachers, graduates, and expenditures for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2021. For the 50 States and the District of Columbia, the tables, figures, and text contain data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2021. In addition, the report includes a methodology section describing models and assumptions used to develop national and state-level projections.