Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Does Money Really Matter in Public Education?

That's the question.

I was talking with another education advocate recently and her take was that people (read: legislators) are tired of throwing money at public education and seeing the same results. And, that's why we need to support ed reform because legislators want to see something done differently in our schools.

Okay, I can understand not wanting schools and districts doing the same thing over and over and hoping for better results. However:

We don't fund full-day K.

We don't fund summer school for struggling students.

We don't fund college and career counselors.

Washington State does not fully fund education and hasn't for decades. Look it up - Washington State, depending on how you look at it, is 45th, 46th and 47th in the nation for funding (thank goodness for Alabama and Mississippi). So we aren't even funding at the average rate.

I have to wonder about this argument because it makes it very easy for legislators to pan schools without the laser focus being turned back onto them.

What IF our state funded education at the average rate spent in our country? (I'm not even asking for the Massachuseutts or New Jersey rate.) What IF our federal government funded Special Education at the 40% rate they are supposed to?

Could we try that and see how it goes for 3-5 years?

If ed reform is the grand experiment, then why not try the experiment of really funding our public schools?

16 comments:

seattle citizen said...

You nailed it, except where you wrote "Okay, I can understand not wanting schools and districts doing the same thing over and over and hoping for better results."

That, in effect, agrees with the propostion that "people are tired...of the same results.

As you duly note, we have LOST so man things. Summer school, for heaven's sake! And career counselors!

"Reformers" might as well have said, "we are tired of getting the same results with fewer services and programs, we are tired of getting the same results after cutting everything."

And that's not even addressing the "same results" falsehood. Schools have been serving (with greater or lesser success) more and more students, more and more diversity (ELL, Special Education, Advanced Placement) over the last few decades. Not only that, but there have been successes.

So schools are at LEAST doing the "same" with less already, but are, more accurately, doing more with less.

The "more" part IS expensive, and includes addressing the root causes of poverty, or at least not blaming educators for the sufferings of poverty. Doing "more" shouldn't be about lowering the bar, as it were, to a standardized production line of test prep, doing less but doing it better, as it were: "We have successfully graduated more students! All students have fewer skills, know nothing aboout art and history and civics, but damnit, we're graduating more of them!" should not the prideful claim we want to be making.

seattle citizen said...

You nailed it, except where you wrote "Okay, I can understand not wanting schools and districts doing the same thing over and over and hoping for better results."

That, in effect, agrees with the propostion that "people are tired...of the same results.

As you duly note, we have LOST so man things. Summer school, for heaven's sake! And career counselors!

"Reformers" might as well have said, "we are tired of getting the same results with fewer services and programs, we are tired of getting the same results after cutting everything."

And that's not even addressing the "same results" falsehood. Schools have been serving (with greater or lesser success) more and more students, more and more diversity (ELL, Special Education, Advanced Placement) over the last few decades. Not only that, but there have been successes.

So schools are at LEAST doing the "same" with less already, but are, more accurately, doing more with less.

The "more" part IS expensive, and includes addressing the root causes of poverty, or at least not blaming educators for the sufferings of poverty. Doing "more" shouldn't be about lowering the bar, as it were, to a standardized production line of test prep, doing less but doing it better, as it were: "We have successfully graduated more students! All students have fewer skills, know nothing aboout art and history and civics, but damnit, we're graduating more of them!" should not the prideful claim we want to be making.

Science Teacher said...

During a conversation today it finally crystalized for me what my big problem with the majority of Ed Reform is:

It's a series of solutions looking for a problem.

Take a look, for example at TFA. First it was to "broaden the hiring pool". Then it was "to bring in the best and brightest". At one point it was "an experiment". I'm pretty sure "opportunity gap" was invoked at some point along the way.

One magic solution applied to several different problems. Doesn't seem to have made a dent in any of them, has it?

The Ed Reform playbook is to offer a solution and keep throwing it at whatever problem you can find to keep people distracted while you continue selling your solution.

