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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Inequities and solutions

There are inequities - both perceived and real - between schools. Let's face it, anything separate is inherently unequal. While we must accept this non-uniformity, we want our schools to be equivalent, or, barring that, we want them all to be at least adequate. I think that "Every School a Great School" is a wonderful goal, but I think we should start with "Every School an Adequate School" and work up from there.

So what are the inequities?

In elementary school I think they are class size, access to enrichment (arts, field trips, etc.), and access to challenging curricula. More than that, there is a serious concern that some schools are not setting and maintaining sufficiently high expectations for students.

In middle school they are essentially the same: access to music and arts, access to challenging curricula, and, at some schools, low expectations.

In high school, again, they are the same.

Are there other significant inequities that we need to address?

And how can we address these inequities? The District could certainly take a hand in class size through their budgeting practice, but in the end there's a lot of site-based control. Some of that has been pulled back, but a lot remains with the principal. The decision to offer arts and music is strictly a site-based decision, isn't it? Likewise course offerings at middle and high schools. Buildings decide for themselves how they will address the needs of their advanced learners, and it is up to principals to police how teachers set their academic expectations. So what, if anything, can be done at the District level, and what, specifically, can be done at the building level, to correct the inequities?

It isn't enough to say that there are inequities. They must be specifically identified and solutions must be put forward.

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for refocusing some recent blog discussions on solutions.

My first thought in addressing curriculum and enrichment revolves around auction and other money raised by school communities. At our school, the auction raises $80,000 plus and helps to fund some staff as well as programming.
What about schools that raise considerably less? Out of luck because of location and community resources?

What about developing partnerships between differing schools? Montlake and TOPS for instance, paired with SE and SW schools to share funds and resources?

Partnerships would need to be created as mutual ventures benefitting both schools.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to be sure everyone knows about the differing levels of funding that go to each building based on the differing levels of poverty, special education students, and bilingual students.

Schools with more high-needs students get more money from the district than the more-affluent schools - and I think Charlie has pointed out elsewhere that it's often far more than any PTA can raise.

The enhanced funding to high-needs schools can never substitute for the greater parent involvement that more-affluent schools benefit from, but many people don't know about the funding differentials.

See this calculation by the district of avg $/student from all sources, e.g., Whittier at $3,941/pupil to TT Minor at $11,183 (an anomaly given the Sloan Foundation grant - so look at High Point next down at $9,020):

Baseline: from the district weighted student formula

Grants: Title I from the federal gov't (for poverty); I-728 and LAP (for poverty)from the state; Gates and other (including Sloan Foundation, New School Foundation, etc)

Other: Self-help includes money paid to the district by PTAs for staff and other subsidies - though not all PTA money is included here and would be hard to track - e.g., should scrip sales revenue be included, or only the net profit, etc.

Anonymous said...

Good info to know.

Please explain further: So, given that some schools get more money per student than more affluent schools, why are the schools in less affluent areas still doing without the resources (enrichment, programming) that the other schools more typically have?

What is the extra funding going towards in the less affluent schools? Perhaps basic services that famiiies cannot provide at home (supplies, health care, family support services)?

Parent involvment would be a huge difference not reflected in school funding differences. And, some school communities don't want "enrichment" programming.

Jet City mom said...

Assignment by economic diversity is legal and it seems to work.

We do currently track students on FRL, which is a very low cutoff point, I am also curious as to the top percentage of family income and how it relates to school participation, student performance etc.

I haven't formally tracked it, but I am noticing that among my friends and acquaintances who are involved in my childs high school, are likely not to need financial aid for their kids in college, at least going by their reports.

When you consider that the schools they are attending are upwards of $50,000, including room and board, that is no small feat.

http://www.equaleducation.org/
commentary.asp?opedid=1332

Anonymous said...

There are many factors that create a good school and inequity of money is only one of them.

1) Weighted Student Formula (WSF) does allocate greater funding based on the special needs of the population - free/reduced lunch, special ed, bilingual, etc. However, the WSF does not factor actual teacher salaries. Schools that have high WSF per student values have far lower teacher tenure, so the reality is those schools actually have lower actual dollars spent. In addition, due to the non-academic needs to be addressed with the WSF, those schools need to spend dollars on more school counselors, family support workers, psychologists, translators, etc., not really leaving more money for classroom support for the general population.

2) Someone will come back and say that low tenured teachers are sometimes the best. I agree. However, a school full of teachers with minimal teaching experience will not have the faculty support and mentoring success of a school with a mixture of talented teachers.

3) PTA money and grant money widely varies around the district. Spreading out the money alone will not create equity. Having leadership for new program developments, volunteer commitment to assure their success, and an involved school community is needed for the funds to be raised and well utilized to create success for students.

In my opinion for a school to be successful, many things are needed:
1) Principal leadership for greatness
2) Active and involved volunteers to support the existing programs and rally support for new initiatives.
3) Teachers that know how to utilize volunteers, how to differentiate instruction for all students, are creative in utilizing new academic tools and resources.
4) PTA leadership that can work jointly with the school leadership to identify funding priorities of the school and parents and raise the funding accordingly.

Effective fundraising is a balancing act. If you raise the money, but it is spent on programs that the donor community does not consider successful, they won't donate in subsequent years. However, if you create the programs and the community sees their value and success, they are more likely to donate in subsequent years. I love the idea of shared funding with other schools, but to be successful it needs to be more than sending a check.

I'd be interested in ideas in how to build those partnerships that could be successful, without creating a haves/have not relationship.

TC

Anonymous said...

Then there is class size.

Our NE cluster school gets one of the lowest $/pupil. We fill every class 2nd - 5th to the contract limit and sometimes beyond. (My son is in a 2nd grade class with 29 & my daughter's fifth grade class of 30 is the smallest she's been in for 3 years.) That is how we pay for music teacher, librarian, etc.


Many of my friends who are in schools that have fewer extras, also have smaller class sizes.

It has worked fine for us. But there are trade offs.

Jet City mom said...

8:43 anon- those things are important- but hard to establish and continue.

I agree that parent volunteers are important.
Id like to see a "director" at the district level in charge of facilitating adults from the community in the schools, in sharing information about resources & programs. Or do we have that already? [tic]

The program at Garfield- ReadRight, for example, has parent volunteers, but now also staff from Americorps to aid students.

I tried to get a CityYear ( Americorp) support program at Summit- CityYear was very interested, it seemed a natural fit, with the relatively high FRL rate and the K-12 ness. ( CityYear also has a gapYear program to earn money for post high school education)

But it was apparently too much for principal to deal with, and she was the one who had to sign off on it, even though I thought she was interested.

If I had to pick one thing- getting more adults involved on a consistent basis in the school would be what I would focus on.

I imagine a director of "community engagement" that has a team of people to work with schools depending on their need.
One school may want weekly workshops to help parents understand the new math program so they can help their kids.
A school that has an annual auction to raise money for their arts programs, could use help from the district in advertising and helping other schools if wanted, to mimic their success.
Why is it some schools have volunteer coordinators and others don't?
The "family outreach" person at schools greatly differ in effectiveness.

When our family was going through a very rough period- for well over a year- all the outreach person at my daughters school did was give me the number for the crisis clinic- I had that.

Financially/emotionally/physically it was a very horrible time & I was in the school often but that was all the help I was offered. We need more support for families, than that & I know some schools are able to do so.
But we need more safety nets.
Make people earn their job.

Re low tenure teacher- seems to be a steep learning curve- some teachers do very well from the start, others make huge mistakes and aren't helped to recover and leave the system/teaching.
Low tenure dominance at a school, means lack of stability & continuity for the students regardless of their skill in the classroom.

Id like to see financial incentives for high tenured teachers to take positions ( if selected) at schools that are more challenged.
Students from communities that have more challenges, need more continuity in their lives, we could give that to them at school, if it was a priority.

Re class size- it does make a difference.
sometimes it just takes a small amount of individual attention to turn a student around.
I was surprised to hear that the CA school where a popular Garfield teacher is heading has an average class size of 4 fewer than Seattle .
That could make a difference- just as if your school has only 400 students- you won't be able to attract or fund certain programs
http://www.schoolmatters.com/app/data/q/
stid=5/llid=118/stllid=319/locid=999900/
catid=812/secid=3150/compid=771/stype=

Melissa Westbrook said...

A couple of things:

-at the high school level, school counselors are very important and can make a huge difference if a student stays in school, goes to college, etc. A lousy high school counselor can really doom many students.

-at schools with higher needs kids (and thus more money), they tend to have to pay for a full-time counselor/family resource person and that's money that doesn't get to be used for full-time librarian or someone else. It's all trade-offs but when you have high needs kids that's what happens. The money doesn't necessarily show up in class.

-I think most volunteer coordinators are PTA volunteers. I haven't heard of a paid one in a long time. Anyone know of a school with one?

