Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Seattle Times - A Confusing Place for Ed Information


First, still nothing about the charter applicants and the upcoming Charter Commission meeting.  Still odd.

Second, there was an article this morning. about public school funding throughout the country that may give some insight into why our state legislature drags its feet on fully-funding education.  To whit:
  • nearly all states doubled or tripled the amount of money spent on public schools from 1970 to 2010; but the growth has been uneven
  • But the biggest per student spending has been in nine states, with seven of those in the NE
  • Seven of ten states with the least growth in spending are - you guessed - in the West and yes, Washington State is one of them.
  • Despite what Washington Policy Center wants to tell you (they regularly say that the average WA State student spending is about $12k), according to Ed Week, Washington State spending is about $9,497 (adjusted for inflation from the 1969-70 rate of $4,794).   
  • The top six states spend about $15k.  The national average is about $10,643. 
  • Understand these stark figures (from the Washington Post) - NY state spends $18,167 per year: Utah, Idaho and Oklahoma spend less than $8,000 per year.
But here's my thinking about Washington State spending as you can see from the map below. 

(Credit: National Assessment of Educational Progress report.)
Credit: National Association of Educational Progress report
 Why should we spend more when, as the Times puts it, 

 Looking at the states that spend the most per student, six did better than the national average in 4th and 8th grade reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  
Washington appeared to be one of the few states were spending was BELOW average, but NAEP results were consistently ABOVE average.

Washington, despite not doing well for some minorities, gets a pretty good bang for the buck.  And that high rate of SAT participation (number one for the last several years) doesn't hurt.

Imagine if we were funded to even the national average.  Sigh.  A girl can dream.

End of update.

What's going on with the Times' reporting?  It's strangely crazy quilt.

First, no coverage of the upcoming Charter Commission meeting to approve/deny charter applications. I mean, they did note that Spokane district approved one charter, PRIDE Pride.  The rest of charters - if approved - will be in the largest population center in the state and the Times' has nothing to say?  The Times that constantly and consistently pushed charters and they're mum on the subject?  There's an AP story and yet, I can't find it at the Times' in any obvious place.

I mean, charters are ed reform.  Bill Gates practically sponsored the whole I-1240 campaign himself.  And the Gates Foundation is sponsoring the Times' new "Education Lab."  (And I still find myself confused by Ed Lab stories and regular ed stories.)

Then, they have an article on the "debate" about IB at Rainier Beach.  This story was chock-full of oddities.  First, as Charlie said, what debate?  Rainier Beach HS did all the heavy lifting to doing the work to become an IB high school so who's debating this?  Well, according to the article, several years back there was "widespread disbelief" that IB was coming to RBHS.

Those of us who follow these things thought, "Wahht?"  I remember a lot of "it's about time" and "it will attract more students to RBHS" but "disbelief?"

Turns out that the reporter said that "students at other IB schools" expressed this disbelief that RBHS students could handle this rigor.  Again, I missed this because I never heard IB students at Ingraham (I know one personally) and Chief Sealth say this.  Not a student, not a parent, not an IB teacher.  But yes, I could have missed it.  The article also had this whiff of "hey, look at these kids - they can do it."

I was advised that a previous article at the Times - from a couple of years back DID say that students at other schools had said this.  I looked and here it is.  Not sure I agree with that assessment from my read of the article.  (Note, I did find the link and now it seems to have disappeared.  I'll try to find it again.)

It's just more confusion about the Times and their ed reporting.  Maybe they're all busy rewriting the Seattle Schools student data sharing agreement.


mirmac1 said...

I find amazing that crazy melange of education "news reporting" and Education Lab Opinion. Talk about not even bothering to blur the line, just eliminate it completely.

Their ELO seemed to enter full swing coincident with Lynne Varner's exit. Seems she was too much of a lightning rod, and deservedly so. Now the "news reporters" and Blethen's opinionated friends can take turns churning out Gates tidbits.

Michael Rice said...

As someone who was on the IB Design Team, I can say with 100% certainity that the RB community was 100% behind becoming an IB school and the parents worked long and hard alongside the faculty and adminstration to make it happen. I congratuate them for making it happen and I wish them nothing but the best. I hear that enrollment is up and that the IB classes are popular.

Catherine said...

Michael Rice - is there any chance I could convince you to write a letter to the editor/guest editorial to the ST countering their collection of words on this topic? I know it seems pointless - but I think not ever letting their board off the hook for junk, and if we get in front of even 30% of their readers 10% of the time, we're probably informing voters enough to make a difference.