It so deeply offends the scientist in me I can't even express my rage in a coherent fashion.

Gather data. Form a conclusion. Ask a testable question based on the conclusion. Design something based on the conclusion. That's what we teach our students.

Ed Reform? Start with your conclusion and find (or manufacture) data to fit!

All I want for my Birthday, Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, New Year's and any other holiday for the next decade is a superintendent who is capable of looking at the situation around them, gathering data, analyzing the data, and making a decision based on the data instead of trying to make the data fit the preconceived solution they're bringing with them (or someone just sold them...).

Insert Dan Dempsey's favorite quote here.

KG said...

As I have said before this states #1 funding goal is to Fund the Bombing Corporation. (Boeing)
Until they stop getting our dollars then this will never cease to be the biggest problem.

Eric B said...

Absolutely money matters. Go to any company in the developed world. Ask them about the training classes that teach the critical skills (technical, safety, teamwork, whatever) their company uses. You can bet that there are class size limits on those classes, simply because it doesn't work to have larger classes. See for example this random one I pulled off of Google: https://www.belltrainingacademy.com/training/index.cfm?content=services/technician_training.cfm Same thing for education. If the class gets too big, the quality of learning goes down. You can't have a small class without spending for it.

We can argue back and forth what constitutes a good use of District money (coaches? JSCEE? Maybe not so much), but the fact is that the state funding for education is pitiful. If you went solely on state funding (5 periods/day in high school), you couldn't get into any four-year university in Washington. You probably would have trouble getting into a community college. It's just not right.

Charters, TFA, ed reform, etc. are distractions from this basic fact.

Josh Hayes said...

This brings me back to something I harp on (sorry, if you've heard me ranting about this before): it's not just about the money, it's also about easy vs. hard.

Coming up with the money to support schools at the, say, median USA level is hard. It would require serious revamping of tax structures, closure of lots of loopholes, and so on. It's so much easier to just purchase a canned solution off the shelf: All we need is ! Charters, merit pay, TFA, whatever. Fill in the blank.

This same dynamic drives so much of public policy decision making, not just in education, but in everything (salmon recovery is an excellent example: it's so much easier to just blow up dams than to, you know, fix the complex problems that are really causing salmon declines). I really don't know how to convince legislators that, yes, we really want them to do the hard work, to make the hard decisions, to please hit me in my pocketbook in order to really truly accomplish something. Otherwise they're just fiddling while our schools fall down.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of ed reform solutions. Most of them are experiments not backed by data.

However, I do think SPS should carefully look at academics. Where’s The Math? has been a forceful advocate towards a better math curriculum and I agree that SPS needs to change course. The investments the Board and past Superintendents made on poor math textbooks over the last decade could have been avoided if they had listened to parents and math professionals.

S parent

dan dempsey said...

Speaking of the money ... Here are filing fees for Statewide elected public offices.

So who will be running for Superintendent of Public Instruction? ($1216.18 to file or as an indigent and go for an exception to the fee)

I look for Randy Dorn to be reelected .... unless the really big money wishes to install someone else.

=========
It would be nice to have a few SPI candidates that would actually talk about the real issues and possible solutions .... rather than what we see from the candidates for Gov.

Hey Charlie Mas .... how about a run for SPI?

Anonymous said...

People complain about how much we spend on schools and compare it to parochial school tuition saying see they do more with less money. It appears to me that we have come to a point where public schools are funded at a lower level than even parochial schools. Tuition for a medium price range private school is $12,000 and a high school is at $18,000. Imagine if the public schools received that much per average pupil.

Future Hale Parent

emeraldkity said...

I agree we need more funding.
The % of high school graduates in Washington going on to college is 50.7% in 2008.

In South Carolina, It is 70.1, in Mississippi, it is 77.4.

Albeit that is an increase from 2000, when my oldest graduated - then it was 44.6% going on to college.