-I agree with partnering schools (which I believe was tried in the mid-80s). I think that helping schools that don't even have a PTA to get organized and understand the process would be good. One thing I'm going to look into is sharing knowledge on how to run a program. My example is Roosevelt's drama program. Huge and well-run. Meanwhile, Rainier Beach is struggling, with a young, inexperienced teacher, to put on a small production of The Wiz. As you may have heard, the teacher didn't realize that she had to pay for the rights and almost didn't get to put on the show. What I am hoping to do is ask the head of the drama department at Roosevelt (and their booster group) if they might have a "bible" for running shows to give to that teacher as well as spare a couple of hours to sit down and walk her through what they do.

If Roosevelt can help Rainier Beach (with its wonderful performing arts hall) to develop a great performing arts program, then Rainier Beach may become the magnet school in the south end for performing arts, strengthening it, upping their enrollment and, also, taking pressure off the numbers of kids who want to go to Roosevelt because of their program.

Jet City mom said...

I think most volunteer coordinators are PTA volunteers. I haven't heard of a paid one in a long time. Anyone know of a school with one?

I know Olympic View had a volunteer coordinator with an office and a paycheck. The principal applied for a grant for the position. But I realize not all principals have that skill or motivation.
She also had work study students from area colleges coming in after/during school for tutoring
http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/olyview/
http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/bfday/

Not clear if it is still a paid position, it might be enough to get a grant to get a position up and running. Some parent groups may earmark some of their money to fund training for a grant writer, but of course if your school doesn't even have much fundraising or a parent group, where do you start?
( having been involved in a school with parent group and school with PTA- PTA gives much more support- not a small thing)

A lot rests on the principal.

When my daughter participated in the CityYear program, she worked at BFDay ( as well as TAF), where they not only have regular parent volunteers, but from neighboring businesses like Adobe. ( some events from Fremont fair/Octoberfest $$ go to BFDay)

Both the principals at Day and Olympic View have been there for a long time-and seem to be good fits for their communities.

Charlie Mas said...

The consensus seems to be that money is an equity point when it is spent on enrichment and when it is spent on reducing class size.

In a limited funding world, most schools must choose between reducing class size and expanding enrichment when they decide whether money is allocated to another general education teacher or to an art teacher.

Some schools, due to District student assignment practices, demand for the school, and the limitations of the physical structure, can't do much in the way of class size reduction. There are a number of creative ways around large class size, but some schools apparently don't find any of those methods attractive.

The inequities I hear folks complain about most, however, have not been much addressed.

I'm talking about when you hear people say "This is a good school; that's a bad school." So what does a good school have that a bad school doesn't?

I heard that volunteers are a point of difference. The District could do more to promote community involvement. They have committed to doing more, they plan to do more, they have done everything other than actually take action. We can hope that this will change when the District actually hires someone to fill the position of Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. On the other hand, given the District's obvious reluctance - some might say opposition - to taking the few steps they have taken in this direction, there may not be much cause for hope.

Strong leadership was mentioned as a difference between good schools and bad schools. I'm not sure what the District can do to improve things along these lines. They are constantly monkeying with the performance evaluation for principals. Maybe they will eventually get it right.

Teacher turnover was mentioned. This is a significant factor. Teachers are paid the same whether they teach at Brighton or Bryant. There must be a number of reasons that teachers prefer to work at affluent schools, so teachers leave affluent schools less often.

There was some talk about teacher quality. I will say that schools with more affluent populations get more applicants for their open positions. This gives them the opportunity to be more choosy about whom they hire. Experience, of course, is no guarantee of quality, but it is helpful to have a track record that can be judged.

I haven't seen people take up the question of differences in curriculum. Is that because you all believe that the current effort to standardize curriculum will address those differences? I would remind you that there have been a number of previous efforts of this type which have not been effective. All of the schools, after all, are supposed to be addressing the EALRs and the GLEs. We're supposed to be a Standards-based learning system with every general education classroom addressing the same set of Standards and academic expectations. Yet the number one difference I hear between schools is this.

Some schools, primarily those in predominantly low income and minority communities, do not maintain the high academic expectations that the District says every school should keep.

Consequently, the students in these schools and leaving these schools are not prepared to do advanced level work - not even prepared to do grade level work. This is the greatest inequity because this is more than the gap between good and great, this is the gap between adequate and inadequate. We might be able to tolerate the inequity between good and great, but we cannot tolerate - not for one more day - the inequity between adequate and inadequate.

What can the District do to close this gap? How can the District get every principal to hold every teacher accountable for setting and maintaining uniformly high expectations for all students? And what will teachers, principals, and the District do for students who do not meet those expectations?

I keep saying that we need a structured program for students who are not working at grade level. I keep saying that it needs to be extended, intensive and enriched. I keep saying that it needs to be designed to quickly bring students up to grade level and then return them to their general education class.

I think this is how the District can close the academic achievement gap by bringing every student up to Standards. I think this is also how the District can close the equity gap between schools. I think that this program can be part of an accountability system for teachers and principals.

Accountability, while it must include a punitive element, need not be primarily punitive in nature. Teachers and principals who aren't getting the job done should get training, counseling, and mentoring and, only after those all prove ineffective should they get the boot.

Jet City mom said...

I haven't seen people take up the question of differences in curriculum. Is that because you all believe that the current effort to standardize curriculum will address those differences?

The Pathways program at Garfield that my daughter was enrolled in spring semester of this year targeted exactly where she was having difficulty ( in math)
So despite that in 4th and 7th grade- she hadn't passed the WASL ( she had ones- she did pass with a 3 the science WASL in 8th grade)
In 10th grade she received a 4 in reading and a 3 in writing, still a one in math.
However when after Pathways she retook the math WASL ( after just a month of the class), she almost received a 4- the highest mark.
From a 1 to a 3.
Curriculum does make a difference.
( She had individual attention at her previous school, as she had an IEP targeting math, but obviously the program wasn't helpful as it could have been)

I believe to some extent in standardized curriculum when teachers and schools do not have the skill or time to write their own, but there needs to be a place to support students when and where they need to move ahead or to keep up.

Anonymous said...

These are all great ideas.

What about discipline in the classrooms? Good teachers are burning out. The rules are there, but they are not being enforced consistently around the District.

This is my wish list for every school.

1)Good principal
2)Good teachers
3)Discipline in the classroom
4)High expectations for all kids
5)Parental and community involvement
6)Support programs for struggling teachers and students
7)Neighborhood schools


That's what we used to have.

Anonymous said...

Ok here is a question. Different communities want different things from their neighborhood schools, right. So how do situations like Madrona play out. The minority families want a school that focuses on reading, writing and math. They are not very interested in music, art, a garden, recess etc.? Though this school is viewed as adequate in their community, it is viewed as inequitable across the district. After all that poor school has no recess, art, music, garden etc.

As a neighborhood gentrifies, and new families look at the school, it is perceived as a "bad" school, and they go elsewhere. And the cycle starts.

Equity is much more complex to figure out than are all of our needs met adequately, since many of our neighborhoods are very diverse. Many people within the same community view a succesful, adequate program very differently from their neighbors.

How to balance so everyone will be happy? I don't know if it's even possible.

Anonymous said...

AEII has a paid volunteer coordinator, so does Salmon Bay.

Charlie Mas said...

I would suggest to jam that when every school has a good principal, good teachers, discipline in the classroom, high expectations for all kids, family and community involvement, and support programs for struggling teachers and students then we will see stronger commitment to neighborhood schools.

"Neighborhood school", of course, is not necessarily synonymous with "reference area school". Take, for example, the family across the street from me. When selecting a school, they chose from among three neighborhood schools: Beacon Hill, Kimball, and Maple. I think they are all good choices and all of them are within a few minutes walking from our block. While Kimball is the reference area school, there's no denying that all three of them are neighborhood schools.

The family ended up choosing Maple. While it isn't their reference area school, I don't think that jam or Tracy Libros or Michael DeBell would suggest that this family didn't choose a neighborhood school.

I'm concerned that planners and policy makers sometimes equate neighborhood school and reference area school far too closely.

I don't think that it would have been a strong negative if the family didn't have that choice, since Kimball is also a good school, but I don't think that their choice of Maple erodes the sense of community either on the block or in the school.

Anonymous said...

I think the District should make it a goal to equate "neighborhood" school -- at the elementary level only, here, as there are fewer middle and high schools -- with walkability. Not as the crow flies distance. Walkability taking geographic items such as hills and busy streets into account, which I believe they do now. That's one easy way to establish the base level reference school. If the map goes together like a puzzle piece, then walkability is a tie-breaking factor in how to orient school reference zones. Not every kid would be able to walk, but the large majority could do so.

This doesn't mean a reduction in other schools that a family might choose. Just an easy way to address what will never be an "equitable" situation. This then minimizes, in theory, transportation dollars at the elementary level.