RosieReader said...

Charlie, I just read the comments thread for the Times article, and saw your post that basically said the costs of IB are not that different than APP. I think you should do some fact checking. That's not inaccurate.

First, there's an annual fee for a school's participation. That's northward of $11,000 I think. And it goes up annually. Someone has to pay a teacher to add that extra period to cover TOK, though the cost is indirect. It pulls the teacher from teaching another class during the standard school day, increasing class sizes for other courses. Then there's the cost of the IB Coordinator, a position required in order to maintain IB certification. At a school with a small IB population it's part time, but at schools with large IB populations it should be at least a full time administrator, plus a dedicated counselor who can oversee the extended essay process, oversee the CAS (Community/Arts/Service) learning component, etc. Speaking of extended essays, it takes a tremendous amount of teacher time to oversee even one, and at large-IB population schools, some teachers oversee as many as 5 or 6. Then there's the cost of textbooks and source materials for IB classes. And as IB programs grow, and more electives are added, those costs keep recurring year after year. There's also a training component for educators, and for IB coordinators and school counselors.

Right now all these costs are pulled out of the standard school budget. So in a real sense, "regular ed" subsidizes the IB program. Ingraham and the other IB schools have been asking the District for two years for a realistic plan to deal with what we estimate to be a $175,000 per year expense, at least at Ingraham. (Sealth's cost is lower, though as that program grows so will these expenses. RB right now is covering these with a several-year-long grant. When that expires, they'll be in the same boat.)

Michael Tolley appears to have zero interest in providing a systemic response to this issue, though he has been approached many times. Though everybody on the Board and downtown seems to love IB, and loves that Ingraham implemented an IBX program for APP high schoolers, they refuse to address the cost issue.

I worry that at some point, the cobbled-together solutions at Ingraham and Sealth are going to fall to pieces. I hope not, as I am heavily invested in IB at Ingraham, but in my pessimistic moments, it seems almost inevitable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And Rosie, you make a good point.

The district likes to have showy programs (especially around rigor) but never quite follows through on the funding. It's always "get it out there" but then, like IB and dual-language, there are large, on-going costs.

Michael Rice said...

Catherine asks if I would be willing to write to the Times about IB at Rainier Beach HS. Thank you for your consideration, but I am going to respectfully decline because I no longer work at RB and I was not there for the last push to get IB into RB. I know that many parents and faculty members from RB read this blog and would be much better candidates to write about the whole process of getting IB into RB. In fact, Rita Green, who is RBHS PTA President, and was a driving force for IB, left a comment with the actual article.

mirmac1 said...

ST got a grant to cover some of the IB costs.

RosieReader said...

yes, the Sealth IB grant covered the first couple of years, though I am 99% sure that's been gone for at least a year and maybe several. And recently some grant money came in for training that partly trickled to Sealth and Ingraham. Again, a 1 or 2 year thing.

The bit ticket, systemic issues remain, though, with no plan for resolution, or even discussion of a need for a plan.

mirmac1 said...

I agree RosieReader. Programs like this must have a sustainable funding base, otherwise the ongoing costs erode other necessary services/resources. In the case of recent IB grants, I was glad to see it went to training the teachers which is good, assuming they chose to stick around. The ongoing fees are something that grantors never seem to want to help with. They like to start up projects then go on to the next shiny thing, leaving schools and families holding the bag.

Charlie Mas said...

Can we please resist the thinking that dollars spent on education will somehow translate directly into commensurately higher test scores as if there were some formulaic relationship between them?

Student academic outcomes are driven by a whole host of factors, most of them home-based. There's no direct relationship between state spending and student outcomes.

Eric B said...

Dollars on education don't necessarily translate to higher test scores, but dollars are needed for some things. As Rosie pointed out, you can't have an IB program for free.

WA does a great job with the limited resources we have, but we need to put more money in if we expect to see better results.

Anonymous said...

While reading the comments on the IB program at RBHS, I noticed that some questioned the value of IB. A score of 4 or higher on the IB tests is considered equivalent to passing AP tests, at least in Europe. My eldest was looking at universities in Europe and they won't even consider an American kid unless their senior year was a full load of AP classes or IB scores of 4 or higher. If you don't have AP or IB, then you have to have a full year of college at a university in the US before you can go to the European university. European universities consider IB to be rigorous.