Anonymous said...

My complaint is that when they get to college, too many students test into remedial math. The Board and administrators at SPS do not look into the skills needed to avoid this.

Dan Dempsey has done a better job than anyone at comparing different results in math curricula between Seattle and other districts in Washington. Better textbooks would help, but the Board does not want to admit they made mistakes with curricula.

I am hoping the new Superintendent will address this but I am not holding my breath. The new board members Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee have their work cut out for them.

S Parent

dan dempsey said...

Dear S Parent,

Thanks for the kind words. Speaking of not wanting to admit mistakes.... take a look at how mistakes are pushed.

The New Tech Network scammed the SPS for $800,000. At the time of the contract there were 41 schools and everyone I examined except for one was underperforming those nearby in Math. (and really seriously ... usually despite having a more favorable demographic).

Now look at this pile of hooey in the WSJ.

See WSJ Hooey here.

"Though few young people will become brilliant innovators like Steve Jobs, most can be taught the skills needed to become more innovative in whatever they do. A handful of high schools, colleges and graduate schools are teaching young people these skills—places like High Tech High in San Diego, the New Tech high schools (a network of 86 schools in 16 states), Olin College in Massachusetts, the Institute of Design (d.school) at Stanford and the MIT Media Lab. The culture of learning in these programs is radically at odds with the culture of schooling in most classrooms."

I guess the Harvard author is just like the SPS in that he is willing to believe the NTN propaganda and too lazy to do real research into actual results.

The fact the New Tech Network went from 41 schools to 86 is a true testament to marketing and the lousy decision making so prevalent in K-12 education today. ... take a bow Sunquist, Maier, Carr, and Martin-Morris .... the Four made this wasteful expenditure happen... think of what Cleveland could be doing with $800,000 and without NTN's dismal tools and prescriptions.

Charlie Mas said...

Dan Dempsey asked:
"Hey Charlie Mas .... how about a run for SPI?"

I don't know if I'm qualified.

Honestly, Dan, I'm not sure what the SPI does. He doesn't seem to actually do anything. He doesn't appear to have any real authority or budget. I have never heard of him enforcing a law or taking any action that was felt in a classoom.

I'll look into it, but the positions appear to be mostly a sort of figurehead role.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the New Tech Network is a way to outsource solutions. SPS tries to do something about the underperformance in math and science. It is easier than looking at the discovery math curriculum and making real changes.

Will the SPS study this $800,000 and see if they got their money’s worth? Probably not. They refuse to look at data and analyze results. If they did they would be expanding the Saxon math program which got good results at Mercer Middle School on Beacon Hill. Instead, most schools are using the discovery methods which please the academic types like that Harvard author. Too bad those techniques confuse the actual students who have to use them.

S Parent

Anonymous said...

Starve the beast and then blame it for not being healthy. That's a sound argument.

Schools are being asked to do more and more and it takes more money to do it. I went to elementary school in the late fifties. We had a huge infirmary with a full-time nurse every day. Class size was reasonable. We learned arithmetic and reading mostly. Some social studies and little science. This through the sixth grade.

Teachers were well-paid because society respected college graduates. I remember doing phonics and reading groups through second grade and not much else.

Math was mostly arithmetic.

We did these things in a more casual day. We had an hour lunch. Lunches were not pizza or some other cheesy delight. I remember casseroles, mashed potatoes, honestly cooked meat dishes prepared and served by several women who did the cooking and serving.

The amount we have to teach has doubled. The pace at which we move has doubled. Teachers and kids both are constantly just keeping up. Even K.

Yes, kids can learn more than we did in the fifties and sixties. But do we all have to work like pack animals to impress a bunch of people - mostly men - who expect efficiency where humanity used to reside.

Judging is easy. Let them come into the school and do my job for a week.

n...

Anonymous said...

Science Teacher: so well said! All about the marketing! Create the solution and find or manufacture the problem. Wow!

n...