After walkability and siblings, I'd let the next deciding factor be economic (FRL). And schools couldn't use freestanding programs which happened to be located in their school to apply to their stats. Only integrated programs. Because some schools "play the system" right now in citing their diversity statistics.

After that, I agree with the partner school concept for routing fundraising dollars. There is also some talk about this on the School Capacity thread from a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

Why do we keep talking about the "sister school" theory and routing $$$ to lower income schools, when it has been shown time and time again that they receive MORE money than the affluent schools with fundraising. I believe it was Charlie Mas (correct me if Im wrong) did a painstakingly detailed job of breaking down all of the funding that a school gets, and showed how it was as much and sometimes more than our most affluent schools get INCLUDING their fundraising.

Doesn't this tell a story? It appears to me that it is not $$$ that these schools need. It is the other things that have been mentioned in the above posts. strong principals, smaller classes, great teachers, parental involvement, etc.

Shouldn't we be working on these things?

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with "another mom"

Jet City mom said...

It is the other things that have been mentioned in the above posts. strong principals, smaller classes, great teachers, parental involvement, etc.

Aye, there's the rub

Ive been in schools where the principal, who was "ahem", not such a good fit & was moving on, said to me, that the union would guarantee her a job ( when she probably should have retired)

We passed levies for smaller classes, but the building gets to decide ( principal) if the school would be better served spending the money another way. Hmm-

Great teachers- depends on your point of view.
Another thing you can't throw money at and have guarenteed improvement.

Parental involvement- but which parents?
What do we want parents to do?
Do we want them to write checks, to drive on field trips and chaperone at recess or do we just want them to make sure their kid is rested and fed?
Some parents aren't going to be content with writing checks, they want to see where their money is going.
Some schools have site councils, others BLTs, as well as active PTAs.
Others dont.
Some schools teachers attend PTA meetings, other schools the principal never even shows up to meetings with the PTA board. (on her schedule)

Schools that have a community that historically doesn't get very involved in or out of the classroom- can't buy that involvement with money.
However they can attract involvement with programs designed to attract middle class families , which will ultimately benefit all the kids.

Anonymous said...

The inequity of schools deciding whether to offer Advanced Learning or not is what chaps us. Charlie is quite familiar with the worst example south of the Ship Canal: Lafayette Elementary has an excellent Spectrum program, but Madison Middle School just blocks away is allowed to turn up its nose at Spectrum, so almost none of the kids from Lafayette's Spectrum class can go there if they want to - need to! - stay in the program ... their choice is either to help Denny, several miles away, try to really rev up its Spectrum attempts, or, to go to Washington, a long crawl across the city in morning commute traffic.

Jet City mom said...

Ill be eager to see how the "new" staff for gifted programs deals with the inconsistency in the district.

The federal govt has released reviews of the states needing "assistance or intervention" with IDEA, Washington being one of them.
http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/
idea/monitor/factsheet.html
But, I bet advanced learning is even more difficult to get accountability for.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the cite to the per pupil funding. It doesn't show that the poor schools get more than the affluent schools after fundraising. Those numbers presumably include the special needs programs? If so, one could imagine that a substantial portion of the variations in costs per pupil expenditures are masked by that value (for example AE II and Viewlands and Viewridge all have special needs programs -- autism, and apraxia, that I know of).

But, I also can't help but be shocked that Viewridge raised 345K and has 12 children who are eligible for free lunch (compared to >200 113 at Olympic View & 187 at Northgage).

Finally, the private schools in Seattle spend 15-20K/pupil, 2X the highest number here for elementary schools in the SPS. How exactly can SPS provide a "great school" for 1/2 that amount to parents who don't consider those amounts burdensome?

bj

Roy Smith said...

I'm not sure I see anything positive coming out of an effort to limit schools (or parent groups) from buying down student/teacher ratios. It may be unequitable, but maybe the real problem cause of the iniquity is not the schools that can afford a buy-down, it is a level of state funding that systematically shortchanges everybody.

On the other hand, I fully agree that it is unreasonable to expect a school to be permitted to keep the students/classroom down if other nearby schools are overcrowded.

One other point - volunteers in the classroom, which some schools have a plethora of and some don't, can make a huge difference, particularly in elementaries. A competent teacher combined with a bright parent volunteer or two effectively reduces the student/teacher ratio and dramatically increases the individualized attention that students get. The differences in volunteer resources in various neighborhoods are almost certain to lead to dramatic differences in the classrooms, yet I see no sensible way to level the playing field on this one.

Anonymous said...

Dear All:

A few of you keep mentioning the socio-economic tiebreaker. If you live in the neighborhoods where there is not a neighborhood high school, like Magnolia or Queen Anne, the economic tiebreaker will hurt us just as much as the racial tiebreaker. The Laurelhurst neighborhood and a few other "unserved pockets" will be affected by this tiebreaker as well. It doesn't matter where you live, or what your skin color is, or how much income your family makes, all of our kids deserve access to a good public school. Most of us seem to choose our neighborhood school, it we perceive it as a good one.

The tiebreakers, all of them, are a form of discrimination. In order to help one student, you have to discriminate against another student. This isn't what we teach in our classrooms.

We need to continue to work to improve all the schools, as difficult as it is. As we have found out, there are no easy answers.

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court most likely will make their ruling about the racial tiebreaker. Seattle has not used it for 5 years and our schools are still diverse. I know, some not as much as some would like.

We are talking about what makes a successful school on blogs like this one. We were not talking about it 7 years ago. So keep on talking and hopefully some "doing" as well.

This fixing the schools will be a long process and I hope the new superintendent and hopefully a "new" school board will have the
skills to get it done.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Brose
President
Parents Involved in Community Schools

Anonymous said...

nssp says View Ridge raised 345k, thanks for taking the time to parse down these forms, but wanted to correct mistaken impression. The "self help" column also includes a number of other items, in VR case substitute reimbursement, that year very high due to a particular teacher absence. This is funded by the school district and NOT PTA/parent funding. Don't know why they lumped it in one column, it's just an "other" basket as far as I can tell.

View Ridge, like several other schools, does have parent fundraising contributed to the school, around 145k there, used to support arts/music/class size.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is the job of the affluent schools to support or fund low performing and/or low income schools. Affluent (and I'm not one of them), pay taxes based on their income, so in a sense they are already contributing their fair share to public schools.

I think the district NEEDS to have an intervention policy for failing schools. I think the weight of failing schools falls on the district. Soley on the district. Not on View Ridge or Laurelhurst or any other affluent "sister" school.
When a school doesn't reach their benchmark (whatever that may be) for a certain period of time (2 yrs, 3 yrs?) the district should intervene. They should put a strong principal at the helm, add teachers in an effort to reduce class size, add a volunteer coordinator to get parents mobilized and volunteering, etc.

Why do we give the district such easy outs? It is their federal obligation to provide and fund an adequate education for all students. It has been a tragedy that they turn the other cheek and allow failing schools to continue in a downward spiral. It is equally as appalling that those communities allow it, but certainly not their fault. As I said the fault and responsibility lies soley with this district.

Hopefully with a few new board members and a new Supt., and things like the SE initiative, things will get better.

Brita said...

Hello all,

I can assure you that the entire current board and senior staff are well aware of the inequities among our schools and have been working very hard to solve these problems. The assumption that new board members will be more skilled than we were may bear out or not.

The new weighting staffing standards attempts to rectify some of these problems. The CAO and Superintendent DO try to place strong principals in struggling schools. Some PTAs DO voluntarily partner with struggling schools. Our board did develop and adopt a strong family partnership policy and push the district to get parents at every school involved.

Kathleen mentions tiebreakers as inherently discriminatory. Not sure how to solve the problem of schools with more applicants than spaces, then. Of course, the PICS lawsuit pertains only to high schools and does not address lower grade levels.

Note that we have made major efforts toward improving schools which have traditionally not had a rich resource base in the community. (major remodels of Cleveland, Garfield, Sealth, Denny; new principals at several; new programs such as IB at Denny/Sealth).

We chose a new Superintendent who will build on this work and carry it forward. You the voters have the responsibility of ensuring that the next board is even more effective than we have been. I hope you have the candidates you need.

Anonymous said...

TC, 8:43 am, said this above: "Schools that have high WSF per student values have far lower teacher tenure, so the reality is those schools actually have lower actual dollars spent. "

I am curious- does anyone have actual data on this? It's something I hear a lot, that the schools with high-need kids have younger/less experienced/less costly teachers. However, in my own personal experience, and anecdotally, I hear N end schools rely lots more on younger teachers since they bring energy and new ed philosophies, also often passion. I hear S end schools are often stuck with the "phase 2"-style lifers who are neither gifted nor passionate, just lotsa years in the system. Does anyone have data on this?

Anonymous said...

I think Brita makes some good points. For all of the heat that this board has taken, they have made some true progress.

They have made tremendous efforts not only in the South end, but across the district. We have seen progress. We have seen the budge go from a huge deficit to a surplus, we have seen weak schools like Ingraham and Sealth strengthened with IB programs, the addition of a gifted prgram at Denny, the SE initiative, and they were strong enough to tack school closure, consolidation, transportation and student assignment. This is huge progress. Let's give credit where credit is due. There is a long way to go, but the current board, and district are working in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Brita:

You mentioned that some PTAs have partnered with struggling schools -
I would appreciate knowing which schools in particular.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on View Ridge; the 345K stood out to me as being a bit implausible, and it's good to know that the numbers are misleading. It really is inappropriate to lump the numbers together the way you describe. Also, folks who post those helpful links -- could you post to the page that contains the link, so that we can read information about the table (if it's available)?

Anonymous said...

We need to share populations and resources between affluent and non-affluent schools precisely because separate is inherently unequal. We discovered long ago that if populations are segregated that tax dollars won't be spent equitably.

I believe that analysis will show that choice + no tie breakers that increase diversity = increasing segregation. In fact, cities (like Columbus OH) came under desegregation orders precisely because they allowed affluent white parents to choose schools other than their neighborhood schoools, helping the parents to further segregate their schools.

Seattle seems to have enacted choice with good motivations (to prevent private school flight and with the racial tiebreaker, it didn't have a dramatic effect on diversity). If we keep choice + no equalizing forces, my guess is that we'll see our system segregate further and further. When that happens you can count on someone suing to say that district policies are creating and exacerbating racial segregation, and are not race neutral.

The affluent schools are part of the larger system; if they are permitted ot raise a large part of their budgets privately, they become, effectively tax-payer subsidized private schools where the price of admission is one of the million dollar houses on the hill in View Ridge (or Laurelhurst or Capitol Hill or Queen Anne, take your pick).

Anonymous said...

I too would like further updates on the weighted student formula. My understanding was that the less affluent schools actually got less money than the affluent schools because they had lower teacher tenure, and that the WSF actually calculated something like man hours in distributing budgets.

But, it certainly doesn't say that on any of the budget forms. When a school's budget on the form says 2.8 million, does that mean that's what the school spends. And if so, what does it spend that money on (facilities? upkeep? teachers? paras? ).

Brita said...

Hello,

If my memory serves me right, McGilvra did a joint fundraiser or two involving a restaurant, with over half the proceeds going to a different elementary. Lisa Bond, former Seattle Council PTA president, may have other examples.

Anonymous said...

The Center for Reinventing Public Education has done several studies on the Weighted Student Formula (WSF) providing subsidizing of education for more affluent schools in Seattle. Listed below are two references.

www.ewa.org/files/docs/EWA%20Guin1.ppt
This study compared Wedgwood Elementary to MLK. Wedgwood's lag behind in WSF dollars per pupil of just under $200 per student flipped to more than $1000 more than MLK in budget dollars using actual salaries. Additionally the study noted NE cluster salary average more than $3000 higher than SE cluster salary average. With certificated teachers counts of 20-30, that would result in 1.5-2 more teachers for south end schools to obtain equity.

http://www.crpe.org/pubs/pdf/InequitiesRozaHillchapter.pdf
Page 9 (Table I) of this study shows the 32% gap between WSF and actual salary budgeting.
Reading further shows that the low poverty schools are being subsidized by the high poverty schools consistently.

The Oakland School district is the only district that I am aware of that is using actual salaries tied to their Weighted Student Formula. In my reading of their initial budgeting, some schools in the high poverty "flatlands" had a $2000 per pupil increase as a result.

TC

Anonymous said...

There have been several posts about the differences in the funding to different schools and how that money is spent. I don't have the time to go through it all, but the numbers are available. If you want to know how much money is allocated to an individual school you look it up in the "blue book" available online at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/finance/budget/bluebook/08/index.htm
Each of the schools is listed with its link to its allocation. If you want to know how that allocation is spent, you can download it in excel at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/finance/recommendedbudget08.xls . This is harder to read, but if you want only an individual program (such as High Point or Whittier which were mentioned earlier) click on the drop-down menu on column.

Anonymous said...

to nssp's request for the context of the $ per pupil funding analysis:

It is not available on the district's website that I know of, but is on the Seattle Council PTSA's website, as part of an article last year on private funding of public schools.

The district's Office of Grant Services prepared the analysis at the board's request in Dec 2006, and it reflects the 2005-6 year budgets.

It would be great to see if the Office of Grant Services has updated it to 2007-8 numbers - and to get more "footnotes", e.g., to know whether the "WSF" number includes special education funding (I think it does).

The footnotes do say that "Self Help" includes PTAs, donations, substitute reimbursements, Pay for K (big $ in north end), SEA (?), and vending machines (probably small now).

It would also be great to get some data from the district to run to ground some of the equity issues raised here about:

teacher tenure ("Schools that have high WSF per student values have far lower teacher tenure" - Anon 8:43 aka TC)

actual vs budgeted teacher salaries ("Additionally the study noted NE cluster salary average more than $3000 higher than SE cluster salary average" - Anon 11:15 aka TC)

Brita - are these anything the board has requested and/or do you know if the updates and data are available? Inquiring minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

PS to Brita and other school board members who may read this thread:

Are you able to request from the superintendent an annual school-by-school analysis (much like what the Office of Grant Services prepared for you in Dec 2006) of:

. total $ per pupil funding
. average teacher tenure
. actual average teacher salary

It's hard to understand how basic and fundamental data, about such basic and fundamental questions of funding equity, are so unavailable and instead the subject of so much speculation - not blaming anyone, just marveling.

Another note about the OGS analysis - one of its footnotes says it doesn't include the city's Families and Education Levy funding, which provides $69MM over its 7-year life and is a significant source of services in high-poverty Seattle schools, including family support workers, a number of (but not all) school nurses, and teen/health clinics at ten high schools and four middle schools.

Charlie Mas said...

I think Brita raises an important point.

There is a lack of clarity about the role of the Board in the changes that are just now coming on line.

Funding
The change in the school funding formula, from the Weighted Student Formula to the new Staff Weighting was made to assure that every school was adequately staffed and to clarify those elements of the school budget that are truly discretionary. It is intended to improve equity, has been over a year in development, and is just rolling out next year.

Does the Board deserve credit for that? Does Mr. Manhas? How do we attribute? Can or should this be an issue in the upcoming elections?

Principal Assignments
Have principal assignments improved? Improved since when? Are poor performing principals replaced more quickly than before? Are they given more support than before? Is this due to Mr. Manhas? Is it due to Ms Santorno? What is the role of the ed directors in the change, if any? What is the role of the Board, if any? Is there a better principal evaluation practice now in place, and who deserves credit if there is? Can or should this be an issue in the upcoming elections?

I can say that almost no school has the same principal today that it had when Mr. Manhas took over the Superintendent job four years ago. The turnover has been HUGE. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Schools need stable leadership, but bad leaders need to be replaced. Where so few of the principals doing a good job where they were four years ago? If they were, then why move them? If not, then why do we believe that they will at their new school (most were transferred rather than dismissed)? To the public, principal moves appear random, sudden, and unintelligible.

Family Involvement
It's clear that the Board supports family involvement, but it is equally clear that the Superintendent, much of the senior staff, and a number of principals and teachers strongly oppose it. Nevermind what they say; look at what they do. They have not implemented much if any of the School-Family Partnerships Plan. They went a WHOLE YEAR without hiring a Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. Dr. Hollins was left in charge of family engagement and not only did she refuse to take any action in support of it, she regards family engagement as an indicator of White Privilege and therefore contemptible. The voice of a single principal continues to carry more weight than the voices of hundreds of families. The Superintendent made Community and Family Involvement one of four elements of the Strategic Framework, but then didn't do a single thing that he committed to doing. Public input still isn't a factor in any decisions made by staff, although the Board clearly includes it in their decision process.

Teacher turnover
There has been an effort to reduce teacher turnover at the Flight Schools, but it remains unclear if that effort has been successful. It is probably too early to tell, but has teacher retention improved at the Flight Schools?

Curriculum
Ms Santorno is pushing for more standardized curriculum, which should improve the equity and pull up the academic expectations at those schools which have not maintained sufficiently high ones, but will it really work? To what extent is the Board responsible for the improvement? Could the Board have done more to demand more equitable expectations? Could the Board have done anything along those lines at all? Has the Board been stenuously advocating for this but without success until late? Has the Board done nothing on this issue? We just don't know.

Accountability
I will say this. The Board directed the Superintendent to write and implement an Accountability Plan. He wrote one and presented it in October or November of 2005. It is, without a doubt, the funniest official document I have ever read in my life. The CACIEE ridiculed it. Of course, none of it was implemented, creating the irony of whom do we hold accountable for failing to implement the accountability plan. That is just one more brick in the wall of Mr. Manhas' failures as an executive, but to what extent does it reflect on the Board?



So how will these questions factor in the upcoming election? Does the Board get credit for what they have done or blame for not getting the staff to do more or credit for Mr. Manhas' exit after he didn't do more? The District governance model and the closed nature of District's processes make it impossible for anyone on the outside to know how anything really works.

It's a tangle and difficult for us on the outside to attribute credit and blame. We can't rely on the Seattle Times to help us with it because their bias is so plain and overwhelming that they have lost all credibility. Could the Weekly or the P-I do that work? Can anyone?

And are any of the candidates addressing these issues? Do you see or hear any of the candidates for the Board saying that they will address equity in funding, in family engagement, in principal assignment, in teacher tenure, in curriculum or accountability?

To what extent can the Board take action on these things? Some of them talk about accountability, but only in vague terms and I don't really know what they mean.
Do you see any of them addressing these issues in a meaningful way?

And, other than voting, how can we address these issues and work for progress on them?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Ultimate Fan, Eric B, and TC for providing links to studies, data, etc.

Back to the equity discussion- how can we as parents and "outsiders" affect equity? This was raised at the last Seattle Council PTA meeting and discussions are happening.

One thing I think will not work: the District or Board mandating a forced redistribution of raised parent funds. That will be the last straw for many parents, who are already able to afford private. Parents will leave if they perceive the district as leveling everything to mediocre.

Anonymous said...

If private funding becomes extreme enough, we have no choice but to allow those parents to leave. Otherwise, we really are effectively subsidizing private education and coming up with a backdoor voucher system. There so much private money floating around Seattle that this is going to become a bigger and bigger problem. Right now, the richest elementaries are raising a small percent of their overall budgets (though I remain highly confused by the info on budgets). But it doesn't take very much to vastly change that balance.

Anonymous said...

Am I being dense, or is the WSF really obtuse and confusing? From what I deduce from the powerpoint cite that TC forwarded, the WSF seems something like my estimating my food budget based on the average cost of food for a family of four in Seattle (perhaps correcting for the ages of everyone), but then actually receiving the cost of the food I do buy. In my case, that means I'd get a lot more money than the budget 'cause we eat out all the time. In the case of someone who shops frugaly it would mean they get a lot less. Is that what's happening between schools with high salary costs v ones with low salary costs? Is their WSF calculated from predictions, but the money they get actually a completely different number?

If so, I don't even understand how budgeting can be done that way. What if every school hired expensive teachers, thus costing more. Where would the extra money come from?

Anonymous said...

Yes, nssp, your analogy is correct. However, since the teacher salary is based on district average, the total budget does balance.

The number of applicants schools get doesn't provide much opportunity for south end schools to hire more senior teachers (100+ applicants for some north end school positions, 2-3 applicants for south end). You can look at the current certified teacher postings at seattleschools.org and see where the openings are located. South end schools have far more elementary openings than north end. TC

Anonymous said...

nssp said: "If private funding becomes extreme enough, we have no choice but to allow those parents to leave. Otherwise, we really are effectively subsidizing private education and coming up with a backdoor voucher system. There so much private money floating around Seattle that this is going to become a bigger and bigger problem."

nssp, thanks for sharing your perspective, but I think you are missing a critical piece of data on the issue of middle class/upper class families leaving due to not being permitted to add funding to the strapped system:

Every student adds $ to the coffers. SPS has declined in enrollment virtually every year since the major school closings in the 1980's. Each lost student represents something betweeen $4500 and $8500 actual dollars lost to the District (depending on student characteristics, such as reg ed, spec ed, etc). Middle class flight hurts every school and every child.

History has shown that individuals value free will and that redistributive policies generally create resentment and reduce buy-in. Instead, why not work to find a solution that leaves all kinds of families at the table? It is precisely this type of "no private" thinking that led to TAF being unable to broker with SPS. I see that Renton snagged them and will now be founding a technology academy funded by private dollars geared toward high-needs kids. Where's the downside? Instead of prohibiting private funding we should be encouraging corporations and individuals to partner with SPS by donating, say, to the Alliance. (of course meanwhile lobbying Olympia to raise the per-student funds.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think the district could legally force schools to share their fundraising dollars. And, quite frankly if they tried, many families would bail.

Let's face it, there are many people who would never put their kids in a poorly funded public school. The only reason they use "their" local school is because they are assured that the fundraising is enough to buy adequacy. But the "extras" like art, music, etc.

If these things were threatened by less fundraising, those families (mine included) would find an alternate option. We would homeschool, go private, or move to the burbs.

It's not equitable but it's how it is.

Anonymous said...

"encourage donations"

I do see that middle-class folks leaving the public system causes problems, but your calculation assumes that it costs nothing to educate the children who leave. The bigger problem is that when middle class families leave, and then have no interest in supporting the system they left, the system degrades anyway (as they refuse to support a public school system that becomes even less adequately funded). But, I don't see how that group staying, but only supporting their _own_ school helps the rest of the system, either.

I don't have a kid in the Seattle Public Schools. I still try my best to support in any way I can public education for all the children in Seattle. I want to see my tax dollars support education for everyone, but not to subsidize the "pseudo-private" schools for the affluent. I think we need to manage private giving (not eliminate it) but manage it so that it's benefits don't amount to private school tuition (but tax deductible, and with matching funds) for a few luck recipients.

Anonymous said...

You say......"But, I don't see how that group staying, but only supporting their _own_ school helps the rest of the system, either."

Isn't this how it's always been. I sure don't remember my mother baking cookies for a school on the other side of town. We support our school, that's the way it is and always has been. We support the district as a whole by enrolling our kids in a public school. We support the entire district by voting for bonds and levies, and by paying our taxes.

Good grief.

Anonymous said...

So Good Grief at 4:31 are you comfortable with the fact that the weighted student formula for a North end school student results in the range of $1,000 per student MORE than a south end student?

Yes, parents always have supported their own schools with whatever means they can and should, but shouldn't the base WSF funding not short-change those with the least economic advantage, the highest academic risks, and lowest political clout to effect change.

Anonymous said...

Your numbers are mistaken. The WSF actually funds lower income, minority schools quite a bit more per pupil than it does middle income and affluent schools. The disadvantage was that the low income schools had a younger (lower paid) teaching staff, but paid the "average" wage for a teacher. This is being addressed and corrected with the new WSF/funding proposal. The south end schools do and will continue to get MUCH more $$$ per pupil from the district than the north. Please get all of the facts before you post mis information.

The problem in these schools will not be solved by money alone. It will be solved when they have strong leaders (principal and teachers), family involvement, high expectations, district intervention when they fail, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes bake sales supported our own schools, and not the school across the city, but bake sales were a small part of the overall funding of the school. People raised amounts like 500 dollars and used it to buy construction aper. Bake sales paid for tidbits.

Now we have schools raising 10% of their budgets and paying for teachers. And the way affluence is distributed in Seattle has the potential for creating great inequities. For example, ten Microsoft (and whoever else provides matching funds) families can parlay their $7K each (10K minus the tax break) into $200,000 for the school (10K X 2 -- in matching funds). And we know that very non-randomly scattered through out Seattle are folks with the ability to donate much larger amounts.

I don't know that there's a problem yet. But, I'm starting to feel that there is with schools raising 100K+ and spending the money on teachers.

nssp
PS: Boy the WSF formula sounds patently unfair. Was it designed specifically to mislead people into believing more was spent on the less-affluent schools? Or was there some reasonable justification?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:49 -- Can you share information about how "real dollars" for low income students are higher than middle income with the current WSF model.

All the reference studies above show just the opposite, which I assumed was the reason for revamping WSF for 2008.

Can you also share information on how the new budget model will adjust for the real versus average teacher salary costs.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas did a complete breakdown, and compared two schools. One middle class, and one low income. He broke down all funding for the two schools, including fundraising, and found that the south end low income school came out ahead. Charlie, would you be interested in re-posting that info?
Anyway, the per pupil funding can vary by up to $2000 between schools, with class sizes of 30, that's $60,000 per class room. Plus the low income schools get LAP funding, and there is one more huge lump of money they get, that other schools don't get (can't remember the name), can someone out there help me out.

The money is a myth. That is what the weighted student formula is all about. To level the field. It's a good thing. But it would imbalance the field if wealthy schools gave even more money to low income schools, without showing that there is truly a need.

As for the adjustment to the weighted student formula the board is working on it as I write. They are aware of the inequity in schools paying the "average" teacher salary, and are redesigning the formula to addres that. Any board members, Brita?, care to comment?

Anonymous said...

Charlie -
Were you able to get real dollars or is the comment above related to WSF dollar comparisons?

If you used real dollars, would be interested in how you obtained that information. Were public record requests required?

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing the analysis cited in anonymous at 7:08. But, absent that data, there's a reason that low-income schools need to get more money -- they need to provide more services in order to create an environment where children can learn (counseling, food, catchup education).

Anonymous said...

Do your research, this is exactly why schools get the extra weighted student formula $$$. Most low income schools do employ a full time councelor, and as for food, please clarify. The school offers free and reduced rate breakfast and lunch already.

The district provides schools with a lot of autonomy when it comes to the spending of their money. Different schools spend their money in different ways. The south end tends to shun extracurricular things like art, music, recess, etc. (see the Madrona posting on this blog), and thus doesnt spend their money on these services. This in some circles causes them to be preceived as having less, when in fact they don't have less, they spend their money in different ways, IE full time councellors, tutors, WASL help. Things the affluent school can do without.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but that's precisely it; the non-affluent schools need to be able to have both: the counselors and the "extras". The rich schools can do without the counselors.

Right now, I am absolutely unconvinced that the funding is equitably distributed, given the way that I'm being told the WSF is calculated. In order to talk about funding, we need to see the actual numbers, not the theoretical ones. Once I see those, I can think about whether I think the distribution of funds is equitable.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to understand the research and think going to the next level of data below the Weighted Student Formula is important. As designed the WSF dollars adjusts for the needs of the students - FRL, Bilingual, Special Ed, etc.

In this analysis using average teacher salaries as currently designed, the WSF calculations worked out to be:

Wedgwood $3,731/student
MLK $3,926/student

But when the researchers looked at the "real dollars" versus average teacher salaries, the WSF with actual teacher salaries numbers flipped considerably.

Wedgwood $4.019/student
MLK $2.928/student

I'd be interested in seeing more data comparing real dollars versus average and any ideas how to get that information on a school level. TC

Anonymous said...

Nssp, did you read the Madrona article on this blog? As Madrona began to genrify, and more affluent people began sending their children to the school, they wanted to add enrichment to the program. They tried to get an art program, a foreign language program, and a garden space for the school. The principal and community did not want these things at their school. The principal let them no in no uncertain terms that their efforts were fruitless. The original parent community was very set on reading, writing and math. They didn't even want recess. They want a strong focus on academics, and view much of the extra curricular as taking away from academics. The madrona parents, with their money, and volunteer committments eventually left the school. My point is they can have it if they want it. Stop trying to force what you percieve as "good" on other communities. What is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander. This community adamantly rejected (art, music, etc) what north end schools fight to get.

Please go back and read the post, it was on this blog not too long ago, and in several newspapers.

I know you mean well.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please take the teacher salary out of the picture. It is being addressed, and changed as we speak. Brita, please expand on this.

Anonymous said...

By the way, all of the weighted student formula is public info., anyone who has an interest can have a look. That's where Charlie, and TC get their figures.

Anonymous said...

What I am understanding from this discussion is that exchanging veteran teachers from high performing schools with inexperienced teachers at low performing schools will make the schools equitable.

I have seen 20 & 30 year veteran teachers maintain the energy they had their first 5 years, but not most of the ones I know. I also think it is harder for long time teachers to adopt new curriculum or commit to changes in teaching methods demanded by academic leaders.

I don't think that the length of a teacher's career is a good measure of how effective they are. I am not sure that a teacher who is effective in one school will be equally effective in school with a different population.

How would a teacher who is very committed to arts education or outdoor experiences do at Madrona?

How do you get a great teacher in every classroom?

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy,
I think you misunderstood. It was not implied that veteran teachers are "better" than new teachers. The situation is that veteran teachers get a higher salary. Veteran teachers tend to go to the more affluent schools with kids that are easier to teach. So the "good" schools get disproportionatly more veteran teachers than to the lower income schools.

The issue is not quality of teachers, it is the budget, and how the schools pay for the teachers that they get. This has been an issue as all schools pay the same amount of money for a teacher, in other words the salaries are averaged. So the low income schools tend to pay more than their share for the newer teachers that they get, while the more affluent schools pay less than their share for the teachers they get.

As I said the district is aware of this, and are currently working on changing it. Stay tuned.

Charlie Mas said...

I will re-iterate the point that I had made in an earlier post on another thread which has been referenced in this thread. I will repeat that point in my next post - not in this one. That point had nothing to do with the Weighted Student Formula.

Because the District has decided to replace the Weighted Student Formula with another funding formula, I'm not sure how a deep review of that scheme's details would be beneficial.

Everyone should, however, have some fundamental knowledge of how it works to follow this discussion.

If we examine two schools you will see how WSF works.

The 2007-2008 Blue Book projects 326 students at Brighton. Of those, 132 are bilingual, 25 are Special Ed (including 17 Level 4), and 249 of the students are FRE.

The WSF allocation to Brighton has five parts:

1) The Foundation Allocation, $238,348, is the same for all elementary schools.

2) The Basic Student Allocation, $1,125,388, which is nearly the same for all students. There is some variation depending on grade level and half-day kindergarten are only funded at 50%.

3) The Bilingual Allocation, $120,531, which is the same for all bilingual students.

4) The Special Education allocation, $321,586, which varies for each student depending on the level of their need.

5) An allocation for FRE students, $89,744 which is about the same for all students with some variation for grade level.

These five elements total $1,895,597, which is $5,815 per student.

Let's compare these numbers to a NE school of the exact same size: Sacajawea.

Sacajawea is also an elementary school so it also gets a foundation allocation of $238,348 - the same as Brighton.

Sacajawea also has 326 students so the basic student allocation is $1,123,744, slightly different due to a slightly different breakdown in the student grade level. It is 99.85% of the Brighton amount - essentially the same.

Sacajawea has less than half as many bilingual students as Brighton, only 52, so the bilingual allocation is less than half as much, only $46,660.

There are 24 special education students at Sacajawea, almost the exact same number as at Brighton, but at Sacajawea they are all Level 2 so the Special Education allocation is only $82,884, about a fourth of the amount allocated to Brighton with the Level 4 Special Education students there.

There are only 85 FRE students at Sacajawea, so the FRE allocation is only $31,334.

Altogether, the total WSF allocation to Sacajawea is $1,522,970, or $4,672 per student.

We could stop here and say that Brighton has more funding to address the greater academic challenges there. That line of thinking could then be countered with some data about actual teacher compensation data that would show that the District might actually be spending more money at Sacajawea. I don't have that data for these schools,

A quick look at the 2007-2008 General fund budget for these schools shows spending of $2,287,299.51 on basic education teaching at Brighton and $2,211,058.25 on basic education teaching at Sacajawea, about the same. I don't know if these are actual expenses or not.

Research, using Seattle schools and a larger sample than two schools, showed that the actual expenses at affluent schools is higher because the actual teacher cost is greater because the teachers at affluent schools tend to be more experienced and therefore more highly compensated. This research was done by the Center for Reinventing Education at the University of Washington and the study used to be available on their web site.

Even without the differences in teacher salaries, the important thing to note about the Weighted Student Formula is how little money it allocated for FRE students.

The Basic Funding Factor for a primary (grades K-3) student is $3,652.58. The additional funding for a primary bilingual student is .27 or $986.20. The additional funding for a Level 2 Special Education student is .95 or $3,469,95. The additional funding for a Level 4a Special Education student is 3.78 or $13,806.75. The additional funding for a Level 4b Special Education student is 5.80 or $21,184.96. The additional funding for an FRE primary student is .099 or $361.61.

How much more can a school do for a low-income student with an additional $361.61 in annual funding?

The Weighted Student Formula provides schools with money for bilingual and special education students. It DOES NOT provide more than nominal additional funding for low-income students.

The funding for low income students comes instead, from compensatory ed.

Compensatory ed was the subject of my earlier post and it will be the subject of my next one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Charlie, this is what I was looking for, and compensatory ed was the category that I couldn't remember in my post above.

Thank you for laying it out, and as always, making a convoluted subject, clear. Will look forward to your next post on cmpensatory ed.

Charlie Mas said...

Brighton is a neighborhood elementary school in Southeast Seattle. It is in the Rainier Valley, a predominantly low-income neighborhood. Of the 326 students projected to attend Brighton next year, 249 of them, 76.4%, are eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

Due to the high concentration of FRE students at Brighton, that school receives a significant amount of compensatory education funding. This is money from the state and federal government for low-income schools. The WSF does not provide much funding for low-income students; it doesn't have to. That money comes in the form of compensatory ed.

Brighton is not able to raise a lot of money from their PTA, but Brighton does receive $249,999 in compensatory ed. That's a lot more money than any middle class school PTA raises and is, in fact, competitive with what the PTA at a truly affluent school brings in. This money is completely separate from WSF money.

Here's an interesting thing about compensatory ed. The funding is progressive. So the higher the concentration of poverty, the more dollars per FRE student. A school with 50% FRE gets less per student than a school with 70% FRE.

So, before you point to money as the source of inequity between schools because Montlake or McGilvra have six-figure fund raisers to provide funding over and above the WSF, remember that low-income schools have their own source of six-figure funding over and above the WSF.

Here's a brief list of schools and their compensatory ed funding:

Brighton: 249,999
Concord: 284,549
Dearborn Park: 240,926
Dunlap: 339,470
Gatzert: 355,126
Highland Park: 309,474
Roxhill: 207,660
Thurgood Marshall: 279,877
TT Minor: 205,644
Van Asselt: 405,449

and for comparison...

Montlake: 5,066
McGilvra: 3,149
Lowell: 6,011
View Ridge: 3,005
Whittier: 4,150

So while Brighton cannot raise $250,000 from their PTA (and they do have one), they do get $250,000 that affluent schools don't get. I would say that the funding outside of the WSF is equitable and that total funding is not a source of inequity in our schools.

I can't say how Brighton spends that $250,000 - the government funding rules put restrictions on the spending, but they get it in addition to their funding through the WSF just as truly as if it came from the PTA.

Anonymous said...

Various anonymous's -- please don't assume that I haven't read anything just because it makes you come to different conclusions. I have definitely read the articles on the situation at Madrona, and I've read much of the information about the WSF (it just didn't make sense to me).

Finally, Charlie Mas -- thanks for the data; I always enjoy it. But, it's a bit misleading to only talk about one ledger entry, isn't it (this applies equally in talking about funds raised by PTAs, of course)? What we really should be talking about is the total amount of funding available to different schools (and the individuals who attend them), and to that I add the caveat that I expect that children coming from non-affluent homes are going to need extra resources to adequately educate).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this should be a different strand? Instead of the equity post.

So regarding the new weighted staffing formula, you are right I do not understand it.

A school would pay for actual teacher salaries, rather than average salaries, out of the school budget. How can a school control their balance of veteran/novice teachers? If a school has so many older teachers that they must cut programs to pay salaries, could they force those teachers out in favor of cheaper staff? (It happens in corporations often enough.) Or would they have to cut union staff for other programs? PCPs?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Charlie for the explanation.

After reading through everyone's comments. I respectfully disagree with the total funding being equitable. The compensatory ed dollars are meant to fund the additional resources needed to address issues of low socio-economic status.

The compensatory ed dollars need to be added dollars above an equitable base. The current WSF does not provide the equitable base, so a significant portion of compensatory ed is going toward leveling the funding.

Charlie Mas said...

So now comes the question.

If $250,000 for 249 FRE students, an extra $1,000 per student or $19,000 per classroom, isn't enough to fund the additional resources needed to address issues of low socio-economic status, then what is?

How much more does it cost to educate a student from a low-income household to the academic Standards? How much money will it take before the funding is equitable? How should this money be spent? What is it that these schools need to buy?

It isn't enough to say that the compensatory education funding isn't enough. You have to support that assertion with reasons and facts. The fact that some schools haven't been able to do it isn't sufficient evidence, because some schools HAVE been able to do it.

Consider Maple, Van Asselt, and Beacon Hill. At Maple, with 60% FRE, the 4th grade WASL pass rates in reading, writing and math are 90.8%, 80.3% and 81.5%. At Van Asselt, with 82% FRE: 74.0%, 68.5% and 63.0%. At Beacon Hill, with 68% FRE: 73.1%, 66.1% and 51.9%.

Money shouldn't be an excuse unless you have something that you need but cannot afford.

Anonymous said...

How much is enough? Certainly not an extra $1000/student. How much do affluent parents spend on educating their children outside of the school environment (including things like books, trips, lessons, etc.)? It's almost certainly more than that.

I'm not advocating standing in front of an economically disadvantaged school and throwing cash in the building. I agree that accountability matters. But, I think with accountability we'd find that we need to spend a lot more to give equitable education to disadvantaged students (just as we do with those with disabilities).

Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with Charlie!

The schools ARE funded equally. There is no inequity there. None at all.

What the school chooses to do with their money is another subject entirely.

In my opinion the district has an obligation to intervene when schools perform unsatisfactority. They have an obligation to do whatever is necessary to get that school back on track. Whether that is a change in leadership, an accountant to assist with the bdget, etc.

Anonymous said...

NSSP will you please support your statements. If $1000 is not enough, then how much is? What is the amount that you think they should get to stay competetive with the affluent? Do middle class families get extra $$$ too, because they don't spend as much on their kids as the affluent either? Who is responsible for getting these $$$ to the low income schools. Parent groups, PTA's ? Where does the money come from?

Anonymous said...

"How much do affluent parents spend on educating their children outside of the school environment (including things like books, trips, lessons, etc.)? "

There is no way to make that equal for all kids.

My kids have a mom at home helping with homework and volunteering in school. My neighbor's kids can speak English and both of the native languages of their parents. My friend's children inherited the genes of 2 scientist parents.

How can you make sure that each child has the same advantages as the others?

No amount of money is going to level that playingfield.

realistically, we must work within the budget. We must serve all kids. We need to give extra help to some kids. But we can not make up all differences.

Anonymous said...

It is not the districts duty or responsibility to try to make all things equal for all kids. It is there responsibility to euqlly and properly fund every childs education. That's it.

They are doing that, equitably.

That's not say all schools are performing well. They are not. They need intervention, not MORE $$$$.

Things will never be equal for everyone. It is not the district obligation to solve the problems of society. They are not sociologists.

Anonymous said...

I think that one area we could focus on is course offerings in high schools. That will cost extra money in some schools if there is underenrollment.

AP classes should be available even if they are underenrolled. Popular programs like music, drama, IB should be available in more than one part of the city. Students should be able to get at least 6 periods a day at every high school. College prep curriculum should be available in every high school.

I also think that advanced math classes should be available at every middle school. Not just Washington & Eckstein.

Anonymous said...

I am black, and I can tell you that it is common in black schools and neighborhoods to want the focus of the school to be academics. Traditional, reading, writing and arithmetic. Discipline too.

The earlier poster was right, when he/she said that many black families feel that anything outside of core subjects take away from the academic success of a school. Heck they don't even want recess. Doesn't make sense to me, and I don't buy into it, but I am here to say that it is true, and was not an isolated case at Madrona.

One of my freinds kids came home with a beautiful painting the other day, and her mom looked at me and said "She can color and paint at home, I don't want her wasting her class time painting".

So you see, this is what the community wants. The earlier poster is right. Who is to say whether it's right or wrong. It's what they want. Charlie, says often, go into the community and find out what they want, and then give it to them. Well here it is.

Charlie Mas said...

What is it that the schools are supposed to spend that extra money on? nssp suggests the things that affluent families get for their children.

So we're talking about trips to the zoo and the aquarium, tickets to concerts and plays, computers and books? Do you think these are the things that make the difference?

Perhaps we should use the money to hire people to take an interest in the low-income students' education, to check their homework, to ask them thought-provoking open-ended questions, to encourage them, to speak to them in Standard English, to model reading, reasoning, and intellectual pursuits, and to tell them that their education is important. Aren't those the things that affluent families do that really makethe biggest difference?

Can someone be hired in that role? Perhaps we should use the money to train their families to do these things. What would that be like? Aren't parenting classes a little paternalistic and condenscending, not to mention culturally narrow?

You know what? Not all families are equally supportive of their children's education. That is a fact which is outside the District's control. All the District can do is encourage every family to be supportive and to show them how. They cannot do it for them, and they sure as hell should not be discouraging any of them.

There is a vision of equity out there that we need to be very wary of. A vision of equity that says that no child should learn multiplication until every child learns addition. A vision of equity that says the class should only move as fast as the slowest student. A vision of equity that says because one person is blind, everyone else should have their eyes plucked out. I cannot subscribe to that vision of equity.

My vision of equity says that if I put more work into the system then I should get better results than the person who puts less work into the system. If I invest my time, effort, and - yes - money into my child's education, then I fully expect my child to get a better education as a result. And I don't find it the least bit inequitable that it is a better education than someone who did not invest that time, effort or money. Honestly, though, I think that time and effort go a whole lot further than money. In my vision of equity you get what you earn and earn it by working for it and exchanging value for value. That's a vision of equity that resonates for me.

I recognize that it is an intense capitalistic vision of equity, but that's what equity is: capital.

Anonymous said...

Once again, I absolutely agree with Charlie. You hit the nail on the head. There are people out there who do not, for whatever reason, value education as much as the next person. In addition to all of the free support that a parent can give their children such as Charlie mentioned, there are also tons (and I mean tons) of resources out there for low income families (UW interns tutor for free, programs like 826 Seattle, homework clubs, big brothers and sisters, summer school through SPS for struggling students) that these families could take advantage of. But you have to have the will and drive to make it happen. Try as we will to blame the middle class and affluent for these families lack of interest in their childs education, it just isn't so. They must bear that responsibility. I always teach my kids that you get what you give. If you give a little, you will get a little. If you give a lot you will get a lot. Work hard, and it will pay off.

Anonymous said...

It's a performance standard. I'll be happy with the money we're spending on the low income schools when they are producing the education we want for Seattle's children. Right now, I think Seattle is producing the education I think we must for the affluent children (though not necessarily the "best" education money could buy).

And, yes I think the ideas being suggested here are good ones, extra money to keep under-enrolled AP classes going, extra money to provide the supervision of the school system that affluent families take for granted, money to supervise doing homework and providing tutoring that parents aren't able to offer.The schools can't make up for what the parents can't provide (Mr. Mas's weird suggestions to fail the WASL to gain "extra special" math education in the next post on in this thread would be a case in point), but we can mitigates the effects of the harsh world the children in need live in, to foster an environment where learning is possible. In some sense I want this because it is right. But, I also want it because it is necessary for our society to function.

I don't know what that would cost, but I want it to be there. And I want it more than I want music education at View ridge (if we're forced to make budget decisions).

As I've posted elsewhere, though, I think that Seattle is rich enough to pay for both and happy to pay my share. But equitable funding isn't good enough until it provides much more equal results than we're getting now.

I think this thread is becoming distracted, with discussions starting about funding formulas, the role of private fund raising, the resources available to different schools, what resources should be available to different schools among other side topics. I'll look forward to our bloggers starting more focussed threads on the subject.

Anonymous said...

There is the case of The New School, in which A LOT of private money was thrown into school in a low income, primarily minority neighborhood, and the results have been astonishing. They have exceeded everyones expectations thus far!

But then this was not just an ordinary school in a low income neighborhood, that the district decided to give some extra mone to. This was a school with a private investor, some serious accountability, a vision, a strong leader, and committed staff.

It worked, but is it realistic? And if it is realistic to fund schools in this way, then who is responsible to fund them? Not the PTA's of middle class schools. Perhaps the tax payers to an extent. And, perhaps more private investors. How could Seattle encourage these types of prototypes instead of discouraging them (like TAF).

Charlie Mas said...

Funding is not the only point of inequity and therefore funding alone cannot solve the inequity.

Yes, funding can make up some of the difference, but it cannot make up all of it.

If we are going to say that we must keep adding funding to poor schools until their results match affluent schools, then we will never be spending enough because money alone cannot make the difference.

Brita said...

Hello all,

I've appreciated reading the far-ranging discussion--these issues do tie together. A few points--

a) The goal of WSF was to put more resources where they are needed most. This is also the goal of the new Weighted Staffing Standards. The difference is that schools will have less discretion about how they spend their dollars. Central admin. has come up with a list of what functions they think need to be present at every school at each level and will fund schools accordingly (this is to ensure that schools do not forget or under-prioritize critical functions and then run out of money). If a school can deliver a function in a more creative way, they can get a waiver from the staffing formula.
Right now, principals and BLTs do spend a lot of time essentially planning how to spend a very few discretionary dollars. With state and federal mandates and collective bargaining agreements, there is not much room for decision-making at the local level.

b) I understand TCs concern that expensive teachers at school X mean that school gets more dollars than school Y which has less senior teachers. Since the salary is really passed-through to the teacher, I don't see how this affects the school resources at all. If expensive teacher Z wants to work at school Y, presumably their salary goes with them.

c) I don't think we can equate years of teaching with effectiveness in meeting needs of all students. Achieving stability in the faculty at a given school would be very helpful, and the Flight school model is designed to do this. My guess would be that teachers with at least 3 years' experience but recent preparation and commitment to educating diverse populations would be a great asset to any school.

c) Interestingly, if our state funding education at the national AVERAGE, we would be getting $1000 more per pupil. This is about the amount that the affluent community at McGilvra raises each year.

d) Full schools in the south end tend to get far more resources (from state, federal and district) than others, since this is distributed on a per pupil basis. However, half-full high schools in the south end (although they get more per pupil than e.g. Roosevelt) suffer from the lack of enrolllment and the total is not enough to drive the great programs and course offerings (elective and otherwise) that other high schools offer.

d) It's a chicken and egg. I strongly support the SE initiative which attempts to jumpstart some southend secondary schools so they can offer more of what attracts students (and gives more curricular choices to their current students). I also support subsidizing a robust set of AP courses in every high school, even when enrollment in them does not really cover the teacher. People should not have to travel great distances for college prep in their high school.

d) While we distribute resources unevenly right now, and in favor of struggling schools, this may still not be enough to compensate for the outside supports that some students have and others do not. Our community organizations do a terrific job of providing support services to students whose families may not be able to. I agree that there are more services available than all families are aware of or using. Letting people know about them is an ongoing challenge.

e) Having taught ESL for several years I have to say that I've never met a family that didn't care about their child's education. People do have different ideas about what sorts of family support is appropriate. The school district needs to make it clear what sorts of family support will help a child be successful at school, and at the same time, we need to build on the strengths of the family support systems already in place and adjust our thinking accordingly.

f) The sorts of intangible support Charlie mentions are more critical than the activities found in the ad section of ParentMap, IMHO. Ideally, kids will get both.

g) Public education has the potential to transform society by helping each child develop her or his potential. We all benefit, in the long run. Let's keep on identifying the barriers to learning and work on those.

Brita said...

Hello all,

I've appreciated reading the far-ranging discussion--these issues do tie together. A few points--

a) The goal of WSF was to put more resources where they are needed most. This is also the goal of the new Weighted Staffing Standards. The difference is that schools will have less discretion about how they spend their dollars. Central admin. has come up with a list of what functions they think need to be present at every school at each level and will fund schools accordingly (this is to ensure that schools do not forget or under-prioritize critical functions and then run out of money). If a school can deliver a function in a more creative way, they can get a waiver from the staffing formula.
Right now, principals and BLTs do spend a lot of time essentially planning how to spend a very few discretionary dollars. With state and federal mandates and collective bargaining agreements, there is not much room for decision-making at the local level.

b) I understand TCs concern that expensive teachers at school X mean that school gets more dollars than school Y which has less senior teachers. Since the salary is really passed-through to the teacher, I don't see how this affects the school resources at all. If expensive teacher Z wants to work at school Y, presumably their salary goes with them.

c) I don't think we can equate years of teaching with effectiveness in meeting needs of all students. Achieving stability in the faculty at a given school would be very helpful, and the Flight school model is designed to do this. My guess would be that teachers with at least 3 years' experience but recent preparation and commitment to educating diverse populations would be a great asset to any school.

c) Interestingly, if our state funding education at the national AVERAGE, we would be getting $1000 more per pupil. This is about the amount that the affluent community at McGilvra raises each year.

d) Full schools in the south end tend to get far more resources (from state, federal and district) than others, since this is distributed on a per pupil basis. However, half-full high schools in the south end (although they get more per pupil than e.g. Roosevelt) suffer from the lack of enrolllment and the total is not enough to drive the great programs and course offerings (elective and otherwise) that other high schools offer.

d) It's a chicken and egg. I strongly support the SE initiative which attempts to jumpstart some southend secondary schools so they can offer more of what attracts students (and gives more curricular choices to their current students). I also support subsidizing a robust set of AP courses in every high school, even when enrollment in them does not really cover the teacher. People should not have to travel great distances for college prep in their high school.

d) While we distribute resources unevenly right now, and in favor of struggling schools, this may still not be enough to compensate for the outside supports that some students have and others do not. Our community organizations do a terrific job of providing support services to students whose families may not be able to. I agree that there are more services available than all families are aware of or using. Letting people know about them is an ongoing challenge.

e) Having taught ESL for several years I have to say that I've never met a family that didn't care about their child's education. People do have different ideas about what sorts of family support is appropriate. The school district needs to make it clear what sorts of family support will help a child be successful at school, and at the same time, we need to build on the strengths of the family support systems already in place and adjust our thinking accordingly.

f) The sorts of intangible support Charlie mentions are more critical than the activities found in the ad section of ParentMap, IMHO. Ideally, kids will get both.

g) Public education has the potential to transform society by helping each child develop her or his potential. We all benefit, in the long run. Let's keep on identifying the barriers to learning and work on those.

Anonymous said...

Brita,
Why is our state funding $1000 below the national average?
Thanks

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why is state spending below the national average? Easy - cheap legislators who do NOT understand school funding. Who believe that the money being funded is not showing results ergo, no extra money. Who are more than happy to let people tax themselves (I-728) than them passing tax legislation. Who are more than happy that PTAs, whose goal is enhancement and enrichment, and NOT subsidizing basic education are funding basic education. Who threaten to withhold passing tax legislation until SPS closed schools.

The states that fund education on the high end do better than those who do not.

That said, clearer financial accountability by every district might make legislators see that what is being provided is not funding basic education (which hasn't been defined in WA state, I believe, since the late '70s).

Anonymous said...

What is the weighted staffing formula?

How will it work?

Presumably it will drive more dollars from higher performing schools to lower performing schools, based somehow on the longevity of teachers. But if a school has classrooms of 30+, that can not be done by raising class size.

Will teachers be moved?